Mid-Season Game State Update + Notes From Our Conversation With Niantic
5 months ago
Mid-Season Game State Update + Notes From Our Conversation With Niantic
We’re just after the halfway point of the Interlude Season of GO Battle League and there are some exciting updates in the most recent couple of patches to the game.
Recently we were able to sit down with Niantic’s combat team and some of the most mechanically skilled trainers of the GO battle community and walk through these updates and what they mean for GO Battle League battles!
These changes were in the 0.233 and 0.235 updates, although it is important to remember a couple of things:
Changes will not go into effect until at minimum the update is forced
Changes might be activated at a point after the forced update if deemed necessary
Now with that in mind, let’s see what changes were made for game issues and how those might impact the game itself.
In the 0.233 Update:
As mentioned in the March GO Battle League Dev Diary, Niantic is aware of Fast Attack Desyncs and their impact on competitive play. In 0.233 they added some of the synchronization points that they mentioned in that diary before the start of a battle to reduce the occurrence and impact of desyncs. This should reduce the occurrence of starting the battle “behind” some number of turns from your opponent - a desync at the start of a battle.
This update also affected how Fast Attack and Charged Attacks interact when it comes to damage resolution. In our article on the Dev Diary there was an example around Medicham and Drifblim, repeated below:
“A Medicham survives a Shadow Ball from Drifblim and is at 1HP. That trainer uses Counter and goes to use Ice Punch while the opposing Drifblim uses Hex.
In the present structure of the game the Medicham trainer does NOT get to use the Ice Punch.
From our understanding of the update: Post-change, the Medicham trainer DOES get to use the Ice Punch, and if that Ice Punch faints the Drifblim, no Hex damage is applied - effectively “denying” the Fast Attack.
Note that this can occur presently during a Fast Attack, just not on its final turn.”
This is because Counter is a 2 turn Fast Attack and Hex is a 3 turn Fast Attack. Counter resolves on the second turn and using the Ice Punch takes another turn, putting Medicham on the same turn as the opposing Drifblim’s 3 turn Hex will resolve. In the prior structure of the game that Hex damage is prioritized, this fix adjusted it so that the Ice Punch activation is prioritized instead.
This change has been observed to be in place in the GO Battle League, although we were able to notice the old behavior in Trainer Battles (battling using QR codes or through the friend feature) during the European International Championship. We suspect this was intentionally done on Niantic’s end to maintain previous game expectations for such an important event, and suspect that rollout of the changes to Trainer Battles will come in time now that the EUIC is over.
To visualize this change, we’ve also enlisted the help of PVPoke himself, who was very deservedly one of the subject matter experts who joined the conversation with us and Niantic.
If we look at how the game used to behave, this matchup between Shadow Swampert and Azumarill (both with default IVs) came down to the Swampert tragically fainting with a Hydro Cannon loaded, unable to fire it as the Bubble damage resolves first.
After this update to fast and Charged Attack iteration, the matchup should play out a new way as seen in the simulation below, graciously provided by PVPoke himself (whose website will adjust accordingly when this is observed as fully deployed in game).
This occurrence has been confirmed by Niantic’s team to be the case going forward, that is, that Charged Attack initiated on the same turn of a Fast Attack finishing will take priority over the damage resolution of said Fast Attack.
We believe this change will retain skill advantage and skill expression for seasoned battlers, while allowing for a more intuitive gameplay experience (being able to use two Counters and then a Rock Slide as Machamp against an Incinerate Talonflame makes sense if you know the duration of those Fast Attacks to be 2 and 5 respectively).
An additional change in this update was an attempt to mitigate a bug often referred to as the “third shield glitch” where Charged Attacks would deal minimal damage when resolved.
While the cause of this issue is often outside of Niantic’s control - such as a connection drop between the phone and the server - there is a partial fix in-game. This fix made it so all charge attacks deal a minimum damage - around ¼ of maximum damage, as if you missed your charge attack minigame bubbles but still much more than the miniscule damage done previously. While an imperfect fix, this should lessen the impact of these errors when they occur.
Another exciting change that came with this update is that your switch buttons should stay visible throughout charge attack animations. This should alleviate some frustration around the timeliness of those buttons appearing, and additionally make using a new device (like for the Play! Pokémon Regional Tournaments) more intuitive, as some of the reliance on muscle memory is alleviated.
In the 0.235 Update:
In the 0.235 update more fixes to common issues were implemented.
Additional synchronization points were added to avoid mid-battle desync - sometimes shown as Pokémon unable to act after a Charged Attack. In the Dev Diary this was listed as “Post Charged Attack Desyncs” and results in a negative user experience because a player’s Pokémon are unresponsive to player input. This fix should also affect instances where Fast Attacks take longer than expected, such as when a Dragon Breath takes as long as a Bubble.
Further fixes around protect shields are in 0.235 - protect shields used by a trainer will be deployed sooner in the charge attack animation to minimize errors around protect shield usage, such as the “third shield glitch” mentioned above. Additionally an error message was added for instances where connection drop or other such issues cause a protect shield to not be used. This should display in the standard error text something to the effect of “Trevenant was unable to deploy its shield!”
While we’d all prefer such errors to not happen in the first place, this transparency will be greatly appreciated to keep aware of available shields and that such an error has occurred in the battle. This should also make it much easier for trainers to recognize battles that should be submitted through the recently added Battle Log upload feature!
Notably absent from all of these fixes is the inconsistency of Fast Attacks occurring, or not occurring, when initiated at the same time as a Charged Attack. This was an extensive topic at the meeting and was echoed as a very serious concern by many of the community subject matter experts present. Niantic assured us that they are working on a fix, but there is not one ready for these two updates.
There is an additional audio clip we were able to get from the Director of Engineering discussing these fixes, and he describes “Fast Move Leaks” as being fixed. Please note that this is with regards to the behavior fixed in 0.233’s update - that of fast moves leaking their damage through before Charge Attack animation and should not be confused with Fast Attack inconsistency around Charged Attacks - which the community commonly calls sneaks and denials. As mentioned above we are pressuring on that topic, and we wanted to clarify for this audio clip to avoid confusion.
While the Interlude Season continues on, there is a LOT of feedback coming in from the community. That feedback is being seen and taken into consideration. While there is still much more to be done, updates like these give our team hope that there is improvement to be made for the future of Trainer Battles in Pokémon GO.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for helping to #BuildTheCommunity.