Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pokemon GO - A Player's Perspective

This article is about the many aspects of being a Pokemon GO player. While much of it will provide you with tools to optimize your experience and increase your level, there will also be some insights into the social ramifications of the game. I may add to this posting over time if there are exceptionally relevant player oriented findings from the community or if the game decides to change. This post will be quite long so I'll break it into linked sections. You should be able to quickly go to the sections that are most interesting to you. Honestly a wiki would be a better format, but there are many wikis, and they fail to distill the information down favoring to keep more of the raw data than is necessary. I'll try to avoid this.

1. Getting Started
2. Early Gotchas to Avoid
3. On the Move Optimizations
4. Power Leveling
5. Gym Strategies
6. Pay to Play Optimizations

Getting Started

This is the only section that will be about the social experiences of the game. Pokemon GO is very simplistic. When you first launch you'll be asked to log in using either a Google (G+) account or to create a Pokemon Trainer account. This is up to you. You can also pick a nick-name for your account and this will be visible to others when you perform some actions in the game (such as put a lure at a Poke Stop).

Once you are logged in, you'll see a Pokemon version of your map. To the left is a picture of what this looks like. I'm currently sitting in a Starbucks and the GPS has placed me outside about 30 feet away in an area with some Poke Stops (those little squares are Poke Stops and they turn into spinning circles when you get close to them). You'll want to stop by these a lot. When you click on them, they show you  some information about a landmark that they represent and you can spin them to get items. The items will be Poke Balls, Potions, Revive Candy and Eggs.

In the upper right of the screenshot you'll see a Poke Stop with some confetti, flowers, whatever you want to call it. That Poke Stop has been "lured" and will attract more Pokemon than usual. Once you are in the game and you see one of those head that way. You'll find two things. More Pokemon and more people. Usually one does not set a Lure and leave the area since that would be a waste of money and resources. So go to that area and be social. The game is about being social.

What else is the game about other than catching Pokemon? Well, its about moving. Since each Poke Stop only resets every 5 minutes or so you are prompted to walk between them if you want to collect more stuff. I highly recommend getting the exercise and enjoying the outdoors. Earlier I also mentioned Eggs, which only hatch if you walk a distance of 2, 5 or 10km. The game really sucks at measuring distance, so normally double the km to really hatch the egg. So the game offers many mechanics that have you moving around so by moving around you are going to get  lot more of the benefits of the game.

Once you've walked around a bit, you'll probably have found some Pokemon on the map. Clicking them takes you to a battle screen. Here you have a pokeball at the bottom you are expected to toss at the critter. When you first start this will be trivial and all Pokemon will be low level. Once you get higher level though the ring around the Pokemon will change colors from green all the way to red, indicating the likelihood of success. You also want to throw when the ring is smaller since that also increases the capture chance. So press and hold the pokeball, wait for the ring to get small, then flick it upwards towards the Pokemon. If you hit it, you'll attempt a capture. It may still get out, but try again until you catch it or it runs away. I won't explain this mechanic thoroughly since it is more intuitive to discover yourself.

When talking to others, make sure to pick up on some of the lingo. For instance, a Lure Module is now often called a magnet or party (since the stop looks like a party is happening once installed). Also, learn the names of the various Pokemon. If you haven't played the game before then this can be daunting but common language is a great social lubricant. You'll learn tons of stuff like where special Pokemon spawn and where others will be placing lots of Lure Modules.

Lastly be safe. Its summer time and its hot. Stay hydrated as much as possible. Make sure you have sunscreen if you will be outside in the sun for extended periods of time. More importantly, make sure you have enough power to play. Buy a power brick and extra cable so you can keep your phone charged at all times. Nothing stops a Poke hunt like a dead iPhone.

That's it. Play around with catching and grabbing items from stops. Don't worry about gyms, evolving your Pokemon or anything else until you've read the next section.

Early Gotchas to Avoid

With every game there are some easy mistakes to make when playing it the way it was designed to be played. This section covers a few of those mistakes so you can avoid them. This should help you level up faster and more efficiently while hopefully enjoying the game even more than you would otherwise.

Turn off AR
First off, there is an AR mode in Pokemon GO that allows you to super impose Pokemon on top of an image coming through the pass through camera. Turn this off immediately (or play with it, then turn it off once you hit level 5). Why? There are two reasons. First, it requires that you turn around and orient your phone in odd ways. Sometimes pointing it towards the sky to catch a Zubat for instance. This will slow down your play time and burn more battery. By turning it off you can play in whatever orientation you choose and you don't have to spin around to find the Pokemon. Less fun? Maybe, but after my first couple hundred catches in AR, turning it off was a welcome relief.

Pay $10 for Poke Coins and Buy Storage Space!
I can't stress this enough. For all of the following sections I am going to assume that you have bought at least 2 Pokemon Storage upgrades. I also recommend 4 Bag Upgrades for more items. This will get you up to 350 Pokemon and 550 items. This is a sweet spot for this game. You won't run out of space, you won't constantly transfer, you WILL spend more time catching Pokemon you WILL have MOAR FUN!

Do Not Evolve
Save your evolves for when you have lucky eggs. You get lucky eggs at every 5th level. So at level 5 you'll get 1 lucky egg. You want every lucky egg to bring you 50K+ experience points through, you got it, evolves. For first time evolves that log to your Pokedex you get even more experience, so rather than prematurely evolving a Pokemon wait until you'll get the maximum effect of it. This will help you once you get into the 20s if you plan to continue playing.

Note: I messed this up because I didn't come up with the evolve strategy until I hit 12 and then later confirmed the strategy with some Twitch streamers.

Do NOT Power Up
Save your dust. This was another mistake I made until I hit 12. I came up with an evolve and power up strategy at about the same time. Basically it costs the same to power up your lower tier Pokemon as it does your higher tier Pokemon, so there is no need to power up your Eevee to get a more powerful evolved form, since you can wait to see if you get the RIGHT evolved form with the RIGHT special moves first and then you can power it up later. This saves you a ton of dust. It also saves you a TON OF CANDY which you need for more evolves which do give you experience points towards leveling.

In the early game power ups don't matter. Levels matter. Higher levels means higher base CP Pokemon that you can simply catch. You don't waste any dust this way and you can then use it on your later levels once you have some god-like Pokemon. I currently have 185k dust. I'm level 24 and I still don't think its a good time to use my dust. I'll use it later, once I have some 2500+ base CP Pokemon and I want to get them into the 3k range.

Do NOT use Lucky Eggs, Lures, Incense, etc...
You'll want to save this stuff for when you are at a great space with several Poke Stops in range and you can cycle around them. Incense increases your attract rate and Lures increase the attract rate of the Poke Stops. Used together you can start landing Pokemon at speeds of 1 per minute or faster. We'll discuss more strategies for Lures and Incense later.

Do NOT Throw Crazy Curves
Someone will invariably show you how to throw curve balls. They don't offer enough value to you in terms of experience points and they waste a lot of balls. You'll have to throw curve balls soon enough when the Pokemon cause your throws to spin away from them and you have to compensate. Don't waste the balls.

Do NOT Attack Gyms
Attacking gyms is a core game mechanic so why not do it? We will get into this later, but in the beginning your should build up your collection of potions and revives. You'll burn through these later when it matters more and when you can employ some strategies that net you more EXP and Poke Coins.

That's all Folks
You now know what not to do. What should you do? Well, just go out, move around, and catch Pokemon. Catching Pokemon is the primary driver for your experience points. You get 100 EXP per catch + some bonuses for good throws + some first time catch bonuses for adding new Pokemon to your Pokedex. All of the rest of our strategies rely on you catching LOTS of Pokemon. At the time of this writing I have 1750 catches (which you can find under the Collector badge for your trainer).

On the Move Optimizations

By this point I expect you to have run around like crazy hatching eggs, collecting Poke Stops and you have a ton of Pokemon in your pack. Here are some optimizations that can help make all of that go much, much smoother. You may have already discovered these along the way, but if you haven't they'll be pure gold.

Trick #1 - Cancel out of Poke Stops to Auto Collect the Rewards - This is critical for drive by poke stop collecting and even works in a car going at a moderate clip. Please make sure you are the passenger when doing this ;-)

Trick #2 - Stay on the Move - If you want to catch more Pokemon or hit more stops you have to cover distance. You can cover a LOT of distance while you are in the capture screen. Don't think you have to stop and stand in your location. While moving too far seems to increase the chance of runaways it isn't much. I've actually caught one Pokemon from a car after holding it through to the end of a New York tunnel and getting back my cell signal.

Trick #3 - Find Triple and Quadruple Stop Zones - There are more of these than you might think. They bring in a lot of opportunity for others setting lures and so by swarming on these locations you can get lots of items and lots of opportunity to catch under multiple lures. A great example of a quad stop is BJs in Redmond Town Center, Redmond, WA

Trick #4 - Buy Those Bag and Pokemon Storage Upgrades - There are two modes you will be in. Collecting Pokemon and collecting items. When you are going hard on Pokemon with a 4 lure stop you will quickly run out of stuff. Having a larger inventory can help make sure you come stocked up and prepared. Having the Pokemon storage space ensures you don't have to transfer often.

Trick #5 - Transfer during Dead Times - Even with 4 lured stops there will be dead zones. Use this time to transfer and listen for vibrations so you can tell when new things spawn to catch. Focus on transferring large groups of one type that you are catching a lot of. Usually caterpie, wheedle, spearow and pidgeys.

Getting around in your Pokemon storage can be hard. They've implemented a really good inertial scroll. You can flick hard from the top almost all the way down to the bottom (of a 350 Pokemon storage, which is pretty darn far). Use this to quickly get back to where you were for transfers.

Trick #6 - Battery, battery, battery - Being on the move means burning the battery. Your iPhone will last maybe 2 hours if you are lucky. There are two tricks here. External battery pack is the easiest, but it does cost some money. I paid 40 bucks for a 22000mAh battery that charges my phone 9 times on a single charge. I'm unstoppable. You can be too.

Turning off AR as we mentioned earlier will also help. As will turning off sounds and music in the settings (the in game settings, not the iPhone settings, this may be urban myth, but after running 2 days with the game settings off it does seem to have helped). Finally, use the battery saver mode in the game. When you turn your phone upside down it blanks the screen for you. Note this seems to lower the GPS queries too though so there may be more delay before you are notified of things happening. I've found with all of the other battery tricks I have up my sleeve, that the built-in battery saver is unnecessary.

Trick #7 - Use more than 1 Incubator - I found a lot of people don't realize they get incubators at multiple of 5 levels that are 3 use (not like the infinite 1). Keep those things loaded at all times. You are on the move so make those km count double, triple (all the way up to 9 times ;-)

Power Leveling

What you've all been waiting for. The numbers for power leveling. It turns out power leveling in the game is pretty easy. There are just a couple of mechanics that really increase your experience gain immensely over short periods of time. Everything else is just a trickle.

For basic Pokemon catching, you get approximately 110 experience points per capture. This is an average of your normal catch of 100 + any bonuses you might get. You normally don't get bonuses so even the larger bonuses like excellent (100) and great (50) really average to the low end. Taking time to try and get more bonuses may be worthwhile but it cuts down on your overall movement and requires much greater concentration while playing.

If you are in a great location catching 1 Pokemon per minute, this results in only about 6.1k per hour. Of course in the same time you will likely hatch an egg or two, at another 1k (assuming 2 5k eggs at 500 experience each) etc... As you can see catching isn't about getting that much experience, its more about obtaining the right Pokemon for later evolution.

Let's imagine we did blow 2 lucky eggs for that hour, then our overall experience would be somewhere around 13k per hour. Those 2 lucky eggs would cost you anywhere from $1.70 down to $0.78 according to my IAP conversion guide. I'll refer to this guide quite a bit I think so probably get it opened up and study it a bit.

It also assumes though that either we or someone else was running a 3 or 4 lure stop which would have been another $2+. If you have the spare money or you lack time to play the game for extended periods this can certainly be a strategy. So I'll document this as our first strategy.

Strategy #1 - Lucky Eggs + Lure Modules - ROI (Medium) - Use a combination of lure modules and lucky eggs to maximize your time to value ratio of catching Pokemon. For about $3 an hour you can achieve a 13k+ depending on your overall performance.

A second strategy that you might have tried to employ is gym fighting. Gym fighting gives fairly low experience values related to the fame level of the gym. You can basically divide the fame level by 10 and that is about how much experience points are available. It will take multiple fights to get it back and we'll cover this process more in our gym fights section. For now lets document it as a Strategy.

Strategy #2 - Lucky Eggs + High Fame Gyms - ROI (Low) - I'm marking this as well because a single gym fight may return anywhere from 150 to 350 experience points, take a minute or more per fight, and require use of healing items once the fight is complete. This is NOT a good power leveling strategy.

How DO we make a bunch of experience points without spending a ton of money? The best way is to save your evolves and discoveries. Each evolve is worth 500 experience points and each new discovery in the Pokedex is worth 500 experience points as well. If augmented with a lucky egg these can be doubled to 1k each.

If a lucky egg lasts for 30 minutes and each evolve takes between 20-30 seconds you can evolve somewhere between 60-90. I've done 69 and had to do some transfers and still had 1 minute left at the end. So I'm guessing 75 might be the max here. And it will be dependent on the server stability and speed. We will lowball at 60 for now.

60 evolves at 500 each is 30k double is 60k. So you can get 60k in about 30 minutes time which clearly destroys the lucky eggs + lure modules strategy. Let's write this down and then provide more details on HOW it should work.

Strategy #3 - Lucky Eggs + Evolutions + Discoveries - ROI (Super High) - This one has an amazing ROI. Even if you buy a lucky egg each time you want to do this at the 99 cents rate, you are still spending less than a dollar every time.

How do you get 60 evolves? You rely on Pokemon which have a very low candy to evolve ratio that are also very common. Right now there are two Pokemon which are stellar performers and they are Pidgey and Weedle. Each takes 12 candy to evolve and is very easy to find and catch. While Caterpie are also 12 they are much harder to catch and find making them slightly less interesting.

Another good thing about these 3 is that once you evolve their 3rd forms the first time, you can stop evolving their third forms. Since the third form evolution takes 50 candy, which is more than 4 times the base evolution, you can end up getting a lot more evolves once you can ignore the later evolutions.

But that is NOT all. There are more tricks here. Let's look at what happens when you evolve a 12 candy critter. First, you get back 1 candy for the evolve (so its now cost you 11) and if you convert the second tier into a candy via Transfer then you get down to 10 candy per. To get 10 candy, you have to catch 3 Pokemon which gives you 9 candy, and convert 2 of them, which gets you to 11. So for every 3 catches you can get a 1k evolve under a lucky egg.

In our next tier of 25 candy you have the Rattata. This is the only guy in this tier. Perhaps in other areas/regions some of the other 25 candy Pokemon are common, but not for me in either New York or Seattle areas. You can usually get 4-8 Rattata evolves in a round helping you to get to that 60-70 golden zone.

The last tier is the 50 candy tier and this contains Spearow and Zubat Pokemon. Again, there are many other Pokemon in this 50 candy tier, but they are not very common in my experience and so aren't as interesting.

The last step is to build yourself a spreadsheet. Mine looks something like the following:

Evolutions Computation Table
Name Count Candy Candy To Level Evolves Next Evolve Experience
Abra 2 18 25 0 7 0
Bellsprout 1 22 25 0 3 0
Bulbasaur 2 9 25 0 16 0
Caterpie 4 60 12 5 12 2500
Clefairy 3 63 50 1 37 500

I plot how many I have, how many candies, how many candy to level and then compute a simple conversion that does not take into account the re-evolutions that I get from cashing in. I just do that in my head, but you could clearly put it into the calculations itself. You sum up the Evolves column and when it hits your target you go.

Trick #1 - Let Transfers help your Next Level - Try not to count transfer candy since it takes time. Instead save that for your next evolution set. You may already be up to 10 evolves into your next power leveling session if you do it right.

Trick #2 - Cash Out Tier 2's - Once you have evolved your Metapod and your Kakuna, don't even bother anymore. Just cash them in directly. This is how you get to the 10 candy per evolution level and get some super fast turnarounds on your next power leveling session.

Trick #3 - Save your Discoveries - If you can save your discoveries. In the beginning of the game, this is about 60-80k worth of extra experience for you. If you do it right, you could go from level 5 to 10 in one go, turn around in another day and go from 10 to 15 using that extra experience points from logging to your Pokedex.

Trick #4 - Do Discoveries First - You never know if the game is going to give you a hard time or crash. So do your discoveries early in the process. Then save your bulk evolves until the end and do as many as you can until your time runs out.

Your final strategy will probably have you combining these in some way. For instance, to get more critters to evolve you might spend some cash on lures. Maybe you save the lucky eggs for just the evolve stage or maybe you splurge and use it on both. The ROI on a lucky egg is clearly the highest when doing evolves. Its only about 10% effective when doing catching, but if you have the spares that might be okay. Also using larger IAP purchases and buying in bulk can help drive the prices down.

Gym Strategies

In the beginning gyms are a huge waste of time but there are some things you an do to optimize your time spent and rewards when working with gyms. I'll tackle gyms in 3 ways. First, attacking them, then defending them, and finally blitzing gyms for more Poke Coin.

Attack Gyms
When attacking gyms it is not critical that you beat every tier. You only need to beat a single tier to drive the gym's reputation down. You do get more incremental value each time you beat another level. This will mean more experience points (slightly more) but also a high reputation loss for the gym. The only critical thing is that you beat the first guy otherwise you won't lower the gyms reputation at all.

Optimize for fighting the first guy in the gym and once you beat him, feel free to leave. you'll weaken the gym, get 150 experience points and be able to repeat. But this isn't it. You also want to optimize your item usage. I bet you have more revives than anything else. So it can be a strategy to try and use them.

Trick #1 - Do the Next Tier or Die Trying! - If you get lucky you'll beat the next level and get more experience points, but if you die you can use a Revive to get half your health back and save yourself on potions. Death is NOT the end of a Pokemon!

Once you beat a gym, don't bother putting a Pokemon in there. You don't get anything for holding onto gems normally. There is an exception, which I'll talk about later in blitzing gyms.

Trick #2 - Don't Trust the Auto Select - Seriously it is really bad. Pick a Pokemon you think is going to be good and learn the strengths and weaknesses. You'll be much happier. They almost never pick my Vaporeon but yet I can destroy nearly any gym with it.

Defend Gyms
Don't do it. Don't defend. But that doesn't mean you can't buff them up to the next level. By fighting you can get up to 500 reputation per win to help level up the gym. To go along with that you'll get about 1/10th in the form of experience points. So a single battle can net you 50 experience points and 500 gym reputation assuming you know what you are doing.

To get the max out of a gym buff, attack with a Pokemon which is lower level than the one you are going to fight against. If you win at a lower CP value, then you get 500 whereas if you have even 1 CP more you get 100. That's a big difference. You could technically try to right with a Pokemon lower than say the second guy in the gym and beat both the first and second guy and still get 100+500 reputation for your gym, but the more levels you go through the harder it will be since you'll lose a lot of health along the way.

Trick #3 - Counter the Lowest Guy in the Gym with a Lower Guy - A quick and dirty 500 reputation to buff the gym and get it to the next level and 50 experience points to you for helping out your gym.

If you feel like you have to put a guy in the gym, then put a Pokemon you don't like to use. Since they'll be trapped in the gym until someone beats them. You don't want to lose your favorite Pokemon all day long if you plan on attacking other gyms.

Blitz Gyms
There is a special feature in the shop that allows you to get Poke Coin based on the number of gyms that you re defending. It took me a long time to find this feature, but after surfing some forums I found and realized its existence, tested it out, and yep it totally works. You can get Poke Coin from your gyms every 21 hours or once per day (the three hours is a grace period that allows you to not have to do it at exactly the same time every day, which is very nice).

In the images you can see a Collect Now! button at the top of the shop. And it has a shield with a number. This is the number of gyms you are currently defending. Since defending a gym hours before you want to cash out would probably result in you losing the gym by the time your cash out came by the strategy here is to go blitz gyms and then cash out immediately. This is surprisingly tricky with so many people playing so here are the tricks you need to know.

First and foremost gyms your team already owns are safer but take longer to put your Pokemon in. So look for gyms that have fewer Pokemon than levels and immediately insert yourself into those gyms.

Trick #1 - Load your Pokemon into your Team's Gyms when they don't have enough defenders.

The next step is to boost your own gyms that don't have any empty slots. This takes a while. So use the defense strategy above to get 500 reputation each time and boost that gym and claim your throne.

Trick #2 - Boost existing Gyms to Add a Slot

Finally, you'll need to go on the offensive and take out others gyms. This is usually a quick thing to do compared to boosting your own gyms which is why you do it last. It is also likely to go noticed and so you can use this as a strategy to avoid having the gyms retaken. Newly taken gyms are very weak with only your single Pokemon in there.

You could use some friends to do this and it would go much faster. Remember, this is a social game and friends are a good thing to have when you need to take out a high level gym or want to boost a gym.

Trick #3 - Route Planning and the Drive By

The last trick is use a car. Plan a route and do a drive by. My neighborhood has 7 gyms in a sequence that I can drive in the morning to get up to 7 shields before I cash in. I got up to 5 before I noticed someone attacking one of the gyms I was defending so I had to cash out earlier. A good route can get you 5-10 gyms in 10-20 minutes which is just fast enough to work so you have time to cash out.

No comments:

Post a Comment