Sitting under the shade while facing the Wood Fountain near the University Library, wearing matching colors that would make Team Valor proud, Dan Weddle was all but ready to wrestle his red-cased iPhone 5. While the scent of chlorinated water came and gone just as quickly as the waters poured out of the fountain’s spouts, Weddle patiently watched the loading screens on his phone. A lone woman’s unintelligible bursts of screams distracted him for a few seconds, but not enough to completely entrance him. He was on a mission.
One phone reboot and several application restarts later, Weddle was finally rewarded for his efforts. He breezed through two loading screens: one on a white background with an image of a ship being carried by a balloon; the other showing a man with a backpack, looking intently at his phone while unknowingly about to collide with an open-mouthed blue dragon. When Weddle saw his in-game character, named “Hugbug92,” he knew he was back in business.
Weddle’s struggle to start the application is just one of his uphill battles against the latest mobile phone gaming craze, “Pokemon Go.” Since his start with the game on July 8, Weddle has managed to reach up to level 14 in the game. He cites his rural location as a barrier for reaching higher levels quickly.
“I live out of nowhere so I have to go somewhere first in order to play,” Weddle explained. A resident of Franklin, Ind., he and his friends regularly drive out of town for at least 10 minutes in order to enjoy the game.
“That’s actually how I caught my Snorlax,” he recalled. “I asked my friend to stop driving and told him that I had to catch something. He was fine with it because he plays the game too.”
Support for rural areas is actually one of his biggest complaints with the game. Even though Franklin College near him has four Pokestops (predetermined in-game locations where players can collect supplies and catch other Pokemon using a Lure Module), Weddle finds it unfortunate that there’s almost no support for a town just south of Greenwood. And while he recognizes that Franklin is not as rural as other towns are, he knows other players are struggling even more.
Fortunately for him, IUPUI’s campus is dotted with these stops. A community health major, Weddle already knows that he’ll be planning his walks between classes to pass as many Pokestops as possible. Even though he only tries to limit his classes to two days a week to minimize his commute, he already recognizes the potential that the campus can give him when playing “Pokemon Go.”
When he’s not dealing with the lack of Pokemon in his area, Weddle is complaining about the game’s server instability. The massive amount of traffic despite not being released yet for a worldwide audience has caused the game to crash several times during the day. The constant server crash has prompted game developer Niantic Labs to pause releases for other regions, such as South America.
Despite the minimal support for his town and the constant server problems, Weddle managed to implement a three-step strategy in order to stay competitive against other players. Being a frequent Redditor himself, he was able to gather several tips from subreddits dedicated to “Pokemon Go,” such as /r/PokemonGo and /r/TheSilphRoad.
“My first advice would be to save the stardusts,” Weddle said when asked what advice he would give to new players. This was apparently the first tip he found for himself when he was just starting as well.
The consensus is that stardust, given to players whenever they catch a Pokemon or hatch an egg, should almost never be used to power up Pokemon with lower combat points, or CP. According to proponents of this idea, players will be able to encounter the same Pokemon later on with higher CP when their own player level increases. Weddle believes this idea and mentioned that he would feel bad about using stardusts on an inferior creature, only to encounter a better one later.
His second advice would be to catch every Pokemon encountered. While there will be a lot of repeat Pokemon, Weddle argues that each catch helps build up the stardust collection. Duplicate Pokemon can also be transferred in exchange for that creature’s specific candy, which in turn is used towards evolution. Catching several of the same Pokemon can allow a player to keep the one with the most CP while exchanging the rest for evolution candies.
Weddle’s last advice is something he had figured out for himself. According to him, players can use an item called “Lucky Egg” in order to increase the experience received. This Lucky Egg item enables a player to receive twice the normal experience within a 30-minute period. His method involves holding on to as many evolution-ready Pokemon as possible, while making sure that there are enough evolution candies for each. Having one or more eggs that are close to hatching will also help, but not a requirement. Once ready, the player can activate the Lucky Egg and then proceed to hatch any eggs, as well as evolving as many Pokemon as possible.
“I went from level 8 to level 13 on the same day using that Lucky Egg trick,” Weddle claimed.
The technique’s success depends on the bonus experience received when encountering a Pokemon for the first time, either by evolution, egg hatching, or normal travelling. Paired with the bonus of the Lucky Egg, players witness a quicker level increase through the experience boon.
As far as battling goes, Weddle has been hesitant to do it so far. According to him, he has only tried it for a few times. He managed to capture a gym once and was only able to hold on to it for an hour before falling to a mightier foe. His reasoning? He doesn’t believe that his current strongest Pokemon, a 615 CP Snorlax, would be powerful enough to successfully defend a gym. He also added that he believes this will all change once the semester starts again this fall, when he has more access to other Pokemon that he doesn’t otherwise encounter in Franklin.
“I’ll definitely have to start getting used to battling more,” he said.
And as the hot July afternoon bore down on aspiring Pokemon masters, Weddle continued to follow the continuous trail of Pokestops dotting the campus. With the help of his friends and other members of Team Valor, it’s only a matter of time before his Snorlax stands guard at one of the gyms on campus.