Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

  • Developed by: Niantic
  • Published by: Nintendo, Pokémon Company
  • Original release date: July 6th, 2016
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Written in Unity

I was late to the game with Pokemon. My generation was in elementary school at the height of the Pokemon craze. From what I hear, it was a grand ole time. Due to some satanic-panic logic (that remains unclear to me) Pokemon was forbidden in my house, growing up.

In fact, that was the reason behind most prohibited activities of my childhood. No Casper. No Power Rangers. No Pokemon. All of that exclusion kept me away from the cool kids’ table. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but looking back, I wasn’t any of the things you usually see in kids that get picked on. Not being an obvious target wound up hurting me in the long run. “How could you get picked on? You’re the biggest kid in class!” I was. Eventually, I had to figure out how to get with it or get left in the dust. 

Not only was it banned at home, most of the disciplinary action I witnessed in grade school revolved around punishing kids for bringing Pokemon cards to school. That prohibition was my “in.” After confiscating a large quantity of Pokemon cards, teachers carelessly tossed the collection in one pile onto the floor. 

Predictably, there were dogpiles. Whatever lay on the floor was up for grabs. I was left out of the conversation, but I certainly overheard them. What 9 years old could resist the opportunity to brag about their 1st edition Charizard? Or their holographic Pikachu? The kids making fun of me gave away exactly which cards I should steal from them. With everyone’s eyes on the prize, nobody noticed the only kid in class who couldn’t play Pokemon joining the ambush. On a few occasions, I’d crawl out with quite the score. 

My brothers obtained their own collections over time. Only, they would get caught. Every time one brother was busted, I’d overhear my parents threaten to search every bag in the house. While they sniffed for clues, I’d ditch my cards among the discarded contraband in the kitchen garbage to save my skin. In the end, every heist proved fruitless. My name’s Eric Fellner, and I stole my friend’s and classmates’ cherished Pokemon cards so I could throw them in the trash.

July 2016. Imagine my surprise the day Pokemon Go comes out, and my mom has it downloaded on her phone. After all that effort! After years of enforcement! 

Possibly the allure of augmented reality swayed my mother’s feelings on the matter? Maybe she admitted to herself the ban never had any rationale to start with? Whatever occurred, Pokemon Go was my first game in the series at the age of 23. 

It was a good summer to start! I had returned from a month-long stay in Brooklyn, which was honestly the time of my life. I had booked my first show for my return to North Carolina. A month of walking around the city got me into great shape. To my knowledge, the relationship I was in was going well. July 2016 was starting off as the peak of my “Jordan-year.”

Additionally, the whole world seemed united in (at least novel) interest in this game. And I could finally buy-in! My co-workers at Starbucks would dip into the parking lot catching Pokemon while they took drive-through orders. All hours of the night, pods of kids and adults alike crowded what was suddenly considered “landmarks.” In search of resources. Battling over gyms. Trying to “catch ‘em all.” You’re familiar with the game.

Counting on!

Personally, I loved using the game as a pedometer! It kept me in great shape. Endlessly running through the neighborhood and shopping centers felt as true to the core gameplay loop of Pokemon as you can get. Only, there was slightly less animal violence.

Then, July came to a close. One night, I stopped in late to see my grandfather who lived in town, Popop. We had open plans to visit a 24-hour bakery in Charlotte called Amelie’s. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep sometime before I arrived. 

Between that night and the funeral, the girl I had been seeing ended things over text. The next week, I played that show I had booked while I was in New York. Due to similar circumstances in the other bandmates’ lives, the band immediately disbanded. 

After a month of riding high, things crashed spectacularly. My enthusiasm for Pokemon Go died amid the chaos and depression of the time. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t want to see people out, people together. It’s no exaggeration that week in August took years to recover from. Not just emotionally. Regaining the sense of momentum I felt that summer took time. Pokemon Go forever resides in my memory as the pop-culture phenomenon that coincides with that period of my life.

February 2020. After a couple rough years, I was quitting the worst job of my life (thanks for nothing, Target) to teach guitar full-time. Playing music, for a living. Then, wouldn’t you know it? COVID-19 struck! 

Boy did it. And the job I just went all-in on was at high risk of being yanked from under me. Reflecting now, I wonder if the sink or swim of the moment shocked me into a state of flow. One day, my boss and I devised a plan to transition the entire studio to a remote format. The next day, the admin team and teachers were executing that plan. We were infinitely fortunate. We never missed a single day of lessons.

My girlfriend lived two hours away in Raleigh, and we decided to lock down together while I could work remotely. Despite having some work, I still had a considerable amount of free time. We were 5 miles from Moore Park, the center of downtown Raleigh, with everything in the city closed. As that normal set in, I found myself running across Raleigh playing Pokemon Go. Me and my Snorlax, Popop.

Normal is hopefully starting to shift yet again, and I continue to log (slightly fewer) kilometers in Pokemon Go. I’m no longer interested in Pokemon to get along with classmates, and if tragedy strikes, I’m a little better prepared. Pokemon Go is more of a glorified pedometer more than augmented reality, but my fondness for it still runs deep.

This piece is part of a larger collaboration, Pokemon: Creator’s Catch. Click here to check out all the work by other great writers and artists!

Gamer’s Thoughts: Mekamon (Robotics) ~ Robot Games

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Hello there, dear reader! I hope you are having a great day today. If that isn’t the case, allow me to give you something to read to escape the reality for a bit. So, today I’m going to talk about something unique. Most of you know that I’m studying to become a computer scientist. I specialize in networking and computer techy. Yet, I’m always interested in the fields of computer science that I lack the skills for. One of these fields is robotics. By the way, one of my blogger friends KillerRobotics writes an interesting blog about robotics. So, go and check him out, okay? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the robot in the comment section down below!

Mekamon

Last week, I received an email from the people over at Reach Robotics. They are developing one of the first gaming robots called Mekamon. While I’m personally not too well versed into robotics, the videos they have put out, look rather interesting.

They have put out two videos about the robot. One where they show off the robot on the playground and one where they show off how the robot walks on any surface. You can find even more information on their blog.

Here is something quite interesting that the developers behind this robot told me:

MekaMon is the world’s first gaming robot. A fully modular, augmented reality enabled, connected battle-bot. And now’s your chance to see it in action. We’ve been busy creating a short series of videos to let users know that their MekaMon isn’t just for the living room floor. From MekaMon’s day out in the park, to terrain trials, we’ve brought viewers into the world of MekaMon’s amazing movement.
MekaMon features three degrees of freedom per leg, which offers motion unprecedented in the world of consumer robotics. Take that motion into our Mek v. Mek battles or AR single player missions and you’ve got a serious gaming platform, straight from the control of your smartphone.

Old robotic toys

Over-Shoulder-of-App-MekaMon.jpgI remember that there were robot-buddies in the past. But those robots haven’t been popular here, where I live. What interests me the most is the fact that this robot is modular.

Most of the robotic toys I saw in the stores or at my friends their houses were mostly voice controlled or had just a few games or things you could do with them. MekaMon is modular so you can add additional modules to create a new experience.

I’m still a bit bummed out that I wasn’t allowed to mess around with the robots that my friends had. Since I had a “curse” on me, I was able to “break” the robot and make it do funny things. In retrospect, I was able to find bugs in the programming and exploit them and make the operating system crash.

I had the biggest issue with voice recognition robots. When I was younger, most of those type of robots were unable to recognize my voice.  Maybe I tried to pronounce it in a wrong way or maybe I didn’t use it in the right way.

Happy to see

You know, I’m quite happy to see things like this happening. One of the biggest reasons I’m quite a big fan of Nintendo is because they try to promote their consoles with different gimmicks. The Wii has motion controls, the 3DS has glassless 3D, the DS has two screens and so on and so forth.

White_WMM_StandardPackage_CUFront

As a game collector, I’m quite interested in various ways to experience a game. This is a unique way of playing games I haven’t seen a lot. A robot that you can take outside to play games with in real life, it’s Pokémon Go all over again.

I really hope something like this picks up steam. It might do something of the stereotype some people have about the gaming community. That we are all so-called shut-in people that do nothing besides looking at their screens all day. Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on our community but sadly enough, I know people who really think that way about us.

Yet, ranting about that is a totally different article. I’m quite interested in seeing what kind of games you will be able to play using the MekaMon. The only thing I’m somewhat worried about is the fact that it’s controlled by your smartphone.

Now, hear me out about this. If they don’t pull this off right, hacked clients might pop up on the internet and may skew games with all those annoying consequences as an unwanted bonus.

But, I’m certain that things like this will be monitored when the robot is released and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are going to be methods in place to prevent things like this happening.

In any case, I’m going to follow the development of this robot. Since I would love to see the games you can play with it and see some demo videos of people actually playing a game with them.

If this article made you interested in the MekaMon, go to their website I linked at the top of this article. It’s a quite nice read and you don’t need to be very tech savvy to understand everything. I can’t wait to see where this is going and I wish the developers the best. And if this robot is released, I might even buy it, if my budget allows it that is.

But, you don’t have to wait. If you go to the official website of the robot, you can get in the pre-order queue and pre-order this robot for when it comes out! Here is the official website, if you didn’t want to go back to the top of the article.

So, that’s everything I wanted to talk about for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Demo: Bravely Second – The Ballad Of The Three Cavaliers (3DS) – First Impressions

bravelysecondSo, in the near future… A new RPG will release. One that I’m really looking forward too. It’s called “Bravely Second”. It’s a sequel to Bravely Default that I played a while ago. When Nintendo actually told me that there is a demo of this game, I directly went to the eShop and downloaded it. I’m just too hyped for this game. And as usual, I try to avoid any media that hypes the game to avoid spoilers or overhyping the game for me. In any case, in this article I’m going to talk about the demo and what my expectations are for the full game. As usual, feel free to leave a comment on this article with your opinion on the content and/or the game. 

Demo

The demo is only in English. The other languages will be available in the full game. The game starts out with an AR cutscene. While I haven’t seen this yet, I find this a very nice way to start the game. It draws you into the experience more then all the other methods.

The music, sound effects and presentation of the menu really gave a familiar vibe for me.

In the first cutscene, you can let it autoplay. Which is very handy for me at the moment. So I can listen to the story and write this article at the same time. Also, the skip button has a “Are you sure that you want to skip this” feature. This is really handy if you press the X button by accident. I only wish that this feature was also implemented with the party chat.

I have skipped the cutscene after a few lines because I wanted to experience the story in the full game. I hate it when a story gets interrupted because the demo comes to an end. I was surprised that some characters return.

bravelysecondThe voice acting is decent. It works fine in this game but I only wish it had more emotion put into it. It feels acted, which isn’t a bad thing. I prefer the voice acting more realistic as if you are in the situation itself.

Visually, the game looks great. Personally, I don’t like that the game zooms out when you don’t push any button. While this gives an amazing view of the first area, it doesn’t click with me.

A minor nitpick I hoped was fixed is that when the B button was shown to progress in dialogue or in tutorials, the A button works too until the final screen. Why is that? This is something minor that they can easily fix.

The combat system has some changes. At the start of the battle, the party can feel brave which gives you certain advantages. Also, the speed up feature is missing from the demo. I just wish it isn’t missing from the final version.

So, according to other articles… This demo is 10 hours long. And not only that, it’s an introduction to the full game. The most shocking fact to me is that this part of the story comes before the main game. So, this is sort of free DLC.

Best of all, it will unlock things in the full game when it arrives. I learned this after reading about the demo. Now, I’m going to restart the game in order to have the full experience and the cut scenes as well.

What I expect

bravelysecond2I haven’t fully beaten the demo so, I can’t give my full opinion yet. When I beat the demo, I might write a full review article about it.

From what I’m seeing after a small half hour of playtime… well, it’s pleasing me.

It’s going to be a great sequel. I just hope that they don’t make the same mistake that they made in Bravely Default.

In that game, there is a point where you need to fight the bosses again. The once you have beaten already. It wouldn’t be a big problem, but they buffed the bosses to such a high level, you have to grind.

Also, they managed to make a RPG more linear then usual. They closed off some areas with the characters saying that they don’t have any business there yet.

Those two things were the reason why I actually stopped playing the original. Which is quite a shame, since I was really into the story and the gameplay. So, I expect that this game is as epic as the original, with the same features but only with the two flaws I mentioned fixed.

Other things I expect is that this game has similar locations then the original but mostly new locations. I hope to see a grown world. If it could be at all possible, do something like Golden Sun Dark Dawn did. Were some exposition words are underlined and when you tap them, you get more information. This way, people who play it can quickly catch up with the events from the first game and it can also serve as a great reminder for those who played the original.

So, that are my initial thoughts of this demo after playing it very briefly. Next week, I’ll be able to pick up the full game. So, you will see more articles about this game in the (near) future.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Tell me in the comments how you experienced this marketing move and such. Since this gives me few ideas for some future articles. Okay, before I truly sign off… I have a question for you guys as well. Would you like more of these articles. Where I look to a demo of a game and talk about how I think the full game will be? I could do that for games that are going to release and games that are already released. Any feedback on that is welcome.

That said, I hope you guys and girls have a wonderful rest of your day and I hope to be able to welcome you in another article in the future! Take care and game on.