Pokemon GO Developer Insights: The Highlights
Yesterday, the official Pokemon GO news page posted a rare break down of the development and implementation of the Team GO Rocket Invasion event that's been active in the game for the past several weeks.
The long blog post is full of tidbits about how everything came together, but here are a few highlights:
"We wanted to make PvE and PvP have a lower barrier to entry to players,” Tech Lead Manager Jake Jeffery says. We had a keen interest in making Pokémon GO’s battling system more accessible to Trainers who might not be as familiar with it. The type-based minigame for Charged Attacks rolling out at around the same time is no coincidence—the same team worked on both features! Replacing the tapping mechanic for Charged Attacks with a swiping gesture was also deliberately done to ensure players can more easily experience the battle mechanic.
The Philosophy of the Feature
Players have been looking for a feature like Team GO Rocket for quite some time now. When Niantic was designing the feature, they wanted it to keep "the same design philosophy as Pokemon GO: to encourage players to explore the world around them as they catch Pokemon".
There was also strong reasoning behind using the PvP battle system:
“We wanted to make PvE and PvP have a lower barrier to entry to players,” Tech Lead Manager Jake Jeffery says. We had a keen interest in making Pokémon GO’s battling system more accessible to Trainers who might not be as familiar with it. The type-based minigame for Charged Attacks rolling out at around the same time is no coincidence—the same team worked on both features! Replacing the tapping mechanic for Charged Attacks with a swiping gesture was also deliberately done to ensure players can more easily experience the battle mechanic.
An accessibility-friendly feature like the new Charged Attacks is very welcome, and this section above does a lot to confirm that Niantic is creating these features with the community in mind.
Adapting from the Main Series
As noted several times by the community, Shadow Pokemon have been around for years, most notably from the Pokemon Colosseum game on the Gamecube. After hearing about the feature, Niantic realized quickly that there's a lot of potential for connecting with Pokemon closely through purifying them. “This helps the Trainer remember their Pokémon’s journey!” said Feature Lead Evan Moran.
Adding NPCs to Pokemon GO was a labor of love. The "hundreds of lines of text" used to make the Team GO Rocket Grunts come alive was carefully crafted to help build the recognizable gang into the world of mobile Pokemon.
Testing the Waters
In the most interesting part of the blog post, Niantic has confirmed that the beginning of the "Team GO Rocket" event was, in fact, a test of the feature. There were three reasons for the test:
First, it was consistent with the marketing campaign at that point, which was teasing the feature’s release. Our campaign was built around the Grunts advancing and retreating all over the world, and we wanted to let players see the same thing happening in-game to build anticipation.
Second, the brief release was a test to balance how the feature would run in a production environment from a technical standpoint. Up until this point, focus groups and internal testing consisted mainly of a few dozen or so Trainers testing discolored PokéStops within a small radius of one another. We needed to test the feature globally to make sure that when it was fully released, it would work as planned. After this test, we were able to adjust the battle sequence to enhance the overall Team GO Rocket experience.
Finally, it was an opportunity to see how the Team GO Rocket feature would be used by everyday Trainers in a real-life setting. If there were unintended uses for the feature, this test would help us catch and correct them quickly. For example, with this test, we discovered there was an unexpected result when trading Shadow Pokémon.
It's worth noting that we now have confirmation that Lucky Shadow Pokemon was a bug and not intended to give players access to high-IV Pokemon.
The post ends with another hint that Giovanni will be arriving to Pokemon GO sometime in the future, but no word as to how that will be happening exactly.