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I find it hard to believe how well balanced the Pokémon games are. Not just within the games, where you'll find amazing balance from the very beginning to the very end, but, surprisingly, even when things get more competitive. If you have ever played the simulators that are available, you'll know what I'm talking about There are thousands of unique Pokémon characters, moves, traits and items. Yet, if you try to find a single broken strategy, You can't. And if you do find something obscure that could give you a good advantage, you'll realize it's impossible. The emerging competitive scenario is one of the most amazing strategy games I've ever seem, and it's not even a feature of the Pokémon games!

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What do you mean by "balance"? Some definitions of that term would mean, "being able to win with any Pokemon team", which seems... unlikely to be true. – Nicol Bolas Feb 24 '12 at 0:01
Might also be noted that Pokemon at the end of the day is just a Rock-Paper-Scissors game with some 'abilities' that add in a bit of flair.. I say that simply because it doesnt matter what abilities you use if you have opposed pokemon-types in battle and are the rock to their paper. – James Feb 24 '12 at 1:56
@Dokkat: Put that in your question, not in a comment below it. – Nicol Bolas Feb 24 '12 at 3:27
I agree with @James. I think that, at the end of the day, it just comes down to it being a rock-paper-scissors type of game (i.e. where everything is weak against one thing and strong against another). – Richard Marskell - Drackir Feb 24 '12 at 4:46
Pokemon is not balanced unless you include post-hoc rules; without them, the game has plenty of degenerate strategies. There's nothing magical going on here, and this is not an interesting question. – user744 Jul 26 '12 at 11:37
up vote 15 down vote accepted

I highly recommend you to check this AltDevBlogADay article on the very same topic. It basically says that the balancing process can be automatized to some point in a mathematical way.

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The main thing I read from that was to figure out where players need to be at each level, both with and without modifiers being factored in, compare the two to see what percentage difference the modifiers would cumulatively make at that level - this all being up to the artistic style of the developer and the game - and then just use that percentage to algebraically manipulate the stats of all the reasonable/possible modifiers for that level so that they all add up to that percentage. This would be done for percentages involving either individual modifiers, all modifiers, or some mixture. – Panzercrisis Jun 18 '14 at 14:11

Any game requiring strategy requires many iterations to get right. Having worked on multiple games that required balancing, I've learned that you start extremely early during production on the creation of different rules and abilities and immediately start balancing them.

There is no "silver bullet" that will guarantee a well-balanced game. Each time a new ability is created you must weigh it against your existing set to make sure there will be little to no chance of exploiting with it.

The Pokémon card game, specifically, is a relatively simple strategy game in terms of what the abilities do compared to a card game like Magic: The Gathering. Many of the Pokémon abilities do damage only, others just apply poison, or some other simple thing related to damage. You can only have two cards in the "active" position for combat. Compare this to magic where you can have a whole field of cards that can attack, many cards respond to events that occur, cards in hand can interrupt other actions. Long story short, some games are much easier to balance than others based on the range of abilities a player has at their disposal, and for most strategy game there's no way to cover every possible case without plenty of testing and iteration, reworking things until they feel fair and still fun.

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I am not familiar with the Pokemon games, but your description makes me think that a genetic algorithm approach to test the whole domain of possible teams would be possible. That would allow the running algo to figure out the best teams and therefore find any broken strategies... something the OP could be interested in. – ADB Feb 27 '12 at 18:55
I think this is the right answer. There may be a lot of visual/apparent complexity in the form of the various pokemon types, but their actual combat mechanisms are limited. Combine that with the same framework used again and again over the sequels, has a way of ironing out bugs. – Kzqai Mar 27 '12 at 19:14

Actually, I'm going to go against the crowd here.

Pokemon is horribly broken.

What? Why is that? Well, let me explain...

Pokemon has had a lot of things that have been built up over time and a lot of modifications to make it more suitable. There's a lot of Pokemon that are just useless, weak or otherwise not useful. In fact, due to this fact many Pokemon have to be classified for many tournaments that are hosted. Note: Nintendo does not ban any Pokemon in official matches.

These are community vetted because Nintendo has failed to fix THESE exploits. Thus, it is important to note and study why these occur. You make the claim that these simulators are well balanced, and that's because they are... with constraints. These simulations are iterated over and occasionally someone DOES find a broken team combination. When this happens, the community blacklists and creates rules around it. This happens frequently.

So, how many Pokemon are in each tier and what? Well, this diagram provided by Smogon (typically respected and used frequently) shows, as of today:

enter image description here

Smogon says,

Smogon's tier system is used to rank Pokemon into several groups based on their perceived power and usage in competitive play. These tiers dictate which Pokemon can be used in the various metagames of competitive play. Each metagame encompasses different Pokemon, and therefore each one is unique in its style of play. The standards set by Smogon's tier system seek to balance competitive battling, ensuring no Pokemon is "too powerful" or over-centralizes the metagame it appears in. This allows players the flexibility to show "flair" in their team design rather than being restricted to using a particular Pokemon to win.

To summarize, the higher tier Pokemon are stronger than those used below. Thus, when playing in a "Little Cup" match, it is respected that Pokemon in above tiers will not be used. This is because Pokemon in above tiers are usually considered broken in comparison. Especially those in the uber tier.

Bans and Clauses

Then, we have the banlist and Pokemon clause lists. These are certain rules that are enforced during community battle because they been deemed to be broken by the community. You can read about most of them here, but I'll highlight some of them that are very broken.

Sleep Clause. Basically, this states two Pokemon cannot be put to sleep at once. If you're familar with the game, this becomes obvious why.

OHKO Clause. This one is a bit easier to understand without game knowledge. Essentially, these are moves that can kill any opponent in a single turn, based on luck. These are banned because they take the skill out and can let any unskilled opponent win a match with fairly good odds.

There are many more reason Pokemon is broken, but in conclusion Pokemon is not balanced in the slightest.

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While I've been out of the competitive pokemon scene for a while, when I left it was anything but balanced; if you didn't run legends, there was no point in even trying. And bugs? get out of town.

Looking over smogon, it seems things have changes (sycther good? wut?). So it seems balance was achieved the good old fashioned way; lots of iteration. Introduction of new systems, and insuring nothing got to out of hand.

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it is way too expensive wat u mean by balanced game. the pokemon and star wars wiki are designed in such a way that the database of complete storyline occurs as many pages in the site. look at the details in website the bulbapedia also provides such drastic explanation.The only reason why this might be true that a balance of moves and types of pokemon are made an instance in the game rather than individual pokemon. looking at the design code every pokemon is managed by its type and the type of its attack so what so ever is its type a tm move advantage will also occur. so the perfect answer to your question is that pokemon games include diversity classification based on group methods rather than individual intances belonging to various groups.This is the reason why theese become so balanced

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