Pokémon Go – Playing the Long Game

About two weeks ago, I shelved my Pokémon Go account and created a new one. With my friend Josh, I will be speaking about Pokémon Go in December at the TIES conference, and there was a number of things about the game I wanted to re-look – things that I thought I was not, and would not, see, given the status of my current account.

So, I started over. I shelved a Level 25 account, with well more than a half-million experience points, in order to start fresh. A giant part of it is a relearn the game, but part of it is to explore one very simple idea.

It was time to try playing the Long Game.

I started playing Pokémon Go within minuted of it being released onto the servers of the Apple app store. I did like so many players – I fought, tooth and nail, to catch every Pokémon, and to earn experience points (XP) as quickly as a could, in order to rise through the levels. There’s a very gradual curve to make levels they are very generous, until you make level 20, at which the curve sets in and the amount of new XP needed to advance to the next level begins to rise. Here is a chart that shows it – the curve really takes off after level twenty, but as you can see with this chart, here, the rewards increase, too.

I did everything to gain XP. I caught every Pokémon. I stopped at every Pokestop. I evolved every Pokémon at every chance, because I had seen charts that talked about ways to earn XP. I even learned how to improve my throwing, all for the sake of not just throwing a curve ball, but throwing excellent ones. And when it came time, I used lucky eggs to try and maximize my evolutions and gain tens of thousands of XP, and skip forward levels. It was a race.

That was then. This is now.

  1. I am not trying to gain XP. In fact, I want a throw that catches a Pokémon on a first throw with no bonus at all. That’s a lot harder than you think. I don’t want any daily bonus, or multi-day bonus. I haven’t evolved a single Pokémon. I haven’t trained at a single gym, and I don’t battle at gyms.
  2. I am after the candies. When you catch a Pokémon and do not keep it, you trade it in to the Professor (and lordy, I do not want to know what he does with them.) In catching them, and in hatching them, you earn a certain amount of the specific candies for that specific Pokémon.  And you earn one more for recycling them if you do not keep them.  At my level – and really, at any level well below, say, 25 – I am not going to be running across Pokémon worth keeping.  They’re almost all being recycled.
  3. I am using tools to carefully scrutinize what to keep and what to recycle.  There’s an appraiser in the game that does a good job. That does short-order work for most all of them. But I look at sites like this Evolution Calculator (here) to get an idea of the kinds of CP scores a specific Pokémon should have before I start to entertain keeping it.  What range? Anywhere in the 2/3 to 3/4 of its maximum CP. That’s what I am looking for along with an excellent IV score. From there, I’ll start to entertain ideas of evolving them. I am doing this because I have one eye on this chart, for maximum CP for each Pokémon.
  4. I am not collecting every Pokémon. Pidgey? No. Rattata? No. Jeez, no. I am using charts like this one as my motivation. If I am going to catch Pokémon, gain XP, and turn them into candies, I might as well be focused on ones that I intend to – much later – evolve into true beasts. I throw at every Eevee, I throw at every Poliwag.
  5. I am hatching a lot of eggs. 32 so far. I have a science project going right now, using my old account and my new account, with which I am trying to force certain Pokestops to produce 10km eggs for me. I really want 10km eggs. I am probably walking 6km to 10km a day these days, to support this, and lately, it’s been 10km daily. 10,000 and even 20,000 step days are common. Oh, and my 10km egg trick is working – I am getting a 10km egg daily.
  6. I am using nests. Nests? Yes, nests. I am investing time in them, with visits to ones that support my goals. Like, the Oregon Zoo parking lot right now, which is a Charmander nest. It’s a Cluster Spawn, actually – that’s not new, it’s just cool that it’s for Charmander. So, spending time there has allowed me to accrue enough candies to one day evolve not just one but two Charizard’s – when I catch the right Charmanders with the right case CPs and the right IV. I can wait. Using nests means using tools like this, to find, track, and add to the discussion about them.
  7. I’m not doing it alone. There’s a great local group on Facebook, for example, that I talk with not just about the game but about nests, trends, and better ways to do it. This is science, after all.
  8. I’m being careful with my buddy. I just switched to a squirtle, in order to build candies for the long haul. I am going to want a monster Blastoise, and having 250+ candies will come in handy. Getting some from a buddy, and more from a nest, will help with that.

One of the funny things is, I am about to hit level 20, and I will have 210,00 XP when I hit that milestone.  When I double that – when I reach 435,000 XP – I will only then be reaching level 23. I am about to enter the long, slow grind part, when things stopped being easy and the game – and my strategy, really does become the Long Game.  We’ll see how it goes.

This is a very different approach, I know. But I am re-learning a lot. It’s awesome.

[Update] Earning stardust. Someone asked me how I am earning stardust, or how I am focusing on earning stardust.  Stardust is, after all, a key game commodity – it is what allows you to power up Pokémon, something most often done before evolving them, in order to increase their CP and make them stronger.  I am earning it the same way as everyone else – I earn some with every Pokémon I am catching (though at a reduced rate, because I am more selective in the Pokémon I am catching. I earn some with every egg that I hatch. And I earn some for defending gyms – I may not be battling in gyms or training in gyms, but I am still looking for gyms – especially ones in remote locations, with low foot traffic – with vacancies, into which I am place one of my Pokémon. This earns me a bonus of coins (yeah!) and stardust (yeah!) every 21 hours – it’s a win/win situation.

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