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Introducing MapAttack: An Urban Geofencing Game (Part 1)

by Amber Case

MapAttack is a game based on capturing and conquering geofences built on the Esri Developer Platform. The game board is the city streets of the neighborhood you are in!

MapAttack Header

What's a Geofence?

A geofence is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. Geofencing is used with GPS tracking devices, notifying a control station when a person or vehicles enters or leaves an area. Traditionally, geofences have been used in industry for tracking fleets of trucks and other moving objects over time. In this game, geofences are used as a points in the game.


To play, all you need is a phone (Android running 2.2 or later and iPhone 3GS or later), a city street, park or college campus, and some friends. When you download the app, you'll see a list of nearby game boards in your area. When you join a game board, you'll be assigned to the red or blue team. Then all you have to do is try to collect the most points for your team as possible!

You'll be able to see the other players on the other team by their icons on the map, and you'll be able to see both team's scores update in real-time. When all the points on the map are gone, the game is over!

Why Build MapAttack?

Why did we built MapAttack? So we could turn the real world into a game, of course! We wanted to get to run around while doing awesome things and have fun! The feeling while playing a real-life game fantastic. We hope hundreds of these games occur and that we can make more of them possible. MapAttack is a tribute to the 2004 location-based mapping game PacManhattan, and is a remake of the original MapAttack 2011 built on Geoloqi software (our company joined Esri in 2012!).


When Can I Play It?

We're doing beta tests of the game on a small scale in the Portland area right now. You can follow @playmapattack for updates and questions on the game! If you'd like to learn more about the tech behind the game, let us know at @esripdx!

What Tech is Behind the Game?

The core of MapAttack was written in Node.js, map-tile preprocessing for Esri map tiles was written in Go, Redis was used for mostly broadcasting all of the game information to all of the devices in the game in real-time, UDP allowed us to send lots of data to and from the phones without worrying about maintaining a persistent connection.

Behind the scenes the MapAttack server was written on top of on Esri's Geotrigger Service, a geofencing module mobile and web apps that will launch in late Nov 2013. Send a message to @esripdx if you’d like access to the beta! We'll have more posts and code related to the game in the next couple of blog posts.


MapAttack was built for iPhone and Android by the team at Esri R&D Center in Portland, OR.

Thanks to the following people who worked on this version of the game!

  • Aaron Parecki
  • Nikolas Wise
  • Paul Pederson
  • Nate Goldman
  • Patrick Arlt
  • Josh Yaganeh
  • Court Fowler
  • Ryan Arana
  • Jen Oslislo
  • Kenichi Nakamura
  • Davy Stevenson
  • Jerry Sievert