PoGo: Relicanth

I was at work Fri when a friend excitedly messaged that there were Relicanth in Washington DC. Niantic often runs local special event alongside other ones, and in this case the other special event was the 2019 Pokémon World Championships at the DC Convention Center. Events like these or other gaming conferences will sometimes results in rare spawns (Unowns!) or research encounters for rare spawns.

After a quick check of the Sliph Road subreddit, I found the Relicanth were available via the “Send 2 Gifts to Friends” research quest from nearby Pokéstops. Another encounter was available from “Catch 10 Pokémon” (Aerodactyl), which wasn’t as interesting since we already had them. Although that encounter would provide a chance at a shiny.

The Relicanth is a rare New Zealand regional, so I’ve only ever seen them on gyms. Trading for one proved very difficult because the players with them generally only wanted to trade for rare shinies, and I’m not shiny hunter so I have nothing to trade back. This was a chance to get one, without flying to New Zealand. (I’ve been there and it was an AMAZING vacation, but I can’t zoom over just to catch a Pokemon!). Since I live in the DC exurbs, going in wasn’t a big deal – not something I do on a daily basis, but not difficult – and to catch a regional we’d otherwise not get… the decision was easy. My friend and I skipped out of work early to head into DC. 🙂

Once at the convention center, we walked a search grid collecting the quest. Once we had 3 copies of the quest, we’d send 2 gifts to complete all 3 quests at the same time and collect Relicanth. Repeat and even after meeting up with another friend who works in DC (another reliable PoGo Community Day player and boardgaming friend) and having dinner, I caught 30 Relicanth. I’ll hold ~5 back for other friends, keep a few for myself, and leave the rest for trade with my local raid group in case people couldn’t get in for the quest.

 

2019-08-17-scale

We also chatted for several minutes with a group of PoGo players outside the convention center. They were also hunting for the Relicanth quest, but they were also spectators at the tournament and playing a scavenger hunt. Each needed a picture of one of their Pokémon on a gym, a trade with a player whose name started with D or C, a trade of at least 6000 km, AR photos, etc. It looked kind of fun and there were prizes. Since it was a mixed group of various teams (Valor, Mystic, Instinct) we took turns fighting a nearby gym for control so people could get their checklist done.

Pokémon Go

May as well fess up. The game I’ve been playing the most over the last year is easily Pokémon Go. Yes, that’s right, I can hear you guffawing in the back, but let me explain.

PoGo is a game that several of my friends and I enjoy. The gameplay loop is basic: catch pokémon, upgrade them with stardust and candy, repeat. Everything after that is up to the player. Maybe you’ll optimize a team for PvP (largely game theorizing weaknesses/resistances along 18 dimensions plus adding an unexpected secondary charged move), work on completing your pokédex (involves trading with others as several pokémon are region locked), collect shinies or level 1 pokémon, raid for legendaries, or decide to own every local gym, etc.

For the first year it was out, there wasn’t much to do. In fact, I got bored and put the game aside. However, I was drawn back in by Community Days, a ~3 hour time period, generally once a month on the weekend, where a featured pokémon spawns abundantly. There are usually several other boosts as well: accelerated egg hatching, bonus stardust, extra candy, higher chance of shinies, longer duration lures, etc.

On Community Day, I can count on gaming with one other friend and usually two or three more. We’ll meet up at various local spots (indoor or outdoor malls work well, as do universities) and spend the time walking around, chatting, and playing alongside dozens of other groups doing the same thing. Sometimes we’ll play a boardgame after (we are in the middle of a Betrayal Legacy campaign).

Heck, I went with a friend to Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago earlier this year. We had a great time! They had a special research quest setup that led to Jirachi and it was enjoyable to do.

Over this past weekend, me and 3 friends met up and did our thing. Besides catching dozens of Ralts (the featured pokémon) and hoping for shinies (everyone got at least 3 or 4), we found 3 Rayquaza raids (current legendary raid boss), battled Team Rocket a half dozen or more times, and ate dinner afterwards. Ralts has two different evolutions depending on whether it is male of female (male Kirlia evolves to Gallade and female Kirlia evolves to Gardevoir) so we make sure we had at least one of each for the Community Day special move (Synchronoise).

Niantic has been active adding content and features over the last 2 years. This is what I remember being added since that rather slow/dull first year, and I probably left something out:

  • Revamped Gym battle (motivation, max 6 different pokémon)
  • Revamped coin collection (1 coin every 10 min holding a gym, max 50 a day)
  • Revamped appraisal system (QoL improvement)
  • Raids, 1 star to 5 start (Legendary), EX raids
  • Legendary lunch hour, Legendary dinner hour
  • Near continuous special events
  • Trading pokémon
  • Buddy pokémon
  • Shiny pokémon, Shadow pokémon, Purified pokémon
  • Berry types: nanab, pinab, silver
  • Charged and Fast TMs
  • Rare Candy
  • Evolution items (sun stone, king’s rock, metal coat, dragon scale, up-grade, sinnoh stone)
  • Sending postcards from locations, open for gifts containing random items
  • Eggs and incubators, Alolan eggs to hatch Alonan forms
  • Adventure Sync (step counter from phone that counts distance towards hatching eggs)
  • Adventure Sync rewards (eggs for hitting 25K and 50K walking milestones each week)
  • Field Research (daily tasks to complete for a weekly encounter)
  • Special Research (multi-stage quest for pokémon, mythical or unique, or tons of xp)
  • PvP (fight other players or the AI)
  • Team Rocket (fight AI, series of 3 progressively harder fights), catch shadow pokémon with the option to purify for boosts
  • Community Day, special move for evolving during the time window
  • Mystery Box (meltan spawns, trade Gen 1 Pokémon to Pokémon Let’s Go games in exchange)
  • And of course, more generations of pokémon

Many of the special events boil down to having a set of pokémon spawn in higher numbers, or legendary raid bosses available, etc.

Monetization is what you would expect from a free-to-play game: microtranactions for stuff like cosmetic outfits. The store also sells various doodads to boost gameplay: lures to attract pokémon, incubators for hatching eggs, star pieces to boost stardust, raid passes for entering raids, lucky eggs to boost xp, and pokéballs. You get one infinite incubator, a free raid pass every day, and by minimally playing and spinning pokéstops, you should be overflowing in pokéballs if you are in any kind of populated area. Lures are moochable – someone else using a lure will let you benefit, which is key for the 3 latest ones introduced (magnetic, grass, and ice lures).

By holding gyms you can earn up to 50 coins a day.

I spend about $10 a month on stuff, usually by purchasing a special box of items that shows up around Community Day. All I can say is this is fine for me, it doesn’t feel exploitative and if you were really on a budget you can get by as a free-only player.

Obviously, PoGo doesn’t exactly fill the MMO niche. But it is a game I enjoy playing with friends, a large component of which is the social aspect of hanging out in person. PoGo plays anywhere and in short ~5 minute increments if need be. The best multiplayer game is the one your real life friends also enjoy playing. And that game happens to be Pokémon Go for my group!

Changing Game Tastes

I’ve noticed my gaming tastes changing over the months/years. Currently my MMO playing is ebbing while other games are not.

I still do play though. I’m taking a break from SWL because I was stuck on a ridiculous blocking storyline quest and can’t advance without passing it. Whoever thought that was a good idea is… well they’re just wrong.

I log into LoTRO a few times a week to grab daily rewards and quest a bit. But that makes for glacial progress and thus Spessartina, my hobbit minstrel, is still in the Rivendell/Trollshaws regions and a few levels away from starting the next storyline quest. Scarlatina, my hobbit warden, is likewise still in the Lone Lands. That’s fine though, I always do enjoy coming back to LoTRO and playing a bit.

In ESO, I decided to start a new char after migrating to the PS4. In order to play something different, I picked stamina nightblade. Since Redguards get racial stamina bonuses, I went with that. I’m not too far along, having completed the Morrowind tutorial and then immediately sailing back to Stros M’Kai in order to work through the original storyline. I’d rather play in the order the game released in!

What I have been doing more of is playing single player open-world adventure-style console games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider. I take advantage of Redbox and rent some games too (Monster Hunter World, God of War) with an eye towards checking a game out before buying it. I really like God of War but I can also wait for a sale since I have a backlog. 🙂

I hit level 15 in Ingress, almost 2 years after I started to play. It’s still fun and easy to work into playing bits and pieces as time permits.

Recently I was in Hawaii on a family vacation, and had an afternoon or two to myself. So I got some exercise and walked around doing some banners/mosaics. Again, missions involve visiting various points of interest and doing something (typically hacking the portal). A series of missions that together form a picture is called a banner or mosaic. And I like doing those. Here’s the 3 I did:

IMG_6664

Top 3 rows are “Iolani Palace”, middle row is “Legend of the Menehune”, bottow rows are “Aloha, Waikiki”. Not a bad way to enjoy a walk around town!

I’ve also been playing a lot of Pokémon Go. Yes, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the game… or is there?

The fundamentals of “collecting all the pokémon” is still the driving force, but Niantic has been slowly adding more and more things to do in the game.

There is a rudimentary quest system, which currently leads to finding legendary pokémon (so far: Zapdos, Moltres).

You can have a buddy pokémon that gains candy when you walk certain distances, as well as hatch eggs, so when I walk or run with my phone I leave it on with pokémon running. Every candy helps!

There are medals which grant catch bonuses after getting certain numbers. I’m still working on a few (e.g. 156/200 Steel type, 136/200 ice type, etc.)

They revamped the gym battling system to encourage more turnover, and as a result I’ve been working on getting gold on gyms I live near (when you attack or defend a gym you gain points on it, and rank up bronze to silver to gold. Each higher tier yields more stuff when you spin the disc, you also get more stuff when the gym is your team) since that results in the most efficient farming. 😉 I have 13 gold gyms and am close to #14 and #15.

A recent addition are community days where one pokémon spawns in abundance for a 3 hour period. I missed the first few, but have participated in last month’s (Mareep) and yesterday’s (Charmander). I met up with 3 friends and we walked around Rockville town center, seeing dozens and dozens of other players, catching every charmander in sight and evolving Charizards with a special event-only move (Blast Burn). We joined in raids for the Legendary Ho-Oh and I am happy to say I got one:

IMG_6665

A bunch of players gathered for a raid as the event was winding down, but it turned out to be a Latias. Luckily I got that one too:

IMG_6666

The thing about Legendary raids is with enough people, you will defeat the boss.  All your pokémon may faint and you might have to re-enter, but enough people will do it unless they are horribly underleveled (using low combat power pokémon). The hard part is catching it afterwards. Each player that participates get a number of white premiere pokeballs to use, that are only available from winning legendary raids and they don’t carry over, but there are bonuses for the team that does the most damage, for defeating the boss, your badge level at the gym, team that controls the gym. So when teams form, usually Valor (red), Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) will try to form their own group – not being exclusionary per se, anybody on any team can still hop in, it’s just more beneficial to you if you are raiding with others of your own team since you really want those extra premiere balls. That’s because legendary pokémon are ninja dodgers, and they are also very good at breaking out. So more premiere balls is better.

Over time I’ve switched to a curve-ball style throw (wind up in a circle before a throw until you get sparklies, then throw at an angle and the ball will curve left or right depending on whether you wound up clockwise or counter-clockwise). I don’t know the specific numbers but especially for a legendary Pokémon you want to use your best berries (golden razz berry) with a curve ball throw and ideally get a nice/great/excellent hit (how well you hit the circle target)… and even then there is a large chance the legendary will break out. I had 2 Latios (the blue clones of Latias) escape after raids because they I missed or they dodge half of the time, and broke out of all hits – as I recall it was roughly 25 chances over 2 raids and nothing. Argh! To a degree its a random chance you can attempt to raise, so all you can do is have the opportunity to catch one, which is what happened yesterday and I am thankful. 🙂

For the Latias raid, I counted 35 players. Yes, almost 3 dozen people across all age groups and genders, standing on a street corner split into multiple raid groups, all wanting their chance to catch a Latias. It was awesome in many respects!

One thing I haven’t really gotten into is analyzing pokémon stats any deeper than the builtin appraisal system. But the serious players are all about pokémon IVs (individual values; the stamina, attack, defense stats) and move sets (fast and charged; attack and defense). There is of course a massive amount of stats info google will turn up, and it is kind of mind boggling since IVs can’t be changed and move sets are randomly assigned (however there are in-game items called Technical Machines that can change fast or charged attacks). There are also apps that help analyze these things so as a first step, I bought PokeGenie and started analyzing all my high CP wonder pokémon. I may change up what pokémon I keep, what ones I evolve and power up based on the next level of stat analysis. 😉

By and large I’m mostly a “collector” player, just trying to fill out my pokedex. I swap buddies to get candy for evolving, fight gyms here and there to make them Mystic (my team), leave pokémon to defend gyms for badge levels and coins, and so. It isn’t the most sophisticated game ever, but for a low key mobile phone game, I’m finding it social and fun.

[PoGo] Legendary Raid

I play Pokémon Go partly as a filler game while playing Ingress. I find the fun to be mostly in the collecting, because the gameplay isn’t all that sophisticated: throw balls, catch Pokémon, repeat.Fighting comes down to: tap the screen, long press when your special attack is charged. I’m not even sure dodging helps that much relative to the time you lose fighting (i.e. there is a strict time limit on a fight, so losing say 25% of your available time trying to dodge attacks might mean you time out instead of exhausting the 6 Pokémon you take into battle – at least against raid fights).

One variant that I do since I am also a runner is: leave game up on phone while running, in order to “walk” buddy Pokémon and collect candy. This is handy since evolving a Pokémon  requires candy, some Pokémon I don’t see much of, so if I need more I’ll make one my buddy and “walk” it for extra candy. I just did this with a Dragonair and evolved it into a Dragonite, who now is the highest combat power out of my collection.

The game introduced raids in a general revamp of how gyms work, and I think they did a pretty good job. It used to be gyms would stay up until defeated, while made it pretty tough for a team that is outnumbered in an area. Now, Pokémon slowly lose health unless fed berries, which helps make sure there is turnover, or at least provides an item sink. Fighting changed as well: before you’d fight a gym from weakest to strongest, and Pokémon would heal completely in between; now you can select specific Pokémon to fight, and they don’t heal up in between. So those 3000+ CP Blesseys and Snorlaxes aren’t the barriers they used to be.

Anyway, I was with a friend after work, relaxing before dinner playing Ingress and Pokémon Go for a bit. As we were walking around hacking Ingress portals and looking at the Legendary 42K combat power Lugia on a nearby gym (impossible for 2 players so we ignored it), a car drove up and 3 people piled out, asking if we were doing the raid. After a bit of organizing, 5 of us entered battle… and got soundly trounced. We were all decently leveled (my friend and I are level 28, the others ranged from 28 to 31) but we got crushed. My friend and I learned you can heal up and re-enter the fight; all of us had our 6 Pokémon knocked out and all of us healed and re-entered since there was time left… and we still only fought the Lugia down to 60%.

In the time we were there, others saw us clustered at a raid and showed up: a couple walking their dogs, and then another carload of players. I took this picture before 3 more players came up – eventually we had 15 players for the raid!

IMG_5742

My friend and I learned more as well: raid passes are good for the entire time – we thought you had to spend a pass every time you entered. We also found out players use a website to find raids (GymHuntr) – after all, there is no in-game chat for organizing.

Anyway, this time 15 of us took down the Lugia. I received 8 premier silver balls for my attempt to catch the scaled-down post-raid Lugia. Unfortunately I didn’t catch it, but my friend did!

Right after the fight my friend’s game glitched and kicked her out, she thought she lost her chance at the Lugia. But another player helpfully mentioned that pulling up the gym and spinning the sign lets you re-enter… my friend did that and went on to beat the odds and catch a Lugia. So chalk that up as another thing we learned about the game.

At this time one player started walking around, checking on how others were doing as far as catching the Lugia. He started rattling off percentages: 4% for a straight throw, 8% for a curve ball, 1.5 multiplier for a regular razz berry, 2.5 multiplier for a golden razz berry, further modifiers for hit quality… by the time I heard this I was out of premier balls so it didn’t matter – to be fair all I would have done different was use golden razz berries; I’m not good at throwing curve balls and actually hitting the target!

I found a chart showing catch percentage as a function of ball type, throw type, hit type, etc. Mind boggling, I had no idea people charted this stuff out to such detail.

I’m not sure how premier balls figure in, but I think I was operating at a roughly 4% chance per throw, equivalent to a normal hit using a razz berry. Thus over my 8 throws I had a 1-(96/100)^8 chance = 27% chance of success. Had I used a golden razz berry each time I would have had a roughly 1-(94/100)^8 chance = 39%. Curve balls as well as golden razz berries would have improved that to about 1-(9/10)^8 = 57%. Perhaps I should practice throwing curve balls on the numerous trash mobs Pokémon around.

It was fun, and kind of surreal to think that this raid ended up roughly as large as raids I’ve done in WoW and LoTRO. Except PoGo has no chat functionality, no LFG/LFR system, and requires people to travel to specific areas in the real world?! Mind boggling. 😉