Gotta Catch Em All
If I had any topic to talk about today, it was immediately erased from my mind as soon as I got my grubby hands on Pokemon Go. I was in fact one of those bastards that went through the relatively simple process of installing it to bypass the region lockouts. First off I want to address something that is frustrating me, is that for some reason people seem to think defeating region lockouts is “hacking”. Region lockouts are dumb, and at least on Android devices, any time you download anything you are already downloading the APK as that is how anything installs. The beauty of the android platform is there isn’t just one app store, in fact on my device I currently have Google Play, Amazon Underground, and APK Pure all installed and living happily together. These are especially handy when confronted with a device that for whatever reason is trying to block the actual Google Play store and instead keep redirecting you to their carrier run store. Anyways with that out of the way, I downloaded the APK and had it sitting on my device while I ran out to lunch yesterday. On my way out of the building I caught my first Pokemon which was one of the original three starters…. Go Team Squirtle! Then before I had even left my building I also happened to encounter a Staryu… things were getting off to a great start.
I had errands to run so I drove out to one of the nearby hubs of shopping that houses a ton of big box stores. I needed to pick up some cat
food and cat litter from Target, and also wanted to pop by Rackroom shoes to see if I could find any sandals that I did not hate this season. When I pulled into the parking lot of Target I opened up the app and noticed several Pokemon nearby where I parked. When you are anywhere, you see critters within the vicinity of you… and when you get close enough to one you can attempt to capture it. Sadly I have no screenshots of the capture process because it goes quickly. Essentially it is playing Skeeball, and for those who don’t have that cultural frame of reference… you are flicking the Pokeball with your finger and trying to hit essentially a target that represents the sweet spot for capturing each specific Pokemon. If you tap on the Pokemon you will see a set of rings with a green spot being the best possible place to land your hit in order to capture. You have a limited number of attempts before the Pokemon runs away and cannot be seen on your map. Of note all of this stuff tries to place your Pokemon in your surroundings using Augmented Reality via your phones camera. I however didn’t really want to see the real world and would far rather have a cartoony Pokemon world to be wandering around in and capturing critters.
So there I was wandering around a Target parking lot, I am sure looking like an idiot… but you know what I didn’t care. I was having fun and capturing all sorts of cool Pokemon. By the time I left that parking lot I had managed to gather up a whole bunch of new critters
including a really nice Eevee. Now each Pokemon you catch has a CP level… which doesn’t mean much to me as of yet because well I just started playing this yesterday. However from what I have been able to tell the higher the number the better, and this factors into what sort of stat package that they have. So my Eevee in question came out of the box as it were with 104 which is significantly higher than any other Pokemon I have seen yet. Ironically the hardest capture yet was my Magikarp, namely because it kept flipping around aimlessly anytime I tried to toss the Pokeball. Not only do you have to try and land the sweet spot, but most Pokemon will move around on you while trying to do this. Similarly I utterly failed at capturing a Butterfree because apparently it is a little stronger willed than others. I captured it three times… and all three times it broke out of the ball… eventually flying away never to be seen again.
The reason why I titled this post Walking Simulator, is because that is a genre name that folks have tacked onto games that are about walking around and exploring virtual worlds… but without any combat to speak of. Pokemon Go however is quite literally a game about walking. The world has all of these objectives out there in the form of PokeStops and Gyms that seem to appear based on the previous Ingress player portal locations according to Thalen who had apparently played that game way more than I ever did. So for me I have one right around the corner from my house in the form of a statue. So last night I convinced my wife to go for a walk… under the guise of exercise but she knew that really I just wanted to go out and capture Pokemon. Now we get into the larger problem of Pokemon Go right now… the servers and uptime. For most of the day yesterday things were crashing in spectacular ways, likely because Niantic was simply not ready for the crush of folks who like me decided to bypass the silly region lockouts. This immediately started a ban rumor floating around that anyone who downloaded the APK was going to get banned from the application. Yet in all of the threads I never saw anyone reporting anything other than normal intermittent service issues.
Pokemon Go is a deeply connected application. Not only do you need to stay in fairly constant communication with the Niantic servers over what I am guessing is some sort of a Web Service call… you also have to have unfettered connectivity to GPS satellites in order to keep your positioning true. This means two things… namely that gameplay can be unpredictable, and that your battery will weep in misery at the drain. When I went out to lunch I had about 85% on my battery… and after about an hour of running errands and capturing Pokemon I was sitting around 52% if I remember correctly. Ingress players are notorious for carrying a bunch of portable battery packs just to make sure that their gameplay is uninterrupted and truthfully that is probably going to be the standard operating procedure with Pokemon Go as well. So in the middle of my walk last night I encountered a Fearow in the grocery store parking lot. When I went to try and capture it however I threw the ball… and the screen locked up with the ubiquitous spinning Pokeball icon in the left corner of the screen working madly on trying to reacquire a signal. I finally had to shut down the application, and reboot my phone… to restore any semblance of connectivity… and even then when I got to the PokeStop outside of my Neighborhood I couldn’t actually retrieve anything from it. While the game has launched officially now… it is very much not without issues.
However what exists is extremely awesome. For me Pokemon was always a game about capturing interesting critters, and the combat and story always took a backseat. When I caught all of the available Pokemon in an area I stopped caring about it and simply wanted to move on to the next area so I could see fresh critters. For me… this game is likely going to be crack, but also going to be an excellent excuse to get out of the house and walk around my neighborhood. Where I work downtown there are a couple dozen different PokeStops within easy walking distance so more than likely I am going to start venturing out at lunch to go find them. What is disturbing is the level of saturation this app has already gotten. There are four or five different gyms located in downtown Tulsa, and by noon yesterday when I went out to run errands… each and every single one of them was already claimed by a player. Now these might be beta players or “Beaters” as the community has taken to calling them, but it might also be folks like me who grabbed the APK and just started playing. There are so many aspects of the game I can’t really talk about yet… because I have not experienced them. There is apparently a whole team mechanic that will happen at some point, but as I am sub level 5 that is not something I have encountered yet. I do plan on going Team Blue, and I believe that is where the rest of my friends are leaning as well. In any case… if you have ever loved Pokemon I suggest at least checking it out. I have this feeling that it will be something I obsess with for a few weeks… and then never touch again… much like the other Pokemon games I have played. However it does at least make walking and running errands a far more interesting experience.