Published on December 19th, 2014 | by Dark5121
No More Johns? – A Mini-Treatise on Consistency and Efficiency
With VGC 2014 in our rear view mirror and the inevitable rule changes for the VGC 2015 season coming up, we can now view this year’s season with optimistic criticism in earnest retrospect. Many areas of debate have arose about the improvement of next year’s system, and we have learned a lot about the current metagame as well, as outlined in Scott’s most recent “What We Learned” article. However, I imagine a majority of older players would single out this year’s metagame as different compared to previous metagames. While some older players did retain consistency (such as reigning World Champion Se Jun Park), many simply could not rely on their intuition to provide the same amount of consistency as before. As one player stated: “I felt like I really made a good meta call. I did so well in practice, but somehow botched it at LCQ.” It’s really not a player being “washed up”, or somehow inferior to his or her former glory, as many people seem to like to claim. I believe the rotation in Worlds qualifiers is due to a change in the way that VGC is now played competitively. This change isn’t simply system-based, but has its roots in several factors. However, before we continue, I would like to start with a small excerpt from an IRC chatlog to you that summarizes much of the attitude toward this season:
16:22 Dark51: sounds like a lot of johns
16:23 Fatum: i feel like this is some kind of format of johns
John – an excuse, coined by the Super Smash Bros. community. Popular Phrase: No Johns.
It’s important to realize that one critical part of the jump competitively to the 6th generation is the largely expanded playerbase. This is, in itself, the result of several in-game changes and a few factors that are more relevant to the players themselves. The aforementioned technical changes eliminate barriers to entry for newer players. Not only is EV training easier than ever before with Super Training and Hordes, but breeding perfect Pokémon is much more convenient with the changes to Destiny Knot’s IV inheritance function. In previous generations, getting perfect Pokémon took extensive time or a basic understanding of the RNG, but neither is required to prepare a team competitively in the 6th generation games. By eliminating important barriers to entry for competition, TPCi created a huge growth in the number of attendees at events, and now seems to be actively encouraging new players to take part in competition.
It is also fairly interesting to note that on April 6th, Nintendo announced that 12 million copies of Pokémon X and Y had been sold worldwide, making them the fastest-selling Pokémon games in the franchise. Lifetime sales of games such as Diamond and Pearl (the Pokémon games with the most sales in their lifespans) reached about 17.63 million units worldwide. It’s not implausible to assume that XY sales could have taken off so drastically in just several months in anticipation of the Pokémon World Championships and in preparation for the Fall Regionals later this year. With the VGC community growing so rapidly, it’s not surprising that this fledgling e-sport has begun to blossom. However, we may have to recognize that the game that we play is a highly volatile game. The more numerous the entrants in a tournament, the more likely that “hax” and luck-based events will occur. In a tournament setting, the number of matches compounds the probability of being affected by luck negatively. For example, if a player were to use a move with 90% accuracy three or so times per match, and they play five rounds, then theoretically the probability of not missing at all is only about 59%. One missed move could ultimately lead to a loss for the match. Some top-notch players, like Adib Alam (honchkro13), realized the importance of move efficiency and maximized accuracy in return for a little less power this past season. Adib states in his second place Nationals article,
“Being virtually immune to sleep and not having to worry about my attacks missing minimized the RNG against me and maximized my chances of making top cut, as I was much less likely now to lose matches and miss top cut because an attack missed, which happens to many players at these tournaments. While my team isn’t exactly a powerhouse, it still hits hard enough to the point where I didn’t really miss having stronger but less accurate moves.”
An increased variety in move choices is another side effect of increased tournament attendance. A large number of players allows for many highly unique styles of teambuilding. Some teambuilders may stray from the norm completely, and others may seek to use strategies that will catch the opponent off guard and possibly allow them to take a win. Because of this unpredictability, we have seen strategies that we had previously believed to be unviable or unusable in an actual competitive scene make top cut. Together, these factors undoubtedly affect the consistency and performance of specific players. Prediction becomes much more risky. As I mentioned before, because each Pokémon VGC battle has many volatile factors, the numerous-players model can really affect someone’s battling record over time. Resorting to Johns instead of identifying the cause of a lost match is a human tendency of myself and others, and it’s not hard to go on tilt after an unfortunate loss. Among high-level, consistent players, however, I have noticed that they tend to not make excuses and instead improve from every loss after realizing what they could have done differently.
Another aspect that must be stressed in the VGC community is that there are no implications from Player A beating Player B. It’s fairly common to hear things like: “Oh, X beat Y, so X must be a better player than Y!” There are so many factors to take into consideration during every high-level match, and there is simply no way to deem a win or a loss to be “inferiority” versus “superiority”. In our game, it’s not impossible for the oldest, most polished players to be defeated by rookies. There is no massive mechanical skillset requirement that separates the new players from the experienced. VGC is all about understanding the metagame and making the most efficient plays in different environments. Practice is learning the way that people think and play from the context of many battles.
In VGC, the end pretty much justifies the means. If someone makes top cut or does well with a team, we can change our perception of the player or their strategy based on their success. The metagame is developed by trial and error. Discrediting the strategy or player’s finish as a result of complete “luck” does us no good in understanding the optimal way to play our game.
Also, if I’ve learned one thing about not making Johns, it is to never attach one’s own ego to one’s performance. Doing so inevitably results in a lot more salt and a lot more complaining. Hypothetical conjectures in hindsight have no bearing on what actually happened, so there’s really no point in bringing up “Oh, I could have done this and won” because, well, clearly you didn’t.
Finally, the most crucial part to playing Pokémon is realizing that we’re playing a game. We’re all here to have fun and make lifelong friends in the growing community. VGC is becoming more popular and will only continue to expand in the coming years. What can we do, as players, to respond to this change? We can set examples for newer players, welcome them, and teach them. But first and foremost, we, as the collective community and as individual players, must stress: No Johns.