The Palworld and Pokémon drama continues. After Pocketpair’s monster-taming survival game was accused of ripping models from Game Freak’s RPGs, an X (formerly Twitter) user has gone viral for comparing monsters between the two games. The comparisons were similar enough to convince fans that Palworld’s characters weren’t just look-alikes but could have been directly ripped from Pokémon games. However, there seems to be some misinformation floating around their comparisons.
Byo, the user in question, has posted several videos directly comparing the models of different Pokémon with Palworld’s “Pals,” and at a glance, the side-by-side seems pretty damning, as not only do the designs seem heavily, er, inspired by Pokémon characters, but some parts of the modeling looked almost identical to aspects of Game Freak’s creatures. However, in the days since their comparisons have gone viral to the tune of millions of views, accusations that Byo had fabricated or edited the models to fit the narrative have started sprouting up.
The specific issue being levied here is that Byo scaled Pokémon and Palworld models to be comparable in size to one another for the comparisons. In a statement to Kotaku, Byo says this is the extent of the editing they did, rather than any tampering with the models to make similarities more stark.
“I didn’t edit the models in a way that would modify their meshes, proportions, or other fundamental features (other than their size in Blender), but I did scale them uniformly,” they said. “So, for example, I might scale one model up by three-fold in the x, y, and z dimensions to show them at the same scale,” they said. “The models are all from different games and potentially made in different 3D modeling software suites, so they tend to load in at really different scales.”
This isn’t the same as altering character models and designs to look alike. Think of comparing a Pikachu action figure with the Pikachu Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. You’d need to scale them to comparable sizes in order to do a proper side-by-side. But as tensions rise around the Palworld and Pokémon communities, it seems some accounts are looking to frame this as modifying models to look more similar, rather than as a necessary step to allow for reasonable comparison. This has even extended to claims that Byo “admitted” to altering models, though the cited tweets only show them stating they altered scale, but not the models themselves.
But even if the Pals and Pokémon look similar, is this definitive proof that Pocketpair stole Game Freak’s assets? Byo says no, but the frequency with which proportions between games line up invites discussion and awareness.
“Even I don’t think there is 100 percent conclusive evidence, and I don’t think there ever will be unless someone finds an un-edited model,” they said. “At the same time, it’s really easy to edit models. You can remesh a model in like 10 seconds. I think all you can do is establish a pattern of similarities and let people decide if that indicates intent to copy or not.”
Ultimately, this ends up falling into the same pile as claims that Pocketpair used AI to create Palworld’s characters, in that it’s a narrative that has spun out from conjecture and assumptions, rather than conclusive evidence. Byo says they’ve made attempts to clarify information from those inquiring in good faith and that people have “[responded] well” in those interactions, but they’ve also spent at least one night up until 3 a.m. reading forum posts about the entire ordeal.
“It has been interesting to be the main character of Pokémon Twitter,” they said. “Mostly people have been nice, curious, and haven’t like sent me death threats. People should be skeptical of individual claims regardless of the subject, so good for them. One person did threaten to kill a cat on my behalf, but it’s Twitter, you know?”
As for Byo’s motivation, while they’ve been “roasted” for a tweet claiming they did this because of how Palworld “glorifies” animal abuse, they say they might have initially wanted to see Pocketpair’s game shut down, but they “feel empathy” for the team in the wake of the controversy.
“I do not think this is a very serious infraction in the grand scheme of things, and I certainly don’t want anyone to be threatened.”
Palworld is out now for PC and Xbox, and if you’re a Game Pass subscriber you can play it as part of your membership. Since the game’s Early Access launch, it’s been in a whirlwind of controversy for its similarities in character design to Pokémon, even if it’s mechanically pretty different from Game Freak’s RPGs. Pocketpair says it’s not worried about a lawsuit from Nintendo, though the Mario maker has come after a mod that changes all of Palworld’s Pals into Pokémon characters.