Pokemon Masters: Just What Does This Game Want to Be?

Pokemon Masters is a game with an identity problem. Is it for kids? But how can you justify a gacha game for children? Is it for adults (like all gachas)? Then why is it so basic and childish? Does it want to welcome lots of new players? Then why is the difficulty curve so steep? Is it appealing to veterans? Then why is the difficulty cap so low? Let’s explore some of this.

Pokemon Masters should be a no-brainer game. Pokemon has long had appealing human characters; while the game obviously focuses on the monsters, they didn’t skimp on the npc’s, either. Why not make a game where the focus is more on said npc’s? In the age of gacha mobile games, this makes even more sense, as gambling addicts and horndogs flock to pretty ladies (and men), basically printing money. Pokemon is already a franchise about collecting all the things, so why not add the npc’s to the list? Pair a trainer with a pokemon, and you can basically print money.

Somehow the oldest protagonist is also the shortest.

At least, you’d think so. Trouble with gacha is that it’s aimed at adults, by design. Even disregarding the gambling part of it, gacha is designed for people with money. Lots more money than you’d expect a young kid to have access to. There’s an image out there, describing the different levels of paying customers in mobile games. They classify people that pay about $75/mo as “killer whales”; in gacha land, that’s minnow money. So, you need a game here that would appeal to working adults. (In Japan, the typical gacha-game player is a man in his 30’s or 40’s – the stereotypical Salary Man.)

Thing is, Pokemon Masters doesn’t do that. The gacha focuses exclusively on the gym leaders and protagonists/rivals. This means that all the characters the older playerbase might be nostalgic for (since the early games’ non-gymleader npc’s are quite basic, compared to those of later games) are likely low-rarity – meaning they’re easy to acquire. Some are of course top-rarity (particularly the protagonists and rivals), but many aren’t, at least of the ones included at the start of the game (gachas rarely add much to the lower-rarity pools – the gacha filler – after the first few months of the game).

That’s why they wait until you’re in their line of sight.

Another factor complicating this is how safe and simple everything is kept. That Elesa up there is the sexiest outfit in the game (besides the Swimmer npc, who is not in the gacha, ever). This is an age where bikini alts and all sorts of other sexy outfits are standard for gacha games; say what you will about how appropriate that is, but that’s where the money is. Then add on the simple and short plots in the game, which make the anime seem Shakespere in comparison. And the simple combat system, even compared to the main games, is almost insulting to the intellect. So it’s hard to tell if this is for adults or kids.

Next, we look at how this handles newbs vs. veteran players. As mentioned at the start, the difficulty curve is rather steep. Even old main story fights can become real slogs for a newer player, or one who doesn’t focus on building up just a few pokemon. Even story events – which are typically how games entice new players – can have steep performance requirements for advancing their story (good thing there isn’t much there to miss…) A lot of resources for improving performance are held behind the harder missions, so giting gud requires being good to begin with. It’s very frustrating until you’ve been playing for a while – not at all friendly to new players, or retaining them…

Until you do finally git gud, at which point you’re set. Just max out your best monsters, and do what you want. Stick with the meta, and you’re even better. Lately they’ve been working on this, where you need to have a modicum of strategy besides “hit it with your biggest stat stick,” But it’s still quite easy for those already on the top – just look up the meta strategy and plug it in. It’s not like there’s any pvp at all (or even guilds) to apply your brain power – or your money.

So, there’s a problem with identity with this game. I don’t know who it’s for, or what it’s aiming to do. I don’t know if the devs do, either. It was clearly originally intended to be a low-effort cash-grab, but that didn’t work out. So there is some effort put in, now. But to what end?

They Got Me, Again (and Again, and Again…)

Man, I hate sales. Or rather, I love them, too much, and just hate what they do to my bank account.

Today, there happened to be a big sale on Paradox-published titles on Steam. And I, being the fool that I am, clicked on it. You know, just to see what was there. The sale advertised up to 80% off, which might be some good times, if there was something I wanted.

Now, my main problem with Paradox stuff is that the base games are OK, and often priced right, and go on deep sales frequently; but they are loaded with expensive DLC to “fix” the problems in the base game. I don’t like to participate in this gaming environment, but modders live and die by the updates the devs make, including DLC.

And Cities Skylines is no exception. I looked at C:S’s page, just to see what was going on: the base game was down below $10 (I think $7.50 more specifically), and wanted to see how the DLC was doing: it’s been a long time since I’ve played, so surely some stuff has come out. And stuff indeed has. That picture above is only the bottom of the list. But it was 51% off! Crazy deals!

Normally, such a lowly sum wouldn’t even bother me. Well, not much. But there are two things wrong: first, it’s DLC. Crazy to pay that much, even at half-off. Second, and more importantly, I’d already spent a bunch of money this month on vidya games. (I think I’ve told this story before, but…) At the beginning of the month (or the end of last month, I don’t remember), Hilda came out in Pokemon Masters. She is the FeMC of Pokemon Black/White, which was my reintroduction to the Pokemon games (having last played the original Red/Blue). She was my main interest in this game [Masters] for that reason. So I rolled and rolled, and even bought out all the original discount gem packs. I don’t normally buy gacha currency just to do more rolls (only ever having done so when I had a lot of extra money to burn and no particular expenses), so this shows my dedication. But what do I get? Not Hilda. Such is life in the gacha game. And it wasn’t a small sum, either. (Not a huge sum, since there were only a few discount packs to buy, but still a larger sum than I’ll readily admit to.)

(Even so, I lost all of what little motivation I had to even get the daily login bonuses. And to add insult to injury, I got Hilbert, the other MC of Black/White. I hear Hilda actually sucks as a unit, but I don’t care.

In an aside, I should mention that the game kinda really sucks, as a game. So much so that both producers wrote an apology letter to the players, acknowledging this fact, and promising to do better in the future. We’ll see if that’s enough to get me to come back. This is the kind of stuff that takes months to make course corrections on.)

So, I bought this stuff, when I didn’t really want to, for a game I’m not going to play anytime soon (get in line behind all the other games, chump!), and didn’t really want to pay that much anyways. But buy it I did. Not that it’s going to make any real financial impact in my life – unless my car explodes tonight or something, $50 isn’t much in the scheme of things – but it’s just embarrassing, or perhaps more accurately, mortifying (since I didn’t have to tell anyone about this), that I keep falling for this. And to fall for this in particular, when I could have used that money to buy actual, full games, and not just pieces of games I already have, that I already enjoy.

I guess I’m the type of customer that keeps these games going. Vote with your wallet, indeed.

New Things! Second Impressions

Gotta say, I’m really disappointed with my new device. Well, not in the device itself. More like the things I can do with it. Maybe if I was a bit more tech savvy, I could make it sing. Like, use the linux mode to force a proper browser, instead of having to use mobile browsers. Or how to get the toolbar to show my RSS feeds. Things like that. I mean, having to use Chrome (I know, using Chrome on a Chromebook? How absurd!) is a bit of a I Hate It situation. At least I finally found I RSS reader extension that Just Werks, after like a whole twenty minutes of searching and fiddling (as opposed to the twenty seconds it took to get one for my old laptop’s Opera – Smart RSS, in case anyone wanted to know).

But the biggest disappointment is that, of the three games I wanted to play on it, two are incompatible, and for no real reason. Dragalia Lost said it was incompatible in the Play Store, but I’ve gotten that message for other things in the past, and with a simple workaround gotten around that issue. I downloaded, installed, connected to my Nintendo account, and updated, no problem. But, when I got to the point of actually playing the game, I got the dreaded 160 Error. While it says there’s a connection issue, it’s actually a compatibility issue. Or rather, it means your OS version is blocked. DL worked on Chromebooks until Feb or Mar, at which point they were blocked. Probably falls under the broad emulator block. I don’t know if I blame this on Cygames or Google. But it really pisses me off something fierce.

Also, Pokemon Masters won’t work, at all. Not in the Play Store, period. QooApp wouldn’t even let me download it. And getting the .apk directly didn’t install. That’s actually really weird. I know whoever developed the game (I don’t know if it was DeNa or Game Freak or what) really screwed the pooch on compatibility – it only works on 64-bit systems, which excludes 90+% of American phones, let alone all the phones across the world – but this is sad. I know I have a 64-bit system – I have 8 GB of RAM, so that’s necessary. But no. No dice.

I haven’t gotten around to trying Princess Connect, but I figure it will work, since that’s more platform-agnostic. I just need to get the will to open it up on my tablet, figure out the menus to get the system link, and we’re probably golden.

I also can see zero reason why Granblue Fantasy wouldn’t work, since that works on Chrome in the first place.

So yah, half the reason I got this stupid thing is out the window. I still need it, since the other half is still valid (laptop coming apart at the seams). But it’s a real drag, since I paid hundreds of dollars more for a system that could supposedly also play my games.

Oh, and also, that second look at Star Trek Online was a disappointment too, but one I was expecting. I did the new mission, and I just have to say everything STD touches turns to garbage. Even in the hands of (slightly more) competent writers, it’s garbage to the core. Even the sci-fi concepts introduced to the Trek universe are garbage. I hate the whole ‘mycellial network’ concept. You just know Kurtzman heard of one of those giant fungus bodies and thought, “What if that was, like, connecting the whole universe, man?” while doing various drugs. It’d be one thing if it were just another realm of subspace, or one of the dime-a-dozen parallel realms in Trek. But no, it ‘connects to all mutiverses’ and ‘if it gets hurt it kills all life in all realities’. And now the baddie-of-the-month is hurting it. But they got Rapp for STO, and Stammets’s whole character is >muh shrooms, so that’s what we have in STO.

Not a great start to my day.

Pokemon Masters Is Go

When the newest main-line Pokemon game was announced, I was a tad excited. Sure, I didn’t get the last few outings (I think I ended with the first Unova one, what was that, X/Y?), but this looked nice. Well, sorta. The girls looked nice, at least. The pokemon looked like pokemon, nothing special. And the world art looked like crap, for a Switch game. Like an indy game, not like a game from a company that has basically all the money. And then there was news that the National Dex, or whatever it’s called, won’t be in the game, at all. Because it’d be too much work. Now, I don’t really care about catching them all (in fact, that’s one of the worst parts of the series, in my opinion), but that sort of attitude really rustles my jimmies, especially when it comes from a company that has practically infinite resources to do what it wants with a game. I mean, pokefans (even cooled ones like me) have been waiting for a main-line console Pokemon for years, and this is what they’re offering? Even so, I was going to use this as an excuse to finally get a Switch, even if grudgingly.

Then I learned about Pokemon Masters, or rather, what Pokemon Masters is really about. When I first heard about it, I just thought it was a Pokemon gacha game. I’d already passed on Pokemon Go (I don’t like pokemans nearly enough to get me to take walks outside), and this sounded like an even worse idea than that, especially with a mainline game coming. But no, it’s not about collecting pokemon, but collecting trainers. Sure, the trainers come with pokemon, but the trainers are the main focus. Now that I can get behind. I already play other waifu collectin’ games, so this was a no-brainer for me.

While I haven’t played that many of the games (Just R/B/Y, B/W1&2, and X/Y), so I’m not really familiar with the characters, that hasn’t stopped me from getting into these games before. Hell, not even knowing the language the game’s in hasn’t stopped me before. So yah, I’m in.

And it officially came out today. So, hurray for that.

Just a few problems, though.

First, I couldn’t find it on the Google Play Store. Odd, that, a major release just wasn’t there? Now, this is on my Android tablet, which is kinda a toaster, but at least it’s better than my cracker of a phone. I was able to find the game on QooApp just fine, and it installed no problem. I had read that this was only working for 64 bit systems…so not a lot of phones. Not the best way to go about this, methinks.

Next, it asked for a whole bunch of info. I was able to deny pretty much all of it though, which was nice. I guess they want to be extra careful, with a game a lot of kids will be playing (they hope). I was even able to tell them to stuff it with the ads. And I didn’t even have to register with my Google account, which I didn’t want to do in the very likely case that I would want to reroll.

It gives options for playing in English or Japanese. That was rough, because I don’t want English voices, but I definitely want English text. It didn’t give the option there to mix it up. It is there in the in-game options, though, so that was nice. I don’t recall if you get those options until before or after you start the first chapter of the game (the options are kinda hidden even after), so I played the first chapter with the English voices. You know, they had both Pokemon money and DeNa money, but they couldn’t even get the cartoon dub actors. Pretty sad. And they do the whole one-line/grunt thing too, which is both sad, because lack of effort, and nice, since I didn’t have to listen to the voice acting so much. There are stories for every trainer I believe, which might be fully voiced, but probably won’t; I haven’t gotten that far yet.

The gameplay is a lot like the triple battles from the games. You get three trainers with one pokemon each, and so does your opponent. However, this isn’t turn-based, but is rather active-time, so you can’t just put your device down in the middle of battle. I don’t know how much I do or don’t like that yet, but at least it’s something different. That seems to be the extent of the battles. Again, I’m not very far, so maybe it changes things up a bit.

The monitization seems to be rather stingy. You don’t get a lot of free rolls, even though this is the beginning of the game. After the first chapter, you only have enough gems to do four single rolls – many gachas give you at least a ten-roll to start, so you feel like you’ve gotten something good (and so gacha vets have enough to decide to reroll or not). From what I understand, you only get enough gems for a ten-roll after playing through all the current story content. Also, they give a lot of the fan-favorites for free during the story, which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the long run (alts are always a thing), but at the beginning that doesn’t induce rolling very much. I guess they are hoping they’ll have a guaranteed audience that will roll everything no matter how stingy the game is, like FGO has.

Some people were complaining that there is a scam gacha that can only be obtained with paid currency, but that’s normal. I guess they are all Dokkan Battle players, which is the only popular game that I know of that allows those deals to be obtained with free currency. I just wish there were a clear graphical difference between the paid currency and the free currency – both use the same crystal icon, whereas games like Dragalia Lost of Granblue Fantasy clearly use different currencies.

I actually got a SSR in my first four rolls though, so I’ll probably keep this account.

The biggest issue, for me, is the performance. I run the game on a tablet, which isn’t the best, but is better than a lot of phones. But I’m getting <15fps. Probably <10fps. It’s slow enough that there is input delay. And I’m not the only one – if you don’t have a high-tier device, you’re going to have trouble. Really poor optimization, for a game that you want young people to play.

It’s only highlighted the troubles I’ve had with this tablet. I can’t even hardly play Princess Connect sometimes, because the lag is so bad. Maybe it has low RAM, or a crap processor, because it seems the problem is with rendering multiple layers – in PriCon it’s whenever there’s a mist effect, and with DL it’s with the menus swooshing in (almost never have trouble with actual gameplay slowdowns in either game though). I might just be in the market for an Android-enabled Chromebook, because my 5.5yo laptop is also (literally) coming apart. Good thing I didn’t buy a Switch yet, eh?

This doesn’t hit close to home at all. Nope…