Okay, I know I said that Monday’s/the early week was going to be a time for writing posts, but Monsieur Chuck Wendig didn’t post up a fiction challenge last week, I sort of have an idea for a writing related post but it’s not all that developed, and yet another hurdle has come up as a time sink, in the form of the explosively popular new game Pokemon Go.

And considering I spent my A to Z challenge this year talking about all things Pokemon, I can’t not talk about the game now that it’s out. Well, sort of out in some places and unofficially obtainable in other places, yes I did in fact cave in but it’s Pokemon! How could I not?

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For those of you that haven’t heard or do not know, Pokemon Go is a AR (Augmented Reality) game played through a mobile device such a phone or a tablet. It uses real-world information such a location and your camera to superimpose Pokemon into the real world, at which point you can walk around and catch the Pokemon, thus working towards completing your Pokedex. Pretty simple Pokemon premise – catch them all – finally meets the real world.

Of course, it is a little different to the games that are played on the DS and the like, mainly because it has to be, the mechanics of those games don’t work so well for the mechanics of walking around holding your phone. But the way they have implemented it is amazing.

So, you load up your game, you customise your avatar and you choose a username. Nice, but make sure it’s what you want because there’s no way to change this at a later date (wish I had known that at the time, I’d like to change my avatars clothing, but, hey, not a big thing). It then works out where you are, puts you down in the real world, and three Pokemon spawn up around you. You might have guessed – Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander. (As a side note, I have since learned that you can get Pikachu as your starting Pokemon. If you run away, as in physically run away through the real world, from these three, then they catch up to you. Do this three of four times, and eventually a Pikachu will spawn alongside the three of them. Pretty cool!). The game teaches you how to catch a Pokemon, gives you a bunch of Pokeballs, and then away you go!

Second important thing – Pokestops. These are real world things which are flagged up in the game as point on the map. When you get near them, you can tap on them, and they’ll give you items. Pokeballs, Greatballs (I levelled up enough, finally!) potions, Razz Berries and the like, this is how you get your items (you can also buy them for real money, but mostly you should get enough items by visiting these points) and they also give you a bit of XP to level up your Trainer Level. I think these are pretty cool, since they always tie into real world things, like murals, cool wall arts, plaques, interesting buildings and the like. There’s like a sentence which explains what it is, snippet local history as it were, but mostly I just get them for the items and the XP!

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Levelling – you as the Trainer have a level. You get XP by catching pokemon, evolving pokemon, battling gyms and just generally playing the game. As you level up, you can bump into rarer and rarer Pokemon, and you get better items. I’ve just hit level 12 today, and I now have access to great balls. No idea yet if there is a cap or not, but the increase per level in now a flat rate, rather than increasing, so I only ever need 10,000 XP to level. At the moment at least.

Pokemon levelling is a bit different. Especially from the games. Rather than a level, every Pokemon has a CP rating – Combat Power. It will have a minimum and a maximum, and you can raise this up by feeding them dust and candy. Dust is generic, candy is specific to a Pokemon and it’s evolution chain. So Squirtle has Squirtle candy (Wartortle and Blastoise will also use Squirtle candy) and Caterpie has Caterpie candy. You get both of these by catching the Pokemon, 100 dust and 3 candies for each catch (candy will be appropriate to the pokemon you catch. Caught a Magikarp? 3 Magikarp candy obtained.) Evolving a pokemon is also done with candy. Depending on how rare the Pokemon is, and what stage in the evolution chain, it may take 12, 25, 50 ore more candy to evolve them. The most I’ve seen is Magikarp to Gyarados, which takes 400 candy. Going to need a lot of those…

It’s a fairly simplified system (once you get used to it) but it works really well for the mobile game. Basically, it means that you just need to get out there and catch a lot of Pokemon, the same type of Pokemon, to get the evolutions and complete your Pokedex. Oh, and there are Eggs. Eggs also drop from Pokestops and you hatch them by walking. An Egg will need 2km, 5km or 10km to hatch it, so yes, I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

Last mechanical bit are gyms. There are three teams – Instinct Yellow, Valour Red and Mystic Blue, each symbolised by one of the three legendary birds Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno. These are for Gyms battles. Like Pokestops, Gyms are locations, and when you claim a gym, you claim in for your team. If you are in that team, you can bolster the gym by putting your Pokemon in there (up to the gym maximum, which you can increase through battling) and if you’re one of the two opposing teams, you battle it to try and knockout their Pokemon and take the Gym for yourself. It’s the part I’m least interested in, and I haven’t yet got the hang of the battling system, which is a mix of dodging, hitting and then a special move which for the life of me I can never get to trigger. But, it is fun, and my friends certainly like doing it, so I usually go around and shore up the other gyms for my team. Blue forever!

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So, that’s the game explained in some detail. My thoughts and feelings? I love it. Like, really, really love it. That’s not to say there aren’t issues, the servers are a bit up and down, because the company didn’t expect it to be so popular so they’re doing a bit of firefighting at the moment, and the official release has been delayed in Europe (I, like a lot of people, am playing through a mirror) because of this. There are also some bugs, including one which means the Pokemon you are battling in the gym gets to 1HP, and then stays there, which is a driving factor behind me not really getting into the gym part of the game because it’s no fun to waste all your potions because of a bug.

The game is a huge drain on the battery life of the phone, and it doesn’t track things properly (like the distance walked for hatching eggs) when it’s in sleep mode, so you kind of have to keep it active the whole time. I can get about 2.5-3 hours from a fully charged phone, but I’ve already missed out on some nice Pokemon (there was a Scyther near the bus stop last night) because of a dead battery. But, this one I can fix by ordering a charger pack, which should be here sometime this week.

Now for the positives – I have done more walking in the past weekend than I can remember doing for a long time. Possible Empire/LRP levels of walking around, which is saying a lot. Motivation is high, and I really do want to get out of the house and go look for more Pokemon.

My friends are playing it as well, and as has already happened over the weekend, small group of us can get together and go walk around town, making it easier to track down Pokemon as we split off into different direction and then shout to each other when we find them. That, and we bump into other people, usually strangers who you’ve never met before, but who are also playing the game, and have a little chat. That rare pokemon is over there, caught anything nice today, gyms battles, I just feel like I had a bunch of small interactions that I wouldn’t have had without the game, and they’ve all been positive and it’s just great to feel that sense of community with other people.

And finally – I GET TO CATCH POKEMON! Me! My own pokedex! At the moment it’s only the first 150, but I hear there are plans to expand that out to the other generations at some points, trading will come in as well, and I have no idea what might be happening with the legendaries, but I can’t wait to see. In the meantime, I’ve got about 50 Pokemon in my Pokedex, including a Dratini! My next big thing is to get a Growlithe, and then evolve both of them up! I can’t wait to get back out there and catch more!

PokemonGoVulpix

My Vulpix!

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