Welcome to a special extra edition of Ghost's Arcade... and boy do we have some garbage to talk about today.
As if you couldn't tell from the title of this post, just a fair warning that the content of this particular article will most likely include some harsher language than normal.
It's been almost a month since the mobile app Pokemon Go was released in the United States. Since then it has become the most downloaded app ever and has accounted for over half (if not more) of in-app purchases on multiple days. The game perfectly grabs our nostalgia and love of the pokemon franchise in the way that many of us had wished for years. Yet despite all of this, the app itself is buggy, unfinished, unpolished, and downright mediocre at best. As stated in my review of the game, if this game were anything other than pokemon it would have flopped and flopped hard.
On July 30th, the shitshow began as Niantic did, in fact, issue an update to address some of the problems with the game... and of course...
Players were greeted on this day with a new update for the game. Among the list of changes were things like being able to re-customize the avatar you use, adjusting battle damage, improved memory usage, bug fixes and display fixes. All of these things are nice and/or needed. The game began to boot more quickly. Some people on iOS experienced their profiles screwing up with this update but I didn't experience that as an android user... I only saw what seemed to be a nice improvement on the app as a whole. However...hidden in the middle of the update was something that caused concern. "Removed footprints of nearby pokemon." .... I'm sorry I must have read that incorrectly. Let me double check before I report something stupid. "Removed footprints of... nearby... pokemon." I..... WHAT??
You mean to tell me that they noticed the three footprint glitch and the way they chose to fix the glitch was to just remove the footprints??? That's like having an engine fault in your vehicle and your fix is to just remove the bulb from the Check Engine light. The radar went from being something bad and confusing but functional at first, to having a glitch making it almost worthless, to the development team PURPOSELY making it worthless. Now you can see what's sort of around you but you can't actually track down anything or see if you're actually any closer to your goal. But that's ok... that's fine because we still have the sites like Pokevision to help us pinpoint those rare or needed pokemon near us since Niantic made the tracker even worse right....right???? Well on the morning of July 31st we got the answer to that in the form of this message.
So, to be clear, at the same time as this update that ruined the pokemon tracker was put out, these assholes went behind everyone's backs and shut down every third party tracking tool that we were using. May I remind you that these third party tracking sites that were enhancing the game FOR FREE were only being utilized because the product we were given didn't fucking work. Now thanks to these clowns not only does the tracker not work, but the ability to track anything in any manner is gone. To top it off, what did the Pokemon Go team have to say about this? Piss all.... or at least piss all for several days but I'll get to THAT later.
Now I'm not a games developer by any stretch of the imagination. My single foray into "game development" consisted of attempting to create a custom rom hack of Pokemon Fire Red and due to the confusion, lack of experience, and lack of adequate tools we basically got nowhere with it. So I understand that developing a game is hard work and I never want to come across as belittling the hard work that has actually been done. However I also understand something else. There are certain things you simply don't do when you have a game out there for the public to consume...you just don't do them. Unfortunately these guys started gravitating towards the pile of "don't do."
Now people can have their own opinions on these tracking sites. They can believe that they take away the point of the game or they are equivalent to cheating. John Hanke, CEO of Niantic can be "not a fan of third-party sites" all he damn well pleases. Fact remains that they are all entitled to their own opinion even though their opinion is 100% wrong... and they ARE wrong. Tracking sites don't take away the point of the game as the game originally came with a tracker... it just didn't work but these sites did. There are ways of cheating such as GPS spoofing and installing that Chinese tap and walk mod that allows you to move around even though you aren't physically moving... that is cheating. Utilizing a tool to tell us where a pokemon is located so that we know which direction to walk in is NOT cheating especially since, again, the game originally had a form of tracker. What people and the Pokemon Go team seem to be unable to realize is that these sites ENHANCED the gameplay. They didn't take any revenue or playability away from the actual game, it simply enhanced our playing and made the entire experience much much better.
The third and most damning thing of all that you simply don't do is remain silent. The Pokemon Go team has maintained a suspicious amount of silence both in-game and on social media. The whole reason that the pokemon radar was such a confusing mess at launch was because nobody took the time to include an explanation of how it works in the game...or anywhere for that matter. We just sort of had to figure everything about the game out for ourselves and even then we couldn't quite figure it all out. This wouldn't have been a problem if there was some communication going on about the features of the game. Outside of the game, however, there has been just as much lack of communication. Since the launch of the game, the Niantic blog has not been updated once, and both the twitter and facebook pages of both Pokemon Go and Niantic have almost exclusively only mentioned when the game is available in a new country. In fact, before this shitshow went down, the only exception to this was the July 16th total meltdown of the servers. Past that, there has been silence about the game freezing constantly, the servers being offline non-stop, and the general poor quality of the game at launch. Of course you don't want to publicly air your dirty laundry despite the fact that the public already knows it...but just some confirmation that things are being worked on would go a long way. Silence breeds anxiety and contempt. If we don't know what you're doing we (as human nature always dictates) will assume the worst and that you all really don't care... regardless if you actually do care. Communication goes along way no matter if you are in a relationship, a partnership, or a producer/consumer relationship. Lack of communication will always result in confusion.
However, four days after the update went out, the Pokemon Go team finally responded on their official Facebook page. While I have no idea as to the intentions of this message, I have a certain feeling that it has less to do with keeping an open line of communication and more to do with the extreme amount of fan anger at the company potentially putting their profitability at risk.... which is why they waited four days to say anything. Let's take a look at what they actually had to say.
*sigh* Just a few things here...
1. To open on something positive, I do legitimately appreciate the Pokemon Go team openly admitting that their radar was confusing and poorly executed. In a gaming world where even the worst ideas are paraded around as glorious triumphs regardless of consumer opinion this is a wonderful thing.
2. "We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature." This effectively means nothing to the majority of us. Now they may actually be genuine here and are intending to keep us informed once a decision is made, however I've grown far too cynical to believe that for a second. The state of the gaming industry as a whole, especially from big name producers has driven such a level of bullshit and distrust that I can't help but believe this to be yet another vague empty promise from another developer with the wrong priorities. I genuinely hope that I am incorrect here as Niantic has no real reason to not fix its product, I just can't help shake the last 10+ years of game studios promising things and either not delivering at all, or delivering something even worse. Also, I work in IT... I know that things don't get rolled out on a whim. Things are planned out with target dates. Hell, I've been working on a project with my job due to come out in October. In June we knew our target dates for deployment. Let us know a target date or something. That would instill far more confidence than "we will keep you posted."
3. "third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service"
4. 5-10 minutes, guys... that's all it takes. You mean to tell me that your silence on Facebook and Twitter is because everyone is working heads down? I honestly don't believe that for a second. That Facebook post probably took no longer than 10 minutes to write just to make sure everything was "approved by management." Twitter would take even less time to update. While I'm sure everyone there is working hard, you can't tell me that everyone is working SO hard that nobody can give us a quick 30 seconds or 5 minutes of their time to update us? End a meeting early and spend the last 3 minutes giving us insight into what is going on, what is being planned, how are you intending to fix this. COMMUNICATE!
Without this transparency we are left to imply from vague statements and to focus on actions alone. As always, actions are far more important than words especially when the words are sparse. In terms of actions alone, Niantic has removed an essential part of their functionality from the game with no clear date as to when this functionality will return. They have turned on fans simply trying to assist them with supposed/possible legal action against them if they didn't shut down the site's function. (I do not have proof that a legal cease-and-desist was issued but I highly doubt they just simply emailed the creators and asked them nicely to stop.) Then they didn't bother to comment on this change until the fans were incredibly upset and threatening to uninstall/stop supporting the game financially. Now, whether this was the intention or not, the impression given off by these actions is that they don't care what is needed for the game they are just going to do whatever whenever, they have disdain for fans trying to help make the game a better experience, they hoped to sweep this under the rug, and they have a greater emphasis on making sure that Brazil and other countries can play this game in it's still broken and unfinished state than actually finishing the game. Again that's just the impression I can gain from their actions.
It is this same impression that many people have gotten. Most of my friends are not really playing the game at all anymore. If they are playing, they are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry at Niantic when a Dragonite appears on their nearby list with no clear way to find him...just a fleeting hope that will end with disappointment. With that tracking functionality gone and the ability to use third-party sites gone, the game as just become a random guessing game of "maybe you'll find something over here" and that's no fun at all. These actions have cause some of my friends and acquaintances to actively seek out the true cheats for the game like GPS spoofing and tap to walk mods just so they can actually have a chance at finding something and enjoying the game once again; they don't want to play "You Probably Won't Find That Pokemon GO." I and several others who were opening and playing the game multiple times during the day have maybe turned it on once or twice since this debacle happened. The game that brought me such joy, that made me want to get out and socialize, that made me get out and exercise, that made losing weight fun and enjoyable was ripped apart by two simple actions. Now, all I want to do is the exact opposite of this game's goals.
Sitting on my ass, not playing the game because it's not worth it currently.
Niantic has almost lost my trust and the trust of hundreds of others. It hasn't quite lost all of my trust because I haven't dealt with this company in the past... I'm trying to remain hopeful but bracing for disappointment. The game is far from being in the grave but it's definitely stepped into the cemetery property. People aren't playing the game because of how royally they fucked up just now. If they were to come out and be transparent about what they are doing or give us a timeline for a tracker fix that would help ease part of our minds, but to be completely honest even an eased mind wouldn't make me want to play this game until you can track down where pokemon are again. If something isn't announced or changed within the next month I'll probably just uninstall the whole thing and forget it ever happened. I'm done. I started off this post angry but now I can't even muster annoyance anymore. Something that was my wildest imagination as a child was finally realized but it became a pain on my heart. Some people may say "it's better than nothing" but I'd honestly rather have nothing than a tainted version of what could be a dream come true. I'm just... numb and done.
Pokemon GO? More like
...or at least until this is all sorted out and behind us.
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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