22 July 2017

Pokemon GO Fest - Adventures in Misadventure

While this isn't the perfect window for this information, I think it's a medium that many can relate to, and really want this information out there. I do plan on getting some more papercrafts out relatively soon too - we haven't forgot, I promise haha. 
               For anyone following Pokemon GO at all, you’ll have heard about Pokemon GO Fest in Chicago by now- but not for the right reasons. Pokemon GO Fest was a disaster. Some may think I might be exaggerating, that there was some up side, that there was something redeemable – and there is, but we won’t get there just yet.
               The problems started with the line – there was one point of entry, both lines – early entry and regular – are several blocks long, and there was no end in sight for many looking to find the end of the lines. The beginning of the early entry line had signs that clearly indicated what it was, and these signs went on for the first block. That’s great and all, but there were 4 more blocks that people trudged to the end of to get in line, often getting in the wrong line. I saw several people get to the front of early entry, only to be told they had to go to the back of the other line, which hadn’t moved one bit. Early entry, which was marketed at being in early at 9am, only fulfilled on this promise if you were near the front. While I was in the early entry, I still didn’t get in until around 10:20am, 20 minutes after regular entry was supposed to get in, and 40 minutes before the first challenge was to begin. To make matters worse, getting in late was only the beginning.
               Login issues are rampant from the start – getting in early and being among the lucky few to be on the network early doesn’t help a bit. I get into the app, enter the QR code, and get an error saying it’s an invalid code. Alright, I’ll just restart my phone and try the app from scratch. Mistake. I attempt to open the app, and it sticks on the minimal amount of load bar it can, not loading in for at least another 2 hours. When it does load in, I’m barely able to verify that the QR code worked at all, and then the app crashes. I don’t get in for another 3 hours. If network connectivity wasn't a direct issue, Pokemon GO either isn't loading any assets even in the rare event it gets logged in, and doesn't stay open without crashing for more than 5 minutes at a time. 
               In that 3 hours, the announcers had their work cut out for them – John Hanke leads on stage pretty early on, before the entirety of the early access gets in, and certainly before everyone else gets in. People are already experiencing the same issues I noted before, well before he got on stage at all, and they were quite ready for his appearance – Hanke was met by a sound round of boos, having to pause quite a bit in large gaps of silence before welcoming everyone to a “day of fun”. Optimistic, certainly. Following this, we have a round of the stream hosts come on stream, welcoming us, asking us how we’re doing, and saying how the first challenge window will open in the next 5-10 minutes. Hanke’s optimism doesn’t surprise me, but the hosts’ complete lack of observance or understanding of the situation ASTOUNDS me. They completely try and gloss over the situation despite being met with a rousing round of “boo” and “I can’t play” by a large part of the crowd. They talk over the crowd, acting like nothing is wrong, charging ahead to the challenge round. Alright, sure, keep the schedule despite nearly everyone being unable to do anything.
From myrongainsmisc on Reddit
               The Challenge window comes and goes, seeing a very, very low turnout. Surprise. Team averages were 2.6ish per player, simply because those that were logged in could catch maybe 12-18 in the time, but everyone else couldn’t catch anything at all. Also to no surprise, Niantic was caught fudging numbers on screen during the event even– someone from reddit snagged a picture of the manual override panel showing on the screen at one point. Welcome to Whose Line is It Anyway, where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter, because we want to look good even though the event is obviously collapsing on itself. This goes on for most of the day – the hosts act like nothing is happening, and any crowd chanting is ignored and talked over in all but one situation. A Niantic rep by the name of Mike periodically came on every hour or so just to note that “they’re aware of the situation, and are working to resolve it from both sides – server stability and network access”. Mike’s role was extremely underplayed but extremely appreciated. I wish the stream hosts took a page from his book, the general disdain and exhaustion would have been eased quite a bit.
            About 4-5 hours in, Niantic actually takes long overdue action – they expand the “event range” to a 2 mile radius, they mention refunding everyone their wristbands, and they offer up $100 worth of coins to everyone in attendance. The 2 mile radius allows people to actually catch the Heracross and CHIAGO Unown letters outside of Grant Park in an area where they can actually get cell service, the monetary and coin related offers to attempt to quell the mutinous crowd. It’s much too late, and for many too little even. Many paid $200+ for wristbands on the aftermarket, flew in from different states or even countries, and spent far more than $130 to get to a failure of a day. While the aftermarket isn’t and shouldn’t be an issue Niantic should be concerning themselves with, Hanke acknowledging international players in his opening speech and then settling on such a “subpar” solution just doesn’t sit well with me. I actually only paid $30 for my band and drove/trained in from about 3 hours out, and it was still shaky even on those grounds. We all sat out in the heat for a solid 5 hours with very little communication or acknowledgement only to be met with such a solution. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what we get, I’ll definitely make use of it – but for all the unmet hype and botched day so far, it seems like a copout.
            At this point, we cut our losses, leave the park, and catch what we can in the surrounding area. I snagged Unowns IAHG, missing C and O, but making up for that with around 8 Heracross and countless Machop. Not exactly what I had in mind for the day, but at this point I’m happy with what I can get. We decide to head back to the park around 5pm, met by a stream of people exiting the park. Niantic called it a day, saying everyone in attendance would also receive a Lugia straight to their account, that the anticipated Legendary Raid just wasn’t going to happen due to network issues, and that there’s no point in sticking around. That’s the end of poor communication for the day, right?
Legendary Raids in Chicago
            WRONG. I head back home, wanting to salvage some of the night still, and knowing I have a long 3 hours ahead of me. About halfway through the trip, I find out Niantic essentially lied to everyone in attendance. The night wasn’t over, there was actually a reason to stick around, and it only took them 2 hours to get there with no communication in the mean time. Niantic dropped Legendary Raids 2 hours after saying “nothing to see here, time to go home”, having around 20 of each Lugia and Articuno raids open to everyone in the Chicago area that can scrounge up a normal raid pass. I was absolutely livid. Had Niantic mentioned any reason at all to stick around, especially access to so many legendary raids in a relatively small area, I certainly would have stuck around. As it is, I’m seething at home, writing this ‘report’. I'm definitely happy for the people who were able to do these raids so quick, and I don't think launching them tonight was even a bad move- it just wasn't a communicated move in the slightest. Every single turning point that Niantic had to have a stable event, have clear and concise communication, or even remotely respect their player base in a way that reflects the player base’s dedication, they failed. Niantic failed to communicate, Niantic failed to create a stable event environment in a setting where they knew the exact number of attendees, and Niantic failed to respect those that put so much time and money into this- including themselves. Niantic is of course the one that put the most time and money into it, but the effort doesn’t appear to be there – it fell very flat, was very disappointing, and showed a lack of preparedness from a company constantly criticized for not putting due diligence into their multi million dollar cash cow over the past year.
            The good – they eventually acknowledged the issues, they did offer compensation in some way, and Mike was the real MVP for providing the only acknowledgement we would get all day. Many were eventually able to get the fabled Heracross and Unowns, even if it did take half the day to offer a solution to this. Unfortunately, these points just weren’t enough to swing the day as an overall favorable memory to me.
For a company that produces a game intended to be used on a device that’s primarily used to communicate, Niantic’s communication is the worst I’ve ever seen. Glossing over issues, offering what seems like mediocre compensation to many, and never actually getting a fully functioning event into play at any point of the day dramatically slowed any  momentum Niantic could have easily rode into getting past a prior age of issues. Instead, these prior issues were only brought to the forefront of everyone’s memory, leaving a bitter taste of history for many.  


Anonymous said...

Geez, that sounds like the worst, I know Niantic had problems with Pokemon Go, but this is just crazy. I never was too much of a fan of Pokemon Go, but to hear what happened in the first legendary sighting, or whatever you want to call it, it is just insane! That sounds like a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

I've had issues with them several times. Any time I have gone on vacation and tried to play they blocked my account and I had to email with them back and forth for days before they unlocked my account only to have to go through it again the next time I went out of town.

Stephen Swift said...

I never got into Go but this sounds like a mess. Of course while they messed up pretty bad this being so big and all you have to remember you can't plan for everything. I'm sure it was one of those "whatever could go wrong would" I've had that sort of luck on a small scale I find it disgusting they lied about the numbers and didn't pay attention but I'm sure they were so zoned on their scripts they couldn't really deviate