(This submission comes to us from leader of Aideron Robotics and Android app developer, Ashterothi)
Three years ago, I wrote an article about Ingress for this very site entitled “Ingress: Getting Nerds Into Shape Since 2012.” Since that time, I have gone to Anomaly events, hit level 8, helped couples use Ingress to grow together until they got married, and also gone long periods without playing at all.
So a little over a week ago Pokemon Go was launched, Nitanic’s second major AR game, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that it has taken the world by storm. While I haven’t been able to play it as much as I would have liked (I am currently sitting at level 22) I have learned quite a bit about the game, how to be successful, and what lessons we can take from Ingress into the game to “be the very best”.
THE RULES OF THE GAME
Pokemon Go is an Augmented Reality game for Android and iOS. It is rolling out over time across the globe. Within this game you, the Pokemon master, go out into the real world and use the app’s google maps style interface to track, catch, and train Pokemon to compete in Gyms.
Within the world there are three kinds of interactive objects:
These are points of interests within the world. You must be within about 30 meters of the Poke Stop, and then you can spin the disk inside. This will pop out somewhere between three to nine items that you qualify for. What items you can receive is based on your level, as higher levels gain access to better equipment. It is worth noting however, that low-level equipment still is picked up regardless of level, and high-end equipment is still comparatively very rare.
A Poke Stop can only be spun once every five minutes. As it “recovers” you will see the Poke Stop fade from purple to blue – blue being the color of a spinable Poke Stop. There is a bug in the game at the moment where if you spin the Poke Stop before it is finished loading, or something else goes wrong, it will seem to not give you any items. However, subsequent spins will give you the “try again” error of a freshly spun stop. This is a UI error; if you go into your journal you will see that the Stop did in fact give you items, and will spin again once it is reset.
Poke Stops can also have lures placed on them, which are premium items that can be purchased, or received as leveling rewards. A lure will cause the Poke Stop to spawn Pokemon as well as its normal function of providing items.
These are the whole point of the game. Pokemon spawn semi randomly, and are based on average cell usage within an area. This means that densely packed areas, parking lots, and major gatherings will often spawn more, rarer Pokemon. Within the world you will see rustling grass, which is an indication that Pokemon are likely to spawn in that area, however it does not indicate that a Pokemon is there at that moment.
Pokemon can be tracked via that Nearby tab. As of this writing the tracking system is “bugged” by showing all Pokemon as being three steps away. However, this is how it worked BEFORE that happened:
Clicking on the nearby tab will bring up 9 Pokemon that are fairly close to you (Within 200 meters). The Pokemon are ordered from closest (top left) to furthest away (bottom right). As Pokemon get closer than 100m, the footprints beneath the Pokemon goes from 3 to 2 to 1 following this chart.
0m – 40m
40m – 75m
75m – 100m
100m – 200m
Using this method, you can triangulate the location of Pokemon nearby, although in my experience it is simply easier to walk between stops and gyms, and only hunt particular Pokemon once they have gotten to 2 steps or lower. Obviously, some Pokemon are worth hunting.
Once you get within 40m of the Pokemon, they can spawn onto your screen. Clicking a Pokemon will bring you into a minigame to catch the Pokemon. You can either play this in “AR” mode or not. In AR mode your camera is turned on and you have to physically turn to face the Pokemon before throwing balls at it. If AR mode is off, the Pokemon sits in the center of your screen and you throw balls from there. Players who are on the move are encouraged to turn AR off to not only allow for easier catching, but also to conserve battery life (As you will see later, battery life is king).
When you hold your finger on your Pokeball, two rings will appear around the Pokemon, these rings together indicate both how hard it will be to catch the Pokemon, as well as where on the Pokemon you must hit to get bonus points. One ring will shrink inward repeatedly, and will be colored from green to yellow to red. The “redder” the ring, the lower the chance that a Pokemon will be caught and held by your current ball. The smaller the ring, the bigger the bonus you will get for hitting within that ring. A large ring will give you a ‘Nice’ bonus of 10xp, a smaller ring will give you a ‘Great’ bonus of 50xp, and a very small ring will net you the elusive ‘Excellent’ bonus of 100xp. There are various theories that the size of the ring and getting those bonuses will impact the chance of catching the Pokemon, however in my experience this seems to have no effect. You do not get the experience bonus if you fail to catch the Pokemon with that throw.
There are two guaranteed ways of increasing your chances of catching a Pokemon. Higher level balls including the “Great” and “Ultra” balls will dramatically change the likelihood a Pokemon will be caught. Great balls are unlocked at level 12, and Ultra Balls are unlocked at 20. You can see how much a given ball is helping because the colored ring will change colors to reflect your new chances to lock. Additionally, you can use Razz Berries which you feed to the Pokemon. Unlike Pokeballs which are consumed each throw, the Razz Berries will last until you successfully hit the Pokemon, but will need to be reapplied if they break free. There is a seeming bug that applying Razz Berries will often cause Pokeballs to fly wildly left or right – your mileage may vary.
There is an additional way to earn xp when catching Pokemon: spinning the ball prior to throwing it will give the ball an arced trajectory. Doing this to catch the Pokemon will net you a 10xp “curve ball” bonus. However in my experience this is often more trouble than it is worth.
Difficulty in catching Pokemon begin to ramp up around level 10, and becomes seriously noteworthy after level 15 as basic “vermin” Pokemon become orange difficulty. As time goes on, expect to burn more and more pokeballs on average to try to catch your dudes, and be ready to walk away if that Rattata just isn’t worth it.
One special trick is that if you turn off AR mode, the Pokemon starts very close to the screen, and then pans away, if you swipe across the screen repeatedly like you are throwing the ball as this animation happens, you will throw your ball before the Pokemon is finished repositioning. This will not only cause more hits, and cause the time to catch Pokemon go down, but also you end up getting more ‘Nice’ ‘Great’ and even ‘Excellent’ bonuses.
The purpose of Pokemon isn’t just to catch them, but to train and prepare them for combat. Pokemon Stats are not really given within the UI of the game, but rather all of the Pokemons stats are distilled down to a single rating known as Combat Power or “CP”. Pokemon also have individual levels, but again this value is hidden from you. To raise a Pokemon’s level, you must feed it stardust and candies specific to that Pokemon’s base (or unevolved) form. In other words, Pidgey, Pidgeotto, and Pidgeot all use Pidgey candies to gain strength. Higher level Pokemon also requireadditional Stardust, as well as candies.
Pokemon can also be evolved by feeding them large amounts of their candies. The exact amount varies from Pokemon to Pokemon, so please consult this chart for specifics. Not all Pokemon have evolutions, and this ventures into the world where knowing more about the Pokemon themselves becomes quite helpful, but to a new player evolutions really only mean one thing: XP.
This brings us to the first major rule of being successful in Pokemon Go: Nothing matters more than trainer level(until about level 20). This is because the maximum level, and thus maximum CP of Pokemon caught, trained or hatched (more on hatching later) is based on your current level at the time of encountering the Pokemon. What this means is two people can see the same exact Pokemon, and the higher level person has a far greater chance of having that Pokemon be a much higher level or CP. For this reason it is considered a waste to use candies and Stardust to power up individual Pokemon prior to level 20. Chances are you will pump all your Stardust into a guy, only to replace it in a level or two.
The other option for your Pokemon is to transfer them to the Professor. This will gain you one candy for that Pokemon type. All extra Pokemon of a certain type should be transferred as candies are essential to powering up and evolving your Pokemon.
While powering up Pokemon grants you nothing of lasting value, evolving Pokemon will net you 500xp. Combine this with the fact that you can prepare multiple evolutions to be ready at the same time, and tossing in a Lucky Egg (more on this later), this has proven to be the most successful method of “power leveling” in the game, granting you faster access to more powerful Pokemon (Note: You catch the exact same Pokemon, they are just stronger.)
The third and final way to collect Pokemon is through hatching eggs. Eggs can be collected from Pokestops and can be either 2k, 5k, or 10k eggs. Once you walk that distance the egg hatches giving you a random Pokemon, and a collection of candies for that Pokemon type. The longer the distance, the better potential Pokemon you can get. However, while a 10k egg can still hatch into a Weedle, it also has the potential to hatch into the rarest Pokemon in the game.
To hatch an egg, you must open your Pokemon list and swipe across to access the egg list. From there you select the egg you want and can put it in an incubator. You will have one Incubator with infinite uses, and you have the option to buy additional incubators that have three uses each. Each incubator only holds one egg.
As of this writing, the only method of combat in the game takes place at Gyms, which, like Poke Stops, are fixed locations that are often tied to a point of interest in the world. Gyms are a kind of territory control for the three Pokemon teams. Gyms are visible in the game as white and colored towers with a platform on top. The color of the gym represents which of the three teams currently own the gym and the highest level Pokemon defending the gym will appear on the platform.
To interact with the gym you must be level 5 and close enough to click on the Gym. Selecting the Gym allows you to see the level, prestige, and each Pokemon (and their trainer) currently defending the Gym. The prestige of a Gym is the Gyms “experience”. Fighting a Gym owned by your own team will increase the Gyms prestige by a little bit, where winning against an opposing team’s Gym will wreck its prestige. The higher the prestige, the higher the level, and the for every level of the gym, the defending team can put an additional Pokemon to defend it. However, each trainer may only put one Pokemon on a Gym. Additionally, any Pokemon placed as a Gym defender will be completely unavailable to that trainer until that Gym is defeated and that Pokemon is removed. At that time, the Pokemon is returned to the owner with 1 hp.
CHOOSING A TEAM
Pokemon Go currently allows you to join one of three teams, each with a color, a name (or focus), and a legendary bird. Additionally, some stereotypes of each team has emerged, and I have a personal nickname for the team that I feel embraces the quirks of each teams mentality.
Team Mystic – Blue – Articuno – Team Mystics are more the intellectuals, or “nerds”. “Game of Thrones” fans have declared Articuno “DABIRDINDANORF” and “What is Cold May Never Freeze.” Many Mystics see themselves as more “refined” than the aggressive Valor, or impulsive Instinct. I call Team Mystic “The Mystic Club” as a reference to secret society or orders like the Hellfire Club.
Team Valor – Red – Moltres – Team Valor are the “jocks”. Valor players often strongly associate with the imagery of fire and their slogan is “In the Darkest Night, We are the Flame”. Valor are often characterized by the “get gud nub” mentality, and generally look down on Mystics. However, they seem to either dismiss, or tolerate Instinct most of the time. I call them the “Valor Fraternity/Sorority” in reference to their “Frat boy” attitude frequently exhibited.
Team Instinct – Yellow – Zapados – Team Instinct are the energetic excited members. They both contain people not caught up in the turf wars between Valor and Mystic, but also some of the most aggressive teams of power players. Instincts slogan is “There is No Shelter From the Storm” and are generally perceived as the neutral party between the blue and red turf war. Do not underestimate them however, some the most aggressive gym holders I have met have been Instinct. For this reason I reference them as the “Instinct Team”.
It is worth noting that these are obviously blanket stereotypes, and any person can be part of any team. While Team Valor does have a reputation for being more “in your face” all three teams contain many competitive members. Additionally, two collective teams have been formed. Team Rocket is used for Pokemon Go players who misbehave (IE with graffiti), and Team Unity represents the Pokemon Go community as a whole.
FIGHTING AND TRAINING AT GYMS
Whichever team you choose is permanent, and once you select a team, you can begin fighting for gyms. The number of Pokemon you are allowed to bring into a Gym match is determined by whether you are fighting at your own team’s Gym, or a rival one. Attacking an opposing team Gym allows you to bring six Pokemon from your collection, whereas training at your own team’s Gym only allows you to bring one. If all of the Gyms defenders are beaten, the Gym is beaten, if all of your Pokemon are defeated, your attack is over. However, you do get partial credit for each Pokemon you defeat within the Gym.
The Pokemon you face will be in order from lowest CP to highest, so it is possible to whittle down the Gym without actually being able to beat each and every one in a row. Also, the amount of prestige gained for training at your Gym is relatively low (around 400 where the prestige from level 2 to 3 is 2k), and fully successful fights upon an opposing Gym will reduce the prestige by a full level. In practice a Gym must be beaten once per level of the Gym, with each victory lowering the Gym level by 1 and kicking out the lowest CP Pokemon each time.
Fighting at gyms is strongly favored to the attacker. Once in combat you are allowed to do four things.
- Tapping on the screen will cause your Pokemon to do a “fast attack”
- Long pressing on the screen will cause your Pokemon to do a “Charge Move”
- Swiping left to right, or right to left will cause your Pokemon to dodge
- Clicking the “flee” button will end the match.
The opponent Pokemon is controlled by AI and is incredibly predictable. The AI will make a fast attack every 1.5 seconds like clockwork. The break in this is when they do a powered up attack. Powered up attacks have a longer wind up and cooldown, however the concept for dealing with both kinds of attacks are the same.
The biggest thing to remember when fighting at a gym is that the animations/life total losses are out of sync, and mostly just exist to confuse you. The best indication of when to dodge is when the screen flashes yellow on the edge. When this occurs you have half a second to swipe to allow you to dodge the attack. After that you can capitalize on the one and a half second pause to get one to two jabs in, depending on your Pokemon’s fast attacks animation speed. You can still take damage in spite of the fact that you successfully dodge, but your damage will be much less. Using this technique will maximize your combat power per Pokemon, and minimize your potion consumption.
However, sometimes you can’t wait forever. There is a timer for each fight, so sometimes you just need to grind through some HP. Alternatively, sometimes your Pokemon is strong enough, and of the correct type, that you feel that trying to dodge is just a waste of time and slows you down. In this case you can just revert to tapping like crazy, However, after around 5-6 attacks you will want to start watching for breaks in the pattern, or even better yet, the announcement of the special attack, as those should usually be dodged, and you should be able to still dodge in time if you are paying enough attention.
One recommendation for maximizing your XP gain from a gym is to always run after beating the first Pokemon, because this allows you to fight more times, and you still get a good XP reward – about 150XP for fighting one Pokemon. You can repeat this multiple times, gaining you much more experience for the entire Gym. It is also worth noting the XP gain from fighting your own teams Gyms are much lower.
Once a Gym is reduced to level zero, it becomes white, and thus claimable. The team of the first person to put a Pokemon in the Gym becomes the new owners of the Gym. This means that while one player is fighting, a second player can be ready to swoop in and lock down a Gym. This is somewhat countered by the fact that not everyone’s devices update at the same time, so needless to say turf wars can get messy.
To recover your Pokemon between fights you can use potions from your inventory. If your Pokemon is totally defeated against an opposing Gym, you will first need to use a revive on your Pokemon before it can be healed. You begin to acquire better potions as you level.
WHY WE FIGHT
Gyms are not only about showing off your name and team colors, it also is the only way in the game to gain premium currency through in game effort. Once every day (21 hours) you can collect the reward from your various Gyms. Here lays a major misconception from many players. You do not have to hold the gym for any amount of time, the only deciding factor for rewards is how many gyms you have at the time you decide to collect.
To get your gold coins, click the button on the upper right of the store screen in game. This button will look like a shield with a number in it. The number presented is the number of Gyms you currently have Pokemon defending. Clicking on this button will reward you with 500 stardust and 10 gold coins per Gym held, up to a maximum of 5000 dust and 100 gold for 10 Gyms. Once collected, a 21 hour timer will appear around the button, indicating when it can be used again.
Whether you acquire your gold through Gym ownership, level rewards, or microtransactions, you can spend that gold on more Pokeballs (not Greater or Ultra balls), premium consumable items, or permanent upgrades to your storage. The two forms of storage will increase either your bag for items storage, or pokemon. There is currently no way to increase the number of eggs above 9.
The consumable premium items, and their best use are as follows:
Incense – Incense will cause a purple/pink swirl of smoke to appear around you for 30 minutes. During this time, Pokemon will spawn for you. These Pokemon will also have the same purple/pink swirl around it to indicate that you are the only one who can see it, or catch it. While standing still Pokemon will spawn at the rate of once every five minutes. However, when moving, you can greatly increase the number of Pokemon spawned. For best use, pop your incense before going for a walk between Stops and Gyms.
Lure Module – The Lure Module is similar to in the fact that they both spawn extra Pokemon, but while Incense only spawn them for you, Pokemon created by the Lure Module will be visible and catchable by everyone in the area. This makes Lure Modules a perfect place for people to gather, and in fact often will lure more players than Pokemon. Lure Modules must be placed on a Pokestop and you can tell when a Stop is Lured because pink/purple flowers petals will fall around the stop. While Pokemon spawned by “normal” means generally last 15 minutes, Pokemon spawned by a Lure Module only stay for about two and a half minutes. Lures are best used when you know you are going to stationary for a while, and even better when they are applied to multiple Pokestops in a cluster. Lure Modules and Incense do stack.
Egg Incubator – Unlike the orange infinite incubator, the purchasable blue incubators can only be used three times, but will allow you to incubate multiple eggs at the same time. The practical effect is multiplying the effective distance you travel as far as hatching eggs are concerned. To maximize the effect, it is recommended to only use your infinite incubator to churn through 2k eggs, while saving you premium incubators for 10k eggs (or 5k if you don’t have enough 10k). If you can use an incubator only on 10k eggs, you are effectively getting a “free” 30k of distance. Whereas if you use them on 2k eggs, you only get 6k of bonus distance. Additionally, some people like to set up multiple incubators on the same type of eggs and wait until they are close to hatching them all. Then you pop your Lucky Eggs and reap the extreme XP bonus from hatching them all.
Lucky Egg – The Lucky Egg is the true secret to power leveling. Once used, a Lucky Egg increases all xp gained for the next 30 minutes. With XP climbing above 100k per level once you hit level 20+, this is essential for good leveling. The best way to use these is to prepare as many of your evolutions as possible. This is why Pidgies, Weedles, and Caterpries are some of the best Pokemon in the game to catch. At 12 candies for each evolution, this means every four equates to a bonus 500xp (1k xp under Lucky Egg). Because you can control when evolutions happen (unlike finding Pokemon), and you can basically do them as fast as your phone allows (unlike Pokestops/gyms) this evolution cycle is the best way to rocket up the levels. You can use any additional time to play as normal, or hopefully pop a few eggs for even more xp!
KNOWN BUGS/CHALLENGES (AND WHAT TO DO)
Unfortunately, its great success has made the bugginess of the release really stand out. In Addition to the the normal day one bugs, Pokemon Go has been plagued with server stability issues. Here are some of the current bugs/difficulties and how to best counter them.
The Three Step Bug – As mentioned earlier, the three step bug causes the tracking system of Pokemon to be totally broken. Pokemon will show as being nearby, but will not adjust as you move in a way that allows you to track them like you can while this feature is working. For now you have to just accept that the game is about walking between Stops/Gyms, picking up Pokemon along the way. Hopefully very soon this will be fixed, and hunting can continue.
The Unmoving Ball – When you capture a Pokemon in your ball the ball shakes 3 times before locking in. However, if your connection is poor, or the servers are struggling, or a lot of people are in the same place, you will have a problem where the ball “freezes” upon capture. You can see the white Pokeball in the top left spin (indicating talking to the server), however even after that stop, the Pokeball will not move. This seems to be a client side error. Simply close the game completely, and reopen it and you will have either caught the Pokemon (it will be in your journal), or it will treat it as if you fled, in which case you should be able to try again.
“Try Again” Pokestops – In a similar way to the unmoving ball, occasionally your app will become out of sync with the server when you spin a Pokestop. If you spin and nothing happens, then close and reopen the Pokestop, it will appear still blue, but spinning will result in the “Try Again” error. This means you actually completed the Stop (the items are in your inventory, and journal), however you app doesn’t realize this. Simply waiting the five minutes for the Pokestop to reset will resume normal function. I have heard of “bugged” Pokestops that never work, but I have yet to encounter one.
The Gym Combat Bug – Upon challenging a Gym you will be brought into the arena, where it hangs on “Go” before returning you to the Gyms opening interface. As near as I can figure it out, this is caused by multiple people fighting in the Gym at the same time, you will just have to wait.
Failure to Log In – The servers have simply been crushed for the last few days. Use ispokemongodownornot.com to check if it is a problem with the servers.
“Phantom” Pokemon – This is a bigger deal when tracking is working, but what will happen is Pokemon will not be cleared from your nearby even after they have despawned. It is recommended to close and reopen the app before you go hunting after any given Pokemon to ensure it is in fact still there.
Black Screen While Catching Pokemon – Often caused by trying to throw your Pokeball too early, it seems like the Pokeball flies off screen, eventually covering up the light source in the unity engine, casting the ground into darkness. The only real solution is to close your app and try again.
Using Berries/Other Pokeballs Causes Curveballs – Once using a Berry it seems as if Pokeballs will curve wildly. The recommendation is to “After using an item, tap and hold your Poké Ball and move it straight up and down a little bit without letting go until the golden curve indicator wears off (if present). If the gold is gone then the ball won’t curve.”
Pokemon Go Doesn’t Track Distance Correctly – Remember Pokemon Go will not track distance any time the app is not in the foreground, and anytime you are going above 12mph/20kph.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Choose your Eevee Evolution – Vaporeon is one of the strongest Pokemon in the game, and certainly one of the easiest of the powerful Pokemon to get. However, it’s base Pokemon, the Eevee, has the potential to evolve into the Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon. However, by properly naming your Eevee off of the three Eevee brothers from the show, you can force your Eevee to evolve as you wish.
Pikachu as a Starter – When you first start the game you are given the choice between Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander. However, if you walk away from those choices, they will respawn next to you. Do this several times and eventually a fourth Pokemon, Pikachu, will spawn as well. It is worth noting that, thanks to the nature of leveling/CP, your starter Pokemon will almost certainly be useless, and eventually turned into candy. However, at least in my area, Pikachu is pretty rare, but then again so are the other starters.
All For the Grinder – Do not get too attached to your Pokemon. Catching multiple of the same type, and transferring them to the Professor is the only way to power up your other copies of that Pokemon. Soon you will be this.
Stay Hydrated – This should go without saying but make sure to drink plenty of water before, and while out hunting Pokemon. I use a camelbak that also doubles as a backpack for snacks and other things that I might need. Dehydration is a serious concern, and can lead to poor decision making. It is best to counter this before it becomes a problem.
Stay Charged – Bring plenty of phone chargers. Pokemon consumes battery at an alarming rate. You can pretty much tell the Pokemon Go players by the charge cables snaking out of their pocket.
Be Friendly – Believe it or not, Pokemon is a social game, and any serious activity in the game will confront you with other people, both Pokemon players, and general public. As the app says, be aware of your surroundings, and try not to be a dick to people. This isn’t the internet, you are not anonymous, and in a way you represent both your team, and Pokemon players in general. Just remember that the whole world is adapting to this new game, and have some respect for people who don’t quite get it yet. Don’t be a Team Rocket.
Be a Good Ambassador – Along the same lines as above, there are many ways you can turn your walks for good. You can take a garbage back with you to clean up your local parks and roads, or you can walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Failing those, you can simply install one of the apps that allows you to raise money for charity while playing.
Stay Safe – Many people, including children are going outside, possible for the first time, possibly at night. I have written an app for Android called Phone Beacon that allows you to set a timer like a deadman’s switch. That way if anything happens to you, or your equipment, the location of your phone will be texted to the phone number of your choosing.
All in all, Pokemon Go is a craze that is sweeping the world, and this is everything you need to “be the very best”. Feel free to get involved at /r/PokemonGo (A much better community than /r/eve 😉 ), or to shoot me any questions.
Go Team Mystic!