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  • Writer's pictureZhiguo Lai

Pokemon: Open World?

As the most successful game of Nintendo, almost every game player are guessing what the Pokemon Generation 8 looks like. Due to the two brothers of Pokemon on Switch, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, have earned so many prizes from the game industry and told the whole world what will be a player's expectation for an open world game. I strongly hold the view that the Pokemon Gen 8 would become an open world game and change the whole world game industry again. Besides, after I played the first Pokemon on Nintendo Switch I think The Pokemon Company and Game Freak have tried some open world elements in Pokemon Let's GO, Pikachu/Eevee!

As a game designer, I think to do exercise as a game designer of other games that have not been published would be very beneficial for my future career because you have the chance not only to design a game by using theory you learned from previous amazing games but also to exam your design skill when the game is published. So, in my opinion, the process of designing Pokemon Gen 8 is to answer these questions: what is a good open world game, what is a Pokemon game, how to combine them together well.


What is a good open world game?

When talking about the open world game, one of the best open world game is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Game designers in this game designed a perfect world for players. With those physic rules and chemical rules, players can do almost everything that can be imagined and those cannot be imagined. They defined everything in the game 2 types, material and elements so that after they finished all the interaction between materials and elements they will build a highly realistic world for players. So I think a good open world is a world that supports a strong connection between each object so that whatever object players are interacting will all match the players' expectation.

On the other hand, this design also has a constraint because the interaction only exists between objects in the game. While player barely finds this freedom is an illusion because of the indirect control. For example, when a player wants to cross a river in the game, they only have three choices, use wind to push a boat, use fire to produce updraft or use Ice to build a bridge. But the expectation of a player is not generated by empty, players will build their assumption of this problem in one of the previous method. Because human has a magic behavior that will try to solve problems through knowledge and tools they have. Players learn those rules during the game start and when they observed the problem they will get their own conclusion and if they find out their conclusion can be done in the game, they will think this game owns a high degree of freedom.

So freedom of a game is not talking about wheteher this game has everything, is talking about what the expectations can players get from your world.


What is a Pokemon game?

When talking about the essences of Pokemon, I want to use the newest trailer of Pokemon games to answer this question. The permanent elements in every Pokemon traditional games, which has a title like Pokemon: A/B, is collecting and fighting. Collecting involves encounter system and social system while fighting contains battle system and foster system. As a most successful pet game, it perfectly builds the experience you will have about the pet in the real world. Because those experience can be found in the real world so that it is possible to design an open world Pokemon game for the reason that an open world is a perfect stage to generate those experiences. So I think game designers from Pokemon design core systems by combining those behavior players will have in the real world with the system content. For example, your pet will follow your order so that they design the battle system as a turn-based game that Pokemon will attack under players' order. And Pokemon GO is also a successful example of combining experience with the real world. You have to go to a certain place to meet your pokemon like you have to drive to a shop to meet your pets.

However a good game is not only duplicate the experience from the real world to the virtual world but also generate an experience that only exists in players dream. That is why I think the game designer is also a dream maker. For example, almost everyone has a dream to defeat others or become a hero. So that the battle system and social system serve these experience quite well which helps the Pokemon to become such a brilliant game. You can fight with other trainers all around the world, fight with enemies and save the world form those mythic Pokemons. Who does not have a dream about saving a world?


What is the combination of a Pokemon game and an open world game?

When I try to tackle this problem, the memory in my deep heart comes out and I can still remember those tears when I was watching this trailer three years ago. Even though is it not like what is in the Pokemon GO at present. I still think this video indicates what experience you can get from an open Pokemon world because this video shows the experience that the designers think will have in reality or in other words, real world.

First, the encounter system would give players more freedom to feel like you are in a live world. In Gen8 I think the encounter system will still like the one in Let's Go. Because it changed the Pokemon game from passive game to active game. This encounter system not only gives players more freedom to makes them feel satisfied but also generate an expectation in player's heart of seeing Pokemon that are very rare. Nowadays players become more and more fastidious so that popular games are trying to provide them with choices of experience instead of only experiences.

Second, the battle system would involve more interaction with the environment while the turn-based game frame will still keep because this core game mechanic is not only how players have experienced for 20 years but also how TPC used for other relevant tournaments which have already build a solid ground for each one participates. For example, in the original game when you use Thunder in rainy day the accuracy will become 100, this rule is only shown as a number from 70 to 100. While in my design, this element can be expressed by the world, which means during the rainy day the Thunder's effect will become more strongly and the range will become bigger to show how the accuracy change happens. Furthermore, I will design the combat system more live through using the battle map more often because the battle map belongs to a world. In the original game, the battle map is only a flat surface and even will not change when those moves which can change the battlefield effect were used in the game. For example, when Pikachu uses Quick Attack it will move through the surface of the scene, use rocks, walls or even jump over obstacles. The route will change due to the different scene which seems like Pikachu is real instead of a group of 0 and 1.

Last but not least, the world of players can be defined by the newest technology, which means players can see each other in the game maybe. In the pokemon Let's Go, we can see two players already even though the player 2 is only a follower. This feature leads to a crazy idea about what if the screen can show more players and all of them are controlled by other players, maybe 2 or 4 at the same time as Diablo 3. This design will lead players to interacts each other in a more lively way instead of just user interface because UI will pull players from the world they are enjoying.



1. A good open world game does not mean it has every choice player can make in the real world. It means the player can make choice they conclude from the previous learning in your world and use indirect control to limit their conclusion.

2. Not every game has the chance to build an open world. Games are about experiences so that I think those games which provide players experience which can found in the real world are the better seed for an open world.

3. Game design is not only about bringing the experience in the real world to the virtual world but also about bringing the experience in players' heart to the virtual world.

4. When designing an open world for a game, designers still need to think about the core experience that the original game has and focus on these expereinces, because the open world is not the soul of the game. It is only a better way to provide players with experiences.

5. Try to imagine the view of the experience you want to provide to your player in the real world. Analyze the element and materials in them, build connections between each one. It is helpful for building a solid rule for an open world.


Research resources:


Change and constant: Breaking Conventions with 'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild'

by Takuhiro Dohta, Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa


'Pokemon Go' & Designing Interactive Games for the Real World

by Dennis Hwang

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