Monday, February 8, 2016

Diving Into Pokemon GO - Part 1: The Data

Hey! What's ongoing on out there?! Thanks for stopping by. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a Pokemon game fanboy. I started off on Pokemon Blue, and it was really the first game that ever made feel like I was on my journey. And because of that the Pokemon games have always held a special place in my heart. Needless to say, after the debut Pokemon GO announcement, I've been anxiously awaiting it's release. With many sources speculating on a February release, I figured now is a good time to see what conclusions can be drawn from the whole of publicly available information. This will be a 2 part project. This post will be a collection and summary of available information, and Part 2 will be the analysis, speculation, and conclusions.

Background Information:
All of the significant background information regarding the concept and history can be found in the following press conference. It's long, but there is TLDR under the video:

TLDR: Pokemon GO is the brainchild of Satoru Iwata of Nintendo and Tsunekazu Ishihara of The Pokemon Company. Originally conceptualized in 2013, the idea was to bring Pokemon the game into the real world via augmented reality on a mobile platform. At some point Niantic was tapped to provide the real world mapping and mobile platform development, as they have experience doing this in their game Ingress. Nintendo was tapped for the development of the Pokemon GO Plus; a bluetooth enabled device to be worn around the neck or wrist. It is equipped with an LED and motor. It will be used to send players notifications, when they are not in app. The game will be free to play, and is expected to have an early 2016 release. Also there was a mention of possibly marrying, future generations of the DS games with Pokemon GO.

During the above video the following trailer was shown. Go ahead and watch it, and I'll post some observations under the video:

  • From the first scene we can tell that players will receive alerts regarding the location of wild Pokemon with directions. 
  • If you pause the video at 26 seconds, you'll see that the alert states "Wild Pokemon" and shows a distance and direction of travel, but you can also see that there appears to be a silhouette of a Pikachu. 
  • When the video continues to 30 seconds, we can see that this player is being directed to a location named Minato-ku in Tokyo, Japan (here's the Wiki page). 
  • At 33 seconds it appears that a player is alerted to the existence of a nearby Pokemon via the Pokemon GO Plus device. If you listen closely, you'll hear a chiming.
  • Before the 1 minute mark we see three first gen Pokemon, all with what appears to be HP bars and level listed. 
  • We also see that there are items available (assumed to be gathered through microtransactions). Multiple Pokeballs are shown and a Honey. 
  • Interesting point though, it does not appear that any of the players have to battle any of the wild Pokemon before successfully catching them.
  • At 1:06 into the video, a trade is shown. It is assumed to be via bluetooth or NFC due to proximity of the players and the animation showing a direct swap.
  • At 1:16 it appears that one player launches an unprovoked attack (not a challenge)
  • By 1:35 it appears that a group of trainers have challenged another group to a battle.
  • Around the 2 minute mark we are introduced to a timed "event/ boss battle". It appears that multiple trainers are facing off against Mewtwo.
  • At the end of the battle, there is a congratulatory message is displayed on a large screen stating that Mewtwo was captured. 

Niantic Interview With Gamesbeat:
I've pulled down several relevant details unveiled in a Gamesbeat sit down interview with Niantec's John Hanke; CEO and Mike Quigley; Chief Marketing Officer, and will be posting them directly below. The full interview and article is here.

"GamesBeat: I’m curious about what you think of mapping Pokémon onto this engine where location is such a big advantage. Location can also be a challenge or disadvantage in some other ways, though. In some past location-based games, if there’s not enough players in an area, they’re not really socially connected. If you have to travel very far to find something, is it really worth doing?

Hanke: We’ve learned a lot on those fronts with Ingress. Even if you’re in a small town — I grew up in a town of 1,000 people in Texas. We had that as a design goal. If we’re going to build a game that works with location, it has to be fun for people anywhere to play, in small towns as well as San Francisco. If we designed something that only worked in San Francisco, it wouldn’t be a real success. We wanted it to work globally..."

"GamesBeat: How do you plan to handle the distribution of different items and things in the game?

Hanke: Our goal is to make it so you can walk out of the house and within five minutes, you can find Pokémon. It may not be the most rare Pokémon in the world, but there’ll be a population of Pokémon living near all our players. Gyms will be a bit more rare. You want to find gyms so you can level up your Pokémon and battle there, so it will take a little more effort to get there.
Pokémon will live in different parts of the world depending on what type of Pokémon they are. Water Pokémon will live near the water. It may be that certain Pokémon will only exist in certain parts of the world. Very rare Pokémon may exist in very few places. But you can trade. If you live in a place with lots of water Pokémon and you come to an event — we have these Ingress events that are getting bigger and bigger. We’ll have our biggest weekend ever on Saturday.
We’ll have events for Pokémon as well. Those are competitive, but they can also be places to trade stuff with other players. Pokémon trading is going to be huge. You can’t get all of them by yourself. If you want all of them you’ll have to trade with other players. Or you have to be someone who takes time off work and travels the world for a year. There may be people who do that."

"GamesBeat: Nintendo also wants to do their own unique device, right?

Hanke: The Pokémon Go Plus, yeah.

GamesBeat: At the same time they’re racing into mobile, they have their own dedicated hardware.

Hanke: It’s a nice way to take a step in the mobile ecosystem for them. That came out of two influences. One was a learning from Ingress. We wanted to give people a way to play the game where you didn’t necessarily have to take your phone out and interact with the UX. Part of the idea of the game is, you’re outside and you can see beautiful things. If you’re always staring at your phone, you’re not seeing the world around you.
We had brainstormed this idea. Why not have a little device that buzzes when you’re near something important? You can interact with it in some subtle way, and then later on you can open up your app or your tablet and you see, “Oh, I got this or did that.” That was one of the influences.
The other was, imagine that a parent is playing with a kid and they want to give the kid a device to interact with rather than handing over the phone. I’m often handing my phone to my kid, because he’s bored or whatever. But the idea is you can give them the Pokémon Go Plus device. It vibrates and flashes when you’re near Pokémon. When they press a button in a certain sequence they capture it. Then, later on, you can look at it together on your phone or tablet.

GamesBeat: The functionality is pretty much the same as you’d do with your phone?

Hanke: It’s more limited, but it’s heads-up gameplay. I can show you the design prototype. It’s very slightly bigger, a bit heavier, but this is pretty much the size of it. It comes with a bracelet so you can wear it like a wrist device. It’s Fitbit-ish in terms of size. Battery lasts a long time. You don’t have to worry about charging all the time. This is a multicolor LED and button. You’ll notice that it’s the Google Map pen with the Pokeball shape and color fused together. You can imagine kids going to school with this on their backpack."

Pokemon Superbowl Commercial:

I reviewed the commercial several times, trying to tease out any extra info. However, it appears to be dedicated marketing info, with lots of hidden references to Pokemon, but no obvious easter eggs to give us anymore details about GO.

 The Number of Catchable Pokemon:
*!Warning Unable To Verify Source!*
Sever outlets are reporting that all 721 Pokemon will be available. I have been unable to verify the original source of this data. It is being notated as an anomalous data point until verified.

Niantic Will Demo Pokemon GO at GDC (Game Developer Conference):
According to an announcement on GDC's site John Hanke of Niantic, will be demoing Pokemon GO during a session titled, "Catch 'Em All: Pokemon GO and Real World Gaming". No Date or time details have been released yet, but we know that the session will take place during the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit. The following has been directly pulled from the announcement:

"Over the last three years, Niantic, Inc. has been defining the genre of Real World gaming, using smartphones and tablets to connect the digital world to the physical world. Niantic's newest game, Pokemon GO, ups the challenge of real world gaming design, taking a beloved franchise and setting its hundreds of brightly-colored monsters loose across the globe, adding a new Bluetooth wearable device created by Nintendo to the mix. Join Niantic founder and CEO John Hanke as he discusses how the company has developed a unique vision for delivering a mobile Pokemon experience that gets would-be trainers into the outdoors.

Attendees will get a first-hand, in-depth look at how players are interacting and exploring the world with one another through Pokemon GO, the collaborative approach to design and development for the game and the next evolution of augmented reality and real-world mobile gameplay experiences."

If I missed anything, let me know so I can get it added. Part 2 will be releasing later. Please make sure to follow on social media. Especially Twitter as all new posts are pushed there as soon as they are published. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my "2016 Make It Or Break It For Nintendo?" series Part 3 scheduled for later this year. Thanks for stopping by again. And as always, I will see you later.

-Chali Baicunn