There’s a lot of space to improve.
I love Pokémon Go. It’s gotten me to go outside the house and actually walk about way more than I usually would. It’s also a lot of fun. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think there are issues with it, because there are plenty of things wrong with the super popular app. So here are 6 ways I think Niantic could improve the game.
1. Bring back the footprints
With version 0.31.0 of Pokémon Go, Niantic had removed the footprints feature within the ‘Nearby Pokémon’ menu in the app. This makes finding any Pokémon a complete crapshoot and based purely on random chance, since no one will have any clue how far away a Pokémon could actually be. With this ‘update’, you could see that a Pokémon you REALLY want is nearby but never get to it in time since there is NO indication of whether you are actually going the right direction or are close enough to catch it in time. Its removing was certainly a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, since it was removed to deal with a bug where all nearby Pokémon were indicated to have three footprints underneath them; which meant that you really had no clue where any Pokémon was in relation to you. Thus, rather than fixing this issue, they just removed the footprint feature altogether, making it even harder to locate Pokémon. To improve the game, Niantic should bring the footprints back with better accuracy than before and deal with the three footprint bug.
2. Add a compass
On the topic of finding Pokémon, another improvement that Niantic should implement into the game is adding a compass or something similar that guides you towards Pokémon. The footprint feature was far from perfect and was nowhere near as accurate as it should have been, since you received no indication of which direction you needed to go to find Pokémon. Thus I propose that Niantic should add some form of compass that directs you towards Pokémon so as the player at least knows they are going the right direction. Now, I understand they might want to keep some aspect of randomness to Pokémon hunting, so they could easily have a compass as an item with a limited number of uses, much like the lure; you can only use it on Pokémon you REALLY want. Therefore, having it be a consumable item would prevent an over reliance on it, maintaining some form of randomness to Pokémon catching while also making it easier for players to catch the ones they want.
3. Have a real Pokédex with real locations
Continuing on with the theme of finding Pokémon easier and less random, another way Niantic could improve Pokémon Go is by including locations to find Pokémon within the Pokédex. What I mean by this is that, within the Pokédex in the game, they should include where to find certain Pokémon that you have seen or caught before, much like how the Pokédex functions within the mainline games. If you find a Pokémon once, you can reliably find the Pokémon again, so as you can gain more candy and so evolve your Pokémon easier. A sort of sub entry into this list that ties to this one is to have consistent spawn locations for Pokémon rather than the seemingly random locations they have now. In short, having more reliable locations to find Pokémon and a Pokédex that shows you where to find them, once you’ve caught or seen them already, would make the game so much better.
4. Push notifications to run in the background
Another quality of life improvement that would make Pokémon Go a lot better would be the implementation of push notifications to have running in the background. This would be beneficial for the player since, well, it does quite a lot for them. Firstly, it means they wouldn’t have to constantly be looking at their phones, which means that they can do other things and also be more aware of their surroundings, therefore less likely to get in danger because of the app. Secondly, since it the app would be running in the background, player’s phone batteries would be less drained by the game, which is a common issue with many trainers playing Pokémon Go. How I would have it work is that you have the app running in the background of your phone (after opening it at least once), and when there are Pokémon near, the app would send a notification saying so. Nothing too specific, just a: “Hey there are Pokémon nearby!”
5. Increased spawn rates
Another issue I’ve found with the game is that the Pokémon spawn at an extremely slow rate and seemingly in random places. I’ve already mentioned having more consistent spawn locations, but here I want to address the game’s poor spawn rate. Basically, the game doesn’t spawn Pokémon at a reasonable enough pace and at reasonable amounts. You tend to get only one or two Pokémon spawning every 20 minutes. An improvement for that would be to decrease the amount of time between spawns (say reduce it to 12-15 mins) and then have the Pokémon spawned be more than three of the same kind. Additionally, to add another sub-entry, I’d want the game to spawn Pokémon in more locations outside of cities. I live in a large town, and I can only really catch Pokémon in two general areas, and there are large swathes of the town where you can’t find Pokémon. I also know for a fact that in more rural areas there a little to no Pokémon to be found. For the game to improve, Niantic should increase the rate at which Pokémon spawn (but not by too much) and also increase the locations where they do spawn.
6. Increased accessibility for disabled gamers
Yet the most important improvement I think Niantic should bring to the app is various features that would make the game more accessible for disabled gamers. Now I know the whole point of the game is to go outside and catch them, but that leads to large amounts of people who aren’t able to do so missing out. This is surely quite frustrating, as Pokémon Go has become one of the largest talking points and is such a cultural milestone that, to not be able to play it, is, again, frustrating. I will fully admit I am physically able, so I would not be the best person to suggest a way in which Pokémon Go could be made more accessible; thus, I will lead you to ElleJay Volpe’s post on Frill-Ability for what I can see as the best solution to Pokémon Go’s accessibility issues:
“Here is how I propose this is done, regarding accessibility features without cheating. If someone declares, for example, an “ADA Mobility Mode” they would be locked into a determined radius. If they move outside of it, the mode is auto-deactivated. That way, a person in Chicago is not transporting anywhere they want to go, say, New York, abusing the game, but they can reasonably enjoy the game like a normal person. Say they are transported or can get out, they can activate and deactivate at their leisure. When the game notices stillness for an extended period, it could even offer a declared ADA user to enter said mode.”
If Niantic were to implement the features mentioned above, along with the others ElleJay mentions in the rest of their article, Pokémon Go would be greatly improved as it would be more accessible for disabled gamers.
Provided that Niantic were to add all these features into Pokemon Go, I think it honestly could become a much better game that is easier to use and, therefore, more fun. Niantic, do better.