Pokémon GO might be the biggest, most popular app of all time, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its fair share of problems. Some of the issues surrounding the game seem to have been ironed out; such as the app crashing repeatedly whenever it was launched in a new territory. But, for every flaw that’s overcome, it seems as though something else comes along for players to deal with. Currently, the biggest problem gamers face is the frankly diabolical tracking feature within the game, which is supposed to show an approximate distance to nearby Pokémon.
Initially, the ‘Nearby’ feature gave a rough distance in footprints, so a Pidgey with one footprint underneath it was nearer than, say, a Squirtle with three footprints. But then the feature developed a glitch, which meant that all creatures appeared with three footprints beneath it, even if you were practically standing on top of it. Unsurprising, then, that so many people turned to tracking apps to help them. Apps such as Pokévision and also PokéRadar, made it easier to find Pokémon by using the game’s algorithm and crowdsourcing information from players when they were out and about.
Of course, Niantic were hardly happy about such developments, with CEO John Hanke arguing that it spoiled the gaming experience for users, not to mention the fact that these apps were violating the terms and conditions of use by attempting to take data out of Niantic’s servers. It wasn’t long before tracking apps were removed entirely from the market – and, to clarify their stance on the situation, Niantic have issued a statement on the Pokémon GO website, explaining why they had to have them shut down:
“Running a product like Pokémon GO at scale is challenging. Those challenges have been amplified by third parties attempting to access our servers in various ways outside of the game itself. As some of you may have noticed we recently rolled out Pokémon GO to Latin America including Brazil. We were very excited to finally be able to take this step. We were delayed in doing that due to aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon GO game client and our terms of service.
In addition to hampering our ability to bring Pokémon GO to new markets, dealing with this issue also has opportunity cost. Developers have to spend time controlling this problem vs. building new features. It’s worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.”
The post also included a chart, showing the drop in server resources used when the scrapers were blocked, which meant Niantic’s servers were freed up enough to allow the Latin America launch. Niantic itself isn’t a particularly large company; in fact, it lists only 11-50 employees on its LinkedIn page, so it’s fair to say that some of this comes down to man hours too. Logic dictates that if two employees are busy working on shutting down outside apps, those two employee’s hours aren’t being spent on Niantic’s own app and so, just as the server space frees up when these apps are blocked, so too does the extra time employees have been using up on this.
All of that said, the loss of the tracking apps would be a whole lot easier to accept if Niantic had actually fixed their own ‘Nearby’ feature…but they haven’t. Instead, they’ve just taken away the footprint element altogether, which leaves users with a list of Pokémon in the vicinity, but no actual way of knowing how near they are. It’s frustrating, but Niantic do add in their statement that they have listened to feedback concerning the Nearby feature and are actively working on it. Well, they should have time now, since there’s no tracking apps to shut down.
Pokémon Go is available now for both iOS and Android mobile devices.
Source: Pokémon GO
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