Nothing quite comes close to matching the intense hype around Pokemon Go. Not even recent iPhone launches has seen crowds like these. Within the Lowyat.NET team, we’ve all adjusted our daily habits to accommodate the game, from tweaking daily commutes to a sudden interest in walking in parks, just so we’d have a chance of stumbling into a rare Pokemon.
We’re close to two weeks since the launch of the game in Malaysia, and it is somewhat unsurprising to see that the game’s popularity is slowly – and I do mean very slowly – dwindling. Being Pokemon Go players ourselves, I sat down with my colleagues to find out why exactly we’re slowly becoming fatigued with Pokemon Go.
Cheaters Ruin The Game!
Within the first day of the game’s release in Malaysia, it was painfully obvious that some players had an unfair advantage over others. Irresponsible individuals running automated bots and GPS spoofing to farm Pokestops and capture Pokemons meant that even on Day 1 in Malaysia, many Gyms were occupied by Pokemons with four-digit Combat Power (CP).
Developer Niantic Labs has promised to crack down on cheaters with permanent bans, but the problem is that “smart” cheaters will get away with these punishments. Some cheaters have claimed that Niantic’s anti-cheat algorithms won’t detect bots that have been programmed to behave more like a human being, instead of aggressively moving from point to point.
Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a way for Trainers to report other Trainers of suspicious behaviour? After all, we’re spending the most time in the game; popular games like CS:GO and Dota 2 have a built-in player reporting system.
Unfortunately, Niantic has a rather primitive Trainer reporting system. In the game’s Settings, you can lodge a report against a potential cheater by tapping on “Report High-Priority Issue”. This causes you to temporarily leave the game and open your browser to Pokemon Go’s support page. There, you can select “Report inappropriate Trainer behaviour”, which leads you to nothing more than a text box for you to fill in “(insert Trainer name) is a cheater! Ban him from the game!”
Worse still, now that we’re two weeks in, there are some legitimate players on comparable levels as the cheaters, making it more difficult to detect cheaters in the game. Capturing and defending Gyms is a core aspect of the game, but sadly cheaters have made it close to impossible for players to enjoy that part of Pokemon Go.
It’s Intentionally Designed to Be More Difficult
RPG gamers are familiar with the fact that as the game progresses, enemies get stronger as you increase in level – that way the game stays challenging enough to continue playing. Oddly enough, Pokemon Go employs part of this mechanic, but leaves out a critical aspect of RPGs.
As you play Pokemon Go, you gain experience from virtually everything you do. From visiting Pokestops, capturing Pokemon, and capturing and defending gyms, these actions help you gain experience points (XP) to increase your level, allowing you to encounter Pokemon with higher CP.
But here’s where the game feels rather broken. Where RPGs award XP dynamically, based on character or enemy level, Pokemon Go issues fixed XP points for all actions. That means that capturing a CP 10 Weedle yields the same XP that capturing a CP 1000 Dragonite does.
To make things worse, it gets exponentially harder to level up once you hit level 20. That’s a classic RPG trait, but when the XP gains are locked, game progression practically grinds to a halt, forcing you to capture all the Weedles and Zubats you encounter just to gain enough XP to level up.
Surely it doesn’t get any worse? Oh, but it does. Once you reach higher levels, the game increases the rate at which Pokemons break free from Pokeballs, and the rate of escape. Both of these mean you’ll be using up your Pokeballs at a rate faster than you can replenish them – which means you either wait it out at Pokestops, or…purchase them from the in-game shop.
The Game is still buggy
Sure, the game is currently in version 0.33.0 on Android (which technically still leaves it in beta stage). And yes, it is a fairly new game, so some minor bugs are to be expected. But with 100 million active users, Niantic cannot afford the game to continue having silly (and sometimes game-breaking) bugs that plague the experience.
Ever faced the issue where moving between apps, and coming back to Pokemon Go results in the game’s disconnection from the servers? Restarting the app fixes it, but if you didn’t notice the white loading icon on the top left, you could be missing out on a lot of Pokemon.
What about the recently-patched bug that allowed a user to deploy an egg to a Gym, rendering the Gym unable to be defended or attacked? Or the one where you capture a rare Pokemon, only to see it registered as a common Weedle after?
Lack of Social Features
At its core, Pokemon Go should be a multiplayer game, but in reality most of the social interactions are done outside the game: you literally bump into other players whose eyes are hooked to their phones, or join the clusters of humans waiting at hot spots where rare Pokemons are known to spawn.
Eventually, the game will start to feel rather boring (like it does to some players now). The exploration aspect remains a pulling factor, but how do you keep the game exciting?
For starters, it would be immensely more fun if you could battle other Trainers. Or, if there was a trading platform within the game that lets Trainers in close proximity trade Pokemons. A Trainer with many Flareons can trade one for another Trainer’s Vaporeon, for example.
On the other hand, the game could also reveal the positions of other players in the map in real time – something like what Waze does. This could open up interesting gameplay mechanics, such as teaming up to take down a Gym – or knowing where a rare Pokemon has just spawned.
Right now it’s just a lonely world out there for our Trainer.
A mobile game’s success is measured in how it endures over time – Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and even Disney Tsum Tsum often introduce new features or playable characters to keep the game fresh and rewarding for players.
Ask any player and they’ll easily tell you what’s wrong with the Pokemon Go. Yet, despite all of issues mentioned here, people are still playing the game. Parks are still full of people clustered around Pokestops. All of us in the team are still actively calling out when a Pokemon has spawned at our office. Occasionally there’d be a cry of “this game is broken!” when a tiny CP Weedle escapes.
A lure party can only do so much…
But eventually, unless Niantic introduces something – anything – new for the game soon, players will begin asking, “what happens when I’ve caught them all?”