With Niantic communicating more openly about its intentions and plans, fans have become more emboldened than ever to speak up about what’s bothering them regarding Pokémon GO. The lack of in-game (or now out-of-game) tracking will continue to be lambasted until that’s fixed, and a solution for constantly fleeing/escaping Pokémon is supposedly coming soon.
But there’s a new pair of pressing issues that might be the current biggest threats to the game, one that makes players sad, and another that makes them angry.
The Tragedy of the Missing PokéStops
A while back, you may remember than one of Niantic’s first priorities was removing “inappropriate or dangerous” PokéStops from the game. The instituted a “reporting” tool that allowed players or citizens to report these locations for potential removal.
While some were obvious no-go spots like graveyards and Holocaust memorials and nuclear power plants, there now seems to be a lot of PokéStops being removed for literally no reason at all. Rural players have seen what few stops they have slowly disappearing if they’ve been reported by angry locals. I also heard a story online of a college player who reported all the stops at a rival school and got them removed. The Governor or South Carolina, Nikki Haley, took to Twitter to complain about all the PokéStops being removed in the State Capital building, when previously there were many that were encouraging foot traffic.
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It’s hard to know if effectively all reports are turning into removals, but for many players, that’s what it feels like is happening. The concern right now is that anyone can report any PokéStop (or series of PokéStops) for any reason and see them removed. My guess is that given the absolutely massive scale of Pokémon GO and the relatively tiny scale of Niantic itself, this is an automated process that is starting to go haywire. Niantic does not have the ability to sift through these one by one, and even if they did, understanding the exact context of some of these locations and why they should or shouldn’t be removed is close to impossible. I can imagine some algorithm just going “State Building > Government Property > Removed” without considering whether say, the governor of the damn state wants those stops there.
The mass removal of stops may be an automated process that is killing off way too many locations for little to no reason, and the problem is that adding stops back or adding new stops is likely to be a much more convoluted process, so players who relied on these areas may be out of luck for a good long while. Niantic has to weigh the complaints of random citizens who may not have good reason for wanting stops removed with the need to keep their playerbase engaged. I’m guessing they (and their algorithm) errs heavily on the side of caution to avoid potential lawsuits, but it seems like things are getting out of control.
The Rage Over Hacker Gym Squatters
Now we move to a completely separate issue, but one that’s very much impacting the game all the same. One aspect of Pokémon GO that’s been kind of nice is that most “normal” players who play and train their Pokémon with any consistency can take over gyms with enough determination, strategy (with type-matching) and potions/revives. Defending gyms rely on AI who can’t really do anything besides stand there and move-mash, and with six Pokémon at your disposal and the advantage of type-strength and dodging, you can do pretty well at many gyms.
However, thanks to a number of hackers who spend their time warping all around the world, racking up insane amounts of XP and ultra-high CP Pokémon, some gyms can be almost impossible to take over. Right now, if you’re in the level 33-40 range, there’s a good chance that you’re a hacker, given the sheer amount of XP you would need to reach those upper levels, XP that you should physically not be possible to get this soon after the game’s launch.
This is particularly a problem in Asia, where after the Japanese launch, Chinese hackers were warping across the water and taking over gyms with high level Pokémon and bragging about it online. But it happens in all regions, and I’ve seen this happen in the US near me as well, as I just can’t believe some of these gym leaders have reached level 35+ legitimately and just so happened to have found a Snorlax nest to get enough candies to have one that’s 3,000 CP. Like, come on.
While the PokéStop problem probably requires a pretty complex solution, there has to be some measure of anti-cheat in place to prevent hackers from squatting on gyms and blazing through levels that should take weeks to achieve. I’ve seen some accounts banned, but this problem does not seem to be going away. In the next few weeks as more players level up legitimately, it may soon be hard to figure out who is hacking and who isn’t just from their level and Pokémon CP, so that’s why a detection system will be more important than ever.
Pokémon GO is going to be a work in progress for a good long while, but these are two of the most pressing problems right now (outside of a lack of tracking). Now that Niantic is definitely listening, hopefully something can be done to alleviate these issues in the coming days and weeks.
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