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A few weeks ago I wrote a very typical article about how Pokémon Go is a fun game to play and how it has captured the attention of 40 Million people worldwide. Well today I will get into the depths of the problems that have been reccuringly coming up, day after day, patch after patch. This article is meant for people who play the game at a more advanced level and who also have knowledge of other game systems. It is my analysys of the current state of the Pokémon Go gameplay and functionality. I strongly believe the game is still a great game, although it will need a lot of support to actually become a phenomenon in history and not just a bleep on the map of most downloaded mobile apps of year 2016. For those who don’t know, I am currently Lvl 29 in Pokémon Go and playing for Team Instinct. Alright. Let’s get into it.
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The Gym system is inherently broken
One of the biggest issues that I hear Pokémon Go players complain about is the current state of the gym system. As described last week, a gym can have its prestige raised to 50000 so that it can house 10 Pokémon of the same team. In order to do this you need to battle an ally gym with one of your Pokémon over and over again until the prestige is raised to the maximum. Let’s get technical now. You’re walking by a lvl 10 enemy gym. You want to crush it. The lowest Pokémon in the gym has 2000CP. There are 9 more at least at the same CP as the first one and most likely a Dragonite of over 3000CP at the top spot. You have 6 Pokémon to defeat all of those. Why not give the player the same amount of Pokémon that the gym has? One? Ok, here’s one and that’s that. 10? Then have 10. What does this fix achieve? You know when you are above level 25 and leave a 2000CP Snorlax in a gym all by his lonesome and then some dude comes around that is lvl 15 knocks him out eventually with his 6 Pokémon? Not the best feeling. This goes both ways though. Any lvl 15 person who had the luck of catching a Dragonite or a Snorlax should have the benefit of it not being just simply squashed by any other lower level player. Worst part now is that there was a “fix” that prevents Pokémon from surviving the Gyms with 1HP as it was previously. I threw away around 200 revives because I really thought they would have no use except when you let your dude get knocked out when battling. I need them now more than ever since every time I leave a Pokémon in a gym I know it will get crushed and needs to be revived again.
But here’s my biggest fix to the gym system
There are currently 10 levels in a Gym. We split the gyms in compartiments that can only be accessed if you are a specific level. As a trainer you are allowed to join a team and battle in Gyms at level 5. This is just an example:
- Trainer Level 5 – 10: access to Lvl 1 to 3 in Gyms.
- Trainer Level 11 – 15: access to Lvl 4 – 6 in Gyms.
- Trainer Level 16 – 20: access to Lvl 7 -10 in Gyms.
- Trainer Level 21 – ?: access to an upper level of a Gym. Let’s call this an S-Class Gym.
This S-Class Gym will also be split into compartiments so that only trainers of specific levels can access parts of the Gym.
To be very clear, what I mean with access to level x to y is that trainers of level, for example, 11-15 will never be able to fight or put any Pokémon inside Gyms at level 1 – 3.
Bonus stats: if a section of a gym (eg. 4-6) is fully inhabited by Pokémon of the same team then all Pokémon from the same team on different level in that Gym receive a minor buff. This is so that there is some impact coming from all across the board. Everyone can help everyone. If the normal Gym or the S-Class Gym is fully taken by one team, each trainer from that gym will get a bonus in the form of either a Pokémon/candy/dust/potions/etc.
What does this fix do for the mass community?
New players stop being intimidated by current gyms. When you are level 5 you have, maybe, a 300CP Drowzee and you’re thinking “wow. I will battle anyone coming my way”.
Naivity is sweet… Yet full of dissapointment when you have to face a level 10 Gym with the lowest CP Pokémon being 2000CP.
The moment you see that you kind of want to uninstall the app. This also gets players to play at their own pace and lifestyles. There are people who would still want to play, but feel that their impact is so low in the game they quit entirely. I was talking to Holzfrevler (Lvl 23) and he said that he feels intimidated by the gyms even at his level, since he doesn’t have the time to grind it out like other people, for example like at the Scheiner. Higher level players would play against higher level players with this fix, so everyone else who just plays at a mediocre pace can still enjoy all the current features of the game. At higher level in the S-Class Gyms the competition would become more interesting and more strategic, with more teams coming together to battle for supremacy in their cities.
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Lock modules and lucky eggs shouldn’t exist in the game
A big shout out to all the people who spent hours on a daily basis catching Pidgeys, Weedles and Rattatas sitting around a few Pokéstops and “grinding” it out. In my previous article I posted, at the end of it, this picture:
This is my actual feeling about this certain situation: dafuq is this? For those unfamiliar with this specific spot: it is called Scheiner from the school Christoph-Scheiner-Gymnasium in Ingolstadt. I am sure there are spots like this in most cities. There are 4 Pokéstops there and if you sit in the middle you can reach all of them. This supplies you with enough Pokéballs, Potions, etc. and also with 4 Lock Modules on each of the Pokéstops, with enough Pokémon to catch all day. You end that with a “lucky egg session” and all of a sudden you realize you could potentially get around 60.000XP per day.
So why shouldn’t these Modules exist? Because spots like this heavily promote sitting around, contrary to the entire GO part of Pokémon Go. You are rewarded much more by sitting at these spots and catching Pokémon all day, rather than walking around your city discovering new places and exploring more in depth other ones. The popular counterargument to this concept is that Niantic wouldn’t make money off of Pokémon Go without modules. Or not enough. The most bought items in the shop are by far lock modules and lucky eggs. In case you don’t know what a “lucky egg session” is: you catch a lot of Pokémon like Pidgey, Rattata, Weedle (Pokémon who evolve at 12 or 25 candy) and then activate a lucky egg and get double the experience from everything that gives you experience, specifically: evolving. So for each one Pokémon you evolve, you would get 1000XP. On average you can hit within 30 minutes (the time span of on lucky egg use) around 50-60 evolutions, which translates into 50.000 – 60.000 XP. That is a whole lot and the most efficient way to level up, but realistically doing nothing constructive. Sitting around shouldn’t be the better and more efficient way to level up in a game that is called Pokémon Go.
Where’s the fix?
I got you, no worries 🙂 Somewhat long fix though.
If Lock modules and lucky eggs wouldn’t exist, what would we have left in the shop? Pokéballs, incense, egg incubators, bag upgrade and Pokémon storage upgrade. Out of all of these I would say that egg incubators are the next most bought product behind lock modules and lucky eggs. The reason is that people still want to get the 10km eggs and get lucky with a Lapras or Snorlax. And speaking about actually walking around for these strong Pokémon, why not get more XP by walking the eggs. Currently you get XP based on the distance you have to walk multiplied by 100. So a 2km egg would give you 200XP, the 5km will give you 500XP and the 10km obviously 1000XP. What if the XP would grow based on level? Or for each 10 eggs of however many km, you get some sort of bonus reward? Both would be good, but I would just prefer the XP growth based on level. When you start playing the game you aren’t really tempted into investing a lot of money, unless you really are into the game from the get go. Otherwise you would play safe and just catch stuff that is around and wait and see if you’re going to want to play this for a longer time. Let’s say that you eventually get into it and want to get levels faster. The best possible way would be getting more incubators and walking around to get more and more XP based on your level. This would also entertwine with my next idea of balancing XP gain, thus making both lock modules and lucky eggs absolete.
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The XP Factor
Currently every trainer gets 100XP for catching a Pokémon. If the Pokémon is a new entry in the Pokédex, then you would get 500XP more. You can also get bonuses on how good your throw is, but let’s just stick to the 100XP part per Pokémon caught. Since everyone has the same option in catching Pokémon the 100XP severely enforces places like the Scheiner. When you are looking at leveling up from 29 to 30, like I am right now, you are gazing at a 350.000XP gigantic leap. I get between 10.000XP to 20.000XP when going around an evening through the city.
How? I fight in almost every gym that I see, get XP from the eggs that are hatching (319 eggs hatched up to now) and obviously catch the Pokémon that spawn next to me. Since this city, like most other cities, is littered with blue and red gyms, there is free XP written on each of them. For a level 10 gym I get around 7000XP fully tearing it down.
*I haven’t calculated it completely, so maybe I will come back to this with an update 🙂 *
But not everyone can just beat up a level 10 gym alone and leaving a 10CP Swaggykarp inside just for kicks. Not everyone has Snorlax, Lapras, etc. to be able to defeat Dragonites and the biggest gang out there right now: Vaporeons. What I am getting at: Pokémon should spawn differently depending on the level that the Trainer is. When you are a level 5 Trainer you should get stuff that is typical for lower level Trainers. You should get the random Lapras or whatever else that is rare once or so every few levels to keep it interesting, but the spawn rate should be in accordance to what your level is. The more you level up the less Pokémon spawn that are lower level and easier to catch. So for a level 29 player like me for example, there should be almost no Weedles, Rattatas and Pidgeys. From time to time you should still encounter the “beginner” Pokémon, because they should still be part of the game experience, but not as much as they spawn now as they are heavily abusable with the “lucky egg session”. But that leads to the question of “how to level up catching Pokémon?”.
Assuming that there are no more lucky eggs, every Trainer would get XP based on the difficulty of the Pokémon (the red circle would give the most XP if the Pokémon would be caught), if the Pokémon is evolved or not, how many Pokémon of that type you have already caught, if the Pokémon is a new entry the game should offer a considerable amount of XP (10.000XP or more based on level). Basically there are loads of ways to figure out how to distribute XP based on level.
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Light that incense up!
Incense of different types is definitely one of Pokémon Go. Wait, what? There is only one type now and that is super disappointing. I heard this rumor about activating an incense when there are no Pokémon, Pokéstops, etc. nearby and the game would give you random Pokémon to catch. I tried it and the results are:
There were more, but very typical. Really nothing special. Not even the Evee is that special, but still a nice catch. The Seaking turned out quite ok (1427CP with 10 flying and 80 bug attacks respectively). Was not impressed with this. If I activate the incense in the city I pretty much get only pidgeys and weedles. So why even bother activating them or, even worse, buying them? No reason at all. And that’s a really gigantic problem that Niantic is fixing from what I read. I had the idea of special incenses, but thankfully Niantic already is on the case. That’s promissing, but I am somewhat baffled by the fact that they couldn’t figure this out sooner. We are talking about people who are paid to think and do everything that I have writen and will write in my Pokémon Go articles. Aynway. Now we might have this: looking for a fighting Pokémon because you really want to beat up a Snorlax who keeps popping up in a gym nearby you? Great. Activate it and walk around to have a higher percentage change of getting these specific type of Pokémon. Of course this can be easily tailored to each and every Pokémon. There could be incenses that attract only rare Pokémon, but with a catch like, for example, walking at least 10km in a certain amount of hours or fighting in a specific number of gyms. There are many possible scenarios for this. Niantic has room to play around with this indefinitely.
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Unique Pokéstops and other Medals
There is no medal for Unique Pokéstops visited, just Backpacker which tracks the number of times you swiped on a Pokéstop. But wouldn’t it be cool to actually have something like a Unique Pokéstops visited? Of course XP could be given out for all the medals earned, but specifically for this example. It’s nice and dandy to sit around 4 Pokéstops and “visit” over and over again. But if there would be a Unique Pokéstops visited Medal, wouldn’t it also be nice to get XP for each 50, 100, 500, 1000 of unique ones visited? This would also get people walking more and more. Going to different cities would make for a greater experience. Visiting each part of your city (within reason 😀 ) would also be something interesting. I don’t know how many Pokéstops there are in Ingolstadt, but I am certain that if someone would actually visit all of them, that would mean that the Trainer has gotten a lot of XP from that, hatched a lot of eggs, activated incenses of various types, caught various types of Pokémon, fought in certain spots in Gyms all based on level…Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity! 😛
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Balance is in the eye of the beholder
If you have had your fair share of fighting against strong Pokémon, you might want check out this video. This guy explains how attack speed modifiers would benefit the game. He makes a strong point on what should be strong depending on what the Pokémon actually does. It is more related to the lore rather than upfront Combat Power. There is nothing much that I would add here really. He is very clear on what should be changed in the game.
There is another balance issue that should be looked at. From what I understand most cities have more blue team and red team players than yellow team player. That seems somewhat weird as you have no direct benefit from joining any of the teams. Right now the games makes it very unappealing to join Team Instinct because there are very few players, thus holding Gyms or competing for Gym dominance is nearly impossible. So this may be a world wide concept that blue and red is simply “better” than yellow, but this makes for a disappointing experience for any “unfortunate” Trainers who have chose Team Instinct…based on Instict 🙂 Most friends tell me that maybe I can switch the team at some point. Yeah, sure. After you belittle me for being on Team Instinct, you think I will join these mainstream teams? 😀 Nope. Never. I would rather stop playing the game completely than switching to blue or red. Plus, Spark seems super awesome, funny and friendly 🙂
This would take some sort of effort into implementing perhaps. Let’s take Bavaria as an example. If there would be 40% Red, 40% Blue and only 20% Yellow players, the game should give some sort of reward to players hitting level 5 if they join team Yellow. This would apply to each area specifically if, overall, there are less players on a team than the other two. The reward could be in the shape of incenses, potions, basically anything to give the team a bit of help to balance things out. The ideal ratio is that each team has 33,3% of Pokémon Go players. Right now, in my area, playing for Team Instinct feels like swimming against the tide. Balancing the teams out would provide for a more comptetive field for new and “veteran” players.
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Cheaters and “I will stop using Pokémap when Niantic fixes the tracking system” players
I know I wrote the word cheater at the beginning, but really there is very little I can say about them. They will get banned sooner or later and anyone who cheats with bots and such shouldn’t really be playing any games in general. End. Of. Story.
The second part however…
When I first found out about Pokémap and whatever other sites like this existed (RIP all of them 2016 – 2016), I also used it, looking around and scanning for specific Pokémon. I suddenly realised that that brakes the game and is borderline cheating. I caught some stuff and actually didn’t feel in any way possible happy about the catch. I didn’t walk around searching for it, neither did I wander upon it…I simply checked on a map where it was and went there. Wow. Much skill, such bla. I stopped and went back to my normal wandering around through the city. I do “miss out” on a lot of Pokémon because of this. For example on a typical day in the center of Ingolstadt where there are enough Gyms, you can see on top of most of them a 3000CP or higher Dragonite. I am very sure that all these people haven’t caught this Dragonite randomly, but actually at the ZOB where people saw it on the map. But this doesn’t apply to one instance, it applies to every Pokémon caught via these Pokémaps. Every other person who doesn’t use Pokémap will have a hard time competing with other players who do. This makes for a very terrible experience if you want to actually play the game as it was intended. To make a comparison with League of Legends: catching any Pokémon via the Pokémap websites and then beating gyms up and putting it on top, is like getting boosted from low elo (Silver) to higher elo (Diamond) by someone else on your account and then showing it off for the entire city to see. The problem is that once boosted, you ruin other people’s games by not actually being at their level and losing the game for your team. In Pokémon Go you don’t lose the game for you or for your team, but you ruin it for other players if you constantly drop these underserved 3000CP bombs everywhere in the city. We already talked about this earlier though. May seem harsh, but that’s how I see this problem. I also just heard about this one guy who has a bot running around and tweeting about any rare Pokémon that it encounters. You follow the account and can just go to a specific place and catch something good. Getting a Dragonite has never been easier, if you don’t want to play Pokémon Go, but you want to play Pokémon Stay or Pokémon Find all the Pokémon via 3rd party apps. The Pokémon Stay sounds catchy though 😉
If Niantic would implement things that are similar to what I have decribed, this game would be something that would make me never stop playing it. Word.
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Oh. And here’s a picture of Spark. Because he is cool 🙂
Do you feel that Pokémon Go is already over? Did the game grind to a halt because of the lack of faster improvements? If you believe there are things that I haven’t talked about or you have your opinions about the game, leave a comment and let’s start a discussion 🙂
A big thank you to Sebi, Phil and Viet for helping me out with ideas and just listening me rant about Pokémon Go.
See you in the Arena!