Go Go Pokémon Go!

For my family, it started the first week. My son was in camp and was already a fan of Pokémon. The game was released on a Wednesday and word spread quickly. We decided over the weekend that we didn’t want him to go back to camp on that Monday and be the clueless kid. We set up accounts for my wife and my son. My job was to watch the baby and make sure that they didn’t step in front of a moving car while they were playing.

Later on, I gained the job of phone walker. There were eggs to hatch and pokestops to get. This was especially true for me where there are at least a dozen pokestops on the walk between my train and my office. I of course had no decision on which Pokémon to transfer, which to evolve, etc… so eventually I created my own account.

I found starting over that I leveled up quite a bit faster than I did using my son’s account though my Pokémon themselves were not as strong, mostly because I was choosier with the long term game in mind. Here are some of my thoughts on the game.

Get the starter Pikachu

When starting the game you can walk away from the three starters (Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle). If you keep doing it over and over again, eventually a Pikachu will show up as an option. The first time around, we gave up on the trick for getting Pikachu because we wanted to start playing. Playing my own game, I had more patience to get around to it and even then it wasn’t clean. I had to reboot the game a couple times because it locked up while attempting to catch that first Pikachu.

Pikachu makes a great Buddy

The buddy system was one of the first major enhancements to the game and it is a good one. You basically get to designate one Pokémon that you want to focus on raising. Pikachu is a 1km Pokémon, meaning that it will gain a new candy every 1km that you walk with the game on. 1km is a fairly satisfying level of achievement. There are Pokémon that have up to 5km which just doesn’t give you that immediate achievement.

The Best Pokémon come from Eggs

One thing you can do is have your team leader evaluate your Pokémon. What this does is give you a window into the Individual Values (IV) of your Pokémon’s’ hidden stats. Basically, within the range of what’s available for that specific Pokémon type (Pikachu for example) how does it compare against the average. This can vary but in general, the average hatched Pokémon is going to be stronger than the average caught in the wild Pokémon.

Stardust is for Winners

In order to power up your Pokémon, you need two things: Candy and Stardust. Candy can also be used to evolve Pokémon which will also increase a Pokémon’s combat power (CP). Originally I read something that made me think that it was best to power up a Pokémon before you evolved it. That seems to be untrue.

Each Pokémon has two attacks (one quick and the other requiring powering up) taken from a list of available attacks for that Pokémon. Some attacks are better than others so each Pokémon has an optimal combination of the most powerful two attacks it can have but which attacks it has are randomized when it evolves.

So your best option is:

  1. Transfer away any Pokémon that don’t evaluate well.
  2. Evolve your Pokémon as soon as you can to their highest point.
  3. Check if that the Pokémon has the best attacks available
    1. If it doesn’t, transfer the Pokémon and start over
  4. Dump your stardust into powering up your optimized Pokémon to max

Pidgeys and Lucky Eggs

One early article I read spoke about Pidgeys as the vermin that gets in the way of you catching the good Pokémon. What this fails to take into account is that you as the trainer also has a level. The higher your level, the higher you can train your Pokémon. In the early game, one of the best ways to do this is to catch new Pokémon because adding a new Pokémon to a pokedex is worth 500xp. Later on, catching new Pokémon becomes much more difficult.

Another way to get 500xp is by evolving a Pokémon. Pidgeys are plentiful and they only take 12 candies to evolve. The Lucky egg item doubles the amount of XP you get for a half hour. Save up your pidgeys and any other Pokémon that you’ve been collecting. Weedles are also cheap to evolve but are less plentiful. Rattatas are plentiful but not as cheap to evolve. Turn on the Lucky Egg and go on an evolving spree. At 1000xp per evolution, I’ve managed to quickly level in a very short time.

Going to the Gym

The non-hardcore gamers I’ve spoken to have avoided doing the gym aspect of the game because they were worried about the investment. To a degree they are right, a failed attack on a gym is going to cost you 6 revives plus a number of healing potions. That said, putting a Pokémon in the gym is the only way for you to get coins without investing real world cash into the game. While coins can be used to buy a number of things, I recommend using them to buy incubators which are only available otherwise at when you level up to a level divisible by 5.

If you’re new to gym battling, I recommend going to a gym that is owned by your own team. Often times there will be a space available that you can put one of your Pokémon into. Even if there isn’t, battling to increase the level of the gym to make more space is usually easier than kicking another team out of the gym.

The moment you insert a Pokémon into a gym, click on the shop menu in order to collect your reward. It is the shield icon on the top right of the shop screen. Rewards can only be collected once every 21 hours so don’t waste your energy trying to hold a gym. As higher levels you can think about maintaining a place in multiple gyms simultaneously which comes with greater rewards.

Streaks and Events

Halloween was the game’s first ever event which put more ghost and other Halloween themed Pokémon out on the map. There were also increased candy rewards because what goes better with Halloween than candy? This weekend, they are giving out higher rewards for Thanksgiving. Double stardust and xp and the rumor has it they’ll be introducing Ditto into the game. If I catch one, I’ll let you know.

Also, after Halloween event they introduced the idea of streaks for days in a row that you’ve caught Pokémon and days in a row that you’ve hit a pokestop with a bigger bonus when you hit seven days in a row. The idea is clearly to keep you playing daily but if you’re into the game, you might as well take advantage where you can.