I hopped on the Pokemon Go bandwagon primarily because of its mass appeal. I saw a lot of people at work talk about it in social media and I figured that it would make for a good conversation topic and would be something that I’d have in common with them. And it was – I was able to engage some people who I’d normally have no reason to talk with in Pokemon Go chitchat.
The game’s popularity has died down but I’m still playing Pokemon Go because of its accessible gameplay. The concept of Pokemon Go is simple – whenever you go out into the real world, you have the chance to encounter and catch different kinds of Pokemon. The game also has some basic battling mechanics, but it’s the collecting aspect of Pokemon Go that got me hooked.
In real life, my work requires that I regularly visit three offices, each in different locations. The idea of encountering new Pokemon breeds whenever I went to a different office or took a different route added a bit of fun to my regular travels and even gave me something extra to do whenever my girlfriend and I went out. As time went on, I started to catch more Pokemon breeds and filled out my Pokedex. That meant that I encountered fewer and fewer new breeds, but that was part of how the game was designed so I didn’t mind.
One complaint that I heard from friends who quit the game was Pokemon Go’s repetitiveness – there was a time when 90% of the Pokemon that you’d encounter would have been a Rattata or a Pidgey or a Spearow or a Zubat. Yes, I didn’t mind all those repeats – once I started to catch more and more Pokemon, I looked into the competitive aspect of the game and started battling at different Gyms. All the repeat Pokemon still had some value to me as I obtained Stardusts from them – in-game resources that were needed for making my battling Pokemon stronger. (This was recently remedied by Niantic when they reduced the Pidgey/Rattata spawn rate and replaced them with other common Pokemon).
I also didn’t mind the poor tracking functionalities that Pokemon Go had – I was happy with catching whatever Pokemon I encountered and considered it a bonus whenever I happened upon a rare or special Pokemon. And all that repetitiveness was further alleviated when Niantic ran their Halloween special event, helping me get that elusive “register 100 Pokemon” in-game achievement.
Despite all the neat updates that Niantic released/implemented, there’s one kind of update that I’m quite salty about – the implementation of speed limits. Pokemon Go uses GPS to track your location and uses the distance that you travel for its egg hatching and buddy Pokemon walking mechanics. Basically, you can obtain Pokemon eggs and place them in an incubator; these will hatch once you’ve travelled a specific distance depending on the egg (there are 2 KM, 5 KM, and 10 KM eggs). Also, you can get candies (needed for evolving and upgrading Pokemon) in a similar fashion by assigning buddy Pokemon.
I’m not sure if there were speed limits before, but around September of this year keen Pokemon Go players noted that the game stopped counting your travel distance for these mechanics whenever you were moving faster than 13.5 KM/hour. I’m not exactly sure why this speed limit was imposed; walking your Pokemon buddy and hatching your Pokemon eggs were passive activities – you didn’t need to check your app and can focus on your driving/biking. This restriction made sense – you needed to earn these bonuses through walking. I also didn’t mind this change since the core gameplay of Pokemon Go wasn’t affected. Until recently, that is.
Some time in October, Pokemon Go stopped showing Pokemon encounters any time you were travelling faster than 30 mph. Some time this month, Pokestops stopped giving you items as well whenever you were travelling fast. I understand why Niantic did this – they probably had drivers in mind and they probably wanted to prevent any Pokemon Go-related traffic accidents.
But that’s my beef with this speed limit update – I travel a lot but I don’t drive, and yet my gameplay experience is negatively affected because of irresponsible drivers who can’t stop themselves from playing the game while they’re driving. Like I said, most of the enjoyment that I’m getting from Pokemon Go is through encountering and catching Pokemon on my daily travels and that’s been reduced greatly thanks to the implemented speed limit.
Nowadays, I’m still able to catch Pokemon whenever the vehicle that I’m riding slows down or stops, but the Pokestop limitation hit me really hard. Unlike Pokemon which can spawn anywhere, Pokestops are fixed and most of the Pokestops that I come across aren’t on intersections or areas wherein vehicles would stop or slow down. Before the speed limit update I always had a full bag of items and I never ran out of Poke Balls (items for catching Pokemon). After the update, I’ve never had more than 300 items in my bag at a time. I’ve started to skip on catching a few common Pokemon because I didn’t want to run out of Poke Balls – I wanted to save them for Pokemon that I really wanted to catch.
I’m not alone. I’ve talked with several Pokemon Go-playing friends and they share the same sentiments. We play Pokemon Go because it was an accessible game and we didn’t have to go out of our way just to play it. After the update, we’re not catching as many Pokemon as before. I spend most of my trips looking at my trainer walk fast across the map, having very few encounters and almost all Pokestops rendered useless.
Going back to the probable reason for the update – I’d like to think that avoiding traffic accidents would be a good reason to restrict gameplay, but playing Pokemon Go is not the only thing that can cause accidents. Mobile phone service providers don’t restrict drivers from being able to send text messages or have phone conversations whenever they’re going too fast, so why should Niantic have that restriction? Aren’t the in-game warnings enough to absolve Niantic/Pokemon Go from any blame? If someone gets into an accident because he/she was driving and texting at the same time, we don’t necessarily blame the mobile service provider so why would we blame Pokemon Go?
I think having a speed limit on egg hatching and walking your buddy Pokemon makes sense, but not allowing people on fast moving vehicles to catch Pokemon and obtain items definitely reduced the game’s accessibility. Thankfully, I have yet to completely run out of items and I’m still able to catch Pokemon during stops. I hope this is the worst of the gameplay restrictions because this almost made me quit the game entirely.
Did you feel the speed limit restrictions that were recently implemented? How did it affect your Pokemon Go experience? Let us know by leaving a comment or two below!