A few days ago, the world woke up to one somewhat shocking change in the "Pokemon Go" universe: The disappearance of the footsteps tracking function. At the time, there was no official word on why this feature had vanished— but now, thanks to an official statement from Niantic, we know exactly why the footsteps in "Pokemon Go" are gone. The good news is that at least we're not in the dark anymore about the mysterious case of the missing footsteps. The bad news? We don't really know if or when the footprint tracker is coming back.
In theory, the footsteps tracker was a simple but smart idea: When you were out and about on the prowl for various Pokemon, you'd notice a small tab to the right of your Pokeball listing the three Pokemon closest to you at any given time. If you tapped on that tab, it would bring up an entire page revealing the nine Pokemon closest to your current location. Prior to the latest update out of Niantic, the Pokemon were arranged from nearest to furthest starting in the upper left hand corner. Beneath each Pokemon picture was a set of footprints indicating their approximate distance from your location. One footprint? You're super close! Two footprints? You may need to walk a few more blocks. Three footprints? Oy, you've got a ways to go.
However, users have also complained about a "three-footstep bug"— meaning, for some of us, every single Pokemon appeared to always be three footsteps away, no matter what. It proved to be an annoying glitch, as it rendered tracking specific Pokemon virtually impossible.
Then, when the July 31 update arrived, it appeared that Niantic's solution to the problem for the time being was just to get rid of the footsteps entirely. A window with nearby Pokemon is still accessible, but there's no way of knowing which of those Pokemon are closer to you than others. As far as the functionality of tracking Pokemon goes, the lack of footsteps is just as vague as the three-footstep bug was.
But although we were left simply to theorize for a few days about why the footsteps disappeared, Niantic released a statement explaining some of the changes made recently to the augmented reality game. Posted on the "Pokemon Go" Facebook page on Aug. 1, the statement has this to say about tracking:
We have removed the ‘3-step’ display in order to improve upon the underlying design. The original feature, although enjoyed by many, was also confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals. We will keep you posted as we strive to improve this feature.
So, basically, we were right when we hypothesized earlier this week that the tracking feature was disabled due in large part to server strain.
Niantic also acknowledged that not everyone has been satisfied with the changes:
We have read your posts and emails and we hear the frustration from folks in places where we haven’t launched yet, and from those of you who miss these features. We want you to know that we have been working crazy hours to keep the game running as we continue to launch globally. If you haven’t heard us Tweeting much it’s because we’ve been heads down working on the game. But we’ll do our best going forward to keep you posted on what’s going on.
Be safe, be nice to your fellow trainers, and keep on exploring.
It's good to know that Niantic are listening to the users of their extremely popular app; indeed, the fact that they mention that they are striving to improve footstep tracking suggests that getting rid of it is simply a stop-gap until they can figure out a better way to implement it. Here's hoping!
Images: Pokemon Go; GameXplain/YouTube