Pokemon Go devs discuss Shadow Raids, Master Ball and Remote Raid backlash

 Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

With the end of Season 10: Rising Heroes, Pokemon Go trainers may notice something different in the overworld. New eggs have spawned on the tops of Gyms, unlike anything Pokemon Go players have seen before. It's ominous, and when the clock hits zero, a Shadow Pokemon sits atop the Gym, looking for challengers. Introducing Shadow Raids.

The Pokemon Go team is closing out the current season with the introduction of a few new features that will change the game forever. Shadow Pokemon Raid bosses that require new strategies to defeat, new Shiny Shadow Pokemon and the introduction of the Master Ball.

A lot is about to go down in Pokemon Go over the next few days, so we caught up with the team to discuss the various changes and decisions that went into this massive update.

Shadow Raids – A new way to battle

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go


Pokemon Go player trying to catch a Croagunk
Pokemon Go player trying to catch a Croagunk

The Pokemon Go community is in open revolt over changes to remote raiding

As the name implies, Shadow Raids will be like Raids but will be housed by Shadow Pokemon – thanks to Team Go Rocket shenanigans that begin with the Rising Shadows event on May 22. With Pokemon Go trainers already having Tier 1,3,and 5 raids alongside Mega and Elite Raids, this new way to battle with friends came up over many weeks. Pokemon Go producer John Funtanilla and his team have been fine-tuning how Shadow Raids work and how difficult they will be.

How Funtanilla explains it,  that while testing the builds, they found Shadow Raids offer something different than, say, the Elite Raids where Pokemon Go trainers gather together to take on a powerful boss, often Legendary Pokemon. And that starts with two features that only function in Shadow Raids.

"Elite Raids, that was something you could just do with your community," Funtanilla says. "And Shadow Raids we're actually introducing two things. So the first thing is the concept of an enraged Raid Shadow Boss."

During Shadow Raids, there will be moments where the Shadow Boss will power up, or enrage. The Pokemon will begin to glow as Its attack and defense increases, making it more difficult to defeat. To counteract this, two new items are being introduced, Shadow Shards and Purified Gems. Shadow Shards are items trainers will have to collect, similar to how they collect Rocket Components to create the Rocket Radar. These Shards will drop after battles with Go Rocket Grunts, the team leaders and even Giovanni. Earn enough Shadow Shards and you'll be able to create the Purified Gem, which can be used to calm down the Shadow Boss.

Funtanilla continues: "So Shadow Raids can technically be harder than your normal T5, but also, if you just use the strength of your community, let's say you're in there with five, six-plus folks, use your Purified Gems on the enraged boss and it'll make it easier. We're trying to make interesting opportunities for players, make interesting decisions so you're not just Raiding. We're trying to give that climactic experience where [the boss] powers up, everyone uses their gems on it and then you have that feeling of working together and accomplishing something."

Purified Gems are a game-changer

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

"How Funtanilla explained it, that while testing the builds, they found Shadow Raids offer something different than, say, the Elite Raids where Pokemon Go trainers gather together to take on a powerful boss, often Legendary Pokemon. And that starts with two features that only function in Shadow Raids."

Shadow Raids will come in varying difficulties (T1, T3, T5) with Tier 3 and 5 having Pokemon that can enrage. Tier 1 Raids will house more common Pokemon that are still sought after while Tier 3 will be a little bit stronger, and Shadow Mewtwo will return in the first Tier 5 Shadow Raids. Longtime Pokemon Go players, especially Shiny Hunters, will definitely want to try out the new Tier 5 Shadow Raids.

"Something I would like to highlight is this is the first time we're gonna see Shiny Shadow Mewtwo," Funtanilla adds. "It's a huge moment for us in terms of content. It's the first time that players are gonna be able to get their hands on this. We treated this feature with a lot of respect and care, and passion. The team works really hard to bring this experience to players."

While the Shadow Raids will coincide with the new Team Go Rocket takeover event, Pokemon Go players can expect these new Raids to be a recurring feature. More details on how exactly Shadow Raids will return after the initial event will be coming in the weeks ahead.

Purified Gems will be an important part of Shadow Raids, especially when participating in the T5 Raids. As mentioned above, this item will counteract the Shadow Raid Boss' powerups and help trainers defeat them. Shadow Shards will drop from battling various members of Team Go Rocket and trainers need four shards to make a Purified Gem. The Purified Gems won't be available in the in-game shop, granted, but it's something the team tells us that they will monitor how players interact with it. Rocket Radars are available in the shop, though, so there is a precedent to making this item available, but they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

But when and how many Purified Gems are used in these battles is a big part of the strategy that the Pokemon Go team hopes players implement when battling. Trainers can use eight Purified Gems to completely neutralize a Shadow Boss Pokemon, and they can technically all be used by one trainer. However, the biggest aspect of the introduction of the Purified Gem is how it's used. "It's the first time that we're allowing item usage in battle," Funtanillo says. "That's a system we're building out, so hopefully that is something that players will enjoy and will continue to use."

Item usage mid-battle has always been a staple in the main series Pokemon games, but until now it was non-existent in Pokemon Go.

Remote Raid Passes – addressing controversy

Pokemon Go Remote Raid Pass
Pokemon Go Remote Raid Pass

"We definitely feel like over the years we might have lost sight, a little bit, of some of those real-world components that truly sets Pokemon Go apart from any other game out there and it's an area that we want to start leaning back into again and have our players rediscover their local communities."

Remote Raid Passes will not be allowed in Shadow Raids. The decision comes weeks after major changes to their price and usefulness was met with backlash from many in the Pokemon Go community. Director of Pokemon Go live game Michael Steranka explained that pre-pandemic, before remote raid passes were available, Raiding was the main way for players to meet in their local communities. When remote raid passes were introduced, that diminished and they are hoping creating experiences like Shadow Raids can build those communities up again.

"Similar to the introduction of Elite Raids in Pokemon Go, we are going to be really spending a lot of time in 2023 putting together experiences that are tied to physical locations around the world," Steranka says. "We definitely feel like over the years we might have lost sight, a little bit, of some of those real-world components that truly sets Pokemon Go apart from any other game out there and it's an area that we want to start leaning back into again and have our players rediscover their local communities."

Steranka stresses the Pokemon Go team is "very aware" of the feedback from the community, but they believe this change is what's best for how the game was intended to be played. He continues: "It's no secret that that was one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make in Pokemon Go. And, ultimately, it was something that we felt really introduced kind of an unhealthy play behavior with Pokemon Go. And when you have players that are hopping into Remote Raids dozens, sometimes hundreds of times in a single day, that's not really how we envision people playing this game. We really felt like it was a necessary change to make, albeit an incredibly painful one."

"And when it comes to a lot of the feedback that we've been seeing from players, we really want to take a stance of 'actions speak louder than words.' Instead of responding and publishing a blog post explaining the whys and hows of the decisions that we're making, we really want to show players that 'hey, we're investing a ton into developing this game further this year' and Shadow Raids is going to be the first of many incredible new features that are going to come out in Pokemon Go, more in a single year than we've had in a long, long time."

"And I'm hopeful that after some time has passed and a little bit of the pain has subsided from people who are really used to Remote Raiding for many hours a day, they'll realize that Pokemon Go is better off for it now, and there are lots of new and fun ways to engage with the game that they haven't been able to do before."

The Master Ball finally arrives in Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

When the new Shadow Raid feature is implemented in the upcoming Team Go Rocket event, the Master Ball will finally be available in Pokemon Go. Trainers will be able to get a Master Ball through a special research story that begins May 22 – trainers will have until June 1 to claim the special research. Completing this research will give a Master Ball as one of the rewards. "This method kind of acts like the cap or finale for the current season," Funtanilla says. "Mewtwo, Master Ball, kind of goes hand in hand with Giovanni and the whole lore of the game, and in the course of the series."

In the main series games, players are given a single Master Ball to use on their journey. What makes the Master Ball so special is it's 100 percent catch rate, which will be the case in Pokemon Go. Also, the Pokemon Go team confirmed to us that the Master Ball cannot be knocked away or missed. So there's no need to be anxious about wasting your Master Ball on an errant throw. And any Pokemon trainers come across whether it's in the overworld or in Raids is a prime candidate for the Master Ball. Although we recommend using them on hard-to-catch/find Pokemon like the Galarian Birds found while using the Daily Adventure Incense.

But while players of the main series can only get one Master Ball, Pokemon Go trainers will have opportunities for more.

"As you know in the main series games, Master Balls are incredibly limited for most games. You're only able to get one in the entire game," Steranka explains. "The way that we're going to be approaching that with Pokemon Go is we're going to treat it with the same amount of respect and sacredness as the main series. But with Pokemon Go being a game that lives on for years and years, players will have other opportunities to receive more Master Balls in the future, but it'll be incredibly limited and rare."

All of this said, trainers will only be able to carry one Master Ball in their inventory at one time. So once another opportunity to earn another one arises, they won't be able to claim it until they use the one they already have. Steranko says: "When those opportunities [to get another Master Ball] do come up, if you still have a Master Ball in your inventory, you won't be able to earn a new one. We do want people to actually use these over time instead of just letting them collect dust in your item inventory."

With the new Shadow Raids hosting a Shiny Shadow Mewtwo and the Pokemon that will be available during Pokemon Go Fest later this summer, Pokemon Go is making sure trainers will have plenty of opportunities to use the Master Ball.

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