PokéBase - Pokémon Q&A
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I was playing the VGC 2018 meta game on Pokemon Showdown and I've noticed things like this popping up:

Porygon2 used Thunderbolt!
The opposing Incineroar lost 16.8–20.8% of its health!

What is up with the damage ranges? 16.8-20.8%? Isn't it one or the other? I know that generally moves have damage ranges, which is why you can use the same move on the same Pokemon and have it be noticeably weaker than the last time you used it, but when you actually use the move you're dealing a certain amount of damage, not a range of it.

Sorry, I don't know how to explain it. I don't know if VGC works a bit differently when it comes to this stuff, since this was my first time in this metagame.

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It's between 16.8 to 20.8 percent damage. They do this so the exact damage range isn't seen, I'm guessing.
It's because VGC has to exactly follow the real games, and you can't tell exact damage amounts in the real games.
Yay! An Incineroar was there!

1 Answer

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Showdown gives the possible damage range rather than the actual damage percentage in cartridge formats (so BSS, BSD, and VGC) because it’s meant to replicate battles as accurately as possible to playing on an actual 3DS, which doesn’t give you the exact amount; the best you could do is estimate based on damage calculations, which SD does for you.

I thought the best you can do is estimate based on looking at the pixels on the screen, which is sometimes better than damage calculations.
That’s true; the 3DS health bar has 48 pixels, leaving a margin of error at just over 2%, much more precise than the 4% in the asker’s example. I guess Smogon thought that pixel measurements was too extreme to expect most players to do when playing on 3DS, but that damage calcs weren’t (I mean, some of the more advanced Pokémon sets use careful calculation to ensure it has just barely enough to outspeed, KO, or survive against specific threats, so I guess it is reasonable to expect in some cases).
There's a difference between doing these things while team building and doing them during battle. Doing them during battle is much harder.
Ohhhhh that makes more sense! thank you so much!