Feature Article

Pokemon Go Is Broken Without Tracking

To find them is my real test, because oh god where did all the trackers go help me why.

Over the weekend, after heavily hinting at their disapproval of such apps, Niantic sent cease and desist letters and effectively brought down all fan-made radar programs for the company's runaway success Pokemon Go. PokeVision, PokeRadar: just gone. At the same time, they pushed an update to the app that removed the footprints from beneath Pokemon in the Nearby tab, and instead replaced it with nothing. And other than the few interviews Niantic CEO John Hanke has done over the past two weeks, we've heard nothing from the company--no kind of community management, no message, no explanation of how we're supposed to track Pokemon now. It's frustrating, and for some has made Pokemon Go unplayable.

I initially wasn't a fan of Pokemon Go. The game launched while I was staying in a sparsely populated rural area, so with limited access to Pokestops and Pokemon I wasn't motivated to play. Returning home to San Francisco, however, I found myself with a wealth of options: gyms every few blocks, multiple Pokestops on every street, and clusters of creatures, both annoyingly common and tantalizingly rare, available to catch. I started collecting eggs and walking the long way to work, hoping that the deviation from my normal route would bring an extra Clefairy or maybe even a more uncommon creature into my path.

When my coworkers introduced me to PokeVision, however, is when I really took to Pokemon Go. I read stories about a Vaporean spawning in New York's Central Park that brought masses of people to the landmark as they found him on their maps. Friends told me about seeing an Aerodactyl spawn in our Mission district and a Blastoise in Burlingame, and how they called each other and jumped in their cars, racing to grab the monster before it despawned. I frequently checked the PokeVision map throughout the day, which is how I found out about the Porygon that repeatedly spawns on Alcatraz Island along with a horde of Voltorbs and Magnemites; my coworkers and I subsequently made plans to do an Alcatraz tour in hopes of catching these electrical monsters.


PokeVision is also the reason our office found out about a Dragonite spawning, which, of course, caused mass hysteria and flocks of SoMa workers to gather outside our building. PokeVision alerted my coworker to a Venusaur five minutes down the road--and we took an afternoon hiatus to run at breakneck speed through the streets to get him. These moments wouldn't exist without PokeVision, and because my coworkers, friends, and likely most of you reading this don't have the luxury to spend hours on ending wandering the streets, it was the best way for us to locate and capture the Pokemon we needed.

Part of the reason we loved PokeVision and apps like PokeRadar so much is because they filled a void left by the app itself. Pokemon Go's Nearby feature was impossible to decipher and a little broken on launch. Each Pokemon that showed up in the "Nearby" tab would have one, two or three little footprints beneath it, indicating how far away you were from its location. But players worldwide never quite figured out what those footprints meant; I heard from a friend each footprint represented one yard, while another told me it was three footprints per city block, and so on. Without a reliable tracking feature, there was no effective way to play Pokemon hot and cold other than walk in circles and hope you were going in the right direction.

But now Niantic has forced them to be taken down. These radar apps weren't "cheating," nor did they take away from the experience of Pokemon Go. They added to it. People who don't have the time to roam knew when and where to find the Pokemon they wanted--just like in the actual Pokemon games. The radar apps also bolstered the game's social component, just look at what happened above with my coworkers and friends. We planned outings based on where we knew we could find rare Pokemon. In one instance, a friend took my phone with him down the street to catch a Magmar while I waited in line to pick up our lunch. There was a teamwork aspect that grew from having these tracking resources. We were trainers helping each other, looking out for rarer monsters and planning trips to where we knew we could get a good sweep of critters.

But now that that social component is all but gone--largely because my friends aren't playing anymore. A few have dismissed the app entirely; usually the GameSpot office is punctuated by shouts about Pokemon appearing here or there, and then a mass exodus as we all grab our phones and go for a quick jog. It was an excuse to get out of the office in the middle of the day and get some exercise.

By far the worst thing about all this is Niantic's silence.

By far the worst thing about all this is Niantic's silence. The company should say something, anything, detailing how we're supposed to track Pokemon now that the app no longer displays distance. An explanation on why they shut down radar apps--made by fans who love and want to share their love of Pokemon Go--would be beneficial as well. Is Niantic making their own radar? Adding a better tracker to the game? There's no point in chasing a Scyther that pops up on your radar when you have no idea if it's a one, five, ten, or more minute walk away from your office, especially when you have the rest of your life to attend to.

With their silence and stinginess, Niantic has effectively killed the Pokemon Go hype, at least for my friends and I. How do we know we won't be met with endless Rattatas the next time we head to the park? If we could get an explanation, perhaps that would ease the pain of having our most meaningful tools unexpectedly taken away. Until then, we're all a little less "go" for Pokemon Go.

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+
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Alexa Ray Corriea

Alexa Ray Corriea is never not covered in glitter at any given time.
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Avatar image for TigusVidiks

why is upvoting in this comment section disabled for a day now?

Avatar image for _Judas_

Why write an article about this? The game isn't broken, just play Pokemon Go! on your time-off, Alexia... then you can go as far as you want to...

Avatar image for sissymaygo

Listen yes I agree a little tracker would be ok. Like a arrow saying your going in the right direction.

But those apps are cheating apps. Cheaters is what I call you people using those apps. Every pokemon I have i have gotten in my wheel chair strolling around of being pushed around. I spend money on this game to support the devs. The devs will fix and will do the things the public wants. Damn people have patience. Im in a wheel chair and i love hunting these things down. I get so excited when something new pops up on my screen. Yes I do have some complaints. Like to many of the rats and to many birds. And im in medford oregon. So the water babys are so hard to get. I like to see more spawning on the higher pokes. But they will work on the game little by little.

Why the heck would you want a cheat app to tell you exactly where it is and how long is it gonna be there.

That's just plain cheating. Jeez people. Medford oregon and surrounding city's need more bigger pokes and less rats and birds that's my only complaint. And some of the suburbs need more stops. Oh and the eggs need to be fixed. If they say you only get certain pokemons out of the 2s the 5s and 10s km eggs then thatshe what you should get. I hatched many 10s km eggs and got pokes from the 2 km eggs pokemons. I was upset about that.

And some of my 5 km eggs were from the pokemons that come out of the 2 km eggs. So that needs to be fixed too

Avatar image for greaseman1985

@sissymaygo: Please explain how it is cheating. It is an aid, same as using a game guide or looking something up on Google.

Avatar image for TigusVidiks

@greaseman1985: XD

an aid = cheating in games.

It's not the same as looking at google. You are not looking at google to see what the stats are, how to catch them, or where to find them. You are using an app that interacts with their game server to provide you information more accurate that the game itself was meant to give. That's cheating. Any game where you interfere with the game server to give an edge beyond what the developers envision, will consider you are cheating.

Basically you are doing the same as using an aimbot in a FPS game.

By getting better pokemons and at a faster rate than a player that only used the tools the game provides, you are getting an edge over him and effectively cheating. You will have an advantage over him when it comes to gym battles. And he probably played for longer, and invested more effort than you.

Avatar image for tardisboydave

This is right on! The game really has huge potential to be fun & social but some sort of tracking really is needed if they don't want to lose the players who don't have hours to wander around hoping to stumble across a pokemon or players in small towns where you don't have a lot of gyms and pokestops.

Shutting down the radar sites & this last 'update' really makes Niantic look like a bunch of greedy buzzkills. What they should have done was incorporate something like PokeVision.com into the app.

Avatar image for jontr0n

Well, at least I'm still having fun playing it. You guys complaining should quit so I can have all the Pokemons.

Avatar image for greaseman1985

@jontr0n: You do realize no matter how many people are playing, everyone has the same opportunities for catching them, right?

Avatar image for seven7swords

I'm more upset they got rid of the in game tracker. I at least could use those footprints to find the pokemon I want instead of walking around aimlessly.

Way to kill your own game.

Avatar image for infaredj

Yes, you're right. This game is unplayable in its current state.......

Avatar image for deactivated-57d0fe42747d9

Why do we need to know where and when Pokémon will pop up? Sure, it can be frustrating to be surrounded by Rattatas and Pidgeys but it also makes it really exciting for me when a rare one does pop up. I guess what I'm saying is that that's a good chunk of the fun for me: going somewhere to find Pokémon and having no clue whatsoever of what will show up. =)

Avatar image for zeebali

@plastiqueworld: Tell me how fun Marco Polo is when no one replies with "Polo".

Avatar image for dctcool

@plastiqueworld: Because the game is boring without knowing if we're getting close of further away, It's like playing the game blindfolded. Most importantly: It's not fun.

Avatar image for reavern

I think the dev needs to fix the game's Nearby function, add the missing features like Trading and PvP, then lock down the app to prevent usage of third-party apps and bots, and finally impose a hard reset that zeroes everyone's Pokemon collection. Give the people who purchased Poke Coins their in-game currency after the reset, but other than that, everything else resets to zero.

That seems like the only fair way to resolve the problem of cheaters, who will otherwise dominate the game.

Avatar image for cfscorpio

There was a video online explaining the footprint system. So, people did figure out how it worked. Oh well.

Avatar image for dctcool

@cfscorpio:It was pretty self explanatory, until it glitched out.

Avatar image for Erebus

One thing you all need to remember, this was mostly done to curb the rising epidemic of botting. People have filled gyms with Dragonites, teleported to locations of rare spawns throughout the world, and auto-leveled many accounts to max levels. This needs to be gotten under control before trading and PvP are implemented.

Sure, I miss the tracking software -- quite a bit. But from a pragmatic standpoint, if they didn't stop the reverse-engineered API use, bots were poised to ruin this game.

Avatar image for AzNaLaN15

I wanted google to refund me but they didn't =[ f this game...

Avatar image for Goobshoeriot

@AzNaLaN15: Sucks to be you, NERD! Ain't nobody getting no damn refund. That's what happens when your dumbass hit accept.


Avatar image for djwood84

I want to be the very best, like no one ever was.
So will wander mindlessly, catching Pidgey's & Ratata's.
Pokemon, you can't track a thing.
We don't care that's why we sing.
Pokemon, you can go F off, cause we don't caaaaaaaaaare.

*Minor text fixes to Niantic's theme song

Avatar image for haanabi89

They need to put a proper tracking system into the game. Honestly Niantic is lucky that theyre working with a pokemon game its the only reason it still has a big following. Its just absolutely ridiculous how broken the game was at launch. Even now it has so many issues that I dont even play it that much already.

Avatar image for mirage_so3

Wow. You people have issues. "He didn't play it the way I think he should! And now he's complaining they took away the thing that made it fun for him and a large majority of people! The bastard!"

Cell phones will be the death of us I swear.

Avatar image for Draconas_Lyrr

@mirage_so3: More like people with your attitude. Sheesh, take a chill pill.

Avatar image for djwood84

@Draconas_Lyrr: More like people with YOUR attitude. Sheesh, take two.

Avatar image for Draconas_Lyrr

@djwood84: I'm not the one with the attitude. You can have my two, maybe three will calm you down.

Avatar image for PS2fweak

Are people really getting upset at this editorial?

Play how you want. Why do you care if someone else uses a tracker? You clearly have the time to "explore" and it's awesome you finally have a reason to go outside, but some people are busy and already have lives.

If you don't already know this, there is no actual game. It's just about collecting Pokemon, so if you think it's even possible to cheat, please rethink why it matters to you in the first place. Does "cheating" in Pokemon Go mean a player is skipping a rich story, or missing out on great art design, or bypassing some innovative gameplay mechanics/features? Stop adding value to a "game" that doesn't deserve it.

Go catch your Pokemon and be merry!

Avatar image for Draconas_Lyrr

@PS2fweak: It doesn't upset me in the least, I just think it's stupid and whiny to complain because a cheat device was removed. Doesn't bother me that people used it, hell, I used a Gameshark all the time as a child, which is much worse as far as "cheating" goes. I wouldn't have cried that the game was broken because I couldn't cheat anymore, though, I would have moved on with my life.

Avatar image for greaseman1985

@Draconas_Lyrr: I don't think you understand what a cheat device is. Is Googling how to find a certain weapon in Fallout 4 cheating?

Avatar image for Draconas_Lyrr

@greaseman1985: Yes, actually, it is cheating. Obviously, it's pretty benign, but you're using an external source to circumvent the game, or, in other words, cheating.

Again, it doesn't bother me that people were using Pokevision, I just think it's rather pathetic that people are crying over it being disabled. You're too stuck on me calling it cheating (which it is, whether you agree or not), and ignoring the overall sentiment of my post.

Avatar image for bigtasty77

basically the people moaning about this are broken. The scanner still tells you when you are getting closer as the pokemon change position. The game wants you to explore, not run straight to the pokemon. The way the cheaters are going all the pokemon will be found within a few weeks and the game truly will die. The main problems with this game are that its Data and battery hungry. This wouldnt be an issue if we could battle friends over wifi at home to level up our pokemon, but we cant. players want to cheat but they cant so they moan, nothing more nothing less

Avatar image for Draconas_Lyrr

@bigtasty77: Only part I disagree with is the data hungry part. The app uses less data than almost any other app I have on my phone. So I don't understand the complaints about it draining data.

I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of your post, though.

Avatar image for kos12

Sounds like a bunch of whining to me. I nor any of my friends are complaining about the update. Pokevision and radar was cheating imo. Why would you want to be hand fed every pokemon? Wheres the fun in that?

Avatar image for veldi

Feels like you're still going outside catching Pokemon, which is the point of the game. I haven't played it yet, but it doesn't seem like it's broken. You go out, you explore, you catch Pokemon. Sounds like fun to me.

Avatar image for WilliamRLBaker

So you and others complaining apps that took the whole reason for the game "walking around, exploring..etc" and instead gave you easy updates of here and here for rare Pokemon are now gone?

And you wonder I rarely check out gamespot content outside forums you all aren't gamers anymore your hipsters who could only get writing jobs in the dying video game website arena.

"Everyone goes YouTube now"

Avatar image for docphilgood

Wow, what a hamfisted mouth-frothing editorial over not being able to use add-on software and getting rid of footprints.

It's free. It's fun. You're a sperglord.

Avatar image for AndreasRufus

But this way it's more true to the original formula, is it not? It always was about discovering the wild pokemon while you explore, not about looking where the critters are and just collecting them knowing their locations.

Avatar image for bigdaddy0316

@AndreasRufus: exactly. Everybody wants a hack or a cheat so they dont have to work to accomplish anything.

Avatar image for Maxx_the_Slash

@AndreasRufus: The original games didn't have a tracker to tell you where a Pokemon you're looking for is located. You had to search for a while. But that's how THOSE games played. Pokemon Go is different. People can play games any way they want, and if they want trackers helping them locate monsters, that's their prerogative. They have the right. People who want to play Pokemon Go the way the original Game Boy and DS games are can do so, but that doesn't mean those who want to use tracking sites should no longer be allowed to do so.

Because then the point can be made: Why the hell would I want to play Pokemon Go when I can play an actual Pokemon game on my Game Boy, DS or 3DS, where I can train, fight, power up, trade and even FEED them. Pokemon Go has nothing going for it.

Avatar image for AndreasRufus

@Maxx_the_Slash: Yeah "They have the right." I never said they are wrong or they have no rights. GEEZ!

All I am saying is: I don't get the fuzz about this. People always wanted Pokemon in RL, and Pokemon got it's rules. If I want to play Pokemon in RL I want to experience it the way it the way it is meant to be and that's walking around and if you find a Pokemon, you try to catch it. Not the other way around, like "you look where the Pokemon are and you go to fill your pokedex".

Avatar image for SpookyRonin

One thing pokevision did was show how totally unfair the pokemon spawns are. I lost all my will to play after scanning my whole city (500k pop ) and seeing only 2 pokemons that I did not already have ( I only have 48 pokedex entries ) vs scanning Los Angeles and seeing a crapload of various pokemon literally clumped around every corner.


Avatar image for sbul

I played PoGo for 3 days before stopping. The intensity and lack of global stats to see how my team was doing against other teams meant the whole aspect of teams is null and void. Gym battles rather than actual PvP is pretty crappy. I'm an avid ingresser, I have been for 3 year. Niantics communication has been lacklustre during this time, and its amusing they've not learnt from experiences during that time. PokeStops on private land exist because although the Ingress community appeal for removal, Niantic do nothing. Expect this to be the start of the end.

Avatar image for csward

@sbul: I'm surprised lawyers haven't forced their hand by now...