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Pokemon X & Y Designer: Creature-Making Isn’t Easy

Posted by Tim Latshaw

Many more monsters are rejected than make it in the games

For anyone who ever doodled up their own Pokémon on their school papers, getting a chance to create real monsters for new games in the series might seem like a dream job. Pokémon X & Y graphic designer lead Hironobu Yoshida doesn’t dispute this, but he doesn’t say it’s an easy task, either.

In an interview with Gamasutra, Yoshida went into the process of coming up with new Pokémon. A team of 20 at developer Game Freak is dedicated to the endeavour, making organization an important necessity:

Since there are 20 of us and we're working all on our own ideas, we want to make sure we're not overlapping ideas. At Game Freak, we have an internal server where we can upload our designs and share them with everyone else on the team. This allows us to see what everyone else is working on and get ideas from each other.

Ultimately, a committee of five people decides which Pokémon designs make the cut. From how Yoshida describes things, it sounds like a designer must be comfortable with letting go of the majority of their ideas by the end of the process:

It's very difficult work every time. There are probably five to 10 times the number of ideas that are rejected as the ones that make it into the final design, so it's a very difficult process.

Yoshida also added that there is a certain affection for and attention paid to the starters in each game, whom many players learn the basics from and end up taking with them through the end of the story:

I think they're absolutely necessary to the Pokemon games. Personally, I think they're the ones that should be on the packaging. They're really the face of that generation, and I think even as designers, they feel a bit more special to us than some of the other Pokemon.

The full interview over at Gamasutra is an interesting read and goes further into some of the intricacies involved in the Pokémon design process.

What are your favourite examples of Pokémon design, and which do you think could have been done better? Let us know below.


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User Comments (58)



Retomplay said:

right and a keychain pokemon is good

what is not easy
a keychain pokemon seriously



MikalM said:

@MYVGW The keychain pokemon fits in exceptionally well with fairy lore and superstition. It's a commonly known superstition that if you misplace/lose something important to you like your keys, it's because a fairy has mischievously taken or moved them. That's what this Pokemon represents.



MrWalkieTalkie said:

I feel people take the pokemon that are made each generation for granted. WAY too many people just complain that they don't like how this pokemon looks, or what that pokemon is based off of. And as a creator of fantasy creatures myself, it's gotta be pretty damn hard to make over a hundred good ones every few years.

And @Wonder_Mask, I completely disagree and am sick of hearing the bashing on the Vanillite family. In fact, Vanilluxe is one of my best pokemon and my favorite Ice Type! I absolutely love him!



TKOWL said:

It's amazing the lengths people go to defend Gamefreak's crappier designs



AllAroundGamer9 said:

Hopefully in the later years of Nintendo some new fresh minds will come in and create new Pokemon. That or reboot the series.



rafaelluik said:

Call me crazy but I think Vanilluxe is an example of creativity and diversity in the Pokémon world. I like it, it captivated me.

Please people don't pull that "human-made object" argument when there's Magnemite and Voltorb since Gen I.



Wonder_Ideal said:

@Wonder_Mask - Of coures a lot of thought went into the Vannilite family. The developers had a long and hard debate on what flavor and toppings Vannilite would have. In the end, they settled on a plain vanilla cone, a classic that appeals to a wide audience. u_u



Gioku said:

My thought has always been that Ice Types are the weirdest of all Pokémon. Just look at Glailie:
Perfect example of a weird Ice-type. The Vanillite line actually makes a lot more sense.



3Daniel said:

The only designs im not keen on are some of the evolutions introduced in gen IV for tangela. Nobopass and lickylicky being my least favorite. And luvdisc.



sinalefa said:

What some people seem to forget is that not every Pokémon is designed with them in mind. There are Pokémon for everyone on each gen. I like some, I hate some, I feel meh about some. The ones I hate may be the ones you love and so on.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

People bash about several Pokés being uncreative and/or dumb, but they couldn't come up with anything better if their lives depended on it.
Some folks of the Pokémon fandom just become notoriously stupid with their arguments (I'm NOT talking about Genwunners here), and it becomes pointless to argue with them.

No matter how much some people complain, every generation had some odd Pokémon that weren't based on natural stuff - that's the whole point of the Pokémon series. They are the perfect mix between nature and modern society, utilizing specific shapes and abilities to survive and gain a special lifestyle distinct of other Pokés.



shaneoh said:

With the upcoming Pokemon bank, re-catching every single 'mon with every new game released shouldn't be necessary as long as they keep the bank compatible with all future games



ricklongo said:

My least favorite pokémon of all time is actually from Gen 1 - Exeggcute. I mean, a bunch of eggs? Come on.

Which is too say: people just like to complain. I guess my favorite legendaries are the ones from Gen 1, yes, but the overall level of design has stood pretty regular ever since. Personally, I had a laugh when I first saw the Vanillite family - which is more than can be said for Exeggcute and other Gen 1 stinkers such as Voltorb.



Megumi said:

All I care about is that there's more weird/goofy/creepy creatures to order around and beat the crap out of other creeps. xD
Also, GameFreak, still waiting on a Bug/Dragon Pokemon, lol



HyperSonicEXE said:

Pick an animal or a plant. On rare occasions, an object.
Make a cartoony derivative of it.
Pick a main color.
Make it mostly that, plus some shades of that color.
Accent if it looks sharp.
Now either make it cute or baddonkey, no middle ground.

Occasionally you can use objects, but don't never EVER go Full Ice Cream Cone. Or Full Keychain.



2Sang said:

As much as I am disappointed with this gen, I'm not upset about the pokemon. Klefki and gourgeist and almost all (with the exception of that freaking cotton candy evo of swirlix's) I think they're all great. I wish there were more. I'd rather not have mega evos and have just new pokes instead.



Rezalack said:

There are a lot of corny pokemon, but they all tend to fit the pokemon experience so I've never really been bothered by any of them. I can't imagine how hard it must be to come up with 150 new pokemon within a certain amount of time and have half as them turn out to be as good as they are. I used to draw a lot and I tend to only draw stuff that I make up myself, therefore, I drew a ton of crap.. I have a few things that I like though. A friend and I spent a lot of time as kids drawing copies of Pokemon and Digimon, those were good times.



Archvile said:

@rafaelluik Seriously. People complain about keychains and ice cream cones, I guess they forgot that a handful of pokemon from Gen 1 were orbs with faces. That's it.



3Daniel said:

I want the keychain pokemon as a keychain for my keys. Merchandise opportunity!



MixMasterMudkip said:

I'd like to see some rejected Pokémon. I doubt I will, but I can dream. On the topic of people complaining about Pokémon. The only Pokémon I truly dislike is Luvdisc. Which is mostly due to awful experiences fighting them when I was younger, but really this is a series with a mouse that has the power of electricity. Obliviously real world logic doesn't apply I think An ice cream cone and a keyring (it isn't a keychain.) Get a free pass. There designs aren't even bad. People give them bate only cause they sound stupid, but truly both of them make a lot of sense.



Pinecallado said:

@AllAroundGamer9 Actually pokemon black and white was considered a "reboot" of the series because it only featured only brand new pokemon for all of the story mode. Also some of the pokemon in that generation was designed by a western designer so that's why they looked different from regular pokemon.

I thought they fitted in well though because of the fact that the game was based in new york city this time which is a western location instead of the usual eastern locations from Japan pokemon regions is based of.



Arcamenel said:

My problem with people who criticize Pokemon designs has always been the amount of arrogance they seem to have. As if they should or do have the last say on what should and shouldn't be a Pokemon. These are people who don't have to actually come up with anything nor fully understand the process it takes to create unique Pokemon. Liking or disliking a Pokemon is all well and good, people have their preferences, but to say that because you don't like it, it shouldn't be a Pokemon is silly to me.

It also kind of irks me when people don't really try to grasp the concepts behind certain Pokemon. As was mentioned Klefki is based on the lore of Fairies liking shiny things, like keys and often being the reason they are stolen or go missing. It's name pretty much translates to key thief and is also a fairy type. Even if you don't like the design you can at least appreciate the thought that went behind it.

Greninja is another one. A major complaint people have was about it losing the bubbles from a Froakie/Frogadier. Well if you actually tried to do some research you'd understand that maturing frogs lose their protective bubbles once they are old enough to defend themselves. Greninja can use his tongue more adeptly hence the loss of the bubbles. I just wish people would at least make an attempt to look deeper than the aesthetic.



NightmareXIV said:

I don't particularly hate pokemon except for Pikachu, and Charizard, and before you pounce on my statement let me just say this Pikachu, and Charizard are over publicized, and Pikachu isn't even a powerful Pokemon I looked it up, and Pikachu is down there with the low powered Pokemon, and Charizard can be easily beaten with my Samurott.



Lalivero said:

This hatred happens all the time and what's funny is how a lot of the haters have plenty of pokémon that grow on them after some time.

I never knew that there was a rulebook that specifically defines what makes a pokémon. The 'it doesn't look like a pokémon' statement has pretty much nothing to back it up.

Since a lot of it is fuelled by nostalgia, it's pretty funny when people hail things from Gen I, like Voltorb/Electrode, Magnemite/ton, and a group of eggs as great. Am I knocking them? No, but there are plenty of designs from the last few gens that I'd personally take 'all day, e'ry day' over ones from the first few.

...and, as @Arcamenel pointed out, it's as if nobody looks beyond designs. Many designs have a good meaning behind them.



Big_Boy_Chubs said:

@NightmareXIV er... ever play any pokemon before they came out on the DS?
I dislike Pikachu too... too popular, yet so weak...
But seriously? Charizard? Yes, they are on the TV show frequently, but the last game featuring Charizard was fire red. (GBA, by the way...)
P.S. On several online battles, i've beaten samurott's with my charizard and emboar. -o- owned



Aerona said:

Being a character designer for Gamefreak is my dream job... so this was very interesting. Thanks.



Zombie_Barioth said:

I really think people tend to get too wrapped up in their own opinions sometimes. Disliking something is fine, most people do, but that doesn't mean theres no place for it nor should it cease to exist. I can't stand apricotes but does that mean I should go to my local grocery store and tell them to stop selling them? No, of course not.

Most people just don't give them a chance. Heck, Bunnelby is a good example here. I didn't like its evolution at first, but after some more thought its grown on me a bit. Same story with Trubbish. With most people once they're convinced they don't like something they've made up their mind already.



DerpSandwich said:

@Kaze_Memaryu Calling critics idiots is childish. Claiming that they couldn't come up with anything better...well, you've probably never been on Deviant Art, let's just say that.



Einherjar said:

Its funny how much people complain about the pokemon franchise and its sometmes weird monsters but i never heard anyone complain about, sa, the digimon franchise and its amount of poop based monsters.
Every monster franchise has to have its weird monsters. Especially pokemon needs to have a wide variaty of different monsters, since its target audience is immensly huge and to please everyone you basicly have to go all out on the designs.
I wouldnt call it compliaining per se, but what i didnt like about the evolution of the pokemon series is, how far they strayed away from the more simplistic designs of earlier gens. I very much liked it that a mouse looked like a mouse, a pidgeon was a pidgeon and so forth. Now, some monsters look like final fantasy bosses (cover monsters from black and white) or just look at the cover monster from Y, it looks like a rathalos from monster hunter.
Like i said, im not comlaining, these designs are anything but bad, its just that i liked it more when these monster designs werent that flashy and overdrawn.



1990irock said:

At least they don't have to worry about the eevee evolutions anymore just take these : p




Volmun said:

My pokemon X terned up this morning................. While i was at the Doctors..... -_- oh well get it tomorrow (i hope..)



AJWolfTill said:

OMG Those are amazing, I had to check which ones had been introduced in Gen's I didn't play. Whoever made those extra ones is awesome!



Zombie_Barioth said:

Probably because the likes of Digimon and other franchises aren't anywhere near as popular. Popularity makes you more susceptible to criticism, and being vocal is one way to set yourself apart from a crowd. The people whining are just trying to sound like they have more sophisticated tastes.



DarkNinja9 said:

the reason ppl complain about the designs is because they wan them to do better and they can do better as for you guys saying that is hard to come up with designs as said above you clearly havent been to youtube and look at ppls designs that are good even the so called "random" designs or go to deviantart more good designs that seem to fit well too it isnt just BS either

so yeah least the way i view things there is a difference between just hating on a design VS wanting just something better like seen by others who dont work on gamefreak but if they could these would be something we would see in the games



1990irock said:

It seems as if Gamefreak tries too hard when designing the new pokemon. If you look at the first 150 the pokemon were simple yet effective, while the new ones are loaded with ornaments and patterns.



TechnoEA said:

I don't think a lot of people understand how hard it is coming up with concept art and designs.

It's not about what YOU want, it's about what the CLIENT/BOSS wants. You have to spend hours looking up references, lores, and making sure your work is somewhat original and then drawing it.

Imagine spending hours coming up with a design, your client loves it....then after doing detail or coloring he changes his mind, so it's back to step one, coming up with a new design. That's what we have to do daily.

Or the boss doesn't like it the first time. So you have spend more hours coming up with a new design.

You have draw, re draw things, scrap tons of artwork, just so your client/boss can come to a final decision.



2Sang said:

@DerpSandwich I'll give you that. Fakemon are really awesome. That's what they should do next gen, make a contest where they pick the best 5 or 10 fakemon creations.



Rensch said:

I wonder what didn't make the cut if you have Klink, Klefki or Vannilite.



MarvelMon22 said:

I like making my own 'mon, in fact, I've made some starters of my own. grass kangaroos anyone? how about a fire LLAMA?! >



Polaris said:

It's hard to make pokemon? It looks like they just made a bunch of ugly ones after diamond and pearl, and put them into the game!



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@DerpSandwich It's not the critics - it's the haters that are idiots
Those people who casually dismiss an entire generation for the fewvquestionable entries every single Gen had so far are also the ones with the dumbest justification.
Criticism, on the other hand, is the basis for a good multi-layered discussion, so that is the best people can do.
And devianArt... let's just say the popularity of those fan designs are subject to taste, but the vast majority of them are just plain - no symbolism, no uniqueness, no inspirative motives and colors. Not all of them are bad, though.

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