Pokemon Go, one of the biggest fevers in recent years, will win its own official online battle league, the Go Battle League, on March 13th. The Go Battle League was already released in a trial version, sort of like a pre-season, and we caught up with Matthew Slemon (Product Manager) and Matt Ein (Senior Game Designer) to better understand what’s coming up.
If you like Pokémon Go, it’s worth playing a lot in the last days of pre-season, as anyone who reaches rank level four gets a free Premium Raid Pass. After that, the competition will follow the following schedule: between the 13th and the 27th of March, the Grande Liga (with little monsters of up to 1500 CP) takes place; from March 27th to April 10th starts the Ultra Liga (up to 2500 PC); and from April 10th to May 1st, the Master League runs (no PC limits).
With the end of the pre-season, the daily battle limit will also increase. Until then, it was possible to fight only five times in search of rewards, but the ceiling will rise to seven battles, with the right to more and better rewards. Anyone who ventures into online fights will win, for example, an exclusive pose to flaunt in their game avatar’s menu. Check out our interview below.
Now that Pokémon Go already has a system for trading monsters, battles against Team Rocket and the new online battle league, it is getting closer and closer to the main games in the series. Are there any features from Game Freak titles that you still want to bring to Pokémon Go?
Matthew Slemon: In some ways, Pokemon Go it really takes some stuff from the main series, but we’ve also focused on developing things in a way that’s unique to our game. For example, exchanging gifts with your friends is a concept unique to the mobile game, which never existed in the main series anyway, but which fits in very well with our game for its social aspect, as we play with real friends. We certainly have inspiration from the main series, but we’ll hardly see a case of recreating exactly some mode the way it already exists on consoles. Even our battle system is more optimized and designed with the mobile structure in mind, so you can play on the go, on the street or however you like.
With the arrival of online battles, do you plan to implement some kind of leaderboard so that players can assess their performance, be it a world rank or just among friends?
Matt Ein: I think, as you pointed out, there are many ways we could do this, checking your friends list, or accessing some kind of regional or world scoreboard. It’s certainly important to have something like this for this type of game, and now we’re at the stage of thinking and finding the best way to fit these mechanics into our game.
In Mario Kart Tour, during normal races, we only face the drivers of other CPU-controlled players. Are our online rivals in Pokémon Go really real people in real time, or are their teams uploaded to the cloud?
Matthew Slemon: Yes, what you see in action are real people you’re up against on the other end of the phone! There’s no artificial intelligence involved, what’s really there are two players facing off in real time around the world. It’s a system that we thought would be really cool and important to our game’s identity.
And do the fights happen between players from all over the world or is there some kind of lock or region limitation? Can players from South America, for example, face rivals from Asia, Europe, etc?
Matt Ein: Our battles do not have any type of lock by region. You can play against people from absolutely anywhere in the world!
When Pokémon Go was released, there was nothing quite like it among the big games on the market, but since then, we’ve seen countless games inspired by its gameplay on brands like Jurassic World and Harry Potter. Do you plan new updates so that your game continues with a unique look and a fresh feeling?
Metthew Slemon: Yes! You can look forward to new features being added over time. Unfortunately I can’t give you a preview of what’s to come right now, but we’ve worked hard to get the identity of the Pokemon Go sits well in the middle between social gaming, fitness and, of course, full of exciting Pokémon. This is the principle that guides our development of new features. Often when we’re working we bump into uncharted territory, sometimes we draw inspiration from the main series, but we always try to implement things in ways that are unique and true to our principles. This is one of the reasons the Battle League forces players to walk in order to enable fights. It would be very easy for us to allow everyone to fight non-stop all the time, but we didn’t do that to make sure that Pokemon Go would still have the face of Pokemon Go.
It was good that you mentioned the focus on socializing, because one of the biggest attractions of your game is precisely this mechanic to encourage exercises and interaction with other people. Is this something that will always be present in every future game mode?
Matt Ein: Yeah, I think that’s a cool principle in our game, to focus on exercises. It’s not something for you to play relaxed on your couch most of the time. Even when we made the Go Battle League, we set it up to encourage people to walk and explore. So you can definitely expect future updates and features focused on rewarding players who make friends, walk and play with others, that’s the fun of the game for us.
In closing, everyone has a favorite little monster in the game, doesn’t they? What is your favorite Pokemon?
Matthew Slemon: (laughs) Oh, that’s easy, we talk about it internally all the time.
Matt Ein: Mine is Dragonite!
Mathew Slemon: And mine is Lotad, I think he’s amazing!