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The Philosophy of Smogon

Discussion in 'Congregation of the Masses' started by Misty, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. Misty

    Misty oh
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    Background - About two weeks ago, the staff got together and imagined an article detailing Smogon's philosophy on battling in general, as well as its attitudes and intentions. The second part of the article applies these points to various arguments leveled against Smogon in an informative way. This article seeks to give people an understanding of competitive battling in general and Smogon specifically, so they can either move on or, at least, be better informed.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    - PART 1 -

    In some ways, it is very difficult for some people to understand why Smogon is the way it is. It has been criticized for its behaviors, its beliefs, and its general attitude. But it can be hard to grasp that this is often intended and, indeed, somewhat necessary for Smogon to "work", to perform at its highest effectiveness. These behaviors are not from a sense of cruelty or bias, but from a sort of entitlement, earned through hard work and experience. This document is intended to give some insight into Smogon's philosophy, and an understanding of what Smogon intends to do for its users. The end of the document will serve to dispel certain myths about battling and Smogon itself, so the reader will understand common arguments and misinformation and our responses to them.

    It is often stated that Pokemon is not a "serious" game, but rather a child's game, meant to be played with a certain mildness that does not hold a place for the serious, and sometimes "cold", manner with which many of the users of Smogon hold themselves to. This is not entirely incorrect - indeed, it should be recognized that the casual fan is one of the largest buyers of Pokemon and the reason for its phenomenal success. However, the other side of its success is that it *can* be taken seriously, a testament to the incredible depth of the stat system, the myriad modes and teambuilding options, and the well-calculated balance that Game Freak has intended to bring to the game. No better proof can be demonstrated for the justification of the competitive style than Emerald - a game that has added numerous extras, all for the enjoyment of the competitive player. The Battle Frontier was always intended to feed on the competitive aspect, to nurture it and give it 7 different methods of application, to give competitive players an incentive to purchase and become valuable customers. It seems very unlikely to this author that any casual fan has ever acquired a Gold Symbol - the acquisition of even 1, let alone all 7, demonstrates a commitment and knowledge of the inner workings of Pokemon that can only be the result of a drive for excellence. In the same way, multiplayer battles can be and are approached with a competitive spirit. However, in this arena, the stakes are higher - a human being is often a much more difficult and unpredictable opponent than an AI, making the victory much more satisfying and desirable. If both players subscribe to this doctrine, then the result is inevitable - competitive battling, as Smogon has come to view it.

    Smogon, which is comprised of players who have battled competitively since the old days of Red and Blue, has a great deal of experience with this particular area. It has taken into account many rules - some of them subscribed to by Game Freak itself in its Battle Towers, as well as various rules that were designed in the Stadium series. The "OU metagame" is the result of a search for a balanced game, where player skill, teambuilding skill, and a certain amount of luck combine to execute victory. The "OU metagame" is in no ways perfect, but it should be pointed out that 99% of multiplayer games are often plagued by imbalance and the resulting "tiers", and it is fortunate that Pokemon's detailed depth, combined with the intelligent minds of its players, working to prevent various abuses, is capable of producing a diverse and enjoyable arena. However, there is still a search for betterment - the "UU metagame" is an attempt to give a more interesting look at Pokemon that may not compete well with the stronger Pokemon of the game; on the other side of the spectrum, the "uber metagame" exists to develop an understanding of Pokemon's strongest and most brutal combatants. However, the "OU metagame", an entity that has existed in an official state since Pokemon Stadium's Poke Cup, is the main concentration of this document.

    In all metagames supported by the site, there exist various "standards" as defined by Smogon's elite. These standard sets have been tested through numerous battles, careful design work, and lengthy discussions. This is not to imply that these standard sets are perfect - indeed, new developments arise constantly that require a shifting or rethinking of these sets. New sets arise from a shift of the current standards and the approach of the players - the "Tyraniboah" set is an excellent example of how a new standard set is materialized. Ultimately, this is really the desire and the point of Smogon - it is not so much to "enforce" the standards, but to give its users the skills necessary to make new ones! The saying goes "two heads are better than one" - indeed, hundreds of heads are far better than just the ones of the small circle of Smogon's elite. It is also not desired to merely "give" people the standards and expect them to be used; but for people to understand the standards and why they work. It is with this knowledge, and this knowledge alone, that a player becomes a strong battler. Smogon is not a "boss" of the player, but a teacher - a valuable teacher, imparting knowledge that would require years of experience to attain otherwise.

    Still, sometimes it is the inclination of players to rebel against the "accepted standard", for a multitude of reasons. Players find flaws, whether perceived or real, in the state of the OU metagame, and attempt to forge their own path, and develop their own designs based on their current knowledge. Once in a while, this results in an effective new design; other times it merely results in the same standard, or one of the standards, that was already designed. However, many times it results in an inferior design, an artifact of ignorance and poor planning. This experience, ironically, can be valuable - for, by learning the hard way, the player will realize their error and become smarter because of it - but stubbornness thrives in these conditions, and the result is a player who is continually refusing to accept the error of their ways and the wisdom of the accepted standard. It is times like these where arguments result and bad feelings arise. It is not the intent of the author to teach openmindedness and diplomacy - indeed, if these things could be taught so simply, the world would be a better place. However, one should always take a step back before continuing an argument, and contemplate whether their position is valid. One who accepts their mistakes is rarely ridiculed, but often thought better of for having a virtue.

    - PART 2 -

    The reader might be curious as to what constitutes a "good design" and what constitutes a "bad design" - of course, beyond the simple advice of "read the analyses, read the discussions on the forums, and battle a lot", it might be helpful to view a few examples of what NOT to do - a cliche, but effective.

    One common problem people have with competitive battling is its favoritism towards a certain set of Pokemon (standards) over others. Why, they wonder, is Beautifly or Flareon not represented as well as others like Tyranitar or Salamence? The simple response, which has been touched on, is that Pokemon has tiers. In the competitive arena, victory is paramount - and against high-tier Pokemon, lesser Pokemon are simply shut out by the virtue of poor moves, poor stats, or both - or, sometimes, simply the fact that another Pokemon is a superior choice. Consider Whiscash as opposed to Swampert - you can compare them in virtually any way and see that Swampert performs better or similarly in all case. The UU (and NU) metagames exist to mitigate this problem by creating an arena where lesser Pokemon can be used while still following the competitive ideal, but this is not perfect, and many Pokemon simply find themselves never used.

    It should be noted, however, that the player who uses a lesser Pokemon and still attains victory consistently is rewarded with the utmost respect - so a player who values his or her "favorites" should consider investing the knowledge of Smogon into the lesser Pokemon.

    Another misplaced argument is the opposite - the banishment of lesser legendaries. This is not disputed in the case of monsters like Mewtwo, but for strong yet available choices like Azelf, or even lesser Pokemon like Entei, which aren't even considered standard! The important thought to keep in mind is that all Pokemon are unique, and there is actually a world of difference between, say, Jirachi and Entei - while the former is high-tier and enjoys consistent use, the latter is a forgotten rarity due to a poor stat distribution and movepool. Smogon attempts to avoid bans as much as possible - only when it becomes very apparent that a Pokemon is far too powerful to be in line with a balanced metagame is it banished permanently from the standard arena. Many legendary Pokemon are very balanced within the realm of standards and open up new options for players, who value any option to avoid staleness.

    The above arguments sometimes drive people to search for their own metagames, unique ideas outside the realm of Smogon's standards. This is not a bad idea - Smogon hosts many unique tournaments, and innovators can use a tournament as a testing ground for their ideas. However, do not expect Smogon to be accepting of new metagames on a more general basis - it is the simplicity and effectiveness of the current metagame, more than anything, that justifies the main ruleset. Smogon's major tournaments will almost always use the standard ruleset, which is more than enough to encourage most players to play by them regularly. Further, ensure that your ideas are actually worthwhile before taking them up with others - this is best done when your understanding of Pokemon is very strong, and that understanding can easily come from - where else? - developing a familiarity with Smogon's main ruleset.

    The last argument comes not from the inexperienced, but from the experienced - those experienced with other generations, attempting to apply their experience to newer or even older generations. It should be remembered that there have been some major changes from each generation to the next - GS adding new types and changing Hyper Beam; RS's EV system; and while the RS->DP changes seem to be less revolutionary, new, unthought-of standards like Choice Specs Salamence and Choice Scarf Outrage Garchomp are major players that change the shape of the metagame, making certain Pokemon and strategies less desirable while making others more effective.

    There are far more arguments for and against competitive battling - this part of the document may expand in the future, but the first part lays the foundation for pro-competitive arguments and should always be kept in mind. If you've read this whole document (or just skipped to the end), you should just know that experience is the best teacher - if you value competitive battling, Smogon can be a shortcut to developing your knowledge, but there is often no substitute for experience. If you still find competitive unappealing, then hopefully you at least understand Smogon's philosophy, and realize that it is not a terrible thing, but just another way of enjoying the great game of Pokemon.
  2. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    We play pokemon therefore we are.. Or maybe not if you are wrong like ls.

    [edit] - wait am I allowed to reply to this?

    Have a nice day.
  3. Misty

    Misty oh
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    Oh, yeah, feel free to reply to this. Give suggestions, arguments, whatever.
  4. blackshellbowser

    blackshellbowser

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    A great article! It really describes what Smogon is all about.

    A thought that popped into my head (and I could very well be wrong, but I'll risk it)

    Couldn't one argue that \games such as Stadium 1 and 2 (especially R-2) bring some serious-ness/competitiveness to Pokemon? You claim that the Battle Frontier "...always intended to feed on the competitive aspect, to nurture it and give it 7 different methods of application, to give competitive players an incentive to purchase and become valuable customers." Stadium 1 and 2 do that (though on a much, much narrower scope I admit). For Round 2 of each game you still needed to raise a good team yourself, you couldn't get by that easily with rentals, poor DV Pokemon lacking stat experience, etc.

    That's just me playing devil's advocate (a habit since college, thanks English 101).

    Still a very good article indeed and I would love to see what else you add to it.
  5. mirza

    mirza

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    Well written, nice job. I'd advise reading this to anyone new to competitive battling or if they seem to misunderstand it. I think lot's of players have a really crappy attitude towards competitive battling, and this would really open up their minds. Or at least I hope it would.
  6. Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

    Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

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    Interesting read!

    Something that I brought up with Jumpman recently is the use of the word "metagame" to refer to different formats/rulesets (such as OU, UU, ubers, etc). This isn't the correct use of the word. In fact, the literal meaning of the term "metagame" means something external to the rules of the game ("meta" meaning "beyond, or "outside").

    Might sound like this is picking holes, but the idea of a metagame (referring to the environment in which the game is played) is very important in a lot of other, established games. Someone who is used to playing other games competitively might read this article and get confused.

    Edited to add this in:
    It might be worth expanding on this point a little bit. Back in the days of RBY and GSC there were plenty of examples of people who had studied the game extensively, yet insisted on playing with their favourites or joke movesets Just Because. Taking the recent Penny Arcade front page post into account where Gabe has a go at powergamers, it might be worth dwelling on the fact that someone can still play for fun yet know all the ins and outs of the game, the current trends in the metagame, etc etc.
  7. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    I still really hate that line - it makes it sound like we want people to waste our time with gimmicky bs.. It is really not anything to do with what Smogon is about IMO.

    And getting a win with gimmicks is not something I am ever going to respect anyone for. I might respect them if they got the win by an extremely creative method, but it wont be because they used crap pokemon..

    Have a nice day.
  8. Misty

    Misty oh
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    Just because we've "decided" a Pokemon is crap, doesn't mean it is... consider for a minute that Pokemon like Tangrowth, Heatran, and Electivire were, at one point, mostly ignored and considered BL or even UU materal. Then someone else went in and had a closer look. And really, the most inspired people are the ones who actually happen to like those Pokemon. I can spend all day staring at a Pokemon I don't care about and not really think about it in the best light, and come away thinking it's still crap, but someone who actually likes them will try their best to come up with good ideas. I'm not advocating shit like Dig Leafeon - something like that shows a complete non-comprehension of legitimate tactics. But coming up with a real set for something that nobody ever thought of before - I think that's the best part of competitive, really.
  9. Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

    Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

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    Perhaps the two points need to be separated. You are completely correct in that a win is a win and a loss is a loss regardless of the circumstances.

    How about this instead:

    I'm sure everyone has a pet lineup of their personal favourites that they bring out from time to time. This doesn't mean that they're not playing to win, nor does it mean that anyone who beat them was being "cheap".
  10. Hipmonlee

    Hipmonlee Have a rice day
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    Yeah that is fine but when you say:
    It sounds to me like you arent talking about an overlooked pokemon, but you are talking about something that is genuinely inferior.. And to me it seems to suggest that we wont respect someone as much if they arent using crap like butterfree..

    I mean, I am pretty sure in advance I could use Butterfree and Luvdisc and still come away with a positive record on NB, but I wouldnt expect anyone to respect me for it.. In fact I would expect people to get annoyed at my arrogance and lack of respect for my opponents.

    [edit] - I like FECG's suggestion a lot more!

    Have a nice day.
  11. sxcdude

    sxcdude

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    i remember back in adv when smogon.com was "smogon university" and i think that actually reflects on what misty is saying, smogon as a store of knowledge.
    of course, i've heard people say that smogon is a society of elitists, and although there may be very very very veteran players here, there are also those less experienced willing to join the community to learn and reciprocate.

    and on that matter, dig leafeon. definately shouldnt become standard. i do understand why we must criticise such players. and i do think that as much as it is our job to ADVISE against dig leafeon, it is as much as their responsibility to respect our advice.
    this is where the elitist myth should be dispelled, it not our responsibility to "dumb down" ourselves to accomodate for those who know nothing about pokemon, taken no effort to read what has already been discussed, and start posting threads about dig leafeon. There are plenty of inexperienced players on the rmt threads that have taken the time to read previous discussions and adhere to the rules, so we in turn, share knowledge, (what knowledge each of us can give)

    well, nice thread i suppose, and of course, like all philosophies, what i believe may too, be retorted. so yeah, be kind if you dont disagree
  12. Alysanne

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    The whole "society of elitists" thing is fucking retarded. It makes me think of the whole "we hate netdeckers because they beat us" line that scrubs use in M:tG.
  13. Altmer

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    Stop hating on Butterfree you fags >(

    No seriously, I agree that some of the wordings are kind of awkward like Hipno pointed out, and that by no means should Smogon pride itself on being an elitist society (or whatever) but people have to respect we'd like to maintain our high quality pokemon battling standards. That's what this is all about.

    What Misty/Hipno are trying to say is basically this..."There is a subtle difference between crap strategies and novelty strategies. One of the things Smogon is trying to teach is that it promotes innovativity, but not to the point of oversaturation or stupidity. Let's say someone finds an alternative Machamp set that works really well (just posing a hypothesis here) and it works really well and beats a lot of teams, because it's a valid strategy for reason x, y and z. that's the kind of thing Smogon promotes.

    we don't endorse things like psychic/psybeam/confusion/psywave Butterfree, because that may be novelty, it's also stupid. I think you could phrase it like this:

    "Smogon promotes the innovativity and use of proper judgment of every Pokemon player, and subsequently anyone who does this effectively will be rewarded with respect by the community eventually. Of course there is a fine line between stupidity and innovativy, and players have to make sure they understand where Smogon draws the boundary between intelligence and foolhardiness. Smogon therefore tries to act as a vessel of knowledge to help improve this judgment: what can safely be assumed to be a good strategy, what might actually work as a new and improvised idea, and what is just plain ridiculous and can be dismissed as inferior and/or be strongly advised against. Smogon of course does not hold the ultimate truth to what is the best and worst strategy for every given situation, but by the high level of experience and research the website has set high battling standards in the past, and continues to do so in the future."
  14. Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

    Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

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    Speaking as someone who used to pay out on anyone from a board that wasn't AGNP or AH (such as rpgaymer, gamefags, thepokenoobs, lol serebii etc etc), I think the reason most Pokemon boards are elitist is because:

    #1. Pokemon isn't exactly an accessible game. It's not as intuitive as, say, Magic, where everything you need to play the game is right out infront of you. This was more true back in the days of RBY (seriously "stat experience" what the hell nintendo ._. ). As a result, anyone who's Clued In thinks that they're privy to some kind of secret knowledge, hay guys competitive pokemon is underground yo were the best like no-one ever was

    #2. Pokemon is a mainstream game marketed at kids. Boards generate loads of posters unfamiliar with netiquette and more likely to be immature and clueless like me. This in turn jades the people who have to deal with them.

    #3. Pokemon is decentralised, Pokemon boards are all separate entities. As a result, every board thinks that it is somehow superior to all the other boards, though of course in our case it's true :kongler:
  15. Alysanne

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    What? #1 doesn't even make sense to me... Are you trying to say that M:tG takes less predicting skills than pokemon?
  16. chaos

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    I'm not even sure what people mean by elitism these days. We don't snub our noses at new players; we invite them in and help them play Pokemon with our articles and advice. Just because we have a low tolerance for bullshit doesn't mean we are elitist. The only thing that could be construed as elitism is us moderating people who don't really know what is going on but tend to think they are the shit and contradict us anyway. If you have a good argument, sure, whatever, but if you don't (and don't know if you do or not) we'd really rather you pipe down and lurk more before giving your 2c on everything.

    Speaking of "not getting" it, Cat-Gonk is referring to how Nintendo hides information from the players, like EVs, IVs, etc. We've historically had to figure out what this stuff is by ourselves. In Magic how everything works is clearly laid out.
  17. Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

    Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

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    I'll explain it differently:

    In M:tG, you know what a card does as soon as you look at it. You know that Cancel cost 1UU to cast, that it counters a spell, that you play it as an instant. Everything you need to know in order to play the game is right in front of you.

    However, in Pokemon, most people don't have a clue what EVs or IVs are because they're not explicitly written down anywhere in the game. Same goes for base stats, what specific combinations of stats that will let you survive X, etc etc. During a game you can't look up your opponent's Pokemon and know how much power Flamethrower has, you need to have it committed to memory.

    There is a lot more hidden information in Pokemon than there is in Magic, and people who know that information will naturally consider themselves above people who don't. For example, back in the days of RBY, nowhere was it written that Ice Beam has power 90, or what the formula for combat damage was, the only way to find out that information was to go into the code of the game itself. In fact, people didn't even know what Special did until a few months after the games release, because it wasn't written anywhere.

    In Magic all the information is right there infront of you, Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to whatever you point it at, your creatures have power and toughness written on the cards. Sure, there's shit like layering rules etc etc, but most of that is intuitive and can be worked out through common sense..unlike Pokemon. For example, who knew that in RBY, Focus Energy actually lowered your crit chance?

    This has nothing to do with prediction. I'm not talking about hidden information like what's in the other guy's hand or what item the other guy's Poke has, I'm talking about game mechanics that aren't revealed to the player.

    To answer your post though, M:tG takes more prediction skill than Pokemon because when most people talk about "prediction" in Pokemon what they actually mean is "dumb luck".
  18. Alysanne

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    Ah, ok.

    Yeah... now I feel stupid.
  19. Powerful_Blaziken88

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    Really? What's the name of the topic, I want to read it.

    Good article, it cleared some things up for me. I totally agree with the banishment of non-uber legends thing, I get so sick of finding battles anywhere else because everyone seems to think legend = uber. Some guy flipped out on me for using a damn Regirock.

    EDIT. I read that topic. Comments:

    I really think there's a huge misunderstanding going on between non-Smogonites and Smogonites. As a representative from Gamefaqs, SPPf as well as Marriland Forums, I know how people there think. They just want to have fun with Pokemon, they're getting into the competitive bit more now that Wi-Fi is out but they want to use their favourite Pokemon with their favourite or unique moves. Smogonites, being the teachers they are, advise the people on what "works" and what "doesn't work." However (and maybe this is the way it's interpreted or maybe it's how it's given), a message gets across that the Smogonite is telling the person that only what they say works. I don't know which it is, but if it's how the message is being given, I have to agree with the other side. Pokemon is a game, a game where you can use whatever you want without getting shamed. I mean there are obvious exceptions (Splash), but we won't get into that. People can use whatever set they want. Heck, as you said, some "new" sets do work. However if it doesn't, isn't that the best way to figure out what works and what doesn't? Like you said, "There's no substitute for experience."

    As much as Smogon has helped me, and will be helping me, I just had to express that. I know you guys aren't trying to be "arrogant," but unless everyone on the "other side" is a really sensative person, you're not quite achieving your intentions of "not being a boss, just a teacher."
  20. Kurgan

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    I don't understand how proactive modding is a bad thing. One of the main reasons I started lurking at Smogon was due to a lack of toleration and a general "no-nonsense" attitude taken by the mods. You know what went through my mind? "Oh wow, Smogon takes competition seriously. I can actually learn something here without having to wade through the kiddy shit, like I had to at __________." You can put any other Pokemon related web site that you'd like in the blank there.
  21. chaos

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    Right. So use whatever Pokemon you want, we don't care. If you aren't experienced, however, it isn't your place -yet- to be helping other people. If you want to learn, this place is a great place. If you don't, A) what are you doing here or alternatively B) why are you fucking with us? We don't need people who have no clue what they are doing trying to teach other people, which is why we tend to shoot those people down or restrict them to one topic until they actually learn the fundamentals of the game.

    New sets are hardly trashed unless they don't have a clear rationale behind them that makes sense. If you don't actually like spending more than 2 minutes on a post this probably isn't the best forum...

    But anyway, I agree with the rest of your post. People don't really understand what goes on here unless they are really internet-experienced or have come from another forum that doesn't tolerate this kind of shit. Because of this, there tends to be a rift between sites like this and other, more general sites like Serebii. We don't want everyone from Serebii to come here, only those that are interested in the community or competitive battling. People sign up here and expect another general Pokemon forum with the exact same rules... what's the point? I hate redundancy. This site fills one specific niche and tries to do it as best as possible.
  22. Fire Electric Cat-Gonk

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    There's also the fact that a lot of people simply cannot take criticism. This is magnified if they're from a board that they think is elite simply due to being isolated.

    A past example of this is when one of the guys from RPGamer (Dizzy, back before he became awesome) posted his team on alt.games.nintendo.pokemon. I gave him a fairly extensive team rating since he presented himself well, the team had a few flaws (from memory they were: no DT, no out to DT, big issues with boltbeam, standard movesets which are easy to predict) but it certainly wasn't bad. He replied by flaming me; his reply more or less read that everything I'd said was wrong because it didn't fit with the way They Did Things Over There.

    Conversely, Azurians laughed in the face of people who tried to play with "Evade Clause", and what would become a complete ban on Evasion moves. It simply wasn't how we did things, we thought ourselves "better" because we'd been brought up with TM32 as an essential part of the game..and then the RPGamers and GameFAQers wiped the floor with us on PBS because we couldn't adapt fast enough. I think I have been 6-0ed by Deranged and Gremio more than I have won online in total.

    Similarly, the kid who has a perfect win/loss record on Wifi, or who hasn't lost against the NPCs in-game, thinks he's pretty hot shit, knows what he's talking about and doesn't take kindly to people turning his world on its head.
  23. Great Sage

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    Misty, thank you so much for this thread. I had been waiting for something like this so people who don't use Blissey because "they hate it" can shut up.
  24. StarmanXL

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    Well, I have to thank you for this thread. I'm more of a GFAQer, so I did have some animosity about this board, but with this, I can understand where you guys are coming from.

    And about the proactive modding...I agree that it's probably not a bad thing, but it is somewhat intimidating to the less knowledgable such as I. I don't know if this was what you guys are aiming for or if this is such a bad thing, but still, I just thought I'd mention it.
  25. chaos

    chaos
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    No way, we aren't trying to be intimidating at all. We just don't want people to get away with not reading the rules. If you adhere to the rules, you shouldn't get into any trouble. If you do, send me a PM and I'll review the situation. We are always trying to make things run smoother here!

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