GOing World at Pokemon GO Fest 2020

In 2019, 300,000 folks descended upon parks in Chicago, U.S.; Dortmund, Germany; and Yokohama, Japan, telephones in hand, to discover mannequin environments, socialize in pop-up lounges, and most significantly, catch tons of of digital Pokemon. This was Pokemon GO Fest, a four-day lengthy celebration of Niantic’s hit AR cell recreation that maintains a devoted neighborhood worldwide.

2019 was Niantic’s third Pokemon GO Fest and the primary to happen in a number of cities. What the unique plan was for 2020’s occasion, we’ll by no means know, however it’s secure to say Niantic wasn’t anticipating {that a} world pandemic would rework their three-city occasion into a very world, anywhere-in-the-world, ground-up reimagining of their greatest celebration ever.

Pokemon GO Fest 2020 units up an odd tug-o’-war between a recreation that’s constructed round social interplay at its core, and a sequence of sensible however hastily implemented changes designed to mediate that core interaction. I participated on this 12 months’s festivities from July 25–26, and I got here away with some ideas on what labored and what didn’t.

That is how social Pokemon GO Fest was final 12 months.

Digital Workforce Lounge

Earlier occasions featured crew lounges for Pokemon GO’s three joinable factions: Mystic, Intuition, and Valor. These lounges have been central hubs throughout the in-person occasion, however this 12 months, a digital web-based crew lounge changed the large coloured tents. The digital lounge was meant to be a spot to attach with different gamers and catch livestreams, however on the finish of the day, a webpage that requires you to shut the sport doesn’t really feel very similar to one thing value doing if you’re out catching Pokemon.

I discovered myself excited to entry the digital lounge to tune in to the kickoff livestreams that includes Niantic CEO John Hanke and different senior builders, however after these ended, my curiosity within the digital lounge rapidly disappeared. Sadly, the extent of socializing with different crew members amounted to sharing Niantic-approved pictures. Its solely different objective was to view what Niantic referred to as livestreams, however have been actually pre-recorded YouTube movies that may very well be considered at any time.

Actual festivals have schedules, and since there was zero incentive to tune in to the displays as they occurred, they didn’t really feel very similar to they have been part of the pageant in any respect. There have been some fairly humorous interviews with Rian Johnson although (sure, Star Wars director Rian Johnson), in order that was cool.

That is how social Pokemon GO Fest was this 12 months.

Rotating Habitats

One factor I used to be most enthusiastic about earlier than the occasion was the concept of the rotating digital habitats. In earlier Go Fests, gamers acquired to discover small environments representing Pokemon habitats, the place sure Pokemon may very well be discovered. I used to be unhappy that one thing like this could be unimaginable throughout a digital GO Fest, however Niantic promised an fascinating various. Each hour, the sport would rotate digital habitats, so one hour the sport is likely to be within the fireplace habitat, spawning extra Charmanders and Tepigs, and the following hour it may very well be the water habitat the place you’d have the ability to discover extra Squirtles.

As a result of lots of the actions throughout the occasion required gamers to catch particular Pokemon, being conscious of the present and upcoming habitats was essential. Nonetheless, in actuality the sport offered little suggestions that habitats have been even a factor when you occurred to overlook the advertising and marketing.

One would suppose that the sport would graphically signify these altering habitats by, I don’t know, displaying a distinct background on the battle display screen, however no, the identical verdant inexperienced area is current it doesn’t matter what habitat you’re in. The one approach that the sport does talk the present habitat is within the colour if the confetti that’s constantly sprinkling down over the world map. It is fairly straightforward to imagine that the confetti is just a beauty component in celebration of Pokemon GO Fest, not something meant to speak essential gameplay. It wouldn’t even be so dangerous if all of the habitats have been as simple as fireplace, or water, however then you will have habitats like battle, and friendship. What colour confetti would you count on to signify these habitats? I nonetheless don’t know.

Even the crew lounge holds again this data. For such a closely touted characteristic, it was frustratingly misimplemented, a lot in order that I needed to depend on a fan weblog to get a considerably correct habitat rotation schedule.

Many gamers sported masks throughout Pokemon GO Fest.

A Social Sport

I believe the strangest factor about Pokemon GO Fest 2020 was that regardless of the entire modifications and options added to accommodate socially distant play, being considerably social remained nearly required to get essentially the most out of the occasion.

I used to be fortunate sufficient to spend the weekend taking part in with my girlfriend, which meant we had a blast stomping up and down our neighborhood collectively, largely because of the modifications that have been added to the sport since COVID-19 began and the brand new GO Fest storyline, analysis quests, and Pokemon. However ultimately there reached a degree the place continued success meant that discovering different actual gamers can be vastly useful. Analysis quests requiring the completion of raids, the exchanging of items, and the easy want to really feel like Go Fest wasn’t only a personal occasion for the 2 of us led us to considered one of our metropolis’s busiest gathering spots for gamers.

And immediately, the recollection of what was ever so particular about Pokemon GO within the first place got here again to us. We discovered a area stuffed with strangers forming teams to assist one another take down highly effective raids, turning into new pals to alternate items, telling tales in regards to the ones that acquired away, gawking at one another’s uncommon catches, and being a part of a small however passionate neighborhood.

Sadly, the realities of COVID solely made the second extra bittersweet. Donning our masks and conserving our distance, we acquired what we would have liked and rapidly left to proceed taking part in on our personal.

A coach finds a shiny Tangela.

By no means And not using a Aim

Regardless of Niantic fumbling among the GO Fest options, the core gameplay of Pokemon GO has by no means been extra enjoyable. Sometimes, it’s a recreation that hooks me for a number of hours a month till I run out of issues to do, however this weekend I discovered it arduous to place my cellphone down. I truly went and bought a 10,000/mAh battery on Saturday to make sure my cellphone might hold taking part in.

GO Fest 2020 launched a enjoyable string of analysis duties that relied on the rotating habitats, asking gamers to catch particular Pokemon—and there have been tons of latest Pokemon to catch. It felt like I used to be catching new Pokemon and getting shinies extra typically than I ever had earlier than, and with every success got here a want to catch the following uncommon shock. Regardless of the lackluster communication, the habitats did efficiently present a continuing number of new Pokemon to catch not less than.

The second half of the Go Fest gameplay expertise concerned Workforce Rocket, who has been current within the recreation for a while however performed a serious function within the weekend’s storyline. Workforce Rocket has been taking over random PokeStops and flying across the map in sizzling air balloons throughout the previous few weeks, offering coach battles and new rewards. Throughout GO Fest, the battle rewards and analysis quests for interacting with them has been elevated, resulting in a satisfying loop of duties to finish. Ultimately, the interaction of continually spawning new Pokemon, the inflow of Workforce Rocket grunts at each cease, and a bevy of analysis duties being accomplished each time I returned to the map display screen meant that there was nearly by no means a time I had nothing I wished to click on on. GO Fest was as enjoyable as the sport has ever been, and it even drove me to spend my very first {dollars} within the recreation within the type of some objects and bag upgrades.

If you do not have pals to play with, there’s at all times Sudowoodo.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Fortunately, maybe crucial a part of any Pokemon recreation is the catching of Pokemon, and this half GO Fest 2020 nailed it. The quantity of latest Pokemon to catch have been enjoyable, shocking, and various. The habitats gave gamers a continuously altering roster of Pokemon to come across. Workforce Rocket battles rewarded the gamers with distinctive catch alternatives and challenges. Plus, Pokemon gained from finishing analysis duties have been plentiful and highly effective, and the ultimate analysis reward of the pageant was a brand-new legendary addition to the sport.

Not each side of Pokemon GO Fest 2020 met my expectations, however I commend Niantic for all of the arduous work they’ve finished to transition Pokemon GO into the framework of social distancing. They’ve taken the problem of redesigning Pokemon GO Fest head on, and the consequence was an imperfect however enjoyable expertise. I believe a world GO Fest can be a tough characteristic to roll again if issues are again to regular subsequent 12 months. Going to Chicago for GO Fest just isn’t one thing I’d ever do, however having an excuse to go discover the neighborhood with some pals and have a novel expertise on the identical time is one thing that I might see myself doing for years to come back.

A lot of the event for this 12 months’s GO Fest might have solely began in earnest a number of months in the past, so lots of my points could also be labored out by the point one thing like this must occur once more. Most encouragingly, the issues that make Pokemon GO particular are nonetheless current, and I’m solely extra than ever to see what Niantic is ready to do for his or her subsequent occasion.

Did you take part in Pokemon GO Fest this 12 months? What did you consider it? Tell us within the feedback beneath!

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