Just in case you’ve been living under a rock that only had dial-up for the last week or so, Pokémon Go has been released by Niantic Labs. A much-anticipated AR game, one wanders their native city with the game running in order to find wild Pokémon, hatch eggs, collect items, and fight to take over the Gyms scattered throughout the city for their ‘team’. It is part of Nintendo’s ongoing effort to make their handheld audience go out into the world and is more popular right now than Twitter.
However, we are still essentially playing a beta of the game. Seeing the version in the menu ought to be proof enough of that (for non-software geeks, anything less than 1.0.0 is classed as being in development). So there are more features to come, with Johto’s Pokémon due to be added some time in winter.
Here, then, are some more features that Pokémon Go needs to be successful.
Battling Outside of Gyms
Although the famous tagline for the Pokémon series is ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’, there is an implicit addendum to this: ‘And Make Them Fight For Your Amusement.’ Pokémon battles are as iconic as the Pokéball flying through the air to concuss a wild creature, and yet the only form of fighting currently available is by taking on a Gym’s stored Pokémon.
The main problem with the Gym system at the moment – aside from the potential for there being none nearby – is that lower level and newer players have little to no chance of enjoying battles. I am level 7 with a highest CP (Combat Power) Pokémon of 240+. Every Gym around me has Pokémon whose CP is 400+ at least, making it very difficult to win, i.e. the part most people enjoy about Pokémon battles.
Though there’s rumours of PvP coming in during future updates, I would suggest random NPCs who challenge users with level-appropriate Pokémon would be a good step to get people battling. Hell, why not introduce Team Rocket like that? They are the perennial baddies of the Pokémon universe and would be a good common enemy for the three rival player teams.
Something To Do At Home
Most every feature of Pokémon Go is predicated on you going outside. I understand that as a core design principle. However, it means that a game that Niantic Labs should want us all to dive into often will be left unopened whilst we’re sitting at home, watching Netflix, and rubbing our sore muscles. And an unopened app is neither fun nor a money-spinner.
That’s leaving aside how disabled players are unable to enjoy it. Hell, children’s hospitals have been asking people to drop Lure modules there so the sick kids can play in their wards. Whilst heartwarming, it’s also indicative of a lacking in game design.
Some mechanic where you can play with/train your Pokémon whilst at home would go a long way to resolving this.
Oh God, please, please, give us some item that points out what direction a particular Pokémon can be found in. I have walked around for miles, trying to find a Gastly, for the number of pawprints never to drop. Given that Pokémon will despawn within 5-10 minutes, faffing around trying to track them down is not fun in its current implementation. What’s worse is that, during the beta, Pokémon distances were given in metres, so it was much more fun and easy to track them down in the beta! An item that points out what direction a particular Pokémon is in – even if it’s just compass points – is vital to allow people to track down their favourites and enjoy their walking more.
Update! Apparently, you can find out what direction a Pokémon is in by clicking them on the nearby tab and then pressing the compass. The map will then point you in the right direction to go to. GAME. CHANGED!
This one is a no-brainer. The handheld Pokémon games already have secret items that can be found through the Item Finder, which beeps depending on how close you are to a hidden object. Put this in and we’ll have more to do as we’re walking between Pokéstops, hoping for something other than ANOTHER FUCKING WEEDLE!
Make Starter Pokémon More Useful
For those who don’t know, the way the game currently operates means that your starter Pokémon will be about as strong as a newborn, and you would have to catch dozens more of them in order to level it up to something appropriate. However, all of those you catch out and about will be much stronger than your starting Pokémon, to the point where it’s better to trade in your starter for the candy needed to level up a real Pokémon.
Starters should be given some sort of primacy amongst caught Pokémon, an ability to level up along with their trainer so that they are always relevant. That’s basically how Pikachu has worked for more than a decade of Pokémon anime, and so I should have the same for my god damn Charmander. He’s adorable. He’s the best. But he’s useless to me and will be melted down into candy the moment I find something stronger than him.
Ugh, an Old Couple? *swipes left*