Pokemon By Night

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No Seriously… Walking Simulator

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Screenshot_2016-07-07-17-23-48I named yesterday’s blog post “Walking Simulator” half jokingly, but after two days of Pokemon after dark…  it is really a truthful statement.  You can look at my activity tracker and see very clearly the impact of the launch of Pokemon Go.  While my wife thinks I am insane, I am however outside and getting exercise without really noticing it.  Last night for example I walked quite literally for an hour without really realizing it.  Sure I had broken a sweat because it was 94* outside, but thankfully there was a nice wind to greet me oddly enough in pretty much any direction.  The best part about this is… I am not the only one doing it.  This is the second night I have gone wandering, and Wednesday night I was really hoping I would not run into server issues.  However for the most part starting around 8 pm the server seemed to be more or less stable, or enough so for me to risk trying to find some of the night spawning critters.  Additionally bolstering that confidence, my friend Void had posted a link to a fledgling server status page for the Pokemon Go gateways.  So with all bars reporting green I ventured out into the world.
I had barely made it into the neighborhood next to mine when I saw a couple walking along staring at a phone…  and a few minutes later I saw the unmistakable action of throwing pokeballs at some critter.  I smiled and held up my phone and they held up theirs as a sign of recognition, which caused a round of chuckles from all of us.  It turns out they too were trying to take advantage of the shockingly good server connectivity and had just managed to catch a Pidgeot.  Unfortunately the critter did not seem to still be around but a few minutes later I found my own rareish Pokemon in the form of a Weepinbell.  I say rareish, largely because don’t know how common this or that Pokemon is… but the pre-evolved forms seem to be significantly rarer than the base forms.  I found this list last night which attempts to list the pokemon caught in beta based on relative rarity.  Which also made me super happy about one of my finds earlier in the day.  For the last several weeks I have been going by after work each evening to water the flowers of a friend of ours while she is out of town.  I had just pulled into the parking lot in front of her apartment and thought… I should probably check to see if there are any cool Pokemon around.  Sitting right there almost literally in the parking space was a Tauros, a critter I had never actually caught in any of the games.  It took a bunch of tries but sure enough a mixture of RNG and finger crossing got me that third little twitch that meant it was captured.

Screenshot_2016-07-07-08-14-53At this point I have seen twenty eight different pokemon, and captured twenty six of them.  I missed a Butterfree on that first lunch outing, and then failed to catch the Fearow Wednesday night due to server issues.  I say not bad at all for two days worth of effort and doing all of this legitimately… aka not using the cash shop items to “attract” Pokemon.  Some things I have learned through hitting Pokestops apparently forty seven times based on the stats kept within the app.  Pokeballs are plentiful… I now have over 140 of them so don’t fret too much about tossing several to catch a single Pokemon.   Potions and Revives are also plentiful given that I have 54 and 36 respectively.  Pokestops also seem to have the rare chance of giving you some cash shop type items given that I have received at least one incense off of a stop, and one of the 3 charge extra incubators that let you keep more than one egg going at once.  Things I have learned from friends is that apparently you can bolster the defenses of a gym held by your team if you place Pokemon on it as well.  Right now the gym in my town is held by the team I ultimately chose, Mystic aka Team Blue.  So on my way out of town this morning I plan on stopping by just long enough to slap that hefty Weepinbell I got last night on the roster.  I have no clue if I will lose said Pokemon or if it will return to me if fallen, or if I can heal it with potions etc.  I do however know that if you hold a gym for your team you can earn pokecoins the cash shop currency as well as other in game items.

The other thing worth talking about this morning is that through a combination of friends and a super helpful Reddit post I finally have a handle on what the tracking system in the game means.  When you click in the lower right corner of the screen you can see which Pokemon are near you.  Each of them will show a number of tracks out beside them with the default seeming to be three.  Number one thing I learned is that the list is sorted in order of distance from you, meaning the ones at the top of the list are closer than the ones at the bottom.  Second thing I learned is that if you click on a Pokemon it begins to track that specific one.  If while tracking your bar flashes, that means you are walking in the direction towards the Pokemon, and as you get closer the number of tracks will start decreasing.  When you eventually get down to zero tracks it should spawn near you, and allow you to try and capture it.  This would have been extremely helpful to know last night as I seemed to be wandering around trying to find one of two Psyduck in my neighborhood.  I will say years of seeing silhouettes of Pokemon have greatly prepared all of us for knowing precisely what might be in our neighborhood based on the outline.  Last night there also appeared a blip of a Tentacool for a bit, but I never found it either.  Hopefully you too are getting out and walking and finding your own stash of critters.  If you are curious what I have actually caught I am for the moment keeping a crappy spreadsheet until I figure out what I want to do properly.

Walking Simulator

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Gotta Catch Em All

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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.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-16-23-51I 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.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-12-33-01So 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.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-13-56-40Pokemon 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.