It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and elbow grease to design the likes of Pikachu and Squirtle.
Did you think that Game Freak designed Pokemon‘s creatures by using Mad Libs? Or by throwing a dart at a board covered with various elements and animals? Me too, but apparently the process is more involved. Pokemon developer Game Freak recently talked about the process that goes into designing its creatures in an interview with Famitsu magazine.
Game Freak has a design team made up of 17 people that each draw every sort of Pokemon that they can dream up, and the good and bad are weeded out in group meetings. “There’s no particular number that each designer needs to create,” Pokemon 3D art director Takao Unno said. “But they come up with far, far more designs than actually get included in the game.”
Pokemon themselves have been inspired by everything from electric turbines to circus seals. Game Freak founder Ken Sugimori said that the legendary Pokemon gracing the covers of Pokemon Black & White were meant to be powerful dragons, but their tails are “based off of those electric turbines you see, and they give the impression that they’re these great big generators of fire or electric energy.”
On the other hand, Pokemon Black & White‘s starters were inspired by things more whimsical. Pokabu, a fire-pig, was designed around the fact that pigs roll in mud. It shoots fire out of its snout to cool off instead of getting all dirty. Mijumaru, a water type, had his final evolution designed according to inspiration from a “trained-seal show at the Sunshine International Aquarium in Ikebukuro,” said designer Yusuke Ohmura. These seals seemed extremely powerful, so Ohmura incorporated that power into his design.
Unno and Sugimori both said that while Pokemon might seem like an easy game to create, it’s not. There are now hundreds of creatures, and they all need their own individual frames of animation, especially in Black & White‘s new battle system. Unno said: “Since we have the Pokemon constantly moving during battle, we had to decide how each one would act when executing this or that move, or what they should look like when they were put to sleep or whatever. It was a lot more work than I ever imagined it’d be.”
“Since you can bring in your old Pokemon after finishing the story, we also had to add new animation to all of the Pokemon in the book,” Sugimori added. “It was just a massive quantity of work, and I really respect everyone on the team for plowing through it.” Well, if you want to be the very best, I guess you’ve got to work hard. I don’t think referring to the Pokemon song will ever get old.