"The biggest, most magical part of playing Pokémon Go right now is that it's the first real-world sized, real world game. By which I mean, the game not only takes place in the real world, but it has enough players to fill it up."
- Game designer Zach Gage.
The game dev community has been rife with Pokémon Go talk this week, and in an attempt to distill some of that chatter The Verge has published a nice roundtable with devs Rami Ismail (Nuclear Throne), Zach Gage (Sage Solitaire) and Asher Vollmer (Threes) discussing why the game is so successful -- and what it means for the mobile game industry.
The feature makes for interesting reading, not least because it presents three subtly different dev perspectives on Niantic's augmented-reality game-turned-phenomenon, each informed by a background in game design.
The three designers seem to at least agree that Pokemon Go is successful in large part because it adequately replicates, in the real world, core components of the broadly-appealing Pokemon franchise.
"Pokémon Go is the fantasy of Pokémon, 20 years ago, made 'real.' Through that, it quickly spread to people way outside of gaming, and now that lack of "gameness" has turned into a major advantage," said Ismail. "It's a reminder of how monolithic gaming still seems to the world at large — the idea that Pokémon Go is not a game means more people are trying it, and the lack of gaming's typical direct competition and lack of jargon and accessibility in the main core loop allowed it to grow everywhere."
And that broad appeal means, as Gage notes in the big quote above, that Pokemon Go is a great example -- perhaps the first ever -- of a massively-multiplayer game that's as big as the real world itself.
That's well in line with what online game designer Raph Koster was talking about in his recent blog post on how AR game design shares many of the same design challenges as MMO game design, evidenced in part by what Koster describes as "amazing social activity" happening across the world thanks to Pokémon Go.
Vollmer seems to be in agreement, telling The Verge that after he initially dismissed the game as being not very interesting, he picked it up again to play with friends and found it to be a much more captivating experience when played with others.
"Instead of playing it by myself, I went on walks with friends and realized that we all saw the same pokémon in the same location, which was actually a very good design decision," he said. "We ended up finding crowds and heading towards pokéstops with lures, which would expose us to other players, who we would chat with… it was a pretty magical experience. And this experience feels actually very well designed!"
For more of his thoughts and the other contributors' thoughts on where Pokémon Go's design succeeds, check out the full roundtable over on The Verge. Gage went on to post his full uncut contributions in a blog post that's also worth reading.