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Game Freak on Pokemon Sword/Shield – UK inspiration, making new Pokemon, new features, music, more

Posted on June 14, 2019 by (@NE_Brian) in News, Switch

The Pokemon Company has shared an official interview with Game Freak’s Junichi Masdua and Shigeru Ohmori. The two developers, director and producer of Pokemon Sword/Shield respectively, had lots to say about the Switch games and more. They spoke about taking inspiration from the UK for the Galar region, what it’s like creating new Pokemon, new features being implemented, the music, and more.

Here’s the full interview:

Designing the Galar Region One of the first things we wanted to ask about is the theme of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. What do you hope the players get out of their experience in the Galar region?

Shigeru Ohmori: The biggest theme in these games is the idea of being the greatest or the strongest. And we express that through the Nintendo Switch being the most powerful system that Pokémon games have been on before in terms of the graphical capabilities and hardware specifications. Also, the Dynamax feature shows how Pokémon become huge and strong. We really want players to feel the idea of strength come through these games. Tell us about the Galar region. What was the inspiration behind this new region? Why did you feel this would be a good setting for the next big Pokémon adventure?

Ohmori: The Galar region is based on the UK, and it ties back into the theme of “strength.” There are a lot of legends in the UK of giants and whatnot, and we’re trying to convey that in these games as well. Creating an entirely new region sounds like a daunting task. How long does it take to develop a new region? What goes into the planning of these worlds?

Ohmori: It really depends on the game, but development can go on for quite some time. Specifically with Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, we began the conceptual phase immediately after development wrapped up on Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. That concept phase took about a year, and then we moved on to full production. All of that, along with the debug phase, took about three years.

Creating New Pokémon We see you’re holding these large plush versions of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield’s first partner Pokémon. What is the thought process behind creating new first partner Pokémon? Are they designed as first partners from the start, or do you design multiple new Pokémon and then decide which ones will become the first partners?

Ohmori: The way the Pokémon design process works is different each game, but for the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield process, we first had our planners and concept designers work to come up with the settings for where these three first partner Pokémon will be in the game. They created a text file with the thoughts of what that would be.

They then worked with our artists and designers to come up with the designs that would fit that concept. So from the beginning, Scorbunny, Grookey, and Sobble were designed to be these games’ first partner Pokémon. How do you define the individual character of each Pokémon? The new first partner Pokémon, for example, seem to have pretty defined personalities.

Ohmori: One thing that sets Pokémon apart from other character brands is that we don’t set out to design the Pokémon to be characters themselves. Instead, they’re supposed to be these living creatures that are believable as existing in their own environment. Like Wooloo, for example. You can picture that living on its own in the wild like an animal would.

But it is a little bit different for the first partner Pokémon. We try to infuse them with a fixed personality. For example, Sobble is kind of a crybaby Pokémon, while others might be more active or excitable. In general, they’re designed to be believable, living creatures, but we try to create more fixed personalities for the first partner Pokémon.

Masuda: For the first partner Pokémon in particular, those are the first Pokémon that the player is going to choose, so having them convey a straightforward personality is important. It makes it a lot easier to choose. Maybe people who are sad can choose Sobble. (Laughs.) Now, you mentioned Wooloo, which is a recently revealed Pokémon that seems to have become extremely popular with fans. Are you ever surprised by which Pokémon the public seems to latch on to?

Ohmori: When we were developing the new Pokémon, Wooloo was just another Pokémon that was there in the mix. I always thought it was cute, but it definitely caught me by surprise just how popular it became and how much the fans embraced it!

Developing a New Pokémon Game What did you learn about Nintendo Switch development during Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! that you used during development of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield?

Ohmori: Well, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! were our first full Pokémon game projects that we developed on the Nintendo Switch, and it was almost sort of a research project for us to learn how to develop on that system. We did learn a lot that we were able to use. From a programming perspective, we were able to use a very similar code base when we were working on Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Without having made those games, we probably wouldn’t have been able to deliver Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield at this time. There were different teams working on those different games, but we were able to use a lot of what we learned. What elements do you feel are essential to a core Pokémon RPG?

Masuda: Poké Balls! (Laughs.)

Ohmori: (Laughs.) That’s a little bit broad… Let me think of something! One of the things I always put a lot of focus on is the feeling of growing alongside your Pokémon throughout the adventure. I think that’s pretty core to the series.

Masuda: One of the things about Pokémon in general is that the wild Pokémon start out as— They’re sort of like enemies, but you can catch them, and they become your friends. So, we want to make sure that the Pokémon never come across as too evil. They’re not just bad guys—they can also be your friend. Having that kind of relationship, I think, is key to the series. And then sort of the inverse of that, what traditional elements do you feel can be given a new spin in these core RPGs?

Ohmori: One example is how you encounter wild Pokémon. It was always random encounters, and we did a lot of experimentation on ways we could change that up a bit. Then we tried encountering Pokémon that you see walking around on the field. Then, in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, we landed on this kind of hybrid system.

Masuda: A lot can change. Every new game, we’re thinking of the era in which the games are going to be released and who the target audience is. So depending on that and who we’re trying to make these games appealing for, things can change every time.

Ohmori: It can be even something as small as being able to use the Right Stick to freely move the camera in the Wild Area. That was something that hasn’t been in a Pokémon game before. There was a lot of debate internally about if we should let people control the camera. We tried it out and decided that it was something that we wanted to include in the game.

That’s an example of meeting the needs of the time. It’s just become so normal now for games to allow you to control the camera. Players are used to that, so we felt it would work well here. Does GAME FREAK consider Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield to be more of a portable experience or more of a console game that you would play on a TV?

Masuda: It’s kind of hard to say. We really view it as both. For example, the Dynamax Pokémon look a lot more impressive on a big-screen TV, so maybe doing Max Raid Battles is something you would want to experience on a TV. But at the same time, you can take it anywhere you go and enjoy your adventure anywhere. It really comes down to the player’s play style.

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