December 12, 2018

Developer Insights: Scaling Challenges for Trainer Battles

Pokémon GO

Alongside catching Pokémon and trading them with friends, there’s perhaps no greater hallmark of the core Pokémon experience than battling other Trainers. While Trainers have been able to participate competitively in Gym battles and cooperatively in Raid Battles thus far, we’re proud that Trainer Battles will be available to Trainers starting today.

When it comes to creating a fun and engaging Trainer Battle experience, we had to strike a careful balance. On one hand, we wanted the system to be easy and straightforward enough for any Trainer—even someone relatively unfamiliar with the mechanics of Pokémon video games. At the same time, we wanted to create a unique competitive experience that gave Trainers who are passionate about battle an avenue to create complex strategies. We accomplished this balance by implementing Trainer Battle Leagues and creating even more opportunities for Trainers to build battle strategies.

Even if you’re a casual Trainer who hasn’t been cultivating Pokémon with unique prowess in battle, you can participate in a Trainer Battle League that allows for engaging play. Capping the CP on the Pokémon eligible to battle helps to set a more even playing field. Additionally, the Trainer Battle Leagues all carry the same rewards and give to both participants equally. Trainers who feel more comfortable playing with lower-CP Pokémon or who are still learning the ground rules of Trainer Battles will not be penalized in any way. Of course, those looking for a challenge will be able to show their strength in the Master League, which has no limits on the CP of Pokémon that can battle!

Leagues aren’t just for new-player accessibility. Fans of previous Pokémon video games know that restrictions on allowed Pokémon change the competitive landscape drastically. Since the Master League allows the most-powerful Pokémon to operate at full strength, winning strategies may involve powerful Legendary Pokémon and clever counters. Compare this to the Great League—the CP limitation means almost every Pokémon is on an even CP playing field. This means a huge number of Pokémon all need to be considered, so winning strategies may revolve more heavily around creative type matchups and surprising your opponent with the unexpected.

In designing Trainer Battles, we wanted to emphasize the importance of strategy. For example, battle updates that accompany Trainer Battles will increase type-effectiveness bonuses, and Trainers will be able to unlock an additional Charged Attack for their Pokémon to increase their versatility in battle. Changes like these enable Trainers to think more creatively in order to beat their opponent in a fast-paced format that is unique to Pokémon GO. Do you want to create a team that’s optimized to counter Pokémon most commonly used among friends? Or do you create a team that has diverse moves that cover more types? Exactly which Charged Attacks do you want your Pokémon to have? Which do you think your opponent has? These are just a few of the many questions we believe Trainers will mull over when picking their ideal Pokémon battle party, creating an interesting and diverse landscape of local metagames.

More holistically, we’re happy to say that Trainer Battles build upon Pokémon GO’s emphasis on encouraging in-person social interaction, with only Ultra Friends and Best Friends having the ability to battle remotely.” We hope that Trainers will be able to construct their own competitions, based on their local metagame and play patterns, to suit their needs. We can’t wait to see the stories from local groups, meet Ace Trainers and Veterans, and see how the feature grows within the community. After all, the ideal meta gameplay will be discovered by the players, not by us. We’ll be keeping an eye on the game balance as well!

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm for this feature. We’ve brought several exciting features to Pokémon GO this year—Field and Special Research, friends and trading, and Adventure Sync—and we’re excited to cap 2018 off with yet another brand-new way to enjoy Pokémon GO. Like always, we have plenty more in store as we head into the new year. Stay tuned!

—The Pokémon GO team