Pokemon Go is about to shut down its gyms so they can extensively renovate the oft-criticized feature. While the gyms were supposed to be a rallying point for the three Pokemon Go teams, the system has turned stagnant due to a combination of every gym getting loaded up with the same handful of high level defenders, waves of bot accounts, and the amount of time it takes to wear down a gym to the point where it can be captured.
These complaints have not gone unnoticed by Pokemon Go's developer Niantic, and they've said for months that this new gym setup will take a care of a lot of the recurring issues.
So what will the new gym update entail? Well....we don't really know. Niantic has made just a few comments about the gyms, and we've only gotten a few hints from edits to Pokemon Go's code. We've taken those code edits and comments and taken our best stab at what they mean for the upcoming update.
There's tons of flaws with Pokemon Go's gym system, but Niantic feels a lot of them stem from the lack of cooperative gameplay. There is an incentive to teaming up with others when attacking gyms, but it's limited to wearing down gym defenders a bit quicker. There's no strategy to it - the more bodies you bring, the faster a gym goes down.
Niantic says they want to change that. When they announced the gym update earlier in June, they specifically cited that it would bring more opportunity for "collaborative gameplay."
Many originally speculated that gyms would turn into hubs for 1v1 battles after the update is complete, but Niantic's hints imply that it will be something to force players to work together instead of compete against each other.
Another major issue to the current gym system is that there's only a few viable gym defenders. Every gym contains some combination of Dragonite, Gyarados, Vaporeon, Blissey, and Rhydon. The only variation occurs at the bottom of the gym, with Pokemon that quickly get knocked out when a gym comes under attack.
When dataminers first discovered changes to Pokemon Go's code in May, they found a line about limits to one Pokemon species related to gyms. If implemented, this could make a lot more Pokemon viable in gym play, either as second tier defenders or as new attackers. Only dealing with one Blissey or Dragonite per gym would also alleviate some of the frustration of not being able to make a dent in an enemy gym because you don't have an effective Fighting or Ice-Type Pokemon.
Another line of code in Pokemon Go suggests that players will need to "feed" their defendingPokemon berries, presumably in order to keep them at full strength in gym battles. The purpose of this alleged new mechanic is to prevent stagnation by making players interact with their Pokemon on a daily basis.
For example, if a player leaves a Pokemon in a gym and quits playing, it'll eventually be weak enough to get kicked out and replaced by an active player's Pokemon.
What's unclear is how the mechanic would work. Would players need to visit their Pokemon that are in gyms? Would different Berries have different effects? There's lots of possibilities, and any of them would be seen as a positive if it clears out some of the inactive players from gyms.
Here's the biggest surprise found in recent datamines: there are several notifications about potential raids. In traditional MMORPGs, raids are events in which hundreds of Pokemon have to work together to beat a mega-boss.
There's two possibilities as to what raids mean in Pokemon Go. The first is that "raids" are just a way of saying that your gym is under attack from another team. Actually notifying players when a gym is under attack could spur players to make a rush to defend it, either via some quick prestiging (which restores slots to put defending Pokemon in) or via some other yet to be revealed system.
The other possibility is that gyms could come under attack via some sort of roving Pokemon. Some think this could be how Legendary Pokemon get introduced, but this feels more like a fanciful hope than a real possibility.
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