How To Be Pokemon Master: The Ultimate Pokémon GO Guide

How To Be Pokemon Master: The Ultimate Pokémon GO Guide

It’s been almost a month, and people still can’t get enough of Pokémon GO. Considering fans waited 20 years to be able to catch pokémon in real life, it makes sense that it would continue being a smash. With the promise of ongoing support and future updates, Niantic’s hit will most likely continue enthralling audiences around the world.

With that in mind, some people might still need help learning the ropes. Here are some handy tips to help put you on the road to the Elite Four!

Don’t Get Attached

A typical rule of thumb in previous Pokémon games is that once you catch a pokémon, it’s yours. That Starly you catch at the beginning of the game is yours throughout. The idea is to build up a party that you have an attachment to and have put a lot of effort into training.

“2 B A Master”: Mastering Pokémon GO 1That isn’t the case with Pokémon GO. Instead of taking down wild pokémon to farm XP, you should try to catch pretty much everything you can. This includes catching dupes of a pokémon you may already have. It’s based on two factors: candy and CP. Catching a pokémon and then transferring it to the professor nets you a candy from that pokémon. That candy is used to level up and evolve pokémon corresponding to that respective candy. So, even if you catch ten lame Pidgeys, that’s still ten Pidgey Candies you can use for powering up and evolving.

But make sure to choose the pokémon you use that candy on wisely. Every pokémon has a certain CP to start, which is basically their power level. This is totally random, meaning that no two creatures start off the same. It is fairly easy to tell early on if a pokémon will be worth spending candy and stardust on, so before you take the plunge, it’s important to have a pokémon that won’t be taxing on your resources.

Basically, the idea is to constantly catch and transfer pokémon until you get one that you feel is worth the effort of being a mainstay.
Pokemon Go Won't Affect Nintendo's Financial Forecast

Get Up, Stand Up

A joke since the launch of Pokémon GO has been that Nintendo is trying to trick people into being active. Indeed, it definitely feels like a large scale geocaching affair intended to get kids off the sofa. While it’s tempting to try and game the system if you’re a total homebody, I’d caution against it.

This isn’t for some secret, insidious reason or anything. It’s just that Pokémon GO has been deliberately designed to to be played on the go. Whether it’s hatching eggs, finding PokéStops, or just stumbling into new pokémon, being active is the key to success. Moving about increases your chances of running into certain pokémon, as specific areas will often be populated by specific pokémon. This means that kicking your feet back on the sofa and setting up a lure just won’t cut it.

Get outside and explore, or travel downtown to hit up popular spots. Unless you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s bound to be something out there.
Nintendo Shares loose 17% Over Knowledge They Did Not Make Pokémon Go 1

It’s All In The Wrist

Gone are the days of choosing your poké ball, hitting a button, and hoping for the best. Pokémon GO introduces a virtual ring-toss game. Essentially, you look at a ring on the screen, wait for it to get to its largest size, and then use your finger to flick a poké ball straight at it. If the ball hits the target, it’ll start the capture sequence. Some pokémon are easier to catch than others, though; if the ring is orange or red, it’ll put up a bit more of a fight.

“2 B A Master”: Mastering Pokémon GO 3You can also earn some extra XP from these throws. If you hit the shrinking ring dead-on, you’ll get bonus points based on your accuracy. Likewise, you’ll get a bonus boost of XP if you execute a curveball (hold the Poke Ball until it starts spinning and sparking.) Sweetening the deal is the fact that both accurate throws and curved throws actually increase the likelihood of catching a pokémon. It pays to be patient and line up a shot just right.

As tempting as it may be to get caught up in the moment and fling poké balls every which way, that won’t help. Ultimately, patience and accuracy are your best friends.

Catch (and Evolve) ‘Em All

You may see your friends bragging on Facebook about their latest victory in a local gym. Here’s the thing: gyms are kind of a waste of time until you hit the mid-teens to 20s in your levelling. While it may feel good to tap your way to the top, it’s actually more beneficial to just keep catching and evolving pokémon. It’ll level you up way faster.

In fact, catching and evolving easy-to-find and easy-to-evolve pokémon is the most lucrative way to make gains. Coupled with Lucky Egg, which boosts your XP gained, constantly catching and evolving will skyrocket your Trainer Level in no time. That’s a good thing, because the higher your level, the stronger pokémon you’ll find in the wild, and the more items you’ll have access to.

Instead of focusing on Internet bragging rights, plug away at actually catching them all. It’ll be worth it in the long run. Once you hit higher levels the gyms become valuable assets in levelling.
“2 B A Master”: Mastering Pokémon GO 4

Vape Nation

This is a fairly small tip, but one worth mentioning. If you have an Eevee and want to evolve it, you should always shoot for a Vaporeon. As I reported on last week, you can actually determine your “Eeveelution” based on the name you give it. Use this trick to get a Vaporeon.

The reason for this is simple: Vaporeon is over-powered and breaks the game. It is the strongest pokémon in the game by leaps and bounds, with attacks that are absurdly powerful compared to other pokémon. It also has the fastest attack animation, which comes in handy for gym battles. Until this obvious imbalance is patched out, use it to your advantage.
“2 B A Master”: Mastering Pokémon GO 5

Other Trainer Tips

  • Turning off AR saves battery and makes catching pokémon easier.
  • Spending money is a good idea, and worth doing at least once or twice for some good items.
  • Don’t focus on powering up your pokémon until your Trainer Level is in the 20s.
  • There isn’t a Mew under that truck, so don’t look.

That about wraps up what I’ve experienced with Pokémon GO thus far! Any other tips? How far along are you in the game? Sound off in the comments!

Asus Zenfone 2 (Hardware) Review

Asus Zenfone 2 (Hardware) Review

In recent years, there has been a move by a select group of handset makers to make high-end phones that will come in at a more moderate price tag. Asus with the ZenFone 2 have just set a new panicle that new phones will need to match to compete. This sub $400 device promises top-of-the-line performance at a fraction of the cost you would be paying or a Samsung or Motorola. For the most part, they have succeeded, although there are a few key points that keep the ZenFone 2 from achieving true greatness.

In a sense, the ZenFone 2’s budget price tag is blatantly apparent by looking at it. Asus have built a very basic looking smartphone. The keyword for the build quality of the ZenFone 2 is plastic. Everything on the phone feels very plastic and cheap. From the back cover to the overall structure, it feels like some corners had to be cut to reach the lower price point.
With many of the other handset makers opting for more polished looks, there are no head-turning features here. Where other companies are pushing for curved phones, zero bezels or metal fit and finish, Asus chose to stick with a slightly safe design. Not to say that it’s ugly, but it’s clear that if it had some attention been paid to the design beyond just pure function, we could have a slightly nicer looking handset. As it is now, it’s functional, and to that end it works.

Now, while the overall design is safe, the button placement is baffling. For whatever reason, Asus decided the best place to put the volume buttons on the phone would be the back, just below the camera. Now this may not seem like an issue, but with such a large device, even people with big hands will have a bit of trouble working all the buttons. Combine that with a power button at the top of this 5.5 monster and you have a phone that needs two hands to function. These are things other companies have tried in the past; there’s a reason they never became standard. It’s an oversight on the part of Asus to not look upon and learn from the mistakes of others.

Asus did not cut corners with the display, however; boasting a 5.5-inch 1080P display with a PPI of 403, this screen is nothing to scoff at. It’s not nearly as nice as screens seen on the latest LG, Samsung or Apple devices, but it was still crisp and clear. The color reproduction was good in most cases and watching media on the device worked well. The brightness left something to be desired, though. Even with the “Vivid” display setting and brightness turned up, it felt a bit dim. For everyday use, this should not pose many issues, but when outside it is nearly impossible to see anything on the display. I found myself looking for shade to check an email.

On paper, the camera on the ZenFone 2 seems as if it would be a camera in name only, producing photos you would want to discard after taking. In our testing, most of the photos turned out well. The lack of Optical Image Stabilization does mean that many night photos will have a bad blur to them without a very steady hand. We did manage to get a few decent night shots, but it did take many attempts. The f2 lens produces some stunning shots, but due to the lack of special shooting features that other phones boast, it may take a bit of work to capture the striking moments.
asuszenphone2insert2The sound is one area I feel Asus have dropped the ball. This is a phone built to excel at media consumption and gaming. With such goals in mind, the fact they have chosen to place a sub-par speaker on the phone is baffling. In testing, the speaker sounded tinny and very quiet. It was hard to hear over the moderate noise outside, and near impossible to hear in a crowded setting. With such good specs in the phone otherwise, it was an odd oversight and one that makes consuming media on the device a headphone-required affair.

The battery is another area where the Zenfone shines. The 3000 mAh battery Asus have shoehorned into the phone ensures you will never be wanting for battery over the course of a day. Most days with the phone, even with later nights, there was a little issue getting through the full day without needing a charge. The odd time we needed to give it a quick top-up, the phone charged very quickly, ensuring we were not sitting around waiting by the plug as we got a boost to last through the night.

Asus have loaded the Zenfone with the latest version of Android and added their unique ZenUI. For the most part, the Asus customizations are inoffensive. I am more of a fan of stock Android and wish more companies would choose to stick with a more standard experience for most of the phones functions. I don’t feel the Asus layer does much to get in the way of the user experience, although I did notice some rather odd touch issues and other minor bugs in testing.

The real issue with the user experience is that Asus, for some reason have loaded the Zenfone up to the brim with bloatware. Most of the software seemed of little use to the end user, and many additions were downright useless. Even with the large storage space options on the phone, filling up the app drawer with useless tools only hurts the user experience and offering no way to delete them just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
asuszenphone2insert3But if you are reading this review, you probably want to know how gaming on the phone pans out. With the high-end model boasting a staggering 4GB of ram on mobile, this phone is no slouch when it comes to gaming. Everything we threw at it, the ZenFone ate up and played flawlessly. Games ran as smooth as silk. We saw little to no screen issues, load times were never a problem, and the bright 5.5 inch 1080P screen ensured everything looked great.

Much of the reason for games looking and feeling so good had to do with the internals that Asus crammed into the package. Asus opted for an Intel Atom processor, rather than the normal ARM options many other producers go for. The Atom allows for much more power than can be seen in other phones. Combine that with the 4GB Ram and PowerVR G6430 GPU and you have a phone that few others can stand against. The only thing that may pose a problem for gaming would be the speaker, but if you hook in a nice set of headphones, you should be good to play for hours. The large 3000mAh battery should give you hours of playtime between charges, ensuring you will not be out of luck later in the day if you opt to play some FIFA 15 over lunch.

The Zenfone 2 is in an odd place. I love the things Asus is offering the user, and with it all costing under $400 for the high-end model it is a solid device no matter how you slice it. Asus have made some unfavourable choices that hurt the overall experience. For a phone that offers so much, it’s hard to understand why they would design it the way they have, or opt to fill the phone with bloatware. That being said, it is a fantastic gaming device and a solid phone in most regards. If you are okay with the design choices and don’t mind some bloat with your experience, the ZenFone 2 is a must-buy.

Frank Gibeau Quits EA Games Mobile

Frank Gibeau Quits EA Games Mobile

After 23 years, Frank Gibeau leaves EA Mobile, according to a report EA filed with the U.S. Secretaries and Exchange Commissions.

The SEC report says that Gibeau has “chosen to transition on from the Company.”  The announcement was made during his last day as an EA Employee, on May 18.

Gibeau was the Executive Vice President of EA Mobile as of 2013. Prior to that, he was the President of EA Games and EA Labels among other positions listed on his LinkedIn page since first working with EA in 1991. Gibeau has helped shape one of the most influential gaming companies in the world. Some of the titles he worked on include Plants vs. Zombies, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Madden NFL, and Need for Speed.

Gibeau was considered for the position of CEO after John Riccitiello left back in March 2013, but lost it to Andrew Wilson. There have been several losses to the company since then, including CTO Rajat Taneja, and a number of layoffs to the EA Mobile Montreal branch in February of this year.
simpsonstappedinsert1Despite the layoffs, EA announced this May that the mobile revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter rose because of mobile games, specifically in-app purchases. It went up 22% to $150 million.

Gibeau told GamesBeat, “… I’ve accomplished all that I could have imagined and more. I’m very proud of all the great games that I had a chance to work on. I thank EA for the opportunity and wish them the very best.”

According to Polygon, Wilson said, “… Frank’s made many significant contributions to the company, our people and our games. Most recently, he’s worked to strengthen EA Mobile by building a great team. We’d like to thank Frank for his achievements at EA, and we wish him all the best in his next chapter.”

Wilson also stressed that mobile games will continue to be the core focus for EA, saying, “… thanks to our incredibly talented mobile teams, our position has never been stronger. With a foundation of key titles, core strength in live services that provide years of entertainment, and new games that are bringing in more players, engagement across the EA Mobile portfolio continues to grow.”
simpsonstappedinsert2There is no replacement announced to take Gibeau’s position, but for now the EA Mobile team will now report to Wilson, as said in a statement.

While sudden, some analysts had been predicting it for some time now. Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan’s told VG 24/7 that Gibeau would leave back in 2014. Pachter said, “He was reassigned to a much less influential position and promptly sold all of his stock, so I think he is planning a move soon.”

Gibeau’s one of three executives to recently leave their companies. Don Mattrick of Zynga left a few weeks ago and Phil Harrison left Microsoft in April.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware) Review

The New Nintendo 3DS XL (Hardware) Review

Nintendo has done it again. With a saturated market and numerous iterations of the hardware, they are pushing out a new version of the 3DS. Back in August, when Nintendo first announced the new system, I was questioning how this new system would really do when so many people already own the previous console. With most of the things announced for the new unit seeming like minor updates, it seemed an odd move to push people into an unnecessary upgrade. Now the system is in our hands and we can finally answer the question of whether or not the New 3DS XL something you need to invest in.

When you first open the small package the New 3DS XL comes in, take off all the packaging and inspect your new device you will notice many new tweaks to the design. The buttons have moved locations, the SD card slot has been removed, and the addition of a new flashier overall aesthetic. Beyond all these changes, the most noticeable new addition by Nintendo is the new second thumb stick.

The New 3DS XL Closed

 Reminiscent of the Trackpoint seen on ThinkPad’s from the 90’s, this little thumb stick allows games that require a second joystick to work on this new unit. With the new ability to play duel joystick shooters or more complex action titles, a new slew of games can make its way onto the system. Yes the addition is a nice touch, but with the 3DS already cementing its self as a system of unique and interesting titles, it seems strange to add this feature so late in the lifecycle. I am sure Nintendo has an idea what this new feature will allow, but as of yet I see little that is taking advantage of it.

Now the bad news for anyone that was excited by this feature, the nub is horrible to use. Yes, it works in a pinch -it acts as a second joystick and gives the basic tactical concepts of control- but overall it would be best described as unpleasant. It is stiff, with little travel and painful in longer gaming sessions. It is nice to see the addition to the system, but I would personally lament needing to play a full length action game requiring the constant use of that stick.

The New 3DS XL (Left), 3DS XL (Right)

 Beyond the new stick, Nintendo also has blessed us with more raw computing power. This newer CPU/GPU combo should give the horsepower needed to push more things onto the screen without compromise. This will have little to no effect on games already on the market however; if a game is not built to use the extra resources it will act as would be expected from any 3DS system.

The new Pokémon games and Xenoblade will be using the new system exclusively. Sadly, they are not slated for release until later in 2015. Until then, players will have to settle for the library of games currently on the system. Although they will not utilize all the new features, games like Super Smash Brothers will gain the added feature set the New 3DS XL offers. The Amiibo support will especially be a nice touch to really make the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game more comparable, and give another thing to use the collectable figures on.

Now you may be asking yourself “What about the 3D?” This is one feature Nintendo has done some amazing work with. Not only does the 3D “pop” with this latest iteration of the hardware, the added head tracking helps the 3D work better for most people.

The new Thumb stick Nub gives new ways to play on the 3DS

 It should also be noted, that although The New 3DS XL does still utilize an SD card, Nintendo has opted for a micro SD rather than the full size seen on previous iterations of the console. In a rather odd choice by Nintendo, they have also hidden the card under a screw in back plate. Nintendo, despite many faults, have, in the past, always chosen for the most intuitive methods to access ports and slots on their consoles. Making the act of expanding the storage more difficult seems like an odd choice, especially considering ever growing lineup of digital games hitting the eShop, but I am sure most people will have little problems with the minor upgrade when necessary.

Priced at $229.99, you would think Nintendo would pack the box with the right amount of goodies to ensure, you the buyer, are happy with your purchase. Nintendo has opted more a minimalistic approach to this offering. Not only do you not get any goodies and extras, you do not even get a charger for your troubles. Yes these chargers are only around $10 on average, and most people have them, but this is beside the point. For anyone who is not entrenched in the ecosystem and buying this system, they may be surprised by what they find, and rightfully so. This is an oversight by Nintendo, one I do hope to see them rectify with future iterations.

The New 3DS XL (Left), The 3DS XL (Right)

The real question is, is the system worth your hard earned money? Now this is where things get a little bit trickier. Yes it is only a minor upgrade all things said, but the upgrades will be needed for some of Nintendo’s core titles. With select games needing the feature set present on The New 3DS, anyone eager to continue in with the 3DS library of games will need to jump onboard. Once Nintendo pushes out the games that need the new features The New 3DS XL will be a necessary upgrade. Until that time, The New 3DS XL will remain an optional upgrade alternative to the already packed 3DS ecosystem.

Mobile Gamings Sucks and I Hate It

Mobile Gamings Sucks and I Hate It

I ride the subway a lot, and being the super nosey individual I am, I can’t help but peek at the screens of other passenger’s phones or tablets while I’m waiting to reach my destination. I feel safe in saying that 7/10 people I’m creeping on are playing games. Taking into account that being underground prevents people from texting and using the internet, it stands to reason that mobile games are about the only thing you can really do on your phone outside of watching a movie, so it makes sense that a good chunk of them are happily tapping away at coloured orbs.

Ok, so everyone from businessmen to soccer moms are getting into gaming. That’s pretty cool right? We’re finally able to show outsiders why we’re so passionate about our videogames.

Until you see that they’re playing Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, or any of the million and one other mobile games that require no thought to play, have no narrative, and gameplay so simple and repetitive a monkey could play it.

Why would this make me angry? Why do I care what other people are doing on their phones in their spare time? Why should I care that they’re pumping hour after hour into a game where the entire purpose is to tap the screen enough times to access the next incredibly similar yet slightly different looking level?

Because, I’ve spent years trying to legitimize my hobby and passion in the eyes people who assume The Last of Us is just a shinier, more expensive version of Tetris. Thanks to the surging popularity of mobile gaming, all my hard work has apparently been for naught. It doesn’t matter to them if a masterpiece of interactive storytelling is changing the face of what we know as entertainment, in an industry that has seen an incredible amount of growth and maturity over the last three decades. All they want to do is swipe a screen over and over again to get to the next “level”, which is the exact same as all the others but with a different coat of paint. Andre Braugher’s character in the legitimately hilarious cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine sums up my thoughts perfectly during an episode where he gets addicted to Kwazy Kupcakes, a riff on the aforementioned and ultra-popular Candy Crush: “I’m just about to enter Sprinkle City… They break the game into these idiotic worlds to give you some sense of progress.”

Now before you get all riled up and say “Most games we played as kids did exactly this!” Fine, fair point, but that was the 80s and videogames were nowhere near the cultural phenomenon they are now. Not to mention the technology, writing, art direction etc… are light years ahead of what we had back then. Games, like film, have evolved a lot over the last few decades. Let it also be noted that this new format is not an homage or retro in any good way. These developers have taken everything that sucked about that era of games, and everything sleazy and cheap, and boiled it down into addictive, soulless trash that costs nothing to produce and makes tons of money. This is on top of the fact that they are clearly ripping off the likes of Dr. Mario, Tetris, and Bust a Move while tricking people into thinking they were original and innovative gameplay mechanics. Yet people are purchasing these games in crazy numbers.

Which leads me to my next point. I’m not naïve about how capitalism works. When it comes to the money I completely understand this business model. I also understand why bulldozing endangered forests is financially viable, it doesn’t mean I agree with it.

Yes, I just compared Candy Crush to the destruction of a protected environment, but that’s just how angry it makes me. I see this a lot with older people especially, the ones that didn’t grow up with videogames and don’t know what they’re missing. All those times as a child when my mother would yell at me to put down the Nintendo controller and play outside seem like a false memory when I see her face glued to the iPad playing some slot machine simulator.

This is all subjective of course. I completely understand that saying these things makes me come off like the stereotypical nerd condescendingly telling someone that their version of fun is somehow less sophisticated than mine and therefore a waste of time. Musicians do it, film snobs do it, and most of the time the person on the receiving end can reply with a simple “Piss off, I’m having fun. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. It’s not hurting you in any way.”

Well, yeah, it kind of is. Every dollar spend on a crappy mobile game proliferates the business model, making it a much more lucrative venture for investors and capitalists whose money may have gone to supporting a burgeoning indie studio pouring their heart and hard work into project they’re passionate about. Instead of a Journey we get a Jelly Splash, complete with annoying and unwanted Facebook connection requests. So if you’re an investor with a big chunk of cash looking for nice returns, and don’t care about the culture of videogames at all, who are you going to give your money too? The guys working night and day on a passion project that only appeals to “hardcore” gamers and requires months and months of 12-hour workdays? Or the studio cranking out five different versions of the same game that can be publishable and ready to go in a week? More people playing= more money to the companies developing those games.

I suppose it’s not all doom and gloom though. With such a huge number of users and developers focusing on this market, the mobile gaming industry can’t be entirely cancerous. There are certainly some gems out there: Take-Two’s gorgeous and immersive first-person-shooter Bioshock is now available on the iPad, and thanks to the hard work of modders and programmers there is a plethora of emulators for classic consoles. Super Metroid on my phone? Sign me up! But these hardly compare to the number of people playing Candy Crush and Slotmania.

I may just be a jaded nerd getting up in arms because other people are enjoying versions of my hobby that I consider inferior, and even that statement comes off sounding pretentious as hell. I stick by my argument though, if this trend continues to suck money away from the development of immersive and engaging games both developers and gamers will continue to suffer. So, I will continue to sit on my digital high horse and condemn the plebs for their simple taste. I think I’ve earned the right.