How ‘Pokemon Go’ went from prank to phenomenon

How 'Pokemon Go' went from prank to phenomenon

The origin of “Pokemon Go” is as peculiar as any of the Voltorbs or Snorlaxes that players track and capture in the surprise hit game.

Its hybrid DNA flows from a digital mapping pioneer’s fascination with the world around him, Google’s affinity for offbeat ideas, Nintendo’s comeback quest and a 20-year-old menagerie of animated monsters so popular that it spawned a company just to be its talent agency.

Then all it took was a prank to hatch a mobile video game that has turned into a cultural phenomenon.


Google unwittingly planted the seed for “Pokemon Go” two years ago in one of the many April Fools’ Day jokes the internet company is famous for. In a mischievous 2014 post, Google announced a new training tool, created in conjunction with Pokemon and Nintendo, for hunting Pokemon using Google Maps. Its goal, the company said, was to hire the world’s best Pokemon Master—because it valued technically savvy risk takers who can “navigate through tall grass to capture wild creatures.”

The enthusiastic reaction to Google’s fake “Pokemon Challenge” video resonated within Niantic Labs, a little-known startup that had been incubating within the company—particularly with its founder John Hanke.


Hanke was at Google because he’d sold it a digital mapping startup called Keyhole in 2004, providing the 3-D satellite imagery used in Google Earth. He’d overseen a number of maps-related projects until 2010, when he hit upon the idea of using maps to lure people outdoors to explore neighborhoods, see notable places and discover new places to eat, drink or just hang out.

With the goal of building mobile apps and games that encouraged “adventures on foot with others,” Hanke named Niantic after a grounded whaling vessel grounded during the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849 and converted to a storage building. The remains of the original ship were later found buried near a current San Francisco landmark, the Transamerica Pyramid.

The Niantic name is a reminder that “there is lot of cool stuff beneath the surface of things,” Hanke told The Associated Press in a 2013 interview. A Niantic spokesman said Hanke was too busy working on “Pokemon Go” to comment for this story.

How 'Pokemon Go' went from prank to phenomenon
In this Thursday, July 14, 2016, file photo, youngsters play during a “Pokemon Go” event at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Pokemon Go’s origins are as peculiar as any of the creatures inhabiting the game. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Hanke was ready to found his own independent startup until Google co-founder Larry Page persuaded him he could keep Niantic within the internet’s most powerful company.


In 2014, Niantic set out to turn Google’s Pokemon joke into a breakthrough for augmented reality—a still-nascent field that involves layering digital images onto homes, offices, streets, parks and other real-life settings.

In the case of “Pokemon Go,” this involves smartphone cameras and GPS technology that can project cute and creepy “pocket monsters,” or Pokemon, into the real world, at least as viewed through a phone’s screen.

It helped that Niantic had already built a technological foundation for “Pokemon Go” via an earlier mobile game called “Ingress.” The science-fiction game requires players to visit real-world landmarks and other locations to acquire weapons and gear necessary to gain points, acquire territory and battle an opposing faction.

“Ingress” has been downloaded more than 12 million times. It has such a devoted following that Hanke spent a week in Japan earlier this month to attend a live “Ingress” event in Tokyo—just as the rest of his team was struggling to keep up with the intense demand for “Pokemon Go.”


Niantic’s negotiations for the rights to use the Pokemon characters got a boost from the fact that Pokemon Co. CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara was himself a fan of “Ingress.” Ishihara’s company, originally named Pokemon Center, manages a sprawling franchise that included games, TV shows and movies—essentially the entire cultural sensation created by childhood insect collector Satoshi Tajiri in conjunction with Nintendo.

Nintendo, meanwhile, had fallen on hard times. Just one month after Google’s Pokemon video, the Japanese video-game maker reported its third yearly operating loss in a row as its lackluster Wii U console cratered.

Not only had it failed to recreate the success of its groundbreaking Wii game system, Nintendo had missed almost every opportunity to jump on new gaming trends. It was particularly resistant to the idea of developing or licensing video games for smartphones.

How 'Pokemon Go' went from prank to phenomenon
In this Friday, July 8, 2016, file photo, “Pokemon Go” is displayed on a cell phone in Los Angeles. Pokemon Go’s origins are as peculiar as any of the creatures inhabiting the game. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

“Pokemon Go” offered a potential way out of its hole. Nintendo still owns the trademark to all the characters and retains a 32 percent stake in Pokemon Co. Similar-sized stakes are held by Game Freak, a company created by Pokemon creator Tajiri, and Creatures Inc., launched by Ishihara.


The final piece in the “Pokemon Go” puzzle fell into place last August, when Google reorganized itself as a holding company called Alphabet that would in turn own a collection of independent subsidiaries—from large ones like Google itself to tiny ones like Niantic.

But Niantic quickly broke free of Google in order to explore opportunities with companies that might be reluctant to partner directly with the search giant, said long-time technology analyst Rob Enderle. “There are a lot of companies out there that are afraid of Google,” he said.

In addition, Google hasn’t demonstrated much prowess in video games, according to Forrester Research analyst Julie Ask. That makes it even more unlikely Nintendo would entrust one of its most valuable properties to a U.S. company solely owned by Google or its parent.

Niantic laid out its plans for “Pokemon Go” last September, and the following month Google, Nintendo and Pokemon agreed to invest $20 million , with a promise to put up another $10 million if an undisclosed set of goals were met.

Pokemon Co. says the additional investment hasn’t been made yet, even though it looks Niantic is hitting all its targets with the precision of a Pokemon Master.

[source :-phys]

Watch it, cowboy: Japan’s 9 safety tips for “Pokemon Go”

Watch it, cowboy: Japan's 9 safety tips for

Aware of the reports of “Pokemon Go”-related mishaps elsewhere, Japan’s government-run National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity has issued a flier with these nine public safety tips to keep overly enthusiastic players from getting into trouble. The smartphone game was released in Japan on Friday:



The government says when registering, a player should use a nickname that a third party cannot use to identify the player. It also advises against posting photos taken near one’s home on social media, as the location could be ascertained.


The government warns there are possibilities that there are apps that contain viruses, and urges users to download the game’s app from legitimate distribution channels.


“Pokemon Go” users who play outside need to be mindful of the weather. Download apps that issue severe weather warnings. A cartoon on the government flier shows a person dragging away a preoccupied player as a tsunami approaches, shouting, “Stop playing and run!”


Players of the game may go on hunting on a sunny day. In that case, the government advises players to be aware of heatstroke, taking a rest in the shade frequently and consuming drinks that contain salt. Drinking water only is not sufficient.


Games that use GPS eat up battery life, so carry extra batteries or chargers.


In case your smartphone runs out of battery, carry a phone card so you can use a public phone. For kids playing alone, parents should take a head-to-toe picture of them in the clothes they are wearing, in case they go missing.


There are reports in other countries of people getting into trouble while playing the game, including being hit by a car, falling into a pond, getting robbed and getting bitten by a snake. The government also warns players to be careful overseas—its flier features a cartoon of two pistol-wielding men in cowboy gear to emphasize the point.


The government warns against meeting strangers. Bring an adult if players absolutely have to meet a person and avoid playing the game in a place where no one is around.


There are many accidents related to texting while walking. The game has a feature that a phone vibrates when a character appears near players. If it does, stop and check out the surroundings before looking at a smartphone.

[source :-phys]

‘Pokemon Go’ players stumble on hidden history

'Pokemon Go' players stumble on hidden history

Historical markers have long dotted the landscape, often barely noticed by passers-by—until they became treasure-filled stops this month on the “Pokemon Go” trail.

Players hunting for fictional creatures on their smartphones are now visiting real-life memorial plaques, statues, mosaics and landmarks, ranging from a Civil War battlefield in Chancellorsville, Virginia, to a Hells Angels clubhouse on New Zealand’s North Island.

Some don’t bother to linger at these Pokestops, staying just long enough to stock up on the virtual balls they’ll use to bonk and capture the next Pokemon. But for others, the GPS-powered “augmented reality” game is heightening awareness of the history and geography of their neighborhoods.

“Before I was just going from Point A to Point B, but now I’m learning things,” said 15-year-old Jaiden Cruz as he walked by a plaque Wednesday in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, marking where Abraham Lincoln spoke at an old railroad hall in 1860. The plaque is a Pokestop, and shortly before Cruz arrived, another player dropped a “lure module” that attracts Pokemon to the site.

The 380-year-old city abounds with Pokestops, including the nation’s oldest Baptist church—founded by religious dissident Roger Williams in 1638—and a stone marking where French troops camped during the Revolutionary War.

“It gets you to learn about your surroundings,” said 59-year-old Cheryl DiMarzio, who on the advice of her daughter ventured into an urban park to capture an owl-like Pidgey and some purple rodent Rattatas. “Different landmarks, the statues and historical places.”

How such markers became the backbone of the wildly popular video game that launched this month is a story that goes back at least five years, when tech giant Google signed a licensing agreement to use The Historical Marker Database , a volunteer-run website that has tracked the geographic coordinates of more than 80,000 historical markers around the world, most of them in the United States.

J.J. Prats, founder and publisher of the Virginia-based marker database, said many but not all the Pokestops and Pokemon gyms—where players send their creatures into battle—are from his website. He’s thrilled.

“Hopefully people will take their eyes off the phone and read the historical markers,” Prats said.

The game has delighted Anthony Golding, a middle school history teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, who is looking forward to incorporating Pokestops into his curriculum in the fall.

He has replenished his Pokemon wares where the Civil War’s Battle of Tupelo was fought, at monuments to Civil Rights Movement figures, and at a pedestal that holds the Tupelo Meteorite. But Elvis Presley holds the monopoly on Tupelo’s Pokestops, from his birthplace to the Main Street store where he got his first guitar .

“Pretty much every Elvis landmark has a Pokestop devoted to it,” Golding said.

Prats said his website’s views have quadrupled since the game launched , possibly because gamers are looking to get ahead and find new stops. His editors in recent days have had to strike down a rash of “bogus” submissions for markers that have no historical significance but that he suspects might be near where players live or where businesses are hoping for foot traffic , he said.

Game maker Niantic Labs , which began as an internal Google startup, originally used the markers for its earlier game, Ingress, which attracted a smaller but dedicated community when it launched in 2012. Niantic, which spun off from Google last year, did not respond to emails seeking comment about its “Pokemon Go” locations.

But the Ingress website gives clues about how the Pokestops were created. Before closing off submissions, Ingress invited its users to identify new locations for “portals,” real-life places of cultural significance that gamers try to capture and connect on the Ingress app.

The company sought spots “with a cool story, a place in history or educational value” or a “cool piece of art or unique architecture.” It prized libraries and little-known gems, and welcomed places of worship because they are “a nod to the otherworldly” that amplified the game’s mysterious tone.

Ingress player John Jannotti, who teaches computer science at Brown University, said he began stumbling upon the hidden history of his Providence neighborhood, including obscure stone markers showing the location of race riots where white mobs attacked black residents in the early 19th century. He even submitted some portals of his own.

Now, those markers are Pokestops attracting a whole new community.

Golding, the teacher, said he frequently runs into his students in downtown Tupelo while playing the game.

“It’s probably more about the game for them right now,” Golding said. “After the newness kind of wears off, we can start to have those conversations about the historical significance behind those Pokestops.”

[source :-phys]

Chinese army bans Hong Kong’s Pokemon players from barracks

Pokemon Go's Hong Kong launch saw residents more glued to their phones than ever in their search for the cyber creatures

The Chinese army garrisoned in Hong Kong has warned people searching for Pikachu and other virtual monsters to stay off their premises, as Pokemon Go mania sweeps the smartphone-obsessed city.

The gaming app landed Monday in Hong Kong and saw residents more glued to their phones than ever, searching for the cyber creatures in locations ranging from shopping malls to the government headquarters.

The app uses satellite locations, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train them for battles.

But the city’s enthusiasm to “catch ’em all” has prompted warnings from government departments and even the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to stay off their property.

The game has prompted increasing concern worldwide over safety, with reports of players straying into restricted areas, being injured or becoming crime victims.

A PLA spokesman said the city’s barracks were closed zones.

“Military barracks are restricted areas under Hong Kong law. Without the authorisation of the commanding officer, no one is allowed to enter the restricted areas,” he told AFP.

Police also warned residents to be careful when playing the game.

“When you are capturing monsters, stay alert to your surroundings,” said a police video posted on Facebook.

Nintendo's Pokemon Go app has now been launched in more than 40 countries including the US, Japan and much of Europe
Nintendo’s Pokemon Go app has now been launched in more than 40 countries including the US, Japan and much of Europe

“Police report rooms are for people in need of police services, players are not allowed to play the game there, be a smart player!”

A sign at a construction site also forbade players to enter the area to catch Pokemon.

In Indonesia a French player was stopped and questioned for several hours after the app led him into a military base.

On the other side of the world, two youngsters were so preoccupied with catching the cartoon monsters that they wandered across the US-Canada border.

Some Pokemon Go players were even robbed after being lured to isolated locations in hopes of catching the virtual creatures, according to US reports. Other distracted players have been blamed for causing traffic accidents.

But the tales of woe and stern warnings have not stopped Hong Kongers becoming hooked on the game after eagerly awaiting its release for weeks, following its launch in Australia on July 6.

Dozens clustered in the city’s parks and office buildings Tuesday, all trying to catch the virtual monsters.

The app has now been launched in more than 40 countries including the US, Japan and much of Europe. Japanese video game company Nintendo started the mythical creature franchise 20 years ago.

[source :-phys]

Hiroshima unhappy atomic-bomb park is ‘Pokemon Go’ site

Hiroshima unhappy atomic-bomb park is 'Pokemon Go' site

“Pokemon Go” players are descending on an atomic bomb memorial park in Hiroshima, and officials of the western Japanese city are displeased.

They have asked game developer Niantic Inc. to remove the “Pokestops” and other virtual sites that show up in the park for those playing the augmented reality game. The city wants them deleted by Aug. 6, the anniversary of the 1945 bombing and the date of an annual ceremony to remember the victims.

Niantic declined to comment, saying it would not make public any discussions with a third party.

The expansive Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is meant as a solemn memorial to the victims. It has become a draw for players since the Japan release of the addictive smartphone game last Friday.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and nearby Arlington National Cemetery have made similar requests to Niantic.

It is unclear if and how the game developer will respond. Niantic offers a form to request exclusions, but it’s neither automatic nor guaranteed.

The location-aware app gives digital rewards for visiting real places that have been designated “Pokestops” and “Gyms” in the game.

Hiroshima unhappy atomic-bomb park is 'Pokemon Go' site
In this May 26, 2016 file photo, people visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture, southern Japan. Hiroshima city has asked the developer of “Pokemon Go” to remove the atomic bomb memorial park as a “gym”.

[source :-phys]

‘Pokemon Go’ fans play in India despite no official launch

'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch

“Pokemon Go” has yet to officially arrive in India, but that’s not stopping people there from playing the highly addictive online game.

Many fans of the augmented-reality-based game have managed to download the app even though it has not been launched in India yet. Some are also using virtual private networks (VPNs) to change their locations and catch pokemons in New York and London while sitting in their Indian homes.

Organized “pokewalks” are becoming common in cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, where hundreds are gathering to catch pokemon characters.

“You really feel like you’re walking around in tall grass, catching all your favorite pokemons,” 14-year-old Nikhil Kapil said in Mumbai.

The highly popular gaming app has become a global phenomenon after it was launched in most countries across North America and Europe. It was recently launched in Japan and Hong Kong, the only two Asian countries where it is officially available to download.

Gamers in India have used accounts linked to U.S.- or Britain-based app stores to download the game. No launch date has been announced for India.

Siddhant Tyagi, a 21-year-old design student who has caught all four starter pokemons—Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander and Pikachu—said he and his friends have been spending an average of four hours a day playing “Pokemon Go,” often walking around New Delhi landmarks and city parks, where most “pokestops” are located.

'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Friday, July 22, 2016. photo, random ‘pokestops’ are deployed in the game Pokemon Go for players to gather Pokeballs and goodies, in Lodhi garden, New Delhi, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India …more

He also uses a VPN to catch pokemons around the world, while sitting in his New Delhi home.

“I don’t have to wait the whole morning, as the people of New York would have to, to go to Central Park,” Tyagi said. “I can easily sit here and battle till whatever time I want.”

'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Friday, July 22, 2016 photo, Shivanu Mandal plays Pokemon inside a car in New Delhi, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters as the mania …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, young Indians look at their screens as they play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, young Indians look at their screens as they play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Friday, July 22, 2016 photo, a Pokemon Go player attempts to catch Charmander, one of Pokemon’s most iconic creature, in New Delhi, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, Indians sit inside an autorickshaw and play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters as …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, young Indians look at their screens as they play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, young Indians look at their screens as they play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for pokemon characters …more
'Pokemon Go' fans play in India despite no official launch
In this Sunday, July 24, 2016 photo, young Indians look at their screens at a bus station and play “Pokemon Go” in Mumbai, India. “Pokemon Go,” the highly addictive online game, has landed in India and thousands are out searching for .

[source :-phys]

What’s troubling athletes arriving in Rio? No ‘Pokemon Go’

What's troubling athletes arriving in Rio? No 'Pokemon Go'

So the plumbing and electricity in the athletes’ village took several days to fix. Who cares?

But no “Pokemon Go”? That’s an outrage!

If there were ever a more “First World problem” for the Zika-plagued, water-polluted Rio Olympics, it’s Brazil’s lack of access to the hit mobile game, which has united players the world over.

Since debuting to wild adulation in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand this month, the game from Google spinoff Niantic Inc. has spread like wildfire, launching in more than 30 countries or territories—but not Brazil.

For athletes and other visitors caught up in the wave, not having access is just one more knock against an Olympics that officials are racing to get ready. The opening ceremony takes place next Friday.

“I wish I could run around in the (athletes’) village catching Pokemon,” New Zealand soccer player Anna Green said Friday. “I just can’t get it on the phone. It’s fine, but it would have been something fun to do.”

What will she do instead? “Train,” she replied.

Niantic didn’t reply to a request for comment on when the game might be released in Brazil. And though social media rumors point to a Sunday release for the game, similar rumors in Japan resulted in heightened expectations and the sense of delay before its debut there last week.

This week, British canoer Joe Clarke tweeted—with a broken-hearted sad face—a screenshot of his player on a deserted map near the rugby, equestrian and modern pentathlon venues in Rio’s Deodoro neighborhood. The map was devoid of PokeStops—fictional supply caches linked to real-world landmarks. No Pokemon monsters to catch either: There was nary a Starmie nor a Clefairy to be found.

“Sorry guys no #pokemon in the Olympic Village,” tweeted French canoer Matthieu Peche, followed by three crying-face emoji. Getting equal billing in his Twitter stream was a snapshot of a letter of encouragement from French President Francois Hollande.

Players with the app already downloaded elsewhere appear to be able to see a digital map of their surroundings when they visit Rio. But without PokeStops or Pokemon, the game isn’t much fun. It would be like getting on a football field—soccer to Americans—but not having a ball to kick or goals to defend.

Many competitors in the athletes’ village took it in stride, though. Canadian field hockey player Matthew Sarmento said it would give him more time to meet other athletes. But he would have welcomed Pokemon during downtime in competition, adding that “sometimes it’s good to take your mind off the important things and let yourself chill.”

Athletes might not get Pokemon, but they’ll have access to 450,000 condoms, or three times as many as the London Olympics. Of those, 100,000 are female condoms. Officials deny that it’s a response to the Zika virus, which has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects in babies born to women who have been infected.

In Pokemon countries like the U.S., PokeStops are being used to attract living, breathing customers. In San Francisco, for example, dozens of bars, restaurants and coffee shops have set up lures that attract rare Pokemon, along with potential new patrons looking to catch them.

That’s presumably one reason why Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes—plagued by a host of bad news from player robberies to faulty plumbing—urged Niantic investor Nintendo to release the game in Brazil.

“Everybody is coming here. You should also come!” Paes wrote in Portuguese on his Facebook page , adding the hashtag #PokemonGoNoBrasil—”Pokemon Go” in Brazil.

His post generated responses such as this: “The aquatic Pokemon died with superbugs.”

Paes didn’t respond to requests for interviews.

One video circulating virally, with more than 3.5 million views, shows one fan identifying himself as Joel Vieira questioning how Brazil can host the Olympics but not Pokemon.

“I can’t play! I am not allowed to know how it really feels to see the little animals on my cell phone,” he said on the video . “Because we don’t have it in Brazil, yet. But we are having the Olympics.”

The Olympics kick off next Friday. Will Pikachu be there to witness it? The world is watching with baited Poke-breath.

[source :-phys]

Israeli army identifies a new threat: ‘Pokemon Go’

The Israeli military is warning its soldiers about a new threat: the widely popular mobile phone game “Pokemon Go.”

The army said Monday it has banned its forces from playing the game on Israeli military bases due to security concerns. In a directive to soldiers and officers, the army warned the game activates cell phone cameras and location services, and could leak sensitive information like army base locations and photographs of the bases.

The military is also concerned that soldiers could download a fake application that impersonates “Pokemon Go” but could leak information from soldiers’ phones.

“Pokemon Go” players roam streets and buildings holding up their mobile phones and following a digital map to catch creatures that appear on the screen.

Israeli civilians are also being warned about the perils of chasing Pikachu and other digital critters in the game.

The Israel Cancer Association has advised players not to go outdoors to catch Pokemon creatures in the middle of the day to avoid excessive sun exposure, and other tips to protect oneself from the sun’s rays.

“In the game itself, some of the Pokemon snatchers are always with a baseball hat on,” the association said on its website. “In the real world too, make sure you wear a hat before going outdoors.”

The AIG insurance company in Israel is taking advantage of the Pokemon craze to market its personal accident insurance policy that covers accidents caused while playing such mobile phone games. Yifat Reiter of AIG said the company has received dozens of inquiries about the accident insurance for Pokemon players.

Israel’s emergency rescue service Magen David Adom said distracted Pokemon players have suffered moderate injuries.

Last week, a 15-year-old girl suffered a head injury after she fell off her bicycle while pursuing Pokemon creatures, and a 35-year-old player ran into a glass door and suffered “massive bleeding” in his legs, Magen David Adom said in a statement on its website.

“Apparently the game is not as friendly as we thought,” the statement said.

For Palestinians, “Pokemon Go” is a frustrating game to play, because mobile high-speed internet services don’t exist in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under interim peace accords, Israel controls wireless networks in the area, and Israel only recently announced that it would allow high-speed internet access in the West Bank, though the technology has not yet gone into effect.

The Palestinians are among a few markets in the world that still use older 2G technology, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. agency.

Naim Samsoum, 26, a Gaza-based animator, was one of the first people in the territory to download the game. He said he managed to catch three Pokemons only after installing a costly 2G internet service from the only mobile service provider in Gaza.

“I stopped because it was very expensive for me,” Samsoum said.

He ran into another obstacle: the fourth Pokemon he wanted to catch was located on the premises of the Palestinian Legislative Council, an off-limits government building run by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.

[source :-phys]

‘Abzu’ game creator finds endless inspiration in the sea

'Abzu' game creator finds endless inspiration in the sea

After designing grassy knolls and desert vistas for the landmark artsy video games “Flower” and “Journey,” there was only one place video game designer Matt Nava wanted to go next: underwater.

Following the success of thatgamecompany’s 2012 indie hit “Journey,” which swept that year’s Game Developers Choice Awards and whose score was nominated for a Grammy, Nava formed his own studio to create an ethereal undersea odyssey called “Abzu.”

In a sea of role-playing games and first-person shooters, moody experimental games like “Abzu” remain an anomaly and are especially difficult to design.

“Abzu,” out Tuesday for the PlayStation 4 and PC, casts players as a nameless diver exploring an immense three-dimensional seascape that’s teeming with marine life and fantastical topography. There’s no dialogue or weapons. As with “Flower” and “Journey,” the game’s story unfolds through exploration.

“There’s a fine line between telling a story solely through the atmosphere and players just not having any idea where to go,” Nava said. “There are hundreds of directions you could travel in the ocean, so figuring out how to direct the player and design the environments so people had the right amount of direction—but not too much—was very important.”

The 10-person team at Nava’s Giant Squid studio found that one of the biggest challenges in creating a game that’s entirely set within the ocean was directing light and forming terrain that undauntedly guides players.

“In our early playtests, people were too scared to explore,” said Nava. “They would see an awesome vista but turn around because it was too vast and too open, so we had to balance that.”

'Abzu' game creator finds endless inspiration in the sea
This video game image released by 505 Gamesshows a scene from the undersea odyssey “Abzu.” (505 Games via AP)

“Abzu” is among several games out this summer exploring the depths of the sea, following the ominous aquatic moments in Playdead’s “Inside,” the folksy oceanic atmosphere of Insomniac Games’ “Song of the Deep” and a diving segment in Naughty Dog’s “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.”

“I’m not sure what it is, but it does seem like the ocean is having a moment right now,” Nava said. “I think maybe we were all just tired of sand at the same time.”

While the game’s protagonist and the underwater artifacts she uncovers are purely fiction, the creatures depicted in “Abzu” are recreations of actual fish, whales and other sea life. That’s right. There are no “Pokemon” critters to capture here. After a scuba diving field trip with his fellow developers, Nava recognized reality was the best inspiration.

“We realized that real fish are crazier than anything we could’ve imagined,” Nava said. “They’re insanely fascinating.”

Ultimately, “Abzu” ended up not being the game Nava set out to create three years ago. It wasn’t until Jenova Chen, his former colleague and co-founder of thatgamecompany, played through a version of “Abzu” that Nava realized he’d made a wrong turn along the way.

“At that point, the game was not done and was not going in the right direction,” said Nava. “We asked him what we could do to fix this thing in time to ship it. He came up with some critical ideas. It was a turning point.”

Nava and his team at Giant Squid dropped destructive mine-like drones into the middle of the game. The foreboding triangular concoctions offered a stark contrast to the otherwise lush surroundings of “Abzu.”

'Abzu' game creator finds endless inspiration in the sea
This video game image released by 505 Games shows a scene from the undersea odyssey “Abzu.” (505 Games via AP)

“We always wanted to create this serene world, but we realized if you added conflict, it brought the player deeper into the world,” said Nava. “If there’s something ugly, it makes players more appreciative of beauty.”


[source :-phys]

Pokemon Go a campaign weapon for presidential candidates

Pokemon Go uses smartphone satellite location, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settin

The global phenomenon Pokemon Go has made its way onto the US presidential campaign trail with the staff of both major candidates appealing to users of the smartphone game to catch voters.

The viral game uses smartphone satellite location, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles.

In a campaign address last week, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton talked about her hope to channel the app to lure voters.

“I don’t know who created ‘Pokemon Go,’ but I’ve tried to figure out how we get them to have Pokemon Go to the polls,” she said.

Clinton staffers have since been cruising the streets looking for Pokemon hunters, hoping to divert their attention for the few minutes it takes to register to vote.

At a recent event in Ohio, the Democratic campaign encouraged players to come to its “lure module”—a feature that brings more Pokemon to a given location—to “get free Pokemon” and “learn more about Sec. Hillary Clinton!”

“These two Pokemon traders just registered to vote!” tweeted Joe Makielski, an organizer for the Colorado Democratic Party, along with a photo of two young men.

The campaign of Clinton’s Republican rival Donald Trump is also trying to take advantage of the game’s popularity, recently posting on Facebook a parody video called “Crooked Hillary No” showing the Democratic candidate getting hit and disappearing.

The free Pokemon Go app, based on a Nintendo title that debuted 20 years ago, was adapted to the mobile internet age by Niantic Labs, a company spun out of Google last year.

[source :-phys]