Half the fun of Pokémon Go is tracking down new creatures. But a bug has made that really difficult over the past few days, with the game’s Nearby feature seemingly breaking down. Fortunately, someone’s come up with a solution — one that some may call cheating, but also makes finding pokémon insanely easy: it’s a Google Map that displays the location of every pokémon around you.
“Ever since I’ve made this, I’ve had a lot more fun.”
The project emerged from a subreddit dedicated to developers playing with Pokémon Go. In there, someone figured out how to pull raw data out of the game, including the locations of gyms, the items at individual pokéstops, and where pokémon are appearing.
Developer Ahmed Almutawa began playing with that access on Saturday and within a few hours had plotted the data onto a map. He posted the project on GitHub and Reddit, then went to bed. When he woke up, people had already begun swarming to it. “There’s been like 46 contributors, and this is over just two days,” Almutawa tells The Verge.
Right now, the map isn’t something everyone can easily access. It’s not hosted on a public website, nor is it an app you can easily install. There are step-by-step instructions if you want to use it, but be warned, you’ll have to open up the command line. If you don’t know what the command line is, maybe hold off for now.
If you get through that process, what you’ll find is a Google Map that basically offers a bird’s-eye view of every nearby pokémon, pokéstop, and gym. With a bit of code, you can tell the map to filter by specific pokémon or pokéstops that include the item you want. We were able to confirm that the tool accurately maps locations — The Verge‘s Adi Robertson was able to catch a Meowth and Koffing by walking to locations on the map.
“The very first time [the map] was working properly it was like 10PM,” Almutawa says. “I opened the map and there was a Dratini that was three blocks down the road. I was like, ‘Nah, there’s no way it’s down the road from here.’ But I go out, and I walk there and there’s a Dratini here. I caught the Dratini my first try, so I was very proud of myself for that one.”
Almutawa says that he and other developers are now making the map more user friendly, creating an interface for installing and using the tool so that people don’t have to mess with the command line. He’d like to see it opened up to more people so that programmers don’t have an unfair advantage. “I feel like everyone needs to be on the same plane,” Almutawa says.
There’s an argument to be made that knowing exactly where pokémon are located takes away from the game (a friend of mine, who posted about the project on Facebook, wrote, “This kinda kills some fun of the game for me … am I a member of Team Rocket?”). But Almutawa thinks the map is good for “augmenting” the experience. “Ever since I’ve made this, I’ve had a lot more fun,” Almutawa says, “mostly because I could see where all the lures are and go to where all the people are hanging out.”
Niantic could stop development at any time
There’s also a very real possibility that Niantic will block access to this information in a future update, preventing the map from working. Even if Niantic doesn’t mind the map, it may want to stop other projects being devised on the pokemongodev subreddit, where people are discussing hacks that could change your in-game location or even automatically go out and catch pokémon for you.
“It is Niantic’s game and they’re free to do with it whatever they do,” Almutawa says. “I do hope that they’re fine with the map itself [and] it’s not causing them any issues.”
For now, Almutawa is going to keep working with other developers to improve the map and open it up to more people. I suspect it’s something a lot of players would be interested in looking at, even if just to check out what types of pokémon are popping up around them. Spotting rare ones would be a nice benefit, too.
“The funny thing is, I started developing this app to be able to find the more rare pokémon, but ever since I started developing it, I’ve just spent most of my time developing it and not catching pokémon,” Almutawa says. “Other people have caught cool things. Not me.”
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Update July 19th, 6:05PM ET: Added a word to clarify a quote.