Despite my concerns about player safety in Pokemon GO, especially in terms of stalking and the anemic response to it by Niantic’s support, one of the big reasons I still play it is that it attracts a lot of players. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve seen a few people I’ve met during COVID thanks to the game or as well as pre-existing friends come back to it, which is something I haven’t really experienced in other ARGs aside from one or two friends who tried out a new game and dropped it rather quickly.
Pokemon as an IP just has a lot more power, and with the COVID situation in the US being such a rollercoaster, it feels like a location-based game, which when played responsibly is a good excuse for some folks to meet more outside again. I hesitate to mention that is something planned by Niantic, but perhaps the December Community Day catch-up got more people coming back than the studio expected. Combined with extra trade-candy, the event seemed fairly successful from what I saw from returning players, and the upcoming Johto Tour event’s got everyone fired up.
Now Niantic is also adding a second Community Day to January, so it’s time for us to talk about some tips for catching up in Pokemon GO (or helping your friends to do so).
Climbing the poké-mountain
I recently updated our Pokemon Go guides to be relevant to the current meta, and they still hold true, especially the Eeveelutions. The “Focus on Community” and “Battle Basics” sections have been updated with relevant safety information as well, but I suggest people find and maintain designated play areas. These should be public areas you would not be worried about being spotted at or tracked to. Remember, gyms are the main way people in Pokemon GO know where and when you went someplace, so interact with them at your own discretion. Stalking is stalking, and this is real life. Following another player around in Pokemon GO is vastly different than in other MMOs and has more serious consequences should law enforcement become involved.
With, that out of the way, let’s talk about catching up. While there are some things you can do to help yourself, the beauty of MMOs is that other people can help you too, and Pokemon GO really makes that palpable in ways I haven’t experienced in mainstream MMOs since the release of the World of Warcraft model.
For new/returning players
Take advantage of referral codes! I always forget this. Do not be me. You guys can get some nice freebies.
Turn off AR+, turn on Battery Saver. Nearly every new player notes how annoying these two are, so let’s fix that first. Both are under the Settings menu. You may have to do this more than once, like after interacting with your pokemon Buddy.
Find a community. I can’t stress this one enough. Even online communities are possible, but the game’s more fun with people you know. Check-in with friends and family, see if any of them are still playing or would want to jump back in. The previously mentioned benefits are awesome and the Johto event is advertising incense-spawned legendaries. I’m still waiting for Niantic to send a last-minute correction on that one!
Take advantage of guaranteed lucky trades ASAP. This is more for Day 1 players, but it can really help someone out. Even if you can’t afford to trade for, say, a Mewtwo, there are common and useful pokemon you’ll want. “Wasting” a guaranteed lucky on some random trade like Pansear or Rattata would hurt. Find someone to help make those trades count!
Use pinapps aggressively. Between new pokemon and new costs, you’ll need candy, badly. This goes double for events, as you’re gonna have to battle the clock as well as pokemon. If you’re short on supplies, ask someone for advice on poke-priorities.
Evolve some Eevees. This is the easiest way to round out your teams or get trades for Eeveelutions that can. Sylveon is the hardest, but one of the more useful ones. Umbreon is awesome but unless you’ll be doing PvP, not very useful. That being said, both Umbreon and the much more useful Espeon will be able to evolve during the Johto event with special moves and not require walking, so consider evolving them then. Leafeon’s use is limited, but if you see more Eevee than Roselia, Bulbasaur, and/or Exeggutor, evolve one. There is the name trick the article outlines, but you can only use that once. You may want to save those for events when there’s a chance at getting shiny/perfect pokemon but won’t have days/weeks to get the required evolution requirements in time.
Focus on Gen 1 and 3 starters. Gen 1 tend to be the best and most flexible as they have their Mega forms; Gen 3 tend to be fairly strong and will have Mega forms in the future. Gen 2 starters for the upcoming Johto event are decent enough, though I would focus more on the Larvitar family, as its overall usefulness is higher. Mamoswine during the event is also a good target, but its event move doesn’t help it in PvE raids, so feel free to evolve it at a later date.
1/24 Update: The current Rocket event includes the Gen 2 starters as Shadow pokemon. Shadow pokemon gain +2 to all stats when purified, so there’s a good chance to find a good one during the event, or just gain candy for evolving a good one. Alternatively, the event allows you to remove Frustration. While Shadow Pokemon deal more damage, Frustration limits the move possibilities, so if you get one with good stats (preferably perfect Attack), it may even be useful to keep one or two in Shadow Form and evolve them during the event.
Check your best Weedle/Beedrill after a day or so of playing. Notice the “Beedrill Mega Energy”? That’s secretly gained by spinning stops and gyms. You need 200 to evolve a Beedrill to its Mega form the first time and 40 for any additional evolutions of that same specific ‘mon. It’s a bit of a complex eight-hour rental system, but any time you’re going to raid a lot or catch a lot of bug or poison types, evolve this guy.
There’s a quest tab now. Check out all the pages and complete them so you can move on to the next steps. Don’t forget to scroll down! The “Today” tab tends to have limited-time quests, while “Special Research” may be significantly easier when done during the event it’s released, but can theoretically be completed at a later date.
If you don’t trust Niantic but want to do AR scans, zoom in on an article of clothing or something else that blurs easily. Those are some nice rewards, but I know mistrust in the company makes people avoid them, and I completely understand. You do not need to give good data to reap benefits. Heck, I often use the option to send protest letters!
Check The Silph Road for visuals. The guides over there can be dense, but the visuals posted there are often easy enough to understand.
Have fun. There are so many features now that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are at least two events per week, on week nights, plus season-long bonuses, monthly Community Days, and a lot more. You don’t need to do everything. Take your time, enjoy what you like, avoid what you don’t as much as possible (because Niantic will try to force you to do it).
Be patient; don’t rush people. The bare basics should be curveballs, deciding which pokemon to keep, battles (gym, raids, and rockets), quests, and trading. I know you may want to get them on the Meltan train or working up in PvP to rank 20, but it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. One of the best ways people will learn is by playing with others.
Take your mentee out to play, preferably during a non-event. This helps get your buddy back into the basics without pressure, plus it gives you a chance to do a little trading.
Use those special trades wisely! Remember, 2016 players in particular can get some guaranteed lucky trades. Maybe that’ll be useful during an upcoming event, but maybe it won’t. Talk to your mentees about their favorite final-form pokemon and have a few good ones you might recommend as well. Having favorite pokemon to use may sound dumb, but you’d be surprised how motivating it can be.
Be prepared to lose some stardust and candy. The best way you can really help a new player is by giving them pokemon they don’t have access to. Consider trading pokemon that are high-level, evolved, have a Community Day/event move, and/or have a second move unlocked. Unless this is someone you really know, maybe don’t give away a pokemon you’ll miss or that is super rare, just pokemon you can replace or kept specifically for new players.
Have a spare Chansey/Blissey, Wobbuffet, and/or Machamp. Gaining coins sadly revolves around gyms, so having a set of pokemon to use in this area is helpful. Spare Eevees are great too, as many new and returning players have easy access to them and their evolution cost is low. Evolve a few so a new player has some elementals to play with. Don’t worry about Umbreon or Leafeon, though if you have a spare or two, there are some uses beyond dex entries.
Help your mentee with gyms. It’s easier if you’re on the same team, but if not, find a gym you can both attack, or note a weakened one on your team and simply choose not to defend it. Getting coins for extra space and clothes is a good motivator. Again, be careful about the location and try not to create a trail of gyms for someone to follow. Once folks knows the ins and outs of gym play, they can earn coins themselves.
Help your mentee with a legendary raid. Mega raids are fine, but more often than not, a chunky legendary brings a lot of power to a new player’s roster without needing to invest much, especially if you can pass along a weather boosted one. It’s also a good way to show how much more multiplayer the game has become since 2016, and if you use remote invites, it will also demonstrate how much more online it’s become since 2020. Not everyone may stick with the game, but especially if folks have help, have a community, and are given some tools to be more independent, its easier for them to become a partner in the near future, especially if they get hooked before the Johto event.
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!