Edit: Niantic announced massive changes to gyms this morning following the posting of this article. I’m going to keep the article up for sake of discussion of both the ideas here as well as discussion of Niantic’s announced changes.
Though the initial frenzy of popularity that came with the release of Pokemon Go is gone, the game still has a dedicated core base of players. This group ranges from the hyperactive players who spend money on the game to the player who picks the game up once per day for their bonuses, to somewhere in between. As someone who falls solidly into that group of casual, but still somewhat serious players, I couldn’t have been more excited than when I saw that Pokemon Go would be closing its gyms on June 19th (today, as this post is releasing) for “remodeling”.
What will be entailed in the remodeling is up for debate. Data miners on various sites had found code in the game suggesting limits to a specific Pokemon in a gym, however that find has not (yet) amounted to anything. I’ve seen suggestions from various people online with ideas from putting limits on gyms one trainer can be in to changes to the way CP is calculated. That’s to say nothing of the prevalence of spoofers and gym shavers in the game.
I wanted to present a few different ideas that I think could be improvements to the current gym system as it exist. While the problems with the gym system are by no means Pokemon Go’s biggest problem, they do seem to be the most significant problem Niantic is willing to address.
Idea 1 – One Pokemon Per Evolution Line Limit
Let’s lead off by addressing the alleged fix to gyms that was found in code (briefly) a few months back. The current Pokemon Go gym scene features seven Pokemon pretty much everywhere — Blissey, Snorlax, Gyarados, Dragonite, Vaporeon, Rhydon, and Tyranitar. These Pokemon are the seven highest CP Pokemon currently available in the game, with two of the Pokemon — Blissey and Snorlax — benefiting from a relative dearth of strong counters to their presence. A solo player, particularly a casual one, has little hope of taking down a high level (6-10) gym is there are more than two Blissey and/or Snorlax present.
One potential solution for this is to set a limit to one Pokemon per evolution line in a single gym. This plus side to this is that players would stop seeing gyms with 4-5 Blisseys in them on a regular basis, potentially promoting greater turnover in gyms. On the down side, this likely also means that players would still see 6 of the 7 highest CP Pokemon in a gym on a regular basis. Now those last four spots would be filled with some combination of Donphan, Heracross, Golem, Lapras, and Exeggutor — or pretty much what is seen as occasional filler now.
Idea 2 – Encourage Themed (Mono-Type) Gyms
In every generation of Pokemon until Pokemon Sun/Moon, one of the main story lines of the game was to defeat all of the gym leaders in the game’s region before going on to face the Elite Four. If you haven’t played the main games of the series, more about that premise is in my theorycrafting post here.
One of the notable things that was true of all gym leaders/trial captains in the mainline games was that those leaders featured teams that had Pokemon all of a specific element. Whether you were facing Sabrina’s psychic types in Red and Blue, Maylene’s fighting types in Diamond and Pearl, or Valerie’s fairy types in X and Y, you generally knew what you were getting yourself into before you went into a gym. One possible way to improve gym play would be to have gyms rotate what type of defenders are allowed to be in them. For example, let’s say that a specific gym was a water type gym. All three teams could attack that gym with whatever Pokemon they wanted to in order to take over the gym. However, when placing defenders in the gym, they would be restricted to Pokemon with a main or secondary typing of water.
At the end of that seven days, the gym changes to a new typing for defenders. There’s two ways to do this. One would be to kick out all defenders and to set the new typing at random. The second would be to set the new typing based off of the most prevalent secondary type in the gym, then kick out any Pokemon who don’t fit that typing. I’d prefer the former personally, but would be okay with either.
Idea 3 – Randomize Kickout Order
My third idea for improving the gym scene in Pokemon Go is also the one that is now probably the least likely to occur, as it would have been the easiest to implement under the old system. Under the previous gym system, when a team was attacking a gym, defending Pokemon were kicked out in order from weakest to strongest. While this was a great idea in theory, all it ultimately did was to lead to the gym shaving issue I brought up earlier.
If whatever revamp is being done to the gyms is not a major change, I would encourage Niantic to have some level of randomization to the order that Pokemon get kicked out of gyms.While there don’t seem to be a ton of spoofers and gyms shavers where I play, the few I do see are very noticeable, as you’ll find the same group of people in the same gyms after they’re done (typically in the same order with the same Pokemon). Battling a gym down with your alternate account to get your main account in a gym? Have fun with the roulette wheel that could knock one of your friends out in the process.
Idea 4 – Set Tier Limits in Gyms
The main series Pokemon games have a robust competitive gaming scene, thanks in part to competitive battle forums like Smogon and larger world tournaments that occur. These tournaments generally have some sort of tiered system that sets limitations as to what Pokemon, moves, and items can be used within a battle. Aside from the fact that items cannot be used in battle and that legendaries are not in the game currently, Pokemon Go does not feature such limitations.
Why not implement them? Sites like GamePress already do tier lists for top defenders and attackers. Why not have Niantic implement these limitations into gyms? Similar to the mono-type gym idea from earlier in the post, gyms could have rotating tiers on a weekly basis. One week, meta Pokemon like Blissey and Snorlax could be put in the gym with no limitations. The next week, the gym would switch to underused Pokemon, limiting your choices to Pokemon like Raichu and Butterfree. The next week, the gym could be a Little Cup format, filling the gym with Vulpix and Staryu. Different gyms in the same area could have different tiers running at the same time to further enhance play.
Idea 5 – Add in the Special Attack and Special Defense Stats
I get the purpose to the CP number. It’s meant to be a simplified calculation to help people who have never picked up Pokemon before to get acclimated to how the game works while still playing Pokemon Go. But CP makes strong Pokemon weak while making otherwise average Pokemon amazing. Remember Blissey? In the main games, it has the same base stat total as Kingdra. In Pokemon Go, Kingdra’s CP is approximately 3/4 of Blissey’s.
Is that to say Kingdra is a better Pokemon than Blissey? Not really. Objectively it’s not. But by combining Special Attack and Attack into a single attack stat, as well as doing the same with defense, Niantic has put Pokemon with widely skewed stats such as Blissey in a position to be light years better than those with more balanced stats like Kingdra.
The solution? Add in Special Attack and Defense. Blissey remains a wall against psychic/water/fire/other heavy special attackers, but becomes extra frail against strong physical attackers like Machamp (who it already has a weakness to) and Kingler. Meanwhile, Kingdra goes from being an afterthought to being a semi-viable attacker, particularly with STAB.
I’d like to hear from those of you out there who still play Pokemon Go. How would you improve the gym scene? Is there a particular idea on the list above you love or hate? Sound off in the comments.