Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It's Official: Pokémon Go Just SUCKS

 I had begun to suspect this when update 1.1.0 destroyed my seventh level trainer. I started leaning a little more heavily toward this when update 1.3.0 came out and the Nearby function was replaced by the Sightings function (or non-function, since it doesn't seem to do anything). Returning from a brief stay in California to find that the Pokémon had been decimated within the one mile radius around my house in Austin provided yet another bit of evidence swaying me toward this unkind conclusion. Tonight, though, after walking a half-mile to one of the nearest Pokéstops and then returning home, I had all the evidence I needed.

Yes, children, it's official: Niantic's ever-so-popular game, Pokémon Go Just SUCKS.

To be more specific, Pokémon Go cheats its players. With update 1.1.0, I'd heard all the internet buzz about how Niantic had decided to make catching Pokémon harder to catch by increasing the likelihood of an escape from Pokéball after initial trapping but before the game's acknowledging "Gotcha!" Frankly, I was pleased at the prospect of a slightly more challenging game. Okay, sure, getting the hang of throwing a ball was initially challenging, but once you have the mechanics of the throw down, trapping most critters is pretty straightforward. So, I was prepared for the beasties to begin escaping from trappings along the way.

What I was not prepared for was insanely arbitrary algorithms governing who tries to escape and how they might be overcome, if at all. My first truly exasperating experience of the new escape algorithms (I won't call it logic—nothing about this mess is logical) occurred on my vacation to Redondo Beach this past weekend. At the time I had just reached ninth level, I believe. I had amassed a fairly sizable cache of balls and a few raspberries when, on a walk with my wife, I encountered my first ever Pikachu. And she was huge. This Pikachu, at over 600 CP was easily the largest critter I'd ever encountered. When I prepared to toss my Pokéball, I noticed that the targeting ring was red—also a first for me. Realizing she was likely to try to escape, I threw out a preemptive raspberry, which the Pikachu accepted with a smile and a cheerful backflip. I threw a ball and trapped her. The screen informed me I'd made an Excellent throw.

And she escaped from the ball.

I threw another, trapped her again, and she escaped again. In the following several fraught seconds, I fed her three more raspberries, trapped her nine times—with three of the trappings labeled as Great. As I was reaching for a fourth raspberry, she disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I was angry. Of course I was angry. I'd done everything I knew to do, and she still escaped after every fucking throw, and ultimately disappeared, costing me ten Pokéballs and three raspberries.

That was my first such encounter. Since then, I've been robbed of a couple dozen critters and God-knows how many balls. Yes, robbed. You see, the system is slanted to make escape more likely for higher level critters, with little or no chance to actually catch the damned things. I've rarely seen a critter over 150 CP stay trapped in the first ball. Even the use of raspberries and great balls seems to add little to stop this epidemic of escapes.

Just this evening, after I reached our local Pokéstop and collected my swag (a measly two Pokéballs and a potion), my first Pokémon encounter of the evening popped up: a little Spearow. A tiny little 62 CP Spearow. My Trainer is now 14th level. A 62 CP Spearow is barely worth the bother. If it weren't worth a little experience, it wouldn't be worth the bother. So, I threw a Pokéball, made a Great! catch, and—the little bastard escaped.

I stared. Are you shitting me?

I threw a second ball, made a second Great! catch, and—the little bastard escaped—again!

Third time's a charm, right?

Wrong. Same crap again. I wondered if it was worth tossing a raspberry to the bird, but the little shit disappeared in a puff of dust.

A tiny little 62 CP Spearow just cost me more Pokéballs than I'd collected from the Pokéstop.  That, my friends, is a fucking cheat.

On the way home, a similarly maddening encounter occurred with a 190 CP Ekans. This one was a yellow-circle Pokécritter, so I expected difficulty. I threw it a pre-emptive raspberry. Nonetheless, the Ekans escaped from my first Pokéball. And from the second. And from the third. Now, I really don't need another Ekans, but I always need experience, and it's always hard to determine the point of no return. I'd already wasted three balls and a raspberry. I decided it was worth a second raspberry and switching to great balls. Ultimately, I trapped the little snake in a total of three Pokéballs and five greatballs, fed it two raspberries, and the sonofabitch escaped into the night.

This is ridiculous. I understand that the game had become too easy. Hardly ever did anything escape from the Pokéballs. Niantic should have increased the level of the challenge. I have no qualms about that decision, but they should have done so in a logical way. Simply increasing the odds of an escape in every encounter is not logical. Trainers should have an opportunity catch every critter they encounter. For the more advanced, more rare, or otherwise more desirable, I think the degree of difficulty of the catch should be higher. But Trainer experience should count for something.

The degree of difficulty should be commensurate with the desirability of the Pokécritter, and every Trainer should be able to catch every goddamn critter she encounters. That means for more difficult critters, the Trainer should have to work to get the catch. But the catch should always be a possibility. Commonplace critters worth less than a hundred CP should never cost more Pokéballs than the Trainer can win at a local Pokéstop. Otherwise, it's an irrational ripoff.

Niantic needs to fix this. Fix it as soon as possible. Itty bitty birds absconding with several balls after multiple fair catches is not a fair system of play. It's just a cheesy mindfuck. This game was promising when it began. It was fun. I was happy to be playing, happy to be recommending it to everyone I knew.

Fix it Niantic. Fix it before we're all too embarrassed to admit that we play "that shitty Pokémon Go Fuck Yourself game".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Updates, updates, and more updates

First update, of course, is this entry. Because I haven't posted anything in the past half-decade or so, whatever I said here today would be a update. So, news items:

Yes, I'm still alive.

Second update, yes, I'm still working on a sequel to Gifts. In fact, I'm planning to have a series of four books when I'm done. Talents is the sequel to Gifts, to be followed eventually by two more books, Skills and Mastery. If I'm being honest with myself, the sequel has given me fits because the series follows a different line than the first book. Gifts was a book about the effects of a single magic spell on four diverse men and the people in their lives. My goal with the sequels was to tell the story of the magic. Of course, to some extent that means introducing new people and taking a lot of emphasis off the main characters from Gifts. I've had a hard time giving them up, though.

Third update: in the middle of this month, the Mrs and I will be attending the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Houston, TX, learning to be Social Justice Warriors and to combat the voices of evil and ignorance (*Cough* Donald Trump *Cough*). Holy crap.

Finally, fourth update. The update update. See, for he past week or so, I've been caught up in the same stupid gaming craze as the rest of the country. My stepdaughter started playing Pokémon Go, so of course, that meant the Mrs had to try. After hearing about the game for a few days, I got interested (okay, I was feeling left out and wanted to do whatever she's doing) and downloaded the game. Damn, that is some kind of seriously addictive shit. I don't know how long I'd been playing—might have been a couple of weeks, might have been just a few days—but I had walked many miles and amassed a decent collection of little cartoon monsters. I was already evolving critters and beginning to strategize my next evolutions and power increases. I had an egg in an incubator that was just about to hatch. Then I downloaded the latest update.

I installed update 1.1.1, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND for anyone interested in continuing that game. It wiped out my ninth level character. All my data were overwritten. If I wanted to continue playing, I had to start over at level 1, with absolutely nothing. I was absolutely gob-smacked. I know: it's just a game. Just a silly video game. All my accomplishments within the game are imaginary. Still, losing all of that work really hurt—I felt like I'd been gut-punched—HARD.

Well, I've started playing again. I'm not putting as much effort in any more. I don't know that I'll ever amass as many critters or get back to that excited place where I'm strategizing future game-play, but I've started. We'll see.

Meanwhile, if I ever meet anyone from Niantics, if YOU work for Niantics and introduce yourself to me, cover your face and be prepared to duck. I say that because, if I still feel like I'm feeling now, somebody's probably going to get smacked in the face.