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There are many things that Smogon has a right to be proud of. There are the Suspect Tests, the Create-A-Pokemon Project, and of course the Smog, to name but a few. And being the leader of competitive Pokemon battling throughout more or less the entire English-speaking world is a nice secondary claim to fame as well. But really, if there's one thing to boast of more than anything else, it's the analyses. These terrific titbits of wit and wonder are arguably Smogon's great foundation, the fact that they were more or less the first of their kind notwithstanding. Contributions & Corrections is currently Smogon's biggest single project, occupying four whole subforums and sixteen smaller subforums within those, all working away with its many contributors powering the incessant machine. And that's not even counting the many other large, far-reaching projects that begin at their roots down there, constantly improving the content that some of us take for granted.
At this point, I bet you're expecting me to say, "It wasn't always this way". Well, maybe. We certainly have a lot to thank the visions of the C&C leaders and the oft-overwhelming doggedness of the hardened contributors for. Analyses have improved markedly since their rudimentary beginnings. Of course, some would disagree. Quality and grammar have improved, it's true, but it has been argued that this came at the expense of readability. That isn't what this article is about, though. It's been a long, hard road to get where we've come, and hopefully this article will serve as a useful little history of the 4th and 5th generation C&C process. Boring? Don't be so quick to judge. Onwards and upwards, as my old Nan used to say, at least before she drove over that cliff... anyway, hope you enjoy.
A common misconception amongst the ignorant masses is that analyses are like mushrooms. Yes, maybe analyses do smell funny, feel rubbery, and crop up in places you'd rather they weren't present in, that's true. And perhaps some of them are highly poisonous, yes. But on the other hand, analyses do not spring up overnight. They must be nurtured, pruned, and watered to achieve their optimum growth. But it wasn't always like this, oh my goodness no.
Picture the day when Diamond and Pearl were first released to the masses. A day of joy, celebration, and hope for the future; a day that young children would one day grow up to tell their own children about. Oh yes. Well, I was too busy screwing around with bits of Lego at the time (and still am…) so I'll just assume that it was like that. Anyway, at the time, analyses were in a much less recognisable format than they are now. Chaos ruled the land. There were no grammar laws, and only the best of the best dared to raise their swords and their sets amongst the site-writing elite. Analyses were generally about a paragraph long, and more than a few were barely a sentence. They were almost entirely the product of the author alone, and to many, even today, are a far purer, more human, and just better set of analyses than those that come out of C&C today. We'll leave that to the reader to decide.
The format, too, was different from what we have become accustomed to. Rather than an "Overview", there was an "Opinion" section at the bottom, which accomplished more or less the same thing. "Other Options" was split into an "Other Options" section and an "EVs" section. "Checks and Counters" was still just "Counters".
Perhaps, if you saw one of these tiny little analyses, you would laugh at them. Not much to look at, are they? I bet all of you could write better analyses while standing on your heads. And I'm very sure you could, with enough practice and a little encouragement. But that's not the point here. Analyses in those days did not have a workforce of over a hundred people with metagame-specific knowledge, churning them out with ruthless efficiency.
Yes, these were from back in the good old days, when C&C was a more or less exclusive club, and because of this, all three hundred odd analyses were done by a relatively small group of people. I wasn't one of them, so I guess we'll never know how hard it was, but I suppose their work is a testimony to Smogon's marvellous spirit, and of course its dedication to its analyses, that all of them were not only completed, but also continuously updated. A later update to the analysis was eventually added, which looked a lot more like the ones we have come to know and love today.
Of course, the marvellous fellows at Smogon University are not ones to sit idly and complacently. Indeed, it was not long into the fourth generation before one of the great milestones in analysis writing was reached-the introduction of Team Options. While perhaps some of our newer C&C helpers may indeed find it difficult to conceive of an analysis without Team Options, back in the days of yore it was a revolution.
The DP Updates were born out of a desire to push all analyses on-site as close to perfection as was possible. In the words of the project's progenitor, Aldaron, the idea was to introduce the concept of "synergy" to each and every analysis. This meant talking in depth about how each set fared individually within the metagame, the problems it might face, and crucially, about how to structure a team around each set. In this sense, perspective became an important factor in analyses; the sets themselves were no longer placed inside a static void when described. The Updates were structured thus: each set had new information added about specific threats and answers to the threats, as well as common problems, and then a separate Team Options section was added after the set descriptions. This was composed of four or five paragraphs: General support, offensive combinations, defensive combinations, problem teammates, and other strategies. The new teammate statistics from the Shoddy Battle server were used to identify what Pokemon were commonly partnered with threats to the subject of the analysis, and hence allow the reader to adjust their team accordingly.
One of the biggest effects of this project was that it opened the floodgates to a whole generation of new contributors. Arguably, this was the point in Smogon's history where C&C as a clique ended, and it was fully opened up to the masses. With enormous amounts of work to be done, and a fresh new group of contributors straight off the DP omnibus, not only was there plenty of stuff to do for newer members, they didn't have to come up with a new set or update one of the already very good analyses on-site. There was so much that achieving a badge or at least recognition for your efforts was almost trivial by comparison with the C&C of ages past. Especially as this coincided with the creation of "new UU", almost nobody was short of something to do. In part, this was also due to the effectiveness of the reservations system, which made it easier to acquire work for yourself.
However, that's not to say only good could come of this Project. One very apparent side effect of the whole Update process was that analyses got very… shall we say, long. Because of the immense amount of information that had to be added, especially for more important Pokemon, as well as the information creep that had been happening for years prior to this project, analyses became far, far longer than they ever had been. The drive for perfection in analyses meant that every last detail, right down to the tiniest little point, had to be mentioned. This led to some pretty heavy stuff, and that's putting it lightly.
Another interesting thing that happened a few months after this project began was the introduction of the first ever Little Cup analyses on Smogon. Previously, these analyses had been produced on the Little Cup Forums, or LCF, a separate site that nevertheless had ties with Smogon in its userbase. Eventually, the two sites made a semi-merge, such that the Little Cup analyses were transferred over to Smogon. However, since they too required updates, they simply piled on to the massive project that was going on at this time. While Little Cup has perhaps become a bit of a byword for mediocrity amongst the more cynical members of the forums, there is no doubt that it has been remarkably successful and has produced its own fair share of outstanding contributors.
While the Team Updates were going on, it was rapidly becoming apparent that many analyses had hit the point at which they were unsustainable. Not only were they rather a chore to fully read, they were also aesthetically displeasing, not to mention page-stretchers. Deep in the heart of the C&C workshop, a plan was devised to halt the tide of thorough analyses. This project, titled "Project Concise", headed by Colonel_M, was designed to identify and weed out unnecessary information and extraneous fluff from all of the analyses on site. Once an analysis had been approved, the analysis would be thoroughly combed to make it acceptable.
Whether or not the project itself was a success or not is debatable. I shan't conceal from you that I personally found it very trying; the idea of having your analysis cut apart without your permission or viewing, or even rewritten entirely, was indeed quite galling. Some of the results were less than stellar, and others went arguably too far. Nevertheless, Project Concise did indeed pave the way for the grammar standards we take for granted today, and the gradual shift away from the attitude that more information, and qualifying that information, always made a better analysis. This alone had the effect of dramatically shortening analysis length, though never again to the levels they once were. The aesthetic quality of the analyses, however, was solved with another, altogether more universal method.
In order to achieve the aesthetic quality that Smogon's analyses once had, as well as retain the level of information required for the new era, a compromise had to be made. At emergency firelight meetings between the C&C staff, the matter was endlessly debated. It was unanimously decided that some sort of hide tag, similar to that implemented on the forums, was necessary. It was first suggested that analyses should be two in one - a "concise" analysis for the casual reader, and a "long" analysis for extra detail, but eventually it was decided that instead, the description for each set should be split into the vital information required to use the set, as per [SET COMMENTS], and extra information for the competitive players, denoted [ADDITIONAL COMMENTS]. This system of notation persists to this very day.
In addition to the tag changes, many format changes were also made. "Other Options" and "EVs" were merged to become "Optional Changes", and "Opinion" was changed to the more familiar "Overview". In line with these changes, many of the on-site analyses were accordingly updated, though in most cases the core information remained the same.
Just a little bit after these changes went live, C&C experienced yet another mass upheaval. In response to the growing number of contributors working on Smogon's articles, many hardened C&C veterans began voicing their objections, stating that these newer analyses lacked quality in their sets, which had often not been tested at all, and the analyses themselves were lacking in readability and grammar. To counteract this, a more rigorous system of quality checking was proposed by Philip7086. Before now, you simply had to post your written analysis, have it commented on by a few people, have it grammar checked by a few people, and then eventually a moderator would either upload it or reject it.
The new system was to be far more efficient. Teams of top-quality players from each tier would be assigned to analyses, use the proposed sets themselves, and decide whether or not they were good enough to be put on-site. The Quality Control team was born. There was significant opposition to the team at the time of its birth, and indeed this has continued right up until the present day. Initially, QC team members were assigned specific Pokemon from their respective tier; once the Update Project was more or less done, they were free to check whichever Pokemon they felt like. This resulted in the birth of the QC stamp, which is unfortunately less seen nowadays. About a month later, in response to the other prong of the dissenters' attacks, the Quality Control team was followed by the Grammar-Prose team, headed by whistle and bojangles, which initially had only about nine members.
While the process had been addressed somewhat, it still hadn't been perfected. Previously, the Quality Control team had only assessed the set's viability at the end of the process, rather than the beginning. This was highly inefficient, so the modern system of analysis submission was devised. Now, a skeleton analysis was posted first, then reviewed by the QC team, then the set was written up, then checked by the GP team, and finally uploaded by a moderator, and cached by a member of the Site Staff. While there was stiff opposition to this as bureaucratic and unnecessary, it was mostly directed towards the two teams rather than the process itself. The process has remained this way to this very day, though it should be noted that originally, the Quality Control and Copyediting sections were done in separate subforums, before prefixes were added to the site.
Towards the end of the DPP era, there were few other great moments in C&C's history. One notable exception was the implementation of the Grammar-Prose team queue, which has remained with us ever since, though its unfortunate neighbour, the QC team queue, was eventually shut down due to lack of interest. One other notable leap forward was that C&C as a whole was given its own category on the forum listing-giving it the same significance as competitive Pokemon discussion itself. With the immense complication of the C&C subforums squeezed into a tiny space, especially with the individual Quality Control and Copyediting subforums for each tier, it needed to be increased in size, and it duly was. This also marked the introduction of the Quality Control, Copyediting, and Done prefixes into C&C, where, perhaps regrettably, they have stayed ever since. At this point, C&C only had three subforums (General, Projects, Archives), though with the advent of the fifth generation, this was split into four, into the order seen today.
At the onset of the fifth generation, C&C was more or less in disarray. While DPP OU was more or less complete, there were still over a hundred other analyses to do, with particularly large backlogs in UU, Little Cup, and to a lesser extent Ubers. This made many contributors understandably uneasy going forwards, as with the prospect of another six hundred analyses floating inexorably towards them, all of which would have to be done at some point, there was a very definite feeling of gloom in the air. Still, we buckled our braces, inverted our baseball caps, and kept marching on. At the very beginning of the BW metagame, in order to get a better understanding of the metagame as it developed, theorymon analyses were opened up. These were basic skeletons of some Pokemon that were considered likely to be important in the new metagame, written by badgeholders, and gave an opportunity for discussion outside of the less competitively-inclined Uncharted Territory (now Dragonspiral Tower). The metagame they were written for was one that assumed no bans, making many analyses rather confusing and inconsistent, but they served their purpose.
Another Project that is well worth mentioning here is the Spanish Translations Project, which began at around the same time. Founded by C&C moderators Bloo and Setsuna, the Project set out to translate the core mechanics pages of Smogon's site to Spanish, and is still going strong, with its very own prefix in the Projects subforum.
About a month after theorymon analyses were opened, the real test began. Analyses were opened up, initially only for Ubers, but then also for OU after Policy Review voted on an initial ban list. The first few days were extraordinarily confusing, as there was only one reservation thread, which was located in the main fifth generation subforum, which was entirely separate from the main index threads which arrived later, so you had to post your reservation in two different threads to have it count. In addition, there was a great deal of huffing and puffing from the stalwarts of the old regime, who complained about the lacklustre quality and unfitting degree of enthusiasm of many of the initial contributors. With an entirely new metagame, previously top-notch players were just as inexperienced as the new players, and were far less inclined to write analyses, resulting in a general wailing and gnashing of teeth about the downfall of Smogon's quality standards. Thankfully, the GP and QC teams were always there to help. Despite the practice that grammar checkers should concentrate on the still unfinished DP analyses, many BW analyses were churned out at an alarming rate.
After two months of solid work on the analyses, a new metagame was introduced: VGC 2011. This was something that had been clamoured for for a long time, and at last was present. Though it sadly did not get as much activity as the other metagames that were being worked on at the time, it became yet another area which produced its own outstanding contributors.
Since that time, BW has moved on with alternating difficulty and ease. This year, there have been a number of changes, the most significant being the most recent format changes to analyses, which coincided with the release of the English names for moves, items, and abilities. "Optional Changes" returned to "Other Options", "Counters" was renamed "Checks and Counters", and "Team Options" was deleted entirely, as it had passed to almost being redundant with all the other information in the analysis. In addition, around this time, Smogon's Japanese site was set up, thanks in no small part to the efforts of one particular user, Chou Toshio.
A few months later, the Project to describe all moves, items, and abilities in the game began, as did the beginning of the UU analyses. Only a few months after that, just under a year after the Japanese release of Pokemon Black and White, the site was finally made ready to take 5th generation analyses. Hundreds upon hundreds of finished analyses were uploaded overnight, with minimal numbers left to do in the higher tiers. Soon afterwards, VGC 2012 and RU analyses were introduced, which brings us all the way up to the present day.
Recently, C&C has continued to expand further and further. We've had aesoft's new software, Art for Articles, and of course the new analysis tabs, which we have waited for for so very long. What bright and marvellous new projects await us in the future? Perhaps you yourselves shall be a part of them. For now, though, you can help push the first wave of 5th generation analyses to a close, and maybe someday, we will actually finish those DP updates. Maybe.
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