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Characteristics of a Desirable Pokemon Metagame

Discussion in 'The Policy Review' started by DougJustDoug, Jan 29, 2010.

  1. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
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    "What kind of metagame do we want?"

    Every discussion, every analysis, every rule, every suspect test, and every tier actually depend on the answer to this question. And although there have been several threads in the past that have discussed this question to some degree, I don't think we have clearly answered the question in Smogon. Many people think we have answered it. Or perhaps, they think the answer is so obvious and so unanimously shared by everyone in the community, that it is silly to even ask the question. We haven't answered it yet, and we won't answer it in this thread either. But, perhaps we can lay the core foundation to BEGIN answering the question.

    I think everyone has different opinions of what kind of metagame is "good", and they base all their arguments, actions, and decisions based on that opinion. But, people rarely actually explain what kind of metagame they believe is good.

    People sometimes forget that WE ARE THE GAME MAKER, when it comes to the metagame. The metagame is not owned by Gamefreak or Nintendo, it is owned and manufactured by us. Not, "us" as in Smogon specifically; but "us" as in the collective players of competitive Pokemon. We make this metagame, and as such, we should probably have a solid idea of what kind of game we want. You can't write a good story without making a good plot. By the same token, you can't make a good metagame without knowing the general end result you are trying to achieve.

    I'd like to use this thread to discuss various characteristics of the metagame, and see if we can rationally discuss the merits of these characteristics. Even if there is no clear consensus of which characteristics are good or bad, or which characteristics are more important than others -- I think it might be helpful if we can get the characteristics out on the table. At the very least, perhaps we can agree that these are the fundamental factors underlying other discussions and arguments like, "Pokemon X is hurting the metagame" or "We should do Y to make the metagame better".

    In this discussion, I will often refer to "elements" or "aspects" of the metagame. These terms are not synonyms for "Pokemon". In this context, an "element of the metagame" is anything that is considered a meaningful part of the general construct we call "the metagame" -- pokemon, moves, abilities, mechanics, clauses, techniques, actions, strategies, tiers, data, etc. These terms are intentionally abstract and do not specifically address any given pokemon, ban, tier, etc.

    I'm going to lay out several possible characteristics of a "good metagame", and give an explanation of each one. I will also try to present some possible issues and opposition that could be involved with each characteristic. This is really just to give everyone an idea of the kinds of characteristics I think we should be looking to define, and how these characteristics might be evaluated.




    The Characteristics

    Explanation:
    This characteristic may seem incredibly obvious, but it isn't if you consider how many aspects of other games are intended solely for enjoyment or entertainment. Nowhere is this more prevalent than ingame Pokemon, where the vast majority of the game is focused on exploration, adventure, collecting stuff, and general amusement.

    The metagame should place little value on anything that is not inherently competitive, where players are directly or indirectly competing against other players with clearly defined results that determine winners. The metagame environment should reward winning, and encourage players to do anything possible within the rules in order to win. While some players may "play just for fun", or carry personal opinions about "winning the right way" -- these ideals should not be a focal point of the metagame. The metagame should attract players that find pure competition to be enjoyable in itself, and are most entertained when they win.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • This makes the metagame "too serious" or "cutthroat"
    • "C'mon, this is Pokemon..."
    Other Comments:
    This characteristic is really the fundamental underlying difference between the Pokemon GAME and the Pokemon METAGAME. Essentially, we are stripping out all the non-competitive elements of ingame pokemon, and playing metagames with the remaining competitive elements. Anyone serious about arguing this characteristic should read "Playing to Win" by Sirlin (www.sirlin.net) to get an understanding of the general concept of "competition" in this context. ​


    Explanation:
    As they say, "Variety is the spice of life". And nowhere is that more true than in the world of gaming. Game makers discovered long ago that players crave diversity, change, and improvement. That's why most successful games are very broad, and are constantly adding new elements. For this reason, a high-quality metagame should be inviting to a wide number of people and personalities. By constantly striving for maximum variety, we can maximize the potential player base, which has the inevitable effect of increasing the number of good players, good strategies, and overall quality of competition. A varied metagame is fresh and exciting, and provides a constant source for investigation and discovery.

    If we limit variety, or allow it be reduced, we effectively "shrink" all aspects of the metagame. A game with limited variety is boring to all but the most diehard participants. In a low-variety metagame, the best playing strategies become widely known and predictable, and participation wanes. For this reason, we should constantly strive for as much variety as possible. And, when limits to variety become apparent, the limits should be removed, if possible.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • Too much variety is chaos.
    • Variety without quality is useless.
    • No one can master a game with too many options
    • "Wide" is sufficient, not "widest"
    • How knowledgeable should players be?
    Other Comments:
    This characteristic is typically underlying arguments about "centralization", or when people complain about the game being "boring".​


    Explanation:
    When any elements of the metagame are considerably better than others, it gives an intrinsic advantage to players that prefer or excel with the superior elements, and handicaps players who are most proficient with other elements. This skews the player base, and hinders the potential to develop new ideas and attract new players. In order to ensure widespread appeal, the metagame should not be unbalanced for or against any particular viable strategy or expert playing option, if it is reasonably possible to avoid.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • How unbalanced is too unbalanced?
    • Imbalance is easy to detect, but hard to quantify
    • Balance can be bad, if the balanced level is mediocre or worse
    Other Comments:
    This characteristic is typically underlying arguments about something being "overpowered". Variety refers to the breadth of aspects of the metagame; Balance addresses the magnitude of those aspects relative to each other. While these characteristics are probably closely correlated, they are two distinct aspects and care should be taken when discussing the merits of each. ​


    Explanation:
    In order for the metagame to be analyzed, mastered, and proliferated -- it must not fluctuate excessively. This characteristic applies to both the scope of changes and the frequency of changes to the metagame. While the metagame will voluntarily and involuntarily experience changes, large or frequent instability should be avoided if possible.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • How do you measure stability?
    • Stability is fine, but what about stagnation?
    • What does it mean if the metagame fails to stabilize?
    Other Comments:
    Stability is likely to be cyclical. With each change there will be a period of instability, and the subsequent relative stabilization is an indicator that the metagame is "ready" for the next change. ​


    Explanation:
    We are not making a new game, we are metagaming the existing game of Pokemon. The actual Pokemon game itself should be the canon of the metagame. While we can question the choices and wisdom of the game makers, we must abide by the evidence of their creation. Any departure from the game itself, disconnects us from our foundation and begins down a slippery slope away from being a true "Pokemon metagame", towards becoming an entirely new game unto itself. If that happens, the metagame will lessen its fundamental appeal and connection to the player base. Adherence to the actual game ensures that all players can readily understand the mechanics of the metagame, and provides a common bond for all metagame players of all skill levels. This makes the metagame accessible to a wide audience of players, and creates an intrinsic recruiting base for new players.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • Which version or versions should be adhered to?
    • What elements of the game are considered canon?
    • Basic gameplay, ingame challenges, sponsored tournaments, special events?
    • Is branded literature and game guides considered to be an authentic source for information?
    • The Pokemon game makers do not design for or care about the metagame -- why should we "obey" every stupid thing they do?
    Other Comments:
    We will never have access to the source code of the real games, nor can we read the minds of the game makers. As such, we can only make educated guesses as to the rules, mechanics, and spirit of the pokemon game. And since the game itself has many hidden and unpublished mechanics, we must rely on ingame research to inform our opinions and metagame designs.​


    Explanation:
    Although the metagame is based on Pokemon, which has fairly simple basic gameplay, the metagame should require skill to master. The ability to increase proficiency through study and hard work is the hook that draws players to become avid practitioners of the metagame. The metagame should recognize and reward players with the most knowledge, talent, and dedication. All players should feel that it is within their power to "master the metagame".

    Issues and Concerns:
    • Simple essential gameplay should not be compromised
    • Don't add artificial complications to increase skill requirement
    • Intellectual and strategic skill, not physical or execution skill
    • Do skills erode?
    • Ratings systems, tournament formats, rankings, etc...
    Other Comments:
    This characteristic addresses how the metagame is played, and how success is defined and rewarded. While it can be difficult to truly determine who is "the best" at any given time or in any given competition -- the overall metagame should cultivate a perception (if not reality) that more skilled players will experience greater success than lesser skilled players.​


    Explanation:
    Game players love the excitement, tension, and unpredictability associated with luck factors in games. While Pokemon is not a game of "pure chance", luck is a contributing factor in almost all major gameplay elements. If the metagame seeks to eliminate or unreasonably reduce elements of chance, it would run contrary to part of the basic appeal of Pokemon gameplay. The metagame should have many features that rely on random probability, and allow luck to have a significant role in determining competitive outcomes.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • Should luck be zero sum?
    • How much luck is "reasonable"? What makes luck "unreasonable"?
    • Are Skill and Luck mutually exclusive? Or complimentary?
    Other Comments:
    While some players supposedly despise luck, it is a compelling underlying lure for many players. While this characteristic can be maddeningly hard to quantify and analyze, it's existence as a positive feature of the game should not be ignored.​


    Explanation:
    Anything that does not directly help the metagame, hurts the metagame. Many elements of ingame Pokemon require little more than time, perseverance, or rote repetition to succeed. The metagame should place no value on these things. For serious competitive players, these elements are boring and distracting. They lessen the competitive challenge of the game and discourage expert players. The metagame should present the most direct and efficient mechanisms for players to play the game and determine winners. Any game element that does not directly contribute to improving the metagame, is inefficient and unnecessary. Such elements should be mitigated or removed, if possible.

    Issues and Concerns:
    • Defining "unnecessary" complications and distractions
    • What's the hurry?
    • Playing the game should not be "hard work"
    • Play vs preparation/practice
    Other Comments:
    Don't make players "earn" anything. No wasting time. No frills. No inconsequential elements. Get on with it. Game on.​


    Practical Applications

    These characteristics are each listed as individual distinct concepts, and I intentionally tried to avoid overlapping definitions. But in practice, any issue of the metagame will usually involve multiple characteristics at once.

    When discussing overpowered pokemon that centralize the game, it will likely involve questions of both Variety and Balance. If the issue follows closely on the heels of other changes, there may be questions of Stability at stake. Discussions of clauses like OHKO and Evasion, will certainly bring arguments of both Skill and Luck, with possible ramifications of Balance. A heated debate on "Glitched Acid Weather" is obviously an Adherence issue, but creative debaters might also argue Variety and Luck, possibly even Efficiency (although that's quite a stretch). Those are just a few examples. The number of situations and the issues that apply, are endless.

    These characteristics are not intended to uniquely define every metagame situation that may arise. They simply define the broad categories of issues that will underlie specific situations. It is the job of future discussion participants to present which characteristics apply, and to what degree they should weigh on a given call to action. Interpretation of these characteristics and their applicability to a situation, should comprise the heart of the discussion. When arguing about the metagame, these characteristics, individually or in combination, should represent the basic building blocks of the debate.

    If we can successfully articulate the general characteristics of a good metagame, then perhaps later we can develop criteria for comparing the weight and importance of different characteristics. Perhaps we can even develop ways to quantify conformance and/or deviation. If we can get to that point, then we could seriously consider completely new processes for evaluating and changing our metagame. Who knows how far we could go with this? But, we can't go anywhere if we don't establish a general framework for defining the kind of metagame we desire.

    Background

    I have read countless arguments and discussions about the metagame here at Smogon. A while back, I realized there is really no way to evaluate a good argument or a bad argument in these cases. Because there is no solid basis for what can be argued!

    For much of my life, I have been involved in competitive policy debate -- as a debater, a coach, and a judge. In policy debate competitions, you have "stock issues" that represent the fundamental basis for all arguments, both affirmative and negative. The stock issues, or "stocks", are commonly labeled Solvency, Harms, Inherency, Topicality, and Significance -- or SHITS, in crude debate parlance. I'm not going to explain all the details of the stocks here. Google them if you are interested. But the point is -- these are the things being argued in policy debate. They are unquestioned.

    For example, in policy debate, if your affirmative argument cannot "solve" the problem of the status quo -- then you have a bad argument in terms of the "Solvency" stock issue. When attacking or defending a Solvency argument, it is not acceptable to ask the question "Why does Solvency matter? Why is Solvency relevant to this debate?" Solvency is a stock issue, and as such, it is relevant. It is one of the underlying factors that define the debate itself.

    Competitive Pokemon metagame arguments do not currently have any "stock issues". We have the Characteristics of an Uber, which do provide ground rules for arguing about the power of individual pokemon (which, in the context of the characteristics listed above, uber-ness arguments would be a focused form of debate on Balance). But, we do not have any unquestioned building blocks upon which to build arguments about the metagame in general. Without stock issues, you really can't conduct any meaningful adversarial discussions. Because there is no common definition as to WHAT IS BEING ARGUED. These characteristics are an attempt to provide a set of stock issues for the metagame.

    For those of you not familiar with competitive debate, I'll put it another way: These characteristics are functionally similar to Constitutional Laws. For example, a common constitutional law in many countries is the Freedom of Speech and Expression. You can legally argue as to whether Freedom of Speech is applicable to a given situation, you can argue to what extent the law applies, you can even argue what actions should be taken as a consequence of breaching the Freedom of Speech -- but you can't normally argue, "Why does Freedom of Speech matter? Why do we want free speech in the first place?" Questions like that are not valid when arguing a case involving free speech. Yes, technically, the constitutional law itself can be questioned, if elevated to the proper judicial body. But for all normal legal intents and purposes -- the Freedom of Speech is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, and is legally regarded as a desirable and just rule of society.

    These characteristics of the metagame are intended to be a sort of "Constitution of the Metagame". They are the broad definitions for things we consider to be "good" in a metagame, and are generally not questioned when discussing or arguing specific issues. We may argue as to which characteristics apply to a given situation, or which characteristics are most important, or what actions should be taken in order to achieve one or more characteristics. But we should not normally argue the validity of the characteristics themselves.

    That is not to say the characteristics are perfect and can never be altered or changed. It just means that questioning the validity of the characteristics themselves would be considered a completely separate class of argument, and would presumably not occur frequently.

    Conclusion

    Do not misinterpret my intent here. I am not trying to "lay down the law" for the metagame, by shoving a bunch of definitions down peoples' throats. I simply want to come up with some common ground for intelligent debate. Whether we establish ground rules or not, people are going to be discussing this stuff -- so we might as well have some common goals and make the discussions somewhat productive. I formed these characteristics based on my general interpretation of the things that people are already arguing and discussing. I tried to categorize all the meaningful policy arguments that commonly occur here, couched the definitions in broad wording to allow plenty of room for interpretation, and then filled in a few gaps that seemed necessary to present a comprehensive whole.

    Some of these definitions may be universally unquestioned, and may only require minor wording changes. Some other characteristics could be deeply objectionable to many people, and may need to be stricken completely. I may have missed some characteristics that need to be added. But, I think we need these characteristics to be defined. And I think they should be defined at a "constitutional" level, where they provide a general framework for future discussions and debate, without enumerating every nuance of the metagame down to the details. The details are a constant work in progress. The details are the metagame itself. These are simply the basic underpinnings and characteristics we would like to have in our ideal metagame. We may never succeed in creating a metagame that exhibits some or all of these qualities -- but I like to think it could be fun to try.
    PK Gaming likes this.
  2. Aldaron

    Aldaron All da lil birdies chirpin
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    I'd like to start off by saying that thank you for making this thread, Doug. As pretty much anyone who knows me here knows, I've been clamoring for something like this for a long, long time. It's a relief that someone else stepped up to plate and actually did it.

    That said, this topic is simply way too big to be discussed in detail in one thread. People will respond coming from a thousand directions with a thousand relevant points, and it'll all be lost in the clutter.

    Can we keep this specific topic about the necessity to determine what we want in the metagame (for example, the issue about how tiering by "power" doesn't necessarily hold ultimate importance if we determine we have specifics regarding the "skill" we want to emphasize in the metagame), and make various topics for each category that talk about both the category's importance in determining the metagame and how to go about refining how we emphasize that in our metagame?
  3. david stone

    david stone Fast-moving, smart, sexy and alarming.
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    I disagree with "spirit" of Pokemon and "mechanics" of Pokemon being in the same category, and it is actually this difference that underlies the acid weather debate. I'm a firm believer in adherence to the mechanics of Pokemon, but I don't care at all what the developers intend. What matters is what they actually did. In this definition, we simply select which game we are simulating, and then adhere to that. All other things are irrelevant. For the same reason, our lack of access to the source code doesn't matter, as we can determine the effects of any coding decision that does matter. In other words, we don't have to implement things the same as Game Freak, and any decision they make that has no influence on competitive play is irrelevant.
  4. eric the espeon

    eric the espeon maybe I just misunderstood
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    This is needed. Great thread Doug, I hope that this will become a stable basis for the current metagame, and those in the years to come.

    Us LC policymakers have run into problems with the lack of clarity on how to deal with non-Pokemon suspects. It seems to end up as trying to apply the characteristics of an Uber to something they were not designed for, a matter of what can only be described as personal preference for how the metagame should be, or simply saying that something with as wide ranging effects as Berry Juice should not be banned.

    As for the specific "stock issues", I'm not convinced about several you listed.

    I agree that the metagame should be "Competitive", however I don't see how this stock can be used positively in any discussion about specific rules. Unless you take the attitude that a luck based game is inherently less competitive (which is addressed by the "Luck" characteristic) then this seems to be largely determined by player attitude, not directly by our ruleset. Maybe it could be used as reasoning for cutting out ingame elements, but that's not something that anyone is likely to ever argue on Smogon. I could also see this being misunderstood and used in questionable situations, especially if it is mixed with the "luck is not competitive" train of thought.

    The Variety and Balance characteristics seem like they are almost interchangeable, maybe could be combined? They both deal with not having a small number of options dominate, which allows more options to be viable. You say that one deals with "Overcentralization" and one with "Overpowered" elements, but the distinction between those two is blurry at best. Are there situations in which there is something that is "Overpowered" to the extent where we would ban it, but is not causing centralization (or vice versa)?

    Stability is an interesting point, and one I have not often seen brought up. It relates more to practicality than determining the best possible metagame (whatever that means), but it does seem to be a valid point and maybe one that should see more use in discussion. Short term instability is not necessarily a problem, but if there are large constant shifts then players have to work much harder to keep up to date, and those producing strategy information have to concentrate on updating information rather than simply improving it which hurts quality.

    I share obi's concerns about allowing authorial intent arguments to slip in, but that is probably a simple matter of slightly rewording that characteristic. I would also think that Adherence is not something that is optional, it is required. If we start intentionally making changes to Pokemon things are liable to get arbitrary and extremely complex very fast.

    I'm also wary about including both the Skill and Luck characteristics, Skill is an almost unavoidable part of a game as immensely complicated as Pokemon and like the Competitive characteristic I could see it being misused. How much impact Skill has is also extremely hard to measure or control with rule changes. While I think that what was written for the Luck characteristic is much better than many attempts I have seen, I think that the best way to reach a "reasonable" level of luck is to ignore it. Attempting to control it, either to cut it down because some players dislike the effect it has on the metagame even when it does not centralize, or to bring it up because other players may think that the effect of luck has been artificially and unnecessarily lowered by things like the Evasion and OHKO clauses.

    One important characteristic that you may have touched on slightly, but as far as I can see not directly addressed, is that there should not be any rules or bans without good reason. A simpler ruleset is inherently better than a more complex one, if Feebas was banned from OU for some reason then even though it would have virtually no positive effect when brought down, it should be. This rule also helps deal with suggestions like "Level x (less than 100) Uber is clearly not broken, why is it banned" or "Garchomp would be fine so long as we ban Outrage on it", which generally can't be met with arguments from any of the other characteristics (bar Stability at a stretch) and would result in endless testing and tweaking of the level the Pokemon until it is not overly centralizing, but no lower than is needed. Allowing low level Ubers would likely increase variety, so without a characteristic to explain why it seems crazy (or at least totally unfeasible) to most of us, we would be in a bad situation.

    Once again, thank you very much for getting this together Doug, I may not agree with some of the characteristics you propose, but I entirely agree with the sentiment of having a set of "stocks" for people to argue from.
  5. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
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    I agree. I really struggled with how to present this material. I did not want to post a thread saying "Hey let's come up with a set of characteristics for the metagame. Discuss ITT." That gets us nowhere. And it's kinda been done before. Unsuccessfully.

    I really felt like the only way to get serious about this, was to make a full cohesive proposal and then use that as the basis for discussion. So, yeah -- that OP is massive, and almost impossible to comment on in detail. And considering that many people in PR are VERY interested in each one of the characteristics, I can understand not wanting to make a half-hearted response. I fully expect if we want to get serious about this, we should have dedicated discussions for each characteristic.

    So, here's some suggestions on how to participate in this thread without addressing every single point mentioned in the monster OP:

    • Do you think we need a set of charateristics like this? Maybe not these characteristics specifically -- but do you think this is a worthwhile thing to do? Why or why not?

    • How should something like this be used? What should be the general intent of this? Are we just having an interesting discussion in PR? Or should we set our goals on somehow trying to incorporate this sort of thing in Smogon Policy?

    • Do you think these characteristics fully cover the reasonable spectrum of issues that might be addressed in the metagame? Not specifically every issue, but is this level of detail the way to get "complete coverage"?

    I have been thinking about this sort of thing for a long time. I actually started writing this stuff up over a year ago, and then quit because I thought it was just too much for the community to reasonably pursue. Then a few recent discussions piqued my interest, and I've decided to give it a shot.

    We don't need to get into the nitty-gritty details here. I included a lot of detail in the OP, just to make sure people get a solid idea of what it means to create "stock issues for the metagame" or whatever. In this thread, feel free to just comment on the high-level approach being taken here, and the general goal this sort of thing could achieve, or why it might fail.
  6. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    I think we can require every argument about rulemaking to be linked back to the direction laid out here, or linked back to something that itself is an extension of this. For instance the characteristics of uber were designed to be an explanation of what constitutes brokenness, IE a lack of balance. The characteristics, although created before this thread, could be seen as a clarification of how to apply one of the concepts within.

    The characteristics of a metagame can remain subjective in terms of their weighting and extent required (like in terms of perhaps too much variety being a bad thing) as long as we keep making metagame decisions by a vote.

    For instance, the luck characteristic is one I have argued against a lot. Though I accept there is some level where luck becomes detrimental to the game. I would argue that RBY never met that level of luck (or at least that the amount of luck in RBY is mostly to do with the lack of variety), and so it seems unlikely that any future gen will face it. Uhh.. I am digressing.. The point is that for instance Obi disagrees with me. We will never resolve this issue in a debate, but in a vote, people can decide on their own weighting of charaterstics, and their own benchmarks for characterstics and vote accordingly.

    The worrying thing about a vote is that something will be voted for because of short term considerations, and in the longer term it will lead to an objectively poorer metagame (like for instance, changing the tiering of a pokemon just for a change). So yeah, I have changed my mind and decided there needs to be some agreement in terms of some of these characteristics. For instance, we can determine that for stability, voting to unban a pokemon just for a change, while it might be defensible from the variety characteristic should never be allowed. Hmm.. That one is a tough one tbh. It could be that we would never be able to make any changes at all..

    I actually need to think about this some more. I will continue post this anyway as one of you might have some thoughts on this issue.

    Perhaps an issue of practicality? You seem to have sort of included it as part of efficiency, but I think it is more significant than that.

    Also I want to say that I agree completely with everything ete has posted. I read your post and had a whole number of things I had wanted to say in response about the specific characteristics themselves, only to find he had beaten me to every one of them.

    Have a nice day.
  7. cantab

    cantab

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    I haven't read anything, but here are my thoughts.
    EDIT: This was intended to read "I haven't read everything". I mistyped.

    BALANCE is important. It does not need to be perfect, merely good. I disagree that things should be as balanced as possible, for reasons I will later explain.
    It is easier to explain imbalance. If for two players of equal, reasonably high, skill, there is a game element which if one player adopts, and the other eschews, the player who adopts it always has an overwhelming advantage, then the game is not balanced.

    DIVERSITY is also important. There is no such thing as too much variety (but see the next point). If a player has to know an awful lot to be competitive at the highest level, that is if anything a good thing. Diversity ought to come as a consequence of balance, but since I cannot prove that it will, I list it separately.

    MEANINGFUL BATTLES are important. By this I mean we should not have a situation where the result is decided purely because one quality team beats another quality team. Basically, we don't want to make it a giant game of rock-paper-scissors with teams. I'm having trouble expressing what I mean here I admit.
    EDIT: If you can see two teams, and say one will clearly beat the other, and you can almost always say that even when both teams are made by equally and highly skilled teambuilders, then battles are not meaningful
    Nor should there be so much luck that it becomes like a game of roulette or snakes-and-ladders. Some luck is OK, but not so much that winning is decided on luck.
    EDIT: To an extent this may oppose diversity. It seems conceivable that high diversity could lead to matches being decided by who happens to have what their opponent's team cannot deal with (when no possible team can deal with everything)

    MEANINGFUL TEAMBUILDING is equally important. You shouldn't just be able to slap any six strong Pokemon together and compete at the highest level.

    Finally, SIMPLICITY OF RULESET is important. Basically, this acts to keep our 'house rules' in check. We don't want to let our clauses and bans run out of control. Banning specific moves on specific Pokemon would generally qualify as NOT simple. A good test for sufficient simplicity is: can you tell our main rules to someone who's never heard them before and have them be understood. Currently, you can. "No two of the same Pokemon, no putting two things to sleep, no evasion moves, no one-hit-knockout moves. Arceus, Darkrai, Deoxys...Sky Shaymin, Wobbuffet, and Wynaut are all banned. Oh, and no Soul Dew." If it gets to the point where there are dozens of specific Pokemon that can't use specific moves, or if combinations of Pokemon get banned while the individual Pokemon are allowed, that's when things start getting too complicated.
    EDIT: It is this that means we should not run away making things 'as balanced as possible' and particularly 'as balanced and as diverse as possible'. We could make a perfectly balanced metagame where almost all the several hundred Pokemon were viable if we create a vast matrix of movebans, itembans, ev restrictions, and level limits. But we really shouldn't do that.

    Stability I do not see as important. Certainly, we don't want to start rulemaking solely for the sake of stability. (Banning new and threatening sets would be an example of such rulemaking). How stable the metagame is will I feel be a function of what new ideas are around, and isn't something that we should try to control.
    (Note that this applies to standard. For lower tiers we can influence stability, depending on how we handle tier changes.)

    Really finally this time, the rulemaking should be DEMOCRATIC. Clauses and bans should be decided by the players, not by an elite cabal. The current suspect testing system goes most of the way to meeting this, though it has some flaws. This wouldn't be all that important, were it not for the fact that Smogon has a monopoly on anglophone competitive Pokemon. If unpopular rules are forced on the metagame by staff, it's not easy for people to go elsewhere.

    EDIT: In terms of relative importance. I would say that democracy comes first, followed by meaningful battles. I'd rather have a game that lacked diversity and forced me to play stall with SkarmBliss than one where a trained Mankey beats an expert just because of the teams they happen to be using. Then meaningful teambuilding, balance, diversity, and simplicity are all about equal)
  8. Kristoph

    Kristoph

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    I don't know that Variety is too terribly important; apparently you can be anywhere from Ubers' and UUs' respective levels of variety and be "a-ok" in that regard. I mean, variety is obviously something we can observe, but you can't look at the state of a particular metagame and identify its variety as "too high" or "too low" without analyzing a whole bunch of other major factors first. You won't be saying "the metagame doesn't have enough variety; therefore, we should take X action in order to improve its variety." You're going to be saying that the metagame isn't balanced or deep enough, that you want the metagame to become more balanced and/or deeper, and that increasing its variety would be "just what the doctor ordered" to improve those things for one reason or another. So I definitely feel like Variety should just implicitly fly underneath the respective banners of Skill and Balance.

    I have a similar issue with Balance itself. If we're satisfied in the skill level a certain metagame requires of its players to be successful, then why should we ever care about its balance? If it takes a lot of work for me to make a good team, and then it takes a lot of work for me to win with it, that's good enough on its own, isn't it? We don't need to "verify" that it's good enough by counting up the number of viable strategies or whatever-- we can already tell how deep/skill-intensive the metagame is by participating in the ladder and other competitions.

    I have the same problem with Luck, actually. I think both of them should probably be "subsections" of Skill; if we're unhappy with Skill, then these are probably the things we can place blame on. If we're not unhappy with Skill, then who cares?


    I think a new characteristic should be made called "Accessibility." To an extent, we want people who suck at the game, or just aren't die-hard enthusiasts, to play it anyway. For example, when players can throw together a crappy 5-minute team and win 50% of their matches, the metagame has high Accessibility. This is a good thing, because it means we'll have more players who are comfortable playing the game (you talked about this sort of thing in your section on Variety as well, and I certainly think what you said is applicable). In a way, this makes the game less "accessible" to skilled players, but that's not what this characteristic should refer to--we have Skill for that. So obviously Skill and Accessibility might run counter to one-another in many cases, and we'll have a bit of a balancing act to perform in that regard, at least in the more extreme situations.

    I would place both Luck and Balance as subsections of Accessibility as well as Skill. Whenever someone talks about "needing to improve Balance" when the metagame is deep and skill-intensive, they should be able to put forth an argument that asserts that the metagame's Accessibility is not high enough.

    I know I haven't really given a formal definition of "Accessibility" but I hope most people understand what I'm trying to get at. It might look like I'm trying to make it extremely difficult to make assertions on the Balance (or Variety) of a metagame, but really all I'm doing is saying that you can't justify calling a metagame "imbalanced" by saying "well just look! see? it's imbalanced!" Using Ubers as an example, if you like its level of Skill but hate the fact that you can only use X number of strategies, your root problem is with its Accessibility, and, after establishing that, you'd probably explain how changing the game's Balance would alleviate the issue. You likely wouldn't have a terribly strong argument because of the culture (pretending for a moment that we allowed Pokemon bans to take place in Ubers to begin with), but that's at least how you'd structure it. Likewise, if you think OU is wonderfully Accessible but that games are too contingent on one player having a team advantage over the other, you're going to say that the metagame fails to satisfy the Skill Characteristic, and then take a look at whatever Balance or Luck elements might affect that.



    As for the other characteristics:

    "Competitive" is weird. It seems less like a characteristic and more like "commentary," doesn't it? Or like, an overarching guideline: "don't make any arguments using these characteristics that doesn't take the competitive nature of this community into serious consideration." But not a characteristic. Maybe that's just me.

    "Efficiency" and "Adherence" are sort of in the same boat. You have malleable, subjective things like Balance and Skill, and it just feels strange to have those sitting next to the black-and-white "don't try to tell me that EV training is a valid skill" sort of stuff.

    "Stability" is referring purely to change in content, right? If that's the case: I love it and it's just fine the way it is.



    Great post and I'm really glad to see this sort of discussion happening. Sorry if I misunderstood anything, or if I spent too much time focusing on my problems with your structure or something.
  9. Flashstorm1

    Flashstorm1
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    After talking to Tangerine a few months back, I've come to understand the importance of establishing a set of characteristics upon which we want to build a metagame out of. My biggest concern with the lack of a "true definition" for the type of metagame we want really boils down to the suspect process that we've currently implemented. Granted, other notable areas that depend on the establishment of metagame characteristics, such as clauses involving luck, should also be analyzed. However, my own personal opinion is that the Pokemon themselves have the highest impact in the metagame, and we should take care to realize which Pokemon don't fit the needs of the metagame we want to achieve and why.

    For example, in the Salamence nomination thread... As it is now, many of us (including myself) have simply argued about what Salamence's potential is in the current metagame, but our arguments (as Tangerine put it) have been lacking an important essence that makes any of our arguments valid. The problem with the nomination of suspects is that we don't have a basis as to how the metagame should function and why certain Pokemon would break the threshold of what would be considered "acceptable". We can't really state why Salamence negatively impacts this metagame without considering the aspects of the metagame itself. I'm quite frustrated with the fact that Pokemon have been made suspects without any basis of their tiering being based on how they affected the metagame. (All we've been really doing is saying "very few pokemon can switch into such Pokemon, and it hits extremely hard", etc.) In a way, I suppose this contradicts the issue of a Pokemon being broken, but so far, we've only taken a subjective stance on what is broken and what is not. I could argue that in regards to stage 3-4. Latias is OU (not broken) because it will "always lose against ScarfTar"; in a different scenario, I could say it is uber (broken) because "only a few Pokemon can switch into it". It all depends on our own view of what the metagame should look like.

    Personally, I think the issue with the suspect process, and therefore, the metagame we want, that we need to address is balance and variety, and I think both should be one of the main focuses of any future metagame we are to develop. EtE stated both could be interchangeable terms, and I completely agree. Take Salamence (once again) for example. The metagame has developed an arbitrary overcentralization around Steel-types like Scizor, which I'm sure anyone could argue wouldn't see so much usage where it not for Salamence. The fact that Pokemon such as Salamence require very limited methods to be dealt with would directly oppose the need for a metagame consisting of balance and variety, as opposed to, say, Lucario, which has many different counters and/or checks and doesn't restrict a player's team options in the way Salamence does. I find that the need for variety and balance could be applied to many of the other suspects too, albeit not all of them. Some of them are just, to put it blunty, "broken" because there is a significant lack of checks in the standard metagame. However, we arrive at the same problem: how can we assess a Pokemon's "brokenness" in regards to the metagame if we don't have a clue what the metagame should look like? All we've been using as of now are vague characteristics to determine a Pokemon's "broken" status, which works on Pokemon like Kyogre, but definitely doesn't work on less obvious suspects or Pokémon who could possibly be made suspects.

    The dominant factor in determining a viable metagame should definitely be whether certain Pokemon are (obviously) more powerful/broken than others, and how we would be able to determine such Pokemon in regards to the metagame we want.

    ---
    If I happened to, I apologize for going off on a tangent. I'm still rather new to the whole debating scene here on Smogon, so I'm open for any criticism or suggestions as to how I can word my arguments better.
  10. Tangerine

    Tangerine Where the Lights Are
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    As promised, I'll make this post (and only this post, I'm not really planning on coming back to Smogon, but this thread is important enough and made by someone whom I really respect so I really dont want this thread to go to hell). I understand that this is mostly rambling and it is rather rough and too general, but honestly, I don't have the motivation to do anything more than this, so i'm hoping that this will be a very very good starting point rather than something to be taken as is

    But before I make my points, I'm going to make a few things clear.(also i hate you philip and synre this post took forever to write I hope you all burn for it)

    First thing is that, I'm not going to say "If you don't agree with me, you're wrong", so please don't get the impression that, just because I'm criticizing your theory, it's because it's "my opinion". This is simply, my analysis of the subject matter. You're free to disagree with it, but I honestly doubt that it'll be the case.

    Second thing is that I'm going to be as concise as possible. If you want a more indepth explanation to one of my statements, try and figure out why i'm saying it before dismissing it. I'm not really going to post out everything, but hopefully I'll be able to communicate the important portions. This is probably going to be the most confusing post I've written since a lot of it likely requires the way I've approached it pseudomathematically.

    Third thing is that, I'm not going to be talking about what you think those words imply. The reason why any discussion is useless is because people seem to consistently incapable of scratching beneath the surface. The biggest issue with any of these characteristics, is that, as they are "known" right now, they're quite empty. "Balance" is an empty, meaningless word, while "Variety" to most people is simply "Number of available Pokemon in the game" (and none of them seem to be able to back up why they're using this metric). In the meanwhile, Skill, Luck, Competitiveness, they're all just the same thing. (I'm not going to worry about Efficiency since Pokemon is really a game of click click clicking).

    Fourth. I would think twice about using my terms/ideas in a practical setting since I'm just literally just writing down my thoughts so it's quite imperfect. I would prefer it if you took the ideas/concepts from it and learned to apply it through other means. (ie, i don't want to see people trying to do some dimension analysis bullshit)

    Fifth. This is simply a rough approximation. Use it as a starting point, clean up some stuff, etc.

    -------------

    So, the first thing I'll start with is "Adherence". I dont' think this is simply "stay true to the mechanics/rules or intent", but simply, "stay true to the original game as possible". The justification behind this is that, we're not going to make the number of changes it is required to make the DP metagame more like ADV's. In that case, what should Adherence be, and what are we adhering to?

    The idea of Adherence should be applied to what evolves naturally. That is, we set some sort of guidelines (ie, metagame should feature THESE pokemon, lets have some clauses that highlights the way we think), and let the game play out. Through this process, you should have some idea of how that specific metagame is (notice that this is metagame specific), and what kind of stuff hurts that style of play. The idea of adherence should be to realize how the game works "naturally" (without intervention), and patch out any glitches/errors/what not involved in it.

    This is what we have now, except that, rather than caring about how the metagame is, people seem to have adopted some ridiculous Sirlian (Sirlin -> Sirlian oh i'm so clever -_-;;) bullshit. This attitude needs to be weeded out of this community and likely every community that aims to play any game that isn't a fighter competitively (ie, be very very careful before applying his stuff to anything that isn't a fighter) -- most of his theories have other games in mind whenever he posts like it should apply to all games.

    Hence, it doesn't mean "unban everything and go", but to use good judgment when doing so. LC doesn't need berry juice tested, if its goal is to be a hyperoffensive metagame, and surely people have very specific idea of the quirks of UU when they start complaining about Cresselia. This is exactly why you can't use these "concepts" at this point to dictate gen 5, because gen 5 is bound to be tremendously different from gen 4. The point is that, it should adhere to these specific principles. These principles are what this thread is aiming to find, of course. So how do we decide on that?

    We will derive what the definitions *should* be from the nature of the game. I claim the following.

    Pokemon can be divided into two distinct games. The first part of the game is team building, the second part of the game is battling. We will analyze each aspect.

    ----

    Team Building.

    The goal of team building is to build a team that maximizes the probability of winning given all other teams in the game. That is, you take into account what every other player is doing, given your playstyle, and make a team that will give you the most advantage over the other teams and players. (there is a more formal way of putting this but it's not important) Either case, the number of possibilities is finite, meaning that, there exists some mixed equilibrium.

    However, the point is that no players will play a mixed equilibrium on the ladder (maybe in a tournament). In general, we ignore the possibility of a mixed nash equilibrium, and pretend that players only play pure strategies - that is, for a given period of time, there will be only one team that a player uses consistently.

    Then there are a few effects we need to consider with variety. There are two main factors to the game, attack and defense (maybe special attack and special defense now too). Supporting is just boosting the attack or defense vector. You either overwhelm them with an attack, or you stall them out so well, or you do a little bit of both. This is the "core" of the characteristics of uber - if you're winning the game, you're doing it through attacking or stalling it out. The idea of the characteristics was that, everyone has some theory about how the game works, but they needed to be focused with a reapable result in the end. It wasn't an argument of what was broken or not -- it was something you filled in.

    Now, each Pokemon (when I say Pokemon, I mean species - movepool - EVs - IVs - Items, the complete set, and not just the species) has N dimensions that it needs to consider, each dimension telling you how well it "attacks" or "defends" against specific concepts. When you build a team, you take six Pokemon and aggregate them (team building is a function, so certain Pokemon in the same team may also boost how much a Pokemon contributes, this is "support" or "synergy".)

    The game is how you manage to make one dimension "too much" for the other player to handle. (imagine two sea urchins floating around trying to poke each other to death, with each spike being a "dimension"). The idea of “specialized teams” immediately follows from this, and this also explains why there aren't many balanced teams around.

    One important thing to note. Some dimensions are "naturally" much higher numbers than others, due to the distribution of Pokemon in the game. Imagine how extreme the stats and attacks are in DP than in ADV and you'll understand what I mean.

    Team building then is to understand the "spikes" in the overall metagame and finding ways to damper their effects while getting spikes of your own to poke the other player (i'm hoping this makes sense or you'd all be very very confused). Or, perhaps, you just ignore the spikes of the other player and just focus on one specific dimension and overwhelm the other player. The idea is to build your team to have some way of dealing with it - whether it be to shoot the other guy before he shoots you or find ways to make the bullet less deadly.

    Balance is an adjustment of variety, in an extent. We want to make sure the "right" amount of variety is there to promote "skill" (I'll talk about this later). The big thing about variety is that before a strategy is actually feasible it can't be weakly dominated. This is something to watch out for when you're unbanning Pokemon that are "too strong" (ie, it contributes too much to the team vector). However, this also states that if you're banning Pokemon to increase variety, this shouldn't be a "problem", unless you're banning a significant number of Pokemon (ie, a Pokemon that used to be a key component to dealing with a number of Pokemon).

    This is why balance is so damn difficult. You don't want to "maximize" variety, but you want every dimension accountable (or else you take the dimension and get an easy win!). It's also difficult to ban one Pokemon because their actual effects are either hidden very well within the team aggregation or dampened really well by the opposing team, which is what separates Pokemon from anything Sirlian. The idea is to balance either by cutting off the spikes, or by making certain other spikes stronger.

    No amount of tweaking, however, is going to make all Pokemon in the metagam equally viable. This is a direct consequence of the definition I gave, so I'm sure you guys can figure out why that is. So, the goal of balance shouldn't be this extreme -- but simply, to eliminate extremes. But to define the extremes, they're defined in the midst of battle.

    ---

    Battling.

    Battling is a Imperfect Information Extensive Form Game (wikipedia that if you dont know what that is). This means that, players will make the best move given the information they have. The battling portion of Pokemon is a game of information and probability management. You need information about your team, and you want to get information about your opponent's team so you can make informed decisions to win.

    We'll first do some clean up and finish up the point from the previous section.

    First, we'll consider this. Why is Mew banned? Because Mew can do A LOT of things in OU, making it almost impossible to deal with properly. Why is this important? Why is this different from 50/50 situations that arises normally from "I know that you know that I know that you know..."? The answer is that, the latter situation, you have full information, and thus, you'll end up with the mixed nash equilibrium, butin the former, there is no information. That is, the latter has to do with the player's behavior, the former has to do with the innate behavior.

    This is where skill comes in. Skill, in Pokemon, is information management. Meaning, you want to reward players for using skill, ie, you want to offer them a significantly higher chance of winning for thinking through a move (i'm again, not going to consider the case of imperfect information due to player behavior -- i'm considering this from simply a Pokemon approach). This happens in the following cases

    1) When the pokemon, or a combination of Pokemon, is simply too overpowering in one specific way(ie, I'm going to pull this off no matter what you try to do)
    2) When a species has too many options that all yield very good payoffs. (it can do many things, and does all of them well)

    Both of these cases serve as disincentive for skill, since if it's overpowered, this just means that if someone brings it up against you, you are on a complete defensive and have to try your best to stop it, even if the person against you using it had very minimum skill. The second case is because even if you use skill, the chance of you getting it incorrect and getting screwed over is quite significant. This is how you would "argue" something is broken using "characterics".

    2) is a good starting point on why Salamence is broken (most mixed sets are attempt to accomplish 2, most choiced sets are attempts to accomplish 1, etc, but most of them aren't overwhelming enough against most of the metagame.). Wobbuffet falls under 1), on the other hand. What is overpowering and such all depends on the metagame -- for example, in a metagame with a steel type cresselia with Levitate, Salamence and Garchomp would be laughed at.

    1) needs to be clarified. The intuition behind this is that anything that has a large payoff as a certain outcome should be considered skillless. How this should be approached is that if two equally skilled players were using it, then whoever pulls off the "trick" first is going to be at a huge advantage. In general, pokemon "every skilled player must use" (keyword: skilled) tends to be controversial for this reason. Meanwhile, if a combination proves to be broken, you just remove one part of it.

    We are promoting skill, after all, and skill, is about how you build teams and how you manage information. The two properties are properties of a game that does not promote skill. I believe that, we should promote a game that pays of significantly to manage information.

    The issue with DP is literally "too much variety" - more and more Pokemon are like 2, especially with stuff like Choice Scarf, which literally adds another dimension to consider when playing (although, Choice Scarf also makes a lot of other threats more playable). To an extent, DP is less about "balance" but more about trying to shoot the other guy before he shoots you in a standoff. But lets go on.

    Now, there's luck. Luck is built in, and the built in luck, we'll have to deal with. However, in a skill promoting game, there is no place for things like OHKO or Evasion, even despite Hipmonlee likely being correct regarding it. This is because while the expected value may work out in the favor of the better player, in a game where we want to promote skill, neither of those moves are something that will promote skill for the other players. I can make a much longer post on this, but the statement should suffice I think

    In the end, variety, luck, balanced, all mean "skill", and "adherence" simply means "simplest rule possible" The game is COMPETITIVE pokemon -- skillless competition would be like competitive rock paper scissors, which is not something you can really "play to win", which is why we have skill. Stability isn't something we can get I think, since the game has a lot of options and players will constantly discover them, which is why it's better to rotate Pokemon out back and forth (ie, rather banning Garchomp, feature it in some special league once a year or something), because what is broken now (due to the game not being completely discovered) may not be broken later, while what isn't broken now may be broken later, etc, which is the biggest reason why people consider the suspect tests inflexible. Smogon would be much better off if they stopped calling the Suspect test a test but just making it a feature -- rotate the metagames through SPL or something like that (ie, season 1 of SPL can be "featuring Latias", etc, something you feel like testing).
  11. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    Yeah I like most of what you posted, except where you go into specifics, I obviously think you are wrong about DT for instance. This isnt the place to argue that anyway..

    I think here you are making a big assumption. Stability isnt something we can guarantee, but at least to some extent I think it is something we can expect. I mean the top 10 OU pokemon have mostly remained in or around the top 10 in OU for ages. It's generally only with new releases that things really get shaken up.

    Even if there was no stability, I dont see why we would rotate. I mean, if it's already unstable why bother?

    There is value in some degree of stability. Of course we cant guarantee it, but it is nice for people to be able to come back from a hiatus and not be completely lost. And obviously there is some extreme where people are constantly having to build new teams to keep up, and that isnt desirable. But also stagnation is a bad thing as well. There is a (subjective) ideal level here. This would also be difficult to vote on however, since the voters almost by definition will not currently be on hiatus.

    I'm also very skeptical of the people who say that there is too much variety in DP. While at the same time other people are saying they want to unban Garchomp because they are sick of seeing the same pokemon all the time. I mean, obviously the more you battle the more variety you are going to want in the game.

    The one thing I would say about variety in dp is that teambuilding is much harder than it was in advance. Essentially in advance, after a year or so I just built teams by numbers. I had a formula I'd follow, and I could deviate from it and know the effects of deviating pretty easily. I mean, when it comes down to it, there arent really very many options in advance. It's easy to glorify it in hindsight, but by the end of it we were all sick of seeing the same old shit.

    In DP I have nothing like that. My team building is a much more evolutionary process, with constant tweaking and often several versions of the same team. This can be frustrating, it means that a lot of my battles will tend to lack variation because I am too lazy to make changes. But that's me, not DP.. Hmm.. This is a sidetrack as well.. The point is I dont like the too much variety is a bad thing argument.

    I'm thinking about the complaint a lot of people have with DP, which is that once a battle starts there is very little thinking to be done. And it just seems to me that there just isnt any rule change that would fix that..

    I mean, to reward thoughtfulness at a teambuilding stage, you just need a lot of viable options available, so people have room to innovate. Though, it is hard to know what is a viable option until people have innovated them.

    But to reward thoughtfulness at a battling stage there is no obvious method. I mean, the only thing I can really think of is to ensure that battles are long. But I mean all you really do there is give a player more chances to think during the battle, but make it less valuable each time they do.

    Out of interest, for those of you who play both dp ubers and dp ou, do you find that one or the other is worse for this? Is it really variety that is the problem here?

    Which makes me wonder, if, having a battle where you have a lot of opportunity for thought but a low chance of that thought having an impact is a problem or rather is the problem people have with dp. Because that is a very serious problem. But not having to think in battle may not necessarily be because of too much variation it might just be because of a bad metagame. In fact I can think of situations where a metagame with very little variety would result in this so I am not convinced that the two issues are necessarily linked. It may be more to do with the offensive nature of the dp metagame than its varied nature. I mean there is probably some correlation there just not necessarily as much as has been made out.

    What I am kinda getting the feeling here, is we should just start off with some rules, however we get to them, and then just not change them, unless we really feel like something is broken.

    So like, in DP we would have started as we did, gotten sick of Garchomp and banned it. And that would have been all. Until Shaymin in Pt I guess..

    Wow this post is a mess. I was just going to write a couple of lines and now its like 2:30am. I kept going back and thinking of new things and adding them in, so I apologise if it doesnt quite make perfect sense structurally.

    Have a nice day.
  12. eric the espeon

    eric the espeon maybe I just misunderstood
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    I'd like to show my thoughts on the underlying aims of Pokemon as a game, those which the Characteristics of a Desirable Pokemon Metagame themselves could be based upon. Here is the log of a conversation with Doug about them:

    Show Hide

    Irrelevant parts (mostly join/part messages) have been edited out and minor spelling mistakes have been fixed for ease of reading.

    If you're not sure about reading it all then skip down to the first underlined part where I bring up my main point.

    [20:25] <DougJustDoug> I also would like to hear what Jumpman thinks about broadening the rules for discussion/debate on the metagame.
    [20:26] <DougJustDoug> Because, right now we only have the Uber Characteristics
    [20:26] <DougJustDoug> And those don't apply to anything other than Pokemon
    [20:27] <DougJustDoug> So, we can't really use that to discuss other concepts (like clauses, moves, mechanics, etc)
    [20:27] <ete> I did have a thread planned "On non-Pokemon suspects" but it ended up being a lower priority than several other things, and i had exams, so..
    [20:28] <ete> I'd love to give discussions a solid base
    [20:28] <DougJustDoug> And I'd really like to see us use the same kind of rigor used in discussing Pokemon
    [20:28] <ete> otherwise the clause testing is going to be a nightmare
    [20:28] <ete> and the Juice test in LC
    [20:28] <DougJustDoug> Our process is by no means perfect -- but the Uber Characteristics have done a decent job of focusing pokemon suspect discussions
    [20:29] <ete> mhm
    [20:29] <DougJustDoug> I'd like that same level of focus across the board.
    [20:29] <DougJustDoug> And, we need to generalize the concepts of "Uber" anyway
    [20:29] <aldaron> my main issue is simply that they focus on power in general, not power in what we determine we want in the metagame
    [20:29] <ete> Ideally, we would come up with something from which we could derive the Uber characteristics, or at least see why they work reasonably well.
    [20:30] <DougJustDoug> Using the "Uber characteristics" for BL discussions -- is difficult for newcomers to grok
    [20:30] <aldaron> which brings about the issue of me being unable to vote salamence / latias uber but completely not wanting either in a metagame that promotes skill (skillful switching)
    [20:31] <DougJustDoug> I can see that argument Aldaron. And I think there is a very valid argument there
    [20:32] <DougJustDoug> I don't know what argument is "best" aldaron -- but I'd like us to have ground rules to let both sides "fight it out"
    [20:33] <DougJustDoug> Right now, there is just too much "unsaid stuff" in our policy. Unsaid on both sides of every argument.
    [20:34] <ete> If we are going to be having a Skill characteristic it'd be good to get down on paper what exactly counts as skill in Pokemon. Prediction is thought by many to be "glorified guessing", but some consider it a skill. Other than that there is just analytical thought and team building.
    [20:35] <DougJustDoug> If we end up having detailed discussions on each characteristic -- that would be a major part of the discussion, I would think
    [20:35] <DougJustDoug> ^of Skill, that is
    [20:35] <ete> Good players are undoubtedly better at prediction, but a poor player could easily overturn that by using a RNG
    [20:36] <ete> I know that some people actually do that on ladder when facing a top player
    [20:36] <ete> just assign a rough % to each choice, and ask a website to chose their move.
    [20:36] <DougJustDoug> Although, the "Skill" characteristic was intended more to drive how we "reward and recognize success" than how we regulate play.
    [20:37] <ete> mhm
    [20:37] <DougJustDoug> Many people read my thread, and thought it was all about banning pokemon, and making clauses.
    [20:37] <ete> like, ladder and tournament setup?
    [20:38] <ete> and the rewards for doing well in either
    [20:38] <ete> (I was one of those people)
    [20:38] <DougJustDoug> I was referring to the entire metagame -- how we do ratings, organize tournaments, etc -- those are part of the metagame, and are deeply connected to the question 'What metagame do we want?"
    [20:40] <DougJustDoug> And some of the characteristics eliminate some occurrences that many people assume "Could never happen" -- but they could. And if we are making base rules, they need to cover all that "ridiculous stuff".
    [20:40] <RB-Golbat> i.e. the sleep clause colin wrote
    [20:41] <ete> especially with gen 5 on the horizon, and nintendo's inclination to make huge mechanics changes..
    [20:41] <DougJustDoug> Who knows what could come up -- something ridiculous now, could be very plausible in a year.
    [20:44] <DougJustDoug> One of my techniques when thinking of characteristics, was to come up with some really ridiculous "Noob suggestions". The type of thing that people would all agreed "Get the fuck out of here".
    [20:44] <DougJustDoug> If the noob responded "Why is my suggestion unacceptable?" -- I wanted the characteristics to cover it, and have a reason to back it up. And no, when writing rules like this "No stupid shit -- because we say so." is not acceptable, IMO.
    [20:44] <ete> exactly
    [20:45] <ete> Which is where the simplicity thing comes in. "lets unban Lv. 78 Mewtwo" is something that we don't have a solid answer to, other than "lol"
    [20:45] <DougJustDoug> So, if some user says "I think the metagame should add +200 to every users rating if they have a good username" -- then we have criteria that explain why that is crap.
    [20:46] <ete> heh
    [20:46] <DougJustDoug> The uber characteristics don't cover that.
    [20:46] <ete> yea
    [20:46] <DougJustDoug> Competitive covers that immediately
    [20:46] <ete> though, I think even with great base principles to argue with I think that would be answered with a trip to trou not arguments.
    [20:47] <DougJustDoug> Technically you could argue the username bullshit and say that "Adherence" allows it BTW
    [20:47] <DougJustDoug> Name Rater ftw
    [20:47] <DougJustDoug> I'm being silly -- but you get my point
    [20:48] <DougJustDoug> Who knows what is "ridiculous" or not
    [20:48] <ete> sure
    [20:48] <ete> it's best to be able to prove it
    [20:48] <ete> but smogon will still probably just laugh at some people
    [20:48] <ete> maybe that's not a good thing
    [20:48] <ete> but it'll take a while for that to change much
    [20:50] <DougJustDoug> <+ete> Which is where the simplicity thing comes in. "lets unban Lv. 78 Mewtwo" is something that we don't have a solid answer to, other than "lol"
    [20:51] <Teifu> there's a slippery slope element of that too
    [20:51] <ete> we could say it's not practical to test it at all levels
    [20:51] <DougJustDoug> I want to rework Efficiency or replace it entirely -- with a charateristic that covers this stuff
    [20:51] <Teifu> if i can balance x uber to be sort of balanced at 78 why wouldnt we just make them like 12 instead
    [20:51] <Teifu> make all the current ou 50
    [20:51] <Teifu> make all the uu 75 etc and just let all the pokemon duke it out !
    [20:51] <ete> But they could just say "unban it at a lower level, where it's clearly not a problem"
    [20:52] <DougJustDoug> Simplicity is hard though -- because I could ask the question "Level 78 for Kyogre to be acceptable -- how complicated is that? No more complicated than the ten million other rules and clauses in place already."
    [20:52] <ete> I think that a lot of the characteristics can be boiled down to a simple two, "make the game fun" "make the game non-arbitrary"
    [20:53] <DougJustDoug> Im pretty adamantly in the camp that "fun" is irrelevant in the metagame context.
    [20:53] <ete> It's not hugely complicated, but one you start messing with levels then you have to find the exact point where the balance tips, and you could have things like "take scizor down a couple of levels"
    [20:53] <ete> I consider competitive games to be fun
    [20:53] <ete> That's why people play them
    [20:54] <DougJustDoug> Well, you like to win.
    [20:54] <ete> yes, you play to win
    [20:54] <ete> But you play to win because you like to win
    [20:54] <ete> because it's "fun"
    [20:54] <ete> it's a few levels down
    [20:54] <DougJustDoug> But, using words like "fun" in our rules opens the door for people to want ratings increased for making good pokemon nicknames.
    [20:54] <ete> but it is still there
    [20:54] <DougJustDoug> That may be "fun" -- but not competitive at all
    [20:55] <ete> I don't think many people would find that anything like as fun as the kind of game we play now, and the other side "non-arbitrary" coves it nicely.
    [20:56] <ete> Something like that would be supremely arbitrary
    [20:56] <ete> and at best would be a laugh for a few days
    [20:56] <DougJustDoug> That's true
    [20:57] <ete> The game needs to be fun in order for people to play it, but it can be fun because it is intellectually challenging not because its "fun pretty colors" in a more childish sense.
    [20:57] <DougJustDoug> Yeah, now that I think about it. All the characteristics do boil down to providing an appealing non-arbitrary Pokemon metagame.
    [20:58] <ete> appealing is probably a better word than fun
    [20:59] <DougJustDoug> Well, many of the reasons in the characteristics refer to having a large player base.
    [20:59] <DougJustDoug> Which is "having a broad appeal"
    [20:59] <ete> mhm
    [21:00] <DougJustDoug> And in one of the first characteristics I mentioned the reason that a broad appeal is a good thing
    [21:01] <ete> The level of characteristics which you were dealing with is needed for general discussions, but to find which are good we could do with something to work from.
    [21:01] <ete> and I think that non-arbitrary+appealing makes sense
    [21:02] <DougJustDoug> Yeah, each of those would need to be refined into some more concrete discussion rules. Like how Uber Characteristics narrow the discussion of Balance for specific Pokemon
    [21:02] <ete> sure
    [21:03] <DougJustDoug> And the characteristics themselves could use a single "mission statement" overall. Non-arbitrary + appealing is a good basis for that statement.
    [21:07] <ete> mhm, I like how they balance eachother out (or at least argue in opposite directions) in many situations. For example, allowing low level ubers would be fun and many make more options, but it would allow a huge amount of arbitrariness in. "exactly how low level do they need to be in order to be fair" leads to impracticality, and "level x is clearly not broken, it may be fair at higher levels...
    [21:07] <ete> ...but oh well" is arbitrary.
    [21:08] <ete> Maybe adding that it needs to be practical would be a good idea


    I think that the one thing that is almost indisputable is that we want Competitive Pokemon to be a widely played game, from a rulechangers perspective this is achieved by improving the game. By making it more "Appealing" to players. This does not mean losing any of the competitiveness which Smogon strives for, or decreasing the skill element, by any means. Those two factors are arguably the biggest draws for almost all of our players. Just because we would aim to make the game more appealing does not mean we would resort to gimmicks like the one Doug suggested as an extreme example. "Lets give people point on ladder for good nicknames" would be extremely counter-productive to the lasting appealingness of the game to a vast majority of players, and whatever Smogon's leadership in the future becomes will realize this.

    However appealingness on it's own has certain problems, it does not address points such as sticking to game mechanics exactly (for example not implementing the acid weather glitch would be pretty popular with many players) or prevent convoluted, but possibly appealing, rulesets like the "unban low level Ubers". As a counter-balance I suggest that we aim to construct a metagame that also minimizes (but not eliminates, as that is effectively impossible) arbitrariness. This includes minimizing arbitrariness in terms of mechanics implementation, ruleset, ladder and external to battle parts of the metagame design, and any testing procedure.

    I think that all of the ideas for Characteristics of a Desirable Metagame so far mentioned in this thread can be quite directly based on one or both of these principles, and that they can be useful tools to allow us to decide on the specifics of what we want from this game.

    And to each of the other posts, it's impressive how much has been written with such high content density. Brilliant walls of text.
  13. Chou Toshio

    Chou Toshio @Fighting Necktie
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    Since it seems like people are getting a good foothold on the topic, I just want to add my 2 cents-- which really will be like 2 cents I don't plan to talk much.

    I just want to remind that the game really does exist to have fun. We call it competitive pokemon, but the purpose of "competition" itself is to have fun. With that in mind, I think it's safe to say that pokemon that make the game fun (to a majority of players) are good pokemon. That is of course really REALLY vague, so I understand if all who read that statement will be thinking "Um, duh." I agree with all the points that Eric has mentioned on making the game appealing, but must point out that appealing is difficult to define.


    Competitively speaking, I think a highly desirable pokemon is one that adds a new element to the game, a new dimension to it. In other words, I think pokemon who bring something completely unique to the table are good to have around.

    For instance, 1 more bulky mono-water type is not going to add much of a new dimension to the game *cough*manaphy*cough*, but a bulky, levitating, special attacking dragon type that isn't 4x weak to ice and lacks a fire attack? Yeah, Latias definitely adds something unique to the table. As do Heatran, Tyranitar, Rotom-A, Flygon, Infernape and Celebi.

    These pokemon are all far more unique, and add a much more unique dimension to the game than say, Vaporeon or Salamence (since Dragonite is bringing something relatively similar to the table).

    One way I find I can see that a pokemon really has a significant uniqueness to it is if I find it simply cannot be replaced in a lower tier. For instance, Ambipom seems ridiculous in OU because Scizor will just keep using it to force your team into eating CB U-Turns again and again. But when you go down to UU, you realize, there is no normal-resisting powerful U-Turn user, and you appreciate the role Scizor brings to the OU metagame.

    I personally would like us to value pokemon that play a significantly unique role in the meta without being too over-powered. This goes for moves, clauses, and strategies as well.
  14. Kristoph

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    One thing you are right about is that most of the characteristics people have been talking about pretty much just boil down to Skill. And that's definitely something that you made clear in your post, but I don't think your specific examples reflect it too terribly well. "Too much variety means the metagame won't be skillful enough." "OHKOs and Evasion should stay banned because unbanning them would keep the game from being skillful enough." I mean, you know I've always paid attention to your arguments, whether they were big in-depth behemoths like this, or little cryptic IRC snippets that nobody understood-- so while I think there's plenty of value to your assertion that DP's high level of variety has a negative impact on what we would define as Skill, the way that you're articulating it is just backwards.

    The way I see it, "Skill" is self-evident. In Pokemon, Starcraft, Street Fighter, Poker--any competitive game--if there's one player who can consistently defeat everyone else, you seriously can't say anything against that game's level of skill. You can't do it. I mean, no matter how hard you tried, you wouldn't be able to beat the apparently "skill-less" player you're indirectly commenting about, right? So when someone tries to say that there's something wrong with DP's level of Skill, and yet at any given moment I can click three pages away and have like a 50% chance of seeing IPL completely dominating the leaderboard, my response is pretty much going to be to laugh in their face and tell them to go play Kongai or something. You can point out all the quirks in the metagame that cause matches to be one-dimensional or whatever, but that doesn't say anything about Skill--the better players finding their way to the top does.

    I'm not saying that "Sure, IPL can only beat Blame Game 51% of the time, but after two million matches, it's all good," so much as "Having to play more matches to prove who the better player is simply not inherently bad." You can make decent arguments like "The difference between me and the top five leaderboarders is purely that they have more time on their hands than I do," but the point is that "But... look at how many matches you have to play!" is not substantive (and I don't think your argument goes particularly far beyond that).


    Just want to voice general approval of this post (it pretty much reflects what I said in my earlier post), except that it doesn't seem to advocate "Appeal" (or whatever) as an actual characteristic, just as a general thing to keep in mind. Maybe I just read too carefully, but yeah, I would approve of that being used as a legitimate characteristic, though obviously it would need to be more precisely defined and whatnot.


    It would be a terrible idea to artificially alter the ladder just for the sake of it. We already have tournaments that test players' abilities to adapt to crazy new rulesets, so it would be redundant anyway.
  15. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    Did I reply to the wrong thread or something.. I was sure I posted here.

    Anyway the gist of the post was when you say appeal you must specify who you want to appeal to.

    I mean, obviously competitive pokemon battlers, but for instance, competitive pokemon battlers with a lot of time on their hands wont be bothered by "But... look at how many matches you have to play!" at least not as much as busier competitive pokemon battlers.

    Have a nice day.
  16. Jumpman16

    Jumpman16 np: Michael Jackson - "Mon in the Mirror" (DW mix)
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    Thanks for this, Doug—I wanted to give this the attention it deserved so that's why I haven't responded yet. I also have intentionally refrained from reading more than a few words of others' responses because I want to relay my thoughts as my own first. Also, I will respond to your "Concerns and Issues" as though someone had actually said them since I know you've posited them for exactly the sake of such arguments (which I realize are not necessarily your own at all).

    The infamous words of Herm Edwards have never been more applicable: "You play to win the game". It's going to be hard to argue against this and appeal to "fun", in my opinion.

    Neither of these suspicions are mutually exclusive with "fun", even if we professed to be striving towards some universal ideal of fun. Everything that is remotely competitive can be perceived as "too serious or cutthroat".


    And? Go play ingame if you don't want a cutthroat game. And I think it's actually appropriate to note the last several weeks of the Platinum Battle Tower Thread and how cutthroat the exchanges and competition between Peterko and myself got—I doubt any ladder climbing or Smogon Touring would have resulted in anything nearly as cutthroat for me personally. This underlines my argument that anything remotely competitive can indeed be very cutthroat and serious, so "go play ingame" isn't even guaranteed to guard you against that unless you want to ignore such records (i.e. not compete). Your choice would otherwise be to quit Pokémon, as far as I'm concerned.

    At once we need to remind ourselves that the standard metagame is very much not the most varied metagame we have—that would be Ubers. "Variety", specifically and solely, is broader in the Uber metagame than in Standard/OU...and we specifically make it a point to marry Variety with Balance. I'll also take this opportunity to note that, with over 500 Pokémon at our disposal now, the metagames of UU, LC and eventually NU are viable options that pertain directly to Variety. So if one is concerned about the Variety of Standard play only he or she is doing him-or herself a disservice by ignoring the totally viable metagames we have created underneath Standard/OU. Our efforts with UU, LC and NU are therefore in direct response to this Variety Characteristic.

    Not when remembering the Competitive Characteristic and also that this Variety Characteristic refers specifically to competitive strategies. Nobody cares how many of your Pokémon have Double Team or Sheer Cold if you cannot significantly increase your winning percentage.

    Useless when remembering the Competitive/Skill Characteristics and also that this Variety Characteristic refers specifically to viability. Nobody cares that Sunflora and Igglybuff are allowed in Standard, because nobody is going to use these Pokémon to significantly increase his or her winning percentage. Nothing has to actively be done about Variety that doesn't significantly impact Competitiveness or Skill.


    This has no bearing on the Competitive Characteristic. We compete with each other, not some idea of perfection or mastery of Pokémon. Professional golfers often refer to their vocation as being "unmasterable", but they all know it's the one with the lowest score who wins. You don't all get a trophy for scoring par or below and "beating the course", per sé.


    Again, there's no reason to restrict something that is a literal non-factor for competitive strategy.


    A player should be knowledgeable enough to defeat his or her opponent. It's seriously that simple, outside of the Luck Characteristic (and even there I would preliminarily extend this absolute to "more often than his or her opponent can defeat him or her consistently with regard only to Luck").


    You refer specifically to a player to prefers or excels with particular "superior" elements. This doesn't fly with me as a specific Characteristic of Balance because it can be immediately argued that this player is still flat out better than his or her opponent (Skill), and that this is the only reason he excels and therefore generally prefers it. Both players have the offending option at their disposal, and therefore, if equally Skilled (in all aspects of competitive Pokémon, including teambuilding and "predicting"), they should win an equal percentage of their battles in the long run. Now obviously if we put Rayquaza in Standard right now it would likely unbalance the game, but this would not necessarily have one player excel because he or she uses Rayquaza, and would not necessarily result in a preference to use Rayquaza. There would be enough speed ties or whatever that would result in such Skilled Players losing to players who are much less Skilled that the "preference" to use the element would turn into a necessity, and this would severely hamper Balance. I will also add that the number of wins a Skilled player gets using such a superior element to beat a player who is not aware of the superiority of said element or how to either use it him- or herself or defend against it adequately is an insignificant number because such wins would be coming against players who lack by definition some degree of Competitiveness and Skill (this is why we don't really want to hear from people who got owned by Latios repeatedly but had a rating of like 1100).



    The community ultimately has to decide this, and this is why the Characteristics of and Uber were so important to arrive at two years ago before the Suspect Test began in earnest.


    This is why we're not interested in quantitative arguments like "usage" when trying to qualify imbalance.


    Sure, which is why the default position should be unbanned for everything going forward.

    Impossible. Game refreshes come out within 12 months, and the largest gaps we have in between new games that affect metagame stability is when brand new generations come out (18 months between RS and FRLG, 23 months in between DP and Platinum). Tell me why it took a full year for people to start whoring Stealth Rock, arguably the single most depended-upon move today, or why Blissey's demise as a #1 used Pokémon was even more gradual than the fall of the American Economy. There is no reason to attempt to mandate Stability, especially when we have Variety to combat the few possible negative effects of Stability ("im bored pokemon is boring").


    Futilely. Who cares?


    Even more difficult to adequately qualify (I'm not concerned with quantifying something like stagnation).


    To me, it means that there's a pleasurable amount of Variety in the game and little more, if anything.


    Rules yes, mechanics to the extent where we should question whether we really have to implement/observe broken glitches like Acid Weather or the Mimic glitch. Spirit is way too vague to have any place in a competitive Pokémon discussion, and I'd argue most of you here don't know a damn thing about "the actual Pokemon game" (coincidentally, Doug has more experience with the actual game than almost everyone here). Do you guys really want the mighty Jumpman16 dictating rules that fall in line with the spirit of Pokémon just he owns the actual games, and his Platinum Cart's playtime reads 999:59 and his Pearl ~994 hours (these are true lol =/) and could easily argue that he is more inline with the spirit of Pokemon than anyone here? Or maybe Wifier x knows more than me because both of his Gen IV games are at 999:59, and he should be telling us all about the deep spirit of the actual Pokémon game and what it really means? Yeah right.


    Fair, objective question—I'm inclined to say "the latest", but that doesn't really work too well when later games have more unplayable features (Acid Weather wasn't in Japanese DP).

    We can't decide this. It goes back to "authorial intent" and why such a notion is worthless.


    The only reason to not address and embrace all of these is the time it takes to implement them into a battle simulator or to organize tournaments that feature any one of them.


    I guess, it's as official as we can get. Websites like Serebii and Corocoro are usually authorities on information before such literature is even available, and I don't think many people will argue against their authority.


    We are playing Pokémon, after all, and all the mechanics should be in any simulator we choose to use and maintain. But we already have correct precedent to implement and observe clauses to make the game more Competitive and maximize Balance and Variety (e.g.: Sleep Clause), and since not every canonical Pokémon game observes such Clauses (certainly neither the most recent or most canonical version of "true Pokémon"), we have reason to not obey every stupid thing they do. After all, the only metagame Nintendo seems to observe competitively is Doubles—any precedent they set on 1-on-1 competition is over five years old now. It is literally up to "us" (the same "us" you referred to early, not just Smogon) to maintain the metagame we have *had to* create.

    This goes almost hand-in-hand with the Competitive Characteristic, and is similarly very hard to argue against. I agree with this verbatim.




    Sure.


    Sure.


    Definitely, you'd be hard-pressed to make a decent argument that we should recognize breeding and IVing on our simulators (or mandate that we make 100% sure that everyone with max-IVs didn't Pokesav or AR them). That said, I personally have never really liked the "Undo move" option on Shoddy and NetBattle before it, because it's impossible to separate Skill from the execution belonging to pressing a button at a specific moment for a specific, Competitive reason (e.g. selecting a poor move in one moment due to a given deficit of Skill). I would like Colin to weigh in on this—he's stated that we could observe the Tournament format where moves are given to a judge by each competitor and only when each competitor is ready should the moves be executed. That, however, is obviously a very, very specific "canon" of play that has actually never been present in any pokemon game (yes, even in Pokémon Stadium 1-2, since the competitor who selected his or her move last would never have the chance to "undo"), and this is why I oppose such reasoning pertaining to why it's in our battle simulators.


    Sure. It's not something policy makers should be concerned with, though.


    Touched on this a little above, but there's room for discussion on this one when considering all the Characteristics we actually desire (so I would like a rating system that rewards the most Skillful, Competitive players above anything else).


    You'll struggle to get anyone to agree on what's "reasonable" regarding Luck, which is perhaps the only reason we need as to why such a Characteristics should perhaps have no place in a desirable metagame.

    Impossible in Pokémon without considering the "desire" of not just "Fire Blast vs. Flamethrower" but both vs. Eruption, the only Fire-type move with perfect accuracy and 0% chance to burn (the only "zero sum" Fire-type move). If you consider that a rather loose application of "zero sum", consider this instead: is it even possible to consider the luck in competitive Pokémon zero sum, where a 10% Overheat miss can cost you the game but an equivalent 10% Flamethrower burn is not necessarily going to result in a zero sum result (you winning)?

    This is why you need to consider games like Pokémon over the long term, and dozens and dozens of battles if not hundreds.


    Impossibly variable and not worth our time to agree upon.


    Neither? If I want to use Flamethrower because I don't like missing (no luck), but I burn you (luck), is the result less Skillful? Perhaps. Am I less Skillful? No. What about when I hit with Scarf Fire Blast to beat your EQ Salamence to win? Am I lucky? What about the 15% of times I will miss in the long-term and lose? That's the point.

    Sure, when considering that we're trying to simulate competitive battle for the metagame. The competitive metagame has nothing to do with any of the breeding or EVing alluded to.

    Who cares—such complications are outside the scope of any competitive metagame.


    Who cares—such complications are outside the scope of any competitive metagame.


    Who cares—such complications are outside the scope of any competitive metagame.


    A little more relevant since VGC competitors all have to take special care to make sure their Pokémon "appear" legit. Basically, my hands don't care how real your "perfect" tits are if they feel real and look real and you've given me the impression they are real. Granted, VGC judges are on the other side of the scrutiny since the perfection waltzed in front of them before every competition is there of their own respective desire, whereas the pleasure is at least mutual if not mostly mine as I decide whether it's worth it to question the legitimacy of perfection in my own hands. That said (lol)—such complications are still outside the scope of the competitive metagame we enjoy almost everywhere outside of official Nintendo tournaments.


    Those are my thoughts—I'll comment on others' eventually.
  17. DougJustDoug

    DougJustDoug Knows the great enthusiasms
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    I appreciate the recent posts in this thread, keeping this subject on the front burner. I have been writing this post off-and-on for the past few weeks, and I have had a very hard time collecting my thoughts. It seems many of you are experiencing the same problem writing on this topic, considering how many posts have some disclaimer to the effect of "I'm sorry this post is rather long, jumbled, and haphazard".

    Let's face it -- this is a very hard topic to discuss in succinct terms. I think we all need to give ourselves a bit of a "free pass" to wander a bit here. And, for anyone that doesn't like tl;dr -- this definitely is not the place for you. If you want short little soundbites and quick jots of opinion, go somewhere else. But, I'm not apologizing for tackling a big subject with big posts. If you can't handle it, then get out of the deep end of the pool. Head over to one of the kiddie pool forums, where they'll be happy to fawn over a bunch of short "free Garchomp" posts.


    Feedback

    Although there aren't many posts in this thread, I have received a TON of feedback from the Smogon community about the Characteristics I listed in the OP. People have sent me PM's about it, I have had several conversations on IRC about it, and people have even reached out to me on the Shoddy server. All the responses have been very supportive.

    I've received encouragement from several members of the Smogon "old guard", that have gotten somewhat out of touch with the metagame and therefore feel a little awkward about posting in Policy Review. But they feel like this has been needed in Smogon for a long time, and they are glad that we are taking a bold step forward to propose this sort of thing.

    I've also received messages from many newer members of the community, that do not have access to Policy Review, but are keenly interested in tracking the progress of this effort. Some of the newer members complimented the characteristics for "making sense", because apparently they feel that many topics in PR are very difficult to understand. I'll discuss this issue more, later in this post.

    And then there were several active members of the community, that don't really want to get involved in this thread, but wanted to express support for the project and hope to see it produce meaningful results.

    So, although the number of posts in this thread may not look like an overwhelming endorsement of the concepts presented in the OP -- I feel like the overall community would like to see us take this idea to the next level. That does NOT mean everyone agrees with the exact characteristics listed in the OP. It just means that people seem to agree wholeheartedly that we should endeavor to establish some form of baseline concepts to support discussion about the metagame.

    Getting in the Right Mindset

    After hearing feedback on the topic -- I am pleasantly surprised that the characteristics presented in the OP, while not exactly on the mark, seem to be fairly close to most peoples' natural assumptions about the underlying characteristics of a "good metagame". In fact, one respondent went so far as to say "Doug, I think you really wasted your time. Most of the stuff you listed is what everyone thinks already." If that is true, then I succeeded in achieving my original intent.

    Although there is a great deal of my personal opinion in the characteristics, I tried to list characteristics that seem to be "intuitively" used by many Smogoners when arguing about what is good or bad in our metagame. While I happen to agree with most of them, I included some aspects of characteristics that I do not agree with entirely. These characteristics are not intended to be a strict listing of specific rulings, they are intended to be a list of issues that can be logically argued. So, even if you disagree with some of the exact arguments people make about the metagame, perhaps you can at least acknowledge that their argument can be presented logically in a manner consistent with the overall goals of the metagame.

    Realistically, I know many people cannot do this. No offense, but many people are closed-minded as hell. They can only see their own specific opinion on a subject, and can't entertain the possibility that any other argument even deserves to be read and considered. For the purposes of this project, I'm looking for people to step outside of their specific field of judgement, and widen their perspective to encompass all the legitimate arguments that could be made -- not just the specific arguments that they personally support. I can probably be accused of being closed-minded on this stuff too -- but for what it's worth, I'm trying to broaden my vision and acknowledge the "greater good" in this thread. I implore the rest of you to try to do the same. Later on, after we get some basic ground rules established, we can go back to debating specific topics and being our regular closed-minded, argumentative selves! But for now, let's consider this stuff in a bit broader terms.

    How Many Characteristics Are Needed?

    I've noticed several people are looking to consolidate the characteristics presented in the OP into a minimum number of statements. For example, Eric suggested we can group all the characteristics under the broad statements of wanting an "appealing and non-arbitrary metagame". Tangerine said all the important stuff can be covered with "Skill" and "Simplest Possible Ruleset". Other respondents have made similar suggestions to combine or eliminate certain characteristics, and end up with a few general statements that can be used to cover just about every argument that matters in the metagame. I'm not saying that Eric and Tangerine's sole purpose was to reduce the characteristics. In fact, I know for sure that some of their suggested removals are not for "consolidation" -- it's because they simply disagree that some of the characteristics need to exist. And I don't have a problem with their disagreement. But some people are reading this thread, and are getting the wrong impression of where we are headed.

    While I agree that the goal of this thread is to create a succinct set of general characteristics that cover the full array of metagame arguments -- I DO NOT want to end up with a cryptic set of general statements that are non-obvious as to how they might be applied to the various actual arguments that arise in Smogon. While it may be all well and good, if the Smogon intelligentsia can agree on a few arcane statements that can be extrapolated with deep explanations to cover every possible situation -- that does us almost NO GOOD for achieving the real purpose of this project.

    Maybe it wasn't obvious to all of you -- but there is a significant "public relations" aspect to this effort. An overt goal of mine, is to take all the "unstated stuff" that we act upon within Smogon as it relates to metagame policy, and make it "stated". Intelligent people should not have to lurk around Smogon for years before they absorb enough of the general "group-think" to start making reasonable policy arguments. I want to have a clear set of general goals that can be read by any intelligent person with a reasonable amount of metagame experience, and they should be able to know whether the general point of their arguments is "in bounds" or "out of bounds". Or, if a person feels like a certain aspect of metagame policy is out of whack, they can read the general guidelines and use it to form the basis of an argument, and post that argument without fear of being told "Get the fuck out, noob." If we distill these characteristics down too much, it will not be generally useful to the target audience.

    This is not some algebraic equation that needs to be reduced to its absolute simplest form, or a contest to see who can encapsulate the essence of the metagame in the fewest number of words possible. Yes, we want the characteristics to be succinct and general. But they need to be meaningful to the community at large. People should read these and say "Yeah, I understand. I can base an argument on this stuff." If I really want to be succinct and general, I could say "We want a good metagame." Boom, I'm done. That covers everything. I realize I'm being absurd, but my point is that we could go too far in distilling this stuff down to the barest essence.

    I mentioned this in the IRC log Eric posted -- keep in mind that these characteristics are not just covering arguments about banning pokemon or making clauses. We need to look at the entire spectrum of issues that can generally be considered "metagame policy". This includes arguments about ratings systems, tournament formats, simulator implementations, suspect testing policy, tiering, etc. While I agree that pokemon and clauses are by far the biggest issues discussed that pertain to metagame policy, there is a broad range of aspects to our metagame, and I want to make a set of goals that comprehensively covers all of it, if possible. I don't think we can cover all that in a couple of statements.

    I don't mind if there is some overlap or redundancy in the characteristics, as long as each characteristic can be considered to represent a certain class of issue, and be relatively obvious as to the arguments to which it may apply. I acknowledge that it is very hard to make characteristics that are "obvious" (in the context mentioned in the preceding sentence) and also general. And it is very subjective as to whether we have the right mix of characteristics and the right wording for each.

    Motivation Behind Each Characteristic

    I think it may be helpful to list the "motivation" I had in mind for each characteristic I listed in the OP. Overall, I tried to take every significant issue that I have seen discussed and debated, and tried to "reverse engineer" one or more characteristics that would justify certain reasonable arguments (whether I personally agree with them or not), and possibly exclude certain unreasonable arguments. I acknowledge that all my conclusions about which issues are "reasonable" or "unreasonable" are highly subjective. So perhaps by presenting the exact issues I was trying to cover -- you might get a better idea of what I was trying to accomplish.


    Competitive
    This one wasn't geared to cover very many arguments, but more to justify the general "tone" expressed in many areas of metagame policy. For example, in suspect testing, we make statements like, "The best way to prove a pokemon is broken, is to abuse it and win with it." That's just one example of the "competitive" characteristic establishing that winning should be the most important thing for every battler. Also, the "play to win" philosophy is commonly expressed when we look down our noses at noobs that don't use the best pokemon and movesets because they want to "be different". Since the play to win philosophy is such a common undertone here in Smogon, I can't really imagine NOT including this characteristic in some form. Yeah, you can argue that Skill covers this, but I think we should have a clear overt statement that winning is the primary goal above all else.

    I mentioned Sirlin in my comments on Competitive, because Sirlin pretty much invented the "play to win" philosophy. But, I agree with Tangerine that many other aspects of Sirlin game theory really can't be applied to Pokemon or the competitive Pokemon metagame. But, to get a great primer on the philosophy of "winning above all else", there's really no better information resource on the web.

    In addition to the overall community mindset, there was also one class of argument that I had in mind in writing the Competitive characteristic. Back when Wobbuffet was debated, there were a number of people that felt Wobbuffet was "cheap", even if it wasn't overpowered. We get some of the same comments in other arguments about Evasion, OHKO's, and even stuff like Togekiss, Jirachi, or Brightpowder Sand Veil. Discussions about strategies being "cheap" really have no place in our metagame. Feel free to argue about Skill, if you like. But, with an overt statement that "winning is everything" in place, it clearly establishes that any argument about "cheapness" is not acceptable at all.


    Variety and Balance
    Now we get into the heart of some of the biggest arguments in Smogon. These two characteristics are the essence of our bans and tiering structure. I fully acknowledge that Variety and Balance are deeply intertwined, and most likely will always go hand-in-hand with each other. However, I strongly feel they are two distinct issues from an argumentation perspective.

    Balance is pretty clear, and I won't spend much time explaining it. I think most of our arguments about specific Pokemon, are basically Balance arguments. I intended Balance to cover any discussion about pokemon being too powerful. Some people disagree with my assessment that the Uber Characteristics are a subset of Balance, and perhaps I am wrong there. But, I think there is almost universal agreement that some pokemon can be "too good" for a given tier, and should be banned. When I was writing the characteristics, I lumped that general sentiment under Balance.

    Now, onto the more controversial characteristic -- Variety...

    Yes, it is virtually impossible to have a Variety of viable options without Balance. If any options are unbalanced, then the metagame will centralize around the unbalanced elements, thus reducing or eliminating Variety. However, the reverse is not necessarily true -- it is possible to have Balance without Variety.

    Theoretically, we could have 10 pokemon that are pretty much the only pokemon that are viably usable by expert players in the metagame. The other hundreds of pokemon could be pretty much worthless competitively. Those top ten pokemon could be relatively balanced between each other. In some peoples' mind, a game with a very small number of balanced pokemon would make for a great metagame. Since the number of variables is small, you could argue that it promotes Skill, has Stability, etc. By having a clear statement that Variety is important, independent of Balance, then we can argue that a metagame with only 10 balanced pokemon would be a "bad metagame" -- simply because low variety is bad for the appeal of the metagame as a whole.

    There are many people that argue that they hate DP pokemon, because team building and matchups come down to "Rock, Paper, Scissors". I think this is pretty much inevitable in a game like Pokemon with so many playing options, and there is no realistic way to prevent it without drastically reducing the metagame in such a way as to make it "not Pokemon" (an Adherence violation, if you want to argue it that way). I think the wide variety of options in ingame pokemon is an inherent part of the game's appeal, and MUST be part of the metagame. That's why Variety is explicitly listed as a unique characteristic. The language of the characteristic doesn't just say we want "some variety", it says "the widest possible variety". I struggled how far to go with the wording of Variety. But I really feel like arguments about "Rock, Paper, Scissors" should not be presented as a form of "Variety is bad". I think those arguments need to be presented in a different way (Skill, Luck, and Balance could all possibly accommodate these arguments). Variety is a good thing, and I don't think it is a good idea to allow the "Rock, Paper, Scissors" arguments and other similar arguments to possibly evolve into "Variety is bad". I can't say for sure if this would happen if Variety was NOT a characteristic. But, we CAN virtually eliminate that possibility by including an explicit standalone statement that Variety is a desirable goal, in and of itself.

    By the same token, I would also like to open up the field of arguments to allow people to say "There isn't much variety in the metagame, and that sucks. Let's figure out what is wrong." Right now, there isn't much justification for this kind of argument -- yet I can confidently say that there are MANY people who feel that a narrow Pokemon metagame is bad. I don't think we should change the metagame, just because Variety is low. But, I think low Variety should be considered a reasonable bellwether of other problems in the metagame. Yes, technically, if other characteristics cover the actual problems causing low variety -- then Variety as a characteristic could be considered unnecessary. But, this is where the "public relations" aspect of things come in, as I mentioned earlier.

    I think Variety is a good statement of a commonly-held belief in Smogon that variety is a good thing. And, I don't think variety is immediately obvious to be a consequence of the other characteristics. So, I think Variety serves a vital role in the overall list of Characteristics.


    Stability
    I didn't really intend this to address any specific arguments about pokemon, moves, or clauses. I wanted to address the general community opinion that we should not change things too fast or by too much, where we can control it. And most importantly -- when we do change things, we should give the changes a chance to "sink in" before passing judgement on the changes.

    I was somewhat shocked that anyone disagreed with this as a base characteristic. In my opinion, it was intended to serve as a throttle on community leadership, that is sometimes accused of being overzealous in instituting change. I've seen many members of the community that urge us to exercise restraint at times. This characteristic is intended to tell those people that it is perfectly OK to feel that change is good, but too much change can be overwhelming at times. We are also sometimes accused of moving too slow, so leadership can justify that with Stability too.

    Since many of the other characteristics are basically justifications to change the metagame, I felt there is an inherent bias in the characteristics to have a dynamic metagame. That's why I did not include any specific "anti-Stagnation" characteristic. Although I have a gut feeling that stagnation is bad, I can't really justify it. I think if we had a metagame that satisfied all the characteristics, and it stayed virtually unchanged for a long period of time -- I can't say that would be a "bad metagame" just because it wasn't changing. I think Variety would likely suffer at some point. But if it didn't -- then it would actually be a very GOOD metagame. And it would be incredibly stable too, so yeah.... Stability as a characteristic is probably good enough without mentioning its "evil twin", Stagnation. But, we need to be sure to mention Stability specifically, because without it, we have a list of other characteristics that could easily be used as justification to constantly change the metagame without any restraint whatsoever.

    I don't know if we will ever adopt specific rules about Stability -- but by the mere existence of the general Stability directive, I think it serves a good purpose for validating a generally accepted community opinion that we should not change too much too often.


    Adherence
    I intended this characteristic to cover all the arguments that relate to how faithfully we represent the actual pokemon game. Recent discussions about the Acid Weather Glitch and proper form of Sleep Clause were forefront in my mind. I also considered discussions about whether to recognize Event Pokemon and moves or not, the Japanese Ditto glitch, and the Shoddy implementation of cartridge-consistent IV's. I tried to write Adherence in such a way as to allow all these discussions to take place, without dictating a "winner" in any particular argument. It was hard for me to do that, because I have some fairly strong opinions on all of those topics. But, I tried to write an unbiased Adherence characteristic.

    BTW, I knew full well that including the word "spirit" in this characteristic would be controversial. My own opinion on "spirit" aside, it seems that many people do argue "spirit" (or the "intent of the game designers" or whatever) when discussing glitches and such. So, I decided to include the word "spirit", mainly to spur debate on whether we should include the word or not! We can debate that specific word in a later dedicated thread on the wording of Adherence. I don't think it's inclusion or exclusion is critical to determining whether Adherence should be included as a distinct characteristic in this thread.

    Also, I considered Adherence to be a baseline discouraging factor for ANY bans or clauses. Since in ingame Pokemon there are no banned species, I figured any ban could be argued to be an Adherence violation. I thought this would help serve to keep the number of bans and clauses to a minimum. After seeing many comments about desiring a "Simple ruleset" characteristic -- I realize my assumption about Adherence being applied as "ban resistance" is a bit too arcane. I agree we need a more overt statement about "simple rules", and I will cover that in depth a little later under Efficiency.


    Skill
    This characteristic is probably the least controversial in general, but I actually overlooked a lot of obvious arguments that could be justified under Skill. When I wrote the Skill characteristic, I was mainly thinking about how we structure ratings systems and tournament formats. Basically, I was concerned with making sure that we recognize Skill in our "rewards systems" of the metagame.

    After seeing feedback from others, I realize there are many very good arguments about species of pokemon, moves, items, etc that are essentially Skill arguments. Tangerine made some really good observations about Skill in his post in this thread. I'm now looking at Skill much differently than I did when I originally wrote it. I still think my original intent is valid, but there is a broader scope for Skill that might need to be addressed in the wording of the characteristic. In fact, my original main intent for Skill should probably be a secondary concern.

    Although the wording of Skill might be OK as-is, I'm admitting that I was way too shortsighted when writing it -- even if I happened to accidentally hit the mark!


    Luck
    This characteristic was mainly intended to exclude the arguments from people who feel luck can and should be eliminated from the metagame. While we all agree that the metagame should reward Skill -- some people extend that concept to justify that Luck should be overtly reduced or eliminated. I tried to write a Luck characteristic that might allow discussions about limiting luck (that's why I used the phrase "reasonable degree of chance"). But with this characteristic in place, it is not possible to open the door to a discussion about eliminating Luck, or extending the Skill argument to say "Skill is good for the metagame, therefore Luck is bad for the metagame". This characteristic is basically saying "Luck is part of the game, get used to it."

    Since Luck is a fundamental part of Pokemon, you might think Adherence pretty much ensures that Luck cannot be significantly removed from the game. I agree with that, actually. But, because the anti-luck sentiment raises its head quite often around here, I felt like we need a clear statement of policy that says Luck is part of the metagame, and it actually serves a positive goal.

    Like I mentioned earlier, this characteristic may serve more of a "public relations" role, more than anything else. I think the issue of luck in the metagame is subtle enough, and it is easy to waste a lot of time arguing it from the wrong perspective (ie "let's eliminate luck completely"). I think the Luck characteristic shuts down the worst arguments, and creates a platform to discuss Luck only in terms of what is "reasonable". That word is a big gray area, and may ultimately be removed, along the same lines as "spirit" in the Adherence wording. But, I included it in the first draft, since I think there are a significant number of people in the community that are perfectly accepting of Luck in general, but feel that certain kinds of luck are "unreasonable". We can fight it out on the exact wording in a later thread.

    BTW, I doubt any argument that concerns Luck can be presented without bringing in other characteristics. The same can be said for most characteristics, but it strikes me as especially true with regards to Luck. I may be wrong on this, but it was in my mind at the time I wrote the Luck characteristic.


    Efficiency
    To be honest, I fucked this one up pretty badly. I struggled with the general concepts behind this characteristic throughout the writing process. When I finally decided to push the whole document to finish, I didn't spend the proper time getting this characteristic into shape. It was the last characteristic, and I guess I got lazy. But, shortly after posting the OP, I really regretted how I presented Efficiency. I think Efficiency needs a complete overhaul.

    For most of the time while writing the OP, the last characteristic was called "Simplicity". The overall goal of the characteristic was to say that we need to be practical and realistic in the implementation of rules for our metagame, and not make the metagame too complicated and convoluted. Many others have referred to this same general concept as wanting the "Simplest possible ruleset". I agree with that wholeheartedly, and I actually wrote the Simplicity characteristic that way originally.

    But, at the last minute, I had second thoughts.

    For one, I felt like using the word "Simple" in regards to a goal of the metagame, was too misleading. Because our metagame ISN'T simple. You could argue that in making our metagame, we have added all sorts of rules, conditions and strategies, that do not exist in normal ingame Pokemon. Basically, the metagame is a COMPLICATION on top of the Pokemon game. I thought it was a bit of an oxymoron to say "Let's make Pokemon complicated (by having a metagame), but let's keep it simple."

    I was also concerned about the "public relations" aspects of plastering the word "Simplicity" as a clearly stated goal of our metagame. It's so hard to establish competitive Pokemon as a "serious pursuit". I felt like it might be a disservice to the community to imply to the rest of the world "We play a simplistic game, and we LIKE it that way." So I changed up the characteristic at the last minute, and steered away from the word "simple", and tried to phrase it in terms of "Efficiency", which seemed to be a decent compromise at the time.

    I retrospect, "Efficiency" is fail as written. Somewhere during my last minute rewrite of the characteristic, I almost completely lost sight of the primary goal. Mea culpa.

    For those of you that mention the need for a characteristic that encourages "the simplest possible ruleset", rest assured that I intend for the characteristic currently called "Efficiency" to serve that purpose. We may rename the characteristic entirely, or perhaps we may still use the word "Efficiency", for the same PR reasons I just mentioned -- but the wording of the characteristic needs to be changed completely, regardless of the name. I don't have any specific wording suggestions right now, but we can probably come up with better wording in a dedicated thread later.​


    Ok, so there you have it. When I posted the OP, I had a feeling I would write another long explanation later. It has taken me a few weeks to get this post done. As I mentioned at the top of this post, this is a huge topic and I can't see any way to cover the subject matter clearly without writing a wall of text. For those of you that persevered through this post, I hope it was helpful. Maybe it hasn't changed your mind on anything, but at least it may give you some clarity as to the motivation behind each characteristic I presented in the OP.

    One final comment on the characteristics, that I discussed with Hipmonlee on IRC -- I'm not terribly comfortable with calling these "Characteristics". While writing the OP, I called these "Stock Issues for the Metagame". But, at the last minute, I decided the term "stock issues" was too debate-geeky. I also thought about trying to somehow use a term related to the "Constitution" analogy mentioned in the OP. But, any reference to "laws" or legal terms seemed too presumptuous and haughty for a philosophical proposal like this. I also thought about calling these "Directives", but that seems a bit too authoritarian as well. So, I finally settled on "Characteristics", mainly for lack of a better word. But, I don't like the term and neither does Hipmonlee and others. If anyone can come up with a better word -- I'm all ears.
  18. david stone

    david stone Fast-moving, smart, sexy and alarming.
    is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Smogon IRC AOp Alumnusis a Programmer Alumnusis a Super Moderator Alumnusis a Researcher Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

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    To me, Adherence determines what we can do, not what we should do. In other words, we cannot ban things that are not bannable in-game (Acid Weather, if we don't ban the conditions that start it), and we cannot use things that are not usable in-game (Syclant). Beyond that, we can do whatever we want. I don't take Adherence to mean that we should minimize the bans because that's closer to "true" Pokemon.

    However, I do agree with minimizing bans in general. Some time in the next few days, I'm going to respond to the rest of these, I just feel that this particular aspect is the most important, so I want to make sure I get my opinions in. Everything we do is constrained by Adherence, unlike the others, where they trade off among each other.
  19. mtr

    mtr

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    Actually I think Sirlin may be somewhat useful to bring into the efficiency discussion. For example, let's say that we've tested Mew in OU, and using a lvl 93 Mew is the "best" strategy in OU. Why can't we ban lvl 93 Mew? Because then lvl 92 Mew becomes the best strategy, and so on. It's like banning camping in FPS games. As Sirlin puts it, why ban staying in one spot for 3 minutes if then staying in a spot for 2:59 becomes the best strategy?

    A rule in a game must be discrete. Banning Mew or an Uber altogether is discrete. Banning things like lvl 85 Groudon is not. The extension of this is that discrete rules are the simplest possible rules.

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