Kao the Kangaroo shows how no game is ever truly dead

Legends never die … even when those legends are obscure Polish 3D platformers.

In the 3D platformer boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, many new franchises emerged as developers looked to catch part of the hysteria started by games like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. One such series was Kao the Kangaroo from Tate Interactive, an independent Polish game developer.

The series starred a yellow kangaroo with boxing gloves who tries to save his family from an evil hunter. Particularly popular in Poland and other parts of Europe, Kao the Kangaroo got four games but eventually faded into obscurity after the release of Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano, which was never released in the U.S.

While it’d be easy to assume that the series would stay dormant, Kao the Kangaroo is getting a second wind. On May 27, Tate Multimedia, the current iteration of the developer that originally created Kao the Kangaroo, is releasing a reboot that reimagines the 3D platformer for a new generation of consoles.

It’s an impressive feat, especially for an independent team that doesn’t have the backing of a company like Nintendo, Sony, or Activision. Digital Trends spoke to developers from Tate Multimedia to discover how this reboot came about and the trials and tribulations of having to compete with the likes of revivals like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on an indie budget.

Back for Round 2

Throughout the 2010s, Tate Multimedia was more focused on racing games like Urban Trial Freestyle and Steel Rats rather than family-friendly platformers. Despite that, love for Kao didn’t die during that time, and the platforming mascot maintained a small but passionate fan base, with the developer saying it still got emails asking to bring the series back.

About five years ago, a YouTuber named NitroRad reviewed the whole Kao series, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and bringing attention back to this obscure Polish platforming mascot. A #BringBackKao hashtag even trended on Twitter as fans of this forgotten franchise emerged and wanted the series to return after over a decade of rest.

Emboldened by the upsurge of a Kao fan base and demands for rereleases following these videos, Tate Multimedia decided to offer Kao Round 2 on Steam in 2019. According to Tate Multimedia studio head Kaja Borówko, this rerelease was downloaded over 2 million times and showed her there was still interest in this series. Successful indie platformers like Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale also gave  hope that a new Kao 3D platformer could be successful.

“We saw a few titles that gave us hope because they were more indie, like Yooka-Laylee,” she said. “Those titles were not from the biggest studios, so that was a good sign. Then big ones came, and it was a good confirmation that it looks like there are still people who are looking for those kinds of games.”

The Polish studio then knew it still had something special on it hands and wanted to bring the series back, but had to decide what exactly to do. Developers at Tate Multimedia threw multiple ideas around as the small team had to determine the best way to bring back a franchise that only nostalgic early 2000s gamers might remember.

“It was a tough decision that took us almost a year and multiple prototypes,” Borówko explains. “We started from this idea of a remaster of the third game in the series, but once we got into it, the game became bigger and bigger, and we wanted to do something else. In the end, we had a game jam here in the studio with our team, and we had four different ideas. We loved all of them, and we decided that we were just going to combine some of the ideas.”

“The flow of the game is very important.”

Ultimately, this resulted in a combat-heavy platformer that still respects the series’ roots. Jean-Yves Lapasset, Tate Multimedia’s head of production, made it clear to Digital Trends that Kao the Kangaroo is a classic-feeling platforming journey, even if it has more modern sensibilities in its design.

“The story is a journey, so each level in the game feels like a journey to the player,” Lapasset explained. “That is very different from how platformers were built in the 2000s, which was more like ‘put as many platformers as you can and make it super difficult.’ For us, the flow of the game is very important, so when you go through a level, you can see references and know what type of enemies you’ll meet, what traps are there, and other new things we have in the game.”

The response to what Tate Multimedia has shown of the new game has been positive. Still, the developers I spoke to emphasize that this is very much an indie game not made on the same budget as the most notable 3D platformers.

A rift apart

Games like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time were AAA productions with hundreds of developers working on them. Kao the Kangaroo was not. While Tate Multimedia had bold ideas for a revival that could both innovate and respect the series’ roots, it also had to keep in mind that it was working on a “triple-I” budget, not triple-A. The first place where that rift became noticeable was in crafting the game’s narrative.

“We realized rapidly that story was an area where it will be difficult to complete because we’re a III kind of budget rather than AAA,” Lapasset explained. “On one side, you have big productions like Ratchet & Clank with 300 people working on it for four years. On our site, you have a team in Poland that is very talented, but not 300 people with a $100 million budget.”

Kao the Kangroo looks over a vast level from a rooftop.

Borówko also mentioned that it was difficult to match those games’ high animation quality with a smaller team. Tate Multimedia was passionate, but Kao the Kangaroo didn’t have the same scale of development as a AAA title.

“Development tools a pretty much the same, but we don’t have the time and developer capacity to really use all of the features,” Borówko said. “Especially when it comes to such things as animation and graphics, you can go very, very detailed today and know what’s possible. In the old days, there wasn’t such a difference between what you could achieve as an indie studio compared to the big studios because of the time and resources that you had.”

Kao the Kangaroo might not be the prettiest or technologically advanced 3D platformer ever released. Still, Tate Multimedia knew they had to work within their limitations to make the best game possible. And having a small team does have some notable advantages, according to Lapasset.

“You have fewer people in the room, so they are very committed and know what they’re doing with expertise in each field,” Lapasset said. “In big teams, you have a lot of project management and spend a lot of time doing customer surveys and research to have the studios understand what they need to steer the next game. You have less data to build your strategies in small studios, so it’s more about the feeling when you have expertise and commitment from team members.”

“People appreciate and see the effort and heart that was put into it.”

This allowed the team to work lean and mean, bringing in new ideas later on in the project than they would’ve been able to in a AAA studio. While Tate Multimedia doesn’t have as many developers as AAA studios like Toys for Bob or Insomniac, Borówko and Lapasset believe each developer had more creative freedom and that players can feel that heart in the final game.

“We’re already pretty happy with the feedback that we’re getting from players as people appreciate and see the effort and heart that was put into it,” Borówko says. “They see that the platforming gameplay was most important for us in the end. We needed to make sacrifices and chose to focus on certain things because we couldn’t do everything. That’s something that people value and appreciate as they see that Kao the Kangaroo is what it is supposed to be.”

While Kao the Kangaroo might only be a legend to a few, this new game shows how no game franchise is ever truly gone. As long as some fans and game developers are still passionate about a series, teams big and small can work hard to bring back series, beloved or obscure. And if all goes well, Kao might be sticking around for a while.

“Bringing Kao back after 15 years, we want to stay longer with the title,” Borówko says. “We already have something planned for the fans in the future.”

Editors’ Choice

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Data leak from Russian delivery app shows dining habits of the secret police

A massive data leak from Russian food delivery service Yandex Food revealed the delivery addresses, phone numbers, names, and delivery instructions belonging to those associated with Russia’s secret police, according to findings from Bellingcat.

Yandex Food, a subsidiary of the larger Russian internet company, Yandex, first reported the data leak on March 1st, blaming it on the “dishonest actions” of one of its employees and noting that the leak doesn’t include users’ login information. Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has since threatened to fine the company up to 100,000 rubles (~$1,166 USD) for the leak, which Reuters says exposed the information of about 58,000 users. The Roskomnadzor also blocked access to an online map containing the data — an attempt to conceal the information of ordinary citizens, as well as those with ties to the Russian military and security services.

Researchers at Bellingcat gained access to the trove of information, sifting through it for leads on any people of interest, such as an individual linked to the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. By searching the database for phone numbers collected as part of a previous investigation, Bellingcat uncovered the name of the person who was in contact with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to plan Navalny’s poisoning. Bellingcat says this person also used his work email address to register with Yandex Food, allowing researchers to further ascertain his identity.

Researchers also examined the leaked information for the phone numbers belonging to individuals tied to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), or the country’s foreign military intelligence agency. They found the name of one of these agents, Yevgeny, and were able to link him to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and find his vehicle registration information.

Bellingcat uncovered some valuable information by searching the database for specific addresses as well. When researchers looked for the GRU headquarters in Moscow, they found just four results — a potential sign that workers just don’t use the delivery app, or opt to order from restaurants within walking distance instead. When Bellingcat searched for FSB’s Special Operation Center in a Moscow suburb, however, it yielded 20 results. Several results contained interesting delivery instructions, warning drivers that the delivery location is actually a military base. One user told their driver “Go up to the three boom barriers near the blue booth and call. After the stop for bus 110 up to the end,” while another said “Closed territory. Go up to the checkpoint. Call [number] ten minutes before you arrive!”

In a translated tweet, Russian politician and Navalny supporter, Lyubov Sobol, said the leaked information even led to additional information about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former mistress and their alleged “secret” daughter. “Thanks to the leaked Yandex database, another apartment of Putin’s ex-mistress Svetlana Krivonogikh was found,” Sobol said. “That’s where their daughter Luiza Rozova ordered her meals. The apartment is 400 m², worth about 170 million rubles [~$1.98 million USD]!”

If researchers were able to uncover this much information based on data from a food delivery app, it’s a bit unnerving to think about the amount of information Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and others have on users. In 2019, a DoorDash data breach exposed the names, email addresses, phone numbers, delivery order details, delivery addresses, and the hashed, salted passwords of 4.9 million people — a much larger number than those affected in the Yandex Food leak.

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Bethesda shows off more ‘Starfield’ in a seven-minute featurette

 is just under a year away from landing , and Bethesda has offered another peek at what’s in store with a mini documentary. The seven-minute “Into the Starfield: The Endless Pursuit” featurette shows a lot of concept art and brief shots of things like robots, alien worlds and a spaceport.

The video is centered around the evolution of Bethesda Game Studios and the worlds it has built over the years. Given that many of the studio’s games are about exploration (such as those in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series), progressing to space exploration with Starfield is a logical next step. Art director Matt Carofano noted the upcoming game has a “more realistic, science-based backing to it” than, say, the fantasy world of Skyrim.

Game director Todd Howard also offered a “cryptic” tease. He said Starfield has “two step-out moments.” Many other games typically only have one of those, in which the player sees the expanse of an open-world environment for the first time.

There isn’t a ton of detail about what Starfield is in this video, but it gives folks who are excited about the game a little more insight. There will be more episodes of “Into the Starfield” in the coming months as the release date edges closer. Starfield will arrive on November 11th, 2022.

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Elden Ring Gameplay Trailer Shows Off Its Open World

Today’s first look at gameplay for Elden Ring, FromSoftware’s highly-anticipated upcoming title, is all-encompassing. The 19-minute video from the developer offers details on everything in the game, including the random encounters that players can expect, new gameplay mechanics like crafting and stealth, and the changes that have come from giving players the option to do a little hop whenever they want.

Elden Ring takes place in The Lands Between, and that’s pretty much all we got of the game’s story or setting during today’s presentation. It’s not clear why players will be adventuring through the strange, cursed land or what their goal is. Like the Dark Souls games, Elden Ring‘s story may be told through item descriptions. However, much like a Dark Souls game, there are places scattered throughout the world for players to rest at called sites of grace. Lights from the sky point to these sites, giving players a beacon to head towards if they need to get away from the action.

Elden Ring‘s largest departure from all of From Software’s other games is that it’s totally open-world. Players can summon a spectral horse and ride through The Lands Between, meeting NPCs or taking part in random encounters. One such encounter shown today had a dragon swoop in and attack the player as they were passing a patrol of enemies.

Players will also be able to ambush convoys of enemies, stealing treasure from the carriages they carry. In today’s video, the player accomplished this by sneaking up on enemies and stunning them with a heavy strike before taking them down. Similarly, players can prepare for fights by crafting useful items, including arrows, from the materials they find around the world.

When they approach enemies or the game’s dungeons, players won’t be bound to the same constraints of other Souls-like games, either. Movement in Elden Ring seems to be a blend of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, with fast dodges being available in combat and quick, high jumps performable at any time. Giving players the ability to jump without needing a running start has evidently affected the design of the game’s dungeons as well. Players can take multiple routes through Elden Ring‘s dungeons by climbing across rooftops or into open windows.

Not everything in Elden Ring is different from FromSoftware’s previous games, though. Players can still summon other players for co-op play or invade others to ruin someone’s day.

Elden Ring is set to launch on February 25, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Anyone who wants to try out the game early can register for a Closed Network Test slated to take place next week.

Editors’ Choice

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Microsoft shows off Halo Infinite’s campaign for the first time in over a year

With Halo Infinite’s release date fast approaching, Microsoft has shared a new six-minute trailer that offers an in-depth look at the game’s single-player component. The last time the company provided an extended preview of Infinite’s campaign was during its . That trailer was poorly received, with most fans agreeing the game’s visuals looked dated. In the aftermath of that reveal, developer 343 Industries said they , and Microsoft subsequently .

In this latest preview, you can see the visuals have gotten an update (look at Craig the Brute). But what hasn’t changed too much is the emphasis on sandbox gameplay. During a , 343 Industries said they were inspired by levels like from Halo: Combat Evolved to design the game in a way that would allow players to accomplish objectives with creativity. 

You see that ethos on display in the second half of the trailer. Master Chief stumbles upon a Banished outpost he has to take out. You can use his grappling hook to move around the facility quickly and pull enemy weapons and explosives to augment your current arsenal. Vehicles play an important part in the overall gameplay loop, as do abilities you can purchase for Master Chief. 

All of the different gameplay elements come together to form something that looks like it will offer a classic but more open Halo experience. It’s just too bad you won’t be able to play the campaign with a friend, at least .

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Leak Shows Stunning M1 Max MacBook Pro Premiere Performance

When Apple announced the M1 Max chip at its Apple Unleashed event, we knew it would be a powerful processor. And a growing pile of leaked benchmarks is lending credibility to Apple’s claims, with the M1 Max outperforming nearly all of the best laptops you can buy right now.

The most recent result comes from PugetBench for Premiere Pro — a benchmark we use when testing machines ourselves. The result shows an M1 Max-equipped MacBook Pro with 64GB of RAM earning an overall score of 1,168. We’re not sure if this is the 32-core or 24-core GPU model of the M1 Max, though the result suggests it’s the former.

That’s far above even the most performant laptops on the market. A machine equipped with AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HX and Radeon RX 6800M — the two top mobile parts from AMD — earned a score of 863. The M1 Max is around 35% faster. Similarly, an Alienware X17 R1 with an Intel Core i7-11800H and RTX 3080 mobile GPU earned a score of 872 — about 34% behind the M1 Max MacBook Pro.

The results still aren’t perfect, though. The mobile chip can’t best a desktop machine with an RTX 2080 Super in the graphics department, which runs counter to a previous rumor. Still, the M1 Max is close to some recent desktop graphics cards, with an almost identical GPU score to the AMD RX 6800.

With more cores, RAM, and graphics power, it shouldn’t come as surprise that the M1 Max vastly outperforms the base M1. The new result shows about a 188% increase over the base M1 MacBook Pro. This is only one benchmark, so you shouldn’t expect that large of an increase across the board. Still, it illustrates Apple’s claims about the M1 Max’s power.

The M1 Max and M1 Pro are both based on the M1 that Apple released in 2020. The new chips just bump up the specs by a lot. Both come with 10 CPU cores instead of eight, and they feature more performance cores (eight performant and two efficient cores on the M1 Pro and Max, compared to a four/four split on the M1).

More important, the M1 Pro doubles the GPU cores of the M1 while the M1 Max quadruples them. That bump is doing wonders for the chip if leaked benchmarks are to be believed.

Still, it’s important to wait for third-party testing before making any performance assumptions. The M1 Max looks like an obscenely powerful chip, but other factors — such as heat, noise, and battery life — could sour the experience. Apple says the new machines have even better battery life than the M1 MacBook Pro, but we don’t have any testing to reference on that front yet.

The 2021 MacBook Pro 14 and 16 are available to pre-order now, and Apple says the first units will start shipping the week of October 25. Lead times might be longer than normal, though, as Apple and other device makers deal with the fallout from the chip shortage.

Editors’ Choice

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Tina Tina’s Wonderlands trailer shows off tabletop gaming inspiration

Revealed earlier this year during Summer Game Fest, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands seems like something of a departure from the standard Borderlands formula. Today, we’re getting a better idea of just how big of a departure it will be, as the very first developer diary has gone live with an overview of how Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will play. Alongside that, a new trailer dives into details such as combat, exploration, and even two of the character classes.

While Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is still very much a looter shooter like the Borderlands games that came before it, today’s dev diary does detail some tweaks to the formula. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes inspiration from the Borderlands 2 expansion Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, but also from tabletop RPGs that have been popular for decades.

So, while combat will still be mostly centered around guns and looting, players will also have spells and melee weapons at their disposal. Two character classes were revealed today: the Stabomancer and the Brr-Zerker. The Stabomancer has access to the Ghost Blade spell, which does area-of-effect damage, and can use a spell called From the Shadows to enable stealth mode and increase the damage done to enemies from stealth.

The Brr-Zerker, as the name suggests, carries a giant axe that does ice damage to enemies. The Brr-Zerker’s spells include Feral Strike and Dreadwind, the former being a leap slam attack and the latter being a whirlwind attack that will undoubtedly be familiar to barbarian, berserker, and warrior players.

In today’s dev diary, creative director Matt Cox explains that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will feature an overworld map that players will have to explore. This map will include random encounters to fight and optional regions to explore, with some of those regions having multi-part questlines of their own. All of those random encounters will have a chance to provide loot, so while it’s possible to skip them, you’ll probably want to participate in most of the battles you come across on the overworld map.

So, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will stand out from previous games in the Borderlands series, but even though we’re getting spells and melee weapons and random encounters, the primary focus will still be on shooting and looting. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is out on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on March 25th, 2022.

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‘Suicide Squad’ game trailer shows why you’ll take down the Justice League

It’s been over a year since Rocksteady and Warner Bros. revealed their Suicide Squad game, but now they’re finally ready to offer another peek — if not necessarily the one you were expecting. They’ve released a story trailer for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League that shows the formation of Task Force X and explains why your band of supervillains (Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and King Shark) has to destroy some of Earth’s greatest heroes.

As it turns out, Brainiac has possessed the Justice League and is using heroes to wreak havoc. The Task Force is the first unit to make it into Metropolis alive, as X organizer Amanda Waller explains. It’s also clear that Harley and crew aren’t exactly eager volunteers, as their heads are “ticking.” Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash also get some attention in the trailer, and even The Penguin makes an unusual cameo appearance.

There’s unfortunately no gameplay in this trailer, and the developers haven’t committed to a more specific release date than “2022” for the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions. Even so, this gives you a better idea of what to expect: plenty of witty banter, a world turned on its head and an almost casual approach to violence. The main question is simply whether Rocksteady can build on the reputation from its Batman games and deliver action on par with this teaser footage.

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Meow Wolf, Anthos team for multi-cloud app management in art shows

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Meow Wolf’s work with SADA, a Google Cloud Premier Partner with multiple specializations, and its use of Anthos multi-cloud app management were featured in a spotlight session on immersive art experiences at the Google Cloud Next ’21 conference held online through October 14.

Meow Wolf is an American arts and entertainment company that creates large-scale immersive art installations and produces streaming content, music videos, and arts and music festivals. SADA is a cloud-computing consultant based in North Hollywood, California. Google Anthos is a next-gen, hybrid- and multi-cloud application management platform that aims to provide a consistent development and operations experience for cloud and on-premises environments.

Scalable, flexible multi-cloud app management

Known more for its work with enterprise clients, SADA is helping Meow Wolf design and apply solutions for its permanent multimedia installations, such as Omega Mart, now open in Las Vegas. Anthos fit Meow Wolf’s requirements for a modern cloud application that could be deployed on-premises to ensure low latency and fault tolerance.

The complex, always-on nature of Omega Mart required the scalable IT infrastructure Anthos offers. Anthos allows apps to run unmodified on existing on-premises hardware and many public clouds in simple, flexible, and secure ways.

“Anthos has helped us create a groundbreaking experience that immerses guests in a way that’s never been done before,” said Jordan Snyder, vice president of platform at Meow Wolf. “It gives us a ‘single pane of glass’ to monitor, maintain, and quickly push out app updates.”

Omega Mart, an interactive “supermarket,” is Meow Wolf’s second permanent art exhibition leveraging the hybrid cloud platform to run sensory installations.

Omega Mart, which opened in February, is an art installation billed as the world’s most surreal supermarket and sensory playground, featuring otherworldly displays, hidden portals, immersive art experiences, and shelves stocked with peculiar products. With live, interactive displays that can be accessed via RFID-powered Boop Card readers, shoppers become part of the experience.

“It’s exciting to know that technology like Anthos can be applied to bring artistic visions to life in new and creative ways,” said Miles Ward, CTO at SADA. “Omega Mart is one of many amazing ways to apply Anthos technology.”

“SADA has been instrumental to this process, from helping us conceive the technical solutions to tackling various hurdles along the way,” Snyder said.  SADA’s consultants worked with Anthos and helped Meow Wolf design and apply solutions to meet Omega Mart’s needs. He added, “Their guidance, expertise, and support helped make the launch of Omega Mart a huge success.”

Anthos is now used to host Meow Wolf’s applications and various installations that capture customer interactions with the various Boop and computer stations, which facilitate the interactive gameplay element of the experience and drive the exhibit’s story. Since the opening of the exhibit, SADA has continued to provide technical account management and support.


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Pokemon GO leak data shows iPhone-only eggs and SMS contact

Those iPhone Pokemon GO users that were bummed to see Google Play sponsoring the Pokemon GO Fest 2021 event will be glad to see iOS-specific eggs in the near future. The latest update to the game files for Pokemon GO revealed this (iOS-specific eggs) and a wide variety of wild new updates and teasers for future items and features in the game. Also found were new fitness tracking mods, dynamic re-load of map elements, cross game settings between other Niantic games, and an expansion of the ways in which a player can work with their address book.

This new set of updates comes in a big way from exploration done by PokeMiners Toronto as posted with The Silph Road on Reddit. Data and code for Pokemon GO found in this way doesn’t always guarantee real live features, but given their appearance in the game’s release build file, there is (or has been in the past) a REALLY GOOD chance we’ll see what’s teased make its way to live play.

The iOS eggs element appears as such: IOS_EGGS and IosEggs, right alongside HATCHING, NON-HATCHING, and HATCHED. It may be that Niantic needed to make a specific element to account for Apple’s rules for “loot boxes” and such, but given the still largely free set of rules surrounding eggs, it’s difficult to see why that’d be true. It might also be that “IOS” does not refer to iOS, the operating system – but we shall see!

Map Update were given a bit of a boost in this update. Code “cachedMapSettings” and other elements indicate that the user will have more control over how and when the map is updated, and – we hope – how much data a user is using when they play the game. Cross your fingers this means we’ll see less of this recurring app data bug situation in the future.

Fitness Updates just keep coming! In this latest update, Niantic added a “get_NumOfHours” element to the fitness section of the game. This sits beside number of days, number of weeks, and so forth.

Niantic games cross-talk increases with this update. We’ll soon be able to set Niantic Profile, online status, cross game friends lists, game invites, a shared friend graph, nickname, cross game online status, and work with address book imports.

In the address book arena, Niantic also continues to attempt to get users to invite friends and family. Syncing your contacts list with the game will continue to be pushed, invites for friends will be encouraged. Niantic is also attempting to add some “contact method” system elements with email and SMS messaging – weird!

Take a peek at the timeline below for more information on recent updates to Pokemon GO. Also stay tuned – there’s a BUNCH of Shiny action on the horizon.

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