"One thing that happens a lot – well, not a lot – but happens sometimes, is that you start out with a cat, and when it evolves one easy idea is to say, ‘Okay, now there’s more heads.' We always want to make sure we think, ‘Why does that happen?’"
- Longtime Game Freak dev Junichi Masuda, walking through the design process for new Pokemon.
Pokemon aren't born. They're made in the offices of creator Game Freak, and in a recent conversation with Game Informer longtime Pokemon developer Junichi Masuda says the studio's working environment allows for anyone to pitch a new critter for the long-running franchise.
"The graphic designers are obviously going to be the ones finalizing the look, but it’s not just the graphic designers who come up with ideas or draw the Pokémon,” he said. "These ideas come from a lot of different places, the gameplay, the visuals, the story, and in the end those ideas just get centralized and designed.”
That echoes what Game Freak's Hironobu Yoshida told Gamasutra a few years back about the collaborative nature of Pokemon design, which involves everyone having access to each other's work "to see what everyone else is working on and to get ideas from each other."
But Masuda goes on to walk Game Informer through the Pokemon design process in a bit more detail. He suggests that while it's very rare for an idea to get thrown away entirely, the Pokemon dev team has to be very careful to come up with reasonable explanations for why a new Pocket Monster would exist, what they would eat, and how they would evolve over time. Apparently, it's very common to just add on a bunch more heads.
"We always want to make sure we think, ‘Why does that happen?’ And when it evolves why does it have three heads? So that’s just something we’re always trying to think of – what’s the reason for what changes and how it looks?” said Masuda, in the process quickly doodling a three-headed cat on a nearby whiteboard. “Even if I said I really wanted to make this, I would probably get shot down.”
Curious devs can read more of his comments on Pokemon design, including an explanation of how Pokemon physiology has changed as game consoles have gotten more powerful, over on Game Informer's website.