Massively on the Go: How Pokemon Go is improving without all the ‘go’


We’ve briefly covered some of Pokemon Go’s new changes in light of recent non-fun viral events, and in today’s Massively on the Go, I want to explore them in more detail. All things considered, Niantic’s made some good changes to the game that make it easier to play from home or to play very briefly when venturing outside of your house, and now it plans to do even more.

In fact, after recently binge-ing on Pokemon Sword as my way for preparing for the upcoming Sword and Shield expansions (and Animal Crossing: New Horizons), I almost feel that the changes bring POGO closer to the original games, which could be good or bad depending on your perspective.

What basic progressive play looks like now

Rather than explain each and every new feature of POGO, I thought it might be easier for me to note how I’m playing the game these days so people can have a better understanding of how accessible the game is. While I have access to multiple groups, due to the virus, I’m avoiding all of them (though most have stopped officially raiding). My focus is on getting as much candy and stardust as possible without having to actively play the catching game. I like shiny pokemon, but I rarely use premium passes or go out for long just to have one unless I really like it.

First, to note, while I do live near a Pokestop which allows me to get at least a spin-off every day, I can reach it only by leaving the house or GPS drift. Because of GPS drift, I’ll leave the game open and attached to my Pokeball Plus so it’ll auto-spin for me if I’m lucky enough for it happen, though if you have a Go Plus or other similar peripheral devices, you can use that too. I also tend to save a completed research quest in the off-chance I can’t leave the house or if the drift fails me.

Using minor GPS drift also helps me with walking my buddy pokemon and, most importantly, egg hatching. Eggs are hatching at twice their usual rate, and they’re a good source of passive candy and stardust. If I left it on all day, I probably would be rich in supplies, but I actually use my phone for other things and sometimes forget to have it open. I generally don’t have my auto-catch on because it would certainly distract from work having to push the button, plus the pokeball shortage is real.

To deal with the shortage (again, I can’t rely on drift for balls), I open gifts at the end of the day. This helps me to ensure a decent supply, as gifts can give as many as 15 balls now. That way, if I’m just eating breakfast or doing light exercise, I can pop an incense and turn my auto-catching on. Niantic offers weekly 1 coin deals for large care packages of supplies, and while it’s not enough for me to play like I used to, it helps a little. Since you can hold and open more gifts now, a lot of my catching supplies come from other players. I tend to open and send gifts at the same time, unless I remember after my walk, in which case, I send a few before driving home.

Now, for people who actually like catching, it’s possible for a bit if you have supplies. Since we can’t go out as much, I’ve trashed a lot of potions and revives to make space for balls. During the recent Genesect event, which required lots of catching, I would do active catching. However, I also had a park with large, open fields that allowed me to keep more than six feet away from people, but those have since closed. Incense certainly helps since it lasts an hour for now, but catching from home means I (largely) can’t get replacement balls. I did do some during the event because I didn’t want to be out for long (plus rain), but mass catching right now is difficult, especially if there’s a particular Pokemon you want from the wild.

Now, while we can leave our homes for walks, that’s my primary purpose. I do check the game, but most of my catching is auto-catches, not by hand. People simply aren’t being careful, so I walk in a part of town with little-to-no traffic so I can dash across the street when I see zombie-people ignoring the current situation and fearlessly taking up whole sidewalks despite other people trying to walk and keep a safe distance. As I’ve mentioned in a few previous articles, I’m also kind of a minority in my town and attract more attention than I’d like, so I’m just not comfortable standing in place for too long. Mostly, I’ll set my Go Plus to only spin if I’m low on supplies or, if I feel well stocked, have catching on too and pop an incense.

That being said, I know the gym game and raiding desire is strong. I’m fortunate that I walk in an area with several gyms, so if its pokemon are very low on motivation, I’ll just mindlessly tap my way through the battles while I do laps and put my pokemon in afterwards. Raids are harder, though. Unless I’m lucky enough for them to occur at the area I park (because again, I don’t want to be standing around outside), and only if it’s easy enough for me to do on my own, I just don’t do them.

Now, that isn’t to say I’m missing out on legendaries. Legendary pokemon can currently be caught as rewards for the online PvP battle system, Go Battle League, once you hit rank 4. While season 1 is certainly tougher than the pre-season, using sites like Gamepress, PvPoke, and SilphRoad’s own PvP site can make getting into the meta more accessible (but I’ll talk about that later). For the chance to catch your legendary, which feels high; you need four wins for each five-match attempt (which currently requires no walking, allowing five rounds max per day), or you can use a premium raid pass to do it in two wins.

Matches cannot last over five minutes. However, I’ve been stuck in a rut lately and tend to use bulky Pokemon that occasionally cause the clock to run out. Even though I’ve been on a losing streak, I still have gotten one legendary a day at the least without premium passes.

Between long matches and PvP research, and not including my roughly hour-long auto-catching from Pokemon GO Plus walks, I’m playing for about 2.5 hours a day and getting rare candy, TMs, and around 100k in stardust a day, plus some legendaries, all while staying safe and mostly at home. In sum, I’m basically just keeping the game on to hatch eggs, using licensed paraphernalia to catch Pokemon for me, doing friendship gift exchanges (online through the friend system), and doing PvP.

All this being said, I know I’m on the more careful side, and my area has gotten fairly strict. Public parks are closed, officers are making their presence known, and we’re no longer allowed to travel over a certain distance when going out for exercise. That being said, in some areas, people have taken to (or have maintained) playing in their cars. (I do want to remind readers here to use their best judgment for their own situation and the rules in their area. No game is worth your health, a citation, or worse.)

Return of the trainer

Now, I don’t blame many people for not understanding all of that, especially if you played the game only at release. A lot of systems have been added since then, but the primary one to discuss is PvP. A lot of people don’t like PvP, and in my opinion PvE is much more suitable for making connections with most people (especially non-gamers), but battling each other was a staple of the Pokemon series from Day 1. That being said, I have mostly played Pokemon GO because of the cooperative aspects, not PvP.

I have enjoyed the new change, though. While I miss going out and seeing people, I have had a largely serviceable group of raiding Pokemon for at least 2 years with very few additions to the team, and mostly for fun. PvP acts in various “cups,” restricting the maximum CP level for each division and allowing some generally “trash” Pokemon to shine. I’m a hoarder, so this has really let my collection shine and given me reasons to power up Pokemon I wasn’t using, much like how the Pokemon Stadium/Coliseum/Battle Revolution games on home consoles bulked up the portable experiences for the first 4 generations.

Fun fact, a lot of the older women in my local community were getting into it, probably due to the Pikachu wrestling outfit and easy access to legendary Pokemon. Many of them had found the above-mentioned PvP resources on their own and printed out cheat sheets. Prior to the formal government pushes for social distancing, we’d chat through cars about team setups and strategies. It’s both odd and fun thinking that the same conversations I had in the middle school boy’s locker room have been playing out in parks with Japanese mothers with “kids” my age.

While some of these women are certainly better at catching than I am, I’m more of a hoarder. However, the PvP is accessible. Not just skill-wise but supplies wise. I’d been helping a friend walk her dog during the first stages of the virus, and I’d bring her account along for auto-catching. She lacks a lot of the meta-relevant Pokemon and stardust needed to get really into the PvP as a serious contender (you need to unlock a second charge move for the most part if you want to rank high).

However, just through auto-catching and going through her collection, we found serviceable Pokemon and a strategy to get her not just access to the legendary Pokemon, but the pre-season outfit as well. Not only that, but we mostly had her invest in Pokemon she still needed for raiding and just taking gyms, which highlights just how “behind” her account was. Like many casuals, she can’t just power up and evolve whatever she wants, but the game is still very accessible to her right now. For a hoarder, not only is it accessible, but I almost feel as if my Pokemon are thriving – as is my childhood nostalgia.

That being said, I still can’t wait for things to be normal again so I can get back to playing with people in a physical space, but with online raiding on the horizon, the game’s emphasis on real-world experience and exploration may be taking a different turn.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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