Niantic announced Wednesday that it’s planning to test a new raft of “minor gameplay adjustments” for Pokémon Go over the next few months. Among them, at long last, there are plans to improve the experience for new players starting the game today.
“We continually strive to improve the Pokémon GO experience,” say Niantic, to the silent sniggers of anyone who’s spent any time fighting against the mobile game, and its myriad terrible decisions. However, on this occasion it seems they’re not prefacing an obviously awful idea, but rather some quality-of-life improvements for the enormously successful game.
The list of potential changes, which will be tested “in certain parts of the world,” is as follows:
- Nickname suggestions for new Trainers
- An expanded set of Trainer Tips
- New PokéStop functionalities
- Egg hatch updates, including the option to skip the hatch animation
- A Special Research story that introduces new Trainers to the world of Pokémon GO
Those intriguing “New PokéStop functionalities” are, frustratingly, unexplained, but the rest is very welcome news. Let’s break them down, in the wrong order.
Egg hatch animations are the outlier here, and good heavens, at last. Anyone who’s spent any time with the game will know the infuriating experience of trying to do something timely, right at the moment when your last footstep has triggered the hatching of a clutch of eggs. You then get stuck in a series of unavoidable, unskippable lengthy animations, after which whatever raid you were about to enter, or rare monster you were about to catch, is long gone. Being able to skip those will be great, but not as great as just being able to delay the whole process until you’re ready. That please, Niantic. That.
The remaining three entries are aimed at improving the experience for new players, and as someone who struggled through learning the game’s insane tangle of ropes just last year, I’m extremely familiar with what a dreadful mess it’s in right now.
Nickname suggestions are unexciting but useful. With well over a billion downloads, it’s clearly getting trickier to find a unique set of letters and numbers that don’t look like a suggested password, so it’s helpful that it won’t make you keep guessing and failing.
The expanded set of Trainer Tips seems a much more immediately vital inclusion. They’ve already started appearing on the loading screen in the last few days, you may have noticed. A couple of days ago I was told, “Spin throws increase your chance of catching a Pokémon,” just about 14 months too late. Although it mostly reminds me of my bewilderment about what a “spin throw” was, the first time a challenge demanded one of me. Spin how? Spin what? It didn’t care to mention. (I’m super-good at them now, though!) Just basic information like this, being demonstrated to the player from the very beginning, would be so helpful.
Which is given greater hope by the vaguely described new Special Research story, “that introduces new Trainers to the world of Pokémon GO.” While the game already has a bunch of early quest chains that are intended to set you on the path, they’re currently mostly aimed at trying to get you hooked onto all the paid-for elements of the game, and woefully fail to explain swathes of what people actually need to know when starting out. So if this can address this in a useful, non-profit-focused way, that’d be a huge step forward.
Niantic intends to roll out these features to all players should they work as intended during their testing. In the meantime, keep an eye out for any changes with PokéStops, and let us know what they are!