7.8/10 Not Enough Water

2020-11-10

As the title hopefully suggests, I am a fan of the third generation of Pokémon. It is and likely always shall be my favorite. In fact, that title isn’t just a play on the meme about a particular ORAS review, but a legitimate opinion. I believe Pokémon games need more water. Or, specifically, more to actually do with it. Dive was criminally underdeveloped and underutilized.

Except, we’re not here to listen to my insane ramblings.

I mean, we kind of are. My tastes and upbringing with Pokémon are why I still do this stuff. I’m a product of my environment like anyone else, and especially the times. The proverbial genesis of my hobby began in most unholy of places: early YouTube. I’ll jokingly refer to this era of the internet as the Dark Ages from now on.

It almost makes me feel old to talk about a predominately pre-Google internet in the 21st century. Simpler times (not really) before an ad company decided it wanted to rule the world wide web with an iron fist. Like, goddamn, dude. We had enough trouble back in the day with Microsoft’s shenanigans. This is worse than the Internet Explorer monopoly.

Putting that unfortunately relevant point aside, we can return to my story. So, back during the Dark Ages- we’re talking maybe 2007, 2008- I watched a lot of YouTube. As a primarily Nintendo kid growing up, I liked Pokémon. A lot. At the same time, the Gen III Pokémon hacking scene was still in its relative infancy. It wasn’t long, however, before some people started using ROM hacking as a story medium, and I, a kid with stars in their eyes and perhaps ambitions of making my dream Pokémon game, was immediately hooked.

They usually followed an episodic nature with plenty of dialogue and battles in between. Oftentimes, audio and other visuals were also edited in. A simple and effective structure that you can do a lot with. I remember the excitement when a new episode came out. To see how the story would unfold next in each one, or rewatch others when I couldn’t wait long enough. There were even crossovers between series, which was just the coolest thing ever.

A couple continue to stand out in my mind to this day. Elliot’s Pokémon Adventures, Water Pokémon Legend, the classic Pokémon: The Hack from TamashiiHiroka (now Tama Hero). Admittedly, I didn’t really watch that last one much, but I’m noting it here due to the channel still being active, and Tama coming out with a video about the channel’s history recently. Hadn’t seen anything from her in well over a decade, but the moment I saw the name in the video title- it randomly popped into my recommended feed- I recognized it. Talk about a blast from the past.

I find it hard, though, to describe the appeal of these shows to people today. They weren’t exactly production quality media. This was the age of “Unregistered Hypercam 2” up in the corner, predating the standards creators are held to today. The writing wasn’t going to win any awards. The editing was often basic, and graphics were mostly vanilla, or custom work of… indeterminate quality. This wasn’t where you’d go for your content fix today, yet this stuff holds a special place in my heart.

Why, you might ask?

First of all, I was just a kid then. Children are far from stupid, but they can enjoy and be occupied by what we “adults” would deem low quality or lacking nuance. Besides, we all have these sorts of things where nostalgia just takes over. Second, again, these were the Dark Ages, man! The book was being written on the spot, and it would be years before we hit modern video making practices and outright availability of the equipment. A lot of big YouTube names persisted through those times, but they started small like everyone else. They helped build the foundation that made YouTube strong.

Just ignore how terrible Google is right now, and the active destruction of that very foundation for short-term monetary gain and control.

Lastly, it was just a love for Pokémon. Not only from myself, but from the creators of these series. The content may not have aged well for the most part, but they tried. They created the Pokémon game they wanted, or a story to be told through the medium. Maybe it was just a poor attempt at humor, or a stepping stone to professional game development. There’s an undeniable charm to all of this, and a joy I felt experiencing it.

It was fun.

Also ignore how Nintendo often gives fans the middle finger and alienates them by quashing fan projects. Oh, Nintendo…

Thus, inspired by these creators and equipped with programs from some Spanish ROM hacking site, I went through the rigors of crafting my dream Pokémon game…

Except, I didn’t.

I was nowhere near as tech savvy as I am today, and everything flew over my head and past the stratosphere. I remember fiddling around with mapping, but not much else. Honestly, about the only thing I took away from my experimentation was a habit of emulation. To this day, I enjoy emulating various systems, and am a very strong advocate of its use in preserving digital history. Without all of the incredible open-source efforts, this stuff would just die off with the hardware. Nobody would be able to enjoy and explore the games of yesteryear, unless whoever owns the properties and junk decides to cash in on nostalgia.

Several years would pass before I attempted ROM hacking again. By that time, the Gen III hacking community was on the cusp of what I consider to be its second wave. A lot of the greats of the early scene were moving on, and we still hadn’t seen breakthroughs like expanding moves, Pokémon, and so on. That and more were just on the horizon, however, with an influx of new talent and enthusiasm. Pretty wild time to get back into things, but I’m going to leave off on this post. I think it’s long enough, and it seems thematically correct to split this up into two posts.

In the next post, I’ll get into my early work, some of the changes and advancements going on in the community, and my current projects now. As before, there’s no telling when that will be written and uploaded here. In either case, though, thanks to anyone that read this.

Until next time.