The Explosion and Fallout of Pokémon Uranium

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Blog Post by Involuntary Twitch

This is a long story, so let’s start with the obvious.

On August 6, 2016, after months of work on testing, refining, and fixing the game, the Uranium Team published the full version of Pokémon Uranium, a fan-made Pokémon game, for free to the internet. What followed was an unprecedented series of events, which we could have never truly prepared for, that would change all our lives, affect thousands of people – and perhaps even reach the creators of Pokémon itself.

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Rising Rainbow: A Retrospective

Ahhh, April 2nd. The day we take a deep breath and calm down after all the ridiculousness that goes down on April 1st. This year was no exception, because a collection of creators in the Pokemon Fangame community – myself included – all came together to pull off a massive prank…

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On Monday the 28th, shgeldz made a brilliant suggestion: make a fake game announcement on April 1st that claimed to be the “Ultimate Fangame Collaboration” between fan game creators. But, when they clicked the download link, it wouldn’t be the ultimate RPG they were expecting, but rather shgeldz’s parody fangame, Pokemon Meat.

Naturally, given the opportunity for hilarity, almost everyone jumped on board immediately. With a never-before-seen dream team that included shgeldz and Starrcasm from Pokemon Ethereal Gates, Gav from Pokemon Phoenix Rising, Suzerain from Pokemon Insurgence, Amethyst from Pokemon Reborn, Jan from Pokemon Rejuvenation and of course myself and JV from Pokemon Uranium, we began to brainstorm how we were gonna make this work.

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Fangame Review: Project S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M

Hi all, and welcome to the latest installment in this blog’s Fangame Review series. Today, we’ll be looking at another project that I played recently, and I will share my thoughts on it. Without any further ado, let’s begin!

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Game Thread on Relic Castle

Project S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M (or, Pokémon Spectrum) is a project made by Kojo which has been in the works since February 2014. It currently has a playable demo that goes up to the 2nd gym, with about 6-8 hours of gameplay. As you might be able to guess based on the logo, the game takes place in the Kroma region which is based on Australia, and is home to more than 100 all-new Pokémon species.

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The Kroma Region

In this game, you can choose between the starters TaplatPyroo and Kokoala, based on a platypus, kangaroo, and koala, naturally. They each gain a secondary typing when they evolve. I quite liked my Pyroo, but it was only one of a great diversity of new Pokémon species that inhabit the region. Fakemon enthusiasts should pay attention to this game, because the monster designs are exceptionally creative. Some of my favorites were…

OlveeOlvee – a Normal-type Chameleon Pokémon. The -vee suffix on its name is no coincidence, because like Eevee, it has many different possible evolutions, all with the -eon suffix, like Bouldeon, Phanteon, and Champeon. Between it and Eevee, there is an evolution for every type.

AychemAychem – an Electric/Normal type artificial Pokémon related to Rotom. Its secondary type changes when it learns a new HM technique. Although the Cut forme is the only one currently available, there will be more formes for it in the future.

Frague-spectrum.pngFrague – A fairy/poison type evolution of Aromatisse. In addition to fakemon, Spectrum contains many new evos and preevos of existing Pokemon, including Ledian, Ariados, Solrock, Lunatone, Kangaskahn, and more. It evolves with the Rainbow Stone, a new item in the game.

Not only are there more than 100 new Pokemon, but they really come alive with fully-animated sprites, evocative of Pokemon Black and White. In fact, the entire game’s style seems reminiscent of Black and White, albeit with its own unique flair. And of course, spriting so many new Pokemon and animating them, front and back, is no easy task – so many kudos to Kojo for pulling it off. I can say with certainty that the end result is jaw-dropping. Every time I encountered a new kind Pokémon, my reaction was: What is it??? and then, I’ve gotta catch it!

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Walking with Pokemon.

The game also brings back the ability to walk alongside your Pokémon in the overworld, a feature I’m sure many players have been missing since HeartGold and SoulSilver. There are even hotkeys to quickly switch around which Pokemon is in front, which makes training them much easier. Although, being able to receive the Exp.Share in the demo would certainly have helped, and is the one thing that I was missing in my journey.

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Exploring the Kroma region

The Kroma region where the game takes place is incredibly diverse, and in the short demo, it already covers a wide range of terrains, including forests, farms, caves, cities, beaches, cliffs, and more. No two areas in the game look alike, and the attention to detail in the environments really immerses you in its world. It’s the kind of game that rewards you for exploring and talking to everyone, and there are many secrets to discover if you’re curious and persistent.

In terms of challenge, I found the game not too difficult – although some might disagree. There are certainly some NPCs that might need rebalancing (like that Ninja…), but since this game is still in beta it’s understandable. One thing that might trip up players is the first gym, which uses a fixed-damage move that will absolutely destroy an unprepared team. However, there is an easy solution, and that’s to evolve your starter beforehand and raise multiple different kinds of Pokémon. After doing that, the first gym was not all that troubling. It can be rewarding to raise different kinds of Pokemon anyway, simply for the joy of discovering what they might evolve into.

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At this stage in its development, the game’s story is only barely beginning to emerge, but it seems different and already I’m intrigued. Who are these mysterious masked people, and what do they want with Shiny Pokémon? It feels like a totally believable story while at the same time seeming completely new. I look forward to finding out more!

I can say without a doubt that this is already a well-made game, even at its early stages of development. Not only that, but recent updates have brought radical improvements to its already solid foundation. Kojo is a talented creator with so many new ideas. I highly recommend giving Project S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M a try if you are a fan of Fakemon, or if you are simply looking for a game that will make you rediscover the joy of having an adventure in an unknown region, with surprises awaiting you wherever you go.

Download Project S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M here

That’s all for today! Up next on this blog, I plan on doing some pixel art tutorials, which hopefully will be quite helpful. Also, if you are the creator of a fangame with a public playable release, and you’d like for me to take a look at it and perhaps review it, don’t hesitate to contact me – either here, on Twitter, or on RC. I await your messages!

Until Next Time,

~ Oripoke

Fangame Review: Pokémon Alabaster

Welcome to a new feature on this blog: the Fangame Review. I will examine a Fangame or Fangame project in detail, sharing my thoughts and impressions upon playing the game. I will highlight the things that I think the project did well on, and also give some suggestions on how I think the game might be improved or expanded upon in the future.

Today, we will be looking at the fangame Pokémon Alabaster.

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Game Thread on Relic Castle

Alabaster arrived without much fanfare late this past December. Its creator, Alababal, has been working on it since 2014. It is quite a substantial game, with 3 Gyms and an estimated 12-15 hours of gameplay. It takes place in the Nyejo region, an all-new region in the Pokemon world. It does not have Fakemon in it; rather, all 721 Pokemon are planned to be included in the final release. As someone who is always on the watch for promising new game projects, this one caught me off-guard by coming from seemingly out of nowhere with a significantly sized game release.

Its unpretentious exterior conceals a surprisingly well-made game, with a degree of polish the likes of which one seldom sees in fangames. It boasts a unique and original story, full of intrigue and plenty of twists and mysteries that I’m still left wondering about. The writing in this game is very strong, clear and even funny sometimes. Without spoilers, the plot is definitely a lot darker than your average Pokémon game, although the specifics of what happened are only revealed as you progress farther into the story. While it features several “Teams” — the ones I’ve seen so far are Team Tectonic and Team Celestial — their motives appear to be unclear and their morals ambiguous. (Well, Team Celestial anyway, Team Tectonic are a bunch of thugs.) What I think is remarkable about the story is the way it slowly builds around you as you discover more and more about the region and the world. With some pretty intense action sequences and climactic battles already, I can only imagine what lies in store for the future. I’m looking forward to finding out!

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The game’s eventing is what allows the story to really shine through: the level of attention paid to small details, like minor NPCs or signposts, serves to immerse the player in the world of the game. I often found myself losing track of time as I played, because I was so curious about what I was going to discover next. It’s clear that the creator has put a lot of careful thought and attention into each area of the game, especially the Academy where your journey begins. There are also some truly ingenious puzzles that require the player to think creatively in order to figure out a solution.

It is also quite tough, along the lines of Pokémon Reborn, Rejuvenation, and similar Fangames. Scarce resources and an unconventional selection of starter Pokémon make the game feel sometimes punishingly difficult. But all battles can be won with some determination, and in my experience all that extra challenge simply adds to the feeling of accomplishment you get when you do win. For a veteran Pokémon player, a truly difficult Pokémon RPG can feel like a breath of fresh air since the Canon Pokémon games have gotten easier in the most recent installments. Though, those averse to doing grinding should keep in mind that I found it necessary at several points throughout the game, mostly before a Gym battle. The EXP system (scaling like in Pokemon Black and White) results in a much slower growth curve than I’m used to. Oftentimes, however, it instead encouraged me to think outside of the box and use more nuanced strategies than simple brute force. The game really inspires you to think creatively in order to win.

There are also Level Caps in the game — a controversial design choice — although I seldom if ever actually hit them in my adventuring. (I think I came close just before graduating from Nyejo Academy, but that was it.)

Also worth mentioning is the game’s original soundtrack, composed by the creator Alababal himself and absolutely one of the best parts of the game experience. It fits in perfectly with the 4th gen style, and there are some seriously catchy melodies (I found myself humming the Academy and Battle themes for hours afterwards).

Let’s move on to the Pokémon. It might seem a little strange for me to be reviewing a non-Fakemon game on this blog that is about Fakemon. But I’m willing to set aside my preferences in this case, because the way Pokémon are included in this game is simply wonderful. They really feel like a part of the world, factoring heavily into the story, your characters’ motivations, the setting, etc. I’m always thrilled when I see Pokémon in the overworld; little details such as that are what really immerse you in the game’s world. To my knowledge, the obtainable starters are: Beldum, Togepi, and Larvesta. Any game that lets me start with a cute fire bug is a great game in my book.

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Let me see if I can sum up my thoughts on Alabaster into a quick bulleted list:

PROS

  • Interesting story that still feels like it’s grounded in the Pokémon world
  • Excellent Maps
  • Catchy Original Soundtrack
  • Challenging gameplay that rewards strategic thinking and patience

CONS

  • Requires some grinding
  • In-Battle graphics are “meh”
  • It’s sometimes not clear where the player should go next
  • Still some bugs to iron out (to be expected, it’s only a beta)

 

In Summary

Pokémon Alabaster is an exceptionally well-done fangame, which is worthy of recognition and more appreciation. Its creator, Alababal, has approached the Pokemon game format with imagination and ambition, and has managed to create something wonderful because of it. Although the slow pace and high level of challenge might feel off-putting to some players at first, I encourage them to stick with it despite all that. It is a game that feels very satisfying to play, and absolutely worth giving it a try and sending the creator some love and appreciation for all of his hard work. So, thanks, Alababal, for sharing your game with us — it’s truly something special.

Download Pokémon Alabaster Here 

That’s it for the first Fangame Review. I plan to do more of these in the future for fangames that catch my interest, not necessarily the most well known ones. If you have any suggestions for games that you would like to see me review, feel free to leave them in the comments below although bear in mind I will pick them at my own discretion.

Okay, peace!

~ Oripoke

So You Want To Make a Pokémon Game

The year is 2015. You’re on Twitter, or YouTube, when suddenly you spot it: a brand-new Pokémon game that you’ve never heard of before! Curious, you look it up in order to find out more, and you discover that this is no ordinary game, it’s a fan made game that looks and feels just like a new Pokemon game, but is free to download and play! Wow, you think, I had no idea that you could do that! Now I want to make a Pokémon game, too!

(Screenshots from Pokémon Ethereal Gates, an upcoming fangame to be released August 20th.)

Woah there, bucko, not so fast. You might think it’s easy to make a Pokémon game, but like any game project, it takes lots of time, careful planning, and dedication before you’ll reach a product that’s at all finalized. It’s important to understand the scale of a project before you dive head-first into a super ambitious game project, or else you risk being overwhelmed and having to cancel it because you didn’t realize how much work it was going to be.

Fortunately, I’m here to guide you. This post will be a tutorial to getting started on making your first fangame — but it will include advice that will hopefully be useful to veteran game developers, too. So, without further ado, here is what you should do:

1. Brainstorm some ideas. Think of what you’ve always wanted to see in a Pokémon game. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either. You may be tempted to follow the classic formula of 8 gyms + evil team, but consider more possibilities: What about a more story-driven game? Or a survival based game? Or a game where you play as a Pokémon? It helps to envision what kind of game YOU would most want to play. Keep track of all your ideas somewhere — in a notebook or a word document. Writing it down helps. Also bounce some ideas off your friends and listen to what they have to say. Have fun with this part! Coming up with new ideas is the most exciting part of game making. Be careful not to grow too attached to any of them at this point, since you might end up changing them around or scrapping them later.

2. Familiarize yourself with the tools used to make a Pokémon game. Yes, before you even finalize the concept for your game, you should explore your options when it comes to creating a fangame. My personal preference, and the base for almost every (non-ROM Hack) game out there today, is Pokémon Essentials for RPGMaker XP. Pokémon Essentials is free to use (although RMXP itself costs between $5 and $20), and is essentially a heavily modified version of the RMXP engine that includes complete functionality of a Pokémon game, and is easy to use with little to no programming knowledge. By default it is modeled on the 3rd generation, but it’s relatively easy to modify to fit any generation style or even a custom style of your very own. The creators of Pokémon Essentials are constantly releasing new updates to it as well, and there is an active community creating and sharing resources. Honestly, it’s never been easier, so what are you waiting for?

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To learn the ropes of Essentials, the base game itself is honestly the best tutorial; it comes with dozens of pre-made maps and events that demonstrate how to use its tools. Another really great resource is Atomic Reactor’s “How To Make a Pokémon Game” video tutorial series on YouTube:

3. Consider the scale of your project. For somebody just starting out, making a full-length classic Pokémon game with hours and hours of gameplay is a hugely ambitious project. If you also plan to add Fakemon to your game, that’s an even loftier goal because then you will need a full set of sprites, along with stats and movesets for every single one. If you’re not ready to handle all that responsibility yet then you should practice making a smaller game first. Remember, none of the time spent working on a project is wasted — even if you decide to scrap it in the end, you will have learned valuable skills that you can bring with you to your next game project. The more games you make, the better you will get at making them.

Pokemon Marigold, a new, non-linear fangame, playable now!

4. Don’t get obsessed with recruiting a team. If you have some friends who want to make the game with you, that’s great. But far too often, people start out with just the bare-bones outline of a game and immediately try to recruit people to make the game for them: mappers, spriters, scripters, composers, etc. You should be ready to take on responsibility for making your game yourself; This may mean learning how to map, write events, make sprites, etc. If you have no artistic talents whatsoever, you can find resources for your game on the internet, on websites like DeviantArt and The Spriter’s Resource where there are many graphics available for public use. If you are using somebody else’s work however, make sure to keep track of it and give credit to them somewhere — it’s just polite.

Also, if you do have a team of people working together on your game: Communication is key. Having a good team dynamic is critical to being productive. Use platforms such as Skype or Slack to keep everybody coordinated and up-to-date on game progress. It doesn’t have to be all professional, though, so feel free to joke around and have fun — you’re probably all Pokémon nerds, anyway.

Phoenix Rising, another upcoming fangame

 

5. Prioritize work on the actual game. What I mean by that is, it’s easy to get sidetracked by making promotional artwork, graphics, memes, etc., but none of these things are going to make your game get finished any faster. This also means to not spend time brainstorming the post-game when you haven’t even finished the first Gym yet. Focus on what needs to get done — even if it’s less glamorous than composing your Champion’s battle theme, it’s just as important!

6. Wait to publicize your game until you have a substantial amount already finished. Social media such as Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube can be fun, and a great way to garner feedback and generate hype about your project, but it can also serve as a distraction from what’s important, which is actually finishing the game. If you over-hype your game without having anything concrete finished, you risk embarrassing yourself further on down the line when your fans are counting on you and you don’t have anything to show for it. Once you have made something playable, trust that your hard work will speak for itself and generate interest on its own.

And lastly and most importantly…

7. Have fun!!!! Game making is a fun and exciting thing to do, plus it’s incredibly rewarding to create something for yourself and other people to enjoy. It’s not a job, so don’t take it too seriously — go out there and have a great time! Once you’ve started your game, and you’d like to share it and connect with other people in the fangame community, I recommend joining Relic Castle — currently the only web community that’s dedicated solely to Pokemon fangames. If you do, tell them Involuntary Twitch sent you!

That’s all for today. I know this blog post was text-heavy and not filled with pretty, pretty pictures like it usually is, but I thank you for reading it all the same! If you have any lingering questions, feel free to leave a comment or tweet them to me at @voluntarytwitch.

Until next time,

~ Oripoke