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Other CAP Leadership Compendium

Discussion in 'CAP Policy Review' started by DougJustDoug, Nov 30, 2012.

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  1. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
    is a member of the Site Staffis an Artistis a Programmeris a CAP Contributoris an Administratoris a Battle Server Admin Alumnusis a Smogon IRC SOp Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnus
    CAP Leader

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    CAP Leadership Compendium

    Over the past several months, I have been concerned that the CAP project has "lost its way". Not that the project is dying or lacking participation, but more that we have moved in a general direction that I don't think is in the project's best interests, as it pertains to our original mission. Perhaps the original mission should be changed, but I don't think so. I think the mission still applies and is the right foundation for our thriving community project.

    I'm not exactly sure why we have ended up where we are now. Some of it is just natural drift that occurs over time. But I also think there are probably too many things unstated when it comes to CAP operations, and many people just don't know how Create-A-Pokemon should be led.

    People jump into the CAP forum, participate in a few projects and then assume they are a "CAP veteran". Some of those people end up on the PRC, as Topic Leaders, or even CAP forum moderators -- and they actually know very little about CAP operations and CAP principles that drive those operations! When you combine that with a relatively short contribution lifetime for most project participants and leaders, that's a recipe for wandering direction.

    When reading this post, keep in mind that I am not just referring to project moderators when I mention "CAP Leaders". I am referring to everyone who helps influence decisions and direction on Create-A-Pokemon -- moderators, topic leaders, server mods, IRC ops, PRC members, and even active users that influence the community with their posts in CAP threads. All these people collectively "lead CAP", and we need to have a better concept of the direction we are headed.

    So in this thread I want to make explicit some of the key operating principles that we have encouraged over the past several years, and explain the reasons they are good principles for leading the project. Some of this is common sense. For some of you that have been around for a long time, you may know this or you have heard me mention it before. Some other stuff may come as a complete surprise to you.

    All of these principles have been bedrock for me running this project since it's formal inception several years ago when the CAP subforum was created and organized from CAP's beginnings as a loose confederation of threads in Stark Mountain. At that time, I did not just throw together some forum rules and process guides on a whim. In real life, I am a businessman, so I treated this project like I was starting a business. I looked at what we had been doing and tried to identify the core of what made CAP a compelling project, and set down a few basic goals. Then I wrote a mission statement to capture the essence of those goals, hopefully in such a way as to inspire others to accept and support the mission. I also came up with a set of operating procedures designed to achieve the mission and wrote the first process guide to act as a How To Manual for us to reproduce organized projects over and over successfully. As we executed projects, we learned many lessons in how to keep the CAP project moving forward efficiently, and how to make a self-sustaining community. Over the history of the project, the core mission has never changed, even though our specific process rules have changed quite a bit. What I plan to do here is explain many of the previously unwritten principles that have driven the decision-making of CAP over the years.

    I am not writing this down here just for fun. I'm writing this down because I think we have collectively forgotten it, and for many of you, you probably never knew it in the first place. I'm also writing it down as a baseline, because I will be proposing and implementing some changes to the CAP project in a few PR threads immediately following this one. This is a very long post, and I understand that most people won't bother to read it. But if you do read this whole thing, you will have a much better idea of where I am coming from on those upcoming PR threads. You'll also get some insight into some of the not-so-obvious drivers contributing to the project's success for so long, and you'll get a better idea of how to support the project as a present and/or future leader in Create-A-Pokemon.


    Leadership

    My Role

    I think this is probably a good time for me to describe my role in the leadership structure of CAP. I tend to assume everyone just sorta knows this or picks up on it by hanging out around the CAP project. But in recent months there have been some occurrences that have made me realize that it is not very clear how CAP project governance is structured. So I'm going to lay it out clearly for everyone, and also explain some of the reasoning behind the current structure, and give some CAP history at the same time.

    I (DougJustDoug) am the head leader of the Create-A-Pokemon project and community. This is not some vague tradition we tend to collectively respect when it is convenient. It is an explicit condition of the original agreement that led Smogon and Create-A-Pokemon to partner with each other (yes, they are technically separate entities, but more on that in a minute) and it is not subject to your interpretation or your vote of support. If you don't like the way I run things here, there is no recourse for you. Deal with it or leave, it's that simple.

    I'm not trying to be a jerk by throwing this in anyone's face. In fact, my tendency to NOT put myself in front of every decision for the project or constantly remind people of my leadership role, has led to some very nasty power struggles in CAP's past. In those cases, some people have assumed if they yell louder than everyone else, that they can somehow become the de facto head person in charge here. Combine that with some privileges inside and/or outside the CAP project, a few misguided assumptions about the project, and a few brash personalities -- and you get ugly power wars in CAP. In those situations in the past, I tended to be a bit too nonchalant about it when it was happening, and probably let the struggles go too far before I stepped in and squashed the conflicts. But contrary to some ridiculous rumors I have heard in the past -- I have been the head of the CAP project since it's formal organization many years ago, and I have never "stepped down", "abandoned the project", or otherwise removed myself from my role as head of this project.

    I am not the only person who acts in a leadership capacity on CAP. We have forum moderators, we have server moderators, we have IRC ops, we have topic leaders, etc. Without the contributions of all those people, there's no way we could operate efficiently. I believe responsibility and control should go hand in hand, so when we make someone responsible for something in CAP, I tend to let them have complete control over that thing. My job is to oversee that things are being done in accordance with CAP rules and goals. Sometimes I have to step in and "pull rank" on a CAP leader, but I really don't like doing that. It tends to discourage good leaders and limits their growth. Since most CAP leaders are much younger and less experienced than I am, I accept that most CAP leaders are "learning on the job". So I try to act as a mentor as much as possible and offer advice, not issue commands. But when problems escalate in CAP, they usually end up in my lap. And when it comes to passing the buck in CAP, the buck stops here.

    Leadership History

    Some of you may ask, "Why are you in charge, Doug? What gives you the right to be the ultimate authority on the CAP project?" Good question, particularly considering that I'm not the "founder" of the project. Let me give you some relevant history, as it pertains to project leadership and my role in CAP.

    Create-A-Pokemon was started in November 2007 by a guy named Cooper. He thought it would be cool to have a big group of people make a fake pokemon via a series of steps, and then send all the information about the fake pokemon to Nintendo and ask them to put the pokemon into a future version of a real Pokemon game. The thinking was that a bunch of community posts and community support would be like a big petition to convince Nintendo to do it. The appeal to Nintendo would be along the lines of "Look at this great pokemon we made, and look at all the work that went into it!" I have serious doubts as to whether such a thing would have actually convinced Nintendo to make a pokemon. My guess is that Ninty doesn't give a shit about fan projects like ours, and they certainly wouldn't be interested in opening up their multi-billion dollar Pokemon franchise to characters made on some random fan site with dubious copyright ownership and all sorts of other problems. But hey, it was a noble goal, and many of us were interested in making a fakemon, so away we went.

    Cooper asked a moderator of Stark Mountain (the DP pokemon forum of Smogon at the time) if it was OK to make threads for the project. I don't know who that moderator was, but supposedly the project had the Stark mods approval. Cooper made all the threads, and the rest of us posted and voted as we made the pokemon you now know as Syclant. The process was a wonderful mess. We were making it up as we went along, and we all deferred to Cooper to call the shots. We called him the "mini-mod" for the threads. Fortunately for the project, several creative and intelligent posters joined in the fray and we somehow completed the project with a pokemon that we were relatively proud of.

    Cooper was trying to compile the information to send to Nintendo, but was having trouble figuring out how to actually accomplish that. In the meantime, many CAP posters had grown attached to our little Ice Bug, and really wanted to see how it performed in battles. People tossed around ideas of making a ROM hack. Other people mentioned the new Pokemon simulator that had recently come online -- ShoddyBattle. Someone reached out to Colin, the programmer that made Shoddybattle, and asked him if he would add Syclant to his battle simulator. Colin told us to fuck off, or something along those lines. To be fair to him, he was up to his ears in getting ShoddyBattle stable, and really had no interest in our stupid fakemon project. So the project was dejected and floundering a bit as to what to do.

    Then I went and opened my big mouth...

    I mentioned that ShoddyBattle was open source code and written in Java. So "somebody" should just make their own custom server with Syclant in it.

    At that time, I had no time or interest in doing the programming myself. And I definitely had no interest in being responsible for leading anything. I had posted a lot in the Syclant threads, but so did a lot of other people. I think it's fair to say that by the end of the Syclant project, I was somewhat influential in the nascent CAP community. But I was not the "top guy" on the project, and I was almost a complete unknown in Smogon as a whole. Up to that point, the only real involvement I had with Smogon and Smogon leadership was in the DP Battle Tower threads, where I took Jumpman16's team and actually bested his BT streak at that time. Since Jumpman was such a BT junkie, he took notice of my streak (which was the all-time 2nd or 3rd best streak at that time) and also liked the way I helped other players with advice on how to play certain battles and general battle strategy. I can't say I was "friends" with Jumpman or anything, but he was part of Smogon senior staff and he knew who I was.

    So I had posted that someone should do the programming to make a custom simulator with Syclant in it. I just assumed there were lots of programmers around, and that someone would take up the task. No one did. So I decided to dig a little deeper and see how hard it would be. One thing led to another, I got interested in the programming challenge, and I ended up untangling a bunch of Shoddybattle code and I successfully made a custom CAP server with Syclant as a "real" pokemon. I had no idea what I was in for the minute I brought "Doug's Create-A-Pokemon Server" (Yes, that was the name, not to be confused with all the other Create-A-Pokemon servers out there! ;-) online and open to the general public.

    My server instantly exploded in popularity. It was a total shock to me, but in retrospect, it now makes sense why the server took off so quickly. There was a ton of interest in simulator battling in general, and at the same time the only server that was stable and popular was Colin's server called the "Official Server". Colin and his server staff could be brusque with users, and there were some people that didn't like battling there, but did so because there was no other viable choice. So when I made my server there was not only interest in this "new pokemon" we made (and everyone wanted to see what the fuss was about), but some people just wanted an alternative to the Official server. So almost overnight, my CAP server had hundreds of users and the pokemon community was buzzing with excitement over it.

    I had no previous experience leading a battle simulator, but I had a ton of experience leading companies and other groups, so my "take charge" instincts kicked in immediately. I had worked very hard to do the programming, and I ran the server on my computer (I ran it in my home office!), and I paid the bills for bandwidth and everything else. When trolls, spammers, and hackers started piling on and tried to ruin the fun -- I moved into "manager mode" and started establishing rules for how the server would be operated. It was unquestionably my server, and unquestionably my problem to deal with the madhouse. So I laid down the law, and people followed. I enlisted the help of a small cadre of users that had participated heavily in the Stark Mountain CAP threads, and they became the first moderators of my server. I called them "The Blue Team", because on ShoddyBattle moderators names were in bright blue at the top of the user list, while everyone else's name was normal black text below. So me and The Blue Team established some order, had fun, and tried to encourage everyone to play nice with others. A community of regular users quickly developed on my server, and we used my CAP server as the all-purpose place to hang out and conduct CAP business.

    Although Cooper started the whole thing (and he was a member of my server's first Blue Team), Cooper wasn't too interested in all the work that went into running the show. Although he never said it to me directly, I think Cooper was kinda sick of dealing with all the headaches and drama. After we did the Syclant project, Cooper picked Hyra to be the mini-mod for the second Create-A-Pokemon project. We were all fine with his decision to appoint Hyra the next mini-mod, although it's not like he bothered to ask any of us. He just did it. So Hyra started the first threads for what eventually became Revenankh.

    I was the owner of the CAP server which quickly became the centerpiece of the CAP universe, mainly because it was drawing so much attention from everyone inside and outside the project. The CAP project began deferring to me for my opinions on what we were doing in the forum threads, because the ability to play with the pokemon in real battles became the most important aspect of what we were doing. All the key project participants were mods on my server, so a "leadership hierarchy" emerged in CAP. I found myself somehow responsible for all the big problems that were cropping up related to the CAP project. Most people in CAP were just posters who really had no desire or vested interest in dealing with problems. I, on the other hand, began to realize that there were all sorts of nasty issues that came with letting a bunch of kids play pokemon on my server. This includes monetary fines from my bandwidth provider who really didn't appreciate hacking attacks that the CAP server attracted, COPPA issues with underage kids, blatant pedophiles trolling mainchat and then me being threatened with lawsuits by angry parents, threats of copyright violations and trademark infringement by people supposedly associated with Nintendo/Pokemon, and a whole slew of things like that. Since the CAP server was considered by the public to be the "home" of the CAP project, all fingers pointed at me whenever the shit hit the fan. So, whether I liked it or not, I was increasingly being required to act as the leader and spokesperson for Create-A-Pokemon.

    Within Smogon leadership, things were getting ugly as it pertained to CAP threads in Stark Mountain. Smogon was getting annoyed with CAP, and many Smogon higher-ups felt like the spam of CAP threads were a distraction in Stark Mountain. Many badgeholders and serious battlers thought CAP was a silly fanboy project that had no place inside a serious battling community like Smogon. Smogon leaders were pointing fingers at each other as to who allowed these stupid fanboys to make the eyesore of Create-A-Pokemon threads. And due to the popularity of my CAP server, more and more attention was being paid to the project, which was bringing the controversy to a boiling point.

    My CAP server was getting a lot of traffic, much of which was from Smogon battlers. At that time, Colin did not agree with Smogon's tiers, and he steadfastly refused to honor them on the Official Server. On my server, I implemented Smogon tiers with the addition of Syclant, since Syclant was designed to be played alongside Smogon OU pokemon. So if battlers wanted to play Smogon tiers, they had little choice but to play on my server. When Smogon badgeholders and senior staff showed up at the CAP server, they expected to have some clout, and didn't take kindly to being told what to do by the CAP server moderators. They considered themselves to be senior Smogoners and serious battlers, and we were just a bunch of clowns that were spamming up Stark Mountain with stupid fakemon threads. When the CAP server mods refused to treat Smogon staff any different than other users, that just added fuel to the fire. So behind the scenes at Smogon, there were ongoing discussions about kicking CAP out of Smogon, and terminating the whole thing.

    Keep in mind that I was not a badged user in Smogon at that time, so I had no proof that such discussions were taking place. But based on the demeanor of posts in Stark Mountain, comments made in mainchat on my CAP server, and other remarks -- I knew something was brewing and that it probably wouldn't be good for the CAP project. Most other hardcore CAP participants, including Cooper and Hyra, were almost completely oblivious to what was happening around us. I think some people sensed something was wrong, but they had no clue how to deal with it. Since I was the owner of the CAP server, which was the cause of most of the attention and disruption, I felt like it was my job to smooth things out with Smogon. So in February 2008, I wrote a long PM to Jumpman and X-Act, who were the only badged members of Smogon that I felt like I knew at all. Here's the text of that fateful letter: click here.

    Now that I am a Smogon admin, I can see the threads that were made behind the scenes, and yes they were exactly as I feared. Some members of Smogon staff wanted to get rid of the CAP project and make us move to our own website or shut down completely. They felt like the CAP project was littering up Smogon's forums and causing problems. Jumpman posted my letter in that thread, and told everyone, in essence, "This DougJustDoug guy has a good point." Jumpman advised Chaos (the owner of Smogon.com) to get in touch with me and work something out.

    So Chaos and I chatted on IRC and came to a compromise. I was the owner of the CAP ShoddyBattle server, and Chaos liked the idea of using my server as a draw for sim battlers to come to Smogon, and he also wanted me to help him with programming at Smogon. I liked the endorsement of Smogon, because it legitimized the project and brought users to my server. But we both agreed that CAP threads were a mess in Stark Mountain and pissing off the Smogon old guard. So Chaos and I agreed to the following terms:
    • Chaos would make a dedicated subforum for Create-A-Pokemon, he would allocate a subdomain on Smogon for me to create a CAP website, and Smogon would officially "sponsor" CAP -- but CAP would be a separate entity from Smogon
    • I agreed to endorse Smogon tiers and rulesets on my server and I would promote Smogon in general there
    • I agreed to take responsibility for the CAP Project and I would moderate project content, web content, threads, and members and make sure we didn't get out of control
    • Chaos agreed that we would have autonomy within the subforum and the ability to enforce whatever CAP rules we saw fit
    • CAP would not be subject to any moderation or retribution from other Smogon staff, on the condition that we observe Smogon's general posting rules and general behavior guidelines
    • I agreed to help Smogon with programming projects to be determined later
    So disaster was averted and the CAP project's future was forever changed. I was made a Smogon Moderator and given an artist badge because Chaos wanted to use my Garchomp picture on the main DP page of Smogon. I set up the CAP forum and moved all the CAP threads there -- including the threads for the ongoing CAP2 project where we were making Revenankh. I made a bunch of rules, wrote a detailed process guide, and wrote a bunch of other organization and reference documentation. I did all that original work not just to pull the project together, but also to give some proof to the rest of Smogon that we weren't just a bunch of disorganized noob fanboys masturbating over silly fake pokemon. I wanted to make it very clear that CAP was a serious endeavor, and that we weren't going to take any shit from anyone inside the CAP project or outside of it. I effectively gave Smogon a foothold in the 4th gen battle simulator world, in exchange for a little forum space for us to use -- and I didn't want any more interference from naysayers and critics.

    For the record, those "programming projects to be named later" that I agreed to do for Smogon turned out to be:
    • The Smogon University ShoddyBattle Server
    • The Smogon Damage Calculator
    • Smogon Tiering and Usage Statistics for the entire DP generation of metagames
    • The programs and statistical analysis for the first Smogon Suspect Testing process
    • and many many more
    So I think Chaos did quite well in the deal. On top of that, Smogon has had countless contributors and senior staffers that started their Smogon career by contributing to Create-A-Pokemon. In fact, almost every member of my original CAP server Blue Team went on to become Smogon staff members. Smogon, as a whole, has benefited greatly from our partnership.

    Over time, my role in Smogon changed considerably, as I moved from just leading the CAP project to be a Supermod and to my current role as an Administrator for Smogon. CAP and Smogon have become very intertwined over the years, to the point where most people think CAP is pretty much the same as other Smogon projects like The Smog or Battling 101. It isn't the same at a fundamental control and responsibility level, but I prefer to not emphasize the fact that CAP is actually still an autonomous entity, unless it is absolutely necessary to raise the point.

    Now you know the history of how the project came to be, how it was organized in its current form, and where I fit in to the CAP leadership mix and the Smogon leadership mix as a whole.


    Leadership Style

    CAP leadership is a "Benevolent Dictatorship" if we describe it as a form of government, although I cringe every time I see that phrase used to describe it. But it is an apt description. I enjoy seeing the project succeed, and I like to work behind the scenes to make this an interesting place for us to participate as a community. Hence, the "benevolent" aspect of things. I take that very seriously. Sometimes to a fault, I try to keep my ego out of things and I try to act in the best interests of the project as a whole. But I am far from perfect, and I hope no one expects me to be. I have plenty of annoying personality quirks and I make mistakes all the time. But I truly enjoy working to provide things for others.

    I do my best to be fair, even in cases where manipulative assholes use my sense of fairness against me. Some people have learned how to exploit the rules we have established here, and then also exploit my tendency to give contrary opinions due consideration. In those cases, some observers and project newcomers conclude that all CAP decisions are subject to a community vote, or that if someone can establish enough popular support, they can do whatever they want around here. That is certainly not the case. That's where the "dictatorship" side of things comes into play. I don't play that card very often, but it's not uncommon for me to do so when ending arguments with some indignant wannabe-lawyer types who are dissatisfied with the way I have handled a situation and they are directly or indirectly threatening to "go above my head" or otherwise attempt to overturn my decision. In arguments like that, I sometimes make the comment, "You seem to be under the mistaken impression that this is a democracy."

    I like to encourage others to be leaders here in the CAP project. When I first organized the CAP forum, everyone assumed that I would lead every CAP project since I was put in charge of everything. I didn't want that then, and I still don't want it now. I like the idea of CAP having a broad distribution of leaders of various aspects of the project, and a rotation of responsibility to shepherd each pokemon from start to completion. Although I am sometimes very involved in certain decisions, and sometimes I will flat out "put my foot down" and make a decision by executive fiat -- I usually try to manage by consensus building. I also try to promote others and watch them reap the satisfaction and glory of successful leadership. I've never really been interested in running an individual CAP project, and I've always felt it wouldn't be right for me to do so. The way I see it, I'm responsible for the framework and foundation of CAP. But when it comes to individual projects, I prefer to be a regular contributor and enjoy participating just like everyone else.

    I try to look at the big picture when it comes to CAP. That's the reason I'm making this thread and others right now. I'm trying to get more of you to see the bigger picture as it applies to CAP, with the hopes that perhaps we can turn this thing around and get on a better path forward. I'd also like to start grooming a new set of up-and-coming CAP leaders, because right now I feel like the well is running dry. That's one of the warning signs that we've gone astray, because many of the people that are currently active and influencing CAP decisions seem to have no clue about the underlying drivers that make this project work. Which brings us full circle to the point where I started this post! So now that we have a ton of backstory out of the way -- let's talk about operating principles, shall we?

    Fundamental Operating Principles


    Dichotomy Part A: This is a terrible way to build a good pokemon

    If you really want to make a good pokemon, don't invite a few hundred people together to make decisions in a rigid step-by-step manner and use majority vote for every significant decision. Design-by-committee sucks. If you want to make a good pokemon, get a few talented people together in a room, and make it an iterative effort. Building a pokemon en masse waterfall-style is fraught with problems and is virtually guaranteed to have many stumbles and mistakes along the way. Popularity voting is a horrible way to get anything of quality, because propaganda and bandwagoning tend to overshadow "doing the right thing" almost every time. All in all, the CAP process is pretty much the worst way to make a high-quality pokemon you could possibly conceive.

    So get used to it.

    We are NEVER going to encourage a few supposed "experts" to go off in a private room and make their own wonderful pokemon, and then reveal it to the CAP masses and expect the rest of the community to call it "our creation". It is not going to happen. If you even imply it -- you are threatening the community aspect of this project and you are missing the whole point of Create-A-Pokemon. If we don't do this thing as a big collaborative group -- then we are not doing "Create-A-Pokemon".

    The internet is filled with thousands of fakemon created by individuals or very small groups. It is so common and uninteresting, it's not even funny. Do a quick Google search on the term "fakemon". Do you honestly give a shit about the stat spread or movepool of any of the thousands of pokemon you see in the list that comes up? Do you have even the slightest desire to actually work to implement any of those pokemon and use them in real battles? Don't get me wrong, some of those fakemon look cool as hell and you'd probably try them out if you could easily battle with them. But would you actually expend any of your personal time and effort to determine if those pokemon were competitively viable, and then work to implement them on a simulator to use them in battle?

    Hell no, you wouldn't.

    Because all those personal fakemon creations are a dime a dozen. They saturate pokemon fandom so completely that they are irrelevant at best, and annoying at worst. That is not the goal to which Create-A-Pokemon aspires.

    I don't care what you personally know about making awesome pokemon, and what kind of amazing pokemon you might make if you had a chance to do it on your own. Let me repeat that for emphasis -- I DON'T CARE. And neither does anyone else. And that is exactly the point and key differentiator between your perfect personal creations, and our horribly flawed group creations. People CARE about our pokemon creations, and they don't care about yours. And if ours is flawed and yours is perfect, what does that tell you about how quality relates to interest and involvement? END RESULT QUALITY DOES NOT MATTER MUCH AT ALL. What matters is that we all get to play a part in the creation of our pokemon, and we all feel like we own a little piece of it.

    Create-A-Pokemon gets many people invested in the creation process, and it is precisely because of that investment that our project stands head and shoulders above all the other personal fakemon projects out there. Yes, our process makes it very hard to make a good pokemon. But it is the ONLY way to get everyone involved, and THAT is the reason the project exists.

    So when I see individual CAP participants getting pissed off about our pokemon being "ruined" by people that "don't know what they are doing"; or when I see individuals trying to hog threads, manipulate polls, or otherwise short-circuit the community in order to make what they consider to be a "better pokemon" -- those people just don't get it. In fact, as a community leader, you should see it as your job to protect the community from the influence of people like that. So if you really can't stand to be part of a project that knowingly and consistently makes less-than-perfect pokemon -- then get out of here and don't come back. Because you are not going to be happy here, and we're not going to be happy with you while you are here.

    On the other hand, if you like being part of big groups, if you like pitting your ideas against others and vying for your ideas to be selected over others, if you enjoy the crucible of creating something and exploring ideas with others -- then the CAP project is the place for you.


    Dichotomy Part B: CAP pokemon are important and our decisions matter

    This may seem completely contrary to the point I just made above, but CAP pokemon are "important" and our decisions have important consequences. I put the word "important" in quotes, because I don't mean they are literally important. We are just making fake pokemon for crissakes. But we need to treat each step of the process as important, otherwise everyone will make a half-assed effort on the project. Although we must accept that the result of all our hard work will likely not be very good, we still need to encourage a project where everyone gives their best effort.

    People don't work hard on anything if they don't feel like the results of their effort have any real impact. So it is imperative that CAP takes each project seriously and we consider each decision carefully. We encourage participants to make good arguments. We encourage submitters to work their ass off on their submissions and to put their best foot forward. We celebrate winners, and we console losers. Each step of the CAP process is treated with gravity and importance -- and that is BY DESIGN. It makes everyone step up their game and work hard to make the best possible decision on every step. It's what makes each CAP pokemon as good as it reasonably can be.

    Deal with the dichotomy

    If you want to be a leader around here; if you want to truly "get it" in terms of the inner workings of Create-A-Pokemon -- you need to synthesize the two principles I just presented above. On the one hand, you have to accept that our creations will most likely never be very "good". But you must also be absolutely committed to encouraging us to make it as "good as it can be", taking into account the considerable limitations imposed by the project structure and community creation process. Most people tend to fall in one camp or the other, but never really figure out how to promote both principles. If you understand the importance of both, then you are well on your way to being a true CAP leader, and not just a person who posts a lot in CAP threads.


    This is a "serious" project, which is what makes it "fun".

    (Warning: I tend to overuse quoted words and phrases all the time, but I will be using them even more than usual here, because I really don't want anyone to make strictly literal interpretations of phrases with the words "serious" and "fun" in them.)

    Create-A-Pokemon is sometimes derided with comments like,
    "CAP takes itself too seriously. They need to lighten up and have some fun. After all this is just Pokemon..."
    No doubt the CAP project has a lot of rules and process and structure, and all that organization can be very stuffy and oppressive at times.

    But as a leader, you need to always remember that the organized, analytical basis of CAP is one of the key differentiators between CAP and every other fakemon project on the internet. The "serious" orientation of the CAP project is also the only reason CAP exists in partnership with Smogon. Although Smogon has plenty of "fun" aspects, the main appeal of Smogon is that it takes the game of Pokemon "seriously".

    Pokemon is a silly little kids game, whose main purpose is for exploring a simplistic fantasy world, collecting cute characters, and solving puzzles aimed at elementary school children. Within the game of Pokemon are some interesting battling elements that we take "seriously" and we analyze it from a competitive standpoint on par with many other "adult" games. Smogon basically wrote the book on taking something intended almost purely for "fun" (the game of Pokemon) and making it into something "serious" (competitive battling). If you don't want to think of Pokemon as a "serious game", then you really don't need to be hanging out here in Smogon. Go to any one of the DOZENS of big websites aimed at the average pokemon player that is interested in purely fun pursuits like "Catch 'em all!" Smogon is aimed mostly at people that find it enjoyable to analyze the game of Pokemon. And CAP is the same way -- we have fun being serious about creating Pokemon.

    So when people throw around ideas for CAP that are intended mostly "just to have fun" -- that should raise a warning flag with CAP leaders. Not because having fun is a bad thing -- but it almost always has the unintended side effect of marginalizing the "serious" aspects of the project. I can't say categorically that anything proposed as "fun" will be bad for CAP. We've seen all sorts of great projects from Cartoons' Battle Capacity fighting game to wacky tournament formats on the CAP server -- all initiated as "fun projects", that worked out great for us. We will continue to do things for fun. But as a leader of the project, be wary of anything suggested as a "fun project". Most of them are attempts to apply CAP community principles to something mostly related to Pokemon flavor, and that just isn't a good match.

    The CAP community and process is rooted in analytical discussions about competitive pokemon. When a project gets centered on flavor, it takes the teeth out of any attempt at engaging discussion. There is simply no way to argue over flavor in Pokemon. There's no way to determine who has a good point and who has a bad point. So basically, if we do flavor projects (ie. "fun projects") we have nothing really to talk about. And if we don't have something interesting to talk about -- then why are we hosting it on an internet discussion forum? And why are we doing it within a community geared towards serious analytical discussions?

    Don't get me wrong, CAP sometimes goes a bit overboard and gets "too serious" at times. At the end of the day, this is a leisure time activity for everyone on the project, and levity is a good thing for all of us. But always remember this essential truth about CAP participation -- if you don't think it is "fun" to have "serious" discussions about creating fake pokemon -- then CAP is not the place for you, and you should NOT be wasting your time trying to make CAP into a place you consider "fun".


    Defend project legitimacy and resist fanboyism

    Fanboys. Pokemon geeks. Pokenerds. You know who they are. Heck, I AM ONE. If you are reading this, then you are too! But hopefully you are also serious about competitive Pokemon.

    The CAP project is a magnet for fanboys and fanboyism is a black hole for the CAP project.

    If we want to be a pure fan project, then we don't need to be doing this project in Smogon. In fact, if we want to be a pure fan project, then we won't be able to continue here at Smogon. Smogon is first and foremost a competitive battling community, and the CAP project needs to align with that.

    It is impossible to be a competitive project if the project does not have the participation of good competitive battlers. In general, competitive battlers do not like to participate in forums dominated by little kids and pokemon noobs who talk endlessly about whether Bulbasaur is cuter than Squirtle, or brag about how amazing Hyper Beam is on Snorlax. You can call competitive battlers elitist or snobs, but the fact remains that most people that play pokemon know very little about the "serious" aspects of battling. It is incredibly annoying for the people that know about competitive battling to hang around with the average pokenoob. So we have to do our best to make a project that is exciting and enticing for knowledgeable battlers, and that means we have to discourage the project from being overrun with fanboys and fanboy concerns.

    If you look at the CAP project and most of the participants are pokenerds that don't battle competitively, have no knowledge of competitive battling, and no desire to learn more about competitive battling -- then would you conclude that CAP is a "competitive project"? If you were a typical good competitive player, would you want to jump in and be a part of the project? No. If that was the case, and if you did want to be part of the project, you would not be doing so as a competitive battler. You would participate as a fanboy too and you would do it "Just to have fun".

    For individuals and their motivation level, there is nothing wrong with that. But for the project as a whole, it is a terrible influence. If it goes unchecked, the project is doomed.

    Unfortunately, when the average new pokemon player comes to Smogon they are somewhat intimidated. All the serious battle strategies, lingo and acronyms, organized tournaments, rules and tiers -- the whole thing is kinda scary to new players. But as they survey the forum listing, they come across a phrase that resonates with them instantly -- "Create. A. Pokemon."
    Halleluyah! Something that makes every fan's heart sing -- a place for pokemon fans to make their own pokemon! "OMG, I have the greatest idea for a pokemon! I know so much about Pokemon, I beat the Elite 4 ten times in a row! I will instantly fit right in here!"

    Ugh.

    So they come in droves. And they don't bother to read rules or learn what the project is all about. They assume they know the game of Pokemon and they dive right into the CAP project. When they see a bunch of competitive mumbo-jumbo being discussed, they bypass that and focus on what they do know about -- which is flavor. And they do this in one of two ways -- they make flavor comments in competitive threads, or they stay out of competitive threads and only post in flavor threads. Both of these tendencies are actually bad for the long-term health of the CAP project. Both forms of participation act as a disincentive for participation from good competitive players. Fanboys either shit up the competitive threads, or they make the competitive threads look like a graveyard of activity -- both of those are bad for CAP.


    So here's what we have to do as leaders of the CAP project to keep us on course -- We have to discourage fanboyism and flavor across the board, and play up the competitive aspects of the project as much as possible. I'm basically saying we need to abuse the innocent pokemon nerds, and coddle the smug competitive battlers. It's a harsh statement, I know.

    But here's the harsh truth -- pokemon "fan knowledge" is pretty much worthless to us. It has almost no value, because it is so easy to come by. How much work does it take to learn enough about pokemon to argue if Dragon pokemon look cooler than Dark pokemon? How hard is it to find someone capable of writing a Pokedex entry? How many people feel they have enough pokemon expertise to come up with a good name for a pokemon? Pokemon fan knowledge is worth jack shit here at CAP. Because there is no defensible "skill" to it, and there is no way to distinguish between people that are "good" at pokemon flavor and who is "bad" at pokemon flavor.

    Competitive knowledge, on the other hand, is very valuable at CAP and is generally hard to come by. It's not hard to come by in Smogon, but it can be hard to attract to the CAP project if we allow the project to be dominated by users obsessing over flavor. We don't want CAP members interested only in flavor -- we want people with expert knowledge and skills to participate in CAP, and for THOSE PEOPLE, we want to provide a place for them to indulge their fan interests. Does that make sense?

    The focus of the CAP project is experimentation with competitive battling, and alongside that we provide a small outlet for our fan interests. The fanboy aspects of CAP are just an "added bonus" for the competitive players we want to involve here. Unfortunately, the fan stuff tends to overshadow everything, and it is the primary attraction for a HUGE number of CAP participants. But don't confuse popularity with focus. The CAP project is not designed to be a fanboy project, and we will never succumb to the constant onslaught of fan influence. If we really want a fan project, then we are doing this entirely the wrong way, and we are doing it in the wrong place here at Smogon.

    Don't get me wrong, we are ALL fans of pokemon and we all probably got started in the CAP project due to a keen interest in the flavor aspects of the project. Whether you were intrigued by the cool artwork, you got hooked by a prevo thread, or you made a noobish post about some ridiculous typing you would like to see in the real game -- almost every "serious CAP veteran" probably started in CAP as a flavor-loving fanboy. I know I did. And there's nothing wrong with that. But we need to transition that initial fanboy hook into a deeper interest in serious competitive pokemon. Even if CAP participants never get into battling seriously, they need to understand and appreciate that CAP is primarily driven by competitive goals. If participants don't make that transition, then we should not cater to their desire for CAP to be a home for pokemon fans only interested in flavor.

    From the very beginnings of the CAP project, we have had to defend our legitimacy as a worthwhile competitive endeavor. And despite our history, our organization, our rules, and our process -- we still get a constant stream of pokemon noobs that wander into the CAP project and assume we are just making "kewl pogeymanzz". These people litter our competitive threads with idiotic flavor comments and suggestions. They spam the art threads with "OMG that is so awesome!!!" comments, but don't even bother to look at the damage calcs when voting for stat spreads. They are the regular joe pokemon players of the world, and they will forever be the bane of our existence.


    A CAP project is a big event

    Almost every aspect of an individual CAP project is designed to make it into "a big deal". It's something I learned a long time ago in leading groups, and I made it a fundamental part of CAP. We want to make each CAP project a big spectacular event with a big buildup and a high-profile execution. This is the main reason we don't rush the creation process, and it's the main reason I don't like us to have anything else significant going on in the CAP forum when we are in the middle of building a pokemon.

    I bristle when I see people make comments between CAP projects like, "Let's hurry up and start the next one!" While I appreciate the enthusiasm, we should intentionally put some spacing in between projects. If we just crank out pokemon one after the other, it lessens everyone's individual commitment to make each project as good as it can be. We don't want contributors thinking, "Hmmm, I'm a little busy right now. I'll sit out this one and participate next time." That's a sign we are doing projects too frequently. We want people thinking, "Oh wow, a CAP project is starting! Let me clear my schedule to make sure I can participate in this special event!" I don't expect anyone to literally say these things, but you get the idea. We want CAP projects to be special, not just regular run-of-the-mill activity in the CAP forum.

    This is the reason I don't want to see CAP projects running concurrently. In addition to making a confusing mix of threads in the CAP forum, it creates the perception that the CAP project is a factory that churns out pokemon one after the other. Heck, I don't even like too many steps on a single project being executed concurrently. When we are executing a CAP project, we want all eyes on the current step. We want everyone giving their best effort on that step. We want every submitter that makes the poll to feel like they are in the limelight. We want every winner to feel like they achieve a little well-deserved e-fame. We want all participants to think, "We need to capitalize on this project now, because we won't get another chance to do this for a while." We want everyone to feel like they are part of something BIG.

    Think of each CAP project like Smogon regards major tournaments. The buildup is big, the stakes are high, and there's lots of glory for the winners. So everyone works their ass off to maximize the opportunity, and many people prepare well in advance to ensure they don't blow it. Competitive battlers are heavily "invested" in major tournaments. We want a similar investment from CAP participants.

    There are lots of little things we do in CAP to amp up the importance of each project. The CAP website is basically a highlighter underscoring the importance of CAP. The main reason I put a lot of work into the subsite, was to make our project look like a "big deal". The CAP subsite is one of the biggest and most advanced sections in Smogon.com. Our process guide is featured prominently. Each step has rigid rules and history. When we even consider changing those rules, we make big Policy Review threads and discuss the issues in minute detail. Some of you may hate that stuff and pass it off as "bureaucracy". I'll let you in on a little secret -- if you get annoyed by the "bureaucracy", YOU DON'T GET IT. All the attention paid to the process, is part of what makes it obvious to everyone that the process is important, and our project has weight and gravitas.

    Longtime CAP members may remember that in every CAP news announcement, I would always describe implementing our pokemon on the simulator and use the phrase "use it in REAL BATTLES!". I did that because most people assume that fakemon projects are just for making pretty pictures of pokemon and assigning typing and names. I always felt it was important to mention that in CAP we actually battle with our pokemon, and not just theorymon with them. It's a little thing that jacks up the importance and hype of the project, and hopefully increases commitment to the project.

    When a CAP project is underway, I think the CAP forum is the most exciting and interesting place in all of Smogon. I know many other people feel the same way. Keep that in mind as we plan and execute operations in CAP. Don't spread the project out too thin, and don't allow distractions to steal the thunder from our core project threads. It is very easy to allow well-intentioned participants to spin up activity that diverts attention from the community. Don't assume the project will attract attention magically. CAP gets attention because we work to build hype and anticipation and we have structured our operations to hold people's attention along the way.


    Great art is great advertising

    Artists have a special place in CAP, and we intentionally cater to them. We have special rules for art and special expectations, we dedicate the most technically advanced part of the CAP subsite to artists, and we moderate art threads and polls with more attention than just about any other threads in CAP. Considering that art and sprites are just flavor and have nothing to do with competitive pokemon, you may wonder why we make such a fuss over artwork. It's because great artwork tends to draw all sorts of attention to the CAP project.

    The art and sprite polls consistently get the most votes in a given CAP. The art submission thread gets TEN TIMES more views than most other CAP threads. On the Smogon.com website, the CAP Gallery is one of the most visited pages in all of Smogon. Let's face it -- people love pretty pictures of fake pokemon.

    So we try to create an environment that encourages talented artists to participate in CAP. That's the main reason I made the CAP gallery -- I didn't like seeing good artists that didn't win first place feeling like their artwork "lost" and would get no further attention. By showcasing the top art for every CAP, we encourage artists to participate, even if they have doubts if they can win.

    I do not consider artwork to be the most important aspect of CAP, but it's certainly near the top of the list, by simple virtue of its drawing power (no pun intended). But art has its downsides too. Artists are whiny. Cheating is rampant in art threads and polls. Moderating art threads is a constant nightmare. And art threads attract more annoying fanboys than you can shake a stick at. But good art is still well worth all the trouble.

    Let me take this opportunity to mention that we have an ART COMPETITION in CAP, not a DESIGN COMPETITION. Part of me really wishes CAP art could be about truly good designs, rather than pretty pictures -- but the practical reality of CAP is that "good design skill" is ambiguous to the point of being worthless. I find it very frustrating when wannabe artists spam up the art threads on the misguided perception that they are "good designers that simply can't draw very well". That's horseshit, and I place very little value on their "contribution" to the CAP project. Everyone has opinions on art, and everyone can write down an idea that they think would make for an amazing pokemon design. You can call that "design skill" all you want, but it's nothing special at all. People that have trained themselves to draw well or sprite well have developed a distinctly identifiable skill, and those are the people that we want to encourage to participate on the CAP project. Everyone else are just commenters and voters, and nothing more. So while the ideal of CAP wanting good designs is noble, the fact is that we really just want good skilled artists to participate in CAP.

    In the past we have had people who claimed to be "good designers" ask if they can commission professional artists to draw their designs for the designer to enter in CAP competitions. While this might get some really great looking art in the CAP poll, I refuse to allow professional commissions because I think it would discourage active CAP artists that regularly participate in the community. We want CAP to be a place where talented individuals participate with others; not a place where no-talent hacks with money pay some professional hired gun to win a contest for them.

    So yeah, great art is a boon to the CAP project and great artists should always get somewhat special treatment around here.


    Appearances matter
    (aka. Step outside the bubble)

    The CAP project has been around a long time, and we have developed many internal traditions, rules, lingo, history, and culture. I call it the "CAP Bubble" because many people that get immersed in CAP lose perspective on how things look to the normal competitive pokemon playing public. We sometimes make decisions that seem perfectly normal to CAP, but appear to be stupid, broken, or fanboyish to the average outsider. If this gets out of control, it can actually hurt project participation or operations. Sometimes when I see us about to make a bad decision like that I will say, "That could cause PR problems for us." (referring to Public Relations, not Policy Review) CAP project leaders need to step outside the bubble and be sure to manage how things appear. In business jargon, the term "optics" is used to refer to "how things appear". In CAP, we always need to manage the optics of our project and pokemon.

    We need to respect common assumptions about the game of Pokemon, regardless of whether such assumptions are valid in terms of the CAP project or in light of past CAP experience. For example, in early DP CAP we seriously considered giving Stratagem a speed higher than 130. Whether 130+ speed was appropriate for that pokemon or not was less of a concern than the general appearance that 130+ speed would give to the public. At that time, the only pokemon with more than 130 speed were ubers or very specialized pokemon, most of which could not really be used in OU for other reasons. For all intents and purposes, 130 was the effective speed ceiling for a "normal pokemon". If CAP gave a pokemon 140 speed, for example, it would be instantly labeled a "stupid fanboy pokemon" by casual observers, just because of the ridiculously high speed. It really didn't matter if learned students of the game would conclude upon further analysis that our pokemon was fine with that higher speed and it was perfectly balanced in DP OU. The CAP project didn't need a lot of negative press for violating a commonly accepted belief, just to allow us to play with a speed number never seen before on a normal OU pokemon. It just wasn't worth the PR trouble.

    CAP participants and voters tend to love new things, and therefore we tend to do things in CAP that have never been done before. That's great in many cases. It creates excitement. It makes discussions fresh and interesting. But when we go too far with it, we damage our credibility to outsiders. If anyone thinks, "I don't care what outsiders think. We can do whatever we want here on the CAP project!" -- then you just "don't get it". You have spent too much time inside the CAP bubble and have forgotten the way normal competitive pokemon is played and how players think.

    While I'm mentioning appearances, I'd like to remind everyone of something very obvious that we sometimes forget to acknowledge when discussing the CAP project "in public" (ie. not in the CAP forum, #cap channel, etc):

    CAP POKEMON ARE NOT REAL POKEMON.

    I wince when I am chatting in a Smogon channel talking about competitive pokemon and some CAP diehard brings up a CAP pokemon and inserts it into the conversation without any special segue or explanation. It's terribly awkward when this happens. Usually the conversation just dies immediately. Or even worse, a few other CAP diehards chime in and everyone else shuts up as the CAP guys go on and on with their conversation about pokemon that don't really exist, that the rest of the world knows nothing about, and most people couldn't care less about. See the problem with this?

    This was exactly the problem that first jeopardized the CAP project in the very beginning with Smogon. CAP members went and posted CAP teams in the general Smogon RMT forum, and honestly expected badged team raters to rate the teams. The Smogon team raters got offended, because they considered it to be the exact same as someone posting a Digimon team in the forum and asking Pokemon team raters to comment. They responded, "Get the fuck out of our forum, you idiot fanboys, and take your retarded fake characters with you! We play a game called Pokemon here, in case you didn't know." It almost got the CAP project killed.

    We've come a long way since then, and we don't have anything to fear from outsiders really. But the project still depends on new blood to join the project on a regular basis. It's hard to attract new talent if we have created a terrible public perception to outsiders. In the CAP forum, we tend to get so immersed in our project that we lose sight of how things look to everyone else. Always keep it in the back of your mind when making decisions on CAP pokemon, and keep it in mind when discussing the project publicly.


    Be willing to change

    This principle is about the policies of Create-A-Pokemon project, and a desire to encourage the project to evolve. One of the first things I did when I formed the CAP forum was I enacted an open Policy Review process by which we as a community could question CAP policies and try to improve the way we operate. Even though I was clearly the guy in charge, I didn't want people to think they couldn't propose changes to the project. I'm generally very open to explaining my reasons for my beliefs, and I'm willing to defend policies I advocate. I wanted everyone on the CAP project to adopt a mentality where we constantly evaluate our project and force ourselves to ask the question, "How can we improve the project?" Groups of people tend to become slaves to tradition, and stagnation develops. So I wanted to make constant evaluation and change a core tradition of the CAP project. I wanted to turn a weakness into a strength.

    By instituting traditions that encourage group evaluation of policy, we ensure that leadership never assumes they are infallible. Regular change also makes the project not fear failure. Sometimes we enact policies knowing full well that they don't fully solve the problem, but the proposed change is a step towards solving the problem. That is a very healthy mindset for businesses, and I think it is healthy for our CAP project as well.

    But don't change things just for the hell of it. Sometimes people get bored with the CAP project and they want to "spice things up". Be careful about these kinds of suggestions. Often these things are distractions from the core mission of the CAP project, and they can cause more harm than good. If a policy change is suggested, always ask yourself, "What problem does this solve?" I have found that many policy suggestions from well-intentioned CAP participants don't actually solve any real problem. Usually the underlying problem is some form of "I'm bored." Well, that's YOUR problem, not OUR problem.

    The main reason for an ever-evolving project is constant IMPROVEMENT -- not constant EXPANSION. Like it or not, there's only so much territory Create-A-Pokemon can cover. CAP will never be an all-encompassing general pokemon community. CAP is a community focused on a certain niche. I'm not saying we should never expand, and I've been pleasantly surprised at some of the interesting offshoots that have spawned from the CAP project. But our mode of operations is to experiment with new competitive pokemon concepts. That's our bread-and-butter. Always be open to new ideas that allow CAP to improve at executing our core mission.


    It's about the project, not the pokemon

    I'll end with this one because it is, BY FAR, the most important operational principle in CAP. If you ignore everything else, please think long and hard about this one. If you don't understand and accept this principle, it is very unlikely that you will ever be able to help lead this project in a meaningful way. I described this in our mission statement as "It's about the journey, not the destination." I beat this drum at every opportunity, because for some reason it is incredibly hard for people to keep at the forefront of their thinking when leading the community.

    Don't worry about the pokemon we make; worry about the way we make pokemon. Don't focus on the winner of a poll; focus on the quality of the discussions that led up to the poll. Encourage everyone to give their best effort; don't obsess over making the best pokemon. Don't get so concerned about how powerful a CAP pokemon is in battles during the week we playtest it; be concerned about whether we had an interesting and engaging project for the two months that we spent building it! Create-A-Pokemon is more about "creating" than it is about "pokemon". CAP projects don't get "ruined" by choosing a bad stat spread or giving it a bad movepool -- CAP projects get ruined by having boring discussions or discussions that wander all over the place and no can figure out what the hell is being talked about for 8 weeks straight.

    CAP participants have a tendency to be very myopic and selfish during a project. Individual participants do not care if they are working well with the community and encouraging robust discussions involving as many people as possible. When the average CAP participant makes a post, they don't give a shit about anyone else. They have an opinion as to what is the "best decision" for a given step, or they might even have a submission of their own that they want to win. Either way, they aren't thinking about the community for any reason other than ensuring that their option wins the next poll.

    When a CAP member gets to a point where they can actually influence other votes, the selfish motive gets even stronger. These members begin to build long-term visions of the kind of pokemon they want by the end of the process and they argue vocally to try and make the community go in the direction they want. When the community doesn't go down their preferred course, they pout and complain. Some people throw a selfish tantrum and ragequit the project. Others might adopt a "sour grapes" mentality and try to counter-campaign against options that beat them in earlier polls. Some people outright cheat and manipulate polls to try and ensure that their personal favorite wins.

    It's amazing the lengths people will go to in order to try and get what they personally want out of a given CAP project. But if you really think about it, it's pretty silly to do that. If you really want to make a pokemon according to your own personal desires -- then just fucking do that! Go do it on your own! You don't need to be part of CAP to make your own personal pokemon! I marvel at why some people are so obsessed with "getting their way" when it comes to making community decisions about our little fakemons. I personally enjoy participating in interesting discussions, and learning about competitive pokemon in the process. I definitely have favored options, and I will try to argue convincingly for them. But I accept that this is a community process, and I can only control my opinion and my participation. As such, I don't waste much time obsessing over outcomes. It's pointless and selfish to do so. But make no mistake about it -- that's exactly what most CAP members do every time. They obsess on results and not on participation.

    Don't fall into that trap. As a CAP leader, you need to raise your sights higher. Rise above your petty personal favorites and look at the bigger picture. Help make a great project. Help inspire intriguing discussions. Encourage us to make tough choices and evaluate difficult decisions. Praise good arguments, even if the argument is for something that is not your favorite option. Create a positive environment that attracts intelligent and talented people to participate. That's the best way to recruit people that will be future leaders and decision influencers on the project, and ensures Create-A-Pokemon is a healthy, self-sustaining, community project.

    <The End>
  2. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
    is a member of the Site Staffis an Artistis a Programmeris a CAP Contributoris an Administratoris a Battle Server Admin Alumnusis a Smogon IRC SOp Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnus
    CAP Leader

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    3,049
    Ok, so if you made it through all that, you should now have a much better understanding about how this project got started and some of the core principles that have shaped Create-A-Pokemon over the years. All the PR threads that will be coming up, will bring many of these core principles into play, and our discussions will revolve around them. If you are not prepared to frame your comments and arguments within the context of the CAP mission and the principles and history of the project -- then you will not be able to add much value to Policy Review.

    Contrary to some people's perception -- Policy Review is not a judicial body that weighs in with subjective opinions and votes on matters. Yes, there have been votes by the PRC at times in the past, but that is not the purpose of this group. This group is intended to evaluate policy proposals and argue the merits of those proposals. Many of you really have had no basis to argue the merits of proposals, because you don't know the principles that constitute "merit" in the first place!

    My hope is that this thread will give you a much firmer idea of what makes something a "good idea" or a "bad idea" in CAP. Like any complex decision, most proposals help support some project principles and detracts from other principles. Weighing the pros and cons is what we do in PR. But we shouldn't be pulling pros and cons out of thin air. Use the principles mentioned above, and their logical extension as a guide for what constitutes a good or bad argument.

    In this thread, we can discuss the history and principles described in the OP. If some longtime CAP members think I have left out some important history, or I am omitting a big guiding principle -- feel free to post. For newer CAP members, if you want some clarification on what is presented above, feel free to ask.

    If anyone, old or new, wants to call any of these base principles into question, this thread is the place to do it. Keep in mind, that if you want to outright reject any of the principles mentioned above (Like, "Hey Doug, I think we should emphasize flavor over competitive." or "I think we should do what we want and ignore what the rest of Smogon thinks."), then you are going to have a very tough time convincing me that would be good for the project. But, I will hear you out and give you an opportunity to air your concerns.

    But we will NOT be calling base principles into question in any of the other PR threads. In other threads, we will be arguing how CAP principles apply to the policy being reviewed. We will not be arguing if established CAP principles themselves are good, bad, or agreeable. Think of it like a court of law. In court you argue if someone broke the law or not, and to what degree they broke it. You don't get to argue that the law is stupid and should not be a law in the first place. If you want to question the law itself, you do that in a completely different way, and you don't do it concurrently with arguing a criminal or civil case. Similar thing here.

    Whether you agree or disagree with everything I presented, I hope it was helpful for most of you. I'm the type of person that likes to understand things like historical context and principle reasoning, and I assume there are a few of you out there with a similar interest in details. I look forward to further discussions!
  3. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
    is a member of the Site Staffis an Artistis a Programmeris a CAP Contributoris an Administratoris a Battle Server Admin Alumnusis a Smogon IRC SOp Alumnusis a Tiering Contributor Alumnus
    CAP Leader

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,049
    Alright, I know many people have read this because it has been the topic of chat in #cap and other channels since I posted it. But no one has posted any commentary here. Possibly this is because there isn't a proposal on the table, or perhaps people aren't exactly sure what they should say about the massive amount of info I put out there.

    So let me give you a few questions to answer that will help us develop a group position on this general topic:

    What did you like or dislike about the OP? (You can't bitch about the length, because you were warned!)

    Did anything in the OP come as a surprise to you? Which principles were obvious to you before you read this?

    What mistaken history or misunderstandings about principles did you have previously, that were changed after you read the OP?

    Do you think we are currently doing a good job of upholding the principles listed in the OP? If not, which ones do you think should be our biggest areas of concern?


    This thread obviously isn't a normal PR review, and it is intended mostly for background reference. But I know there have been many reactions to this (even in other areas of Smogon!), and it is OK to post stuff in this thread.
  4. Fascinating read, Doug. In all my time in the CAP project, I've never seen such a clear explanantion of why the project is run the way it is, nor one that is so difficult to disagree with. I particularly appreciate your honesty on how CAP became affiliated with Smogon, and the consequences of the agreement. It more or less lines up with what I suspected, but I've long thought that in the drive to justify CAP's place on Smogon, there's been a certain amount of revisionist history (e.g. "CAP has always been primarily a competitive project") that made the purpose of the message less accessible to the average user. Anyone can look back at Syclant's old process threads, but for a long time now (since Arghonaut at the latest) I've observed what seems to be either a refusal by many "CAP leaders" to acknowledge that history, or an implicit admission that they didn't quite understand it either. I think a post that clarifies the early days and their consequences, many of which I only ever knew as rumours and my own conjecture, has been needed for a long time, and this one fills in the blanks quite nicely.

    On less of a policy-related note, I feel as though this post has done a surprising amount to remind me of why I love CAP. Once you reach a certain number of creations, with a certain amount of bureaucracy, I think the process will inevitably start to feel like the "factory" you alluded to, no matter how the projects are spaced. This may be why you are seeing a decline in the community-oriented mindset that originally guided us. Syclant was about proving that we, as a community, could create an interesting and viable Pokemon, and every project since has begun with that point already proven. Now, when you look at a list of CAP Pokemon, you don't see one or two exciting new creations, but rather fifteen creatures, some of them quite old, pumped out by a sophisticated process. The difference between two CAPs and fifteen, or between a few months and five years, is not small, and most of the novelty of the CAP process is long gone. Reading this post reminded me of the collective pride that came with the early creations, and why it is still entirely applicable to current ones. For this reason alone, I would encourage even users with no interest in leadership to read this thread.

    I do have one question, though. You opened your post with the suggestion that the CAP project has "lost its way". To help put things in perspective, is there any particular time at which you would say that we had it?

    Edit: Oh, and in terms of misconceptions I have had, I always suspect that the heavily competitive focus of CAP was something that had been imposed on you by the higher-ups of Smogon (before you were one, of course), with you having little or no say in the matter. To a user with no behind-the-scenes access, there was a jump from what was essentially a glorified fanboy project to one with much clearer competitive goals and a fanboy-crushing mindset, but next to no explanation for the change. In fact, as I said above, the explanations most often seemed to deny that anything ever had changed. Given that we're on the Smogon forums, a lot can be figured out fairly easily, but this thread nonetheless cleared up the lingering doubts I still had about what looked like a harsh new direction so long ago, and why it was needed.
  5. CBMeadow

    CBMeadow

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    I'm one of the (presumably?) relatively few fledgling CAP participants on PRC, so actually quite a lot was a surprise to me. I never got a history lesson on CAP before apart from the basics, and as an aside you did an excellent job explaining what happened and keeping my interest, so I commend you on that- the length was a complete non-issue for me and you couldn't have done it in less. I knew Cooper began the project, and assumed it was pretty crazy, but I had no idea the details on your server, the controversy, or the fact CAP's separate from Smogon; it really does look like a completely regular subforum.

    Maybe I missed this in the OP- but I do have a question; was there a distinct point where CAP transitioned from fairly hectic excitement over creating a competitive Pokemon to one more for the purpose of learning competitively? Is there no difference at all? Did it start out that way? Did it just slowly shift? Did it start off with no competitive intent, maybe? I always assumed it had started off not a normal fanboy-project, but without as strict of a competitive learning principle. Then again, that might have been due to the lack of structure.
    EDIT: Bull of Heaven inadvertently answered that question with his own edit. Still, details on how it once happened are still neat. I've often wondered what we tried before settling on the process order we have now...

    "Do we do a good job of abiding by the principles"? It's not perfect, but it works for what we have and it's hard to think of a new way that would actually benefit more than it would cost. I'll see what crazy theories I can come up with, but I might need time to process and mull over it. As for the principles themselves, I find them all sound and solid.

    I'm just thinking out loud, but these posts already have piqued my interest and gotten my mind working on CAP again. Here's to a good PRC period!
  6. Mdevil

    Mdevil

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    The OP was, from my inexperienced and naive perspective, quite intriguing and informative; it cleared up many of my misconceptions, the least of which being the fact that CAP and Smogon are separate entities. Speaking of which, is there any reason that is still so? To my knowledge the rest of Smogon does not consider us near as abhorrent anymore as is implied they did when CAP was young, key words being "to my knowledge".

    This leads me into the idea of "the bubble"; an idea I had not previously considered and has made me think some of my previous actions foolish. If there is one aspect of the OP which should be emphasized most I definitely believe it to be that. If those reading this look to the left, just below my avatar, they will see that I am pretty new. There must be numerous others as new or newer than me who came almost immediately to CAP and who are relatively unaware of the fact that life outside "the bubble" is different and as such should be reminded of this; future recruits to the project, which is one of the key topics from the PRC preview thread in the main CAP sub-forum, must also be aware of this idea. I believe that a reminder of this should be included in a stickied thread on the main sub-forum or at least added into the CAP forum rules as a suggestion for the new members who (hopefully) arrive in the future.

    EDIT 1: to clarify, I say this so newcomers would not tarnish or worsen our reputation with the Smogon community and as such turn off others from joining.
  7. capefeather

    capefeather YOU CAN'T STOP ROB
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    I was writing an exam. I dunno what other people were doing. But I think I'd have waited longer than four hours ;)

    Anyway to be more serious...

    I heard a lot of these things kind of through the grapevine, and it's great to see it all fleshed out. I didn't know the Shoddy CAP Server predated the Shoddy Smogon Server O.o I also never really thought of PR (or a bunch of other things) as part of trying to make CAP look like a "big deal"; I just felt it was appropriate to have many perspectives and work to have everyone on the same page.

    To me, the dichotomy part stood out the most (other than the history). We're trying to make a good Pokémon, yet we have to accept that the Pokémon we make will always have issues and offend people, including us, the participants. This theme has been one of the biggest things I've taken away from participating in this forum, and I am constantly reminded of it whenever people (including me possibly) complain about the current project being too good or too bad or too ugly. It is important to care about public relations and generally appealing to some traditions and biases; otherwise, we should have broken off from Smogon a long time ago. At the same time, we need to be making sure that we're honestly trying to learn something, and usually that happens by breaking preconceived notions and biases; otherwise, we're just another fakemon project pretending to be something more worthwhile. There needs to be a balance and it honestly depresses me when people complain disproportionately based on one side or the other. I'm not saying that every criticism is bad, since I've administered my share of criticisms of a project (once through a Smog article, even). I'm just saying that criticisms should be framed in a way that shows a genuine desire for honesty, understanding and general improvement - something that actually helps both leaders and other participants to move forward - rather than stubbornly sticking by one opinion and rejecting all others, which just pisses everyone off and doesn't accomplish anything.

    The area that I'd say I'd personally see room for improvement is on the ending stuff about the journey versus the destination. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone has fallen into the trap of focusing on the result more than the journey, and maybe a few people are surprised that I'd include myself in this. It's SO easy to start caring a great deal about one aspect or another, and then get frustrated when you try to improve it and it doesn't happen. It's also extremely easy to justify it - Rising_Dusk near the end kept saying that he was doing what he was doing for the sake of learning something BIG about the metagame, and I still wouldn't say he was "wrong" exactly. Additionally, focusing on the result is also what people outside the project do, and for the sake of public relations, we end up adopting that mentality to appeal to voters, friends outside Smogon, or whoever else.

    I started participating because I saw an environment where I could talk about competitive Pokémon without having being under the atmosphere of irritable tournament battlers. There were names I recognized, so I quickly took to molding myself after them. I was eager about criticisms (though perhaps it didn't seem that way back then), and it was great to know that I could try a submission regardless of my experience, lose (or not get slated), and learn from that experience. I kind of think that new contributors are not getting that experience, and when they win they think they've "made it" and don't get that opportunity of learning from failure.

    Eventually, though, most of them moved on or left or whatever, and there was this growing vacuum where there was no one I could really look up to save around three people... and Rising_Dusk in particular ended up shaping a lot of how I participated in subsequent projects, for better or for worse. And when I became a mod and even Rising_Dusk was gone, I had to decide quickly on a lot of things concerning what I was doing in this community and how I was going to conduct myself. Sometimes this led to repeating the mistakes of people before me, and other times it led to an honest look at my strengths and weaknesses, as well as the community's strengths and weaknesses. Even now I'm not quite sure of what I'm doing coming into this forum on a regular basis as a mod. Yet, I'm pretty sure that most of the CAP mods actually share that sentiment. I ultimately see that as a strength of the leadership, as a way of keeping us down-to-earth, constantly questioning what we could do better, and trying to be open to every idea without succumbing to what Doug was talking about, trying things for the hell of it. Questioning ourselves is often a discouraging and even depressing process, but if anybody should be doing it, it is us, the people who have gotten ourselves into some kind of leadership capacity.
  8. CiteAndPrune

    CiteAndPrune

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    To answer in order...

    I liked the OP. This is something that I wished existed when I was getting into CAP, it'd have helped me out in my early days, but it's good to finally learn from it now. It'll be valuable to any new members still lurking, for sure.

    I had an intuitive understanding of some of these key principles, but couldn't quite put them into words. Over the course of Aurumoth I learned that 'what the community wants > what a particular member (YOU) wants' and it certainly helped me to relax and stop obsessing over results going the way I wanted, personally. Seeing the dichotomy now, I feel more confident than ever in taking it upon myself to stick to it and lead by example.

    I didn't know much of CAP's history at all, only its creations really. I didn't know who Cooper was, or that CAP and Smogon are really seperate entities. This history lesson was very valuable, along with the lesson why great art and good public relations and beauracracy achieve. With a known purpose to them, they are much easier to get used to.

    Finally - I think that the process ensures the principles are upheld quite well, even if particular members lost sight of them, we should be better off now that we're on the same page. If there is any one area that merits looking into, it may be the duties/rights of the Topic Leader, as in, maybe that position currently grants too much power for one individual to direct where the process goes. Then again, this depends on the member being Topic Leader, and some can perfectly well restrain themselves and let the community have its say, except when controversial matters need a firm resolution. But that's something to explore in more detail in a future topic.
  9. Birkal

    Birkal Now watch me tie it into a knot with my tongue
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    I really don't have a lot to comment on. I adore DJD's post in every facet; there isn't a lick of it that I disagree with. And trust me, I've combed through this multiple times to find even a tiny sliver of a statement that doesn't resonate with me. From how we treat public relations to how to deal with the dichotomy, this OP is golden. If you're a PR member that hasn't read this through, do it. Grab a bowl of popcorn or soup or whatever. It's important enough that it deserves your undivided attention for about thirty minutes.

    I know that I've told some of you, but I am currently a piano performance major at college. That means that I practice piano in complete isolation from others for two hours a day minimum. When you pour that much time into an art form, you come to understand the importance of practice. And to be honest, practicing piano has become my favorite part of piano; I'd rather unwind for a few hours in a practice room than have the stress of getting up on stage to play for people. I want to learn piano, not show it off. Heck, when you get into a performance, it's impossible to not make a mistake, so you've essentially "failed" any performance you give. That's the beauty in practicing: it's educational, it's fun, and it's done out of free will.

    For those of you who didn't catch it, the above paragraph is basically a huge metaphor for the CAP project. We are about the journey, not the destination. If you come into this itching for the Final Product to come as soon as possible, then I question what your motivations lie. The process is what our focus is; however, the part about how we deal with public relations is important as well. This applies for my piano life: although practicing is what's most valued, I am still concerned about performances, because it shows my professor, colleagues, and sponsors (parents) that I am improving as a musician. Same thing goes for CAP. The journey is the most important aspect, but we should also care somewhat about how the outside world views our project. I hope that when we as a CAP community are making decisions in the future, we account for both of these facets in each of our decisions.

    Some of the history "clicked" in my brain when reading through. I had known about the CAP server vs. the Smogon server, but I didn't fully understand the struggles it had with higher staff back in the day. Also, I think this quote really struck with me:

    The CAP project is a magnet for fanboys and fanboyism is a black hole for the CAP project.​

    DJD explored this a bit in his original post, but I feel that this relationship is something we all need to be consistently aware of. When we get new members, the goal is to "grow them up" past the initial draw of fanboyism isn't a logical participant who uses competitive reasoning. However, we need to make sure we're maintaining that initial hook of intrigue to draw in new members. We need to make sure that we don't obsess about this phrase to the point that we don't cater to fanboys whatsoever. The goal should be to hook them with "our fakemon project" as they set it, and transform them as quickly as possible into a participant that understands what CAP is all about.


    I think we're doing alright, but there is definitely room for lots of improvement. I feel that each of the leaders in CAP has a different perspective on how to handle certain situations, and that creates a disjointedness that blurs the project. That's why I appreciate this OP so much; it unifies us under common bonds. Therefore, I'd encourage anyone who disagrees with anything in the OP to post their thoughts. If we as leaders of the CAP community don't have these basic entities down, then we cannot proceed forward. We need to come as a united team when it comes to these issues. Sure, we'll all have various opinions when it comes to future PR threads, but the thoughts in Doug's OP are so essential to what we do that we must be on the same page in order to continue.
  10. srk1214

    srk1214 That ain't Hoopa!
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    I think it comes as no surprise to me that I agreed with pretty much every sentiment in the OP. While I'm not an ancient member, I've been around a while, and I was either implicitly or explicitly aware of the vast majority of the information in the OP. Still I was very glad to see it all in one place. I can't speak too specifically about individual points being obvious or not obvious to total newcomers as I just don't have that perspective anymore. I know that when I joined most of them were made pretty clear to me within maybe 2 weeks. I think a good deal of that had to do with the CAP I really joined in on being Voodoom, which was very ably handled, with every facet being handled by CAP mainstays such as Doug (at times it felt like we were making VooDoug), along with Fuzz and Deck, Jibaku, R_D, etc. I can't say that the same quality of leadership necessarily dominates discussion today. Now many people would construe that as a good thing because they don't like "the man." But there's a reason my favorite CAP to work on was Voodoom - there was actual structure. I would argue much of the issue with Aurumoth to some degree (Mollux to a large degree) was the lack of community consensus on an overarching goal, which really is necessary to the successful building of a CAP.

    The simple fact is there are too many people involved and democracy is often the rule of the mob. We can't let the process continue unchecked if we want to have consistent quality. Look no further than the "favorite CAP" poll to see our issue. The 4 most recent CAPs are 1, 2, 3, and 5. We have a massive quantity of new (frequently one-time) CAP participants. This isn't something we can avoid ergo we must embrace it. This means we need strong, active leadership from every reg. More of the so called "benevolent dictatorship" is a good thing.

    To be clear, unified vision doesn't mean one user has to win all or even more than one of the competitive polls. That didn't make Aurumoth any more cohesive, imo, when cape won 2 polls. Doug didn't win stats OR movepool on Voodoom but in many ways the winning submissions still felt like they fulfilled Doug's concept.

    I think where we've gone astray recently has been with TLs not adapting well enough to the new challenges. That's not a knock on anyone. It is incredibly admirable to TL, especially in this more recent era of many newbies. I think they may be a bit stuck on following how it's always been done when maybe some adaptations need to be made to handle (not adapt to per se, but handle) the new demographics of the community in some way.

    That should pretty much cover most of the relevant topics to some degree.
  11. jas61292

    jas61292 used substitute
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    I don't have a lot to say on this, as I mostly just agree with everything in the OP, but I fell I have to comment a bit, at least to answer the questions that Doug posted. So first of all, on the OP, as I said on IRC, I think this was one of the most interesting posts I have ever read. While I knew a little bit of the history, a lot of this was new to me and it gives great insight into why CAP is what it is. While I know we can't really enforce this, this should really be required reading for anyone who wants to be in any sort of leadership position in CAP.

    Now, while the state of the CAP project right now might not be perfect, but I do think that the principles outlined in the OP are quite obvious to any experienced CAP member. We may not always to the best job of sticking to them, but they all make sense. Of course though, as I said, we are not doing them all perfectly, and that is the reason we have PR threads. As for how we are failing them though, I think that is harder to say, it may be just a bit of everything.

    One specific point I do want to comment on would be this:
    I really think this is one thing that has become a real problem and that is easily fixable. Its not like the people arguing for these long term visions are random passerbys. This is a problem that exists almost entirely among CAP leadership, and when we fall into this kind of mentality, we forget what the project is about. The classic example of this nowadays would have to be Mollux's stats. As much as I personally loved the debates that happened around Mollux and its abilities, there was definitely more heat there than was necessary, and I feel a lot of that was caused because people were arguing and debating not about the concept or the abilities or the current stage itself, but about the end product. And the stats were the biggest contributor to this as the were specifically designed around the idea of a personal plan for the Pokemon assuming it had elements that the community later decided that it would not receive. Now I'm not saying that the debates that happened in that project were bad and should not have happened. Whether or not it should have gotten Drought was still a great debate, however, I feel that on both sides people were trying to make decisions throughout the project based on long term visions for the pokemon. There was too much focus on the destination, and not enough on the here and now.

    While that is just one example, I am sure this happens quite often. Many CAP leaders willingly admit that this is the way the think about projects. But, to be honest, it is perfectly natural for people to think like that. While the focus should always be on the process, it is impossible to not care about what it eventually produces, and people will just naturally have a tendency to focus on this. However, I think as CAP leaders we need to make sure that we always try and show in our posts that the focus is on the process, not the result, and I feel this is definitely one of the most obvious (and easiest) things that we can improve on.
  12. Deck Knight

    Deck Knight A Knight for the Aegis
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    I am not going to continue the trend of saying "I don't have much to say" and then posting three or four paragraphs. I have a fair amount to say, though not on an DougEpic level.

    I've been a part of CAP a long time and been in pretty much every role you can imagine, from newbie to participant to instigator to ATL to TL, and of course moderator. Aside from minor issues the CAP principles are very strong because they allow the dichotomy of community and competitiveness to occur. I could give a stemwinder on the differences between the two projects I'm most directly associated with, Cyclohm and Mollux, but suffice it to say having been influential in the creation of both the reason I feel both were successful even with all the contention is because contention is the point. People care about the results of the CAP project, they feel like they have a personal stake in it, and therefore they bring their A-game whether it was with the weak TL where the strongest personality often ruled or the strong TL where the TL is expected to have some overarching way to take their concept to its logical end - even if that overarching way is to get the forum to hunker down on one specific part of the process and define it to a sharp point before continuing down the path.

    There were some allusions to the project "losing its way" in the OP and while I am sure that will be explained in thorough detail later, if I had to focus on the particulars that might inspire that notion, it'd be some amalgam of these two points:

    Defend project legitimacy and resist fanboyism
    Appearances matter (aka. Step outside the bubble)


    This is why during Cyclohm I tried to bend it towards a non-broken result so that we ended up with, well, Cyclohm and not Zekrom (which didn't exist at the time but you get my point). The urge to make an omipotent Dragon mon with a great new typing is very strong, and though it was a long time ago I remember collaborating with tennisace and having the argument the stat spread should be slower, but eventually we came to a mid-speed sort of consensus before I made my final stat spread. From a technical perspective Cyclohm did have the strongest Draco Meteor in OU (Latios being banned) and reliable recovery and great bulk, but not way out of line (Cyclohm is essentially Hippowdon with SpA instead of Atk and inflated speed.)

    In contrast when I was the TL of what became Mollux, at the outset as soon as we got into typing I deliberately said I was instabanning Wonder Guard, Magic Guard, and Magic Bounce. Ability wouldn't come for a stage or two yet, but I flat out put my foot down and said those abilities were so disruptive to the concept that the Pokemon would become about those abilities, not the type. An Ice/Rock or Ice/Steel mon with Wonder Guard is a fanboymon. Period. Even with Magic Guard (almost pointless with type-weather immunity) it still had its hazard weaknesses stomped out and made the Life Orb set a monstrosity (see: Krillowatt). In the end we ended up with a Pokemon that does compensate for its type with an ability, but in such a counter-intuitive and fascinating way (Mollux's useful offensive STAB is Fire, which is terrible in Rain except for nuking around three critical OU Pokemon) that I think it was a great result. Fire/Poison even with Dry Skin is still objectively bad on paper because of that dichotomy, and the movepool limitations means we even have sets that use the Poison typing. I consider that a huge success of the process, if I may toot my own horn a bit more.

    I am glad to see all of this has been finally put down to post and people who are interested can now access it. These are the principles I pretty much surmised CAP ran on before becoming a leader, and the meritocratic elements of it are what really drew me in, because CAP was a forum that rewarded what you did or what you said more than who you were or who you knew, and as long as you operated with an understanding of the project and toward it's good end, you could succeed. I still want that to be a part of CAP, and am pleased it is compatible in full with the OP.
  13. SgtWoodsy

    SgtWoodsy

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    I legitimately do not have much to say but I feel that we need to emphasize the "journey, not destination" thing. I myself do mention if the Pokémon we make are broken or otherwise "too good" and the strength of the CAPs we make does tie into PR very heavily but I think we could look better externally if we promote that part of it more.
  14. bugmaniacbob

    bugmaniacbob Floats like a Butterfree, stings like a Metapod
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    Hmm.

    I wasn't expecting to have much to say, and to be honest most of what I'm about to say is probably just splitting hairs. You have indeed managed to create a document that enshrines most-all the little things that ought to be in the backs of our minds when we post here. So, well, thanks Doug. There wasn't much here that wasn't strictly speaking already known or couldn't be inferred, but this is an excellent thing to have moving forward.

    Having said that... I'm not entirely certain I agree on a few fronts. Or perhaps that's putting it too strongly. Say I have queries, or request clarification on a few fronts. The first of these is with regard to "Appearances Matter", or rather, how it interplays with the creation process. For my own part, I do not particularly consider this an important foundation upon which to build the process; or rather, when actually going about the process of building the Pokemon, I consider an alternative of similar reasoning, somewhere between flavour and the concept in importance. Strictly speaking there is no reason why we should have to ever resort to egregiously inflated stats or over-the-top abilities, et cetera, for the purpose of fulfilling any reasonable concept. As such, we construct an artificial limitation that adds to the build challenge - one that is not written but silently observed. In general we refer to this as "building a real Pokemon". This is the same guiding principle, as far as I am aware (and you are certainly the best person to correct me if I am wrong) behind the DPP movepool revisions to make them less bloated. Functionally speaking, at the moment these two philosophies are similar in their effect - either way, we create a Pokemon that conforms more to the standards of existing OU Pokemon, though the methods for reaching that conclusion differ. Where I begin to worry is how these philosophies are applied. Should this rule ever take precedence over the need to fulfil a concept, unlikely though it may be that any such concept should ever be devised? This largely depends on the definition of "project legitimacy" that you were talking about earlier. Does this mean appearing to be legitimate in the eyes of a wider audience or in the eyes of the people who are actually testing it? For me, the idea of such a thing influencing a competitive decision seems similar to that of a flavour concern influencing the same; only that the former is a far rarer event, nowadays, than the latter. But I would like to see this fleshed out a little further. Once it becomes something that is affecting concept interpretation, I feel it has gone too far.

    This idea of appearances brings me on to the second point, that of making the CAP Project a special event. You're absolutely right that the Project being a special occasion makes it infinitely more desirable than if they were done every week, particularly to those people who don't know when the next one's likely to come out and aren't paying attention to the policy discussions. All the same, I don't think anyone could say that we're anything even remotely close to a CAP factory. We have an average output rate of three CAPs per year - this past year, we've made two and a half (not counting prevos). It's an excellent thing that between CAPs, we're prepared to stop and ask ourselves what we can do better for next time, and rather than make some throwaway comments, actually go in-depth. But for my part, I worry that a perceived lack of activity harms participation, particularly with regard to retaining new members - though this is only a minor factor. What I wanted to bring up was the idea of "metagame sampling". Part of the reason, I think, for the repeat charm of "serious" CAP is that the metagames are never exactly the same, one after the other - or at least, they aren't nowadays. In BW, we've seen a metagame with Thundurus and Excadrill, one with Deoxys-S, and all the rest... and now that CAP 4 is finished, CAP 5 will have to jump into a metagame without Genesect, and possibly even without some other stuff. I mention this only because there have been occasions where we've been getting more annoyed than by rights we should have been when arguably stable metagames have passed us by when we weren't ready to begin a new CAP Project - this was part of the reason I was so eager to get CAP 4 started, as well as the fact that I thought that we could only have a legitimate Policy Review once we had tried the new metagame. So all I have to say on the subject is that the question of when we choose to begin new CAPs is one that requires a great deal of thought, which should perhaps be mentioned or made more clear.

    This brings me on to wondering what you meant by "concurrent CAP Projects" - I am not certain whether you are referring to the CAP Prevo projects, which are not, strictly speaking, CAPs in their own right, or merely to the future possibility of running two CAPs simultaneously. Doubtless this will be cleared up in a future PRC topic, then.

    The third is that of "skilled artists", as you put it. I cannot agree that artistic merit alone should be the underlying principle of the art submissions. Great art pulls in voters and interest, and we get great art either way - people will only vote for the pretty pictures, not the most elaborate blueprints, as you said. Perhaps this is just my nitpicking over what should be considered a principle and what should be considered a practical concern - in that principles should always strive towards an ideal, while practical concerns influence the eventual rules. We could mandate flat colours and remove supporting artwork and very probably make good designs stand out more, but we'd lose a great deal of support and traffic in the process, not to mention quite a few excellent artists. I do think that you should mention that both sides are important... or at least, I thought they were. I would have thought that effects and non-white backgrounds and incomplete lines would not be so heavily policed were it not for the "design competition" aspect. There are a lot of rules that don't make sense if we're going for the flashiest art. Both aspects are very important. I personally think that the design competition aspect should be emphasised more, but I won't quibble. What we have at the moment is a pretty good set-up - we have the artists for the art, the Kitchen and #cap for brainstorming ideas, and a huge casual body for feedback.

    If, however, we are not going to separate principles and practical concerns in this way, then there is one little addendum that I would like to propose - that of reduction of accessibility limitations, as you put it, or rather, catering to the largest and most common player base. We make the CAPs for OU, not CAP, because that's the metagame that's easiest to understand and that most players are at least slightly familiar with, which you and I both brought up separately in the making-CAPs-for-different-metagames proposal. To me, it has always been a purely practical, unwritten consideration, but if we are looking into enshrining all of our considerations when writing process in one place, then I feel that this is something which cannot be ignored.

    One last thing that I do want to just say is that, as someone who supports a constitutional monarchy, I am very glad indeed that there is a big guiding hand up there who is willing to veto stupid policy and keep us all on the straight and narrow. Or rather, who is both able and willing to do things for us that no other person in the community can. So, thanks Doug, I guess.

    It's 1:20am here and as such I'm fairly certain that at least 50% of what I just wrote is unintelligible so apologies in advance for any difficulty in reading it; that said, I do think that if we're going to go ahead while not questioning any of the principles laid down it would be a good idea indeed if we could get some clarification on some of the vague notes in the text, as per how they relate to possible differing interpretations of the same value, or else a note of some sort that differing interpretations are allowed, within reason.
  15. Korski

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    Yes tremendous post. I wonder if it shouldn't be cut into parts and preserved as two or more articles on the CAP site or split up and attached to various pre-existing articles. The first third I'd say is about the logistical history of the process, which is a very interesting read, regardless of experience, and there's nothing like it anywhere in writing, to my knowledge. The remainder of the post is essentially a massive elaboration on the CAP mission statement elaboration currently on-site, with a brief commentary on art polls (for which there is already a place on the site to add such content. There is also this article, which is begging for a revamp and could put a fair chunk of the OP to good use. I am also pretty sure at least the Leadership Team article is already in the process of updating, so the timing is perfect. A potential "leadership guide" on-site would attract everyone who takes CAP seriously, notably new users who are very enthusiastic but also unsure how to conduct themselves properly in the forum. Instead of intimidating new users away, we can instead give them a springboard to help them dive in. When you look at the list of principles Doug outlined, most of them are describing the mindset and/or behavior of a good CAP user in general; we can expect them from the PRC/mods and encourage them amongst the general userbase. I bet everyone who reads this thread is going to change the way they approach the Project moving forward, which ideally means progress.

    There are only three mentions of the phrase "Topic Leader" in that entire OP about CAP leadership, and each instance puts the TL in a generalized list of leadership roles, with no further explanation of the TL's position in the process. Just something I noticed...

    Building a CAP is like throwing a handful of darts at a dart board: our users shoot off in their own directions and whatever sticks, sticks. This thread is a good start on focusing all that wild, untamed energy into something more resembling a harpoon, or a spear maybe, for the sake of the metaphor. If anything, the content of the OP should be made more accessible for precisely this reason.

    Luvdisc'd
  16. Mdevil

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    I had some free time so I decided to flesh out my second edit into a post all it's own as it had no relation to my original.


    Bmb's quote, as seen above, is something I whole heartedly agree with. Were the art submission stage purely about the quality of art, what would the point be? It would serve no direct purpose to the project; it would sit in the archives and have no concrete meaning behind it. "But wait," says my mind's fictional character who will appear in many of my posts, "every other picture or representation of the pokemon created, even/especially the sprites, will be directly correlated with that artist's work. That is hardly a lack of impact." How true, my friend. What you fail to realize, however, is that people are not making copies of that artist's picture, they are utilizing his/her design.

    Art, in this circumstance, is a representation of a pokemon. That is all. "Well doesn't a pokemon need a representative image?" Technically, no; a pokemon only needs a string of numbers. Players, however, want something to visualize along with their character, so pokemon have sprites. Sprites are different from the concept art, are they not? "So if the sprite is the only necessary component, why even have artists?" Because art is where the idea which shall transcend all works representing or recreating the pokemon is formed, the idea called design. Anyone who has attempted spriting can tell you spriting blind is a nightmare. The art contest allows the spriters to have a base to go off of with there art, but it is never a direct copy because the design is the important part. Something that important, that will be seen and remembered for as long as the CAP project is still around, cannot simply be a byproduct; it risks a lack of quality.

    If it seems like I basically said the same thing over and over, it's because I essentially did.

    Edit 1: Added a final sentence for clarification.

    Edit 2: After getting some sleep and rereading this, it's not adequate (I've been without sleep for a few days.) Expect me to rework this later.

    Update: New points were brought to the table so I will leave this as it is. It makes more sense to be sequential with posts and reply directly than add on to this.
  17. Theorymon

    Theorymon ☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄☄
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    Sorry that I can't answer all the questions DJD, Im a bit short on time here today, but I just want to post this before I totally forget!

    We talked about this on #CAP a bit, but I think the most important thing to address here is "the bubble". #Pokemon's reaction to Aurumoth was sorta an eye opener for me, but not because Aurumoth was broken persay. I saw a LOT of comments on how cap is too isolated, a big circle jerk, a clique, etc. Not the kind of stuff I'd hear inside of CAP, but these users may actually have a point! I don't think this is something we can ignore, because CAP is 100% reliant on participation, and if that dwindles because a lot of users on Smogon can't relate to CAP, it seriously hurts the project.

    While the post mentions that getting too immersed in CAP can lead to Pokemon that become PR nightmares (case in point: Aurumoth), I think there is another aspect of CAP that I find has really discouraged people from participation: the complexity of the process. Now don't get me wrong, I think many parts of the CAP process make tons of sense, but there is a LOT of pieces to the process, so much so that some people feel like they're reading some sort of weird fakemon textbook. While it does its job in many ways, the current process has a lot of elements that sound very weird to the general Smogon population. For example lets say I tried to bring up a discussion on CAP 5's BSR rating and VGM limits on #Pokemon. If I ever tried that, almost no one there would have any idea what the fuck I was talking about. However, the simpler stuff like the concept, typing, and move discussion tend to get a LOT more discussion, because these are the kind of easy to grasp building blocks of a Pokemon that get people excited.

    It might be tough to do, but I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to look into making the cap process both more simple and easier to relate to for the average competitive Pokemon player. I don't really have too many ideas for how to do this beyond doing something about BSR and VGMs, but DougjustDoug did mention that he was going to make a thread that will touch upon this soon at least! The last thing I'd like to touch upon is a goal that I'd like for us to reach with CAP. Currently, when a Pokemon is created in CAP, a common reaction is "hey look at what CAP has done this time". This isn't always used in a negative fashion, but the way I see people talk about it makes me feel as if a lot of people view CAP as almost separate entity from Smogon, and something that they as a normal Smogon user simply have no power or time to make an impact in. I think we should work towards making the common reaction to say, another Aurumoth be more like "Ugh I didn't like how this turned out, we need to prevent this from happening again" instead of the current "rofl those cap guys have no idea what they are doing as usual". If we can make CAP easier to relate to, I think we could possibly encourage participation instead of this current feeling of CAP being an island.

    EDIT: OH I almost forgot to mention this one idea. At one point, when IRC activity hit a slump during the #dreamworld era, we considered a survey to put on #dreamworld to see why people weren't talking. We never did this, but I wonder if doing this for CAP could help us identify people's biggest issues, and solutions for said issues.
  18. Deck Knight

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    Appearances matter is actually a very strong thing to consider. The first Pokemon created was Syclant, and the project got a very large ration of crap for Mountaineer because it invented of whole cloth a custom means specifically around Stealth Rock, and if I recall correctly also made Syclant immune to rock attacks the turn it switched in. In fairness to Syclant it did not actually have anything like a concept at the time, and that probably led to the flexibility we had in deliberately making an ability to patch up its biggest competitive weakness.

    We do have concepts now though, and the problem with concepts does not arise because they may be too specifically prohibitive. By design they generally don't prohibit anything, the worst concepts are invariably the most nebulous and vague ones because the subject of their focus is not clear enough to rule anything out at all. Take Tomohawk's Momentum concept for example. Despite the fact people pointed to U-turn and Volt Switch as momentum keepers, the only switching move Tomohawk has is Baton Pass, because the damage+switch move element of momentum has been explored and has several high-OU examples to manifest it. Instead what we focused on were all the other moves that can give and take away muiltiple turns of momentum rather than maintaining it like those moves do.

    Concept interpretation is probably one of the biggest flaws in the strong TL model. A flawed concept can easily be rigged up by a TL to give them fairly broad latitude to basically do whatever they want with it. That ability to influence the outcome at every stage from a position of authority and effectively veto threats to any vision can be abused, and if anything we need stronger controls on something like that happening. Otherwise this just becomes the TL's personal fan project and starts causing appearance problems. A single instance of this won't affect overall project legitimacy, but it does provide a cautionary tale moving forward.

    This was actually a problem before with the weak TL model, except it was usually the strongest personalities that had the ability to shift the project in an unhealthy fanboyish direction, though usually only at one stage or another. A historic instance on this is Magic Guard on Krillowatt, on the basis the hazard immunity would allow it to be a better Utility Counter. Yes, it would, but Magic Guard had so many other benefits like Life Orb nullification that combined with the stat spread made it lurch in a very unhealthy direction. That's alright in bits and pieces because again, per the dichotomy that CAP's process is a terrible way to make good Pokemon, that stuff happens eventually, but with the weak TL model you could blame a certain lack of direction. With the strong TL model if the TL is pushing in that direction it can be disastrous because invariably it is pinned on that single person through their leadership role.

    BW is in general a pretty fast-paced metagame and CAPs have always had that kind of problem with "living in the past", but there's really no effective way to speed up the process and still be CAP. Even if you tried to truncate everything you'd still never get a CAP done in less than 6 weeks, which is an eternity under the current tiering test system. The issue isn't really missing an interesting metagame, it's the fact that since we playtest 7-8 weeks out from the base metagame we're building for, the metagame itself may have moved on.
  19. GRs Cousin

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    Sorry for quoting you before your fix.

    Anyway, I feel as if this is a neglected part of the CAP process. I will admit, at one point I was exactly like the "artist" beggar's example in Doug's post, and I feel a mix of condescension and empathy for those that do as I did. However, Mdevil has reached a crucial point that intertwines with the "Step outside the bubble" part of the CAP policy. By placing art above design, we are letting two aspects of CAP perish, being emphasis on good design and new blood.

    Take the art submission thread, for example. You have two types of art: the good kind from esteemed artists, and utter crap. In the face of new users, once the revelation that we are not a community of fanboys like them, they will realize that their art does not hold up well to the "acceptable" submissions from our artists. This forces sensible newcomers with any trace of modesty to look at their artwork, group it as crap, and give up on feeling as if they could possibly contribute a design. They become left with nothing nothing else to do but comment and vote, fueling one of the very problems we're trying to resolve. I am speaking out of both observation and personal experience.

    That is not to say that I am suggesting we have some sort of policy against good artwork and required artistic assistance for those with poor designs. I am, however, saying that we should adjust the policy to promote a better emphasis on design. Fancy shading and coloring is wonderful and all, but when we end up with a sprite to represent a Pokemon rather than artwork, clearly what matters most is its overall appearance, not how well the artist had drawn it. I don't have any true solutions to this problem, but I think a push towards collaborative designing in our art selection process would be a step in the right direction.
  20. Deck Knight

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    I really didn't want to get into the art debate since I'm not an artist and have no artistic talent, but all this talk about "design" is a load of crap. You design buildings, you don't design art. Buildings have a requirement they be structurally sound to avoid insurance liability and potential property devaluation, the aesthetics are largely secondary and only add to any architectural feat.

    Art is entirely about aesthetics, and if you can't do aesthetics, don't kid yourself into believing you have some saleable design. When I venture into art criticism most often what I have are questions about limb placement, appendage length, or coloration. Artists are free to ignore my input since I tell them flat out I'm just approaching this from what I think is a flawed aesthetic for the creature, and hoping that since they have superior knowledge of their subject's intended morphology that they'll agree with my assessment and make changes.

    But I don't approach it as if I've just taken a structural audit of their design. It's art. Ultimately it's about what is pleasing to the eye and what "looks right" to people. That the spriters take the art and then modify it to also make sharp looking sprites is simply a practical concern, spriters are still doing scratch sprites. Just look at the last thread and you'll see all sorts of sprite takes on the exact same art selection. This isn't because the artist has a "design" that the spriters are following, it's because the spriters have their own spriting style and want to win a spriting poll on the aesthetics of spriting. If we did a sprite poll first and then art, we wouldn't suddenly talk about the sprites being a design for the art.

    Furthermore we have new artists contributing to CAP Art Submissions on a regular basis, including people who started out with crap designs, were summarily rejected, and then upped their game incredibly the next time, having had 2-3 more months to practice improving their skills since the last CAP. Since we have plenty of CAP regulars, this is often noticed and occasionally rewarded.

    tl;dr there is no conflict between "art" and "design" because "design" doesn't exist at all.
  21. Mdevil

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    I disagree with that as well, but still that is not what I meant in my post about art, and as such I won't bring it up in this thread. I refer, instead, to the specific scenario we are presented with, CAP art submissions. Look at the archive of images. Would you really say the only difference between all the pictures is aesthetic? I know I wouldn't. The obvious difference is that they are drawing different things. They aren't drawing things that already exist, they are creating them; before they draw them, they are designing them. Art portraying that which isn't real requires somebody to design the subject before hand.

    I agree; of course the sprites will be from scratch and have different takes on the same piece of art. The only change in the sprites was aesthetic. They all still used the same idea for the pokemon, which was created by the artist who won the art contest. That pokemon is the design and the design must remain constant. That's why all the sprites still depict the same, initial pokemon, merely in different ways. As you and I agree on, of course they are still doing scratch sprites; that's where the art that makes spriting so great comes in.

    That may be true, but even more might come if good art wasn't emphasized over design. That being said, this particular issue of new recruits holds no real weight on either side as one side has not been tested so I suggest it be dropped from the discussion.

    Not exactly a substantial post, but it gets enough of the point across.
  22. Deck Knight

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    So I talked about this over IRC to several people and I suppose I should clarify.

    I'm not really saying that "design" doesn't exist in art, my criticism is that people are treating "design" as if it's an entirely divorce-able concept from the art itself.

    I'm a pretty good writer, and I could easily write a description of something that came into my head. It would be very detailed and go into each little intricacy I wanted. In the end though my detailed paragraph description wouldn't be art and wouldn't even qualify as a design.

    The problem here is I don't think people are stating what they mean on a practical level. The problem we've had with some winning art submissions in the past is that they are extremely detailed and cause spriters a lot of headaches, like Necturna's many eyes and its intricate vine and leafing elements. People tend to like very detailed pictures because it lets them visualize something in real life, even though most Pokemon creatures are fairly simplistic.

    If the idea behind "design" is that we want to make rules to keep art submissions from being too complex for spriters to adequately represent them and therefore open the field up to less polished designs, go ahead and say it. But thus far it's been little more than a semantic distinction, trying to pry the concept of an art away from its rendering. But you can't do that since most of your design elements come to fruition in the completed project, and there's no effective way to describe them without using something like a report of the coloration and effects on every pixel. That's needlessly reductive and nobody is going to do something like that, much less be able to comprehend it for a vote.

    I know there will be another thread specifically on art, but I wanted to clear that up and get my real concern out, which is that we're trying to create a semantical category to try and divorce art from design when they are essentially a package deal, and there's no way to get people to vote for "design" without a fairly aesthetically pleasing rendering of it. Other problems arise in that people tend to vote for familiar looking Pokemon art styles (like Sugimori style) which can exclude other designs (for the record I did vote for CBMeadow's design in CAP4.)
  23. srk1214

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    To argue about the level to which we should encourage design of the submission over the actual execution or "art level," if you will, is kind of pointless, in my opinion.

    All legal entries are slated and history has shown quite well that the "prettiest" entries advance and win in nearly every case. Unless you're going to somehow suggest we actively promote great designs with bad execution over perhaps slightly worse, but still very good designs with great execution, I don't see the point.

    Art is not an issue. It's honestly the one part of CAP that has been guaranteed to be excellent consistently every time for quite a while, thanks to the excellent community from which we get submissions.
  24. Mdevil

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    I guess that there has been a fair amount of misinterpretation on both sides and for that I apologize. My initial goal at the outset of this little back-and-forth, a goal I had lost sight of in my second post, was not to change the art contest itself in any way. (Btw Deck Knight, I agree with your last post. I guess we could say you "won.")



    This is the only thing I want changed. The reality is that art polls will always be won based only on their quality of art itself as opposed to the pokemon's design. I just want us to acknowledge the ideal while still accepting the reality but not validating it. Also, the three lines I quoted, when analyzed, suggest a value of publicity over quality. Getting new recruits for CAP is, of course, a priority to everyone; it's not worth sacrificing potential quality for; doing things for publicity, if noticed, is bad publicity.

    We will get more recruits for just having good art, but they won't necessarily be the kind we want. What we need is people not just interested in art, but the learning that takes place as we build the pokemon and they will come in the long run if we make good quality pokemon.

    Edit 1: Srk ninjaed (well... 5 minutes isn't exactly a ninja,) but this post applies there too.
  25. CiteAndPrune

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    I've been keeping quiet till now because I didn't want to speak on what looked like a sidetracking, but with how long this is going, I suppose one more post won't hurt.

    Basically, I don't see the conflict between what Deck and srk are saying, personally. Entries in Art polls are always a packaged deal between design (however you define it, call it 'artist's intent' if you want) and execution, and members vote on the finished art piece based on all its merits. Which srk put as "the "prettiest" entries advance and win in nearly every case" - sounds about right to me. Where's the disagreement, really?

    I'm not worried about our Art in general, to be honest. Especially given our process and voting rules, this is a matter that solves itself essentially - whatever the public likes becomes the style defining of CAP as a whole, and new artists that want their turn to shine will adapt in response, either to make their own styles more like the last winner's, learning from that time - or keep their own style unique but up the quality, basically, to rival the winning artist's style. Both scenarios are good for CAP and I don't see why we should favor any approach in particular, much less argue over what's the best method when aesthetics (while not purely subjective) are not a subject for a scientific breakdown like the kind proper to the process' other, more competitively-oriented steps.
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