Story vs. Gameplay - How Important Is Each

What do you think is most important when it comes to Pokemon Fangame development

  • Story

    Votes: 4 16.7%
  • Gameplay

    Votes: 7 29.2%
  • Both are equally important

    Votes: 13 54.2%

  • Total voters


Overseer of the Abyss
Apr 24, 2017
A very simple discussion thread, inspired by a lot of talk about it in the past. In a nutshell, what would you say is important to fan-game development: the Story (Setting, Lore, Main Scenario, Side Quests, etc.) or the Gameplay (Mechanics, Balance, Length of Time, Difficulty:Reward, etc). Perhaps you feel that one is more important than the other, or that both are equally important. Use this thread to discuss your thoughts in a civilized manner and see what your fellow community members also have to say; who knows, you might learn something in the process, or even help someone see something in a different light!

I for one believe both are equally important, however both are not always mutually exclusive and can be situational; for example, if you're making an adventure-based fan-game that doesn't revolve entirely around Pokemon Battles and only uses them as a side element, then you'd put more emphasis on the story. If you're making a game ala Game Freak's M.O., then you'd want to focus more on the gameplay elements and maybe focus less on the story elements. However, I like to focus on both when necessary, to create a nice and enjoyable story, while keeping the gameplay fair and enjoyable itself.

There is no right or wrong answer, just personal preferences.


Edge Lord
Apr 1, 2017
I would say that gameplay and story have an equal amount of importance, since they can both be the most enjoyable aspects of a game, fangame or not, but after thinking about it, I think that gameplay is more important, in my opinion.

I mean, if you really think about it, a game can last completely on its own with solid gameplay tweaks and such to back itself up. As important as story is, a game doesn't have to have it to necessarily be enjoyable. You can have a game with survival mechanics and vast customization and so many things to explore without even so much as an ounce of dialogue, and it can work.
Story can lessen the importance of gameplay, or even outright overtake it, but it can only do this to a certain extent. You can have the best story in the world but people aren't going to want to play your fangame if you have level 100 legendaries blocking your way all of the time.

But in a normal setting, I think they should both be considered in creating a fangame.


May 8, 2017
In some respects, both can be seen as equally important, as people are unlikely to play your game with frustrating gameplay or an uninspired plot.

However, coming up with a simple story can be very easy, it's mostly a matter of creating a few characters and giving them motives then having them follow those motives. If motives clash then you get conflict and that can attract interest. It's not hard to come up with a decent idea.

Gameplay, on the other hand, has to keep a player's interest and it's what they'll really care about. It's also a lot more work to get right. If it's fun and challenging then they'll keep playing, even when the story isn't in focus as much. A game is more than an interactive story after all.

It's hard to judge gameplay just from looking at a game, so an interesting story is simply the first indicator of quality.

Pixel Profligate

Lazy Artist
Mar 24, 2017
Ah, the age old question. Well, in this specific case, I think it can vary, seeing as Pokemon has gone both ways (as in putting one slightly ahead of the other.) I think it ultimately comes down to how you want the game to feel, in regards to fangames specifically. If you want it to feel more like a classic Pokemon game, make story less important. Still have it their, yeah, but don't make it the priority. But if you want it to feel more like one of the newer Gens, like Gen 5 or 7, then put story slightly ahead of gameplay. But never put story really high above gameplay, since it can lead to a very imbalanced game.

In regards to games as a whole, though, they should eother be balanced, or gameplay first, since games can be fun with or without a story, but often are harder to enjoy with poor gameplay.

Dawn Bronze

While I think that both are quite important, I would say that fro Pokemon fangames, game play is more important. When you think abiut it, I find it hard to believe that anyone is looking to play Pokemon fangames for the story only. The people interested in them are interested in them purely because of the game play of Pokemon games. They didn't come looking primarily because they wanted a game with a deep story line, they came because they wanted to play a Pokemon game, and the game play of a Pokemon game falls under that.

On the other hand though, I'm not saying that a good or interesting story line isn't important at all. Of course, a basic story line is kinda needed in any fan game, but to be honest I feel like you can still make a great fangame without worrying too much about having a complex story line. I mean, even the offical games themselves tend to have rather shallow and basic story lines, so there's no harm if a fangame dev follows suit. At the same time though, if having a complex story is something you just wanna do anyway, then there's nothing to hold you back. I just feel like in terms of Pokemon fangames it's really the game play people are attracted to, and that that's what's probably more important to focus on.
You should have a balance. Gameplay is what holds up the Pokémon franchise and a large part of the reason why people come back to keep playing. The other large part is the story. The world of Pokémon is detailed, rich and beautiful, and although the stories are basic, they still work. Of course, you can still have a more intricate story in your game. But, I feel like you shouldn't make it too grandiose that it distracts from the gameplay. It will frustrate players. Look at all the cutscenes SM had in the first hour of the game, and how people hated that!
I'm saying this thinking about fan games very specifically; the most basic gameplay (movement and battle) is what I think can make or break a game, but with pokemon fan games we're all using the same stuff. Yeah there's freedom to add new field moves or battle mechanics to change it up, but it's still a top down RPG with a turn based battle system.

Now of course there's nothing wrong with that, obviously it's a tried and true formula that not only keeps Game Freak reiterating on it but also keeps the pans passionate enough to iterate on it ourselves. My point more is, that it's going to be hard for a fan game to not do the gameplay correctly. What could even go wrong? (Level curve? Can be adjusted fairly easilly until a sweet spot is hit. Bosses too strong? The mechanics are already in: the player can keep levelling up, even keeping experience from a lost battle. Some Fakemon is overpowered? The player can catch it themselves and exploit it. Not enough places to heal? That takes 1 NPC, easy fix.)

So that mean story must be more important because fan game devs have much more power over it. Buuuut stories are traditionally not the most important part of video games. They're not in the spotlight at all times like the gameplay is, so it's okay for them to be a little weaker. Plenty of players don't even care about the story in the game they're playing, because that's not what keeps them engaged. It's also easy to find people playing fan games in a foreign language they don't understand, because just the experience is rewarding enough.

...Well now I don't know how to sum up my opinion. Uhh nothing matters at all, just make games you wanna make!


Pokémon Essentials dev
Essentials Developer
Apr 5, 2017
Bad gameplay is going to repel players more than a bad story. The vast majority of time spent playing a Pokémon game is the player doing their own thing, grinding levels and exploring, while story moments (relatively) infrequently punctuate this. The player will ALWAYS experience gameplay, and not so often experience story. There are more reasons to play a Pokémon game than its story: fakemon, exploration of a new place, challenges such as Nuzlocke, etc. The story in a Pokémon fangame is, therefore, clearly less important than its gameplay.

All the obvious caveats apply, of course. You should still care about story as much as you can, world-building isn't the same as story, we all use Essentials so we already have the gameplay mostly sorted out, there'll always be capability limitations, there are many more factors to a Pokémon fangame than just "story" and "gameplay" (whatever that actually means), etc. etc.

My personal preference is for a less intrusive story. I do not find cutscenes or railroading pleasant, as the former takes control away from the player while the latter removes choice and exploration. I'm assuming that gameplay refers to the mechanics of the game and the way it is controlled - clunky controls, counter-intuitive features and bugs all detract from gameplay. Things like Pokémon distribution and specific layout of maps/regions would not come under my definition of "gameplay". To me, gameplay is how a game feels, while story is what it says and region design/Pokémon availability are a part of what it looks like.


not okay but getting there
Mar 29, 2017
I'm not gonna write some huge rant about it, but I will just say that I've lost a lot of sleep writing up story stuff and have barely put any thought into gameplay beyond some of the more basic stuff.

Story might not be what draws a player into a game, but it would definitely play a large role in keeping them interested.
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A wild Minun appeared!
May 17, 2017
The thing about comparing those two is that while both try to make the player enjoy the game they have different roles:

-This is the base ot the game. Without it your game isn't playable.
-If the gameplay sucks people will stop playing.
-If the gameplay is ok people will play the game but won't stick to it.
-If the gameplay is good people will enjoy playing the game. It will often be taken for granted.
-If the gameplay is outstanding people will enjoy the mechanics of your game and will stick to playing even for the postgame. This needs unconvential features and will also make people remeber your game as outstanding.

-The story sets the goals of the player.
-The story makes the player affected to the game.
-A not evolved story will make the game feel less natural and may leave the player in situations where he doesn't know what to do next. This will make people stop playing the game.
-An ok story will keep people to play and like the game if the gameplay is ok.
-A good story will create good memories. This is also what will make people remember your game as good.
-An outstanding story will make the game really shine. It has to be innovative and interesting. It makes people addicted to your game(until the story is over). This will make people remeber your game as outstanding.

-Bad gameplay will repel players while it's really hard to make your game shine with good gamplay. But if you manage to do so your game quality will skyrocket.
-A bad story will not break your game. But it is easier to make your game shine and more memorable with a good story than it is to do so with good gameplay.

Gameplay may be more important for a game because not having it will break your game. For example games like Minecraft don't even have a story.

But if you have a good gameplay already the story will make it shine even more. It will set goals and challenge the player. It will introduce the player into the game and all the gameplay features. It will create memories. To stick with the Minecraft example: I feel like a quest map is much better than just playing vanilla because it adds a goal.

My personal opinion is that the gameplay is the base of the game and the story just adds up to the quality. But the quality added through story can easily surpass the base quality. The effect of the story beeing good will fade away in post game while the gameplay will not. So both are important if you want to have an outstanding game.


Apr 1, 2017
I agree with a lot of what has been said, but I would also like to raise the example of Magikarp Jump. Its gameplay is so minimalistic that it openly tells you when things are random - literally the most significant features (fishing a Magikarp, point gains from training, the results of random events - these factors decide JP, and everything else in the game depends directly on them) are all randomized and require next to no user input. In fact, I'm pretty sure training still happens if you don't tap the screen? Tapping is just faster.

I don't really think people are playing Magikarp Jump for the gameplay - literally to tap on things that are hardly even time-specific (you don't have a limited time to tap on food, you don't have to tap quickly for the events, and once your partners have become usable, they don't disappear/go back to needing to wait until you've used them). Tournaments don't depend on user input, only on JP (which has already been established to depend on randomness), and if you lose, you can try again after some time - and generally, that "some time" is already what you needed to train Magikarp more (you're simply not going to do any better if you only try again right away), so it's not even a consequence, just a reminder to train. There are very minimal stakes, and user input is very minimal. Gameplay in Magikarp Jump is the simplest it could possibly be.

But then look at /r/Pokemon. It... it's very difficult to say that everyone has stepped away from this game and isn't enjoying it. I'm sure a fair few people got bored of the gameplay, but more than enough people have stuck around, and I started playing it because it was good enough that two friends of mine recommended it to me, separately, because they enjoyed it - and neither of them said a word about gameplay and functionality.

Now take away the cute dialogue, cute premise and general silliness that makes the game what it is. The story it tries to tell: even the most pathetically weak fish, a Magikarp, and even those Trainers who have to put up with its incompetence at anything other than jumping, have all continued to try and go on and on and on and not give up because of the support from their friends, and you're just one of many people who love Magikarp. There's a whole town of people that revolves around these competitions because everyone, even the pathetically weak Magikarp, has a place in the world where they are loved. There's no way to construe these as gameplay rather than story; they're the game's personality and they're the reason people come back to the game and continue to mess around with it and have fun.

I kinda think all of you are understating story a lot, haha. And I mean, as Aki pointed out, we all have the same gameplay for the most part, and it's pretty difficult to mess it up unless you go out of your way. Besides, maybe nobody is seeking out fangames for their story, but once I've already played it, the story decides whether I tell my friends and recommend it or not - the story still decides if those friends play it. Besides, since different people have different preferences... no matter what your difficulty curve is, you have an audience, so why is that a limiting factor that supersedes and suppresses story? OTL

Then again, I mean, I personally actually liked SM and BW and thought their focus on story made them a heck of a lot more engaging than other games that didn't have story, but apparently that's unpopular because it gets "railroady" - as a slightly tangential topic of discussion, instead of trying to pick one or the other as more important, how can you keep an engaging story that is present throughout your game from becoming railroady and intrusive? To those of you who prefer games with more focus on gameplay and dislike when story gets in the way, what alternatives, changes, pieces of advice do you have to allow gameplay to still shine through and meet your standards without going the other way and getting in the way of the story?