Questions and Answers - Ask the Admins

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Teaching Alakazam

How has Smogon changed over the time you have been an admin?

—eric the espeon

For me, Smogon's most significant changes had already been going on from the moment I became a mod several years ago: from a small clique group of Pokémon players to an accessible resource for all that has to do with competitive Pokémon. But this development is still going: all around, I see new users popping up saying they want to help. Those people are rewarded with status, badges but above all respect and lots of friends. Smogon has become based on projects and the people that make it possible, and it becomes more apparent every day.


What is the hardest part of being an admin?

—eric the espeon

Probably solving dilemmas, or making difficult decisions. Sometimes it's like there are as many opinions as there are staff members, and while talking everything over is always a good idea, it is also important to stop the discussion at one point and actually do something. This doesn't always go as quickly as it should. Thankfully, the admin team as a whole is often in one line on things, so when we have to make decisions among ourselves they are usually quicker.


Are there reasons why you don't battle as much as other users?

—Golden Steelix

If I had to generalize the admin team, past and current, I'd say there are two groups.

In the first group are the ones that have been around for ages by now, been playing Pokémon for several years, even before Smogon reared its head. Pokémon, like all games, can lose its tense and flavor if you do it for too long, especially considering the frustrating luck element. Of course, most of us still battle occasionally to have some idea what's going on.

The second group contains the ones that never really played competitively to begin with, but have an interest in other things related to Smogon, such as programming, the community, the mathmatics, the policy making, etc. They never intended to be battlers to begin with, but they still make marvelous administrators for other reasons.


How did you become a mod? How would a normal member become a mod?


Modesty is a keyword here. People asking or expecting to get status rarely actually get it.

Another important part is that you have to be a "good user": you know the rules, you obey them, and in addition you also contribute. Ask anyone, especially moderators of Contributions & Corrections, and they'll give you a story like "I offered to help out and after doing a lot of work I was rewarded for my efforts." This is pretty much how I became one.


Did Gamefreak even intend to create a competitive Pokemon metagame?


I really don't know what GameFreak intended to do with Pokemon, but Nintendo surely never intended to create a competitive game, at least initially. For a game with so much potential like Pokemon, Nintendo's chosen path of marketing was to make Pokemon action figures, a self-contradicting TV show, even-more-contradictory movies and a degenerate card game. It was clear that Nintendo didn't follow GameFreak's possible Pokemon vision. As long as they can sell products and make money, things are good, and what better audience than the highly impulsive 8-year-olds?

By choosing this path, the players who do wish to play Pokemon for its game design are left on their own. But eventually, groups of interested players banded together, with the hopes of recruiting players and helping them understand the game. Today, this group of players is largely represented by our website.


How has Smogon changed over the time you have been an admin?

—eric the espeon

I divide Smogon into two parts: Pokemon stuff and not Pokemon stuff. The Pokemon stuff has been pretty consistent over the entire time I've been an admin, for several years now. We have always been the top authority on the competitive game, the guardian and keeper of the largest server, the sponsor of the most prestigious tournaments, and the author of the most robust and critical analyses. Obviously those things have evolved as battling simulators have changed and new generations have been released, but the same thread runs all through.

The "not Pokemon" stuff is very different from what it used to be. Long ago, Smogon could have been accurately described as elitism incarnate. Decisions about Pokemon policy and the site were made by the administration and were passed down from on high. Over the past couple of years, a more participative and open environment has developed. The contributions of the Smogon users themselves are valued much more highly, and there are various channels through which anyone can contribute. A particular example of the shift is embodied in the Suspect Test process. Before, when a question of tiering had to be made, the director of the Smogon Tour essentially did what he saw fit and that was that. We've obviously transitioned to a model that gives a voice to the community to participate in the decisions that affect the game that we all love so much.


What do you think is the hardest part of becoming a new member to the Pokemon (Smogon) community, and how did you adapt to the forums and Shoddy battle in order to work your way up to becoming an admin?


I think "fitting in" is the hardest part for new members. Smogon isn't much like any other internet community I've seen, so even if it isn't your first time on the net, new people are bound to have trouble integrating.

Smogon used to be very intimidating to new users. Almost everything a new guy could say would be answered with "who are you?" and new suggestions weren't welcome at all. I believe this has changed significantly. We have parts of the site and forums dedicated to teaching battling, peer to peer reviewing and member suggestions. These are extremely important parts of the community.

I really believe the key to getting to know all of it better is Battling 101. A lot of essentially hired members ready to deal with new people who need to learn the ropes. I personally never had that privilege, but I've seen a lot of (now respected) members say "yeah, I was this guy's tutee".

As for my own integration, I just talked and made friends, while staying myself. It is hard to explain and probably much harder to actually do, but just think of it like being introduced to a whole lot of new people at once. Hanging out on IRC is a great way to get to know the people behind the works.


Do any of you think that Gamefreak is trying to make Pokemon less and less uncompetitive in terms of how we currently play?


I do not. Rather I, having been involved in competitive Pokémon for nearly ten years, feel the contrary is true, and for one crucial reason we shouldn't forget lest we give Gamefreak undue credit for making Pokémon the competitive game our community enjoys today.

488 of the 503 separate Pokémon formes (distinguishing between the different Deoxys and Rotom options, for example), learn Double Team (or Minimize, all Pokémon that learn this move also learn DT); or over 97% of all Pokémon. The ones that cannot learn Double Team are Pokémon like Ditto, Feebas, Unown, and Beldum that hardly (and Smeargle technically only "learns" Sketch). This trend has statistically actually gotten worse from RBY, where the percentage that learned Double Team was "only" slightly less than 95% (143 of 151).

In every generation after RBY, Gamefreak has taken significant if not effective strides towards making Evasion less of a factor. This includes the advent of moves like Foresight and Sweet Scent to indirectly deal with evasion, and Faint Attack and Vital Throw to directly combat it, with the Dark-type Faint Attack having the added bonus of not only hitting Ghost-type Pokémon where Swift could not, but hitting them for super effective damage). Such changes, however, were minor in the face of the new Generation II possibilities, like Baton Passing Double Team with Pokémon like Jolteon and Scizor, or singularly Horn Drill/Fissure/Rest/Sleep Talk Tauros@Leftovers a.k.a. “FishTauros” (OHKO moves are seen as similarly noncompetitive).

Advance brought more options to combat OHKOs and Evasion, namely the Sturdy Ability for the former and Foresight/Swift clones like Odor Sleuth, Shock Wave, Aerial Ace, Shadow Punch and Magical Leaf for the latter. However, with Advance came the advent of a new OHKO move in Sheer Cold with no immunities unlike the previous ones. In addition to this, Baton Pass Zapdos singlehandedly made Double Team an even more potent threat since it could threaten Thunderbolt on the most popular pseudohazer in Skarmory, and the new Taunt allowed Umbreon to stop popular would-be answers like Weezing and the aforementioned Skarmory. From a competitive standpoint, it is not at all apparent that, if we played Advance Pokémon competitively with all moves available, it would have been any more competitive than it was in RBY in venues where evasion were allowed.

Now in DPP, an even higher percentage of Pokémon has access to Double Team. In addition to that, Advance’s Sand Veil Ability was added by Gamefreak to the already fearsome Garchomp, and contributed considerably to its ultimate banishment to Ubers. Tyranitar received an unquestionable buff with its Sand Stream Ability as it now raises the Special Defense of Rock-Type Pokémon in a sandstorm, and Generation IV also brought with it a new fully-evolved Sand Stream Pokémon in Hippowdon that has been OU from the very beginning. Both of these additions onto the Advance framework have made Garchomp’s evasive, noncompetitive (in Smogon’s opinion anyway, which is your question) Ability more relevant than it would have otherwise. None of the supposed answers to evasion, new or old, have worked in practice to even curb Garchomp’s passive evasion. The new contact “Swift clones” in Aura Sphere and Magnet Bomb are learned by a grand total of five Pokémon that aren’t NFE or Uber, and buffed never-miss Yawn would likely not be able to counteract the sheer number of Pokémon that learn Double Team. Maybe, with regard to Garchomp specifically, the facts that its evasion did not require a moveslot like Double Team does and Garchomp’s given fantastic typing/stats and efficient movepool made it strong it its own right are reasons that Sand Veil isn’t the only culprit, but to go back to your question, this does not have any bearing on the fact that Gamefreak decided to give such an already-strong Pokémon a noncompetitive Ability and avail to it two fantastic passive activators.

So while there are a few other things Gamefreak has done to make the game more competitive over the generations, I would argue that it has always been in response to the completely uncompetitive things they have included into the game, intentionally or otherwise. Not only since the beginning in 1996, but in subsequent generations. Wobbuffet’s Shadow Tag in Advance made for the most uncompetitive battles, since two Wobbuffet would grind competition to a halt if both held Leftovers, so Gamefreak was merely rectifying their own oversight there. FishTauros in Generation II may have been answered in Advance by such Pokémon as Sturdy Skarmory, Forretress and Donphan, which admittedly are great Tauros counters in general should it not be using OHKO moves. But what of the simultaneous addition of Sheer Cold to the movepools of big, bulky Ice-type and Water-type Pokémon like Articuno, Lapras, and Walrein with which the aforementioned trio of Sturdy Pokémon are hard-pressed to deal? And with the supposed new answers to evasion from RBY to GSC like Foresight and Vital Throw, there also came Leftovers (on Pokémon with essentially 252 EVs in all six stats since GSC did not observe Effort Values) and Baton Pass to make OHKO and Evasion strategies more potent in spite of whatever their supposed new answers were.

Gamefreak does not show any signs of limiting the number of Pokémon that can learn Double Team. Hopefully, when Smogon tests the viability of such strategies in the Suspect Test later this year, we will see to what extent they are still broken as they considerably were in prior generations. Double Team may not even be a viable strategy, nor may be the use of OHKO moves. But again, given their unquestionable noncompetitive nature, these possibilities do not have any bearing on Gamefreak’s either inconsistent or nonexistent desire to make Pokémon more competitive in the eyes of our competitive battling community.


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