LoTRO: Leaving the Lone-Lands

I finished up Vol 1 Book 2 on Barlk and am now headed to Evendim in the North Downs for Book 3. I like the Lone-Lands, but since it is essentially the first zone outside the starter zones, I’ve also spent a LOT of time questing there.

I feel like I’m leveling like a rocket blasting off. Compared to the Legendary Servers this is fast, because there isn’t a xp penalty. I traded my Derudh’s Stone¬†pocket item (+25% xp on monster/crafting) for another pocket item (stat and evade bonuses) from the skirmish camp. I figured I can pass up the +25% on monster kills, and I’m only doing the bare minimum mining/smelting to keep current with available metals in the zone.

What also helps is all the xp scrolls I’ve saved up from hobbit gifts… yeah I’m keeping those going until I run out of them. Oh yeah, I’m also spending my accumulated destiny points to extend the amount of “blue bar” enhanced xp I’ll receive.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the original Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria content… it’s just I’ve seen it so many times I’d like to get this Beorning through it and to Mirkwood and beyond!


Looking east towards the Trollshaws… I’ll be heading there for Book 4.


Before finishing up Book 2 I took stock of my virtues. I had expected a few to level naturally, but I looked and all were at 0. What?!

It seems the virtue system was revamped – yet another change I missed – and now, instead of doing specific deeds to raise virtues, any/all deeds give experience that goes to the virtue you are “earning” experience towards. All you do is click the virtue to set it “earning” and then do deeds.

This is fantastic! Originally if you wanted to increase a specific virtue, you looked through the list and had to travel to specific zones to do specific tasks (quest, explore, kill X number of specific mobs, etc.) I didn’t mind the questing and exploring, that’s the point of the game, but the kill deeds were annoying. Especially later when it was stuff like “kill 200 worms in the Trollshaws”. For example.

Anyway, after seeing this I took a break to finish up various quest and exploration deeds in Bree and the Lone-Lands, thus bumping my various virtues to between 4 and 8.


I also revamped my build, doing with the yellow line (The Roar). The red line (The Claw) did lots of damage but didn’t have much in the way of healing when in bear form, which made it feel fragile.

I decided to try out the Roar which is much, much better. I get Encouraging Roar which is an immediate heal plus a HoT, on a low cooldown. This skill works in bear form, I think the tooltip in the wiki is old. Later I’ll get more buffs and utility skills making this trait line quite nice.

Maybe later I’ll try out the tanking line (The Hide) but I’m in no rush.


Approaching Nan Dhelu.

Changing Game Tastes

I’ve noticed my gaming tastes changing over the months/years. Currently my MMO playing is ebbing while other games are not.

I still do play though. I’m taking a break from SWL because I was stuck on a ridiculous blocking storyline quest and can’t advance without passing it. Whoever thought that was a good idea is… well they’re just wrong.

I log into LoTRO a few times a week to grab daily rewards and quest a bit. But that makes for glacial progress and thus Spessartina, my hobbit minstrel, is still in the Rivendell/Trollshaws regions and a few levels away from starting the next storyline quest. Scarlatina, my hobbit warden, is likewise still in the Lone Lands. That’s fine though, I always do enjoy coming back to LoTRO and playing a bit.

In ESO, I decided to start a new char after migrating to the PS4. In order to play something different, I picked stamina nightblade. Since Redguards get racial stamina bonuses, I went with that. I’m not too far along, having completed the Morrowind tutorial and then immediately sailing back to Stros M’Kai in order to work through the original storyline. I’d rather play in the order the game released in!

What I have been doing more of is playing single player open-world adventure-style console games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider. I take advantage of Redbox and rent some games too (Monster Hunter World, God of War) with an eye towards checking a game out before buying it. I really like God of War but I can also wait for a sale since I have a backlog. ūüôā

I hit level 15 in Ingress, almost 2 years after I started to play. It’s still fun and easy to work into playing bits and pieces as time permits.

Recently I was in Hawaii on a family vacation, and had an afternoon or two to myself. So I got some exercise and walked around doing some banners/mosaics. Again, missions involve visiting various points of interest and doing something (typically hacking the portal). A series of missions that together form a picture is called a banner or mosaic. And I like doing those. Here’s the 3 I did:


Top 3 rows are “Iolani Palace”, middle row is “Legend of the Menehune”, bottow rows are “Aloha, Waikiki”. Not a bad way to enjoy a walk around town!

I’ve also been playing a lot of Pok√©mon Go. Yes, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the game… or is there?

The fundamentals of “collecting all the pok√©mon” is still the driving force, but Niantic has been slowly adding more and more things to do in the game.

There is a rudimentary quest system, which currently leads to finding legendary pokémon (so far: Zapdos, Moltres).

You can have a buddy pokémon that gains candy when you walk certain distances, as well as hatch eggs, so when I walk or run with my phone I leave it on with pokémon running. Every candy helps!

There are medals which grant catch bonuses after getting certain numbers. I’m still working on a few (e.g. 156/200 Steel type, 136/200 ice type, etc.)

They revamped the gym battling system to encourage more turnover, and as a result I’ve been working on getting gold on gyms I live near (when you attack or defend a gym you gain points on it, and rank up bronze to silver to gold. Each higher tier yields more stuff when you spin the disc, you also get more stuff when the gym is your team) since that results in the most efficient farming. ūüėČ I have 13 gold gyms and am close to #14 and #15.

A recent addition are community days where one pok√©mon spawns in abundance for a 3 hour period. I missed the first few, but have participated in last month’s (Mareep) and yesterday’s (Charmander). I met up with 3 friends and we walked around Rockville town center, seeing dozens and dozens of other players, catching every charmander in sight and evolving Charizards with a special event-only move (Blast Burn). We joined in raids for the Legendary Ho-Oh and I am happy to say I got one:


A bunch of players gathered for a raid as the event was winding down, but it turned out to be a Latias. Luckily I got that one too:


The thing about Legendary raids is with enough people, you will defeat the boss.¬† All your pok√©mon may faint and you might have to re-enter, but enough people will do it unless they are horribly underleveled (using low combat power pok√©mon). The hard part is catching it afterwards. Each player that participates get a number of white premiere pokeballs to use, that are only available from winning legendary raids and they don’t carry over, but there are bonuses for the team that does the most damage, for defeating the boss, your badge level at the gym, team that controls the gym. So when teams form, usually Valor (red), Mystic (blue), Instinct (yellow) will try to form their own group – not being exclusionary per se, anybody on any team can still hop in, it’s just more beneficial to you if you are raiding with others of your own team since you really want those extra premiere balls. That’s because legendary pok√©mon are ninja dodgers, and they are also very good at breaking out. So more premiere balls is better.

Over time I’ve switched to a curve-ball style throw (wind up in a circle before a throw until you get sparklies, then throw at an angle and the ball will curve left or right depending on whether you wound up clockwise or counter-clockwise). I don’t know the specific numbers but especially for a legendary Pok√©mon you want to use your best berries (golden razz berry) with a curve ball throw and ideally get a nice/great/excellent hit (how well you hit the circle target)… and even then there is a large chance the legendary will break out. I had 2 Latios (the blue clones of Latias) escape after raids because they I missed or they dodge half of the time, and broke out of all hits – as I recall it was roughly 25 chances over 2 raids and nothing. Argh! To a degree its a random chance you can attempt to raise, so all you can do is have the opportunity to catch one, which is what happened yesterday and I am thankful. ūüôā

For the Latias raid, I counted 35 players. Yes, almost 3 dozen people across all age groups and genders, standing on a street corner split into multiple raid groups, all wanting their chance to catch a Latias. It was awesome in many respects!

One thing I haven’t really gotten into is analyzing pok√©mon stats any deeper than the builtin appraisal system. But the serious players are all about pok√©mon IVs (individual values; the stamina, attack, defense stats) and move sets (fast and charged; attack and defense). There is of course a massive amount of stats info google will turn up, and it is kind of mind boggling since IVs can’t be changed and move sets are randomly assigned (however there are in-game items called Technical Machines that can change fast or charged attacks). There are also apps that help analyze these things so as a first step, I bought PokeGenie and started analyzing all my high CP wonder pok√©mon. I may change up what pok√©mon I keep, what ones I evolve and power up based on the next level of stat analysis. ūüėČ

By and large I’m mostly a “collector” player, just trying to fill out my pokedex. I swap buddies to get candy for evolving, fight gyms here and there to make them Mystic (my team), leave pok√©mon to defend gyms for badge levels and coins, and so. It isn’t the most sophisticated game ever, but for a low key mobile phone game, I’m finding it social and fun.

Ingress – Magnus Awakens DC

Last Saturday Washington DC was one of the sites of an XM Anomaly, an Ingress live event. The following Sunday was a Mission Day, another type of live event. My friends and I did both, and had a fun time.

There’s no way to sugar coat it, but the Resistance lost overall. We were outnumbered, roughly 450 to 350 by some estimates (of varying accuracy), so we fought hard, but the Enlightened took the day and the overall series so far.

The XM Anomaly had 3 phases: first, portal battle; second, shard battle; third, linking. The portal battle was simply gain control of portals marked for scoring. Shard battle consists of controlling portals, and then linking to other portals to influence the shard to travel towards a scoring portal. Linking is a fight to create fields (each field is 3 portals linked to each other).

I’ve made various parallels between this game and EVE Online, so here are a few more. ūüėČ

In EVE, if you show up to a war with more players than the other side, you have a massive advantage. Same thing here, Niantic doesn’t try to balance numbers or anything – that’s up to local faction POCs to recruit and so forth. Players need to farm the requested gear and/or beg/borrow from other players who aren’t going.

In EVE, players talk about epic battles after the fact. Except if you watch gameplay videos or actually participate, the excitement is a bit… subdued… because basically everyone is watching their screen and clicking a button now and then. In Ingress, the team I was on wound up near Dupont Circle and fought a major battle for the Embassy of Uzbekistan, but the casual observer would have only seen clustered groups of players, mostly wearing blue or green, absorbed in tapping their phones.

EVE players deal with heavy server load and resultant lag; the game compensates with TiDi which is a game mechanic where a server/node is slowed. In Ingress, lag makes it tricky to deploy resonators and mods (you get bounced out of the slot) and attacking slows down to the “tornado” effect – a white spinning circle of energy that is your attack… just keeps spinning.


One big difference between EVE and Ingress would be the ~6.5 mi I walked during the event, from the Foggy Bottom area to Dupont Circle. ūüėČ That doesn’t count the roughly 2 mi walked beforehand going from my team’s staging site over to registration and back.

Overall that’s a good bit of exercise during gameplay!

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 9.57.56 PM

Mission Day on Sunday was fun, another day of good weather, even if it was unusually warm/humid. I went with 3 friends and we did all 18 missions, and as a reward I got some swag – USB cables. Those always come in handy! We had a large group of 15 or so for the first 6 missions, but since that was the minimum number you had to complete to get credit for Mission Day, lots of people stopped there.

So far, neither badge has appeared in my scanner, but they should appear soon. Here’s a closer pic of badges and missions:


The upper hexagon shaped badges correspond to achievements in game, color represents progress. First tier is bronze, the silver, gold, platinum, black/onyx. The first padlock-icon hexagon badge, 2nd from the right on the bottom row, is the Mission Day badge. I’m looking forward to it “unlocking” and turning bronze.

The bottom circular icons are pics for each mission. Mission Day missions are temporary, they’ll exist for a few days after the event but go away; however the badge icons stay. Thus, there is a limited time you can do the Mission Day missions but once you do, your character sheet will show the icon forever. They are easy to spot since they’ll have a city label in them – here it is the purple Washington DC text.

Ingress – Friday Night Farming

I found myself standing in a parking lot Friday night, participating in a build – an XM Anomaly is coming and everybody could use some extra gear. We started late because this particular location is adjacent to an ice cream store and we began by getting ice cream.


Sorry about the crappy picture but my phone flash only goes so far. ūüėČ

It takes 8 different level 8 agents to create a level 8 portal, and we had a peak of 19, so no problem there.

XM Anomalies are events that occur around the world, generally each Anomaly will have 9 participating cities: 3 in Asia, 3 in the Americas, 3 in Europe. Furthermore, one of the 3 cities in reach region is the “prime” city. This event feature events in Stockholm, Ljubljana, Turin, Seoul, Galle, Bali, Washington DC, Belo Horizonte, and Kansas City. I live near Washington DC so I’ll be participating in the Washington DC event.

The general idea is the two factions, Resistance and Enlightened, will compete over portals in a defined playbox – zone that encompasses the portals to be used. There will be triggered events during certain phases at predetermined times, and to avoid accusations of favoritsm, Niantic posted hashed data of the event timing – after the Anomaly both sides can verify the events occurred as previously scheduled.

The rules are available and the playbox maps are up… next weekend is the actual event! But the prep has been going on for a few weeks before that.

First is gathering the recommended gear. Each agent can carry 2000 items so that needs to be split between offense (weapons: xmp bursters and ultrastrikes), build/defense (resonators from level 4 to 8, shields, power cubes), and misc (hack mods, viruses, link amps, transmuters).

In order to hold extra stuff, I’ve been stashing my keys in key lockers (purchased items that every serious player eventually buys) while playing, and only dumping them out to recharge. You can exceed the 2000 limit in this case, but can’t pick any extra items up until you get below it. So after recharging portals, I stash my keys again.

Second prep is hacking keys from various locations. The various events are summarized on page 5 of the rules, but one phase involves creating fields and blocking enemy fields. The best way to block is to anchor a field outside the playbox – you can throw from inside to the outside – so I’m sure both sides have been examing the intel map for suitable portals to use.

The logistics involved remind me of EVE Online. In Ingress we have recommended inventory and key hacking (analogous to doctrine fits), outside comms ranging from Slack to Google Hangouts (the sophisticated IT systems Brave Newbies and other alliances run for the members), physical meetups for builds/key hacking (fleet activity).

I’m looking forward to next weekend. I’m on a team with a bunch of others I already know and play with. I bought the support pack, an Ingress hoodie, and am signed up for Mission Day too, the day after the Anomaly.

EDIT: The DC Mission Day map is up. Looks like 18 missions for a 3×6 mosaic/banner?

Next weekend will be an all-Ingress weekend!


Ingress – Resistance Awakens DC Mosaic

An XM Anomaly is coming the Washington DC area next month, and I’m planning to go along with my friend plus a bunch of other local players we know. In the meantime, a Resistance player put up an anomaly-themed mosaic, and we decided to get it.

A mosaic (also called a banner) is a series of missions that form a picture via the badges each individual mission grants – both sides can do any mosaic, but perhaps Enlightened players might not want a Resistance mosaic on their character sheet. ūüėČ

The original mosaic site I used for reference disappeared, but another one popped up with the same great info. The mosaic we did was the Resistance Reawakens mosaic, involving a nice walk around central DC.


I wore my GPS watch but forgot to start recording until about a quarter mile into it. And at the end, I let it record a bit long while we were looking for a crosswalk. The mission starts/ends across the street from the WW2 monument, just pretend my map closes up.

I like to measure how much walking is involved in a mosaic since other local players are always asking. I think this one was about 6 mi (again, I didn’t get the start/stop exactly correct) so not too bad.

It was a sunny humid day over the weekend but it was also nice to get outside and get some exercise while playing. We took it easy, upgrade/hacked friendly portals and also attacked all the enemy portals along the way. Plus we switched over to Pokemon Go now and then to dabble there.


I hit platinum trekker during this mission – ended up with 1014 km walked while playing over all time. Ingress appears to calculate in-game distance by calculating distance between server interactions – hacking, attacking, deploying, viewing portals stats, etc – so merely leaving the game open while moving and not doing anything else won’t credit the full distance. Plus there is a speed lock so moving too fast (e.g. app open while driving) won’t count fully either. Which is fine, Ingress isn’t an exercise app.

Anyway, I’m getting near level 14 and hope to reach that by the time the Anomaly and Mission Day arrive.


I have 195 missions completed, so 5 more and I get platinum for the “spec ops” badge. I’ve found nearly a dozen mosaics I want to do, some will require a bit of travel, but if the mosaic is cool enough looking my friend and I want to do it!

The Resistance Awakens mosaic is the top 3×6 badges. We thought it was very good planning that the mission granting the badge with the top part of the Washington Monument (mission 15/18) actually took place right around the Washington Monument.



Ingress Guardian

If anybody is still reading due to my lengthy break, I promised something about guardians.

The Ingress guardian badge comes from “controlling” a portal for consecutive days, which means owning it. Given offense is very strong and defense is much harder (a determined player with ample gear will destroy a portal they decide to attack) this comes down to flying-under-the-radar as best you can.

Of the various badges you can earn playing Ingress, Guardian is unique in that… other players can keep you from getting it. Every other badge you can chip away at, but another player, friend or foe, can stop your progress on Guardian by destroying the portal (in the case of a foe) or flipping it via Jarvis or Ada Refactor (in the case of a friend).

There is a bit of psychological aspect to it – how to own a portal but not make it obvious it is a Guardian candidate? Trying to get Guardian on an exposed portal in a frequented location will not work, but how far off the beaten track do you go? Adding the best shields you can is another signal that the portal is important and may in turn attract more attention. Meanwhile the slightly-more-effort to reach portal, say in a park that requires some walking/hiking, deployed like a normal portal, is probably your best bet.

One downside in the game is cheating via comms scraping. Both sides do it I’m sure, so if you are up against a determined enemy team that is possibly comms scraping, then the best things to do are a) seed a guardian candidate frequently, say one or two a week, and b) go out of your typical play area.

This is a game of attrition, and you are an easy target if your oldest portal is 120 days, then 60 days, then 10 days – your adversaries only need to motivate every few weeks. But if your portals are 120 days, 117 days, 115, 110, 105, 104, 98, 96, 91, etc. and they are spread out over a wide area, eventually you’ll just wear them down. Which is how I did it.

The game doesn’t track which portal is your current guardian, only how many days your highest guardian reached. For me, consulting a calendar helped to jog my memory about which portal was likely to be currently guardian. But there are many players who don’t have any idea what portal their guardian is since it easy to lose track when say 4 months go by. You just know it is still alive if you see the guardian achievement increment daily.

What is also common is a break in advancement – say you capture a portal and then 5 days later capture another one. Fast forward several weeks and say the first one is currently ticking up, but then it is destroyed. The guardian badge will pause since until your next oldest guardian ticks up and starts advancing, at which point that is your new guardian. In our example, perhaps 5 days after the first portal is destroyed, guardian will start ticking again because of the 2nd portal takes over.

I was the target of comms scraping, so I believe, because I had a series of guardian candidates get attacked under suspicious circumstances. That may or may not have had anything to do with me depriving the enemy of a farm. I live near an area with 10 portals in close proximity that they upgrade and modded for hacking. Except I started to visit daily and blow it up. The first rule in war is to deprive the enemy of weapons!! This area is 10 mins off my commute to it was easy for me to drop by and claim it; meanwhile it takes 8 of their players to stop by and make it a level 8 farm. I win that asymmetric situation, on behalf of my team, hehe.

Anyway, one attack involved an enemy player essentially picking one portal out of a dozen nearby, making a bee-line straight to it and destroying it, leaving all the others untouched. Hm… Yes there are other explanations but the most likely is my portal reached the top of some watch list and the call went out to destroy it.

The same thing happened when another guardian reach day 148, 2 days short of the ultimate badge of 150 days. Said person drove straight to it, blew it up, then attacked a handful on the way out so as to not be too obvious.

Another guardian bit the dust when a player drove about 80 miles one way to flip a portal I had in another state! And then drive back without attacking anything else. Can it be any more obvious? There is no defense against a flip – while defending is difficult, with enough people it is possible to recharge a portal through an attack. But flipping (using a Jarvis or Ada Refactor) is instant and always works.

At this point I was a bit discouraged BUT I was also looking forward to another batch of guardians I had on the horizon. See, I’m an avid trail runner and hiker, and every day that ticked by drew me closer to literally dozens of portals I grabbed on various trail systems. Typically I would visit a park, capture every portal in it, then do that again two weeks later somewhere else. I was actually a bit curious to see who or how many people would be dispatched to cover 5, 10, 20+ miles in various locations, week after week.

At one point I had around 40 portals going as guardian candidates. Half on hiking trails, several in little towns but away from the center. It takes a lot of XM to recharge that many, so I started to deploy a one or two resonators on each, making it easier to recharge that many. This also makes it impossible to link to/from a portal, which helps with “camouflage”. Not really of course, the portal is still visible on the map, but at certain zoom levels only links show up, and of course if it can be linked then it can be a corner of a field which is very visible!

It didn’t come to that because I unexpectedly earned Guardian on a not-too-remote portal in a park I live near, haha! That’s the irony of it; one week after someone drove 80 mi one-way to flip my best candidate, a humble portal in a nearby park delivered for me.

So basically, to get Guardian, set up a portal or two every week – especially grab a few portals that require leaving the car and walking some distance, and travel out of your typical play area to do it.

Anyway, now that I have the onyx guardian badge, nobody seems too interested in attacking my portals any more. Probably not the same thrill denying an enemy player that badge when they have it and the badge can’t be taken away.

Here’s a portal in a nearby park that is a good 1.5 mi hike roundtrip from a parking lot. Not impossible to get to, however it does discourage the “car-gressers” that don’t like to leave their vehicles. I run by it every other week and take the chance to hack it for keys. Since I can get to it fairly often I’m using it as an anchor for various fields I throw, knowing that it is real annoying for enemy players to attack.

IMG_5040I’m hoping somewhere they draw straws to see who has to hike in for it. And then I retake it a day or two later, ideally demoralizing them on how fast and consistently it comes right back to me.


So I haven’t been playing traditional MMOs much lately. Part of that, as I mentioned before, is that I’m getting a lot of the satisfaction I had playing MMOs here in Ingress. It isn’t the same of course, but close enough for me especially given the advantage that Ingress has simply being portable. If I have a few minutes to kill somewhere random, I can often play Ingress for those few minutes. Whereas an MMO takes up a multi-hour block of time to do anything, at home on my gaming PC.

And that’s another reason I haven’t played MMOs much recently – my evenings have evaporated. I used to be able to block off 3 hours once or twice during the week, and then usually the same on the weekends. But now I’ve picked up more hobbies and friends and it’s tough to say no in order to pursue a fundamentally solo hobby.

That being said, I have dabbled back in a few times. I returned to WildStar for my free level 50 character, I log into LoTRO every other week to fiddle around, grab the daily reward in Guild Wars 2 a few times a week (yeah, not every day), reinstalled FF14 since it is free up to level 30 (or is it 35?). I let my sub to EVE lapse since I wasn’t do anything besides manipulate my skill queue. I log into ESO and TSW and meander a bit. None if this was concentrated play time and I’m not really getting anywhere in any game.

I’m concerned about the upcoming changes to TSW… I only got as far as the Scorched Desert but think that TSW is a fantastic game overall. I have my fingers crossed that the relaunch will go well. When I think of awesome quests I’ve done in MMOs, several from TSW and LoTRO come to mind, and as a credit to TSW, I really only saw the quests in the starter zones (Kingsmouth, Solomon Island, Blue Mountains) plus maybe half in Scorched Desert.

So every time I log in/out I remember how much fun I’ve had and wonder how I can carve out the time again. Perhaps I’ll be more like MMO One Night A Week going forward.

Right now I need games that I can pick up and drop on short notice: portable games especially, such as handheld games like Fire Emblems or Ettrian Odysseys. I mention those since I have a New 3DS and various games in those series, they are fun and there isn’t much overhead in just playing for ~30 mins.

My goals are to get back to LoTRO and continue the storyline. I checked and I’m 3 books behind in the Epic Quests! To start Vol 4 Book 5 I just need to talk to Gandalf who is waiting for me at at the Seventh Tier of Minas Tirith.


The only other MMO that fits my current schedule is Guild Wars 2. I have 3 characters (ranger, guardian, revenant) at the same place in the storyline so I need to move forward. GW2 is great for time-squeezed folks like me – fast travel everywhere (once a char has discovered a waypoint) and simplified inventory management between chars due to convenient bank access, crafting material storage, and the shared inventory slot.

Also, when The Secret World relaunches I will definitely give it a spin.

Hm… looks like WildStar, FF14, and even ESO are going to be sidelined for a bit. They are great games but I need to pare my game rotation down and find some sustainable level of play.

Ingress Grouping

Well I’ve been a slacker haven’t I? ūüėČ

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.


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. ūüėČ



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.


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. ūüėČ 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


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.

Ingress Playstyles

As mentioned in earlier posts, Ingress has various MMO-like characteristics. One of those is that the typical playstyle is attacking enemies (portals), similar to how in your average MMO, characters step out into the world and begin mass slaughtering everything to the horizon in every direction.

My local group calls¬†this “booming” or “go boom”, as in “let’s get a group together and go boom XYZ-ville”. This is likely derived from players referring to taking over enemy portals as “blowing up the portal”. It is also common to refer to the physical location of the portal as well, as in “I’m blowing up Main Street” or “I’m booming¬†the water tower later today”. I’m not sure if this terminology is the same across the country. Indeed, since Ingress is a truly international game, I’m curious what else this is called.

What it generally isn’t called is “killing”. A subtle difference but we Ingress players aren’t attacking sentient enemies; we are attacking¬†portals filled with enemy resonators which also are inanimate. The in-game lore has portals serving some function that deals with the ongoing alien invasion¬†of earth and¬†portals are conduits to another dimension where exotic matter (XM) leaks over… okay gotcha. We’re taking down portals that are basically fancy cell phone towers. ūüėČ

Speaking of attacking all the time РI believe Ingress supports a pacifist playstyle better than most MMOs. You can craft in most MMOs, YMMV but FF14 and EVE have great support for tradesmen and industrialists. You may need to fight a little to get crafting materials, but you can also buy/sell/trade on the market in addition to other mechanics those games support. Others like WoW or LoTRO or GW/GW2, if you want to craft you will end up having to fight mobs in the world unless something unusual is going on, like a friend is clearing mobs on your behalf.

In Ingress, the way you obtain equipment is through hacking a portal, friendly or enemy, and that doesn’t kill/destroy the portal. You can be a gatherer and keep you and your friends supplied with gear by hacking high level friendly or enemy portals. An enemy portal may attack you back, but it does not aggro in the sense of a continuous attack – it is more of a tit-for-tat strategy: hack an enemy portal, it may attack back, and if you pause/stop so will the portal.

As a complete pacifist, you can obtain every item in the game and level all the way to max. The only things which you would find tough involve enemy interference. Say you want to link two portals, or create a control field between three portals. If you decide you don’t want to attack, enemy links or enemy control fields might prevent you from doing the linking you want to do.

The process of hacking multiple portals for gear is called “farming” and I find it hilarious that this game uses the same terminology as in traditional MMOs for gathering supplies. It seems everyone understands what farming means in a computer game. Haha!

So, what can you do with all the stuff you gather? You can “build”/”building”, where you add/upgrade resonators and portal mods on friendly portals.¬†Typically, we’ll do a build after the other side comes through and booms us. And vice versa. ūüėČ

You can also go the pure healing route and gather portals keys and top off the portal’s energy reserve.

The reality is most players blend playstyles and at various time boom, farm, build, and heal. But it is certainly possible to have a preference or wind up playing a certain style depending on location. One friend works in the city and portals their flip constantly, multiple times a day. In that case there isn’t much point in trying to defend territory, everybody just attacks while getting to work. Another lives in the far suburbs and out there it is quiet and players just build and setup control fields.

The last playstyle Ingress offers is one that blends walking and gaming with an occasional historic tour: collecting banners or mosaics. Basically, players can set up missions that require visiting a sequence of portals. Activities at the portals are the usual hack, upgrade or mod Рexcept in missions there is the ability to require players to view waypoints or answer questions. Viewing a waypoint opens up the Field Tripper website/app, also by Niantic (I believe the chain of databases was Field Tripper, many of those entries became Ingress portals, a subset of Ingress portals became Pokemon Go gyms/stops). Questions are a simple response, usually asking a question answered in a nearby sign.

Anyway, a mission creator can optionally give a background picture that fills in as the mission is completed. Since the Ingress app shows badges in a row of 6 columns, nearly every banner or mosaic involves some multiple of 6 missions.

For example, there is a mosaic¬†in Old Town Alexandria, VA called “Alexandria Waterfront“, consisting of 18 missions, each of which requires visiting some number of portals. You can check out the final picture displayed in the app at the Ingress Mosaic site,¬†which lists more info about the missions and waypoints involved.¬†Most of this info, except the final picture, is available in the app or at the intel site but the Ingress Mosaic site gathers it all together and is very well done.

I’ve done a few local ones and surprisingly find myself really interested in several others. It’s fun to do a little day trip and explore, and in-game also earn a cool looking series of badges that form a larger picture. Some local players I know are hooked on collecting mosaics.

In summary, Ingress supports the typical combat playstyle (booming), farming/building, complete pacificst, and for lack of a better term, art collector via collecting mosaics/banners¬†from missions. If I had to compare what MMO activity mosaic/banner collecting is closest to, I’d say housing decoration, because you gain something attractive to show off. In Ingress you might even discover and interesting place or learn a bit of history doing that. ūüėČ

If you can’t tell, I am still having a ton of fun playing this game!

Next time I’ll talk about guardian portals and the trade-offs trying to earn that achievement.

Ingress Portals

Portals in Ingress take the place of mobs in other MMOs Рthey are what you attack, defend, or claim Рdepending on whether or not the portal is enemy, friendly, or unclaimed. They are the source of loot, the equipment you need to do other things. Hacking a portal, friendly or enemy, will yield random items: offensive (amp bursters, ultra strikes), defensive (shields, turrets, force amps), and utility (energy cubes, portal keys, other mods, capsules). However, an enemy portal might attack back and drain a portion of your energy reserve. If the reserve goes to zero, your scanner displays static; to fix this, add energy by walking around and collecting more or by using an energy cube.

Items are consumable, except for capsules which serve as storage organizers. Even portal keys can be consumable: if you hang onto a portal key, you can access the portal remotely and recharge it if it is friendly; however the portal key is consumed if it is the destination portal of a link you are throwing.

Portals have 8 resonator slots, and resonators range from level 1 to 8. The portal level is simply the average of the deployed resonators. Basically just add up the resonators levels and divide by 8, rounding down. Higher level resonators hold more energy and the collective total energy serves as the health (hit points) of the portal.


There are restrictions on how many resonators a single player can put on a single portal: one level 8 resonator, one level 7, two level 6, two level 5, four level 4, four level 3, four level 2, and eight level 1.

Thus, a player on their own can only create a level 5 portal, using an 87665544 deployment. (The resonator levels add up to 45, 45/8 rounds down to 5).

Two players working together can deploy a level 6 portal: 88776666.

Three players can make a level 7 portal: 8887766.

It takes eight players to make a level 8 portal: 88888888. (There is an exception involving Jarvis and ADA Refactors, but let’s skip that for now since those are very rare items.)

Resonators don’t have to be deployed at the same time – players can upgrade resonators on a friendly portal, as long as the portal is fully deployed (all 8 slots have a resonator). So I could start a L5 portal, have somebody else stop by later¬†upgrade various resonators to make it L6, have yet another person make it L7, etc.

However,¬†the fastest way to make a level 8 portal is to actually gather 8 players that can place L8 resonators. Especially if you want to make several, it’ll take too long waiting for 8 players to randomly come by and upgrade.

Level 8 portals are useful since they have the best chances of giving the highest level resonators and weapons – useful for offensive and defensive operations! There are two portal mods that are useful for building a farm: heat sink (lower the timeout between hacks) and multi-hack (increase the number of hacks in a four hour time period). A portal only takes 4 mods though, so a typical farm will have 2 shields, a heat sink, and a multi-hack.

Partial Deployment

You don’t have to deploy¬†resonators in all 8 slots of the portal. If you don’t, the main effect is the portal will be lower level than it could be (e.g. 1 L8 resonator makes a L1 portal. Or say you deploy 871, that results in an L2 portal by just using 3 resonators).

Why would you do this?

One reason is simply you are short on resonators. Or you are in “enemy” territory and don’t expect to be able to hold the portal long, so why bother fully deploying it.

Another reason is you expect others to come by and help fill out the portal. Say your home territory was attacked and you are rebuilding. Due to resonators limitations you can only make an L5 portal on your own, but you also expect friendly players to also help rebuild soon. In this case, placing 87665544 will waste the 665544 resonators when upgraded by others. May as well just put the 87 down or maybe just the 8.

The most interesting reason to partially deploy is to prevent friendly players¬†from linking to that portal! You can’t stop a friendly player from dropping a resonator on the portal to fill it out, but that takes an extra step. They may already have the key due to previous hacking or link destruction – so if you claim and fully deploy a portal, it may be immediately linked to and/or part of field sooner than expected. Such a¬†link/field might advertise the portal more than you want… more on this in another post about “guardian” portals.


Hacking a portal is easy: press the “hack” button on the portal’s info screen.There is also a mini-game that involves tracing patterns on the screen, reachable by long pressing the “hack” button.

Once the screen is up, tracing a¬†circumflex (^) will give a boost to the chance of getting a portal key – it is the “request key” pattern. After that, between 1 and 5 symbols are displayed and you have a few seconds to trace them. Depending on your accuracy and speed,¬†you’ll earn a bonus to the number of items won.

It is easier to watch this video showing the entire process.

I do glyph-hacks when I have the time, since on average I’ll get a 50% boost on items. Or if I really need the portal key in which case I’ll also do the¬†“request key” sigil – this doesn’t guarantee you get a key, it does improve the chances.

OK, not much more to say about a single portal. The game adds a new dimension, literally, when you have multiple friendly portals and can link them, creating fields and layers. More on that in another post!


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 ūüėČ 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.


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 Рa minimum of 8 portal keys either incoming to that portal or outgoing to the portals it linked to. Plus, due to resonator restrictions Рone player can only place one level 7 and 8 resonator, two level 5 and 6 resonators, four level 2, 3, 4 resonators Рgetting 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? ūüôā 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!