Niantic Should Fix These Things Before Let’s Go Launches
Today was an interesting day for Niantic Labs, the company that created Pokémon Go and Google’s Ingress game. The company made two major announcements, the first being that they are opening their augmented reality platform to third party developers as well as improved AR tech with a new feature they call occlusion. With occlusion, AR objects are more free to move about the real world, even allowing them to hide behind real objects. Their demo showed Pikachu chasing Eevee around a plaza. The two adorable Pokémon went around flower pots exactly as you would expect two dogs to in real life. It’s striking technology, that while is a proof of concept, shows just how powerful AR can be. But I have a problem with Niantic’s roadmap. While we haven’t seen an official one, it’s clear that they’re moving fast to create new technologies and games based on other popular franchises. For example, they are slated to release their next major title “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” later this year.
As an avid player of Pokémon Go, I experience its flaws on a daily basis. The game has come a long way since it launched two years ago, but it is chock full of bugs and glitches that denigrate the experience. The map can load very slowly, even on a strong cellular connection. Sometimes it even fails on a high bandwidth wifi network. Buttons, modals, and menus don’t have the smooth animations that we’ve come to expect from iPhone and even modern Android phones. The Pokédex sometimes takes forever to load small thumbnails of Pokémon which is absolutely unacceptable. All of the issues that I have with Pokémon Go lie with the fact that the game is web based. While I assume Niantic made this decision in an effort to save users storage, I actually think that even though it might stink to have the game take up lots of storage on your phone that it would be a smart compromise to improve the integrity of the game.
So what would I like Niantic to do? I’d like them to focus on improving the existing infrastructure before they do anything radical. The company should at least ensure that some of their employees are focused on perfecting the existing game. But to go further, I think that Niantic should start caching Pokémon libraries, the Pokédex, common map areas, and invest in making menus out of native iOS and Android UI elements. I also think that Niantic should eliminate the initial loading screen. It’s an archaic screen in an otherwise ultra modern app. The app should load directly into the main map and place the loading indicator somewhere else. I personally imagine it as a circle that fills in around the Pokéball icon. Not only would this dramatically improve the core experience, but it would be a phenomenal foundation for future games.
All of these suggestions aren’t related to core gameplay. Believe me, I have strong opinions regarding some of the limitations Niantic puts on lower level players. But this is about improving the app. This could be especially prescient when Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee launch this fall. Gamefreak has a track record of creating rock solid video games with very few if any bugs. Pairing the two will likely reveal just how glitchy Pokémon Go is.