So seeing as how I have written popular summaries and suggestions for Elite Raids before (twice, in fact), including capturing community thoughts, I thought it only proper to try and do the same after our first Elite Raids of 2023.
I’ll be honest, I was genuinely hoping for a better raid experience for everyone this time around. Despite my critiques of those running it, I DO love this game. It’s what brought us all here, of course. I want them to succeed. So despite my less than enthusiastic analysis on Regidrago (hey, I gotta tell it like it is… you all deserve nothing less!), I wanted the actual raids to succeed, for folks to be able to gather and enjoy themselves as a community.
So uh… how’d that work out?
Before we get into that, let’s back up a couple days to an important announcement from Niantic themselves.
Today we want to share our renewed commitment to bolstering Pokémon GO’s in-person experience. We have a lot planned for Pokémon GO in 2023, but first we’d like to recap some of our recent updates and share additional updates that are coming soon.
Elite Raids that feature new or unique Pokémon—such as this weekend’s Regidrago Elite Raids—are one of the first steps in that commitment. We are also working on the following.
- Improvements to raids that make it easier for you to participate in local Raid Battles and to become friends with Trainers you’ve battled with.
- Enhancements to the game experience when playing in person with family and friends.
New features that provide benefits and encounters with more Pokémon while exploring outside.
Sounds great on the surface, right? This has the potential to be what we’ve been asking for: the carrot rather than the stick. Instead of taking away things from remote raiders (the stick, AKA whipping the horse), instead leaving that alone and providing further incentives to those who are able to raid locally (the carrot).
This first round of Elite Raids of the Season Of Rising Heroes was the first test. Niantic set that up themselves by leading off the blog post above with Regidrago Elite Raids. This was to be “one of the first steps in [their] commitment”.
…let’s just say they’re not getting off on the right foot.
STUMBLING OUT OF THE GATE
The first major round of raids/events in each rotation, as many know, take place with our friends in Oceania, namely New Zealand and Australia and their immediate neighbours. There is a long and storied history of these events arriving with bugs and errors that are smoothed out by the time those same events kick off around the rest of the world, to the degree that pages have been set up to track those many errors. And I and others have taken to affectionately calling our Kiwi and Aussie friends “Niantic’s unpaid beta testers”. Not all heroes wear capes.
So it was unfortunately no big surprise when the 11am first round of Elite Raids kicked off and… well, I’ll let them tell you in their own words what happened.
“Hard to gather your team when the game doesn’t even let you in or work for us @NianticHelp / @PokemonGoApp must we continue being scapegoats / guinea pigs for events ?” – TJ “Yusei_Furou”
“NZ trainers once again enjoying the privilege of being guinea pigs for the #PokemonGO community. AUS raids allegedly start in 40mins so I’ll keep you posted if the raids are fixed…” – ZoëTwoDots
Long story short, trainers could not even enter 11am raids. Instead they were met with a now-famous Error 36 (“Cannot join raid group”). This persisted until 11:29, and that first round of raids ended less than a minute later.
The apparent issue? Niantic had failed to finish Regidrago’s settings.
That’s right… despite knowing these raids were coming for weeks, and trying to hype up Regidrago Elite Raids for days prior, Niantic had not even finished adding critical settings for Regidrago to function in Pokémon GO. The game basically just could not load the unfinished Pokémon, and just curled up into the fetal position.
SO bad and so egregious were these errors that Niantic themselves saw fit to step in and try to make things right:
While there could be some discussion on whether or not this was the right response — questions arose on organizing these surprise raids and on not getting wasted raid passes back — generally this was a very fast and fair response from Niantic, in my own humble opinion. If they worked, of course.
Uh… more on that later.
By all accounts, things progressed relatively smoothly after that for a while. Following rounds in that region and others around the globe fired off without widely reported issues… mostly. There WERE reports that lingered through the day that many continued to receive the Error 36 message, but only for the first 2-5 minutes after Regidrago hatched and then they could enter the raid normally. Until the sun rose on the U S of A, at least….
ALL QUIET ON THE EASTERN FRONT…?
11am raids arrived in the Eastern United States and Canada. And as if on cue, disaster struck.
And other similar reports came flooding in from all over. This time, not only had the raids themselves failed, but players around the globe began experiencing login and severe lag issues with the game in general, from the Play Pokémon tournaments going on concurrently to places even across the pond. It got to the point that the game seemed to go down for maintenance at times between 11am and noon EST.
The reason for this is not wholly clear, though I DO have a theory that I’ll circle back to later. But suffice to say… the game seemed unprepared for the strain it experienced at 11am EST on Saturday. Unlike the Oceania 11am errors, players mostly WERE able to complete raids sometime before they expired at 11:30, but much time was lost and many that hoped to squeeze in multiple raids (and multiple opportunities to grind for candy/XL candy/hundos) were left unable to do so. Heap on more frustration.
No comment or compensation from Niantic this time. In fact, while they did tweet exactly two hours later, it was an early announcement/hype post for Slowpoke Community Day coming up the following weekend, incidentally their last tweet (or social media posting of any kind) for the day. Pre-canned message scheduled at 1:00 regardless of how Elite Raids were going, or hopeful distraction from the growing frustrations and fires around them? You decide, dear reader.
Anyway, things seemed to progress okay after this, for the most part. Some weird errors for the first couple minutes for some rounds throughout the rest of the day, and some other things I’ll come back to soon, but by and large people were able to get their raids in for subsequent rounds in the remaining time zones.
But the weekend had one final trick up its sleeve. One final insult to a group already down on their luck.
INSULT TO INJURY
So Niantic had taken time to make a big deal about New Zealand and its troublesome first round of raids… basically that none of them had been able to DO said raids at all. The solution, if you recall from earlier, was to have a second day of Elite Raids for those affected (in the GMT+13 time zone). Surely the problems would be resolved and those folks would be able to get in now, right?
“Good job @NianticLabs you did it again. Makeup day Regidrago raids for NZ have same error as they did yesterday and no one can join the raids🤦🏻 how does this even happen???” – Atrimyss
Niantic channelling their inner Britney Spears?
Yeah… they did it again. I don’t even know how it happened at this point, as the errors should have been all ironed out by now. The assets and settings had all been loaded long ago for Regidrago, yet the raids just… didn’t work.
When you end up with poor Zoë, one of the kindest and most supportive original members of Niantic’s “notable trainers”/Partner Program associates, looking and sounding like this at the end of the day, you know you done messed up.
And thus ends our journey through another tumultuous 24 hours in Pokémon GO. But there’s still more to tell about the day.
ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES
I know I said things continued between these three major periods of disruption without much issue, but that’s not quite the whole story. While it’s true that most raids that players attempted outside of those three periods were successful, there was still a fair share of other disruptions and confusing events. Here are just a few of them.
- Timed Research issues. Niantic had announced that this round of Elite Raids would come with special timed research. Only it didn’t work as advertised. Some people who successfully completed raids didn’t get research at all. Some people who didn’t even raid got the research anyway. The research itself wasn’t a huge deal… just a little candy for the original three Regis for adding a new in-game friend. (Or uh… re-adding an old friend. 😏) But the inconsistency in getting it or not added yet another source of frustration onto the growing pile.
- Bonus Spawns: to be or not to be? Niantic had NOT said anything about bonus spawns after this round of Elite Raids as they initially had (before walking it back) with the original Hoopa Elite Raids. However, the timer that indicated after-raid spawns DID return (going back to the Zoë well again to highlight this one), leading to mass confusion… tons of tweets and a good dozen posts on The Silph Road inquiring. In fairness, Niantic had very clearly NOT said anything about special spawns for this round, but forgetting to remove the timer was a major faux pas that led to (you guessed it!) further angst and frustration for confused players.
- Early Bird Special? As was also widely reported, the three rounds of raids in each time zone were heavily skewed to the 11 o’clock hour. There are tons of tweets and Reddit threads and Discord server discussions I could link to on this, but I think it’s best consolidated in this thread from one of The Silph Road’s lead admins. They noted that a whopping 80% of Elite Raids in their area were taking place at 11am, only about 18% at 2pm, and a measly 2% at 5pm, when many that work on Saturday would finally be able to break away from their job and head out to raid. Out of 207 Elite Raids, only FIVE were taking place in that last timeslot. I would toss this out as a potential outlier if it wasn’t for every comment in that thread AND every fact and figure I saw across Twitter and Discord saying the same… only about 1-2% of raids in the 5pm timeslot, less than 20% at 2pm, and all the rest at 11am. Go ask your friends and local communities… even Niantic’s Campfire app backed this up everywhere you turned. And to tie back to earlier discussion… this is my theory (and that of several others) as to why EST 11am raids crashed the game. With the massive number of raids all kicking off along the US/Canada East Coast all at the exact same moment, the game simply couldn’t handle it. Servers overloaded before backups could come up to share the load, and the game just choked. Had the raids been spread more evenly throughout all three EST timeslots (11am, 2pm, and 5pm), this crash may never have happened, and everyone would have had a much happier experience. Especially those who couldn’t attend until 5pm and had to drive in some cases 30+ miles away just to get to the nearest Elite Raid, or there were simply no Elite Raids to be found at all. No exaggeration… that was a common tale. in places from London to Long Beach. And then there’s the very real problem of the oversaturation of 11am raids leading to even those being difficult to organize groups for.
- Why won’t you die?! Continued reports of folks getting into the raid and taking Regidrago down to 0 HP… only for the raid timer to continue to count down, raid ends, and game says they failed. Or all Pokémon suddenly vanishing and players being unable to continue fighting. I don’t have a ton of examples to cite for this one, but here’s just one of many examples, with video. It’s amazing to me how often this continues to happen, all these years later.
- Smooth or not? I didn’t see a ton of this, but reports did continue to come in even after the 11am raids of continued raid access issues in the US and Canada. Figured it was worth noting.
- Please sir, I want SOME rewards. I didn’t see a ton of these reports, but some folks did let me know that they got basically no rewards for successful raids. Literally, that poor soul got dust and NOTHING else. What the heck, Niantic?
Oh, and I almost forgot: they had the audacity to essentially declare “Mission Accomplished” on their own help page after this all wrapped up too! Wow.
Alright, I could go on and on, but I gotta stop somewhere. I think this is a good cut at the major issues plaguing this past weekend.
ONWARD AND UPWARD?
Last time I tried to insert constructive suggestions to improve the failures, so before I go I do want to offer a few tips to anyone from Niantic hopefully reading through this:
- Better rewards! Granted, I don’t think most people got screwed out of everything but dust like that last screenshot I posted above, but the rewards in general are pretty underwhelming for these still. Maybe some guaranteed Rare Candy XL or something to spice it up?
- More even distribution. Having 80+% of raids in any one timeslot is a bad idea in general, especially when it’s proven between the 11am EST flop this weekend and the crashing servers during Vegas Hoenn Tour that Niantic blamed on the players getting out and GOing too much. Why SO many raids all at 11am? I have my theories (wanting to drive up numbers for those handful of later raids for desperate players much?), but the only ones that know for sure are within the walls of Niantic HQ. Whatever the reason, strongly recommend not repeating that for Regieleki raids, at the very least.
- Finish the job. Having Elite Raids kick off with Regidrago not even being ready to go after weeks of planning was unconscionable. Seriously, guys… people would be fired where I work for this level of ineptitude and short-sightedness. No excuse. This completely ruined the experience for a group of folks that are surely fed up being your beta testers. Niantic, stop taking a dump on the folks in New Zealand. Listen to your own testers and give them the time they need to lock this stuff down BEFORE it goes live. This was one of the most stunning displays of lack of care I’ve ever seen from a professional organization. Do better, please. Try.
Okay, even I am tired after cranking all this out, so we’ll leave it off right here. These are the thoughts and observations from me AND the larger community on how this whole thing went down… and things to look to correct next time, Niantic. Hope you’re listening and serious about your “renewed commitment to bolstering Pokémon GO’s in-person experience”. This was, to put it nicely, a very rocky start.
Anyway, what were YOUR experiences, Pokéfriends, and what do YOU think could be done to make this a more successful experience next time around? Fire away and hopefully Niantic sees this and takes heed. But do try to keep it civil and constructive, pleaseandthankyou!
Back to PvP analysis next time, and until then, you can always find me on Twitter for PvP information AND things that matter to all of us, like this writeup above!
Stay safe out there, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!