The secret of Pokemon GO

There hasn’t been a game on mobile devices since Angry Birds that has so collectively captured the hearts and minds of the world quite like Pokemon GO. Niantic’s reskinning of their previous game, Ingress, with Nintendo and The Pokemon Company’s flagship license, provides the nostalgic boon that taps directly into the childhoods of one of gaming’s most popular demographics. If Nintendo’s stock is any indication, this game is a rousing success.

It’s also a great mystery. On the surface, the game seems straightforward, but there are several nuances and meta systems are well hidden or poorly explained. These have left players clamoring for answers, many times relying on information that isn’t correct or taking chances on unproven theories. This may not change that sort of trial and error discovery process for things in the future, but it will at least drag some of the cloudiest of Pokemon GO facts and features into the light.

1. Soft Level Caps for Pokemon
The maximum level a trainer can be is 40, and the way that influences the strength of your Pokemon upon discovery is a bit nuanced. Redditor allancaesar (via Matthew Egan) posted some interesting findings about the relationship between trainers and Pokemon levels after a deep data mining expedition.

The Trainer level cap is 40.
Egg’s cap at level 20, so if you get an Egg at level 37 it’ll still hatch at the same quality as if you were level 20.
Wild Pokemon cap at level 30, meaning after level 30 everyone will find the same max CP Pokemon, and it’ll be a matter of spending candy and stardust to upgrade them to your level’s cap based on their CP arc.
Basically, the Pokemon you catch in the later levels of the game will remain a static strength. If you’re wondering when the time is to really commit candies, stardust, and that all important catchy-nickname-stuff towards what could become your permanent stable of Pokemon, it would be after level 30.

2. Battle Is Way More Intricate Under the Hood
The same data dump that produced the level cap findings also fleshed out some of the interesting combat mechanics happening behind the scenes in any given gym battle.

Moves have an accuracy rate and a critical hit rate.
Move damage may go up with trainer level.
STAB is present in the game, giving a 25% bonus to an attack move. STAB stands for “same type attack bonus” and means if a Grass Pokemon uses a Grass move it will hit harder than if a Ground Pokemon used the same Grass move. This is a big deal confirmation.
Defending Pokemon at a gym attack every 1.5 seconds.
Pokemon have a base attack, defense, and stamina (HP) – thus they do not have an attack and special attack stat like in the 3DS games.
There is more to a duel than simply tapping and sliding. Much of your success is based on preparation, bringing the logic behind the proper Pokemon iterations over to the game in smaller ways. The big take-away is STAB, which was always a huge factor in determining what kind of skills you teach your Pokemon on handhelds. With skills varying among each species of Pokemon, ones who have skills that match their type will become more favorable catches.

3. Pokemon Eggs Have Specific Hatching Results
The eggs you get may produce a random Pokemon, but there is a method to the madness. Depend on the distance of movement required to incubate, the pool from which the random Pokemon is chosen changes. US Gamer has a good chart depicting the possibilities. The Egg page on the Pokemon Go Wiki also includes information on which types of eggs produce which Pokemon.

As you can see, the longer the distance, the rarer the Pokemon. (Though, is Eevee really all that rare?) Not all travel is created equal, though. Walking speed (or some approximation of it) is the only viable speed that will track consistent progress during incubation. Driving and taking the train won’t work, as you have to keep your speed around 12 MPH. That being said, I’ve had more than one egg hatch in my car during a drive. The slowing and starting of city traffic is finally useful for something!

4. Gotta Track Them All
The little white box in the lower right hand corner of your HUD isn’t simply there to taunt you. Ideally, it’s a tool that helps your identify, track, and hopefully catch wild Pokemon. When strolling around, you’ll see up to three creatures featured in the little box. If you tap it, the view explodes to up to nine nearby Pokemon. Under these Pokemon are a set of foot prints in groups of one, two or three. These prints denote the distance the corresponding Pokemon is from you. The exact distance that each of these represent is one of most contentious and hotly debated mysteries in the game. Some folks think each represent as low as 40 meters each, some as high as 150 meters each. There’s really no great determiner here, but the Trainer Tips channel on YouTube has done some decent research on the matter. They’ve even converted the meter lengths to feet for us ‘Mericans.