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Sunday, Aug 21, 2016 - 23:13 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert


Me: ...so the Meowth scooted after my first Pokéball throw. Doesn't matter, we'll get him next time. Good effort, Hamchu!


Me: Frankly, you shouldn't get so worked up over these minor details. Very bad for your blood pressure. What's more, this place is positively crawling with Hamchus. If the worst comes to pass, it probably won't be too hard to catch a new one.

Mr. Ham: *indignantly* Excuse me???

Me: Just joking there. You know you're my starter, hey, we go way back together, I wouldn't do that to you. *mutters under breath* and it would be a total waste of all the Stardust and Hamchu candy I invested, before I knew any better.

Mr. Ham: That's better. And I've had enough for the day.

Me: Fine by me, let's drop all these random catches off at the Professor's place, as usual.

Mr. Ham: Actually, don't you think it's kinda sketchy, human?

Me: What?

Mr. Ham: About this "Professor Willow" character. He's not associated with any recognized institution of higher education that I know of, some of his "research assistants" are really... dopey, and the whole getup is honestly super-suspicious. It's like, you hand him an innocent Pokémon, and he gives you a piece of candy, flavoured exactly like that Pokémon; have you ever stopped to wonder, what happens to that poor fella, behind the scenes?

Me: You're reading too much into it, Hamchu. More catching, less talking, I say. And you shouldn't rely too much on appearances, especially when it comes to academic peeps.

...but fine, you *may* have a point, this time
(Original source: linkedin.com)

How To Train (and Catch) Your Pokémon

So, after getting into the spirit of things for these past couple of weeks, I figured that I might as well put together a brief guide/walkthrough for Pokémon Go. Sure, there're plenty of others out there, it'll be light on gym battling tips (I'm a farmer by nature, after all), and there are many ways of enjoying the game, which of course includes figuring stuff out by oneself... but, seriously, knowing some facts in advance can save plenty of time and effort (and maybe lives)

Now, casual players don't have to bother too much - walk towards Pokéstops (those elevated blue cubes on the map), touch them to activate when close enough, spin to get free items (they then turn purple and take some time to cool down); Pokémon will pop up every so often, and can be pressed to enter their capture screen, where one can lob Pokéballs at them until they give up, or you run out of balls, whichever comes sooner. Simple, no?

Basic screens

Sure, if you just wanna have fun, there isn't much else that has to be known; many might be interested in two common objectives, though:

  • To collect all of the Pokémon
  • To assemble the strongest possible team of Pokémon (whether for gym battles, or bragging rights)

First, on collecting Pokémon; a few species (e.g. the above Rattatas, Pidgeys, etc) can be found just about everywhere, but most will take some searching, which is part of the attraction of the game. Certain species tend to be found in certain areas (e.g. water-types near seashores and lakes), and there exist nests at fixed locations, that produce a particular Pokémon fairly reliably. For example, Vivocity is known to spawn Snorlaxes and Chinese Garden Blastoises. Of course, these are not 100% guaranteed to last, but a quick Google search should give some updated pointers.

Note that there is no hard restriction on almost any Pokémon appearing just about anywhere - just that it can be an (extremely) rare occurance. For the interested, there are external mapping services such as PokeRadar, that keep track for dedicated hunters (Pokémon remain in an area for fifteen minutes after first appearing, and are available for any player to try and capture, during this period; there was a "nearby" distance-based system a while back, but it's apparently still being revamped, so it's just "sightings" for now)

While running about to bonk them on the head with Pokéballs is the default method of acquiring new Pokémon, there are two other ways, which are particularly relevant towards obtaining the rarer ones. There's Evolution, whereby a basic Pokémon advances to a later stage (e.g. Pidgey to Pidgeotto, then to Pidgeot), which requires Candy. You get three of the appropriate Candy for each Pokémon of that species (e.g. catching a Pidgey grants three Pidgey candy), and one more by Transferring (i.e. effectively deleting) the Pokémon.

Some of them can be... difficult
[N.B. For these bastards, take the appropriate action]
(Source: r/Pokemongo)

Pokémon with two stages generally require 50 Candy to Evolve (possible with 14 catches of that species), and those with three stages generally require 25 Candy for the first Evolution (8 catches), and 100 Candy for the next (25 more catches)... with some significant exceptions, which we'll get to later.

If you have noticed that both the above methods require one to encounter and catch (potentially many of) the relevant species of Pokémon, you would be right. Then, what about those Pokémon that simply don't exist in practice, in the neighbourhood (including region-locked ones)? Well, other than booking a flight out, one can hatch Eggs.

Pokémon eggs (not to be confused with Lucky Eggs) are randomly obtained from spinning Pokéstops, and up to nine can be carried at a time. Every trainer starts out with one infinite-use Incubator, into which a single egg can be placed. Moving about (but not too quickly) contributes to the process of hatching those eggs in incubators. Eggs come in three varieties - 2km, 5km and 10km - and each variety has the potential to produce a particular range of (sometimes rare) Pokémon, including those not normally available in the area.

Be informed that Niantic apparently uses straight-line distance calculations about every minute or so to calculate distance travelled, so pounding away on a treadmill doesn't help (other than the health benefits). Then again, a number of creative solutions have been attempted:

Poetic, indeed.
[N.B. the famous van Gaal transformation, United vs. Arsenal]
(Original source: boredpanda.com)

Alright, Part One over, quick review of Pokémon-acquiring options:
  • Catch with Pokéballs
  • Evolve from existing early-stage Pokémon
  • Hatch from eggs (kind of a lottery)

So far so good. Next, on to training strong Pokémon. If you've gotten this far, you'll likely have noticed that each Pokémon has a prominently-displayed CP value (e.g. CP 269, for the Rattata in the initial picture). This stands for Combat Power, and is indeed a summary of the strength of the Pokémon in gym battles. So, higher CP is better, right?

Well, kind of. Before we continue, a couple of general rules for those interested in this aspect of the game:
  • Trainer Level is King
  • Don't use Stardust/Candy to Power Up or Evolve Pokémon (other than for experience points) for as long as possible, ideally until after maybe Trainer Level 20

Those familiar with the original Pokémon games might have realised a couple of big differences: Pokémon here aren't tamed by defeating them in battle, for one, and they don't gain experience (and improve their stats) by battling, either (instead relying on Stardust and Candy). Instead, it's the player character (i.e. trainer) that gains experience points, through various acts:

Catching any Pokémon100
...with a curveball (stacks with Nice, Great or Excellent Throw; all throws explained)+10
...with a Nice Throw+10
...with a Great Throw+50
...with an Excellent Throw+100
...every hundredth of a species+100
...if new species of Pokémon+500
Spinning a Pokéstop50
...and getting 6 or more items
(rumoured on every tenth unique Pokéstop)
Evolving any Pokémon500
Hatching any Pokémon100/km
Winning Gym Battle/Training at GymVaries

Of these, the vanilla base 100XP for catching any Pokémon, and base 50XP for spinning a Pokéstop, would be the bread and butter of most players. Getting Great and Excellent throw bonuses would be the icing on the cake, but I wouldn't sweat too much on it. Either way, it's a long road:

LevelCumulative XP; Rewards and Unlocks
5 (Gym access)10,000
40 (current cap)20,000,000

Note that getting from Level 20 to 23 requires more XP than from Level 1 to 20, for example. The significance of Level 20 would be that it allows the maximum potential for hatched Pokémon (i.e. being say Level 40 brings no added benefit), with potential maximum CP for caught Pokémon maxed at Trainer Level 30.

So what's the point of grinding another 18 million XP to Level 40? Well, each Pokémon does have its own individual level too, which is capped at the Trainer Level plus 1.5. Thus, a Level 10 trainer can power up any of his Pokémon to Level 11.5 at most, while a maxed-out Level 40 trainer can achieve Level 41.5 Pokémon. As with Trainer XP, though, the Stardust cost to power up a Pokémon increases greatly as Pokémon level increases. Powering up a Pokémon from Level 1 to 40 would then take about 290000 Stardust and 334 Candy... which, considering that 100 Stardust is awarded per catch, and maybe up to a few thousand per hatch, is a lot.

Which brings us to the main benefit of waiting until high Trainer Levels, before developing Pokémon. Consider a trainer who somehow captures a (Level 1) Snorlax at Level 5, and proceeds to religiously power it up (say his home sits atop a Snorlax nest, so Candy's not an issue) - he would then burn some 130000 Stardust, or the entire bounty from 1300 catches, on his chosen Snorlax, to take it to Level 30.

And then, when he's at Trainer Level 30+, chances are that he'll capture another Snorlax... that's already near Level 30, and very likely with superior stats to boot.

Talking about stats, Pokémon Go has simplified it such that each Pokémon is represented by three of them: Attack (A), Defence (D) and Stamina (S = 2*HP). While HP (and therefore S) is revealed, A and D are not shown, and CP is then:

CP ~= A*sqrt(D)*sqrt(S)

Apparently, the conversion process has caused speed and special-attack dependant Pokémon (e.g. Jolteon, Alakazam) to become underpowered, which together with various imbalances (e.g. Vaporeon's utter dominance before its nerf), has caused a part of the playerbase to be disillusioned. Then again, the game clearly isn't the polished finished product yet, so expect more balance fixes.

So, that bit about "superior stats". While two Pokémon of the same species and level will have the same base stats, they will be differentiated by Individual Values (IV). Basically, a Pokémon will have a bonus IV for each stat that can range from 0 to 15, that carries over all Power Ups and Evolutions, which means that some Pokémon just always have a higher potential than others. For example, if Snorlax's base stats at max level are 180A/180D/320S, that's exactly what a Snorlax with the worst possible IVs (all zero) will have, while the best possible Snorlax would have 195A/195D/335S.

But does this matter that much? After all, for this example, it's about an 8.3% boost on Attack and Defence, and 4.7% on HP, and the gap would probably be about half that against a random "average" Snorlax. Indeed, the received wisdom is that movesets trump IVs for now, since some moves are really, really crappy (a classic example being Twister on Gyrados), and they can't be changed either. But then again, checking for decent IVs is the least one can do for Pokémons to be heavily invested in, and to this end there are various IV calculators available (with varying degrees of convenience/safety)

[N.B. Useful trivia: There is some evidence that hatched Pokémon are guaranteed to have relatively high IVs (range of 10 to 15 for each stat, as opposed to 0 to 15 for caught wild Pokémon); this does mesh with my own experience thus far.]

To this end, I highly recommend the Pidgey Experience Bomb. Unlike almost all other species, Pidgeys require only 12 Candies to Evolve, meaning that you can Evolve one of them for every four caught (the same goes for Caterpies and Weedles, but they appear to be less common). The setup is then to collect 70-odd Pidgeys, and sufficient Candies to evolve them all. Then, pop a Lucky Egg (doubles XP gains for the next half an hour), and start evolving (each should take some 25 seconds, animations etc included); if done right, this should produce over 70000XP, or enough to jump from Level 10 to 15. There are ways to take it further, but this is kind of a grey area.

And finally, a couple of little tricks:
  • To start with Pikachu - keep ignoring the initial three choices, until they get the hint, and send the yellow electric rat; but then, he's not that rare, so...
  • To control Eevee's evolution - rather than leave it to fate, name your Eevee "Rainer" to get a Vapereon, "Sparky" to get a Jolteon, and "Pyro" to get a Flareon.

Happy hunting!

[Reddit discussion]

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