What does that entail, and what sort of changes would need to be made in order to make it work? Given there are a few examples of this kind of game already, and so I'll touch on them. However what I am proposing is a game just like the traditional main series games. I.e. Emerald or Diamond, or X, etc.
Meaning it would have all of the regions, and you would be able to choose where you would want to go start.
There is a wide and vast amount of official and fan made games out there. From the lowly start of Red/Blue/Green, to the crazy fan games of today. All of them give you a unique experience, but today let's talk about the concept of an open world experience in the world of Pokemon.
Basic Macro Overview of what this Entails
The biggest hurdle is balancing the game, as even with Gold and Silver which had two regions had some issues with that. Let alone including all of the regions, and I don't partake in the idea that a game of this nature should only have a few of the total. Mind as well go all in, and find a way to make it work.
How a player will experience the game should be through events and playing the dungeons (gyms mostly), and that shouldn't be a big deal given it is just a matter of numbers in a database.
As I said before let's include all regions, but perhaps a good way to go about doing it is that you CAN'T bring over previous region's PKMN. Meaning you HAVE to start over in each Region. Now hear me out before you through up the pitchforks!!
For one some of the most fun of the games is when you are building out your team for the first time. Trying to see what creatures in that region would make a good combo, then going through some of the first challenges with them. By the time you get to the last couple gyms or league you have built up a strong team and maybe even a legendary.
Here is where I propose that after perhaps the 6th gym or later, you can gain access to your previous creatures, then can mix match from whatever you have. Of course the more regions you played previously the more you will have to choose from.
However that region's rules still apply, so if you don't have enough badges IN THAT region, even if you are the champion in another. You still have to follow the laws of that new one, and so you are limited on what level you can catch or control.
Seems like sort of a cheap way of doing it, but that would keep people from steamrolling the league or last gym.
There also could be connective parts of the regions between them, like Mt.Silver for Johto/Kanto, that you only access after beating both.
I was going to talk about Starters next, but I think before I do there is an importance to the levels.
Let's start off by increasing the level cap, maybe to 120, or even 200. Perhaps in order to get past 120 you have to have beaten three regions. I had this idea for an all world tournament, which I think I had it before Black and White did it. Although I digress, as the competition would take place in a region that isn't too explored. Meaning on a few towns, and mostly just big wild areas. Making it really hard for you to explore. You only get access to it after however so many regions, and perhaps can't even fully explore it until a few more.
Sort of like the Tower in Zelda Phantom Hourglass. You unlock more of it as you go, but perhaps it could be blocked by HM's that you only get via the various Leagues. I am for the whole removing HM's from move slots, so let's say you call a wild PKMN for it, or your team can just do it without having to learn it.
Between the level scaling to what gym you have in that region, and resetting to a degree as if they were their own games, then having prestige levels for say like your starter or something. There could be a balance maintained to keep the harmony of what the main series feels like.
Now I'm not sure if you would just get a Pikachu like Ash and go with it in all the regions, or perhaps get a new starter in each region. Maybe the Pikachu's level doesn't matter, and all that really matters is that you get a new special move in each region, think Iron Tail in Hoenn, which you could only get in that way. Not by leveling.
Then on top of that your starter's level resets to something like 10, and you get a choice of the new 3 in each region. However all the levels you get reset from, then get translated in to prestige levels. Making your starter one of your best prestige PKMN.
Each region has their various starters, and I feel like the events in Yellow were a lot of fun. Perhaps there could be some similar ones (maybe even more than one, that changes each play through), and so in each region you can get all the starters.
This may have to be done in the outside areas, such as in between regions or in that post game region I mentioned earlier.
Something that Crystal Clear does is create teamsets for every gym badge level. Which means 16 sets for every trainer in Johto and Kanto. I wouldn't necessarily think it would be that extreme, as I don't foresee people jumping between regions while still doing the gym challenge.
Perhaps though each trainer will scale based on what gyms you have done IN that region.
Perhaps the leagues should scale too based on the highest level you have in the party.
For one you can't bring your previous creatures over until a certain point.
Maybe items are left with your parents at the starter home, or you get to bring only a handful. Perhaps there could be limits on how much you can carry, and each outfit garners a new backpack that you have to level up or replace in that region. Leading to side quests.
I almost like the idea of scan towers like in Far Cry, that help you see the areas around you, and make it less linear.
I mean this in two ways, as no one wants to become the champion of a region, and then not be recognized as such in another region for their efforts. Meaning your progress will have impact on the proceeding regions after. Either scaling the difficulty with each region, and/or giving you bonus events that only occur if you did one region or another prior to your current one.
The other way I mean prestige is in the way that Diablo does it in their leveling. As you can only level up so much, but there is a second scale called your prestige level. It is extra skills, stats, and events that only occur/gained when you gain a level in the prestige level tree. Instead of just the regular leveling.
I'm not sure the rewards or benefits as of yet besides IVs/DVs, and maybe enhanced stats. There would be contests too, and so the values of beauty and coolness. On another note those values like beauty should totally be seen in battle. Some effect like the shiny effect, or the trainer saying something about it that you're facing. Maybe attraction from wild PKMN, etc.
Additionally, a maxed out prestige PKMN could turn shiny or something.
Other Games that are Trying or Tried to do Openworld Pokemon
I find it very interesting to look at the previous attempts at doing something similar to what we are talking about here. Whether it was official or fan-made, there is surely a lot that can be learned from the past.
Let's start out by the semi-recent release of the Legends game. When I started this post actually it was prior to it being released. However since that time I had been putting this on the slow burner. I find that I think Nintendo was doing the same thing with this game.
They tested out the waters in Sword/Shield with the open areas of the Galar region and DLC areas. Allowing for people to subtly get used to the idea of being open world. However here is where it changes. The Legends game takes place about 100 years or so prior to the current timeline.
Honestly I think that is a cheap way of doing it, but perhaps it is because they wanted to oversimplify the world around. Then they could focus on the actual mechanics of how the game will play. Like being able to catch PKMN without having to battle them for example. Honestly though, it just feels like Breath of the Wild yet PKMN.
I have a really high opinion on this fangame as it did things wonderfully to account for various situations. It also continuously gets updated with minor events with their fan favorite Swinub for some reason lol. The game is simply Kanto and Johto, and built on the Crystal rom. Allowing for two regions, 16 gyms, and up to about 16 starters. From the original 6 normal ones, to Pikachu, Eevee, or even ditto.
What I find most interesting is the scaling. Shockslayer, the creator of the romhack, put in the hours because each trainer has about 16 sets of PKMN. The game had to account for every gym badge you got, and scale based on that. I think wild PKMN just scale to you, but each trainer and gym leader scales to your badge.
You also get to choose what order gyms you pursue, which can get interesting. Do you save the easy type advantage gyms for the start when your PKMN are weak, or doing you save them for the end when all of the gyms have 6 PKMN and strong teams?
It also took a note from future games and sort of got rid of the need of HM's, they are still in the game however most spots where they were used are gone. Like the random bush to cut to get between two towns is now gone. However instead there are new areas around the towns/routes, that weren't in the vanilla game that you may have to use those moves to traverse. It really adds a complexity to the game, and opens up the regions to explore at your own pace/style.
While I'm not sure if it is the same one I played as a kid, I think that one might have gotten discontinued, but not sure. It certainly has changed a lot over the years, and seems to have the Black/White pixel art which is great.
Being an MMO allows for players from around the world to join up and play the PKMN game together.
This sort of game really lends itself to the style of game that massively open role playing games offer. I think if Nintendo were to make this officially, then it would make a ton of money for them.
Here is the real beauty of it, with all of the real life players being in the world, then it makes feel that much more lived in. Having more populace, and the vanilla games have a feeling of being too empty or small.
This is the game that Legends Arceus should have been. It takes notes from minecraft, breath of the wild, and even just other procedurely generated world games. Each time you play the game world is randomly generated, and it leads to some of the most interesting encounters.
When I played I pissed off a Wartortle, and honestly couldn't escape it. It was both scary and annoying! I watched a YouTuber play a 100 in game days in the game, there were a few goals like revive a fossil or fight a legendary, but overall it was just exploring and catching PKMN. Which hmmm sounds like what a PKMN game should be about inherently.
I think the linearity of the vanilla game series is fun still, but it leaves much to be desired. You can basically go anywhere in this game, and fly to new islands, use rideable PKMN to traverse the landscape or cut down trees. You make a fence to store your PKMN safely out of your party. There is a lot to it, and really you just gotta explore it for yourself.
All going for something different than the original main series
As they had a different gimmick, and didn't truly feel like a regular Pokemon game. Now Crystal Clear is probably the best you are going to get actually in this front, as it truly is an open world version of PKMN Crystal. However what you gain in openness you lose in story.
Lessons we can Learn from Crystal Clear
I'm bringing this one back up because I think out of everything, even the game that Nintendo made themselves, this one is most like an open world game there is. That is saying a lot considering PKMN wilds is literally only an open world, but there is a lack of civilization or substance beyond the basic formula of explore and catch.
CC gives you the exploration feeling, the ability to catch basically anything you want, and there are some areas with higher level PKMN that don't scale with you. Allowing you to take a chance, and catch something even higher than your team for a boost. It gives you the freedom of choice of where you want to go next.
However here is one take away that both CC and Wilds share, there is no storyline. I think CC takes some inspiration from Crystal, where there is some Suicune arc a little bit. There is also their Swinub side story, and you can catch PKMN like Celebi in their events. However there is no overarching story, and that is partially because of the extreme non-linearity.
The perfect game would somehow take the freedom of CC, the pure exploration of wilds, and the story of a traditional PKMN game all into one.
My own Projects and Ideas
From literally the age of 10 or 11, I have been gathering sprites, and practicing my own sprite pixel art. From PKMN to Zelda, and more. I found myself really enamoredwith world maps, and you can see one of those in the header image of this blog post. I wanted to make the world map as accurate to canon as possible, which believe it or not MOST world maps you see out there; Even the one on Serebii.net, are completely incorrect.
It is a really shame honestly, and so I decided to do something about it, and I made my own. My latest one, I think it is at 4.0 right now, is still in the works. The Galar and Alola regions really screwed me up a bit. I also haven't gotten around to working on them for a while. However I think an open world map that is made in such a way that takes into account the various connective lore pieces is crucial for a properly made game.
Additionally, I was taken aback by how crappy some sprites are in various fangames. Honestly not the fault of the creators really, but rather the limited artistic designs of the vanilla sprites from the games. The Nintendo people exclaim it is a matter of time needed, as there are almost a 1000 species, and there needs to be animations and what not. However I think with the budget these games have, and the sheer numbers they have on their teams; That it is more of an excuse than anything.
Note: I mean they reused the animations and models from X/Y!!! All the way up until recent games. I don't think we have gotten different models until the upcoming Scarlet and Violet games.
I wanted to upgrade/revamp all of the old sprites with modern colors, and make them more accurate to what we see in 3D/anime. Which makes it more pleasing to the eyes. All vanilla sprites are outlined with a black border, which helps to differentiate from the background. However that was really because the screens on the DS and gameboy were so small. Nowadays the games are in 3D, and if you are playing a 2D game then it is either on your computer or HD phone. In any case you won't have that same issue.
Might as well give myself a Shoutout here:
Putting it All Together
Okay so what we need is freedom of choice, a populated world, either by procedurely creating it, or making the region more accessible. Then have a wide selection of options, which is like a choose your own adventure type of thing.
There was one romhack about a decade ago that I saw, which allowed you the choice of being a trainer, photographer, contest participant, or even researcher. The game then changed, to a degree I guess, based on your choice of how you wanted to explore. I think that is a great way to essentially choose your class, and then the game goes on from there. You could completely ignore the gyms if you wanted to.
Is a game like this ever going to be made? I don't know, but I came across PKMN Wilds literally in the timeframe of me making this post. Not even sure how old it is, and so who knows what someone is cooking up in the background. Let's just all hope that Nintendo plays nice!
I came up with these ideas after playing most of the main series all my life, creating Pokemon world maps for most of my life, playing romhacks, and spriting characters.
Meaning I have extensive experience with the series, and would like to create this game myself one day. Hopefully with the grace of Nintendo by my side, but if I can't then C'est la vie.
However if you are making a game, and you end up taking some of these ideas. I do understand, but just please give me credit in the credits so that others can find me too. I plan on making my sprites open to everyone to use, as I hate the boring styles of traditional sprites, and revamped all the PKMN to a modern 3ds/Switch color schemes. When that is out people can use those too!