Ingress Grouping

Well I’ve been a slacker haven’t I? 😉

Still playing Ingress and still having a great time.

So last post I said I’d talk about guardians, which is an in-game achievement for holding a portal for a length of time. I’ll do that next time honest. For now I’ll write about various group events.

You know, part of the allure of MMOs is grouping up with people? Except my own experience is that’s only true a fraction of the time, and even then, game friends are disembodied voices. I did play WoW for ~6 months with 2 friends/coworkers, and it was the most fun I had in an MMO since way back in 2000 when I played Asheron’s Call with 2 friends/coworkers.

Builds

It takes 8 level 8+ players to make a level 8 portal, so “builds” are planned events where organizers try to get that many friendly players together. Ideally there are multiple portals nearby, even better if people hack mod them (add mods to the portals: reduce the cooldown between hacks – heat sinks; allow extra hacks – multihacks), and for more bonuses, apply frackers (in-store items that double the output of portal hacks for ~10 mins).

All are optional of course, but I would say at the least you can expect the “multiple nearby portals” and “hack mods” portion. Frackers cost money, and as per usual in-game store, you have to buy some kind of currency (Chaotic Matter Units in the case of Ingress) which you use to buy what you really want. Right now the store shows $9.99 buys you 15K CMUs, and a pack of 10 frackers costs 14900 CMUs. How convenient…

Typically the person hosting a build will supply frackers, and everyone else will supply their L8 resonators and hack mods, to be determined at the time.

But that isn’t the only kind of build. I went to one which was a walking around downtown format: players in front blew up portals, and the herd behind deployed and hacked. With enough players and portals, this works really well. For one thing, people aren’t using rare items or items that cost money, and enough people just steamroller and opposition that shows up.

Last week I went to a dinner build, a restaurant with two portals reachable from inside. These so-called “food portals” made for a relaxing time – we buffed up the two portals and hacked while chatting and eating.

Here’s a pic of the group, I managed to catch everyone not looking at the camera. 😉

img_5275

Banner/Mosaics

Another way to group up is to do a banner/mosaic mission. I mentioned these earlier, to recap they are a series of missions where each one in the series yields a bit of a picture.

This is really built on the existing mission system which grants a small icon for completing it. I suppose some creative thinker realized they could make a series of missions where each one grants part of a picture.

I’ve done 5 banners so far, all with friends. You can do these by yourself but if you’re going to walk around for 3+ hours somewhere, maybe someone else is also interested in the same mission series.

It’s a fun time to wander around an area and hack the corresponding portals. Since most portals are some kind of historic marker or other point of interest, if you take the time to read the signs you might learn some interesting tidbit.

Here’s what they look like in-game when completed in order. The top is Greenmount Cemetary, then Bethesda, then most of the Super Smithsonian banner. Not shown are the Towson Tigers or JHU Homewood banners.

Ingress Banners/Mosaics
Ingress Banners/Mosaics

So for example the Bethesda mosaic is a series of 18 missions, completing them in order gives an overall picture.

Anomaly

Niantic runs in-game events too; these are called Ingress Anomaly Events, where the two sides gather players to battle over a predefined area in a city. Scoring has to do with what team controls what portals at various time checks, with extra points for collecting shards.

Anomalies take place in 3 world regions: North America, Europe, Asia. In each region there is a primary city and 2 satellite cities. The recent Via Noir Anomaly primary cities were New Orleans, Rome, Seoul, and the satellite cities were Chicago, Miami, Vilnius, Sofia, Surabaya, Melbourne.

It is most helpful to the team to show up in person, but of course that isn’t possible for the majority of players. There is another participation option – sign up to be a remote support room. Which is what my local Ingress cell did – we signed up to support the Miami Resistance team as a remote recharge room. That meant we received a chunk of portal keys each, and sat there recharging as needed.

To be honest, it wasn’t super engaging to mostly hit “recharge” when your portal came up in the Slack channel, but it was still fun to meet up with others, attach a real name to the in-game name, help out, and eat/snack. I would definitely do it again.

Everyone that participated received a badge:

Via Noir participation
Via Noir participation

Here is another pic of the group, this time somebody else took the pic so I’m in it. I’m on the right in the blue shirt squeezing the frog. 😉 We had about 25 people, some are to the left and out of the picture.

BAR Via Noir Anomaly team
BAR Via Noir Anomaly team

Summary

I’ve grouped about as much in 5 months of Ingress, which is essentially a mobile phone virtual capture-the-flag game, than I have in all MMOs I’ve played over the last 10 years put together. That might be partly my fault as far as MMOs, since they’ve catered to more casual players and are more solo-friendly than ever before.

I’m not trying to have it both ways – honestly I wouldn’t have been able to play most MMOs since 2007ish if they weren’t as solo friendly as they are. I grouped a lot in the 2000-2001 era playing Asheron’s Call, and again from 2005-2007 playing Guild Wars, but since then my schedule hasn’t been as flexible and I don’t have the same amount of time I used to. Since 2007 I’ve had a bit in LoTRO raiding (which was a ton of fun!), a good 6 months casual raiding in WoW in the Draenor era, and just a minimal spattering everywhere else.

But I do think Ingress, with its obviously simplified gameplay and mechanics, has hit upon a fairly decent balance that encourages grouping. You can solo farm for gear, but it is enormously better to group up for builds. You can solo attack the enemy, but it is again hugely beneficial to group up. At a minimum it really helps to coordinate with others for portal upgrades since it takes 2 people to fully mod a portal and 3 to make a level 7 portal (8 people for a L8).

Plus the nature of the game allows events like “hey anybody want to get dinner at XYZ restaurant, there is a food portal or two there we can hack?” You can’t really bust out your PC/console in a restaurant while raiding.

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