Greetings dear readers, I admit that this is a somewhat shameless endeavor to pull some attention to the website, but it is irrefutable that Pokemon Go has seized the attention of the world (or at least the parts that were given early access). Interestingly enough, the game has an essentially non-existent tutorial, which gives me an opportunity to share what I have learned thus far. Consider this, if you will, Pokemon Go from a roleplayer's perspective.
What is Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go is an AR (augmented reality) mobile game available in select countries for most phones with GPS capability. It allows the player to place a filter over reality, experiencing the world around them as a pokemon adventure. It has some noteworthy differences from other games in the franchise, but maintains enough of the system that both newcomers and masters alike will find it enjoyable.
After creating your avatar, you will be introduced to the process of catching pokemon by Professor Willow as you choose to capture a bulbasaur, squirtle, or charmander. The game offers a simple explanation, but neglects the meat of the details. Pokemon will face you at varying distances, which require either longer or shorter swipes on the screen. They will also attempt to evade your throw, either by attacking the ball itself or dodging. Pokemon have varying degrees of difficulty to capture, which is indicated by a colored ring around the target. Green is easiest, then yellow, orange, and finally red for those near impossible captures. Unlike prior pokemon games, damaging your target is no longer an option. Instead, to make an easier catch, the player can toss a berry for the pokemon to eat.
The Perfect Throw
Let's talk about the targeting reticle for a second, as it conveys a lot of potential beyond just capture difficulty. As you hold the pokeball (finger placed on the screen but not yet swiped) the colored circle surrounding the pokemon will begin to decrease in size. After it reaches a minimum size, the circle will reset and begin to shrink again. Different throws offer an experience bonus that relate to this circle. A direct hit in a large circle is a "nice" throw, which offers an extra 10exp, hit in a medium sized circle is a "great" throw worth 50 exp, and a hit in a miniscule circle is an "excellent" throw worth 100 exp. This is one of the best ways to increase your experience gain in the game.
Levels and Leveling
Pokemon Go deviates from the traditional games in many ways, levels being the most obvious. Firstly, you as a trainer have a level. This impacts the CP (combat potential) of the pokemon you find in the wild, maximum potential CP of the pokemon in your team, and the items you have access to. Secondly, Pokemon themselves no longer have a 1-100 level range or stats. Instead their strength is represented by Combat Potential, which is increased either through evolution, or through "powering up". Powering up CP costs a small amount of candy, one at low levels and increasing gradually, as well as a growing amount of stardust. Evolving costs a fixed amount of candy, typically 50 for single stage evolution (although magikarp costs a whopping 400) and also increase CP. Any power ups purchased prior to evolution transfer to the next stage, which can lead to some serious CP jumps in certain cases.
The Power of the Common 'Mon
A danger to most new players is the perceived need to get the most rare and exotic pokemon they can find. After all, it is our scythers and chanseys that separate us from youngster Joey and his infamous rattata, right? The answer might surprise you, so don't write off that pidgey just yet. Pokemon Go requires a specific candy for each pokemon for both leveling and evolution. This means that the most common pokemon are also the most easily leveled and evolved, as their candy is more abundant. Just like in the setting of the more traditional games, a trainer's strongest pokemon will be the ones that they are more likely to encounter in their daily lives. Not everyone gets to drop out of school at the age of ten to go on an adventure given to them by the resident scientist of the tiny town they just moved to, afterall. When you catch a pokemon, you get three candy called by the name of the most basic form of the pokemon. Transferring pokemon to professor Willow gets you one additional candy, but deletes the pokemon from your roster.
Let's say we caught two pidgeotto, we would obtain six pidgey candy, then on transferring one to the professor we would have seven. It would take fifty pidgey candy to evolve our pidgeotto to pidgeot, its final form. In a sense, I guess it does harken back to the rare candy stuffing days of yore.
Pokemon in the "Nearby" menu on the right side of the screen have tiny footprint icons, each footprint represents 100 meters going up to a total of 300 meters in radius. The greatest benefit of this is that it might finally get some Americans to start using metric units! Pokemon are specific to locations, what might be rare in some places are common in others, don't trust any "rarity chart" you might see online. Going near water tends to bring more water pokemon, duck parks in particular tend to have many psyduck and some variety of fish like magikarp or goldeen. There are six pokemon of the original 151 that are locked and cannot be found, these are Mew, Mewtwo, Moltres, Zapdos, Articuno, and Ditto. Any claims to have seen these are pure fabrication. Pokemon do not come to you very often, barring the use of lure modules and incense (which are items that specifically allow that to happen). Instead, if you want to find pokemon, you are going to need to walk around a bit.
Another way to find some rare pokemon is through hatching eggs. Eggs come in three varieties, 2 kilometer, 5 kilometer, and 10 kilometer, which are the distances one must walk or bike to hatch the eggs. I say walk and bike specifically because the game stops measuring if you are traveling faster than 20 kmh (12mph for those of us in the states). The different distances seem to offer different sets of pokemon, so be sure to open all three to find pokemon that might be uncommon or rare in your area.
Which Team Should I Join?
The three teams in Pokemon Go are the yellow team, Instinct, the blue team, Mystic, and the red team, Valor. Despite what rumors circulate on the internet, the teams are fairly even in distribution worldwide, though Instinct is behind the other two slightly. My advice would be to familiarize yourself with your daily routine and see what gyms tend to be controlled by specific teams and base your decision on that. At the end of the day, you can pick any team and have an enjoyable experience, it just means you might be fighting an opposing team to clear a gym of the enemy, instead of your own team to clear a spot for you in the gym.
The name of the game in combat is largely choosing the correct type to fight your opponent, some types resist others, and some do more damage to others. Each pokemon has two attacks, a basic and an advanced attack. The basic attack is executed by tapping the screen, while the advanced attack is done by holding your finger to the screen. You can also dodge advanced attacks by swiping left or right. Advanced attacks have a meter under your pokemon's health bar that must be full to perform advanced attacks, though some require less to be used than others. Keep your eye on your pokemon's types and moves and look for ones that suit how you like to play. Basic attacks range in power from 0 (splash) to 15, with higher being better, but sometimes slower. Best to try different attacks and see which you prefer using in fights.
Gyms are locations in the game that are contested between the three teams. You can store a pokemon in a friendly gym to help defend it. Doing so lets you redeem a defending bonus in the top right corner of the "Store" menu every 21 hours, getting 10 pokecoins and 500 stardust for each gym you influence. Gyms have their own levels, called "Prestige" and each rank represents one person capable of defending the gym. If you want a spot in the gym, you will either have to attack enemy gyms until their prestige reaches zero. This turns the gym into a neutral gym which you can then claim for your own team. Alternatively, you can train at friendly gyms, increasing the prestige until a new rank is reached and a spot opens up for you. If you are attacking a gym, you do not have to beat every pokemon in the gym, just one. Each pokemon defeated will lower prestige by an amount, if you are patient, you can beat one person at a time, knocking one out each time the prestige level drops, until the gym is taken. The noteworthy difference between attacking and training is that you can attack with a full team of six, where as you can only train with a single pokemon.
Pokemon Go and Roleplay
To be honest, there is really not much roleplay potential to go, at least not in a traditional sense. It does however add a layer of credence to the setting by showing why so many trainers used common pokemon. Pokemon has a couple of unofficial systems for pen and paper roleplay, as well as an unofficial mmorpg. As of this writing, we have forum users running pokemon pen and paper games, and are always looking for more. Still, if you have an idea for using Pokemon Go for roleplay, be sure to let us know here.
Please do not play Pokemon Go and drive, the game has built in measures against that being functional, it is reckless, dangerous to both you and others, and is being used to cast the game in a negative and undeserved light. Please also respect others, do not trespass on private property or disturb others if you are out late with a light. We all have to share this rocky ball of moss and water.