December 17, 2019

Dev Insights: Discovering more with Buddy Adventure

Pokémon GO


The bond between Trainers and their Pokémon has been at the core of every part of the Pokémon franchise, from the main-series games to the anime and beyond. The partnership between a Pokémon and its Trainer is built on trust, and as with any great partnership, those involved grow together, play together, and explore together. In the new Buddy Adventure feature, Trainers worldwide will be able to experience what it’s really like to have a Pokémon exploring the world with them.

Collaborating with our partners like Best Buddies!

“Since launching Pokémon GO, this might be the most collaborative feature we have had with The Pokémon Company,” shared Ryuta Hiroi, the lead Niantic product manager on the project. “Even with your phone in your pocket, you’ll feel like your buddy is right beside you!”

Niantic tech artist Lena Verstappen added to the point about collaborating with our partners, mentioning that there was a deeply respectful way in which each and every Pokémon was treated throughout the process of developing the features.

Each Pokémon species has been designed to express itself in distinct ways, and the team here at Niantic found itself time and again charmed by Pokémon. From tackling the fact that Exeggcute has six heads to taking on the challenge of feeding an Alolan Exeggutor (“How do you feed something so tall?” said Lena), everyone came away with a deeper appreciation for not only the partnerships we had but for the Pokémon themselves.

“It’s almost as if each Pokémon were a family member!” Lena shared. “How they eat, how they walk, and even where the Best Buddy Ribbon should be placed on each Pokémon’s body—all of this and more was taken into account when crafting an as-immersive-as-possible experience.”

“I’m surprised by the number of Pokémon I’m falling in love with from interacting with them,” said Laura Warner, the lead game designer on the project. “Like watching a Spheal roll behind me on the map... I just care about Pokémon unlike ever before. We’re excited for Trainers to try out different buddies and see how each one becomes their friend!”

Pokémon GO

Challenges along the road to exploration

Buddy Adventure touches on almost every aspect of Pokémon GO. You see your buddy on the map, you use your buddy in battle, and your buddy helps you when you catch Pokémon. Developing something as ambitious as this feature set was an interesting challenge for the team to tackle head on.

“When a feature is so all encompassing, it’s important to break it up from a development standpoint,” says Trey Williamson, the lead technical program manager on the feature. “What was Buddy Adventure’s ideal experience? What defines that ‘successful’ experience for a Trainer? It was very much a learn-as-you-go kind of process.” Determining what Trainers would want out of Buddy Adventure really helped the team focus their development on the most important parts of the feature.

Pokémon GO

Designing relationships with both Niantic and Pokémon values

Niantic products and features strive to bring people together in real life, get people moving, and encourage people to explore the areas around them and discover new places.

When the Buddy Pokémon feature was first released, we introduced the ability for Trainers to walk with their buddy to get Candy, which encourages exercise. Buddy Adventure will feature more discovery and exploration mechanics than ever before. Upon reaching a certain Buddy Level, buddies will be able to alert their Trainers whenever an interesting PokéStop is nearby. The upcoming shared AR mode creates a meaningful real-world social experience by letting up to three Trainers place their Pokémon in the same space and take a photo together. We hope that features like this will enrich Trainers’ lives as they discover even more places alongside their buddies.

Our core design philosophy was not the only guiding compass when developing Buddy Adventure. We also wanted to make sure it still fit within the Pokémon universe. In this case, we wanted Trainers to be able to feel as if their buddy is a true partner and friend—just like in the sorts of partnerships they’ve seen in various Pokémon series in the past!

The experience of Buddy Adventure goes beyond the AR experience. You see your buddy on the map. Your Pokémon is growing alongside you. Your Pokémon can help you in Pokémon encounters once you reach a certain Buddy Level, which really makes you feel like your Pokémon is there to help you. It creates a special feeling. You and your buddy have a real partnership.

—Ethan Chan, technical lead for Buddy Adventure and Pokémon GO client engineer

Pokémon GO

Introducing: Your Buddy Adventure!

We feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have been able to work on a feature that will let Trainers get closer to their Pokémon while exploring the world around them. We cannot wait for you all to experience Buddy Adventure and create memories and relationships with your Buddy Pokémon that will last!

—The Pokémon GO team