Just going from here to there, especially when here and there are daily destinations, can become more than a little monotonous. The city you live in is no longer somewhere special but just a place you pass through everyday.
Now imagine you’re seeing your town for the first time and trying to navigate your way through it with only the knowledge of your immediate surroundings. A common video game trope, Fog of World is bringing this sort of discovery to the real world. As you travel a map of your neighborhood or city, the fog lifts, and you discover your world all over again.
Making Your Way Through the Fog
Many video games employ a concept called “fog of war.” Only your immediate surroundings may be viewable, but as your character moves through the game, fog-shrouded or otherwise obscured areas become visible. Fog of World similarly obscures areas on a map that you haven’t yet visited, but in this case, the map is real and so are your movements across it. Thus, as you move through the real world, Fog of World will uncover the places you’ve visited, leaving all the places you’ve yet to go covered in a gray fog.
With the red record button engaged and the app constantly running in the background, Fog of World will track your movements via GPS. Check back after a quick shopping trip, a visit to a friend’s house or a road trip, and you’ll see your route etched out on the otherwise cloud-filled map. If you’re stuck in just one area, you’ll eventually notice a small spider web of criss-crosses scratched out against your map centered on your home. If you make it outside your little neck of the woods to other towns or cities though, you’ll see big offshoots radiating from your base.
Up top, Fog of World will show you what level you are, likely to be low unless you’re jetting off to new locales on a pretty frequent basis. Swipe to the left, and you’ll see how many square kilometers you’ve explored; as far as I can tell, only metric is available. Swipe again, and you’ll see the percentage of the world you’ve explored, in my case, not very much.
Gamification of Daily Exploration
Fog of World will slowly uncover your personal world map, first filling in your daily route and your most frequently traveled spots. When you travel outside your routine, you’ll get a satisfying offshoot in a seemingly random direction. Seeing my map fill in and become less cloudy was really enough for me, and I found myself wanting to take new paths home or to the grocery store to uncover more of my map.
There are more literal rewards, however. As you reach higher levels in Fog of World, you receive badges. The first comes around level 5 and is inexplicably called the Walker badge, though the only walking I do is inside big box stores. It was still nice to acquire those little badges, though, and they made me feel like less of a homebody.
The app also tracks how much you’ve explored of each continent, which is nice if you’re visiting different continents, I guess. I’m not likely to get off of North America anytime soon unfortunately, and it’s a pretty big continent, so I’ve hardly filled my progress bar up at all. I bet it’s a treat if you’re hopping all over the place, though.
The Virtues and Disadvantages of Always On
Fog of World works best if it always running in the background, GPS on, recording your progress. Okay, that isn’t strictly true. The developer says in the app that the best way to run Fog of World is to use a separate GPS device to track your progress and then load the file into the app. But I don’t have a separate GPS device and don’t know how to do any of that. So to get the best results, to have Fog of World track all of my progress all of the time, I have to have it running and recording twenty-four hours a day.
And that uses a lot of iPhone juice. Fog of World sucked my battery dry. I tried to only run the app when I knew I was going to be out and about or was going on a special trip, but I inevitably forgot about it and ended up with a dead iPhone. I knew Fog of World was going to be a battery hog, and the developers did warn that it’s best to use a separate GPS, so none of this was a surprise, but it’s worth noting.
I didn’t need the badges to make Fog of World a lot of fun for me. It adds a sense of discovery to all the old places you visit every day. The first few days I was using the app, I found myself excitedly checking my map every evening to see what I’d uncovered, even if I’d only been to work and back.
When I did leave my neighborhood for a short roadtrip, things got really exciting, and I saw my level climb and my map become a crazy one-legged spider. Despite knowing I was going to drain my iPhone’s battery all the way down, I wanted Fog of World running, because I wanted to expand my map.
The drain on the battery is the only real drawback, and it’s worth considering before you devote yourself full-time to Fog of World. If you can import GPS files, that’s great, but even though I couldn’t it was worth having to actively manage my battery usage to create a new world out of my everyday.