Pokémon Go: Gym Battles!

In the last blog post, we talked briefly about the battle system. In this post, I want to dive a little deeper into it. We’ll talk about how it works, how the designer’s messaging to the player is displayed, and the pros and cons of how this battle system works. In the interest of brevity, we’ll be discussing pokémon locations in the next post. I’m trying to shorten these just a little bit. If you haven’t read my broad overview of Pokémon GO, I recommend checking it out first. It can be found HERE. Without any further ado, let’s dive into the battle system.

Very brief review from last week’s post:

·      Player takes six pokémon into opposing teams’ gyms.

·      Player takes one pokémon into their team’s gym.

·      Pokémon strengths and weaknesses have an effect on damage received and damage output.

·      Concept of CP is similar to a pokémon’s level from the original games.

Battle:

Now we’re in the battle, our six pokémon are prepped and ready to go. The battle begins.

The player has a few different options:

·      Tap the Screen: Weak fast attack

·      Tap and hold the screen: Slow very powerful attack

·      Swipe the screen: Dodge attacks

These controls really help Pokémon Go’s battle system to be successful. Because they are built around mobile devices, using inputs that most players already understand, anyone can play and enjoy the gym battles.

To see what a battle is supposed to look like, I recommend checking out GameXplain’s video:

You'll notice that when Raticate would attack, the screen would have yellow flashes around the boarder of the screen.

This Gif image was taken from the above GameXplain video.

It also would lunge forward immediately after the flash. The yellow flash messages to the player to swipe to dodge. The Raticate lunging forward is when the actual attack hits. Although these are only on the screen for a split second, they are broadcasted for the player. This allows the player to dodge. Unfortunately, that’s it. The enemy pokémon can’t dodge the player’s attacks or even move.

Let’s take a look at the flow of how a battle is suppose to work:

Chart made with Lucidchart

As you can see, the player is constantly watching the enemy attack and responding to them to minimize the damage against the player’s pokémon. The best Pokémon Go players follow this flow and are able to take down gyms that are considerably more powerful, because they use their skill to compensate for their weaker pokémon.

Now that we’ve taken a look at how the battles are supposed to work, let’s take a look at the flow of how 99.9% of players battle in Pokémon go:

You’ll notice that players don’t swipe to dodge or use the more powerful attack.

Why don’t players dodge or use more powerful attacks?

Most gyms I’ve seen will have maybe three or four pokémon in them. So going in, I’m at an advantage because I’ve got two more pokémon than the gym. I can simply overpower them by pure numbers. The other reason is that I can attack so quickly that I can take out their pokémon typically before mine even hits half. The slow attack makes me vulnerable for a few seconds, which almost guarantees that I’ll take a hit. Why would I use an attack that does forty damage every four seconds, when I can dish out eighty plus damage in the same amount of time by simply tapping the screen as quickly as possible?

Additionally, the AI always follows the same pattern:

·      Attack with a weak/quick attack every X seconds

o   If pokémon falls under one-third health, use slow/strong attack every X seconds.

Usually I can eliminate that pokémon before they get their strong attack out. And even if I can’t, it won’t last much longer because it has no way of avoiding my attacks.

While I don’t think the designers intended to have a shallow battle system, it seems as if it is due to how players play the game. The only way I can think of to fix this is to create a cool down for player attacks. This would force the players to actually dodge the opposing pokémon and think more strategically about combat. The other way to fix it would be to either force players to only have the same number of pokémon as the gym, or make it even easier for teams to fill up their gyms with six pokémon. These tweaks would even the battlefield a little bit more and require the player to have a little bit more skill to take a gym down rather than a fast tapping finger.

For the next post, we’ll be talking about the pokémon spawn locations. I know there were some requests for me to rip on the game due to the absolute terrible server issues, which nullify the point of the designer’s messaging in place. But as that is technically not part of the game’s design and actually a bug, so I’m going to leave it alone. I hope you enjoyed this post.

I’ll see you next time,

Scott