A new Kotaku interview with Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan has shed new light on the state of Overwatch — you know, the game everyone played before Pokemon Go eclipsed the sun.
The interview focuses heavily on the game’s competitive mode, which evolved from a planned pre-made 6v6 matchup to one that allows solo queuing, with rank rewards alotted accordingly, but he also talks future plans. “We’ve talked about tons of basic stuff like getting rid of the coin flip and adding time bank to the payload stuff, but we’re really talking a lot about skill rating and trying to recalibrate how players think about skill rating for season 2 meaning right now,” Kaplan said. “We feel like a lot of the things we did in the UI and the numbers that we chose make players think if skill rating as a leveling system.”
He also rejects the idea that Overwatch is a MOBA and says Blizzard is working on toxicity, leavers, new levels, and new modes. “My dream is that we could do something cool each month that felt not just like a balance patch, but actually felt like a meaningful content or feature delivery each month and somehow the heroes and the maps are kind of cycling as parts of those things in addition to other stuff.”
Have you ever suffered from depression? Not just being sad, but full-blown clinical depression? It’s pretty horrible, and it prevents you from doing much of anything. Pokémon Go players are finding that the game helps out quite a bit, though; just having that motivation to get up, get dressed, and head out in the world can make a difference. So that’s all good, and it sheds more light on why the community is requesting more options to support disabled players such as those with muscle disorders and vision issues.
Of course, you might have no disabilities but just want an easier time finding where various pokémon are hiding, in which case the new Poke Radar map will provide you with exactly what you need by tracking where you can catch various monsters, assuming that you’re not being struck by the latest glitch to affect the game. (No word about Onix in the Caspian Sea.) You can also pick up a thematically appropriate Pokédex case for your phone.
Also worth noting is that the game is finally launching in Japan tomorrow with the game’s first sponsored location. So you won’t have to stop playing just because you’ve left the country, not that much of anything would stop fans at this point.
As Pokemon Go continues its rollout across the world, you might be wondering why it’s not in Japan yet. It’s because Japan is even more Pokemon-crazed than we are and would break the servers, basically. Here’s what else is happening with the MMOARG:
Earlier this week, one of the founding designers of the MMORPG genre, Raph Koster, penned a blog piece arguing that alternate reality games like Pokemon GO and Ingress are the evolution of MMORPGs, the virtual worlds that have come to us rather than transporting us to them. PvP, economics, and player-generated content combine to turn our phones into our games, he writes, and instead of being represented by an avatar of our choosing, we are our avatars. ARGs aren’t just “like” MMOs — they are MMOs.
I understand what Koster means and found myself nodding along when he started spelling out the pitfalls the ARG genre faces (and how similar they are to MMO traps). And maybe this is similar to the “is LARPing akin to a tabletop RPG” argument — incomprehensible to everyone but those right at the heart of the sub-genres. But at the same time, I’m not sure I agree, any more than I agree other branches in the MMO family tree are MMORPGs. What do you think? Are ARGs MMOs, MMORPGs, or none of the above? To the pollmobile!
I, like many others who were children throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, went through a period in my young life where the only thing I wanted in life was to be a Pokemon master. I wanted to be the very best like no one ever was, the whole nine yards. My mom swears that when I was a wee lad of five or so, the top item on my Christmas list (which was of course intricately arranged in order of priority, because even five-year-old me was neurotic) was the rather large order of asking Santa to send me real, live Pokemon, which I was sure had to exist somewhere in the world. If we, the human race, possessed the technology to clone sheep, then surely Santa could just inject some lightning into a mouse and create a Pikachu. Five-year-old me’s logic was airtight.
Well, a couple of decades later, we still don’t have the technology to genetically engineer honest-to-god Pokemon so that eleven-year-old children everywhere can flee their homes and wander the world with their trusty pets/instruments of borderline godlike power at their sides. I know, I’m disappointed, too. But what we do have is Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality mobile title from Niantic that is letting everyone who ever hoped to travel across the land (searching far and wide) in hopes of becoming the world’s greatest Pokemon master do exactly that through the magic of their mobile phones.
Well, that certainly didn’t take long! In just a week, Pokémon GO has overtaken every mobile game in the United States, becoming the biggest title of all time. The game boasts 21 million active users in the country, is present on 10.8% of all Android smartphones, and is seeing players spend more time in it than on Facebook.
To feed players’ addiction enthusiasm for the game, T-Mobile declared that it is giving all of its customers free data usage for Pokémon GO through August 2017. This free year of data starts next Tuesday, July 19th.
Of course, there are always the rockier aspects of this global gaming phenomenon to consider. Nintendo is scrambling to stop Android users from downloading the game in countries where Pokémon GO hasn’t yet been released. And the real world aspect of the game has caused some scary situations, as two men fell off a cliff while playing (they survived) and another was stabbed while playing in an Anaheim park in the middle of the night.
If you’re in China, you might not be able to play Pokémon Go right at the moment. You can, however, play City Spirit Go, which allows you to do more or less the same thing in a quickly made knockoff of the core game. It is, accordingly, tearing up the Chinese mobile charts. This might seem silly, but when you consider that Pokémon Go players in South Korea are flocking to the one place in South Korea that the game can actually be played, it… well, it still seems silly, but not uniquely so.
Details for a cross-promotional deal with McDonald’s have also surfaced, although the promotion will be restricted to one country at first (presumably Japan) with no announcements on rollouts elsewhere. All McDonald’s locations will be flagged as Pokéstops or gyms for the duration, so you’ll have plenty of reason to flock there to get down to the Pokémon. Meanwhile, fans of the game are calling for harmony between the three opposing teams in the game, proving that three-faction PvP really can lead to stability. Sort of. It’s a Pokémon thing.
Have you felt despondent at the apparent decline of the production of new, bold MMOs? According to Meridian 59 creator Brian “Psychochild” Green, these games are actually everywhere these days — they’re just disguising themselves due to the apparent stigma that comes with the MMO label.
Green looks at games such as Destiny, Game of War, Star Wars: Uprising, and Pokémon GO as examples of how MMO mechanics and features have spread outside of the strict walls of the traditional MMORPG.
“[Augmented reality] games will become big within the next few years; we’re already seeing [it],” he predicted. “They may not look like the MMOs you’re used to, but if you’re patient I’m sure the traditional MMO will probably make a comeback. And, hopefully a lot of the advancements made in other types of games help push MMOs forward a bit. And, when we have the big MMO renaissance in a few years, we’ll have a lot more options than cloning a creaky, aging game.”
How do you go from making Ingress to making Pokémon Go? We’re using the hypothetical “you” here, if it weren’t clear; you personally can’t make either of them, they already exist. And according to a recent interview with Niantic Labs founder John Hanke, the answer is that you build the latter on the bones of the former. He also draws comparisons to Meridian 59 as an inspiration for the game, noting that the team considers it to be an MMO in all practical terms.
Another interview makes it clear that this is part of the focus for further development, that rather than iterating with new releases the team wants to add in additional content over time. There are also plans to introduce new mechanics, such as trading and sponsored locations for Pokéstops and gyms. All of this adds up to the idea that Pokémon Go has plenty of potential to go places whilst also inspiring the players to go places.
But please, exercise caution and keep your eyes open wherever you go. Be safe out there as the game expands around the world. Don’t break the law. Don’t go where you’re unwelcome. And maybe don’t cheat.
If you’re one of the few people left who have missed out on Pokémon Go thus far, you’ve missed out on the fastest game ever to climb the mobile revenue charts. Yes, ever. People love dealing with floating pocket monsters, even during… inappropriate situations (and if you think that link is probably leading you down a not-safe-for-work rabbit hole, you would be entirely right).
The downside is that the game is also apparently asking you to give it access to all of your Google everything when you download it, but that’s a bug rather than a feature, with a security patch planned for the near future. Even with the security and server issues, the game is still set to receive an add-on peripheral that supports additional features within the game. That certainly can’t hurt the game’s climb in revenue, although you probably should avoid wearing that particular peripheral to bed.
Want some justification that the time you’re spending on Pokémon GO and Ingress isn’t pointless? The creative brain behind Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies sticks up for these newer titles, saying that these augmented reality (AR) games are actually just the latest evolution of MMO virtual worlds.
Raph Koster points out that players are merely becoming the avatars that they used to control in MMORPGs: “With smartphones, we tend to think of ‘the client’ as meaning the little screen we stare through to catch a Pokémon. But that’s not accurate. Take a look at the list of permissions that the game asks for. That’s not a self-contained app. That’s your whole life. You are fully an avatar. Pokémon has your email, and can send emails for you. Pokémon knows everywhere you walk. Pokémon can connect to your car. Pokémon knows who your friends are.”
Koster points out how other aspects of MMOs are spilling over into AR games, including player vs. player combat, real world economy impact, and a user-generated world. He has some words of caution about how these games should be handled and perceived but also exalts in the joy that they’re bringing to users.
It’s been a good week for the alternate reality game genre: Aside from Ingress, most of the ARGs on mobile are teeny-tiny, and even writing about Ingress is met with confusion from most gamers. Pokemon Go is putting the ARG on the map in a much bigger way (pun intended), especially when it flirts with mainstream media (although not necessarily for reasons Nintendo or the police or really anyone will be happy about).
Pokemon has never really been my thing, but all the hype has made me wonder how the IP might work in an MMORPG proper rather than an ARG. MMOs have long abused the “gotta catch ’em all” spirit when it comes to everything from gear to achievements — never mind minipet collection and battle — so it should be a natural fit, right?
Apparently so, because a quick trip to Google shows there are literally dozens of fan-made Pokemon MMOs already online. I don’t think any of them is officially sanctioned, and some of them are of dubious quality, but clearly there’s excessive demand for this. So Pokemon masters, you tell me: How would you design a Pokemon MMORPG? How would it work, and what would it need to have to be true to the IP and the genre — other than, you know, a legal license? Or is the ARG the more natural genre?
(Thanks to BalsBigBrother, Nordavind, and Kanbe for the tips!)
Have you previously tried to get into games using your phone’s “augmented reality” features, but found yourself lacking an emotional connection to things that aren’t small animals you can make fight one another? Do you like how Pokémon as a franchise sends children out into dangerous wilderness but wanted to actually send your own children out into dangerous wilderness with a bike instead of having them sit at home with a Nintendo handheld? Do you just really, really need a new way to capture Pikachu? These are all of the reasons to be excited about the launch of Pokémon Go in the United States.
Or, we suppose, you might just really like the gameplay.
Fans of the franchise can start exploring the game’s live features on their mobile devices right now, with iOS and Android versions both available. Hunt Pokémon in the real world, battle opponents with your own team, and make use of many (if not all) of the features of the classic games in a new format. It’s a fun excuse to travel while capturing monsters, or at the very least, it’s a good way to hold over your appetite for catching things until the next handheld games come out.