Pokemon Go was released worldwide over the last week. The launch was anything but smooth as most launches go, but they did a few things right.
- They barely advertised the launch. They seem to have let word of mouth do the work for them, which was good, in the sense it gave them more time to balance the server loads. This was important, because….
- The login servers were overloaded. Or something. The number of times I tried to connect and got errors was just ridiculous.
I gave up and didn’t worry about it. Strangely, this the most anticipated and hot game release I’ve seen recently does not have much of an online community or presence.
The beta was basically “Play the game for us!”. I am sure there were ways to submit feedback, but I couldn’t get past the fact that it was beta (and therefore, not something they wanted anyone to access, only their testers) and there didn’t seem to be any determination to have us give feedback. Maybe they got enough from others and I was just the load balancer, which is fine.
For the release, I am amazed at the number of places that Pokemon Go is popping up. This game is all over Reddit for instance, with dozens of memes and jokes. The real world has found it interesting as well, considering a player found a dead body because she was playing it, and Darwin does not want you going into their police station looking for a Pokemon.
Now – this is how it works, people. They buy/rent servers and anticipate low for a game. The fact that it mucks up the game experience is unfortunate, but they have to find out how many are really going to play. I’ve been able to log in intermittently since then and actually play, so I’m assuming they are working on smoothing that stuff out.
Pokemon Go is a game about catching Pokemon and little else. As you wander around the world, which has been sliced up into sections of environments for Pokemon, you find Pokemon and catch them. “Gotta catch them all” – this is a refrain I’ve heard even as I’ve barely tasted the Pokemon Universe over the years, but it seems like an accurate way to describe the game. Stop at a Pokestop to get gear for the game. The Pokestops, are all Ingress portals.
It’s interesting what they did with the Ingress portals. Some are present, but not all. The Niantic team seems to have decided to keep only the ones that are not “too many” in an area. The beautiful Downtown Newhall cluster of portals is not Pokemon’d – there are a few, but nowhere near the 100+ from Ingress. And their function is mostly to give you pokeballs and other game gear.
Then there are the gyms. Certain Ingress portals were determined not to be Pokestops, but Gyms instead. At some point I assume they’ll patch the game and make them have a point, but for now, you can control a gym because… you want to control it for your team. Many pokemon can be stacked on a gym to control it. Other than that, it’s a bit boring. There’s something called candy which allows you to level up your Pokemon, but I haven’t quite figured it out.
Because Pokemon and Ingress, in a sense, share the same reality-based environment, I feel very comfortable making Ingress my ARG of choice and playing some Pokemon at the same time. So after you do your Ingress thing in an area and wait for portals to cool down enough for another hack, you can start up Pokemon Go and try to catch some little beasties.
What I’m very disappointed in is the loss of the Pokemon environments. At one point in the beta, you could see them. The map was a wonderful and colorful chaotic mashup of the real and the not real. But sadly, they are gone, for whatever reason, and the map is just a flat cartoonish representation of the real world, with pokestops.
As I write this I’m again trying to connect and not having success. Maybe next time. Assuming I keep playing the game – this really is much more of a kids game than one for the cranky old geeks generation.