Pokémon Go has been out for a few months now and Niantic has had time to iron out the many kinks and squash quite a few bugs that made early game play both frustrating and difficult. The server issues that were as common as pidgeys are now a thing of the past; the game is far more stable, and with every update the experience of playing has only improved. By this point a lot of the bandwagon, players have tapered off while serious players have established ally groups, raid parties, and are even hosting special “lure events” to meet other players. It’s been some time since I’ve covered the game and a lot has changed, so I wanted to throw out some new information in regards to Pokémon Go, their updates, and the newly released Pokémon Go Plus.
The Team Leaders & Appraisal
The first major update introduced the gym leaders of the three teams found within Pokémon Go. Team Valor is now represented by Candela, Team Mystic is now represented by Blanche, and Team Instinct is now represented by Spark. Originally, this was just a small update that served only to put a face to the teams that players had already sworn their loyalty to upon reaching level 5. It wasn’t until a later update that the leaders came with an applicable function within the game play itself.
In the same update that introduced favoring Pokémon (which protects them against being accidentally transferred and puts them atop the “favorites” sorting tab), the “Appraise” feature was added. With this, your team’s leader can evaluate and vouch your Pokémon. This allows competitive players to check the individual stats of their Pokémon to decide whether or not they are worth investing candies, stardust, and time into. Each leader has his or her own set of responses, each of which alludes to the strengths and weaknesses of the Pokémon presented to them. Competitive Pokémon players can then categorized their “brackets” based upon their overall potential, especially after considering their individual HP, attack, and defense stats.
Improved Tracking & “Sightings”
The first update removed the “nearby” method of tracking down Pokémon completely, a system that would display footsteps representing how close in proximity a Pokémon was. This omission frustrated many trainers because there was no good way of tracking Pokémon. One just had to wander aimlessly hoping that they would encounter the Pokémon on their “nearby” list that they actually wanted. At present, the majority of players are running on the “sightings” system which still lacks the footsteps but it has improved Pokémon hunting vastly. Once more, Pokémon that appear on the “sightings” menu in the lower left hand corner are within 200m of the trainer. The first big change to this is instead of having a window filled with pidgey and rattata, seeing one on your sightings means that there can be more than one. This seems a little confusing, but it allows the sightings to condense what’s in the area a little better.
At present, Niantic is field testing a new tracking system in San Francisco that, if successful, could see a global release in an update to come. Between videos and testimonies from fellow trainers, we can get an idea of what this new tracking system will be like. Pokémon that appear on the “nearby” section are accompanied by a “clue” image. This image is taken from whatever PokeStop is closest to where the Pokémon‘s spawn point is.
Some argue that this feature takes some of the fun out of hunting for Pokémon. Yes, while it does make searching for a charmander less challenging, this would make it a little safer. PokeStops are generally in public areas and well known landmarks. At present one of the biggest complaints about Pokémon Go is that players are using the game as an excuse to trespass. If spawn points are set near PokeStops rather than randomly, this problem can be avoided. On the other hand, this would badly reduce the chances of rural players of ever finding a Pokémon as most small communities lack a good number of PokeStops. There’s no telling whether or not this will be the new tracking system, As this new tracking system is being field tested in only one city, there’s no telling whether or not it will launch officially; it very well could lead to an update in the very near future, however.
The “Buddy Pokémon” update is of considerable note. This update was rumored when data-miners found source code hinting at this feature a few weeks before its release. Just this month, Android users were the first to experience and experiment with the Buddy Pokémon feature while us poor iOS users were clinging to the app store, hoping to see the new update appear in our queue.
In the Buddy Pokémon update, trainers can assign a Pokémon as their buddy in their main trainer menu. A Pokémon will appear beside your trainer on your trainer screen and on the lower left hand corner along with a progress “bubble” that will progressively fill up as you walk your buddy. As well as being just a fun feature, it has practical use and a lot of potential for future updates.
At present, walking your buddy Pokémon is used exclusively to earn candies. There are guides online to tell you how much each Pokémon needs to walk before finding a candy, but the range currently stands at 1km-5km per single candy. While it’s a literal grind to do so, this feature allows trainers to accumulate candy for their hard to find Pokémon without having to rely exclusively on being lucky enough to find and capture them. This is especially nice for Pokémon that are obtained primarily through hatching them from 10k eggs and the hard to find starters. Of course, walking 5k for ONE snorlax candy is a massive pain, but it’s progress; if anything, this feature should encourage trainers to get up and find excuses to walk, if only to get a few more KM on their tracker.
This feature came just before the release of the Pokémon Go Plus and brings with it implications of features to come when Generation 2 Pokémon are finally released. In Gen2, there are quite a few pokemon that must evolve through friendship. This includes two Eeveelutions which will evolve during the night or day respectively if their friendship is high enough. It’s thought that the buddy system is unrolling now so that it can be field tested and perfected in preparation for this update. As is, each Pokémon retains the total distance they have walked, even if they are swapped out for another Pokémon. For now, all we can do is speculate.
Pokemon Go Plus
Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated update to Pokémon Go has been the Pokemon Go Plus. This accessory was showcased at this year’s past E3 as an add-on device that would help players of the application catch Pokemon without having to look at their phone. The Plus was delayed and delayed and delayed—likely to buy Niantic time to iron out a few more features and to squash a few more bugs that would have made the Plus’s introduction a little rocky. Sadly, the Plus was released just after the Apple Watch announced that they would be adding an app specifically for Pokémon Go that would essentially do what the Plus does, but better. However, an Apple Watch is close to $300 where as the Pokémon Go Plus runs at $35 if you are lucky enough to find one for sale in stores. As is, those that have one (such as myself) had to pre-order the device well in advance the day preorders opened. Some stores got a surplus in and were selling them on a first come, first serve basis.
Firstly, the Go Plus works fantastically hand-in-hand with the new buddy system as well as the egg tracking system. The most recent updates have streamlined gps tracking and the Go Plus seems to further this improvement. Previously, the GPS would track best if you moved constantly in a straight line. Curved roads or doubling-back often resulted in having some of your efforts go unnoticed by the application so hatching a 10KM egg would in reality take a little closer to 12KM. The GPS has also been known to throw your trainer around between rest mode and usage, and while this still happens on occasion, it isn’t as bad.
One thing that may change in the very near future is the fact that the Go Plus seems to track distance covered at high speeds that before the app would not. The app has been programmed to stop tracking distance after 10MPH so driving a car around to hatch eggs would be foiled. Just in the span of one day with the Go Plus, I hatched 6 eggs and only actually walked enough to hatch two of them. This also works with the buddy system; my buddy Pokémon picked up several candies that I know I didn’t walk enough to earn. This is very likely to change with the next update, but I can’t say I’m upset about it.
On the topic of driving and playing: the Go Plus now makes it possible to do so without the aid of a co-pilot. (Those of you that didn’t use the co-pilot system…shame on you. Those that did, go you!) But now, you don’t need your buddy to join you to every trip to Wal*Mart to help you reload on pokeballs. The Pokémon Go Plus makes it so that driving, working, and even going to class doesn’t require you to be glued to the screen. It runs even if your phone as locked.
It’s a great way for you to play without breaking traffic laws or getting yourself fired. (…I know you guys are playing at work, so don’t pretend you aren’t!) It’s also a great way to farm for stardust as the majority of the Pokémon you’ll catch are only going to be good for farming anyway.
How the device works is pretty straight forward. When a Pokémon comes in range, the device will vibrate and flash a colored light. If it’s a green light, it’s a Pokémon that you have already registered in your Pokedex, and if it’s yellow, it’s a new Pokémon. You can then press the button on the face of the device. The light will flash a white light 1-3 times as it attempts to capture the Pokémon. If it flashes multiple colors, you’ve caught it! If it flashes red it ran away.
As far as a hunting tool, the Pokémon Go Plus has more downsides than it does upsides. For one, you only have ONE chance to catch a Pokémon . Normally you have many chances to catch the Pokémon . Every time you throw a ball at the Pokémon there is a chance it will break out and a chance that it will flee. Some Pokémon have higher escape rates than others, but there are ways to improve your chances such as using higher-grade balls, throwing the pokeball at a curve, hitting in the center of the target, landing an “excellent” throw, and using the berries to make the Pokémon more friendly towards you. Using the Go Plus, you have ONE throw using only a basic pokeball. I found that for every successful catch, I had three or four escapes. Those that I did manage to catch were pidgeys, rattata, and weedles—essentially Pokémon that are good only for the exp, candies, and stardust upon capture. I missed out on a Jynx and a Charmander because of this. Thus, I feel that the Go Plus is best used to actually locate the Pokémon (right now it seems the Plus has a wider range of detection than the standalone app does) and then capture them the old-fashioned way. One major inconvenience with this method is that when you capture the Pokémon the traditional way, you’ll need to go into settings, eject the Plus, and re-sync it every time. It’s a bug that’ll likely get fixed with the next update, but for now it’s a bit of a pain.