One of my projects on this website is to take an in-depth look at the mobile game Pokémon Go and how its competitive multiplayer features could be refined to give players a richer and ultimately more enjoyable experience. For more info on this project, see the series page.
In discussing the balance of this game, there are a several knotty (and not-so-knotty) concepts that will come up repeatedly. Instead of rewriting definitions in each individual article, I’m making a list here that should make it a lot easier to understand what’s meant by these terms.
This should be considered incomplete.
Basic Game & Community Terms
Combat Power (CP) – The number assigned to each Pokémon in the game that is supposed to convey how powerful it is. Higher level Pokémon have higher CPs, and each species of Pokémon has its own typical CP level based on its three stats. As of early 2017, higher CP Pokémon always get higher slots in gyms, meaning they will be removed last when a gym is successfully attacked.
Individual Values (IVs) – For each stat – Attack, Defense and Stamina – individual Pokémon are assigned a number between 0 and 15. A higher IV means a higher stat, which in turn means higher Combat Power. IVs are the reason two Pokémon of the same level and same species can have different CPs.
- Appraisal – An in-game feature in which a player’s team leader drops hints about how good their Pokémon’s IVs are.
- Perfect Pokémon / Perfect IV Pokémon – An individual Pokémon that has an IV of 15 in all three stats (45/45). These are extremely rare in the wild and slightly less rare among Pokémon hatched from eggs.
Shinies / Shiny Pokémon – Pokémon with an alternate colouration that differs from the norm of their species. Shinies are effectively the same as the rest of their species, but are valued by players for their rarity.
STAB (Same-Type Attack Bonus) – The small bonus added to an attacking move’s damage if it is the same as one of the Pokémon’s types. For example, as of 2017 the STAB bonus is 25%. Poliwrath is Water / Fighting type. If Poliwrath uses a Water or Fighting type move (such as Bubble), it will do 25% extra damage.
Stats – The three values that determine a Pokémon’s ability in battle.
- Attack – Determines the amount of damage a Pokémon does with its attacks.
- Defense – Determines the amount of damage a Pokémon resists when hit with an attack.
- Stamina – Determines the amount of health a Pokémon has.
Game Balance (Analysis) Terms
Stat Calculation – The method used to convert a Pokémon’s six base stats in the main series games (HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense & Speed) into the three base stats in Pokémon Go (Attack, Defense & Stamina).
- All-Rounder Biased Stat Calculation (Pre-November 2016) – The original stat calculation formula used before Nov-2016, which was additive and did not weight Pokémon’s physical/special counterpart stats to put more emphasis on the stronger of the two. This gave Pokémon with moderate-high stats across the board, like Arcanine, strong stats, but it made specialist Pokémon with one strong Attack/Defense stat and one weaker Attack/Defense stat, such as Alakazam and Cloyster, very weak.
- For example, Alakazam in the main series games has a very low Attack stat and a very high Special Attack. The low Attack stat should not matter, as Alakazam will hit its enemies using Special Attack moves instead. However, under this stat calculation its two Attack stats were averaged out, leaving it with a mediocre Attack overall.
- Specialist-Biased Stat Calculation (Post-November 2016) – The stat calculation formula used since Nov-2016, which uses a weighting system to make a Pokémon’s higher physical/special stat have a far greater impact on final stats than its lower counterpart. This made specialist Pokémon like Alakazam and Cloyster much stronger, but made all-rounder Pokémon like Arcanine weaker.
- For example, Alakazam in the main series games has a very low Attack stat and a very high Special Attack stat. This stat calculation formula mostly disregards that low Attack and places greater emphasis on the Special Attack, so Alakazam’s Pokémon Go Attack stat was given a high value overall.
- Attack-Biased CP Calculation – The version of the CP Formula that is currently used in Pokémon Go (as of Feb 2017). So far, this is the only CP Formula the app has ever used. It is biased in favour of Pokémon with high Attack stats – each point a Pokémon has in Attack is worth as much as a point in Defense and Stamina combined, despite generally being no more impactful on battle performance point-for-point than either. This means that Pokémon with high Attack stats and high CPs often seem weaker than expected (e.g. Flareon), while Pokémon whose Combat Power stats are built mainly on their Defense and Stamina stats seem disproportionately strong (e.g. Snorlax).
CP Inflation – The process by which the average Combat Power of Pokémon in gyms increases over time. There are two probable causes: the release of increasingly powerful Pokémon into the game, or the increasing number of high CP Pokémon in existence as players acquire new ones without losing their old ones.
CP Coalescence– An ideal outcome in which a large number of Pokémon have similarly high Combat Power stats, thereby promoting diversity at the upper levels of gyms and more varied gym battle gameplay.
- Soft-cap: A high CP level above which CPs that should be even higher are constrained in some way.
- Hard-cap: A high CP level which cannot be surpassed, or a high CP level above which CP is not counted when determining gym rankings, battle performance, or some other variable.
Gym Stagnation – An imbalanced outcome in which gyms tend to feature the same small pool of Pokémon over and over again, leading to stagnant gameplay. Under the CP system of gym ranking in Pokémon Go, the same few Pokémon with a particularly high CP are often all that is seen in competitive gyms.