During my first few days of playing Pokemon Go, and impressive bird-like shadow appeared in my Nearby section. Wanting to strike before it disappeared, I rushed out of my home, trying my best to catch it. Unfortunately, I never actually encountered it. Using the old Nearby system, I wandered in circles with no meaningful way of tracking my progress. As it turned out, the game was actually glitched during that time where the steps weren’t decreasing in count as you got closer. I’ve done many embarrassing things in my day, but aimlessly walking around a kids playground as parents curiously watched me was up there.
After this incident, I started using Pokevision. Unlike the Nearby system or the crowdsourced solutions that were popular early on, Pokevision taps directly into the game’s API to show the exact locations of nearby pokemon, as well as how long they’ll be there. Whether you view it as cheating or as a valuable tool for catching them all, it’s certainly a game-changer.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Is it cheating? Technically, yes. It was never the intention of the game’s designers for players to know the exact locations of pokemon and how long they’d be there. Niantic has even come out and said that they don’t like it, and may even close the door on these apps working in the future. The intention of the game was to find whatever was close by actually tracking down its foosteps until you fully caught up. Ash Ketchum never had access to the pokemon version of Skynet, why should you?
However, finding any pokemon with just the game’s tools is clunky at best. For weeks, the game didn’t provide players with any sort of direction. This was at its worst when the footsteps were outright removed and the Nearby section was updated so that the pokemon listed weren’t in any sort of order.
Without providing players with any direction, it took out the ability for players to actually track down a pokemon. Instead, it essentially boiled down to a game of chance, hoping that you would magically stumble upon a Dragonite while walking down the street. There’s certainly fun in that, but it takes you out of being an active poke-hunter.
For me, I love the thrill of the hunt. I want to have the tools that show me how to find a pokemon so that I can make the trek to get it. At that point, a big part of the game becomes, “Am I going to make the effort to get there?” Sometimes it’s a walk around the corner. Other times, it’s a car ride. In most cases though, it boils down to how far I’m willing to run to try and get it.
Furthermore, getting that targeted pokemon isn’t guaranteed. There have been no shortages of instances where a pokemon I found on a tracking app didn’t go as planned. Sometimes you’re too slow. Other times, they just slip through your pokeballs and razz-berries. This very thing happened not too long ago, as a Blastoise broke all of my pokeballs and my heart before running away.
On top of all of that, there’s no guarantee that the pokemon you’re looking for will show up at all. At that point, part of the game becomes scanning the map, which you can’t humanly do 24/7. While it might be easier in the sense that I can make a beeline to Snorlax, there’s still a ton of monitoring, decision-making and chance that goes into actually snagging the prize. For me, this level of tracking actually makes Pokemon Go way better.
Recently, Niantic made some updates to in-game tracking for a somewhat better experience. The Sightings tab refreshes more quickly, making it a bit easier to gauge whether you’re in the right general area. Also, certain users get the new Nearby feature, which highlights pokemon close to pokestops. I have yet to try the new Nearby feature, but I’m excited to get my hands on it.
Ultimately, I’m hoping that Niantic can get Pokemon Go to a point where I feel like the in-game tracking tools are adequate. Having Pokevision-like tracking in-game is too much, but the ability to give me a general direction of where to go would be much better than forcing players to aimlessly wander around a large radius.
That said, I would still greatly enjoy the use of third-party trackers if they’re available. Due to changes in the game’s API, it’s much harder to find working apps that pull in good results. I currently use one that works amazing in the city, but doesn’t cover any of the surrounding suburbs. It’s great for when I’m at work, but not when I’m at home. However you choose to go about your journey, I hope you can catch them all!