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Opinion: Nobody Asked - A Maniacal Engineer's Thoughts on Scarlet and Violet - Part 3: The Elephant In The Room

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Nobody Asked Maniacal Engineer
Where's my ride?
Buckle up, folks, because it’s about time for me to address the elephant in the room. In my previous article, I concluded that, given the limited development time, going for the open world gimmick was a detriment, and only ended up contributing to eating up a lot of dev time unnecessarily. So now let’s talk about the release schedule for new core series Pokémon games in more detail, as well as why I feel the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet was completely botched as a result of madcap deadlines and an overly zealous release schedule.

We’ll start with the game release dates themselves, since that’s completely factual. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, the long awaited remakes of Diamond and Pearl, were first announced alongside Legends: Arceus, on February 27th, 2021. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were released later that year on November 19th, in time for the holiday season, with Legends itself coming out only a little over two months later, on January 28th, 2022. Having these game releases so close together struck me as an odd decision at the time, and it only got weirder from there. Less than a month after Legends: Arceus released, on Pokémon Day 2022, the first Generation IX Pokémon titles were announced, Scarlet and Violet. These were subsequently released on November 18th that very same year, again as a holiday season title.

With all the hype and the excitement of a brand new generation of Pokémon, with a brand new region and what was being billed as the franchise's first truly open world experience, many fans eagerly began playing the Paldean Pokémon games on release day, and it wasn’t long before the disappointment followed.

Let’s start with the literal game crashes that would occur randomly when this game was first released. I experienced one of these random crashes myself 10 hours into my 14 hour Thanksgiving Day stream, during Bulbagarden’s weeklong coverage of the Scarlet and Violet launch. Fortunately, I had heard about the game crashes and had autosave setup, so I only lost a few minutes of progress. The fact that this was such a widespread issue, and there was no way to predict when a game crash would occur was decidedly problematic. Now, I won’t gaslight and say that this was the only time a Pokémon game was released with game crashes being a widespread issue. When X and Y were released, they had the game crashing glitch that occurred if you saved in Lumiose City. The difference between these scenarios is threefold. One: there was a specific cause of the game crash that could be easily avoided. Two: the issue was not as widespread. While the game had a chance of crashing if you saved on North or South boulevard in Lumiose City, it was not a guaranteed game crash. In the case of Scarlet and Violet, the game would crash for seemingly no reason, and it was an issue that was experienced far more broadly than the X and Y crashes. Three: The issue was quickly acknowledged and patched in Version 1.1, which came out on October 25th, 2013, less than 2 weeks after X and Y launched on October 12th. While Scarlet and Violet got their first post-release patch on December 1st, 2022, with Version 1.1.0, these random crashes weren't actually resolved until the release of Version 1.2.0 on February 27th, 2023.

There's a Pokémon in the wall...
On top of these random game crashes, Scarlet and Violet also had many, many graphical glitches and game performance issues. Most notably, the game would slow to an absolute crawl during the Sunflora Hide-and-Seek. Even beyond initial release, the games continued to have issues, including botched Tera Raid events, and a failed timely integration of Pokémon HOME. Now one could argue that, because they were trying to make Pokémon transferable between Gen VIII and Gen IX, that it took a lot more programming and testing than usual to setup the HOME interface, and I would agree. Overall, it’s great that they actually gave the developers the time they needed to get HOME integration functional. I can’t speak to any issues that HOME integration may have, as I haven’t tried it yet, but I haven’t heard about anything catastrophically wrong with it, so I assume it at least works. The problem is, Pokémon HOME has existed since February 2020. It’s not new, and it’s something that Game Freak should be fully prepared to integrate into any and all of their new games from the start. This isn't the first time that Game Freak failed to release HOME compatibility in a timely manner either, what with them both BDSP and Legends not getting HOME connectivity until the release of HOME 2.0.0 on May 18th, 2022, 6 months after DSP’s release. While I can sort of understand the idea of not wanting to have them connect from the get go, to encourage players to use in-game Pokémon, waiting maybe a month after release is easily sufficient to resolve this, and still allows early enough access to prevent frustrated players from filling up all their boxes and having nowhere to transfer their shiny or perfect IV Pokémon. Alternatively, why not gate it off behind some point in the main story? That way, you're not punishing dedicated fans for playing the game too much.

The underlying problem is the disconnect between the development time for HOME connectivity, and the rushed pace at which the games are released. I don’t think that it’s a controversial opinion or a “hot take” to suggest that Scarlet and Violet really needed an extra year of development time, and should have been announced and released this year, in 2023, as opposed to the end of 2022, and that there was literally no reason for Legends to be released so quickly after BDSP. Being fair to Legends, it is in much better condition than Scarlet Violet (though, honestly, that is a very low bar), but there are still some performance issues and graphical problems that could have benefitted from another 6+ months of polishing.

Now, I will preface this by saying that I am not a Marketing Expert (that's more Archaic's thing), but to me, a much more reasonable timeline of game releases would have been with BDSP coming out exactly when they did in 2021, and then, building off the Sinnoh hype that would theoretically, have been generated from highly anticipated and well received Gen 4 remakes, announce Legends a couple months later on Pokémon Day, as the end of year release for 2022. This way, Legends wouldn’t necessarily cut into sales of BDSP, and BDSP disappointment may not have had as significant of an impact on Legends’ sales. As it is, with Legends coming out November 2022, they could have perhaps taken some development resources from that title in 2021 and given them over to BDSP, which might have allowed them to incorporate some of the features from Pokémon Platinum that fans had been expecting, or perhaps something along the lines of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire's Delta Episode. Scarlet and Violet then could have been announced on Pokémon Day 2023, and have them come out at the end of this year.

So where's this mass outbreak exactly?
Under this revised release schedule, each game would have been given a chance to breathe, and the marketing and merch departments would have been given time to release new merchandise in a timely manner. I mean, it took over a year after Legends was released for Hisuian form plushies to come out, how does that make any sense whatsoever? Not only that, but it’s not like TPCi would be missing that all important holiday season release. Legends’ unusual release date threw off the entire timetable, and while they might have thought that wouldn't be as big of an issue given it was aimed at older fans, in practice not everyone can afford to splurge on a full price game so soon after the holiday season has burned a hole in their wallets. The good news here at least is that it seems like even TPCi realizes that they have a problem, and there have been discussions lately on how they can maintain the quality of their games while still having regular releases. My advice: don’t screw things over by adding in main series title releases outside of the once a year “Christmas” release. May give us some more side-games to tide us over between releases. It's okay to go more than a year between core series releases.

Even beyond the release date, there have been many problems with these games. Already mentioned were the botched Tera Raid events as well as the flubbed HOME connectivity. But there are issues that have yet to be fixed, even 8+ months later. I’m not talking about graphical issues, or even the overall poor performance of the games. Heck, I’m not even talking about the major lag and other issues surrounding online Tera Raid battles, though, believe me, I will talk about Tera Raid battles and Terastalizing in great detail in a future article. I’m talking about basic gamebreaking issues that should have been noticed and fixed during a Beta test of the game, assuming that the game even had time to be Beta tested. As of the last time I played Violet, there were still issues with mass outbreaks where the game would claim there was an ongoing mass outbreak on the map, but you would arrive, and there would be no outbreak. For me, the most recent incident of this was an alleged Glimmlet outbreak near Alfornada/The Leaking Tower of Paldea. I arrived at the location specified on the map, but no Glimmlet were there, despite the on screen notice claiming there were, and I did spend time looking around just to make sure I wasn’t missing them. Furthermore, Pokémon continue to spawn in walls or cliffs or otherwise “out of bounds” locations. In particular, this is incredibly detrimental during mass outbreaks or sandwich powers, where having Pokémon spawning in areas that people can’t even see means that it’s entirely possible to miss shiny Pokémon. But, even outside those particular instances, this is an issue that shows up frequently, and should have easily been caught and fixed before the game was released.

Did I really?
On a related note, it’s still annoying, though not on the same level as the other issues, that there continues to be no shiny jingle or audio cue when a shiny Pokémon appears. While that is a relatively minor gripe, I will continue to be of the opinion that Game Freak can either put in the shiny cue, or otherwise make all shiny forms easily distinguishable from their normal forms at a distance. Trying to find shiny Paldean Tauros, in particular, is a pain because in addition to being incredibly difficult to spot at a glance, it also suffers from yet another gameplay experience issue. Namely, getting repeatedly ambushed by hyper aggressive Pokémon and stuck in unending and unavoidable battle loops is a colossal pain in the butt. While I understand the desire to not “pause” the world during battles or accessing the menu, this unintended side effect is yet another issue that should have been caught very quickly in Beta testing and resolved. As it stands, there were many times, both on stream and off, where I was basically whisked from one battle to another without ever having a chance to escape or avoid the battle. When you are surrounded by groups of aggressive Pokémon like the aforementioned Paldean Tauros, it is entirely possible to get stuck in a repeating loop of non-avoidable battles before, finally, you happen to spawn in a location that’s far enough away from the aggressive Pokémon to give yourself time to escape. And these loops happen even outside the presence of outbreaks or sandwich encounters.

Maniacal Engineer - signing off
The fact that, even as of early September, these issues still have not been fixed shows just how sloppy these games were. Again, all of the above issues should have been easily detectable during Beta testing, since I never had to go out of my way to encounter any of them. Honestly, it seems like, instead of fixing the actual problems with the game, they wanted to simply push ahead with the DLC, and hope people would forget about all the issues that the games still have once they had a few more shiny toys to play with.

Anyway, with all that off my chest, I know it seems like I have nothing but negativity toward Scarlet and Violet, but I do promise plenty of positivity, while maintaining my critical observations, starting with the next article.
Maniacal Engineer

Maniacal Engineer

Bulbagarden Multimedia Executive
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