Pokemon Go players aren't too happy with the app's latest update

Combat nerfs, reduced player radar, and the complete omission of a core feature -- what's Niantic up to over there?

If you're just checking your social media feeds this morning, feel fortunate: you missed out on the bulk of the huge Pokemon Go firestorm that started brewing over the weekend.

It kicked off with a major app update this past Friday, which pushed a number of changes to Pokemon's gym battles and navigation systems. Vaporeon, for instance, a coveted evolution of the Eevee Pokemon, saw several combat nerfs, as did other monsters. Meanwhile, player radar distance was reduced from 100 meters to 70 meters, meaning players need to be physically closer to gyms and Pokestops in order to activate them.

Pokemon Go's 'nearby Pokemon' screen before and after the 1.1.0 update (via Kotaku). Pokemon Go's 'nearby Pokemon' screen before and after the 1.1.0 update (via Kotaku).

By far the biggest difference, however, was the removal of footprints. In previous incarnations, Pokemon Go's "nearby" screen could indicate which Pokemon were in close proximity to the player, and by how much, based on the presence of one to three footprint icons. This feature has been broken for a while, with all "nearby" Pokemon set to the maximum distance of three footprints, so you could argue that the update's removal of these icons altogether isn't too much of a change -- but it's sending a frustrating message to players, that developer Niantic would rather remove the feature than address its issues.

Moreover, Pokemon proximity is a feature promised from the original trailer, below. Detecting and tracking down Pokemon "in the wild" was pitched as a core feature, alongside trading and battling. Considering those latter two features are also presently absent from the game, to remove proximity indicators feels like a further step backward.

There's also the fact that Niantic seems to have updated its API to block several third-party Pokemon tracking websites, including the most popular of these, Pokevision. While you could argue that sites like Pokevision were close to cheating -- they divulged the exact location of Pokemon including how long until they would disappear -- Niantic has not similarly taken action against full-fledged Pokemon Go cheat services, including GPS spoofers. To some angry players, to go after sites like Pokevision while allowing these to continue operating shows a flawed set of priorities.

As a result of these changes, the app's user ratings have started to drop, petitions have sprouted up, players are demanding refunds on in-app purchases en masse, and someone has broken into Niantic CEO John Hanke's personal Twitter account. So it's... basically this gif, at the moment:

At this point, it should not be at all controversial to say Niantic was just not prepared for the level of response Pokemon Go has garnered. You could even argue that the company has released a blatantly unfinished game. And lacking staff to adequately treat open wounds like its broken footprints system, the small team's response has been to amputate. This might've worked with a less popular game and clearer communication between the studio and players, but as it is, people are confused -- and very, very upset.

(h/t Kotaku, VG247, Polygon.)