Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hardly Egg-sceptional, On Pokemon Go's Egg Mechanics

If you are like a third of smartphone users, you've logged into Pokemon Go and tried to catch them all.  You've probably also gotten an egg from a pokestop, and had it taunt you into walking several KM to see what was inside (and if you are like this writer, your first several eggs contained the same crappy pokemon that are infesting your house).  Eggs have a lot of interesting things going for them.  They have a clear hatching mechanic that is not based on chance (unless you count the chance of Go reading your GPS coordinates and calculating distance right), you can get any pokemon in the rarirty bands, regardless of region, and it is very easy to get eggs from pokestops (I've been sitting at nine eggs for some time, and only dip below that between hatching and visiting a stop).  So, what's my beef with the egg system?  It feels like it was designed for a totally different game.

It seems simple.  Throw egg in incubator, walk a bit, egg hatches, repeat.  The problem is a fewfold.  The first is that the incubators seem like a blatant gating mechanic/money grab.  The odds of getting one are either very low, or artificially capped so you only get one "extra" one at a time (let's face it, hatching 9 eggs at once would be awesome).  The number of eggs you can hatch is drastically lower than the number you can reasonably get in the same timeframe, because of the combination of low incubators for non-paying people and the cap on eggs at 9.  I feel that if there was an intentional gate, it should have been set up in the rarity of getting eggs from pokestops.  Instead of getting one at every other stop until I had 9, why not make it somewhat rarer?  Or tie it to the number I have, so it is easy to get 3 or 4 total, but beyond that I'd better hatch some.

The second problem lies in the core mechanics of Go itself.  In order to power up and evolve pokemon, you need candies.  You get candies by catching or hatching a member of that species, or by transferring one, but at a third of the rate.  Since most single evolution species require 50 candies to evolve (13 catches and transfers) you aren't going to be able to reliably evolve pokemon that aren't in your area.  Say I get a Voltorb (he's not that rare, got him from a 5k egg).  If I want to evolve him into an Electrode, I need 50 candies, and I only have 3 from hatching him.  Voltorb isn't in my region (I assume, I know pokemon are unlocked as you level, and haven't seen him).  So now, I have to get lucky enough to hatch 12-13 more Voltorbs (and since eggs can contain any pokemon in the rarity band, that's going to be hard) or trade for 47 voltorbs (with trading being local only atm, that's not reasonable).  God help me if I have a really rare or desirable pokemon.

So, I can get eggs easily, but hatching them and making use of their pokemon is tedious and limited at best.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Pokemon Go

It has been quite a long time since I've last posted.  Lots of things have changed in my life since the last post just under a year ago.  I've bought a new house, got a new job, and have finally realized my dream of a regular D&D night.  The most interesting development, however, has been my wife wanting to play Pokemon Go.  She is far from a regular gamer, but unfortunately, our experiences with Go have been a little disappointing.  Here's a breakdown of the good and the bad for Go.

The Good:

  1. Catching them all in real life!  Let's face it, since Generation 1, we have wanted to experience pokemon in the real world, and Go finally allows us to do that.  We even get to "throw" the pokeball.  There's something quite immersive to walking down the street and feeling your phone buzz (and you don't even need to scuff your shoes by walking around in the tall grass).
  2. Gym Control: Not only do pokemon gyms exist in the real world, you can challenge the gym leader and take control of them.  Add in the fun fact that major landmarks like the White House and the Pentagon are gyms for additional coolness factor (and yes, someone is the gym leader of those locations.  Enjoying some Go, Mr. Obama?).
  3. The Community: Ingress ended up with a decent community, but Go has absolutely exploded it.  There are only a small handful of players around my area, but I regularly see people playing (not something that ever happened with Ingress around even the heavily portalled areas I worked at).  The game has been out for a week, and it has blown away so many records. 

The Bad:

  1. Performance: There have been a number of server issues, app freezing, and other problems.  Not the best thing for the release week, particularly after such issues should have been found in a beta.  There can be some excuse for this because of the explosion of the game (which seemed to beat all expectations).
  2. Lack of Features: For a game that took 2 years to develop, and is using a lot of Ingress things on the backend, this game has an utter lack of features.  No battles outside of gyms.  The only way to evolve and advance pokemon is by catching crap-tons of the same species and selling them to the professor for candies (which are specific to the species).  This naturally limits the rarer species of pokemon in power and evolution levels.
  3. Distribution of Pokestops and Gyms: You pretty much have two options.  You either are in a pokestop and gym heavy area, or you are severely lacking them.  Every church and library is a pokestop, so every town should have at least one or two.  However, my town is a fairly big suburb.  There are six pokestops spread across several square miles.  The nearest ones to me are across a busy highway about a half mile away.  It would be nice to be able to "build" a pokestop and gain some benefit for doing so.  As it is, it is a pain to go restock pokeballs.

Go is supposed to be on a very aggressive release schedule (measured in weeks) and they are supposed to be improving the game drastically.  It is an awesome first step into the "augemented reality" pokemon experience.