Ingress Thoughts

I’m still playing and enjoying Ingress – currently I’m midway through level 7. There are 16 levels in the game, but items cap at level 8. At level 8 you gain access to everything you can find – the only attribute that increases as you level from 9 to 16 is the size of your energy pool. So I’m approaching the soft-cap.

For greater detail in playing, and nice readable summaries there is the Smurfling Lessons on the smurf.help site (scroll down for the link to the lessons). The name comes from the nicknames for the two factions: Resistance (blue) vs the Enlightened (green), or smurfs vs frogs.

Anyway, Ingress has a bit in common with… EVE Online. They are both sci-fi themed, both played on a single world-wide server. Actually, I believe Ingress is a true single shared world, which is the geolocation data of the planet we’re on 😉 where EVE has a separate server for China.

There are deeper similarities as well: espionage is a viable tactic – nobody uses in-game chat since that is easily spied on by either side; instead most groups migrate to an outside chat like Google Hangouts/Plus. Still, there is a vetting process groups set up for themselves to guard again infiltration. The other similarity is the game is essentially a territory control game, played on the real-world map. Of course, there are a ton more things to do in EVE Online!

But if you look at Ingress the right way, it is a lot like an MMO with all the fluff stripped out. Two factions with no classes – everybody is an agent for their faction. Everyone is DPS (can use the two weapon types: amp bursters; ultra strikes), everyone can heal (can recharge resonators), has the same access to items (mods to apply to friendly portals). No avatars, what you see instead are portals. Fast travel? Hehe, only by GPS spoofing, which is bannable and against the TOS. If you want to get somewhere, you gotta physically get there in the real world. So your in-game mount is you, your bike, your car, your small aircraft, whatever. There is a glyph hacking mini-game, missions with minor variations on what to do (hack portal, upgrade it, respond with keywords), and a badge/achievement system (which is key for leveling past 8).

In Ingress, you capture territory for your side by claiming portals, which generally are points-of-interest in the real world (that were submitted and included by Niantic during the beta; they used the same database to seed the world for Pokémon Go). Portals are either unclaimed, friendly, or enemy.

With a friendly portal, you can claim territory by linking to another portal. To do this you need the destination portal’s “key”, which you can get by hacking the portal, be it friendly or enemy. Linking portals creates a line between them, that prevents other links (friendly or enemy) from crossing.

If you join three portals in a triangle, you create a field, which scores a bonus, claims even more territory, prevents linking and fielding inside the larger field, and becomes super visible on the intel map. (Ingress Intel Map – you can just sign in with a Google account even if you don’t play. Then check out the activity in your area.). This visibility is a detriment as it draws attention and perhaps the field covers what another agent considers their home territory, motivating them to destroy it… There is an advanced form of overlapping fields, called layering, which takes a lot of time and keys to set up.

The PvP in Ingress is against portals, the in-game structures which are potential anchors/pivots for everything else.

Anyway, after playing a month I’ve noticed a few things:

Visibility attracts attention from both sides. If I link two portals, sometimes the enemy will respond by destroying one. Sometimes friendly players will upgrade my portal to help make it harder to destroy.

Fields and especially layers attract a huge amount of attention, especially the larger they are! My local players have been sparring with our adversaries over a multi-suburb wide area with a lot of back-and-forth. There is something to do nearly every day to hinder the opposition or advance my allies.

Most portals are real-world points of interest. For instance there is a movie theater nearby with a sculpture of a globe. The movie theater isn’t the portal, technically the sculpture of the globe is. In any case, high-traffic areas like restaurants, movie theaters, coffee shops (again, the portal won’t be those locations specifically, it’ll be some there or nearby such as a piece of art, sculpture, sign, etc) are terrible for stability – random people from out of the area tend to visit, and if they are the enemy faction they’ll attack. That theater nearby flips once or twice a week, and it is a standalone theater in a sleepy area.

Offense is MUCH stronger than defense. I’ve taken down maxed out portals (level 8, shields, turrets, force amps) and I’m not max level yet (meaning level 8, the cap as far as items go). It just takes some persistence even if the other team is trying to repair it while you attack. It is possible to repair through an attack, but you’d need more than one player helping or somebody physically present to replace resonators (this happened to me and my friend)… and I think this is the correct call. If defense were much stronger, it would be hard for new players in busy areas to progress – all the high level players would have the stuff they want, max it out and let it sit there. The way it is now you know that whatever you build is fragile.

However, just because portals are fragile doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. The most obvious strategy is to claim portals that take a bit of work to get to. The ones that you can drive right up to are the worst; ones that are on a footpath, in the woods, somehow require getting out of a car and biking/hiking – this increases the annoyance factor and thus adds a layer of protection.

You can claim all the portals you want, but they require maintenance. Basically the items you place to build the portal, resonators, drain energy daily, which you or anybody with the portal key can recharge. The more you claim, the more busy work you create for yourself just keeping portals energized.

portals-01

Players like me look for enemy portals that are almost dead through neglect. If I find one, I’m going attack it. Why not, when my adversaries are already doing 80% of the work by letting it get weak?

I also look for the enemy key infrastructure – portals that are anchors of multiple fields/layers. If one portal is linked to 8+ other portals and is part of several fields, taking it out is a time “force multiplier” – it takes me minutes once I get there, but rebuilding what was destroyed takes much longer.

For example, if I wipe out a portal that had 8 links in/out, rebuilding it means rebuilding the portal plus its links – a minimum of 8 portal keys either incoming to that portal or outgoing to the portals it linked to. Plus, due to resonator restrictions – one player can only place one level 7 and 8 resonator, two level 5 and 6 resonators, four level 2, 3, 4 resonators – getting a high level portal requires multiple players. A level 8 portal is 8 level 8+ players placing one resonator each; destroying that portal takes 8 players to come back and rebuild/upgrade.

I also find there to be a psychological element as well. Near work there is a cluster of portals that were unclaimed for weeks. So my friend and I went to claim them… and they were counter-attacked the next day. We’re in a bit of a sparring match with another player over these handful of portals. Which is funny – this other player didn’t care they were unclaimed but having us claim them kicked off a two-or-three-times a week territory skirmish.

Another instance of this is the “unspoken” truce. Near some territory we’ve claimed are 3 enemy portals. They weren’t in the way, they are there minding their own business so we ignored them. Actually we fielded right over those portals, encompassing them. The owner didn’t attack us, we didn’t attack them. Weeks go by, no change to the status quo that everybody seems to be fine with. Except yesterday they struck out and destroyed my closest portal to his little cluster. Well guess what is going to happen in a few minutes? 🙂 If the truce is over, I’m clearing out the enemy portals, and to highlight that fact I’ll leave the one that was attacked, and claim the other three.

Finally, portals take time to maintain. Not tons, but they do require a check and spending some in-game energy (XM, for exotic matter). I had a portal that was isolated and that I set up poorly. I was tired of maintaining it, deciding the energy I used to top it off would be better spent on other portals I owned. But since it was my portal I couldn’t just let it die by not recharging it and letting the energy drain away. (I could have, of course, I would just feel bad doing that!) So I tried to get the enemy to kill it for me, by attacking two nearby portals out of an enemy cluster of five, and setting up a field with my unwanted portal. Plus, when I took over the two enemy portals I replaced them with low-level portals using my lowest level resonators.

So I had my unwanted portal in a field with two low level undefended portals that were next to three enemy portals. I thought they’d definitely respond by destroying my group of three. But what actually happened was this: before the enemy attacked, a friendly player came by and destroyed the remaining three enemy portals, leaving me with three crappy portals next to friendly portals. Doh!

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