Pokemon Go Starter Guide

There are a lot of guides for Pokemon Go out there, but none of them are exactly helpful to people new to playing video games like Pokemon and other role playing games. So as a long time gamer with a decent amount of experience with MMORPGs and with the Pokemon franchise itself, I’m going to give you, the new trainer who is unfamiliar with RPG elements, Pokemon or Pokemon Go a few tips to make the most out of this amazing experience.

On Leveling

The number one focus of any player should be getting to as high a level as they possibly can in the shortest amount of time they possibly can.

Pokemon quality don’t really matter early on because they will be too weak to use for the end-game anyway.

Level up first

Leveling up comes with so many benefits when it comes to gameplay. A player’s level is directly related to the level, power and rarity of Pokemon they encounter. Needles to say, the higher the level, the stronger and rarer the Pokemon encountered in the “wild”.

According to some sources, Pokemon levels stop increasing by the time you reach level 30. So when you do reach level 30, that’s when you can start considering Pokemon quality because the Pokemon don’t get any stronger. Until then, keep playing with cards you’re dealt and keep finding new Pokemon instead of training the ones you have.

Evolve to Level up

The quickest way to gain experience for leveling up is through evolutions. Each time you evolve a Pidgey or Rattata, it’s 500xp instantly. Do the math and if you’ve caught 50 Pidgeys with each Pidgey giving you 3 Pidgey candy, at 12 Pidgey candy to evolve into a Pidgeotto, chances are you’ll be able to squeeze in 4 evolutions, meaning 2000xp.

Do this with a Lucky Egg on and that translates into 4000xp, a little more and you’re sure to level up.

Don’t bother evolving it into a Pidgeot just yet, often times second stage evolutions can be found in the “wild” anyway, and the chances are the moment you do find one, it will be stronger than any Pokemon you caught and evolved earlier because you caught them at a lower level.

Also note that evolving to second stage takes significantly more candies, Pidgey to Pidgeotto takes 12 candies but Pidgeotto to Pidgeot takes 50. Save up on those candy for when you hit level 30.

Don’t Power Up

Powering up a Pokemon all the way only to see that it’s kinda weak can be frustrating. I did the same for my Golduck and got its CP to 700+ only to, a day later, catch a Golduck with 800+ without being maxed out.

Unlike the main games, each Pokemon is even more unique in that its growth levels are drastically different and are unchangeable. As a trainer, your aim is not to see its current state but to consider its potential.

There are many programs online these days that can calculate Individual Values (IV). Unlike the IV’s of the console games, these are more vital to checking the competitive viability of each Pokemon. It determines in ranges the level and potential of each Pokemon.

Run your Pokemon through one of these IV calculators and you’ll find a field that describes maximum level. This is the level that your Pokemon will stop growing. Needless to say, a low level cap means low potential.

Even without an IV calculator you can see the potential of your Pokemon by the arc near the figure of its CP. The fuller the arc, the closer it is to being maxed out. You’ll also notice that the closer it is to being maxed, the more Star Dust is required to power it up.

From 200 Star Dust the power up cost reaches the thousands, so you’ll want to save your Star Dust for when it really matters and that’s when you’re sure of its potential.

Moving Incense/ Lures

It’s been said many times before, while Incense attracts Pokemon based on time, it also does the same based on distance traveled. That being the case, the best time to use Incense is on a 30-minute commute (not drive. Don’t play and drive). This way you’ll be spawning a Pokemon every 5-minutes and spawning another one for every 200 meters traveled. Doing this I managed to level up from level 3 to level 7 on one long commute catching all the Pokemon I could find.

The same trick applies to Lure Modules, however from a different perspective. Lure modules instantly spawn a Pokemon when you enter its range but take time to spawn a new one. The conventional idea is to just wait around for the next Pokemon to pop up. But if you’re in an area with multiple Pokestops that have Lure Modules on them, walk back and forth between them. You’re more likely to catch more Pokemon because the random encounter comes into play as well and you’re approximating the timing of the new spawn, giving you a bit of exercise between catches.

Plan Lucky Eggs

Lucky Eggs double the amount of xp you gain for 30 minutes. This is xp from ANYTHING. So when using a Lucky Egg, make sure you’re in position to do a lot of xp generating things in the next 30 minutes.

For example:

Maximize the number of evolutions you can trigger in that 30 minute span. If you’re evolving a Pokemon that you don’t yet have on your Pokedex, best do it while you have a Lucky Egg.

Evolutions give you 1000xp, new Pokemon entries give you another 500xp, so why wouldn’t you want to double them? And, the xp gained from new Pokedex entries can only be earned once in a gameplay, so why not maximize it?

Ideal scenario to trigger a Lucky Egg:

At the start of a long steady commute with Incubated Eggs about to hatch with several Pokemon ready to evolve while passing one Pokestop after another en route to take over a gym.

Desire sensor

Don’t tell the game what Pokemon you want to catch, it will not spawn that Pokemon if you do, just to spite you. Lol JK There’s not such thing.

Pick Team Instinct

Because that’s my team. Lol. #TeamInstinct

 

Well, here are just some ways I’ve found to maximize the training time spent on Pokemon Go. Do you have other tips to make training more efficient? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. Until then, GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!

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The Balance of Narrative

 

Pokemon players who have delved into the competitive scene are familiar with its common formats and the ensuing turmoil surrounding discussions about which is more “competitive”.

First there’s the officially recognized format, created by Pokemon creator Nintendo, hosted by the creators and for the sake of the creator Nintendo. Official VGC (Video Game Championship) format is played with doubles on a ban list that Nintendo publishes every year for the sole purpose of making a ban list. Before VGC ’15 special and legendary Pokemon were banned from competitive play, one of the contentions most players of the other format often make to discredit the “competitiveness” of this format.

 

On the other hand there are players who favor the format that made Pokemon famous, the singles format. For this, players turn to Smogon for a tier list which everyone follows via agreement. In this format there is no distinction between legendary, special and ordinary Pokemon. This is often the reason many tout this to be the more “competitive” format since it allows the use of legendaries and special Pokemon like Zapdos, Volcanion, Heatran and even Mew for as long as they qualify as OU (Over Used) tier Pokemon. On the other hand the format bans certain Pokemon based on perceived superiority in competitive play. Normal Pokemon like Blaziken, Aegislash and Greninja have been called up to the Uber tier after several suspect tests for supposedly breaking the meta of the game, making their use “uncompetitive”.

 

But with all the griping about competition, is one format more competitive than the other? Why doesn’t Nintendo adapt Smogon’s tier system in order to allow VGC participants more freedom to use less “broken” legendaries and special Pokemon? Why does Smogon’s tier list work?

 

Tier list

Nintendo hosts the yearly VGC for money. Duh? You have to compete using the latest Pokemon game, so yes it’s hosted for money. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing nor a non-competitive thing.

The Nintendo ban list consists of objectively marked Pokemon throughout the game. Simply put, any Pokemon considered Legendary and or Special in game is (was) prohibited from competitive play. One main distinction between these Legendary and Special Pokemon against regular Pokemon is the fact that in a single game of Pokemon you are allowed to catch them only once and they do not breed using the Pokemon Breeder.

This distinction is vital in that it’s the reason Nintendo doesn’t allow special and legendaries.

Any competitive player knows that there are two vital extra statistics to consider when team building, them being the Effort Values (EV) and Individual Values (IV), plus the variable of Natures, competitive players mix and match these stats and variables in order to maximize the potential of each Pokemon. EVs are pretty straight forward, ever since the 6th generation of Pokemon, the open secret was institutionalized in the game using the Super Training mechanic to show the EV’s gained by the Pokemon and individually increasing them through Super Training. Before this trainers had to seek specific Pokemon which gave out specific EVs and knock hundreds of them out, a laborious endeavor considering this mechanic existed as far back as the first generation.

IV’s on the other hand are a bit trickier. Through repetition, trial and error with the Pokemon breeder, Pokemon are assigned random IV’s and Natures, but through certain hold items, trainers can maintain some degree of control over how IV’s and Natures will transfer onto the Pokemon egg.

Here’s the even trickier part.

Want certain egg moves? Gotta breed from certain Pokemon in the same egg group.

Want certain hidden abilities? Gotta breed from a Pokemon with said hidden ability.

Want a shiny? Good luck.

All of this repetitiveness, trial and error and what not are part of the built in mechanics of the game. They require you to simply work within the rules of the game itself, not necessarily breaking the narrative.

But legendary, mythical and special Pokemon don’t work the same way. In a game you can only catch one Zapdos, Articuno or Moltres in the wild. There is only one Mewtwo available in the wild. And once caught, these Pokemon are incapable of breeding. But these Pokemon do have natures, EV’s and yes, even IV’s.

Many don’t realize it, but this is Game Freak’s way of regulating the uniqueness of these legendaries. While by design they are supposed to have base stats superior to normal Pokemon, they are not intended for competitive use because they were made to not be used competitively. Those that might be allowed in competitive play are nerfed through the limited IV’s and random natures. Meaning they are extra strong but more vulnerable than other Pokemon.

So what’s a competitive trainer to do in order to get a competitively viable Mewtwo?

One route trainers might take is what is known as “soft resetting”. This involves saving the game right before the Pokemon battle in which the trainer intends to catch said Pokemon, catching the said Pokemon, checking for the right nature, checking for the right IV’s and then resetting the console until desired nature and IV is achieved.

It’s a tedious task as the numbers are all 100% random and the chances of getting the right combination are slim.

While tedious and not within the confines of the game narrative, soft resetting is perfectly legal as it merely exploits the gaming function.

For the more shady trainers, third party accessories exist that can do all the Pokemon breeding in an instant. Commonly known as PowerSavers, these data re-writers are able to look into the game’s data assets and edit them with relative ease. This means the ability to change values such as natures, IV’s and even EV’s in an instant.

So you can see now where the legendary, mythical and special Pokemon benefit from this.

All a trainer has to do now is catch the Pokemon, run it through the value editor and turn it into the competitive legendary he desires. No randomness, no soft resetting, all competitive fun.

But this method is ILLEGAL. Nintendo and Gamefreak penalizes players who are caught using third party devices to manipulate game data, for good reason. Methods like this can give Pokemon moves, abilities and stats beyond those programmed by the developers giving them an unfair advantage.

This is where the difference in platforms matters between the Smogon and VGC formats.

Platforms

Remember that Smogon is often played on its own battle simulator, Showdown. Teams are built by choosing your Pokemon and entering the desired values for IV, EV and nature. No catching, training, breeding or any of the in-game things involved at all.

This means everyone is at an even playing field when it comes to access to “perfect” Pokemon, or those which have 6IV and the desired natures.

This lifts the shroud of exclusivity over the legendaries, making them just as accessible as any other Pokemon.

So when Smogon implements its tier list, it does so considering a purely theoretical scenario where everyone has equal access to every Pokemon in existence. This makes sense as Smogon claims itself to exist only for the competitive battles.

Showdown imagines itself to be in a scenario where it desires to be like a game of chess where variables are minimized. It also explains the criteria for banning certain moves such as One Hit Knock Out moves, Petal Dance and the Sleep Clause. To create an atmosphere which places each turn squarely at the hands of the trainer, they claim they are for increasing competitiveness.

This puts into perspective the stringency with which Smogon as a community goes through to ensure that no single strategy is able to dominate the playing field, because in their playing field, the Pokemon are for rent and every resource is available to everyone all the time.

Take out this ability to simply generate Pokemon in seconds and you get the VGC format where trainers are forced to trade, breed and train battle ready Pokemon either themselves or through others. Allowing third party devices to mingle and mangle the game is out of the question. Encouraging the practice of soft resetting or glitch exploitation is out of the question as well. So when GameFreak hosts tournaments, they host them under the impression that their balancing mechanism is already built-in to the game through the narrative and the mechanics that help to expound on that narrative.

When The Pokemon Company decided to allow the use of one legendary Pokemon per team in VGC ‘15, they did so expecting the built in randomness discussed earlier, because it would make sense. Legendaries which are the strongest in-game Pokemon would have a reduced role compared to perfectly bred battle-ready Pokemon, except the trainers will want any advantage they can get, which meant maximizing the stats either through glitching, exploits or third party devices, which beats the purpose.

 

Final words

 

The two most dominant formats are the way they are simply because they are designed with different intentions.

Smogon is based on a simulator setting where everything is at its theoretical best, on the other hand VGC continues to push the narrative of being the official tournament where trainers test their skill not only in battling but also in Pokemon breeding and training, even if many do cheat this process (not playing by the narrative rules is cheating).

Smogon creates a chess-like environment where you can pick up the board and play in an instant as long as you remember the pieces you play with, while VGC wants and expects you to take your trusty Pikachu or Zubat which you’ve had since the first gym or at least a descendant of that Pikachu or Zubat or at least a team of Pokemon which you spent time hatching and training, to the real world league for them to enter the real world hall of fame.

So the next time someone chides the VGC format for allowing the use of overpowered legendaries or special Pokemon which are 6IV and the right nature, be reminded that it’s not supposed to and that it’s the trainers who break the system to gain the advantage.

The same can be said of other games wherein mods or unofficial versions are purported to be “more competitive” than the official game. Game design is an important matter when it comes to any video game, narrative is part of that design, so are mechanics and gameplay balance. Rarely do franchises as big as Pokemon make design decisions that they don’t rack their brains over. If it’s there, it’s there for a reason.

It doesn’t become their fault anymore if people don’t play by the designed rules. When this happens, companies can either correct it or reject it. Neither is a better move than the other.

Which one is more competitive? It depends on how you define “competitive”. Ideally, Smogon cuts to the chase and sends trainers straight to the battles, making cheesy tactics also easy to pull off. It becomes a crucible for battle strategies where only the most formidable survive. VGC tests trainers every step of the way (if done according to design) which means more effort being put on the road to the VGC Championships.

Go with Smogon if you’re after a battle of wits. Go with the official VGC if being a Pokemon master means more than just battling.

 

Post Script Update:

As many people pointed out, certain legendaries were already allowed to be used as early as VGC ’15 and some even earlier. In VGC ’16, two “big” legendaries were allowed.

Assuring three perfect IV’s might be a sign that they may have been intended for competitive play, however the limit and randomness were meant to serve as a crutch toward what are inherently overpowered Pokemon.

The Smogon format is currently used by console players and Showdown also has a VGC format, however, the Smogon was designed with Showdown in mind. Yes, trainers do carry over the rules of Smogon onto their consoles as the console game is the execution of the theory learned in Showdown. It’s not a declaration that one format cannot and is not used on the other platform, rather a statement of which the format is designed for.

Both Smogon and VGC update rules regularly, however Smogon’s process makes the rule changes more gradual and less surprising to trainers. It also adds to the question of what makes a good competitive game. Should it change with the times or should it be consistent for the players to be familiar with the mechanics?

 

 

An Open Letter to Gaming Stores

Dear gaming stores not named Datablitz or iTech:

I love gaming. I have been a gamer longer than I can remember.

It was… well… an ordinary afternoon when I was little kid taking a nap with my favorite auntie who was rocking me to sleep. I don’t quite remember what it was, but for some reason, I had an urge to get up, walk to the other room where I found my siblings and my parents playing with a newly bought multi-tap my dad bought for our Super NES. It was the first time my siblings and I played together, and it was punctuated by the fact that we were playing a Tiny Tunes party game.

Back then, I had no control over what games we got. My dad used to get us cartridge after cartridge for our Family Computer before it finally gave out. Since Tony Commercial was just in front of Divisoria Mall he bought games from stores there and brought home titles like 1000 in 1, 50 in 1, Rickey House etc. Yes, they were filled to the brim with ROMs of Contra, Mappy, Battle City and what not, but you know, stores that sell video games, the times have changed but you sure haven’t.

Needless to say my dad doesn’t buy me games anymore. Even if he wanted to, the seedy stalls of Divisoria aren’t there anymore and the prices of games these days are too steep to take uncalculated risks on.

So if you were my dad and wanted to buy games, where would you go?

Why, to the video games section of every department store of course!

Yes you, Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us inside the SM Store or Robinsons Department Store. I know your attendants haven’t been there very long. Those short term contracts you offered them bite you in the back when they need to read the labels just to know the features of the items they are selling. But that’s okay, gamers like myself know to steer clear of you and your overpriced games.

But for the love of all things decent, please don’t have your sales persons recommend Grand Theft Auto for a mom shopping for her 9 year old kid. Also, please let them tinker around with the merchandise enough to know the differences between Pokemon Black and Pokemon White aside from their colors.

We get it, we aren’t your target market. We for whom these games are made are not the people you want to sell to. You’re aiming for the likes of my dad. Not exactly clueless but not invested enough to search elsewhere.

Sky high prices give parents a reason to scold their children about how expensive those games are. Knock-off consoles next to the real ones give them a “cheap” alternative to the ones that people actually want. They’ll probably never go back after realizing that they’ve been milked or that they’ve been duped, and they may hate gaming and gaming culture even more because of it. But of course you don’t care. They bought from you and you earned a quick buck anyway.

Oh, pseudo gaming stores, I haven’t forgotten about you.

Please don’t add the word “Games” to your store if your inventory is mostly karaoke machines with a few overpriced video games for decoration. That PlayStation 3 bundle has been on sale for maybe 3 or 4 years now? At Php15,000 no matter what bundles you throw in with it, it’s hardly a sale price. Oh, that’s right, your game consoles stopped moving ever since you were forced to stop offering jailbreak services.

Greenhills and maybe Divisoria or 168 Mall are where people expect to buy knock offs or get piracy hacks, not Robinson’s Place, one of the country’s biggest malls (and recently tourist hotspot apparently). But that’s how you view gaming, isn’t it? Not worth spending the money to buy new games for.

Yes, back in the Playstation 2 era I was buying pirated games too. I bought the Php100-200 discs that worked on my console simply because I didn’t know any better. Often time I ended up with games that glitched and froze, but for Php100 each, who could complain?

You see, stores that sell games, I don’t particularly dislike you. In fact, I probably have you to thank for making Datablitz’ prices easier to swallow. Then again, even when I was buying those pirated games from AstroVision and DataVenture way back when, that little yellow store was always there, a few stalls before Headway. It has always sold legitimate copies of games, it has never sold pirated games or offered jailbreaking services. Their 100% genuine guarantee has yet to be broken despite immense market pressure.

We bought our first PC game there, Age of Empires. It came in a rather big box with a rather big manual with some rather interesting art books. Had it not been for Datablitz, we may have never known what licensed software looked like.

So when a few years back news broke out that the CIDG had raided Datablitz stores for “pirated software” you could understand all the raised eyebrows anyone familiar with the gaming scene would have had at the time. Any other store and we may have believed it, but not Datablitz, one of the few stores that actually treated gamers like us with respect.

In the early 2000’s I was hard pressed to find a working copy of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages for the GameBoy Color. I didn’t know where legitimate copies could be found or what they looked like. Mixed up with non-genuine cartridges 10-year old me couldn’t tell the difference, and had it not been for the few stores that guaranteed us genuine copies, I would probably be too skeptical of doling out the thousands of pesos that today’s games cost.

In short, gaming stores, while the gaming industry has evolved far beyond the old models of the 1990’s, your business practices haven’t and continue to hurt gaming and the industry alike. The only reason I can think of allowing you to exist is to make Datablitz and other legit gaming stores look good. Everything from your pricing, your inventory and the people who we meet in the stores says a lot about who you are marketing them to. As of now, you aren’t marketing them to gamers, and that’s fine, but don’t prey on ignorance and naivite just to score a quick buck at the expense of tarnishing the gaming experience for everyone.

Nothing New with Josie Rizal

First of all, my Pinoy gamer siblings, CALM YOSELVES!

Ever since Namco Bandai first announced the addition of a playable character in Tekken 7 whose backstory includes hailing from the Philippines, Pinoys everywhere couldn’t help but create buzz around it. Some were happy, some excited, others opened a can of “Pinoy pride” while others met it with cynicism.

Josie Rizal, an obvious homage to Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, is a morena skinned lady wearing what seem to be a modified baro’t saya with a ribbon on her head. She fights with a combination of Arnis (a Filipino martial art) and kick boxing. Her short hair, long sandals and overall appearance don’t really scream “Pinoy” but that’s what the creative heads at Namco Bandai are giving us, so… Yay?

But before we go bonkers over being recognized as a race fit to be portrayed in an international video game franchise, remember that this isn’t the first time a video game character has hailed from the Philippines. Fans were quick to point out that Namco Bandai’s other fighting game franchise, Soul Calibur has already been sporting a Filipina since the second installment of the franchise which started in 1998 (We’re at Soul Calibur 5 now). GMA News was also quick to point out other video game characters with Filipino origins written into their backstory.

What many point out, however, is the way that Josie’s final product looks. There are no tell-tale signs to say she is Filipina save for some icons like the sun necklace and the red, blue and yellow of her costume. Even THIS isn’t new when it comes to Japanese character design.

Take Dhalsim from StreetFighter. He’s one of those characters introduced in the second StreetFighter game in order to give it an “Around the World” feel. Dhalsim’s back story is that he’s from India. No, Indians don’t look like that at all, but CAPCOM went with it anyway and not much was thought of it. T. Hawk also from StreetFighter is easily identified as Native American. Unlike with Dhalsom, CAPCOM, employed the use of easy signals to show the ethnicity of T. Hawk, face paint, tassles, a feather on his cap all scream about his character. Heck, even the name is a reference to his ethnicity. And then there’s Guile. CAPCOM just said, “Hey, let’s make an American character.” and so they made Guile. You fight him in the USA, he’s wearing an army fatigue and has a tattoo of the stars and stripes on his arm, so you know he’s American. But… why blonde and the huge hair?

Extra Credits did a video on character design and how not all uses of stereotypes are bad. What it boils down to is a respect for the culture being portrayed. While Josie’s character design is careful not to tread into insensitive stereotypes, the fear of offending a nation of people with easily hurt feelz has resulted in, well, a pretty generic character. But even then, this trend of designing bland Filipinos is not new to gaming.

In the movies, the Green Hornet’s sidekick was Filipino, a change made during WWII which had America and Japan declare war against one another and the Philippines was one of America’s allies. Nothing about him was Filipino except that declaration. Talim from Soul Calibur hails from somewhere in the Visayas. Pre-colonial Visayas is rich in icons and unique character, yet the result is… well… she’s a babaylan, so I guess the more fantasy-eque design can be forgiven. Other than the description, she doesn’t appear to be Filipina. The same cycle and treatment was simply given to Josie. Is it a problem? I wouldn’t think so. Is it an indication of a bigger problem? Definitely yes.

When we look through the slew of characters who hail from Japan, USA, Korea, Jamaica, Brazil or even Russia, by simply looking at them or watching how they fight, people easily see their ethnic origins. That’s because the game designers are familiar enough with these cultures and know how to where to place emphasis on them. A sumo, samurai, ninja, karateka or judo fighter immediately screams “Japan” the same way a G.I., blonde or boxer is for USA. Adding distinct fighting styles like Capoeira is a great allusion Brazilian origins the same way Wushu is to the Chinese. Then there are the stereotypes of flamboyant Spanish or European fencers and pirates that are a reflection of an image they have through literature. These distinct hints of culture and understanding thereof is missing with Filipinos. Game devs do not know what makes a Filipino a Filipino and have no plans to learn.

Right now, the most famous Filipino to the Japanese is a short playboy polyglot who so happened to be a doctor and our national hero. Trying to fit the image of Rizal into a fighting game seems ridiculous and it should, the man was better known for his pen than his sword. As Filipinos we know who are better models for fighting game characters, (Andres Bonifacio with his pistol and bolo, General Antonio Luna with his mighty mustache and saber, General Aguinaldo with his face on five peso coins) but the problem lies in getting others to know it. Game devs, like anyone who creates characters of foreign origins can only input what they know about that country and its culture. Maybe, just maybe, if we let Namco Bandai know what quirks can help Josie Rizal become more Filipina, they might reference the Philippines a lot more, opening up our colorful culture for the world to see (and play with).