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A Direction for Pokéngine

At the moment, development for Pokéngine is focused on the content creators, and not the players. My view of Pokéngine (I'm not sure if this aligns with everyone's views, but I'd bet it's fairly close for the most part) is that there are two main features to it. One is the design tool, content-creation, side of things—letting anyone build up their own Pokémon, and making that process as easy-to-use and convenient as possible, like a game-design tool, à la RPG Maker. The other is the actual engine on which the games are run—and with that, the multiplayer aspects such as chatting, exploring together, and so on. In recent time, the former has been the focus, with a new mapbuilder being planned, along with a new site to make everything more cohesive.

I think this is the wrong way to go. The most important aspect of Pokéngine is the game itself: it is that—not the boards, or development, or anything else—that the community built up around. What do people get excited about when they see a new fan-game, or a screenshot someone has posted on dA? It is the prospect of a new adventure—the story, the Pokémon, and all that goes along with that. Sure, the community is an integral part of Pokéngine, as it is with any project, but that comes after and along with the game itself.

What do new players see when they come to this site at the moment? A big image telling them they cannot play. This has been the state of the game for over a year now. And with signs like that, what's going to make someone stick around? Recently, someone posted on the main board asking for reasons this site is of any interest. And the truth is, at the moment, for someone with no access to the game, there is no reason to stay. The community isn't worth joining simply because it's there. It's something that is built up around something.

So what do I propose? Why point these things out, which are probably already very clear to everyone?

I think Pokéngine needs a change of direction. Not a change that anyone would have disagreed with before—maybe one that people already think is being done, but it needs to be an official, recognised direction, with a community-wide effort to realise it. If we do this together, then we can bring Pokéngine back to what it was before, and far exceed it too.

A new direction
First, on the programming side of things, the features related to the game are the ones that need to be worked on first. That means:
• The bag system. The actual mechanics of this is already mostly done for the battle system—it just needs a UI. Once that is done, already far more functionality is opened up, such as capturing Pokémon, and using Potions and other items in-battle.
• The Pokémon Storage System (PSS/PC). A limit of 6 accessible Pokémon is far too little. Again, we just need a UI for the PSS, and once that's done, players will be encouraged to go around collecting Pokémon.
• Multiplayer battles. Yes, I'll need to do a bit of work on this too, but multiplayer battles add a whole level of enjoyment and replayability to the game, especially once they get competitive.
• Encounters—this is the sort of feature that I would class as a tool, but this one is actually necessary, so is valuable to be worked on. It shouldn't take too long to finish though, which makes it different from a large rewrite as has been the trend as of late.
• Story variables—again, a content-creation tool, but vital in order to allow the story to progress. Something as simple as a load of flags would work and would allow for proper stories / side-quest, etc.
• Small features such as an indoor map flag, to stop it growing dark as night, and any other little bugs that are breaking the immersion of the game world.

Only after everything critical to the game-play has been finished, only then should the creation tools be worked on. There are far fewer content-creators than players (or there certainly would be if there was a proper game to play). This means a rewrite of the site should not be worked on until after everything else is done. Sure, it's useful. No-one will disagree with that. But the game is undeniably the most important part of Pokéngine, so we need to focus on that.

Then, on the content-creators' side. This is just as important as the actual game-play features. Previously, people work on their own things, with maybe some help from a couple of other people. Everyone has their own region, and that is their primary focus. It has led to some fantastic maps over the past few years, but even now, none are close to completion (and by this, I mean not just the mapping, but also NPCs, battles, the game story, etc.). This is partially due to working battles having not been implemented until quite recently, but even so. When a player starts a new game, they want to be able to play through what they know and love—a full, proper Pokémon game. They don't want to get to the first city, and then realise from then on out, there's not that much to do.

It's obviously too much to ask to tell people to "finish your regions, ASAP!"—people have only as much time as they can commit, and a region and story is a big task. They're competing with entire development teams working on the actual official Pokémon games. How can they compete? Well, there's one way that has been shown to be very effective in certain areas so far—working together in larger teams (just like the professionals). We have so many talented people, and yes, making something of your very own is fantastic, but think how much we could achieve if everyone worked together on a single region and story for a length of time—maybe up until the 4th Gym or something like that. Plan out a story, the basic layout of the region, then assign people to map different parts, or write some of the dialogue. We'd make far more progress, and we could drop the new players into that region, where they'd be able to experience a "full game" without interruption for a prolonged time. Once we have a significant portion of that game done, then people can go back to working on their own stuff, for when players complete the main (initial) story.

A roadmap
So, in summary, here's what I think we need to do to get Pokéngine back on track and get it opened up, and attracting a new influx of players, in as little time as we can:

1. [Programming] Complete the Bag widget and the PC box system.
[Content] Decide upon a name for a region. Plan out the basic structure (climate, shape, etc.). Maybe open up a new thread group for it (or a Google Doc or something for easy collaboration). Work out who's going to work on what (e.g. someone may map the starting town, and first three routes; someone will balance the Pokémon and trainer battles for those areas; someone will do the next town; etc.).
2. [Programming] Add multiplayer battles and all those little features necessary for actually playing the game (choosing a starter, the Pokédex widget, etc.), as well as anything else that is shown to be missing while developing the region.
[Content] Start planning out the basic story, the characters, etc. as well as the locations in the game, so everyone's working towards the same goal.
3. This is the stage where things are worked on—I'm sure there will be problems popping up from time to time, but nothing we can't sort out. This is where we're working towards a working, fully-fledged game. Again, programming should focus on actual game-play, not content development apart from those things which have been shown to actually be slowing down development of the region. This means small features, not rewrites of any major components.
4. When we've got a decent way, it's time to start opening the game up to new people. Either through invitations, or just sign-up for anyone, I don't think it really matters at this stage. Just some way to get new people into the game. This will be a sure way to find new bugs, or confusion in the story, etc. However, this is still the beta-testing stage, and players must be warned that their progress may not be permanent at this stage. This is important, as described in a later step.
5. When everything's been ironed out and the game is significantly progressed (maybe up to 6th Gym, or even further), we should initiate the reset. This means that proper security has been implemented on the programming side, so players cannot get hacked Pokémon, or anything like that (this shouldn't be too difficult to ensure—I think almost everything like that can be moved server-side). All players' Pokémon, items, etc. should be reset. There are just too many people with illegitimate Pokémon, and it will spoil the game if it's kept on into the new game. It's like Gen VI was before hacked Pokémon finally started getting into the system—a real joy. The power to spawn Pokémon and items should be removed from all but the highest staff levels (probably Developer and Admin, or maybe even more limited than that). Can you think of a legitimate reason to spawn items or Pokémon? We want to keep this game as legitimate as possible. (Thought will need to go into other regions, but for now I'm just thinking about this confined to the main region.)
6. And then let's see where that gets us.

Additionally, on a slightly different note, I'm not sure what the setup with GitHub is at the moment, but if it's not the case already, it'd be great if the GitHub code was the code actually used for the game (maybe pulled at the end of every day or something, so it's always at-most a day behind). That way, people'd be able to submit little fixes more easily. I might have 20 minutes or so free, in which I don't have time to work on a major issue (such as those that are left with the battle engine), but want to fix a small issue with the main game, and if I can just go in and commit that change, and have it automatically appear in the game, that makes development a lot less of a hassle, and encourages more rapid iterations. Then the issue tracker on GitHub can be used for all the bugs in the game, making it far easier to spot what needs to be done.

This means both the main game code and the code for things like Tilefuser, Mapbuilder, etc. needs to be on GitHub (possibly as separate projects under the same group), so all of them can be worked on when need-be.

Your thoughts
I've just noted how much smaller our regular community is nowadays. Sure, there are many reasons, but one is undoubtedly the fact that game has a wall around it, with no-one new being let in, and the fact that the game does not have the potential to be a full Pokémon game with its current feature-set. This is just a brief outline of my thoughts, but I'd like to hear what you think. With a dedicated movement from the entire community, I think we can build something we're proud to show others, and lets people experience that excitement of a new Pokémon game, in less than a year and finally get to the place we all want Pokéngine to be. I thought I'd let the staff talk over it first, before we share it with the whole community (if, indeed, others agree, that this is a way we can make Pokéngine truly great). Give me your thoughts.
Last edited on 17th March 2015 at 17:14 by DarkMatter

I feel that Pokengine is focused on content creators, at the moment; due to it being realistically the only thing that people can do; and obviously other features being developed by Darkmatter and Jext, will take time to come to fruition. So in a way, we are kind of limited to what we can involve new people with. I mean I wasn't a content creator when I first joined Pokengine, but I am now; so evidently people's intentions change.

I've always been one for developing the actual game, hence why I've tried to contriubute as much as I am able, such as concepts for the travel and offering overarching things for all regions, not just my own.

I agree with Darkmatter's statement about 'why would people stick around', and it's hard to say, I mean apart from the forums, with rather weird things in posts occasionally (which are often inside jokes between the existing community, which may or may not be off putting to prospective members). Obviously those who have stuck with the engine are still here, and the community that we have is very niche; we may be welcoming but it's still just this community. It needs to be built around the game itself. I myself joined in January 2013; and I integrated myself, and it's why I'm still here; we need a way of involving prospective members; in the ongoing development of things, and integrating them similarly to how I did.

I mean take the old site for example, it had that little route game thing which was playable, where you could visit different towns and stuff on that map and battle and stuff (albeit in a very simplistic way, similarly to Pokempn Battle Crater (if anyone remembers that) and other MMO's), but yet it was something that was still bringing people in and keeping people interested. I feel that a change of direction is needed too, whether that be a drastic change, or some rather small ones is too be decided, but a change is needed nevertheless.

On the programming side of things, we need to bring the more important aspects to the forefront:

- Battling (Full Functionality) Obviously Darkmatter, Jext and whoever else is working on this are doing their best to implement this, in the best and fastest way possible due to it being essentially the foundation for any Pokemon game.

- The Storage System - Well this was done before Jext overhauled the system; so perhaps there's a way to edit that bit code to make it quicker to access? Just a thought.

- Pokemon|Pokemon Statistics - This is obviously one of the more important things, and with some of it implemented (pokemon are visible within the widget) it should be easily completed.

- The Bag System - Not really much to say, apart from it would help with the Pokemon aspects of catching and healing and stuff.
- Multiplayer battles - As with Darkmatter I do think this adds a whole new level of enjoyment, and with this would come tournaments. This is perhaps something which can be delayed, as it's not immediately needed, due to single play being something Pokemon players enjoy as well, it just limits the MMO experience.

- Encounters - This should just be implemented into Mapbuilder, as an easier way of changing encounters in area's.

- Story Variables - Not an immediate thing, but important nevertheless. This would entirely be down to content creation, and the limits will be set by how much is made. This isn't necessarilly needed, until regions are completed.

- Small features such as; Day/Night and Seasons - could be implemented similarly to Black and White's seasons. Seasons every 3 months. To stop it getting dark to early or too dark, a different time setting could be put in, which makes it run faster.

Now, in relation to what Darkmatter has said about there are far fewer content-creators than players, I think is true but not to the same degree. There are a plentiful of content creators, and inticing them in should be a way of increasing the game's focus, and bring both creativity and functionality to the forefront. As much as I agree that the critical game-play has to be implemented, the creative content is just as important, as you need these to enjoy the critical game-play. I just think overall, it goes hand in hand.

A rewrite of the site however as I have said before should be the last of our worries, but I think, their should be a forum header for Off-Topic discussion, instead of being all lumped in Global. I myself find it extremely odd to visit the site and find something, you don't have a clue about. Global I think should be kept to Global News about Pokengine, and is the perfect place for Stickied Threads.

I do think that from a creation side, we do need to work together more closely. I mean I've been lucky to have help from everyone here, but for those who may not be so confident or a certain skill is lacking, we should offer assitance. People are always prone to working on thier own things, and with a Pokemon Region, people often think of it as their 'baby'; it's their vision and that's how they want it to look. I mean we are lucky because content is shared between those of us active on Pokengine.

I myself wanted to help people on the Tilefuser side of things, hence why I'm using Ultimo-Spriters Black and White Rips (which are free to use), and putting them into a Tileset (79) to increase productivity. I mean nearly all existing tilesets don't have the tiles to make a fully functional region, and I think it's this which limits the production of maps. For those who can't create tiles, but can map (like myself, although I'm learning) this can be exceptionally offputting.

I agree with Darkmatter, about a community region being made, with allocated mappers, tilespriters, fakemon artists - to create something which is complete by the time new people are able to play. Whilst they are in said community region, other region development could continue during that period, whether other regions be locked out or just partially accessible.

I'm not going to put a roadmap like Darkmatter has, as I do agree with it.

These are just my thoughts on the situation, and if any upset has been caused I apologise. My intention is to help improve things for everyone.

This is a very good, well-thought-out post, and it's an opportunity for me to say some things that have been on my mind, too.

I enjoy Pokengine and the creativity that the community is putting forth, but it's true that from a certain perspective, progress on the game has stagnated somewhat (sorry!) and it has instead become a toy for the few content creators who are allowed access. I see all the potential that Pokengine has, and the amazing amount of work that's already been done, but if I were just discovering it for the first time, I would immediately dismiss it as another too-big-for-its-britches fan project and pay it no mind.

I know that a lot of this is as a result of the project changing hands several times, and losing programmers until it's only 2 people working on a project that's really of an epic scale, and it's entirely done as a hobby in between the developers' other life stuff. Nobody's getting paid for this (that I know of), yet the project continues onwards, with hours of their free time being donated to coding and re-coding, and I can only imagine what the server costs must be like. The programmers have been incredibly generous to give us content creators the tools to make realizing a dream that many of us have -- a fully-functional, massively-multiplayer Pokemon Game builder -- a reality.

It seems blatantly unfair to keep that closed off to only a few people, when this incredible work deserves to be seen and appreciated by everyone. But I also understand that nobody, not the content creators nor the programmers, want to open up a game to the public that isn't finished. For that reason, I agree with Darkmatter about prioritizing completion of the Bag, Pokemon, Battle and PC system. Once those core systems are rolled out, the game can begin functioning more like a real Pokemon game, and less like a pretty-map-exploration simulator.

I don't agree with everything in the itinerary, though. I don't see why an entirely new region has to be created, not when there are at least 2 regions -- Atlas and Aristos -- that have a substantial amount of content already, including multiple Gyms, routes, characters, plots, etc. Aristos in particular uses canon Pokemon, which is a good place to start because introducing new Fakemon creates potential balance issues, and therefore must be tested first. Also, some Fakemon lack parameters (stats, moves, abilities) which have to be written out and implemented, whereas canon Pokemon don't have this issue. This is why I think that Aristos would be a good region to start out with. Plus, it looks damn good, too.

Now, I understand that both of these regions are private, and that their designers would want complete creative control, and don't want to open their games to the public until they are complete, or at least less noticeably WIP. But, based on the progress that has already been made, it would be much faster and more effective to go with one of our pre-existing regions that already has a lot of work done on it, rather than make one completely from scratch. Of course, this all depends on what Ginzuishou wants to be done with his region, I can't speak for him. But I'm very impressed with the work he has done thus far, and I'm sure he wants more people to experience Aristos and appreciate his hard work and beautiful tiles.

But yeah, in sum, 100% agreed that the first priority has to be implementing systems to make the game playable. After that, depending on what the content creators decide, we can roll out some form of public beta.

Check out the Tandor region!

To clarify: the community region could well be one that already exists. As long as the region creator, and the community, are happy to work on it, there's no reason we shouldn't work on one that's already in-the-works. I agree that that could well be better.

Also, I think that a region with fakémon is a necessity. New Pokémon are one of the factors that really excites new players, as it feels like an entirely new generation. We have some very talented people with balancing Pokémon, and I'm sure that wouldn't be an issue.

That's a possible solution, but I don't think anyone is going to be that willing, as they've already worked on things themselves.
Working part-way through, although less work, I feel wouldn't be work as well as doing it from, scratch as that community region incentive will already be there.

I feel that fakemon are necessary, and to not include them would be a bad idea with a community region as we have the skills to make them.

Granted, my opinion isn't worth much around here nowadays, if it ever was, but I think this is a good idea. I know people in this thread clearly aren't very supporting of it, but I think encouraging team work at the very least is very important if we ever want regions to get made. People reach times where they're too busy to continuously create content, or they realise they're in over their head (I did, my original plans were ridiculously big) and just give up and walk away. Heck, I think people have walked away whilst planning their region simply because there's no point - it's fine to look at it in a map builder, but when you can't walk around your little character and interactive with things, it feels a bit useless. To draw content creators there needs to first be a base game to show that what they're working towards is real, it actually has a chance of happening. They don't want to spend weeks or months building maps and turn around and there has been no visible progress towards completing the actual game. They'll start to wonder why they're doing what they're doing, start to think that the game is never going to finished, and it does like that right now.

It just so happens there's a cycle going on here were the game will need content, and good content, and finished content to draw content creators in in the first place. I love all the regions we've got so far, but frankly none of them feel like finished games. This is partly because of the engine side, but I think it's also partly because being a one man development team is a hell of a lot of work, and people need to at least attempt to work together and collaborate to get things done.

I'm not sure how well written what I just typed really is because I'm tired and distracted and should really be doing other things, but I just think you should be at least a bit more open minded about collaboration, the way you talk sounds, frankly, a bit elitist. Sharing idea and developments isn't a bad thing. I'd personally love to do it, it would make region building a lot easier and probably a lot more fun. Unfortunately I don't think I could deliver on any promises at this time.

Don't get me wrong, I understand what it's like to have conflicting opinions. Personally I think the opinions of everyone here are stupid, but we can still get a long.

just kidding.

we don't need to get a long.

Follow the progress (or lack thereof) of my region by clicking here

Welp, that was a lot to read! All good points, and as someone who doesn't use pokengine very much hopefully I can provide a succinct outsiders perspective.

Let me say that I initially was interested in pokengine after seeing Kyledove's mockups on his DA. The idea of a whole mmorpg(I didn't even know it was supposed to have multiple regions), with well designed fakemon and gorgeous custom graphics, sounded awesome at the time(still does). And quite frankly, years later playing via a beta tester, I was quite content strolling maps and finding new pokemon even albeit the simplistic battles.

Ironically however, the most I've come to use pokengine for is the pokedex feature, which the game I'm working on has found to be an immensely powerful tool for keeping track of the pokedex/sprites across all our contributors. And as we are nearing release of our first demo, I can honestly say we'd be set-back quite some time without it.

So with that in mind, I feel like however you developers choose to move forward is a win-win. Because if you choose to focus more on content creator or game developing tools, than those tools will be used at least by a select few groups. If on the other hand you want that bustling community back right quick, then getting the barebones battle/bag/storage/etc. system up and running will help too.

Anyway you look at it pokengine has been a great experience over the years and I'm looking forward to whatever form that takes.

It's very surprising to see you guys come this far. Here I am, googling my old user name on a random Friday night and behold I find some old sprites in a region known as Umbra. All very intriguing. I just had to register, there was nothing I could do.

DarkMatter, are you afraid of ghosts?

Hey can you give me access to beta tester


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