March 28, 2018

Developer Insights: How We Built the Research Feature

Pokémon GO


When developing the new Field Research and Special Research feature soon appearing in Pokémon GO, we thought very hard about creating mechanics that reward users for not only encountering elusive Pokémon and discovering the world around them, but for mastering unique aspects of the game. While that goal is simple, we wanted to make sure that the research feature served Pokémon GO Trainers of all types.

Throughout our design process, we focused on the idea that research tasks could accommodate nearly any exploration style–from players who often prefer to go on adventures alone, to groups containing dozens of Trainers–and would range in difficulty to provide a challenge even for experienced Trainers. As a result, you’ll notice that many of these tasks focus on skill and execution rather than depending on random chance. Additionally, we wanted to add tasks that would help newer Trainers learn new skills or walk away with a valuable piece of knowledge to help them on their Pokémon GO journey.

For example, one task acquired through Field Research challenges the Trainer to complete three Great Throws in a row. Trainers who are new to the game may have performed a Great Throw once or twice, but they might not know how to accomplish it consistently. The task can also challenge experienced Trainers to test their skills and see how they stack up.

One of our favorite aspects of designing this feature is the fact that research feels like a continuous adventure, providing excellent replay value with its varied and challenging system that offers novel goals to achieve. Even Trainers who take the same route every day while playing Pokémon GO will find different challenges or objectives to complete, making familiar areas feel new.

We also wanted the rewards to feel appropriate for the challenge. While simple tasks such as spinning a certain number of unique PokéStops or catching several Pokémon will yield useful items, completing a tougher task such as landing several Great Throws in a row should feel like a feat of achievement that grants a greater reward or even the opportunity to encounter an elusive Pokémon.

Another tenet we focused on was that research tasks should feel grounded in the world of Pokémon GO and should play on common themes. We also took the opportunity to reintroduce Professor Willow, who provides the Trainer initial guidance on Pokémon, to teach valuable lessons about the world. For example, a Field Research task involving Fire-type Pokémon could lead to an encounter with a powerful Fire-type Pokémon. Themed research tasks should also subtly communicate core knowledge about Pokémon, such as type advantage or Evolution, without feeling like an explicit tutorial.

Most importantly, research tasks are designed to be fun. Exploration, skill challenges, and encountering Pokémon should never feel like a chore, so Field Research is designed not to be repetitive or protracted. Trainers who prefer a more casual pace will find Field Research tasks that are enjoyable and fun to complete within a 15- to 30-minute play session, while those on all-day adventures will be able to take on any number of tasks with varying requirements and difficulty levels.

Research within Pokémon GO also has an opportunity to grow and change over time. We’re continuing to explore ways to make research even more group-friendly and to create compelling stories that have weighty stakes and satisfying payoffs. There’s plenty more to come, and we’re excited for Trainers across the world to play!

—The Pokémon GO team