Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokemon Go! Changes, From One Nerd to Another

Pokemon Go is an incredibly successful game. It's wildly successful and people who experience joy tell me it's a lot of fun. I... don't like it. That's just me! I don't think it's not fun, it just doesn't appeal to me. It feels too much like Ingress with Pokemon stickers on there. I know how video games work, now, and changes are definitely on the way, but while they're coming out, let me talk about the changes I would make to this game.

1) Rebranding Pokemon Candy
This game's economy is... messed up.  Unlike a traditional RPG, where Pokemon are leveled up through devotion and training, Pokemon are evolved and powered up through the use of two in-game resources: "stardust" and "candy". Candy is specific to a family of Pokemon--Pidgey candy can only be used on Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot. This means that common Pokemon are easier to level than their rarer counterparts.

I don't like the  candy system because of that economy, and because the idea of Pokemon inexplicably carrying candy--smooth, striped spheres--bothers me. Berries make more sense within the Pokemon canon, since Pokemon are well-known to carry berries. It would also make slightly more economic sense to align these evolution-promoting berries to egg groups, which would make it easier for players to promote preferred Pokemon rather than common ones.

Stardust should also be changed. Stardust is better than other freemium resources (gems, coins, stars), but it still feels painfully generic, like it was thought up by a Mattel exec in 1986 to explain why the Carebears should be shipped with five ounces of glitter. There's gotta be a more interesting thing to use. Vitamins? Minerals? PROTEIN? Buff berries? Ooz grabblers? Weave mubblers?

2) Changing Up the Look
First of all, the aesthetics. Pokemon Go is basically Google Maps, but with a generic anime protagonist where the little blue guy normally is. If you pan around the map, you'll see hovering pins in the distance. Some of these pins end in little diamond shapes, others look like little hovering platforms with Pokemon on them. They don't look... they don't look great. I suggested using Pokemon gyms.
Okay, these little rectangular gyms from the Gen1 that this game pays tribute to are not particularly iconic. Later generations used more distinct architecture that might be more iconic, but one software developer pointed out that gyms might be too large to overlay easily onto the screen. Well, let's go with something smaller. The familiar statues from Gyms.

3) Changing Pokestops
Pokestops gotta change, too. I was thinking it'd be cool to replace the little pins with trainers. They give you a little rejoinder about themselves pulled from a list (I like shorts! They're comfy and cool!"), give you your item, and if you tap on them, it does what the Pokestop does and spins around to reveal the real world location. You don't control them.
Or, as an alternative, each Pokestop is a Pokemon obstacle. STRENGTH boulder, WHIRLPOOL whirlpool, CUT tree. You get your normal haul of items visiting the Pokestop, but you have a Pokemon that can use a particular move? SURF, and you get a bonus item. CUT, bonus item.

4) After you catch a new Pokemon, it shows you the Pokedex entry right away. I mean, you might start skipping over it eventually, but that just seems basic.

5) Pokemon Snap
Dude, you don't have combat, you have an AR camera. Gimme some Pokeball film and let me catch the Pokemon that way. Hit the film at the right time and KA-SNAP, you caught yourself a Pokemon. It fits the Pokemon Go mechanic more readily. This one is actually a pretty cool idea. Because I'm so handsome and smart.

Seriously, though, wouldn't this make more sense?

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