Why Game Freak Should Never Eliminate IVs or EVs from Pokémon.
What are IVs and EVs?
Before we get into the article proper, here's a primer on the terms used.
Simply put, IVs and EVs are fan-made terms to describe the aspects of programming designed to make every single pokémon unique. They refer to two different values:
- Individual Values or IVs are randomly generated upon encounter. Each of the six major attributes - Hit Points (HP), Attack (ATT), Defense (DEF), Special Attack (SPA), Special Defense (SPD), and Speed (SPE) all receive an IV between 0-31. The higher the IV, the faster that particular attribute will grow.
- Effort Values or EVs are what separate wild pokémon from trained ones. Every pokémon has what's referred to as an EV yield. That means when you defeat that monster, you obtain a certain amount of EVs to a particular attribute. For example, Every Patrat you defeat, will give the victorious pokémon one EV to the HP attribute. EVs, much like IVs also determine how fast a stat will grow. The formula is calculated as such that every four EVs in a particular attribute will make that attribute one point stronger at level one hundred, so to make that attribute one point stronger at level twenty you would need five times as many, or twenty EVs (100/20 = 5; 4*5 = 20).
Each pokémon can earn up to 255 EVs in a given attribute and 510 EVs altogether.
We haven't even had Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon for a year yet and there are already rumors swirling around about the next games in Nintendo's #2 franchise - behind Mario of course. Most of these rumors are exactly that - rumors. There is no official source to verify anything involving Pokémon Stars/Eclipse or any of it's starter monsters, or storyline, or Team Whatever, or even if it will appear on the switch.
However, Ken Sugimori, the top designer for the little Pocket Monsters had a few things to say about Sun and Moon. He said that the goal of the game would be to simplify things, and remove complexity. In particular around streamlining battling, as there were so many moves that all did virtually the same thing, so many abilities that were identical to one another, and that some of that needs to be less complex. Who wants to memorize every single move and ability every pokémon might be able to learn? There's 800 pokémon, not including announced event pokémon that have yet to be revealed. That's a lot of memorization.
The response to Sugimori's desire to see battling become "simpler" on sites such as Gamefaq, Reddit, Facebook and many other Pokémon game sites was that if this means the removal of IVs from the game, then it's a good thing.
This isn't a new sentiment. There have been many players, a large number in fact that have been opposed to the IV and EV training systems for years. That it's too complex and too time consuming. That it means only the players who are skilled at utilizing these tools have an advantage in competition. In fact, they almost always win at the competitions. Players don't want their teams to be slaughtered by strangers in ranked battles or in tournaments, or even in random match ups.
Of course, everyone wants their team to be the best, and of course no one like losing. But there are several reasons why removing these aspects from the game would be a bad thing. But first, a brief explanation of what EV training and IV breeding actually is.
What Exactly is IV Breeding and EV Training?
At the right hand side of the beginning of the article you'll see a small section explaining what Individual Values and Effort Values are. Be sure to read that, because I will be using the acronyms IVs and EVs throughout the article.
First, IV Breeding treats the IV Values like genes. Remember, when you catch a pokmon in the wild, each attribute can be anywhere from 0-31 (for a total of 32 different possible values, in each attribute) and this determines how much that stat will grow. The game mechanics include a feature for breeding pokémon. This was originally introduced in Gold and Silver as being the prime method for obtaining certain pokémon such as Pichu. A Pichu can only be hatched from an egg in which a Pikachu or a Raichu are the parents. If this seems latin to you, you might have to revisit Pokémon again, as Pikachu is the franchise's primary mascot, and is seen pretty much everywhere, on anything to do with the series.
Anyway, it was discovered that breeding can be used for more than obtaining mass amounts of pokémon. It can also be used to pass on attributes. Basically, if the IVs are the genetic material that make every pokémon unique, then you can pass IVs on to offspring. So, using our Pichu example, you would breed a Pikachu with a high IVs in HP with a Pikachu that has high IVs in Speed with the hopes of obtaining a Pichu with High IVs in both attributes. You would then grow this Pichu into a Pikachu and breed it with another, in the hopes of getting higher attribute each time.
EV Training is a method of deciding which attribute you want to grow most. So, for example, fighting a Patrat increases your pokémon's Hit Point attributes by adding one EV to it. Of course it takes more than one EV to increase it's attributes. At level 100, it requires 4 EVs to increase an attribute a single point. 8 EVs at level 50, 16 EVs at level 25, and so on following that inverse pattern.
So, let's say were convinced your little pocket monster needed to have as many Hit Points as possible, to the point where you are willing to sacrifice another attribute and let other attributes be weaker. You would only battle enemies that would result in increasing your EVs to the HP attribute. For example, you could battle nothing but Patrats.
There is a small catch. There is a maximum number of EVs you can earn. 255 to a given attribute, and 510 across all attributes, so you can only max out the effort values in two attributes.
So Why Are EVs and IVs so Bad?
Most people don't like IV Breeding and EV training because they take effort. And time. And plenty of both. It's hard work. It's a children's game, it doesn't need to be so complex. In my description I made IV breeding sound simple, but it really isn't. It doesn't automatically pick the strongest Attributes of the parents and send them to the offspring. It sends one attribute from each parent, and then a third attribute which could be from either parent. And then the other three attributes are still decided at random, and have nothing to do with parentage. With a pokémon holding a certain item, that number increases to five attributes from the parents and one randomly determined attribute.
So, let's take a look at that Pichu example from earlier. With five possible attributes from either parent that could be passed down that aren't perfect, and one attribute from each parent that is, you're going to be hatching a lot of Pichu before you get one with the perfect attributes. And that just gives you a new future parent with two perfect attributes. You then need to find a new Pikachu, of the opposite gender as our new offspring, and find one with a perfect attribute in yet another stat, and then start the process all over again. After days, sometimes weeks, you might finally get a monster with 31 IV's in all attributes... but since at least one attribute will always be randomly decided, most breeders settle for five of the six.
Furthermore, it's not like you can just catch a pokémon and know it has perfect attributes. The only way to do that is to visit "the pokémon judge." And in most games, the pokémon judge is in a location that doesn't become available until after the main story, (in the case of X/Y see the video) so you really have to wait to start breeding. There are also IV calculators on the internet, but without data from the judge, it can be very time consuming to find out if your monster has at least a few decent stats.
Combine all this with the fact that some pokémon have abilities that are more beneficial to battle, and how they too can be passed on during breeding, natures, and the fact some pokémon only learn certain attacks through breeding, you have an extremely complex system set up.
EV training is also time consuming, but not nearly as time consuming as breeding. It does involve doing research to find out what monsters you need to battle to boost those attributes, and of course, you are going to have to track them some how, so while it doesn't involve as much time or energy, EV Training still requires a lot of work and actual effort. They're called "Effort Values" for a reason, after all.
If They are so Bad, Why Keep Them?
- It gives players who have completed the main story a reason to continue playing. Alright... I admit... it took me over 100 hours to complete the main portion of Pokémon X and Y (I own both). That includes defeating the bad guys, becoming Pokémon League Champion, doing the post-game missions, finding all the major items hidden around... It's not like the Pokémon franchise doesn't offer plenty of gaming and plenty to do post-game. But at some point, we need a reason to keep picking them up. And trying to obtain the perfect team through IV breeding and EV training, being as time consuming as it it, is just that reason. The need to pick up a game and continue playing a currently existing file is part of what makes the series so popular, and what makes any game more memorable.
- It's not just a kids game. Of course, children will always be the target audience of Pokémon. But the series is seventeen years old, turning eighteen later this year. That means players of the original Red/Green/Blue/Yellow games - often called "genwunners" are now adults. People who were born the year those games came out will be entering adulthood this year. This is a game that has in all aspects defined a generation. Of course, the game will always have an innocent enough story and be something children can easily learn how to play. But the complex stuff isn't for kids. It's for the players who started playing back when they were kids and are now adults. the whole definition of the Pokémon franchise is exactly about that combination - Seconds to learn, a lifetime to master. You don't need to know how to IV breed or EV train to play the game, or even beat it. It's just something to give you a competitive edge.
- It makes the competitions actually feel like competitions. Here's the thing, everyone complains that IV breeders and EV trainers do better in competitions. Well, of course they do. If you want to play football, and you want to win the Super Bowl (or the World Cup if you're from Europe and that's what football makes you think of), you don't get there without time and effort. You train, daily. You practice, you learn what works, and what doesn't. You develop better strategies, learn how to counter certain offensive or defensive moves, and you become stronger or better. For competitive Pokémon playing, it's the same thing. You don't just take the first five random pokémon you encounter and expect it to sweep the championships. You work hard, and players have put countless months, even years into building their perfect team. In that situation, competitions then become an actual measure of a player's skill in all areas of the game, and we can truly see who has become a "Pokémon master." You take away that aspect of the game, competitions become meaningless once you've removed the aspects that show how much effort you've put into your team.
- Pokémon Bank. This recently released service can store 3,000 of your little monsters in an online "cloud service" bank. Now, what has this to do with IVs and EVs? Simple. Removing them from the game altogether makes the main reason to have Pokémon Bank obsolete. Pokémon Bank is a paid service. So I'm shelling out my own cash to store my pokémon online. I do this because it's presumed that Pokémon Bank will be the only way to transfer monsters from current generations into future generations. But not if they remove IVs. The reason we couldn't transfer pokémon from Gold/Silver on the Game Boy or Game Boy Color to Ruby/Sapphire on the Game Boy Advance was not because the technologies were incompatible. But because they overhauled the attributes system. They added two new attributes (adding defense and replacing "special" with "special attack" and "special defense"), and changed the range of values for each from 0-15 in the Game Boy games to 0-31 in the Game Boy Advance series. this meant no Pokémon could be transferred over. You make more another overhaul to the coding like that, we could get this very same problem, and then the subscription service we're paying for will become obsolete.
Should Nintendo and Game Freak ditch the IV and EV systems?
- Game Freak and Nintendo have made doing these things easier. They didn't have to. IVs and EVs are literally just numbers in the games programming. IVs were designed to make each pokémon unique, and EVs were designed to ensure trained ones were stronger than wild ones. EVs are also the reason you can't just use "Rare Candies" to level up your pokémon to 100. I mean, you could, but it wouldn't be as strong as one that was properly trained. This encourages players to use their monsters and battle with them. But all they are are coding. Players aren't really supposed to know they exist. But some players looked at the code, found out, and used it to their advantage - without violating the rules of the game. They just learned how to use existing game mechanics to the fullest. Nintendo and Game Freak found out, and has made it easier for players to do this. We can now find out if our pokémon has any good stats. In certain areas or under certain conditions, we have an increased chance of finding wild Pokémon with higher stats. We can transfer 5 stats instead of three, abilities exist to hasten how long it takes to hatch an egg, making the breeding process faster. What used to take months to do for just one offspring can now be done in days.
Please, if anyone who works for Nintendo comes across this, don't take away EVs or IVs. And if you're one of the guys who keeps saying they need to go, stop. It won't make the game any better at all. You'll win a few more battles against strangers, but your victory will become much more hollow.