A few weeks ago Allyson wrote an article about how we were obsessed with the new Pokemon GO mobile game. A few weeks later, Niantic has done enough to make us loose all interest. Maybe someday when it’s not as buggy and features stop dramatically changing we’d reconsider. However, I already hardly even think about the game anymore.
So, what has happened to take our extreme excitement and enthusiasm for the game and turn it into nothing but disappointment and confusion? Really it’s only three things.
1. Poor Communication
For the first month of the games existence Niantic was pretty much completely silent. No tweets, updates on their website or even descriptive notes in the game updates. This wasn’t too much of an issue until things started to go down hill fast. Server problems were rampant, the Three Steps Bug, Removal of Tracking, continued launches in other countries while their infrastructure felt as if it was in shambles.
Each event in itself wasn’t much, but added together has really shaken my confidence to know what I am getting into. Is the game I play now going to exist as is next month? Will they seemingly hap haphazardly continue to release to new countries without addressing the current issues? What kind of game company would let these massive problems arise but still try to hit launch for new areas? Why are major features that worked being redesigned after launch instead of just fixing the original problem? Also that problem was supposedly just server load, so why overhaul it now? Is the game really this rushed out the door?
This was furthered even more by the UK and Europe release. The US was having tons of issues connecting and trying to play and they then launch in 26 new countries bringing down the entire game for the first 4 hours of that day for everyone. WHY?! No answer, fans are just left to wonder why the game is so buggy and glitchy and why they continue to roll out without addressing any of it.
All of this breaks trust and makes me second guess what they will do and how they will handle things in the future. Currently I don’t know what the game will be like tomorrow let alone two weeks from now as they are very sparse on details or even vision as the app design is changing(mostly tracking and catch rates/how items work[think incense and lures]).
Granted they have started to communicate more, and they are still looking for a Community Manager, however I don’t think that is enough. It is 2016, and social media is everywhere. Players can talk to others realtime around the globe. Problems found can be broadcast to the world in 140 characters instantly. People want reassured that the developers are listening and won’t let them hanging. I’m sure if it was 5 years ago most people would have just dismissed the game and moved on. Now it’s expected that you can contact them and get even an acknowledgement that something is wrong and they are working on a fix or it’s as it will be. After all this is even Pokemon! Everyone loves it and wants it to be good. But why are Niantic so quiet? How can Nintendo and the Pokemon company sit around watching them do this to their franchise?
However, as I said they are communicating more although it’s still less than one would expect. It’s hard to feel confident in the app when there are so many issues and so few answers. This lack of communication has brought about the second issue.
2. Broken Trust
Why is my trust broken? Well mostly for the reasons listed above. Lack of communication, dismissive attitude at play styles(Poke radar type sites are cheating, precise tracking ruins the fun, but creative hatching eggs isn’t). They started removing features without release notes as to why and didn’t even mention milestones they have to hit before they can be brought back. However mostly it was silent. With major changes and tweaks happening but no information to back the reason for the changes being made public things start to look odd and the mind starts to wonder what is really going on that all these things are happening.
Additionally the bugs in catch rate were introduced later and suddenly they are now able to do A/B testing of the tracking fix (some users have and some don’t). However they only addressed these issues once the internet was enraged which makes me wonder as to what they were really doing. It seems odd that some of us had very real catch rate ‘issues’ and now they show that they can do A/B testing where users of the same app can have different tracking. Those who are into conspiracies may think that the catch rate issues could have been more A/B testing for whatever reason. That’s not a stated fact anywhere but silence doesn’t help quiet these nagging feelings even if they are ultimately false.
It’s because of the silence and reluctance to address many of these items publicly that make you start to wonder about what the future will hold and what else may change. Clearly it has been swift with no warning in the past, so why wouldn’t it happen again? Why should I get invested into a game where the rules will change drastically overnight? Yes that is a new thing in gaming, but for a more ‘casual’ player like myself who likes to play but doesn’t play regularly I don’t want to relearn everything each time I load the game. I have dropped other games because of that too(looking at you TF2 for all your ‘balance’ updates changing core functions of items 😡 ).
Lastly, as I program for a living and have studied game design as a hobby for the past 12 years. I find a lot of what they say for why features were cut to not quiet add up. Some things just don’t seem logical and/or should have been found with the most basic of test cases. The only variable that I don’t know is working on commercial games that have deadlines and NDA’s(Non-disclosure agreement’s). These may be the entire reason they are speaking so little and details don’t seem to match up, I have read the games industry is rather vicious in that regard. However that still doesn’t explain the lack of transparency with game updates and detailed patch notes.
The bottom line is that things are now constantly changing and aren’t adding up to me and I feel like I am missing important details as to why things are the way they are. It was great when it first launched. It felt whole, now it’s fluctuating rapidly and who knows when it will stop.
3. Boring/Frustrating Gameplay
What once was captivating and exciting (being able to track down Pokemon and capture a good number of them) is now boring or frustrating. Although tracking is coming back, currently I don’t wish to play as wandering aimlessly isn’t exactly fun. Additionally the hit boxes, capture/flee rates have all been modified (although I think they are marked officially bugs) making you sink 10 Pokeballs into common low CP Pokemon. So now I have to hit the few Pokestops more often in my area and hope for Great Balls.
Why not use/buy Pokeballs? Well, they are just Pokeballs. And the catch rates almost demand that you use berries and Great Balls to capture anything at least in my game(and in some of my friends games as well). If they sold those(and Ultra Balls once you hit the proper level) on the store, I would have considered it if they worked more effectively than now. Seriously, why did it take 8 great balls thrown as curve balls with almost as many berries to catch a CP255 Lickitung at level 18? Also I had a CP 10 Pidgey chew through 10 standard Pokeballs. This is not fun for me.
However, maybe I am not having as much fun because I live in a rural town. Because I can see that the rarer Lickitung would need more Pokeballs to be captured. However when all I see is Pidgeys, Weedles and Eevees(yes they are rampant in my area, or at least were) I don’t want to empty my bag of Pokeballs just to evolve yet another Pidgey. Pokemon spawns and stops are few and far between when you leave high density population areas, making the core of searching and capturing rare Pokemon often enough to power up and evolve incredibly time consuming.
I was excited enough from the first week of use that I was ready to pay out real money to support the devs for some in-app purchases. Sadly, it looks like the way I am interested in playing and paying isn’t supported. Or maybe it is. There isn’t enough vision present to let me know if the game will fit my play style in my rural area again.
With all of this there is still a way that I could be brought back to the game. Obviously the first thing they need to do is start communicating more. Even just announcing that patch notes will be more complete would be great. I mean, those notes should already be made. They know what bugs they are fixing right? So why not just tell us.
Secondly, build some confidence in me that I know what I am playing. I thought the app at launch was the vision, but the rapid small tweaks have changed core elements in the period of a month. What kind of game will this be? Is it about catching multiple of the same Pokemon to level up? Is it about buying Pokeballs and not Great or Ultra balls in a boring grind quest? Is it about needing to live in a city to get the best experiance because Pokemon spawn infrequently and spaced far apart in rural areas that I should expect to never catch them all? Any clue on how this game will work for me will make me more interested in spending time and more importantly money on this game. I certainly wont buy into this blindly. But if it is a fun experience I would love to buy Great Balls and berries so I can catch the Pokemon to get the 50 million experience points to hit level cap, build a battle team and fill my Pokedex. Just let me know what I am getting, because even though I can see it now, I have seen that change. So what is this going to be, really?
The final piece about the gameplay is really just fixed by the first two. If I know what to expect I won’t feel like it’s bad. It just means the game isn’t designed for me. That’s fine, seriously, but I need to know. Especially since I already saw a game I liked at one time.
With all of this I hope they can still be successful and have a better relationship with all the fans. However for me I was burned early and don’t have the time to keep trying to like this game or what it has become. So although I would love to give Pokemon GO another chance, I think by the time it stabilizes I will have moved on without even realizing it. It now hardly crosses our mind’s unlike how often we made evening trips hunting Pokemon as we did when Allyson wrote the article about our obsession with this game. Of course if they do try to fix the items I stated above, maybe just maybe I will give it another GO(Pun semi-intended).
Best of luck to those who still enjoy this game and Niantic. I hope everyone else that wants to enjoy it can.