Interview with DougJustDoug

By Jimbo, Sarenji, and tennisace.
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"Do you have the papers?" I asked Jimbo.

"Yeah," he said.

We looked at tennisace, who had joined us for this interview.

"Then we're good."

The house had words engraved in bold, colorful lettering high on the eaves: "DADDY DAY CARE". Doug's house. We were here.

A man who looked just like Bill Nye was at his computer, balancing his kid on one hand and typing with the other. He greeted us, put the kid in a box, and pressed a switch on a compartment. Suddenly the floor sank away, and we found ourselves in a room lit only by a fluorescent lantern.

We heard bubbling. In the distance. Like something breathing, something big and slow.

"This is where I make Pokémon," Doug said.

DougJustDoug: I've been working on finishing collecting data for the Stage 3 suspect testing. Crunching numbers on over 136,000 suspect battles is not fun! But, anyway. This interview should be a nice diversion from that stuff.

Sarenji: So Doug, to start us off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

DougJustDoug: My name in real life is, in fact, Doug (I actually get asked that question, believe it or not). It's quite well-known that I am one of the oldest active Smogoners, and I'm married with three kids. My kids actually got me involved with Pokémon.

I bought them a GameCube and Pokémon XD came with it. They had no idea how to play, so I went online to find out about it. Through a weird series of events, I stumbled on a hacking site, and noticed some young hackers needed help deciphering a memory dump from Pokémon XD. So I helped them out, and... I was hooked. I eventually came across Smogon, and the rest is history.

tennisace: Speaking of the wife and kids, how are they?

DougJustDoug: They're doing great. Smogon is actually a bit of a "family project" in my house. My wife loves the fact that I'm energetic about programming again (after years of corporate politics in real life) and my kids are young enough to be proud of the fact that their dad knows so much about a game that they play. Pokémon is huge in the elementary school crowd. They also love when a new CAP starts, because they like to see all the cool artwork and tracking the feedback on my designs and sprites.

I've got a great family. I'm very proud of them.

Jimbo: That's awesome. Care to share any funny parenting anecdotes about your children?

Suddenly, a noise. A loud chirping that seemed to come from everywhere. Doug jerked at the sound, and told us if we could please wait thirty minutes. An hour later, he returned.

"Sorry about that," he said. "A rogue Dugtrio was trying to escape—we often turn them into soup for Fidgit, and they sometimes rebel. Anyway, what was the question?"

Jimbo: Oh we were just wondering if you had any funny parenting stories you'd like to share.

DougJustDoug: When I first cracked the memory map for Pokémon XD, I tested it out by hacking in some species that aren't available in-game. So, I made a Groudon in Pokémon XD. When my son, who was six years old, saw the new Pokémon—he ran outside, where some of his friends were playing, and bragged to all of them, "My dad can make a Groudon!"

I was the most popular dad on the block. Having a dad who can hack video games is like having a dad with superpowers for kids that age.

I'm sure in a few years, my kids will roll their eyes at me all the time. But, at the moment, they still think I'm pretty cool.

I could tell a million funny stories about my kids. Every parent can. But, I won't bore everyone with that stuff. That story was pretty funny, and it's Pokémon-related, so I'll leave it at that.

Jimbo: Heh, I'm a teenager and I still think that's pretty cool... Moving onto Smogon, how exactly did you come here?

DougJustDoug: I noticed Smogon while searching the web for game information to help me hack the cartridge games. I remember reading the analyses and not understanding any of the lingo, but I knew it wasn't "kid stuff". That was intriguing to me, but I didn't get involved for a year or so. I just used the site, and rarely visited the forums.

When Diamond and Pearl came out, I was interested in the Battle Tower, because I had done some significant hacks to Orre Colosseum in Pokémon XD. Orre is similar to the Battle Tower, in that it has a competitively challenging setup, and a tilted AI. So, I got interested in making a good Battle Tower team for Diamond and Pearl.

I made a Smogon forum account so I could participate in Stark Mountain, the Battle Tower threads in particular. I used Jumpman's first Diamond and Pearl tower team (Starmie, Tyranitar, Garchomp), because I had a great Starmie and Tyranitar in Emerald and it was easy to bring them over to DP and use Jumpman's strategy to get a long streak. In using his team, I actually got a longer streak than he did, and helped a lot of other people in the Battle Tower thread.

After that, I started posting artwork, got involved with the first CAP threads, and started helping programming. Smogon is a natural fit for someone who likes to write, draw, and program—and has an interest in "serious" Pokémon. It was a natural fit for me.

And by the way, I had no idea Smogon was made up of teenagers and college students. In one of my first conversations with chaos, I made a comment like, "I'm not some wet-behind-the-ears college student." And chaos responded, "What's wrong with being a college student?!?" I was like, "Uh... nothing... I guess." This community is so intelligent and organized, I just assumed it was run by "adults"—if you know what I mean.

In the distance: Tangerine laughing. Strangely, it seemed directed toward Jimbo.

tennisace: You mentioned CAP, which has been one of your pet projects from the beginning. Care to tell us a bit on how and why you got involved with it?

DougJustDoug: Many people mistakenly credit me with being the founder of the CAP project, which isn't true. Create-A-Pokémon was started by Cooper, who is no longer active in Smogon. But it was his brainchild, and he started it as a series of threads in Stark Mountain roughly two years ago.

Because of my Battle Tower experience, I had started playing a lot of competitive 3 vs. 3, and gravitated over to Shoddy a little bit and was dabbling in 6 vs. 6 singles. I realized the massive power of Garchomp on my first Battle Tower team, and I abused the hell out of it in competitive play.

When Cooper's first CAP threads started, I posted here and there. But when the Ice/Bug typing was finalized, I was really interested in seeing if we could make something that could stop Garchomp. It turned out that our first Pokémon, Syclant, was a horrible Garchomp counter, but it got me interested in the project. I also was able to contribute artwork, which was a big hook for me too.

At the end of that first CAP project, the original intent was to collect all the posts and polling data, and send it to Nintendo—with hopes they would make our Pokémon in the real game. I always thought it was ridiculous to think that Nintendo would take a fan creation and incorporate it into their billion-dollar worldwide Pokémon franchise. But, that was what Cooper and many of the CAP posters were hoping for.

Someone got the idea of implementing Syclant in Shoddy Battle. They proposed the idea to Colin, but were rightly ignored—since Colin was still up to his ears in coding Shoddy Battle and running the Official server. I noticed that Shoddy Battle was open-source, and suggested that some Smogon programmer should just modify the code. I didn't have time to do it myself, and I practically begged for someone else to take the job. No one else stepped up, so I reluctantly took on the task of learning about Shoddy Battle and making custom Pokémon.

Eventually, I got Syclant working and opened the CAP server. From there, the CAP project just exploded in popularity. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first brought the CAP server online, but I took a business-like approach to building up the server and the CAP project in general.

The project became immensely popular, largely due to the work put in by all the early CAP contributors (most of whom are now badgeholders). All the server traffic eventually led to chaos and I striking a partnership and CAP became an official part of Smogon.

Jimbo: Now, inquiring minds want to know: what is your favorite CAP, and why?

DougJustDoug: That's a great question!

That's very hard to answer, because I feel like all of them are "my children" in a way. I'm sure many other CAP regulars feel the same way. We spend so much time creating these Pokémon, and dissecting every little detail—at the end, you feel like it's "yours", even though it's a community creation.

If I had to pick just one though, I think it's Fidgit. It was a great concept, we learned a lot of new stuff about the metagame by making and using it, and it can fit on lots of team concepts. I have a little extra attachment to Fidgit, because I made the winning sprite. I spent an insane amount of time on that sprite (based on Cartoons wonderful design), so I always smile when I see Fidgit sent out in battle.

Sarenji: Yeah, it's a great feeling seeing your creations being used. As a rising dictator of Smogon, as well as entering prime time for a mid-life crisis, what are your plans for the future? I heard there could be a nifty damage calculator on the way...

DougJustDoug: As for plans for the future, I'm in a good place in my life right now. Unlike most Smogoners, I am well-established in my career. I've had some good fortune that gives me the opportunity to spend time volunteering for stuff like Smogon. But I also have a lot of hobbies in real life too.

I worked my ass off for many years, and really gave up my life to business for a long time. Getting back into programming, drawing, and non-business stuff—is my primary life goal these days. It makes me happy, and it's fun to interact with others on things that don't involve trying to make tons of money.

As for Smogon projects—we can talk publicly about the Damage Calculator now, since it is so close to completion. And yeah, that's my "big thing" at the moment.

When I first hooked up with chaos here at Smogon, we tossed around several ideas for programming projects. One idea we both liked was "The Ultimate Damage Calculator". Neither of us were really satisfied with any of the damage calculators out there. So we shared ideas of what features would make a damage calc the "ultimate". The designs were set in motion about a year-and-a-half ago, and I've been working on it ever since.

It's now pretty much done, except for a few final touches. I'm biased, of course—but I think it's amazing. I won't list all the features here, but it does a whole lot of stuff. I've given a few public previews, and people seem to like it a lot. I think the rest of Smogon will like it too. I'm sure there will be the inevitable naysayers who bitch about it. But, on the whole, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. You'll see a lot more about this when we officially "launch" the Smogon Damage Calculator soon.

Jimbo: I'm sure it'll be really great. Now, we do have some adoption papers here. Would you be interested in adopting tennisace?

DougJustDoug: tennisace was my "problem child" CAP server moderator. But he's turned into a hella contributor here at Smogon. It's been cool to see him grow and succeed in Smogon. He's a much better user than the hot-headed moderator that I used to have to call out a few years ago.

I identify with a lot of the "new Smogoners" like tennisace and others. It's weird, I am one of the oldest Smogoners, but I'm part of the "new Smogon"!

Jimbo: Yeah, I wouldn't want to adopt tennisace either.

tennisace: I prefer the term "loose cannon". And is that a yes?

DougJustDoug: I have enough children, I can't afford any more.

Jimbo: It's okay, Doug, he's tough. He'll understand if you tell him you don't want him...

Sarenji: That's all the questions we've got. Doug, thanks for coming and taking the time to answer our questions! We really appreciate it. Maybe we'll see your kids become Pokémon masters one day...

DougJustDoug: Thanks for taking the time to do this, guys.

We never could have suspected at that time. The child he was bouncing on his leg—that child would soon find a new name, steal the Pokémon owned by his father, become the eighth Gym Leader of Kanto and the leader of Team Rocket, and take over the world...

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