Augmented reality gaming company Niantic Labs is now instigating conflicts between Pokémon GO players, but it's not as bad as it sounds.
On Wednesday, Niantic began rolling out the new Trainer Battles player versus player fight mode, starting first with players level 40 and above. Now, the rollout is complete, with the game mode available to all players level 10 and higher.
To join the melee, players can search for nearby players and then scan their battle code to initiate sparring. If no one is nearby, players can either challenge friends or spar with AI opponents (there is no matchmaking component for strangers built into the game).
Players can choose between three leagues of varying difficulty, ranging from Trainer Battle Leagues, which caps eligible fighters at 1,500 combat power, to Master League, with no pocket monsters barred.
"When it comes to creating a fun and engaging Trainer Battle experience, we had to strike a careful balance," wrote the Pokémon GO team in a blog post.
"On one hand, we wanted the system to be easy and straightforward enough for any Trainer — even someone relatively unfamiliar with the mechanics of Pokémon video games. At the same time, we wanted to create a unique competitive experience that gave Trainers who are passionate about battle an avenue to create complex strategies. We accomplished this balance by implementing Trainer Battle Leagues and creating even more opportunities for Trainers to build battle strategies."
As the battles begin, trainers assemble a team of three Pokémon. While the game recommends a squad by default, part of the strategy of the game is assembling a group with a diversity of attacks and defenses to counter the opponent's squad.
The gameplay is not unlike what previous battle modes offered, as players can attack with fast attack and then escalate to the charged attack once the power meter is full. Players can also unlock an additional charged attack. Regardless of the victor, both competitors walk away with in-game rewards.
With Trainer Battles, Pokémon GO matches the play modes that other location-based gaming wannabes like Jurassic World Alive and Ghostbusters World offer, while staying true to its roots of getting gamers to go outside.
So while the PvP mode in Jurassic World Alive matches players with random strangers remotely, Pokémon GO's take on PvP allows remote gameplay only between Ultra Friends or Best Friends. Therefore, players without friends in the game will have to go to the park or other public spaces to pick virtual fights with other Pokémon GO players. As a result, the game may force some players out of their introvert shells.
Niantic has kept busy this year making sure its top game remains up-to-date, adding AR+ mode for Android, Field Research quests, Adventure Sync background step tracking, and a Pokestop nomination system in 2018.
The company also found time to release Ingress Prime, the reboot of its original location-based game. With all of this activity, it is not surprising that the release of Harry Potter Wizards Unite slipped into 2019.
Speaking of 2019, expectations are even bigger for Niantic thanks to the Niantic Real World Platform, which will eventually bring multiplayer experiences, persistent content, and real-world occlusion to Niantic's games (as well as games built by other developers). Ingress Prime is built on top of the platform, and the company has promised to apply the platform to its other properties as well. In fact, the company has already shared demo footage of what it will eventually look like to a catch Pokemon that can dart behind real-world objects.
So while Niantic continues to raise the bar for location-based gaming with new features for its flagship game, it's already looking at setting that bar even higher in the foreseeable future.