Look, I love Pokémon Go. I grew up in the early 2000s, have a smart phone, and do a lot of walking because I own two dogs. Ergo, this app should be great for me, and yes, I should be enjoying the next big hit, for once. But after two weeks of glitches, frozen screens, and a drained battery, I’m almost willing to give up and say I hate the damn thing.
First up, that trailer is a lie – Pokémon Go doesn’t work when you’re cycling. I cycle about three miles to work, and my eggs refuse to hatch – I did some Googling, and apparently the game doesn’t register the steps if you move over a certain speed. Therefore, that rules out cycling and running as possible ways to play, which is really stupid. Even if you’re walking, the tracking mechanic isn’t entirely accurate, either. At first I thought it was your standard pedometer, but it instead relies on GPS tracking, and as I know from many misadventures with Apple Maps, that is in no way, shape, or form reliable. Here’s a pretty good breakdown about it, but to cut a long story short, no step tracking, and no ability to run in the background.
How I’d Fix It: Make it so the app still counts your steps when running in the background – it’d help with the battery life problem.
This, I reckon, is going to be one of the things that kills the game for the more casual player – I have a power bank because someone gave me one a few Christmases back, and now I have an excuse to use it. But for someone who just wants to go for a half hour walk without losing half their battery life, this is a major blow. And don’t say a word about Power Saving Mode – it makes the bloody game freeze! And whilst I can appreciate that this is a pretty heavy game that will drain the battery fast, this fix feels more like a joke.
How I’d Fix It: Make the damn fix actually work.
I’m also not entirely sure what determines a PokéStop. I live in a fairly rural area, and the handful of Stops I’ve found around my street are the local train station, what used to be a flower shop, a sign next to the nature reserve, and a climbing wall in the local park. Apart from that, they all seem to be generated in more urban areas, on random landmarks. Were these user suggested, or are they randomly pulled from the map data? Because if so, the amount needs to be upped enough so you aren’t going miles and miles without a Stop, especially when that’s going to be your main source of Pokéballs and eggs without paying actual money. This is a similar problem I’m finding with items, as well – if you don’t pay with real money, there’s no other way of getting them, since you can’t pick up Pokéballs that miss the ‘mons.
Plus, the spawn rates in fixed areas are crap. This screenshot below is what I’ve been seeing all the time – Ratatta, Pidgey, and an occasional Weedle or Spearow. Nothing else until I venture further afield, and unless anything is being done to amend this, seriously, what’s the point? The three step glitch prevents me from tracking down the rare Pokémon I don’t have yet (for those who don’t know, when you open the box that shows you what Pokémon are in your area, there are footprints underneath them, which should decrease as you get closer. They don’t. Niantic turned off this feature to cope with the server overload), so unless I plan on breeding Pidgeys, I’m not getting anywhere without lures. I think I have three, all from Stops, and only from Stops, and I wound up catching a Lapras outside the kebab shop.
How I’d Fix It: More frequent PokéStops, and perhaps give items for walking a certain number of steps and for stuff like daily logins, so you have more incentive to come back. As much as I want more incubators, I’m not spending actual money on them.
I could put up with the gyms immediately being taken over by massively high level players, because that’s at least incentive to grind. I could be okay with the combat being exclusive to gyms and just tapping the screen, with no actual battling of the Pokémon, because maybe we’ll be lucky and get that in future updates. And then I remember I had the same hopes about the Sims 4.
Pokémon Go, on the surface, is a great idea. It’s promoting exercise and socialising, and it could potentially fulfil the dream of one massive RPG with all the Pokémon in it. The only trouble is, it doesn’t bloody work. Prior to Niantic turning off the tracking, it would barely work for ten minutes at a time on my 5c – it would stay on that loading screen for hours. When it did occasionally load, it would run very briefly before freezing, and I’d have to reboot it again. In the last week, the loading’s been a lot better, and the app will run for longer, but it will continually freeze and require rebooting. Combining that with the lack of content, I honestly don’t know if this app is going to last.
With some more features and some serious debugging, I think it could be great. But right now, I’m going to go for a walk, and inevitably run into nothing but Pidgeys.