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It is a new generation, and I am thrilled to see that warstories are back in full force! There was a period when warstories had all but disappeared from Stark Mountain, but with a new generation and a new user base, it's fun and exciting to see a host of new writers and stories popping up around Uncharted Territory. I am not sure if it is the excitement of a new generation, or the enthusiasm of our newer users, but it is great to see this time-honored tradition regaining popularity.
First, what is a warstory? A warstory details a Pokemon match with the goal of entertaining the readers. Usually it explains the thought process of the story teller (and sometimes both players) during the battle. Good warstories can range from super intense and epic to rolling on the floor hilarious—it really depends on the battle and the author. Warstories are also a terrific way to introduce yourself as a new player to the Smogon community. It has got all the important elements: in a single post, you can demonstrate that you are intelligent and skilled at Pokemon. You might even be able to prove that you're funny. These are all things you want the community to know you as. All you have to do is write a warstory... if you can write it well.
This article will detail some of the finer points of writing warstories, and also chronicle some of the past literature to get readers acquainted with warstories.
Now, as I'm sure you've been told ever since primary school, first impressions always count. So, you should always make sure that, when your average reader absent-mindedly clicks on your warstory thread, they aren't instantly greeted by something guaranteed to lose their interest. If you're unsure, just read the first bit yourself and think about how you personally would react to seeing it if someone else wrote it. So, what's advisable? Well, the easiest way to go about this is to keep it as simple as possible. The last thing you want to be greeted by is a lot of garish colours and pictures, or heaven forbid a blank wall of text. Conversely, however, you don't want to be thrown straight into the warstory, as then you haven't had time to get into the groove, so your reader is detached. Remember, the best warstories are those where you go inside the mind of the narrator, as though you are actually hearing what they are thinking.
This is why the introduction is pretty important. Don't string it out for too long, but it's important to have a little bit of context, as that way the reader feels as though they are actually experiencing the battle itself, rather than just reading about it, which ups the tension quite a bit. The best warstories will almost always be those where the tone and context are set very early on, rather than plunging straight into the battle. You don't even have to be that verbose: it's okay to write "I was laddering on Smogon's PO server, having a bad streak, when I was matched up against a chap called x. Little did I know that this would be one of the best battles I've ever had!" or something to that effect.
A good warstory starts with a good battle log. A warstory is meant to entertain. If the battle itself lacks anything of interest, even the best writing will only produce a mediocre warstory. A battle's appeal can be any of a variety of factors, but there are some general guidelines one should follow. The most important rule: the battle should not be one-sided.
A close battle with some length and complexity is necessary to put together an interesting story. Battles that easily follow point A to point B according to the plans of one player or the other can only be boring. This is especially true if said player is the author. One should be particularly careful about battles where one wins—probably 70% or more of Smogon's warstories are battles where the author is victorious. This doesn't make it right. No one likes a braggart, and if you are trying to earn popularity points by writing a good warstory, coming across as a pompous prick is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot. In short, close battles with complexity, and an emphasis on the heatedness and excitement of the battle. Whether you are writing a gag-comedy story about a random battle, or a 10 page intense thriller about a decisive tournament match, this rule is unchanging.
We will elaborate on this when discussing writing commentary, but generally speaking, it is integral that a battle be thought provoking. There should be many turns with heated consideration—usually meaning epic predictions on both sides. We want to see the calculative and rational powers of the writers, adding power and intrigue to the twists and turns of the battle. Suspense can really make a battle. Unfortunately, this does mean that battles with many turns of repeated action and/or stall can be detrimental to the warstory. This is not to say that extremely long battles cannot be good warstories. If a battle has intensity and intrigue each turn, it can make for a great warstory even if it is very long. That said, fast paced battles are best, intensity is necessary, and do expect to lose many potential readers if it is too long. The majority of forum-goers have only so much attention span.
Famous Opponents: While certainly not mandatory, if your opponent is well known on Smogon, this will attract a lot of interest to your warstory, and can help it stand out from all the others. Let’s face it, people prefer to read about battles against Gouki or panamaxis than against luigifan2000. If you can get them to provide dual commentary, your warstory can only get better. However, if you know who your opponent is on the forums, you should always ask for their permission before warstorying the battle. At the very least, be cautious of revealing teams especially during important testing periods or if the match is tournament related. Of course, if the battle is good it doesn’t matter who your opponent is, as long as they play well.
Off the beaten trail: While stories about standard OU are certainly popular amongst readers, and rightly draw intrigue as reflections of the main meta, other meta warstories are also great. LC warstories were integral in popularizing (and eventually standardizing) the Little Cup metagame. Warstories are fantastic for drawing the interest of outside players to a non-mainstream meta, and further educate the wider community to the state of that meta. It gives insight into the pace and thoughts of players of that meta, and portrays it in a fun and interesting light.
Lose Brownie Points: HAX – If your battle has some even potentially game-changing luck in it, this can really ruin your warstory. It throws the reader away from the battle. You want him to be in your head, thinking the way you’re thinking, so try to avoid anything that will make him jump back and say, “Well you clearly got lucky there”. This is significantly more serious than the fame of your opponent.
Writing a warstory is not a simple matter of smacking dialog on the log. As outlined in our discussion of commentary, we warstory writers are putting in exceptional effort to make the writing interesting. It would be a waste to such efforts with trivial formatting problems. When considering format, just think about what would make the story more enjoyable were you to be the reader.
The first thing to consider is text that will be easy on the reader’s eyes. You want the log to be clearly separated from the commentary—this is most easily done by bolding the long. Pokemon Online has the nice feature of counting the turns. Marking these with color or italics will be useful for the reader to keep track as he moves through the story. As a fundamental rule of formatting warstory text, do not use flashy colors—the plainer and kinder on the eyes are better. It is best if the text is untouched black. If you are doing a co-op warstory with your opponent, it’s best if you both pick plain colors that are easy on the eyes. Dull shades of blue or green are good bets, as is the darkest shade of gray.
When editing the log itself, try to keep only the integral parts. Cut out the unneeded mentions of Leftovers, Life Orb, burn, and poison (though these should be included if they result in a Pokemon being KOed). In fourth generation warstories, cut out mention of sand damage. In fifth gen, the competition between weathers makes it more important—in fact, it may be a good idea to highlight weather in brown, blue or red respectively. In warstories where only one side has a weather inducer or where one weather is prevalent, it would still be a good idea to remove the weather as it is an unnecessary detail. Regardless, items and weather should be noted when they are initially revealed in battle, and it should be noted that you are omitting them.
As a final note regarding relevant battle information, turn-by-turn HP tallies are extremely useful—though there are some writers who prefer not to include the tallies as it can be very tedious. Also, the writers want updated tallies on the overall score. These are best included whenever a Pokemon faints. It should also be noted that it is popular to use sprites turn by turn to show which Pokemon are out, but this can also be consider superfluous, and not necessary. It is a nice touch if your warstory is not so long that including turn by turn sprites would exceed the pictures per post limit of 100.
Lugia - 92% Health.
Abomasnow - 94% Health.
Oho? Mamoswine again? He seems to be trying to make the most of the free turns, so I'll just do what I did before – and this time he has no Slaking (heh).Having still not got rocks up despite my early lead, I send in Mamoswine to do the job. However, to my horror (but not so much surprise):
Generally, after putting your reader in a good mood after the introduction, the next step is to introduce your team. While this may seem unnecessary, if you want your reader to feel like they are in your thoughts, it is vital that they know your team as well as possible. The easiest way to do this is to simply have a row of sprites, as you would in an introduction to a RMT, and then to briefly describe the individual members of the team to us, the readers. It's even better if your team and its members have specific purposes, as then you can go in for much greater detail. This allows you to demonstrate your knowledge (or possibly lack thereof) of the metagame you are playing in. Just don't write a mini-RMT - general comments are easily sufficient.
Of course, an alternative route here is to simply display your team as a row of sprites, and nothing more. This works too, since in this case, the tension built up from the overview is carried over into the start of the battle itself, and you do not risk losing your reader's excitement by going into too much detail. If your team is simple or generic, just glancing over the sprites will give the discerning reader an idea of what your team strategy is, so any further explanation is unnecessary. This approach is generally better suited to fast-paced battles where heavy description is cumbersome. Also, if your battle was with a new team, you can talk about that in the introduction and not bother with any extra description at all. But, as said earlier, the approach you make is entirely up to you.
In almost all cases, it is a good policy not to reveal your opponent's team before the battle. This allows you to keep your reader's illusion that they are watching the battle as it is played out, as you will usually not have had prior knowledge of the opponent's team when you battled. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Most importantly, if playing on Wifi rules in 5th Gen, you can see the opponent's team thanks to the team preview setting, which means that you will know the opponent's team before you play them. Obviously, this does not apply for past generations. In these past generations, generally the two cases where you will want to reveal the opponent's team are where you have already played them multiple times (for example when laddering), or if your warstory has dual commentary.
As you can see, mine is an offensive team with some defensive capabilities built into it, especially through resistances and immunities. It also sports three different priority users and a Scarfer. But enough with the intro: on with the show!
This is a team I made mostly for fun to try to use some Pokemon I like effectively. After a little work it turned out to be my second best team. ^^
Team S is for Stall
So, you've got your perfect battle and you've crafted it majestically into a log of aesthetic beauty and artistic brilliance. Or at the very least, you won't make your readers stab their eyes out looking at it. In other words, you've caught and cooked your perfect lamb chop, and the meat of the warstory is immaculately served up. However, as any fool knows, even the best lamb chop is dry and monotonous without some roasted potatoes and mint sauce. Likewise, your warstory needs some kind of accompaniment to make it worth reading. Just as meat needs two veg to make a meal, a battle needs commentary to make a warstory.
Simply put, the commentary can make or break your warstory. If it's brilliant, witty, insightful and sharp, it can transform even the most mediocre battle to something that you can be proud of. However, if you mess it up, or don't put any effort in, beware. Even the greatest battles are pretty dismal when they're nothing more than a log or nothing but text. Having said that, there's no reason why your commentary can't be top-notch as long as you make an effort.
While every man's commentary is as unique to him as his fingerprint, it's still worth noting a couple of little tips that can make your commentary better. Firstly, one of the most common mistakes made by new warstory writers is to describe what has just happened on the turn before. While it may seem natural to do, since you are commenting on the log, in fact it doesn't really tell us anything. We've read the log, we know what happened. Hindsight is great, but should only be used sparingly, if at all. Instead, you should always concentrate on telling the reader what you plan to do on the next turn, while giving as much detail as possible as to why you chose that option. If possible, you should also state your other options as well and explain why you did not take them. This is describing your thought process, which is what the reader is really interested in - why you do what you do, and the best way to do this is to explain the next turn, so that the reader feels like they're actually in your mind. This also builds up anticipation, as the reader will want to know whether your prediction turned out correctly. If you’re having difficulty writing, remember to always look forwards when writing, and try not to look back, though if you can successfully combine both, your warstory will turn out marvellously.
Secondly, you should try to make your comments both amusing and sharp at the same time. If you make a brilliant deduction through the way the opponent is playing, be sure to capitalise on it, and tell us about it. On the other hand, the reading experience needs to be enjoyable, and so you should always try to make the commentary light if you can. While the mood has to fit the warstory, most good warstories will have a healthy mixture of humour, insight, drama, and storytelling. This can't really be explained, as each mixture is unique to the warstory it is written for, so you will have to learn through experience for the most part. If you are stuck, the 'Mood' section below should give you an idea of what to look for.
Next, flavour is pretty important to warstories. This ties in with both humour and drama, in that it involves comments not necessarily related to the warstory itself, but are there to keep your audience amused, entertained, and attentive. This can be done through colourful vocabulary, comments, or even pictures to illustrate emotions, and helps to keep the reader's interest. However, you should be very careful not to go overboard. If you go far enough, an over-written warstory turns out hilarious, but more often than not it just appears desperate, especially if you are not adept at weaving flavour into the warstory. In addition, too much flavour also risks losing the seriousness of the warstory, that is to say, highlighting an epic battle, so that the meat of your sandwich is lost. Of course, if you can pull off flavour in your warstory, you are sure to have a winner in your hands, but it takes time and practice to get right.
The length of the commentary is also pretty important. As has been stated multiple times, the last thing you want to do is not put any effort in, or worse, seem as if you have not. Because of this, you should definitely try to make your comments a reasonable length. Of course, you have to be careful here. Too short and you risk descending into mediocrity, too long and you risk losing the reader’s interest. Generally speaking, it is best to have longer commentary early-game or if playing a slower game, in which case you can bring out your commentary, as your reader will be expecting you to ponder more over decisions. However, when playing late-game or faster games, if you are not thinking quite as much it is usually better to keep your comments concise, as these up the pace of the warstory in concord with the battle itself. On the other hand, if you have to make a difficult prediction late-game, pushing the commentary longer can drive up the tension and make for a more exciting finish, but be careful not to over-do it. Try to achieve the right balance.
One almost guaranteed way to make your warstory better is to provide dual commentary, where both participants in the battle provide commentary. This gives the reader an insight into the minds of both battlers and hence makes the warstory that much more interesting and exciting, so it is definitely something you should pick up if you can. Of course, you should be certain that your opponent can write well and knows what he is talking about, though with most competent battlers that shouldn't be difficult. The only problem is getting your opponent to actually provide the commentary. It's a great thing to have, but don't be discouraged if you can't get it. This is your warstory, after all.
Lastly, once you have written all your commentary, you should always read through the whole thing as many times as possible before posting it. This is helpful to catch spelling errors and awkward prose, which can really turn the reader off if they pick up on them. You should always make sure that your commentary is as perfect grammatically as possible, since the reader will be immersed in your writing, and it is very easy for them to be rattled by a simple spelling mistake. But, more than that, it gives you the opportunity to read your warstory yourself and consider how you would react to it if it was written by another. This allows you to make corrections to your writing that weren't immediately clear, ways to make the tension or humour of the scene more apparent, or remove something that detracts from the overall mood. Impact is important, and as a writer you should treat it as such.
Ambipom used Fake Out.
Arcanine lost 20% of its health.
Ah, believe it or not, that turn was very informative. I find out one thing about Ambipom immediately - it is not running Life Orb, so I don't need to worry unduly about heavy Double Hit damage the next turn. However, I also know that it is not using Silk Scarf, or any boosting item at all for that matter. A Silk Scarf boosted Fake Out will do a minimum of ~22% to Arcanine (once you face enough Ambipom this becomes second nature), meaning Ambipom's hold item can be narrowed down to Focus Sash or Damp Rock. This may seem like me making a mountain out of a molehill, but it could be the difference between me losing Arcanine or not.A Focus Sash would generally mean Ambipom will use Counter next turn, and Damp Rock would obviously allude to Rain Dance. In both of these situations, Flare Blitz is a poor choice. If it has Counter, Flare Blitz will result in Arcanine being KOed by the countered attack. If Ambipom sets up rain, Flare Blitz will hit for only 10 more damage than Extremespeed, while causing me to take recoil damage. With this newly garnered information, I change my standard Ambipom-dealing strategy around and instead choose to Extremespeed.
freakyvillain switched in Gengar (lvl 100 Gengar ?).
At this point, I wasn't too sure what he was going to do. He was most likely going to attack me. But he might also predict my attack and switch to something else to keep Gyarados as death fodder for later. Or he might even have an Electivire (lol) and switch in on a predicted Thunderbolt to get a motor drive boost.He was going to die next turn whether or not I attacked so I scouted with a sub. The worst that could happen is that he attacks with Waterfall and breaks my sub, destroying my last shred of dignity and humiliating me for doing something so utterly stupid when he was obviously going to attack. On the other hand, I lost all of my dignity years ago. Why do you think I still play Pokemon?
a) Play a conservative support move (in Swellow’s case U-Turn) to deal with whatever switches in.
b) Smack them as hard as you can with your most generically powerful move possible.
I didn’t actually write this out during the battle, but this was my thought process behind my action.
If I attack, I have three potential outcome: A) Froslass lays down more Spikes and its sash is broken, B) mind’s spinner takes little damage, and my rocks are spun away, or C) Something comes in and takes damage.
If I Roar, these are the outcomes D) Froslass lays down more spikes, and the next time it comes in its sash is broken, providing I keep his spinner away, E) mind’s spinner is Roared away, and I cause residual damage to some other part of his team, or F) Something else comes in and is Roared away, and I again damage his team.
Outcome A isn’t as favorable as it might seem. After I attack, on the next turn, Froslass can Destiny Bond, taking down my full health Steelix, or just lay down a third layer of Spikes as it dies. Outcome B is obviously not good for me. Hitmontop will take hardly any damage and I will just lose my rocks. Outcome C is unlikely seeing as Hitmontop is a good enough switch-in, but mind can easily switch in something that won’t take much damage from Steelix’s mediocre attack.The Roar outcomes have the potential to be the same as the Attacking outcomes. However, mind has no control of any of them, which is why I chose to Roar.
It just wouldn’t be write if I completely failed to write a bit about comedy in warstories, even if it’s not a subject to easily guideline. Everyone loves a good laugh, and we here at Smogon are no exceptions. In fact, one could say that users with a good sense of humor are especially prized here—hell, there are Smogon moderators (in Socialization Empire particularly) who are prized for their golden ability to keep us all in stitches. There is no reason why Uncharted Territory should miss out on the merriment. That said, there’s no real way to “guide” you to be funny. You either are funny, or you’re not. The best advice is not to force it. A joke is not a joke if it has to be explained, and a warstory won’t be funny if the funniness is imposed on it unnaturally. There are ways to weave humor into battle commentary, and there are ways to turn an entire battle into a comedy act. It just has to be natural, and cannot be forced. As much as a good laugh is desired, bad jokes will incite even more moaning and groaning. When in doubt, staying serious is probably the safe way to go. If you see a great joke opportunity though, please use it as long as it will not disrupt the overall story.
These warstories are, in my humble opinion, some of the greatest warstories ever written, for a number of reasons. However, while all of these warstories exemplify the characteristics of great warstories stated above, in other ways they do not, and that is what makes them special. They all have differences, certainly, but also, all of them had something new for their time, which is what made them excellent warstories. They all had something to make them unique. Hopefully you will enjoy them too, and see how great warstories are written.
UU Deathmatch – Legacy Raider and rkatzam.
This warstory is, as previously mentioned, pretty different from other warstories, in that it has two commentators, but not dual commentary. Legacy Raider comments on the early-game, where he was fully in command, and then rkatzam narrates his comeback in late-game. This makes for a fascinating warstory, where for the entirety of the battle you are on the edge of your seat, from long-shot early predictions to the nail-biting finish, both battlers going right down to the wire. The comments are rather short, but this only adds to the warstory, as it is very fast-paced, keeping the reader interested. It is also a good look at old UU in its early beginnings. While there are both misclicks and instances of very bad hax, these cannot detract from the charm of a fast-paced battle between Pokemon very rarely seen nowadays.
[Wifi-Warstory] V. Little Green Yoda! – Chou Toshio.
This battle took place, as the title suggests, on Wifi, not a simulator, just after the introduction of Shaymin-S to OU, which makes for a very interesting battle indeed. All of the Pokemon in the battle were fully, painstakingly trained, which puts a different spin on the whole battle. Almost all of the movesets come from the era in which the Pokemon was trained, which turns it into a mash-up of different sets that were all common at some point, yet would never be seen together on a simulator. The format is very, very simple, which makes the reader concentrate more on the comments, and Chou Toshio is able to narrate the battle expertly, pulling off the feat with aplomb. If you ever wondered why Wifi battling was different to simulator play, you should check this out. You can also watch the video of the battle on YouTube, linked in the OP.
Mr. Treason VS Train Man - An Uber Warstory – Train Man.
While Ubers seems to always receive less publicity than OU, that’s not to say that there aren’t any exciting battles to be had there. This warstory was particularly impressive. The battle is very fast-paced, with prediction being key to success, and neither player remaining in command for very long, ending in a finish that could not have been closer in any way. The format is nice and easy to read, and the comments give an excellent insight into the thought process going on. It is difficult to find a single criticism to make.
A Warstory devoid of Skarm/Bliss/Electivire – Eo Ut Mortus.
As has been said before, a well-written warstory can be a great way to introduce yourself to the community, and also to demonstrate that you have both talent and wit. Such is the case here. Before the head of OU Quality Control reached the dizzying heights of fame, he was posting very entertaining warstories, of which this was the first. This battle was performed on Wifi, but it isn’t that that makes the warstory exceptional. Rather, what makes this warstory amazing is the commentary. Full of personality, flavour and wit, to the point at which it is almost going over the top, you can't help but smile as you read it. Even the minor instances of hax are turned into amusing jokes. It's an absolute pleasure to read, and the fact that the battle is excellent as well only serves to reinforce that.
[War Story] Satoshi v. Shirona-- I will be a Pokemon Master!! – Chou Toshio.
Possibly the greatest warstory ever written on Smogon, and that's saying a lot. It's something of a cross between a fan-fiction and an actual warstory, concerning a simulator battle between two theme teams, written in the vein of an anime episode. The net result is predictable and hilarious, and if you've ever watched the anime, you’re guaranteed to enjoy it. More than anything else, it’s good, harmless fun. It's a testament to its brilliance that it had to be locked to stop people necro-bumping it every month or so.
Hanging by a Hitpoint: A Little Cup Warstory – Vader.
One of the many great warstories to come out of Little Cup. Who wouldn't read this thrilling story and be intrigued. The offensive nature of LC, and Vader's excellent writing, format, and insights into the (then) little known meta brought great intrigue to all its readers. This warstory demonstrates how a warstory can be used for more than simple entertainment.
Rivals of Usage (A Suspect Warstory) – Alchemator and bugmaniacbob.
A perfect example of how a relatively average battle can be made better with commentary and formatting. While you can get thrown off the pace of the battle due to the numerous misplays and poor prediction, the ability to see in detail what's going on in the minds of both battlers makes up for this.
Warstory: We are Uber strong – Gen. Empoleon.
Putting aside Gen's questionable use of purple (something you need to tell us Gen?) text, this was a very entertaining warstory that highlighted not only a non-mainstream meta, but a very non-mainstream Pokemon. This warstory brought about hysteria in the world: countless entertained readers, a spike of Uber Parasect usage, lots of Parasect artwork, and in the far future, a very annoyed Jibaku.
To the readers of both The Smog and Warstories: I would like to remind you that all work and contributions on Smogon, and this includes warstories, is completely voluntary. It is an unfortunate reality, but the expectations and criticism of warstories has become increasingly toxic, bordering on outright disrespectful flaming at times. In fourth generation, this led to a near complete extinction of warstories from Stark Mountain. There is a reason that the most recent archived warstory is from last June, and the story before that from January. It is not due to people not writing good stories. It is due to intolerable criticism and complete ingratitude by the community causing warstories in general to disappear. Writing a warstory takes a lot of effort and hard work. Respect for this effort is why we don't allow people to just post logs as a thread with some scanty comments thrown in. However, respect for this effort should also mean genuine gratitude for the stories and writers—even if not all of them are perfect, awe-inspiring masterpieces. In the fifth generation, excitement for the game has inspired players and writers alike, and brought a revival to this tradition in Uncharted Territory. Please, let us appreciate the writers and encourage them to continue writing. It would be great for the whole community to continue to enjoy warstories in the future.
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