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John

Pokémon Go

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I SEE YOU LURKIN', and I know you're playing. Let's talk about it!

What's your team? How's the scene in your area? Any good catches (or painful misses) lately?

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I'd love to tell you all about it, but you'll have to come back later.  Our servers are experiencing issues.

Pretty much this.

I have a Pokmon Trainer Club account form way back and maybe trying to use it was my mistake but I seem to only be able to get into the game some 40% of the time. Combine that with the fact that Pokemon and PokeStops are not common where I live or work and I don't have much to report unfortunately.

That said, I still like the concept and I continue to be amazed at how far reaching this game is, especially in such a short period of time.

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I also like the concept, and would love the game if it had been executed properly.  I do have to disagree with you, though.

Pokémon Go isn't Niantic's first foray into the Augmented Reality gaming world, or even the mobile world at all.  They knowingly took on converting one of the most popular, iconic games in modern history, one with a nigh-cult following, to a mobile platform.  If they had tried to build the entire game from scratch, I'd understand a bit more, but they used their initial AR game Ingress as a model for Go—which is an intelligent decision, really, since doing so meant they should have had a fair amount of the software bugs already eliminated, and all they'd have to account for was the massive demand on their systems that running a game with the Pokémon name was bound to bring.

With that in mind, the fact that their servers are being continually DDoSed by their own player base is incomprehensible to me.  Maybe once or twice a day during peak hours, depending on the region, sure.  But not continuously.  Niantic already knows how often their game will send requests to their hardware, and should have been able to estimate the incoming demand, based off of that hard number, a rough concept of what a normal time period of playthrough will entail, and the potential player base.

On top of that, Forbes has already berated Niantic (and Nintendo as the parent company) for what has amounted to an almost complete communication blackout from the companies to the players:

"In almost all games, it is pretty common to communicate answers to at least some of these questions to a captive playerbase. In the case of Pokémon GO, no one is saying anything. Yesterday, the game had a seemingly major update and crippling downtime for a huge chunk of the day. There was not a single tweet from Niantic’s official account nor Pokémon GO’s official account, and certainly not any information from @Pokémon or @Nintendo either. Behind the scenes, requests for comment I made to the company directly also went unanswered, as they have since launch. The last tweets Pokémon GO made were on July 17th, one about the server problems from that day (which were shorter than yesterday) and the fact that the game was released in Canada. In fact, the account, with nearly a million followers, has only published sixteen tweets. Ever."

'Niantic And Nintendo's Lack Of Communication About 'Pokémon GO' Issues Is Inexcusable', Paul Tassi, July 21, Forbes.com

 As much as I like the game and want to continue playing it when possible, I can't in good conscience say that Niantic has done a good job with this game.  Certainly nearly worldwide releases are impressive; but, then again, with a mobile game based on a globally-renowned franchise, the scope of their releases isn't so much amazing as it is ... expected, if I'm going to be honest.  It certainly doesn't counter the rampant access and gameplay issues Pokémon Go has experienced since launch.

 

 

To get off their case a little bit, I have a couple of other comments.  When I can get reliable access to the game, I find the most limiting factors for me are battery life and heat generation, both of which are hardware issues.  I'm currently using a Samsung Galaxy S4.  Nothing brand-spanking-new or currently top-of-the-line, so I would love to hear some feedback from people with both similar, older, and newer devices.  Comments:

  • Battery Life – When I have the game open and active, I lose about 1% of my current charge per minute; the discharge rate is faster if I have other apps running, such as Amazon Cloud Music or Pandora, or if I'm in a call.  As stated above, my phone isn't new (in fact it's two years old and was being replaced by the S5 when I bought it), so I have no illusions that my battery is mint condition.  The only remark here is that the game places almost a tenfold increase in strain on the battery, so expect to have to recharge frequently when you're out and about.
  • Internal Heat – Hand-in-hand with increased charge usage is increase heat generation.  I frequently get notices that my device is cooling down, and a couple of times the phone has actually closed my apps for me in an effort to cool off.  When I'm in a car, I can solve this by holding my phone directly over the AC vent (also DO NOT PLAY POKÉMON GO WHILE DRIVING), but when I'm just walking around I either have to kill the game or ... well, basically I have to kill the game.

Again, both of these comments are personal device issues, and not directed at Niantic.  They have no control over what hardware their player base is using, so they can't be held accountable for it.  I'd very much like to see how the game plays on a brand new top Samsung model, though, for a good comparison, or even a brand new S4 (or at least one with a brand new battery).

 

 

Positive comments:

  • I very much like the egg system.  I know several previously sedentary people who go on regular, extended walks now solely to hatch eggs, and I also know of an animal shelter that began offering its dogs for rent for people who wanted to have a reason to walk around besides hatching/catching critters.  Said shelter ended up placing all of their dogs in homes, due to both the word-of-mouth from basically having walking adverts for their shelter and the dog renters suddenly realising they wanted to keep the dog they had, and had to start getting dogs sent in from other shelters to fill the demand.  (Which, let's be honest, is just ******* cool.)
  • I feel pretty good about the PokéStops.  I'm curious how Niantic went about deciding on what to make into a stop and what to exclude from the list.  I've seen anything from a mattress resale store, to a city park, to a boarded-up skating rink, to a bus stop bench simply labelled "concrete art".  In one town, the downtown shopping area is a Stop-palooza, and in the next one over there's a complete dearth of anything at all, except for the aforementioned skating rink and a biker tavern—which, the image of school-age children walking into a pub full of leather-clad biker gangs while chasing after a Diglett is unbelievably silly.
  • There are a bunch of male and female Nidoran around where I live, which makes me quite happy, since the NidoRoyalty are two of my favorite Gen1 evolutions.  Just gotta get out and get 125 of each candy, man.
  • So far as I've seen, there are zero critters on any of the Naval bases out here.  Some people might be miffed about that, but I respect Niantic's decision (I'm assuming they made that decision) to keep military installations exempt from the fun and games.  There have been several alerts put out around the bases up here for us to be vigilant about people trying to access secure areas while chasing critters, but since there aren't any on base, the temptation to trespass has been removed.  That's good, from both a security headache angle and a people-are-less-likely-to-shoot-me-for-being-where-I'm-not-supposed-to-be angle.
  • I don't like only being able to turn off AR from the capture screen.  The software is nifty, though.

This post is now very long, so I'll stop for a bit.

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I'd just like to point out that I said nothing about the adoption being surprising or that the company/companies did a good job with the release. Expected is definitely the right word to use in terms of its popularity. What stuck out for me is the fact that, especially around the launch, looking at a crowded area and seeing people walking around with their phones out, it was very likely that those people were playing Pokémon Go. People who you'd never expect to pick up a Pokémon game are playing it and it's had a substantial impact in a few different aspects of daily life (and not just positively - the fact that we need warnings on highways stating "Don't Pokémon and drive" is concerning). That's what amazed me. Just because it's expected doesn't mean it can't also be fascinating.

I agree with the rest of your points. The game itself was poorly executed, the lack of communication isn't helping, and there's still a lot of bugs to work out. Apparently, people signing in with Google accounts are having slightly better luck (as part of the server troubles are related to Nintendo's Pokemon Trainer Club authentication servers, not just the game servers) but even so, the game itself is down more than it's up and they really should have been better prepared for this kind of traffic knowing how popular the series is.

Edited by Petie

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Oh yeah, let me be clear: this game is absolute garbage in most respects. I love it, I keep playing it, but it is messed up beyond belief. Niantic didn't drop the ball on it so much as they spiked it into a sewer drain. The bugs, the poor gameplay balance (VAPOREON VAPOREON SNORLAX VAPOREON), the nonexistent server stability, and the completely senseless lack of communication from Niantic about any of this just blows my mind.

Granted, Niantic is a really small studio. Granted, their one PR person had a baby and went on maternity leave just before launch. Granted, there's just no way they could've expected that their game would become the most popular mobile game ever within days. But even just one tweet saying "Hey, sorry, we know about all the issues and we're working on them" would relieve so much frustration. If you've got time to tweet at Soulja Boy, you've got time to give your player base a few crumbs of acknowledgement.

But on the other hand... I just found my first cubone yesterday! C'mon, that's rad!

 

  • Battery Life – When I have the game open and active, I lose about 1% of my current charge per minute; the discharge rate is faster if I have other apps running, such as Amazon Cloud Music or Pandora, or if I'm in a call.  As stated above, my phone isn't new (in fact it's two years old and was being replaced by the S5 when I bought it), so I have no illusions that my battery is mint condition.  The only remark here is that the game places almost a tenfold increase in strain on the battery, so expect to have to recharge frequently when you're out and about.
  • Internal Heat – Hand-in-hand with increased charge usage is increase heat generation.  I frequently get notices that my device is cooling down, and a couple of times the phone has actually closed my apps for me in an effort to cool off.  When I'm in a car, I can solve this by holding my phone directly over the AC vent (also DO NOT PLAY POKÉMON GO WHILE DRIVING), but when I'm just walking around I either have to kill the game or ... well, basically I have to kill the game.

I'm playing on a new Nexus 5X. My battery life situation is about the same, and my phone also gets hot, but not dangerously so. For a game that's supposed to be left open—but mostly not paid attention to—for long stretches of time, it's very stupidly resource heavy. A stripped-down, 2D map view or the ability to run the game in the background and get notifications when a pokémon is near would have been much more sensible, IMO.

I'm curious how Niantic went about deciding on what to make into a stop and what to exclude from the list.

The data for pokéstops and gyms is all taken directly from Ingress, where they had gathered it early on from manual player submissions before having to shut down the submissions feature due to the popularity of the game.

What stuck out for me is the fact that, especially around the launch, looking at a crowded area and seeing people walking around with their phones out, it was very likely that those people were playing Pokémon Go. People who you'd never expect to pick up a Pokémon game are playing it and it's had a substantial impact in a few different aspects of daily life (and not just positively - the fact that we need warnings on highways stating "Don't Pokémon and drive" is concerning). That's what amazed me. Just because it's expected doesn't mean it can't also be fascinating.

Yeah, the amount of people playing the game at launch was just stunning. There was a meetup one night in my city and hundreds of people showed up. The social phenomenon of the game is one of my favorite things about it. There's a lot of grumpy turdbabies who seem to need everyone to know how much they don't like the game and that it's turning everyone into screen-bound zombies, but despite the stunning originality of that sentiment, I actually feel a lot more connected to the people I see when I'm walking around and I can tell that a lot of us are all sharing this same experience. And then there's all the heartwarming stories you guys have referred to about the impact of the game on children's hospitals and animal shelters.

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I'd just like to point out that I said nothing about the adoption being surprising or that the company/companies did a good job with the release.

//

but even so, the game itself is down more than it's up and they really should have been better prepared for this kind of traffic knowing how popular the series is.

Right, and I didn't mean to imply that you did.  I just couldn't find another way to say I didn't think the game's popularity was amazing without a ridiculous amount of words.  =P  I absolutely agree that it's fascinating, but it's Pokémon.  The game has never not been popular.  And all those extras that got picked up?  Those are your Candy Crush Saga people (you know, the homebodies who frown at the Kids Playing Their Gamestation but spend countless hours on silly match-3 games and Farmville knockoffs while lurking Facebook and liking every picture and comment their friends make), and your people bored on the public transit system, and your people who are just curious what the big attraction is.

And given how common game discussions in the workplace are nowadays, and again adding in the sheer popularity of the game, the fact that there are publicly-organised events for critter-hunting and gym battling and such no longer strikes me as out of the ordinary.  So, no, to me the massive reception and popularity aren't really that amazing.

Even the stories of community outreach using the game as a springboard aren't amazing as much as they are just cool.  Kind of the Faith In Humanity Restored, you know?  Really just all-around neat.

Really, the only thing that caught me totally off-guard was the random Valor/Mystic hate.  I have no idea where that came from.  I'm at a complete loss.

I'm playing on a new Nexus 5X. My battery life situation is about the same, and my phone also gets hot, but not dangerously so. For a game that's supposed to be left open—but mostly not paid attention to—for long stretches of time, it's very stupidly resource heavy. A stripped-down, 2D map view or the ability to run the game in the background and get notifications when a pokémon is near would have been much more sensible, IMO.

Good to know.  So it's definitely that the game requires more than the platforms are capable of sustaining for the amount of time the game is intended to be played.

I think most of it is just the constant geo-positioning queries between the game, the phone, and the nearby cell towers.  I've noticed that those updates happen fairly frequently, which makes me wonder if Niantic is making their servers decide when a player sees a new critter, instead of letting the game software make that decision locally.  A possible solution would be to have the software load a larger map area and leave it static for a longer time period (say, five to ten minutes, or after a player has traveled 75% of the distance between their previous query point and the map edge), with a slightly increased creature density or spawn rate to allow highly active players to catch stuff without running out.

Granted, it might make the game a little larger on the device, but I think our slabphones can handle the memory storage demand.  It's not like we're still stuck thinking 125MB is a lot of RAM.

The data for pokéstops and gyms is all taken directly from Ingress, where they had gathered it early on from manual player submissions before having to shut down the submissions feature due to the popularity of the game.

Well.  That's goofy.

 

 

There are Growlithe somewhere around me, but never in the same spot and never reliable.  I needs dem.

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You know what I really like about this game? My phone is not supported >_>

I get to play this game on my wife's phone, which is seldom because it can eat up the battery fast. 

So I am at a very low level, still. heh.

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