A Return to Pokémon Go

maxresdefault (3)IT KIND OF WANTS YOU TO GO AWAY

When any meaningful updates seemed a long way away several months back, we kind of gave up on Pokémon Go. Our area simply offered too little of interest to keep playing and there wasn’t really any motivation other than the Pokémon you could catch and when we caught what was available, there was no real reason to continue. We weren’t having fun anymore.

Now, the second generation has been added as well as some daily rewards. Around the time of the previous global event, which massively increased the spawn rates of water-type Pokémon, we decided to give the game another shot.

So, having played the game fairly consistently for some time, what do we think?

Meh sums it up quite nicely.

Look, we want Pokémon Go to be great so much and it is fun at times. There’s an extremely nerdy joy in finding a Pokémon you rarely see in your area and the catching that last required Pokémon, knowing that you’ve finally collected enough candy to evolve something is always great.

There’s some new daily rewards too. For your first catch of the day, you’ll get an additional 500 EXP and 600 stardust. At the end of a seven-day streak, you’ll get a larger bonus of 2500 EXP and 3000 stardust.

This goes for Pokéstops too. For the first Pokéstop you visit each day, you will get 500 EXP and additional items. At the end of a your seven-day streak, you’ll get a lot of additional items and one of those is guaranteed to be one of the new items used to evolve certain Pokémon.

These additions have breathed a bit more life into the game, as it’s at least motivation to turn it on and walk to the nearest Pokéstop every day.

However, they are also kind of…well…really crappy.

pokemon-go-daily-quest-bonuses-01-960x640

“Is that it?” is a feeling you’ll encounter a lot while playing Pokémon Go.

God knows why they went with a flat reward for most of the week, when incrementally increasing rewards were the obvious (and much more rewarding) option. Not to mention that a boost of 3000 stardust at the end of the streak might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t.

First, let’s do the math. For some reason, the ‘first catch of the day’ bonus at the end of a seven day-streak is equivalent to five days of doing it. Why it’s not worth seven days or more is anyone’s guess. At any rate, this is clearly not quite right, is it?

Now let’s consider the actual worth of that bonus. Stardust is a pretty precious resource, considering it’s acquired in such small amounts. Catching regular Pokémon will get you 100 stardust, while catching evolved Pokémon will get you 300.

Guess how much stardust you need to boost our strongest Pokémon.

No idea? 4000. 4000 Stardust (plus candies of the Pokémon it evolved from) for a single boost. You’ll note that this is 1000 more than the maximum daily bonus and we’re only at level 24. Who knows how much it’ll take in a few levels?

Of course every capture gets you stardust, but as a bit of simple math will tell you, it requires at least 30 – 40 Pokémon to secure a single boost, depending on your luck with encounters. Not a problem in a large city, but kind of a hassle at best in rural areas.

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Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

Speaking of which, this also makes the game damn near impossible for rural players who aren’t willing to pay money to keep buying Pokeballs.

30 – 40 captured Pokémon can take around 40 – 50 balls for anyone but the extremely lucky. In large cities there are enough Pokéstops to at least break even, if not wind up with more balls than you started out with. For rural players, we’re basically out of balls after maybe 3 days and there’s not enough Pokéstops to make a real difference.

To put things in perspective with rural VS urban players: If we walk an hour in our hometown, we can maybe get enough stardust for a single boost and hit five or six Pokéstops.

If we walk an hour in a major city, which we can’t make it out to often, we can easily catch over 120 Pokémon in that time and hit at least ten times the number of Pokéstops.

Not to mention the fact that a wider variety of Pokémon spawn in cities. We kind of understand why they chose to make the spawn rate dependent on population density, but we are very much not okay with that having an impact on the variety as well.

It is immensely demoralizing to turn on the app each day and see nothing but Pidgeys, Rattata and Spinarak in your area. Maybe a Meowth if you’re lucky.  Each time the game basically tells us to stuff our dreams of cool Pokémon somewhere the sun doesn’t shine and to deal with being branded a bug catcher.

150px-ORAS_Bug_Catcher

Nobody plays Pokémon to be a bug catcher.

It’s unfair at best and made no better by the fact that Niantic increased the pitiful spawn rate a bit a long time ago and then did sweet fuck all to make the game a more pleasant experience for rural players. Then again, you could write a pretty decent marketing handbook about everything Niantic hasn’t done or still says they’re planning to do.

Let’s just say we don’t really feel like the players are being valued for supporting the game. At all.

Let’s go back to the new additions for a bit.

With the second generation came a few items used to evolve certain Pokémon like the King’s Rock or Dragon Scale. These can only be obtained from a Pokéstop and its drop rate is…abysmal. No official figure has been mentioned, which is suspicious in and of itself, but it’s around 0,085% at best and 0,003% at worst according to player-driven research.

With that in mind, it becomes pretty clear that including a guaranteed item in the seventh daily bonus is not so much a gift as a lazy way to fix this farce without actually having to adjust the drop rate.

Idiotically low spawn rates aside, the implementation of these items has been kind of lacking in general. Let us take you on a journey.

Our first evolution item was a Dragon Scale, which was great, because we had a Seadra that was about two thirds of the way to the required 100 candies to evolve. It was later followed by two Sun stones, which was less great, because we can find more use for Pidgey #3944395 than for a Sun Stone.

Pidgey

Guess who’s gonna be turned into candy?!

At any rate, Horsea hardly ever spawns here, so it took us a few weeks before we had enough to evolve Seadra.

Because Horsea are so rare, using candies to boost Seadra’s CP would have only stalled this already lengthy process further. However, we were fairly confident that we’d only be a little behind the curve in terms of power. After all, surely Seadra would get a massive boost in CP because an evolution that requires a total of 125 candies (25 for the first evolution, 100 for the second) and a rare item like a Dragon Scale would surely be rewarded. Right?

…Yeah, it’s CP increased by 300 which put it at about 1188. Experienced players will note how that’s around 1400 short of being remotely useful.

Frankly, we would have felt like the game was being stingy if Seadra’s CP had merely doubled. A 300 CP boost? Really?! All of our candy went into that, so we can’t even raise its CP now either. This should have been so much better.

250px-230Kingdra

It’s an ancient, draconic seahorse for God’s sake! Look at it!

Now it’s just something which took a lot of time and effort to get something we basically can’t use. Greeeeeaaaaat.

Looking at that thing, we wondered why we were still playing and frankly we couldn’t come up with much. It’s a good excuse to go for a walk? We want to finally evolve our Squirtle into a Blastoise? We’ve obviously contracted Stockholm syndrome?

All of this is made so much more galling by the fact that not only is Niantic quite clearly not listening to the players at all, they basically don’t communicate in general.

With our background in communication, seeing the social media pages for the app and the company behind it kind of makes us want to slap someone. Don’t flood people who liked the page with crap, but least communicate more than once or twice a month, man. Tell us what you’re doing and what’s next for the app. Tell us when to expect it.

Then again, maybe it is actually better that they don’t create any hype, because the people working for Niantic are the undisputed kings of underwhelming announcements. The few times they do communicate, it’s to announce a global event, to announce a barely noteworthy update or to spit out the blandest, most corporate attempt at ‘engaging the consumer’ we’ve ever seen.

The global events are the only reason to pay attention at all and those are generally announced on the day they start in a truly breath-taking display of piss poor planning. Not to mention that the consensus is basically that most of them have been pretty lame.

The water-based event was popular largely because of increased spawn rate for Magikarp and the chance to find a shiny version, but the others have not provided much incentive to play. Even the latest one is pretty lame, offering some discounts, more EXP and a wider range of Pokémon on 2km eggs.

Eh, whoo?

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That Togepi is a lot more exited about it than most players appear to be

A reduced required distance for all eggs during this Easter event was the popular and anticipated option, but if this rant has taught you one thing it’s that Niantic never goes for the obvious option. Even though we really, really wish they would.

Speaking of the obvious option, in a rare example of informing the players, there have been some rumblings from Niantic about overhauling the way the gyms currently work. While we are not going to bother defending the gyms in any way, we do think it’s basically the least of the game’s problems. Before we end this article, let us give you a brief list of what should have gotten attention way before the gyms.

  • A fix for the frequent bugs that have cost all of us a chance at capturing something we needed.
  • Nerfing extremely overused Pokémon like Snorlax, Blissey or Dragonite.
  • Better GPS tracking. The app’s estimation of 100m and reality are not so much divorced from each other as existing in different universes entirely.
  • A better use for the Nanab berry or a seriously lowered drop rate. Calling it useless in its current state would be charitable.
  • A chance to request new Pokéstops and Gyms.
  • A better way to grind stardust.

At the rate Niantic works, we might get these around 2020. Maybe.

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