New Pokémon Go developer diaries talk creating seasonal content, narrative design, and the future of the game

Niantic's team have given more insight into how the development on Pokémon Go continues to evolve.

Image via Niantic

Continuing the company’s approach to keeping players in the loop with development, Niantic has released a new set of Dev Diaries for December focusing on the development team’s approach to building out The Season of Heritage in Pokémon Go

The Dev Diaries focused on everything from developing the ideas and content that make up each of Pokémon Go’s seasons, including designing the logo, creating the story, and even how it impacts the future of the game itself. 

With each new season of content, the team at Niantic has to ensure it crafts a somewhat tight narrative that can span multiple months and events. This usually builds up to one big event at the end of a season that combines new mechanics, Pokémon, and more that have been introduced during that same season. 

In planning, the devs pull from past events and ongoing content to ensure each season feels distinct from older iterations. This led to pulling more from the concluded Season of Mischief on the narrative side and tying in more elements from other 

“We found building from a central theme to be a really fruitful approach, so that’s something we want to continue to do in the Season of Heritage and beyond,” Niantic game designer Dan Thomas said. “This Season will take Trainers through events that draw inspiration from several iconic locations in the world of Pokémon, to really dig into the concept of ‘heritage.’ For example, our first major event of the Season was inspired by Dragonspiral Tower—the oldest tower in the Unova region seen in Pokémon Black Version and Pokémon White Version!”

For the Season of Heritage, using mountains, caves, and ancient history is a core theme, and the devs plan to utilize that even more in the coming months. 

The narrative of a season now means more to the devs than it did before, and introducing Hoopa slowly over the course of Go Fest 2021 and bringing its story arc to an end during the Season of Mischief opened new avenues for them to approach. 

While talking about the development of a season’s story, multiple members of the Niantic team mentioned how they looked forward to building out this story “around this concept of heritage” using the historic site, mysterious door, and Professor Willow’s continued research. 

“By using a common narrative thread in the game and our marketing, we could connect some of the in-game events occurring during the Season,” multiple Niantic devs said. “With the Season of Heritage and future Seasons, we’d like to continue experimenting and expanding upon storytelling across different forms of media in order to elevate the concept of Seasons and provide another means for our Trainers to engage with Pokémon Go.” 

Live game director at Niantic Michael Steranka also mentioned that seasonal themes and storylines in Pokémon Go are likely going to act as focal points for in-game events, social content, and more moving forward.

This doesn’t mean that seasonal content will be the only type of content included in Pokémon Go from now on, but larger events and activations will likely tie into the overarching narrative in some way. Niantic has already started to implement this idea in ongoing events, with the upcoming New Year’s 2022 event including a small mention about the Season of Heritage. 

The developers are also using seasons as set points to evaluate and reevaluate elements of Pokémon Go to ensure the game is constantly improving. This includes remote-play focused content like increased Incense effectiveness while stationary, increased Remote Raid damage, and more which are constantly being talked about in regards to balancing in-person promotion and providing players ways to play while remaining safe. 

You can read the full set of December Dev Diaries on the official Pokémon Go blog.