OpsEvent_Activity_Title_64_002 and How Pokémon Unite Has Some of the Worst Menus Ever
If you, like me, are one of the lost souls who has done pretty much every daily quest since you downloaded Pokémon Unite, then you likely noticed the glitched OpsEvent_Activity_Title_64_002 event, which was added the day before the Blissey patch went live. I thought it said “OopsEvent_Activity_Title_64_002″ at first, and almost died laughing. Pretty big Oops, Tencent.
If I were to guess at a reason behind this bug, I’d hazard to say that it’s a result of said patch not being live yet when they added the event. It was added to the Events menu the day before (or so) and showcases one of the biggest complaints my fellow players have levied against the shameless cash grab- I mean MOBA.
So, as a fool who’s taken my first Multiplayer Online Battle Arena perhaps too seriously, let me rant about how absolutely abysmal the UI in Pokémon Unite is. This is far from something I usually complain or even think about, mind you – that I’m dedicating an entire article to this issue goes to show just how bad the UI is in this game. The menus, Events, quests, shops, and in-game currency in Pokemon Unite are all a tangled mess of nonsense.
TWO Main Menus
As mentioned in my longest sentence ever, from my last article, about the process behind how players can “Pay to Win” in Pokémon Unite, this game comes with a second main menu, accessed by pressing X… for some reason. The actual main menu looks nice enough, with your Pokémon Trainer and favorite member of the playable cast on display. But you can’t do much in terms of traditional main menu stuff without hitting X – this second “main” menu is where you can change settings, enhance your items, and so on.
The one redeeming thing about this system is that you get to see your favorite Pokémon standing next to your custom Trainer, both with decent enough idle animations.
It’s not that big of a deal to have a secondary menu within the main menu, but it’s the tip of the terrible UI iceberg that is Pokémon Unite. One particular part of this issue that I wanted to dredge up from my last article about this game is that the process of enhancing Held Items is even MORE confusing than I led on in my shamefully massive run-on sentence. See, in the X Menu, you have to go down to Battle Prep, then select the SECOND OPTION to enhance your items. That last part isn’t such a big deal, but if you just mash A after lining up Battle Prep, then hit B to back out from the Battle Items (which cannot be enhanced), you go back to the main Main Menu, so you have to hit X again, scroll back down to Battle Prep, hit A, then scroll down to Held Items (because of course it isn’t the option you get if you just double-tap A; the non-upgradeable Battle Items are), then go to All Held Items so you can scroll down to the item you want to enhance before you’re allowed to spend Item Enhancers, often not actually upgrading the accursed items with one press of the A button, because one level does not necessarily come with one press of A, one round of spending Item Enhancers.
And I’m running on again. It really cannot be overstated just how horrible the pay-to-win process is in Pokémon Unite, made all the worse by such abysmal interfaces and numerous confusing menus.
Pokémon and Pricing
In the buildup to OpsEvent_Activity_Title_64_002 and the release of Blissey, the assumption of the pure-hearted and rosy-cheeked gamers among us was that the newest Supporter would be priced at a reasonable 6,000 “gold” coins, one of several “free” currencies available in Pokémon Unite. If Tencent knows one thing, it’s how to stoop even lower than low expectations. And I’m not talking low prices.
See, most of the “Novice” difficulty Pokémon in Unite are priced at 6,000 coins – but it turns out, this is only for the “starter” Pokémon, such as Charizard, Pikachu, and Talonflame. Players are allowed to pick one of these for free as they’re getting into the game and can buy the others for 6,000 coins each… but the flow of coins ebbs quickly, tempting you to spend actual dollars.
A brief aside on the tutorials in Unite: they’re not exactly robust. Very little is said about the general structure of the games, with Rotom and Drednaw presented as simply the objectives for each lane, and if team-fights are brought up, it’s only briefly and in the context of the endgame Zapdos encounter. You have to learn most of how to play with the help of other community members… but that’s not exactly new, especially in Nintendo titles. More on this later, when I discuss the end-of-game review screen. And before we get off the tutorial detour, they really had the gall to include Squirtle in it when Blastoise was left missing from the game until September First. And that evolutionary line was fully playable during the beta. That Pokémon better be significantly different when it releases compared to beta footage like in this link, I’ll tell ya. Otherwise, it’s one of the most shameless and flagrant cash grabs ever in a “Free to Play” game – locking a totally playable character behind a delay and paywall.
I thought that every new Pokémon would be 10,000 coins, personally, the price of the typical “Expert” difficulty character, simply because MONEY. Happily, I was as wrong as the rosy-cheeked and pure-hearted crowd who thought Blissey would be 6,000, just in the opposite direction.
Blissey instead joins the party at a cool 8,000 coins. However, the real money-maker (or real-money maker, perhaps more accurately) for Tencent is the Aeos Gem. These are Pokémon Unite’s premium “currency,” spent on everything from Pokémon to Item Enhancers to the chance to “earn” extra loot boxes that will probably give you yet another virtual pair of plain white socks.
A trick employed by many abusive in-game currencies is to give players an even number at first which ends with 0 and 0 in the tens and ones places, and then to pull a fast one by making no group of purchases anywhere add up to 00. The conclusion of that practice is leaving players with just a few Gems or whatever left over – another subtle way to bring you back to the market, credit card in hand.
The only redeemable thing about the Item Enhancer system is that it lets you buy anything at one gem per pop. That lets us at least see a 0 next to the Aeos Gem icon on the Pokémon Unite Main Menu after we buy-in, so, on that front of the menus and UI at least, they’re not quite as bad as they could have been, or as bad as some competitors. Not exactly a slogan anyone would want for their company, but fair’s fair.
Even without stooping to leaving players with 13 gems left after their purchases, it’s clear that the OpsEvent_Activity_Title_64_002 event debacle is far from the only huge crack in the user experience for this game.
Invitations and “Friends”
In a MOBA played by many children, it makes sense to have fewer social options than competitors. Voice chat rightly requires several steps to set up, and though this is confusing, it’s far from my biggest criticism with Pokémon Unite’s UI.
I do rather detest how invitations only sometimes notify the player. See, sometimes, your whole screen fills up with a menu saying “Let’s Battle Together!” and your friend’s Trainer and the type of Battle they’re currently about to queue for. Other times, for reasons I don’t quite understand, all you get is a small circle in the bottom-right of the screen, with a smaller headshot of your friend’s Pokémon Trainer, which you then have to click on to see their invitation or request to join your team. No sound effect plays when this happens, to my knowledge. I’ve wasted a few minutes of my life by either myself or someone else in our group asking and waiting for invites when I or they had already received one.
I also don’t think you can message in-game “friends” without both of you having voice chat on in a match, so good luck becoming actual friends with people you’re not allowed to talk to, if you just sent them a request after a game or whatever. One of the coolest things about online gaming is being able to make real friends with people you could never meet in real life. No such luck here.
None of these are dealbreakers, but when they come in addition to the other UI and menu nightmares in Pokémon Unite… it’s easy to get frustrated at even these smaller social issues.
The Pokemon Unite UI nightmare doesn’t stop just because you moved from the menus and into a game. Controls and in-game HUDs are central parts of a user interface, and Pokémon Unite doesn’t exactly hit it out of this park. I’d call it more of a foul ball at best.
Oh, but before you can even get into the game, you have to sit through some unbearable loading times which come all too often with player disconnects. And while it’s cool that you can check Trainer Cards during the loading screen, I’d prefer a simple system that just works compared to one jam-packed with glitched “features.” So many times, I’ve looked at my Trainer Card just to see my character in a borderline T-pose.
Oh, and I couldn’t fit this anywhere else, but you have to go to an in-game menu in order to hit 60 FPS. That’s no joke – the default is 30 (or was when I began writing this article – it appears now that 60 is the default. But still, ridiculous that it took more than a month for that to be the case). And they don’t label this option “graphics quality” or whatever; no, it’s just your framerate. And after changing it to the correct option, they really ask if you’re sure you want sixty frames per second in 2021. Like… what? Why? How? What led to this decision to make the default game choppy? Why is 60 FPS not the default and why do you tell me it’s not recommended to have a smooth experience and why on Earth is there an option to go lower than 30 FPS? How did this decision get approved?
No matter the answer to those questions, after a loading time of about 40 years, we end up on the battlefield, where admittedly, the in-game HUD is quite solid once you get past the lack of a visible score. I do get almost as salty when my dash ability locks on to an enemy while I’m trying to run away, or when the aim “assist” stops me from putting my Unite Move where I want it, as I do when my teammates stay in the top lane for the entire game. And in a frantic team fight around an important objective like Drednaw or Zapdos, the auto lock-on will often rather you fight a random other Pokémon instead. The targeting wheel does not help here, either, with no option to target objectives. At least you can aim abilities with the right stick at the big neutral Pokémon, but even that isn’t ideal thanks to the overeager aim assist. Turning said assist off is pretty rough as well, since aiming on a controller isn’t exactly known for its precision.
In an ideal world, the Pokémon MOBA would have come out on Switch and PC rather than Switch and mobile devices (and not just because of the business model usually employed for mobile “gacha” games). Without a keyboard and mouse, the aiming in Unite is almost as rough as the rest of the UI. This results in a clunky-feeling experience even when you do have it set to the highest framerate.
We’ll see what happens on Android emulators and possible players using third-party mouse and keyboard USB peripherals for the Switch, but MOBAs on console are more Goldeneye than Call of Duty, if you catch my drift. In other words, the genre isn’t quite at our thumbs alone yet, thanks to some questionable controller decisions.
Buzzer Beaters, the Post-Game, and Conclusions
As mentioned in my previous Pokémon Unite article, people have made analogies between MOBAs and basketball, as 5v5 team experiences. Unite has a stronger stake in that analogy than most, with critically important final stretches and dunking balls into hoops. A buzzer-beater mechanic would add a little more traction for that analogy, with the Pokémon shooting or dunking (energy) balls into hoops, and the utmost importance of the final two minutes.
But in the final few seconds, players are often no longer allowed to score. Even if you finish the entire dunking animation with a few seconds left on the clock, your points may not go into that Goal Zone. This is just ridiculous. Everybody loves a good buzzer-beater. You’d think that the scoring meter/circle filling up all the way before the clock struck 0 would be all you’d need to do. Instead… nope! You lose!
Some players have said that this issue has been patched out since Blissey was added, but I’d swear I’ve still seen it once or twice. Maybe the animation hadn’t quite finished yet? Either way, I stand by that it should be possible to beat a buzzer in Pokémon Unite, since a game-seven playoff buzzer-beater may just be the coolest possible moment in basketball history.
If Pokémon Unite was made with any kind of soul, passion, or love of hype esports in mind, a final, game-winning dunk would take up everybody’s screen, zoomed-in, maybe even in slow-motion, the camera panning dramatically. Obviously, this would need to be in the very last seconds of the game, with no one else any longer being capable of doing anything else to influence the match’s outcome. But it’s just depressing that even a regular old buzzer-beater, with no special zoom or animation or anything, will often not count in Pokémon Unite.
And yet another part of the UI falls flat here. My MOBA-playing friends tell me that not being able to see the score is just flat-out ridiculous for a competitive MOBA. I don’t hate the feature, personally, with score updates keeping me just enough in the loop without making me do a ton of math to see how many points need to be dunked to make up a deficit in either direction.
And there’s the issue that people online already seem to way over-prioritize scoring goals over getting experience from wild Pokémon or Drednaw. We can blame the tutorial for this, as I said – how would players know that experience = easier Zapdos fights = easier wins, if the game never tells us? Oh, and another thing they don’t tell you is that securing a Drednaw gives your whole team a 55% damage reduction to Zapdos specifically. Because why would you need to know that? It’s only likely to decide the whole outcome of the game.
On the note of over-prioritizing scoring, the post-game UI in Unite isn’t exactly great. Pushing to make plays that will give you the “MVP” award at the end of the game will often actually make you the least valuable player of the losing team. Being alone up top, scoring a few points at a time, while your whole team fights and dies around Drednaw, may up your personal score and push you toward “MVP” status… but it’s a great way to lose.
Not that you’d know the importance of Drednaw from the game itself, as I’ve said. It seems like the people who make Pokémon Unite barely know how to play it. I submit as evidence the fact that the post-game UI, where you can “Review Battle” or whatever, does not include timestamps of Drednaws taken by each team. It does include Zapdos, thankfully, and every Rotom. This aspect of the post-game menu in Pokémon Unite makes the relatively easy-to-understand MOBA unnecessarily confusing for newbies. It’s very simple. Get Drednaw, get experience, be a higher level and have better stats so your team can more easily secure Zapdos and win the game because Zapdos plays the part of (and forgive the Harry Potter analogy, but there isn’t one in regular sports) Golden Snitch. Zapods often nets the team who defeats it more points than that little gold sprite does whenever a Seeker catches it.
Now imagine if one of the Seekers could take down wild Pokémon to gain EXP. for the final battle against the other Seeker, or gain a shield against the Bludgers by getting the last hit on Drednaw. The early game is all about getting to the highest level you can; games are often decided by Zapdos or the defenses around Zapdos.
That the post-game reviews don’t tell you about the all-important Drednaw fights is just a cherry on top of a pile of garbage user interfaces and menus in Pokémon Unite. From the time you open up the main menu and check your quests and if a new OpsEvent has been added with a new Activity_Title, to the times you check your Trainer Card in the loading screen only to find it hasn’t loaded properly, to the actual game. The UI here is just all a mess, especially when it glitches out and doesn’t display anything after Zapdos.
All of this can be improved, of course. But will any of it actually be improved? Maybe marginally. I think Drednaw will eventually be added to the battle reviews. I can’t imagine that it’s that hard to note when each one goes down. But the more central issues – the X Menu and the pricing and the controls… these all seem like they’re going to stick around for a while.
I hope that my voice as a burgeoning games journalist at least reaches someone in Tencent’s tower made out of money. The current state of the game would be unacceptable and already forgotten if not for the strong IP behind it.