Pokemon Go: Tracking and Capture Guide

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Yo! Champ in the making!

The greater part of Pokemon Go’s novelty and appeal comes from being able to capture Pokemon by exploring the real world. It’s a bit rougher around the edges than some of us hoped – finding Goldeen and Tentacool on dry land is a bit weird – but for most people it’s new and exciting and they’re loving it to bits.

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The first thing you need to do is find some Pokemon out in the big bad world. Contrary to expectations this doesn’t mean wandering out into the wildnerness, in fact it’s quite the opposite: There’s a very obvious increase in spawn rates where higher concentrations of active players are located. You might be able to artificially raise local spawn rates if you got a whole bunch of people together, but we have no idea how many you would need or how long you’d need them there to see a result. Really, the best places to go hunting are near large clusters of pokepoints.

There’s two reasons for this. Firstly, pokepoints give you the supplies you need to keep catching Pokemon and secondly, the points themselves are a draw for other trainers, thereby increasing the spawn rate (assuming the above information holds true). There’s also a chance that someone might drop a lure module onto a point, increasing the number of global spawns.

A02See, when a Pokemon spawns, it spawns for everyone within range. Even if you’re not close enough to see it, it will still appear in your tracker, which is the little bar in the bottom right of the screen. Tap that open and it will show you the nine Pokemon currently closest to your position. The number of footprints under a Pokemon’s portrait gives you a rough idea of how close it is, though not which direction, so you need to wander a bit before you can get an idea of whether you’re getting closer or not. Pokemon with no footprints are within poking distance, whereas three footprints could be hundreds of metres away, so don’t feel too tempted to run off chasing a three pawprint rare with no clue as to its direction. I’ve wasted a lot of hours traipsing around in a massive circle with no progress at all.

Something I’ve noticed when tracking Pokemon is that some will stay on your tracker for much longer than others, even if you’re on the move. I’m fairly certain that the tracker will continue to follow certain Pokemon even if they’re extremely far away, while Pikachu specifically has a very short drop-off. You can wander half a kilometre off-course and not lose sight of a Squirtle while stepping fifty metres away from a Pikachu can cause it to fall completely off the map. Of course the flip-side of this is that it makes long-range Pokemon almost impossible to track accurately, while tracking down that Pikachu on your screen can be dead easy.

Now I’ve tried to do testing with this and haven’t been able to verify it yet, but I suspect that Pokemon with the same number of footsteps are still arranged from nearest to furthest. That means that in a box full of three print Pokemon, the one in the top left is closer than the others while the one in the bottom right might be bumped off entirely if a closer one spawns. Using this, it should be possible to figure out if you’re moving towards a certain Pokemon relative to the others, but given that there’s no way of differentiating between separate spawns of the same Pokemon and the fact that fresh spawns or timeouts reshuffle the order entirely, it’s difficult to confirm. I’ll update this article if and when I know for sure.

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I’ve read that the little burst of leaves is supposed to be a pending Pokemon spawn point, and there may be some truth to that, however don’t go chasing after distant patches hoping to find the Bulbasaur on your tracker there. Not only could it easily be something else, it could also easily be nothing at all. Leaves that don’t do squat have become such a common occurrence that I generally ignore them in favour of chasing more promising leads. Also, there’s been an image doing the rounds telling people that the tracker “pulses” when you’re facing the direction a given Pokemon is in. This is observably false: The tracker pulses no matter what direction you’re facing or whether you’re tracking any Pokemon at all. Additionally, we’ve gone to the trouble of tracking down a spawn in the tracker before backing off and facing the incorrect direction with no change in pulse frequency. It’d be nice if it were true, but it’s not.

Pokemon lures create spawns that don’t come up as footprints at all, but appear immediately within the radius of the pokepoint they’re attached to. The more adjacent points running lures, the more Pokemon you’ll get. Keep in mind that you’re likely to burn pokeballs faster than you resupply, so don’t get too comfortable in one spot. Incense also creates immediate spawns, but they’re centred on the person using it and only appear for that person. The bonus spawns about 10% of what the local spawn rate is, so if you want to make the most of it, make sure you’re in an area with a high density of other players for maximum benefit, as using incense in a complete deadzone is pointless.

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Don’t close the app while you’re walking around – the game stops tracking everything if you put your phone to sleep. There IS a battery saver mode which blacks out the screen and disables touch controls as long as the phone is upside-down, but I’ve found a that a bug in the app causes it to frequently forget which way is up and regularly disables my UI whatever way I have my phone, so I don’t use it.

Once you’re in range, a tiny Pokemon will spawn on your map that you can tap to enter capture mode. I prefer not to use the Augmented Reality Game mode where it appears on the camera view, mostly because of how it makes you look to bystanders and also I can’t imagine it’s doing your battery any favours. Having said that, ARG mode also gives you more range with your pokeball arcs, so it’s your call.

Holding down on the screen will show a coloured ring around the Pokemon that shrinks before resetting to the maximum size.  The colour indicates the Pokemon’s base capture difficulty compared to the ball type you have equipped (switching from pokeballs to ultra balls would change an orange capture to maybe green or yellow) and at later levels you can throw berries to boost a given capture attempt. According to Prof. Willow, trying to throw the ball when the circle is at its smallest gives you the best odds of a successful capture and curving your swipe on the screen gives the ball a spin which also boosts your capture success rate. Keep in mind that Pokemon can randomly either jump or attack while in capture mode: Attacks are accompanied by a screen effect and their cry while jumps are usually straight up in the air. When jumping, a Pokemon can still be captured, so keep that in mind when planning your throw arcs. A Pokemon is immune to capture while attacking, but their circle size freezes while the animation plays, so if a Pokemon’s circle was very small when it began to attack, throw the ball in such a way that it will hit them after the animation completes for the best odds (I personally think you should get bonus experience for pulling a jump or attack capture, but hey).

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Now it’s fairly common for the app to desync in capture mode. If you see the spinning pokeball icon in the top left, wait for it to go away before you throw a ball. Throwing while the phone is still syncing has the habit of locking the app in the capture animation, with no way to get out besides resetting the app. If you DO accidentally throw the ball while desynced, exit the app and reboot it QUICKLY – take too long and the game has the habit of flushing all nearby wild Pokemon from your tracking cache, while if you get back in quickly enough you might even get to take a second shot at whatever it was you were aiming at.

Now those of you who have been playing for a bit might have noticed that you sometimes get “Nice,” “Great,” or “Excellent,” throws. These bonuses are based both on accuracy and timing. To qualify for the bonus, your pokeball needs to make contact inside the COLOURED circle, while the exact amount you get depends on how small the circle is at the time. 75% and larger gives you a Nice 10xp, between 25% and 75% gives you a Great 50xp and striking the centre of the target when the circle is at 25% or smaller gives you an Excellent 100xp. I still have no idea how I earned that “Bonus” 100xp, but I’m guessing it was simply a UI bug that failed to load the correct text.

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So, now that you’ve caught ALL of the Pokemon, you’re probably wonder what the best way to level up is – both your Pokemon and yourself?

Don’t forget to check out the other Pokemon Go articles hosted on PPN:

Pokemon Go:  A Quick and Dirty Guide

Pokemon Go: Combat Power and Leveling Guide

Pokemon Go: Pokecoins, Gym Training and the 1HP Glitch

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