Now that you mention that, it makes sense. I always felt that the Pokémon franchise is a bit conservative. Many franchises try to add more, and more, and more over time. It can become a trap for developers.
JM: With each Pokémon title, we're trying to do something revolutionary among Pokémon titles -- like with the communication features, this time, with the PSS and Pokémon Amie. So we do add in new elements, but we want to make sure that the core gameplay is something comfortable and familiar to players who have been with the series.
We really pay attention to the basics when creating the series, like the core gameplay -- for example, going into the tall grass and randomly encountering a pokémon and throwing out your pokéball to catch it. That core gameplay was really central to the appeal of Pokémon.
This game does seem to have a lot of new features and enhanced features, such as the ones you mentioned, along with mega evolutions and the move to 3D. How did you approach making new features and making sure they fit without letting them overwhelm the core gameplay?
JM: With each game, I'm always thinking about what I want to do with that particular game. This time, I focused on thinking of the variety of ways that people want to play the games, and then adding new elements to answer those different styles. Pokémon Amie is for people who want to reach out and play with their pokémon, and pet them. PSS is for battling and trading for people who really want to focus on that. And then we have Super Training, which is the other screen on the bottom screen that helps players who aren't so familiar with how to raise competitive pokémon maybe do that a bit easier. And I think this kind of variety and versatility is important. Another thing we focus on is not introducing new elements which are too similar to things we've done in the past. Coming up with new things is very important.
Of course, new features always try to add depth to certain gameplay elements. For example, going back to Pokémon Amie, there's certain little games you can play with your pokemon where they copy your movement using the facial recognition technology. You can tilt your head one way, and they'll copy that. You can close your eyes, and they'll close their eyes -- of course, you probably can't see that if you have your eyes closed. By doing this, and befriending your pokémon, deepening that relationship, it'll play into the core gameplay a little bit more, where they'll help you out in battle -- dodge moves more, land more critical hits. Even with new features, we're trying to add more depth to the gameplay.
How do you avoid making features feel like gimmicks, and instead help them feel part of the core gameplay?
JM: It's really just making sure that if we have one idea, it doesn't just end right there. If we have one idea, for example, the planners at Game Freak will come up with an idea for something and they'll create the spec document for that, but that won't be the end of it. We'll implement it into the game and come up with more ideas, adding all of these different layers of ideas to increase the gameplay. Of course, this style -- I don't know how common it is in the game industry -- it's very hard for our programmers to always accommodate this. It really allows us to add new ways to play and add a lot of depth to these individual features every time.
If you follow Pokémon on the internet, you know about the very hardcore players who get very deep into the game. At the other end, you have the total novices who just started the game for the first time. How do you cater to a wide range of players, from novices to experts and in between?
JM: I think what allows us to do this is that the RPG portion, the core adventure portion of each game, is kept relatively simple. We always make sure that the entrance to the games, getting into them, is quite easy. At the beginning, we explain what Pokémon is about, explain the basics. We do this so that not just players who have never played Pokémon before, but players who have never played a video game before can really just get started, get into the game, know what to do, and really have a good time.
But, however, once the main adventure is over, we have the really finely balanced battle system with a lot of depth, a lot of strategy. I think that's what's really satisfying to the players who get into it. It's almost like a sport at this point. We have tournaments, and World Championships every year, and the champions of those World Championships are constantly changing.
I think that with Pokémon X and Y, we've increased that level of depth even more with the addition of mega evolutions. So I think both of these -- having that really simple, easy-to-get-into RPG element combined with this sport-like really deep battle system is what allows us to appeal to so many different players.