We need some new blood in Create-A-Pokemon. CAP project activity is doing just fine, but if you look across the project for high-quality participants, we are at an all-time low. That is a very clear sign that we need to change some things about our operation, and start actively working to attract new talent to Create-A-Pokemon. In this Policy Review, when I refer to recruiting "high-quality participants", I will be talking mostly about 1) Good battlers, and 2) Community leaders. Of course I also consider talented artists, talented spriters, good writers, and programmers to be high-quality participants in CAP, but I don't think we should focus on those talents at this time. We need to focus on getting more battlers and leaders in the CAP fold. The first part of this Policy Review is intended to launch an open discussion on the optics or public relations aspect of the project. I'll be using terms like "optics" or "publicity" mostly from here on out, since the acronym "PR" is too easily confused to mean Public Relations or Policy Review, and I don't want to spell it out any more than I have to. I suggest you do the same. I will throw out a few of my thoughts on public perception of CAP, but I'm interested to hear your feedback. You can use my post as a springboard, or feel free to go in a completely different direction, if I don't hit on some issues with optics that you think need to be addressed. I'll then make two specific proposals, explicitly geared to bring new people into our project. The second proposal is very different than anything we have ever done before, and some of you may accuse me of completely reversing my position from previous Policy Reviews. All I ask is that you keep an open mind, and remember that the goal of this entire review is to get more high-quality participation in CAP. Unlike the TL policy review, where I was very strongly urging us to make policy changes, I have less conviction that we need to launch specific programs as a result of this review. If we just have a good discussion about optics, this Policy Review will be a success. But I want everyone to think "outside of the box" here, and I hope that the proposals I make will give you an idea of the kinds of things we could do in order to get better participants involved in Create-A-Pokemon. CAP Optics (which is just a fancy business term for "the way things appear to the public") CAP visibility (how much we get noticed, good or bad) is currently fairly high, but it is probably less as a percentage of Smogon than the past, simply because Smogon is a bigger place than it used to be. There are so many projects and subforums in Smogon, it's hard to compete for attention. On the other hand, Smogon has a lot more people so we should still have a large audience that notices the things we are doing. I'm not too concerned about raising our visibility. There are probably some things we could do along those lines, but I don't think it is a pressing need. I'd say most Smogoners are aware that Create-A-Pokemon exists and they probably have a high-level perception of the project, good or bad. That general public perception is what I'd like to improve. CAP has always been labeled as "a big circlejerk" or "a noob project" or whatever, and to some degree, that will likely never go away. At the end of the day, we are making fake pokemon here. And no matter how much we strive to emphasize the competitive focus of the project, there will always be a certain level of disdain from "serious Pokemon battlers" about what we do. But we should never accept those labels or endorse them. I don't think we should be defensive about it, particularly in public, but internally we should always work to have a profile that is intriguing and inviting for high-quality participants. I don't see CAP leaders actively mentioning public relations in CAP threads very often. This needs to change. I'm not saying that every time a fanboy pops up with a noob suggestion that we should chastise them with an avalanche of insults from CAP leaders about bad advertising. But we all need to keep our radar up for how things will look "outside the CAP bubble". We need to re-establish that "bad optics" is a perfectly valid argument in CAP threads discussing aspects of the pokemon we are creating, and in discussions of our policy and our process. I don't want to get out of control with this, because, like I said, no matter what we do, there will always be a certain level of negativity out there. Haters gonna hate, right? But I'd like to raise awareness of bad publicity, and CAP leaders need to start the dialogue in the appropriate places. In this policy review, I'd like us to establish some general consensus on the kinds of things we consider to be bad optics when creating our pokemon. For example, I think all the common touchstones for "ubers" or "overpoweredness" should be regarded with high caution on the CAP project, where currently I think we dive into them enthusiastically. We should all know damn well that stuff like mega-high BST stats are a landmine for project optics. Heck, the ONLY reason I think the term "BST" should be mentioned on CAP projects, is in terms of optics -- and any really high BST (much less a BST possessed only by ingame legendaries like we did on CAP4) should be considered a warning sign for us. I realize there are all sorts of high-BST pokemon in the UU, RU, and even NU ranks. But NONE of those pokemon have the perfect balance and tuning that EVERY CAP pokemon possesses. Regardless of the concept, typing, or whatever we say at the project outset -- don't ever kid yourself into thinking CAP will ever make a pokemon with notable weakness in any aspect of its creation. It is never gonna happen. Assume every CAP will be near-perfect on every step. And as such, giving a CAP an uber stat line is just BEGGING for the public to claim it overpowered at first glance. The phrase, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression", applies here. Casual onlookers see two competitive things when they glance at a CAP -- the typing and the stats. The typing will almost always be unique for every CAP, so just get used to it. But the stats are well within project control, and we don't do ourselves any public relations favors by allowing mega-BST's on our fakemon. Similarly, there are certain moves and abilities that we should steer clear of, just because of the optics. Moves and abilities that are associated with certain iconic pokemon in the game, should not be given to CAP pokemon because it appears fanboyish. It pisses off many Pokemon players, because it appears that CAP isn't respecting the lore of the game. I completely acknowledge this is really just a flavor concern, but it's real when it comes to project optics. To use an absurd example, if we made a CAP that got a crit boost from the Stick item -- it would likely be reviled by the public. Not because it overpowered or anything, but because we dared to give an item that "belongs to Farfetch'd" to one of our "stupid fake pokemon". Like it or not, people don't like their Pokemon icons defiled. More realistic examples are high-powered game elements with very low, if not singular distribution in the game. If anyone ever suggests we give Dark Void to a pokemon, we should expect some publicity blowback, because it is Darkrai's signature move. It's powerful as hell and it's almost synonymous with an uber pokemon. If CAP goes there, we're just asking for problems in terms of public perception, regardless of whether it makes sense competitively on our CAP. This is even more magnified if the powerful game element has a unique twist on basic game mechanics -- and CAP tends to gravitate to these things all the time. Multitype is a great example of this. It's not only incredibly potent, and it is the singular ability of the most uber pokemon in existence, but it also fucks with the basic mechanics of pokemon typing in ways that are completely foreign to the OU metagame. Because CAP projects tend to gravitate to things that are unique and "untested", which is only natural for a project based on experimentation, these game elements tend to be proposed and supported in CAP discussions. I'm not saying we should eliminate every singular or "interesting" mechanic from consideration -- but I do think there needs to be voices in the community forcing us to acknowledge the public relations disasters we may be creating by making those choices. It's a thin line to walk. I think Necturna with Sketch was OK, because the move, although clearly the powerful iconic move of Smeargle, was the centerpiece of the entire concept AND we nerfed it, thus preserving Smeargle as the only pokemon with an unlimited movepool. But with Illusion on CAP4, we probably crossed the line a little bit, by giving our fakemon the signature ability of Zoroark, the pre-release pokemon that heralded in the entire BW generation of pokemon games. On top of that, Illusion alters the very mechanics of battling and is completely unique in that regard. By giving CAP4 such a singularly distinctive ability, it almost shifts the pokemon from being about the concept of risk, to it being "the Illusion CAP". Unless we have a very strong competitive driver for things like that, we really need to question if it's worth the negative publicity. I also think we should avoid the big moves and abilities associated with pokemon known to be extremely powerful or uber, even if they aren't the "signature" of a given pokemon. For example, moves like Shell Smash and Quiver Dance should raise warning flags any time they are mentioned -- and yet lately it seems like CAP can't make a pokemon without slapping Quiver Dance on it, or considering it seriously in every movepool discussion. I know QD was debated heavily on CAP4, so I'm not saying we took it lightly. But no one really mentioned the OPTICS of the choice when it was being discussed, and I think we ended up taking a publicity hit on that one. I won't keep going with this, I think you know what I mean. I may be off-base on some of the examples I give, and feel free to call me on it. I don't want this entire PR to be a shitstorm of lists of moves and abilities that we think are taboo. I'm more interested in the general patterns that we think we should be aware of from a negative publicity standpoint, and how we can introduce these kinds of arguments into CAP discussions without turning competitive threads into glorified flavor debates. Maybe it's not possible, but I'd like to discuss it here and see if we can figure it out. As for optics on policies -- it's a general criticism that CAP rules are very long and involved. I'm probably a little too deep in the bubble to look at this one objectively. I wrote many of our rules, and much of our process guide -- so I obviously think they are necessary. I also know that every time we seem to trim back the rules or state them with shorter, more general wording, we get more problems with rules violators AND they complain louder that "the rules don't say anything about <whatever they did> specifically!" So I tend to favor detailed rules and process and I'm willing to deal with the off-putting optics. But perhaps you have different thoughts, and I'm open to hear them. OK, enough about general publicity. Assuming we can improve project optics, I now have two specific proposals geared to recruit new participants into the project: Proposal #1: Playtesting Judging Panel Lots of outsiders have opinions about CAP pokemon when they are first revealed, and I would like to capitalize on that interest to serve a couple of goals. I propose that after each CAP, we select a named panel of expert battlers that were NOT heavily involved in the creation project, and ask each of them to playtest our pokemon and post an "Expert Review" of our creation. Think of it like asking a celebrity to judge a beauty contest, or asking a famous movie critic to review a film. Like many things in CAP, my goal would be to make the panel "a big deal". We would not allow just anyone to be on the judging panel. To start off, we might have to reach out to some big names in the Smogon community and recruit them to be a judge. But if this goes right, when word gets around that we are asking experts to judge our creations and we are only interested in top battlers and community members, I suspect people might be asking us to be a judge. My hope is to make it an honor to be asked to judge. If we have a controversial creation, I can imagine some people chomping at the bit to post a scathing review. And in the context of attention-getting, that might not be so terrible. Others might come in with one expectation, but after playtesting they change their minds. Honestly, the point is not to get good or bad reviews, the point is to get some known players in the mix of the CAP project. By asking someone to come in "off the street" and play our pokemon and post their opinions -- that's not exactly hard to do. So I don't expect much pushback from participants because of the workload. Yes, we will be asking them to do a writeup, so a modicum of writing talent should be a consideration in judge selection. We can probably make the process easier by making a "review scorecard" that gives the judges a list of questions to be asked on various categories. "Do you think the pokemon fits in OU?" "What set or role do you think CAP# is most effective?" "Do you think CAP# looks like a real pokemon? Why or why not?" "Do you think CAP# fulfills the concept of <whatever concept>?" "Overall, do you give CAP# a thumbs up or thumbs down?" The point is to give judges a guideline for feedback, and it should encompass multiple aspects of the project. Yes, I mentioned art in there, but please don't turn this entire PR thread into a nitpick over art stuff. The point of the expert review is to focus on competitive concerns, but appealing to the fanboy in our judges and getting a flavor review is probably a nice added bonus. Like I said in the leadership compendium, the purpose of CAP flavor is to be a side benefit of competitive participation. So anyone with notions of separating judging into competitive and flavor reviews, let's kill that right now. In general, please don't make me regret mentioning flavor at all, because I honestly see it as a very minor concern in the grand scheme of this proposal. I am thinking we would have each judge present their review in a thread on the CAP forum, titled "CAP # Review: <Judges Name Here>". Perhaps the OP could be written by a CAP mod, introducing the judge to the CAP community and list their judging qualifications. Then the judge would post their writeup in the first post. Members of the community could question the judges about their findings and get a bit of a dialogue going. The point is not to have a long in-depth discussion, but to give people a chance to interact and converse about the creation with an "outside expert". We can tally "votes" of the thumbs up or thumbs down ratings, and publicize it internally. From CAP to CAP we can use these ratings as a yardstick if we are making pokemon that rate well with outside observers. If we get some good judges and the process gets some traction, perhaps community participants will be more cognizant of the stuff that gets bad ratings from critics. That should be good for project optics in the long run. Look past all the pomp and circumstance I outline above to make this a big "celebrity event", and look at the basic recruiting goals fulfilled by this proposal:1) Optics: It gives CAP something tangible to use for measuring and managing general public perception, and provides a forum to discuss various facets of project optics 2) Accessibility: It serves up the CAP project on a platter to some knowledgeable members of the community. If anyone has been staying away because it's intimidating or is too confusing, this gives them a low-effort, zero-risk way to jump in and be a part of the project. 3) The Hook: Although this is presented as a one-shot guest appearance from a visiting Smogon expert, the bet is that once they get a taste of the project, they'll want to stay a while. My bet is even the people that might post a horrid thumbs down review, might actually be curious enough to post in the next CAP, and leverage their role as a "past playtesting judge" as a reason to listen to them and avoid whatever mistakes they feel we are about to make. Hook 'em like we're fishing with a Super Rod, my friends. Even if the judges don't hang around next time, there will be other outsiders that read the judges reviews and might feel the same way about our creations. Those people will potentially be "hooked" in the process too.Like most proposals, there are many details that remain to be worked out. But you get the gist of the idea, and hopefully you see how this would play into the larger scheme of things here in CAP. I personally think it could be a lot of fun to roll out the red carpet and bring in the expert critics to review our creations. I'd like to work out the specifics in this thread, and put it into practice on CAP 5, if possible. Proposal #2: Guest Metagame CAP The heart of this proposal is that we should make a CAP for a metagame other than OU. But before anyone starts mixing this up with previous proposals and jumping to conclusions, I want to be very clear that the reasons for this are for recruiting purposes. That is the only reason I am bringing it up. I still don't think CAP should be making pokemon for other metagames as a way to pursue our basic project goals. Read my posts in other Policy Reviews if you wonder why. But as a special recruiting event, I think this might do a lot of good. The idea for this came not from previous proposals to make UU pokemon or Uber pokemon or whatever. It actually stemmed from me thinking about how the CAP ShoddyBattle Server was the original host server for the Little Cup metagame. At that time, the LC community was just getting organized and several CAP server mods were heavily involved in getting LC off the ground. They needed a server to host their ladder, and the CAP server was happy to get some extra traffic. As a result, it was very common for LC players to be avid CAP participants and vice versa. It was great "cross-marketing", if you think of it that way. So when I was thinking up ways to recruit new members, I started thinking of CAP as a "service" of sorts. We could go to one of the non-OU metagames that has a big userbase, and offer to use the CAP project as a way to advertise and promote their metagame. CAP projects are big events, so by making a CAP pokemon for another metagame, we would be putting that metagame on a pedestal for everyone in Smogon to see. Think of it like renting out billboard space for a metagame. On the return side, if the metagame we "cross-market" with has a big knowledgeable userbase -- we get a lot of new users involved in CAP, with the assumption that many of them will continue to participate in later projects, even when we go back to making OU pokemon. It's a win-win for both sides. Here's the key: CAP really doesn't KNOW how to make pokemon for anything other than OU, and we should leverage that SPECIFICALLY as the crux of the Guest Metagame operating procedure. We should figure out some modified CAP leadership structure that would allow us to have a "Guest Topic Leadership Team" or perhaps a "Guest Advisory Team" of some sort that works alongside the TL and TLT. (Now you can see it's not accidental that I waited for the TL Policy Review before making this proposal) The point is to put the onus of leadership on the guest metagame community -- make them TEACH US about their metagame WHILE we are "building a pokemon for them". Basically, the whole CAP project would be a combination of a social gathering with invited guests from a non-OU metagame, and a laboratory classroom with teachers instructing students about an alternate metagame. I hope that doesn't sound too confusing, because it's perfectly clear to me! More than ever before, you need to put away your notions about "making a good pokemon" -- because this guest project will care even less about the resulting pokemon than regular CAP's. The point is to get a lot of new blood involved in CAP, and cross-market our project in places that are almost impossible for us to reach with our current structure. By putting the leaders and top battlers of the guest metagame in leadership positions in the guest CAP, we get all sorts of benefits:1) We get some talented leaders hooked on CAP. We need more talent. That's the whole point of this Policy Review. 2) We give ourselves all sorts of outs and reasons to relax and learn a new metagame. My thinking is the pressure will be lower, because we all know from the outset that we are in unfamiliar territory. Hell, this would be classic "learn by doing", which I think would be a lot of fun. 3) Because it is clearly labeled as a "special event", we don't need to worry about long-term implications of project focus, disruptions to project structure, or any of that. If we need to adjust the process just to manage the Guest Project, we can do it with very little fuss. When we go back to making OU CAP's, it will be business as usual with our established processes. The point is to recruit new participants and mix with a new crowd, not get too rigid with CAP traditions and processes and all that. 4) It would create a more open, cooperation-minded image for Create-A-Pokemon, as opposed to the closed, insular vibe we sometimes give off currently. Obviously we don't just rent out the CAP forum and let a bunch of people run roughshod over our project like a hotel room on Spring Break. It will still be a CAP project, and we'll execute the project as much like a regular CAP as possible. But the point is to be very inviting to the guest metagame experts, and let them "take the wheel" to a certain extent and teach us about their metagame as we make a pokemon together. Executed properly, I think both parties will benefit greatly. Unlike the first proposal, we don't need to discuss the finer details of the Guest Metagame CAP in this thread. Because CAP 5 is not going to be a guest metagame project. But there are a few things we should decide here:1) Is this general idea something you support as a recruiting exercise? 2) Any high-level project framework issues that need to be covered, should be mentioned here. But please don't get in the weeds on it. If we pursue this, we will have a planning thread to iron out the details. 3) Is there anything we should be doing during CAP 5 or otherwise to help set the stage for a Guest CAP? For example, if we really want to pursue this, it might be a good idea to identify the guest metagame before CAP 5 launches and ask the leaders of the meta to hang around CAP 5 a bit to see how we operate. Maybe we "interview" a couple of metagames and see which ones jump in and really work to become the "chosen guest metagame" for next time. This might be getting ahead of ourselves, but hopefully you see where I am heading with this. Let's plan a bit ahead and use CAP 5 to our advantage, if we can.As many of you probably know, I have always been a staunch opponent to CAP building pokemon for anything but OU. But I also have always been a staunch supporter of other projects and other metagames, dating all the way back to the original days on the CAP server where we hosted the first Little Cup ladder AND the first NU ladder. So CAP and other metagames have a long history of working together. Personally, I'd probably rather see us do something with a big metagame like Ubers or UU, if they are interested. But I'm open to suggestions that make sense. Remember -- the point of this is to recruit high-quality CAP participants and increase the profile of the CAP project. So please direct your comments accordingly. I realize this proposal will probably be a bit controversial, because it bucks a lot of CAP traditions. But getting together and doing a "learning mixer" could be a lot of fun for both parties, if we do it right. Wrapup Like all these Policy Reviews, there's a lot to digest here. I realize our discussions may be a bit fractured as we cover the three different aspects of this review. But I really didn't want to make three separate Policy Reviews to discuss different facets of CAP optics and recruiting new high-quality participants. If anyone has some other proposals regarding recruiting or improving project optics, feel free to post them. The main purpose of this Policy Review is to have a long-overdue open discussion on this important aspect of Create-A-Pokemon. As always, I look forward to your feedback!