I still think Ingress is the most interesting New Internet Thing on the current radar. What else is there to get excited about, Vine? Gimme a break. Also I can’t write about work until the release pipeline unjams a bit. So herewith more news from the front.
Local Power · Wow, the real gamers and grinders are all making it to Level 8. We now have ten eights by my count, just on the Resistance side here in Vancouver. So they went out one night and made 29 L8 portals. I tagged along and took photos, but I’m only going to show you this one.
It was a very Vancouver group: ethnically mixed, a few Web nerds, a couple in 420 mode; willing to strap on a backpack (for the battery charger of course) and keep walking in the rain.
I’m really pretty sure that this is a unique game-playing experience. A new thing in the world. I’m privileged to be watching. Well, and playing too, but not like those guys in the picture.
Telling People · I speechify regularly and these days Ingress always gets a slide (live off the Web if I can manage it). Both from the stage and when I’m explaining the game one-on-one, I relish this moment when I say “... and you can’t play it in your basement. You have to actually get up and go out to where the portals are. Right now there are people walking around near you attacking and defending portals that you can’t see but they can.”
The eyes get wide for a few moments while they soak that in.
What’s Next In General · Ingress has proven that location-based augmented-reality gaming is big-time fun. And it doesn’t have much in the way of twitch or PvP or roleplaying or any of the other things we know make games addictive.
It’s so new that I hesitate to predict much, but I’ll go this far: The community of gamers will bifurcate into those that refuse to leave their basements and those that like going out and mixing in real-world stuff.
Evolution In Action · When you launch a New Thing into the world, it will exhibit problems. The biggest one at this point in Ingress’ young life has been imbalance: when one faction gets ahead, positive-feedback loops kick into effect that can deny the trailing faction not only space in the game but the means to fight their way back to it.
Ideas for fixes have emerged on conversations I’ve seen that I know Niantic Labs folk have as well. Maybe I’ll write some of them up, but I have to toss another piece of evidence into the mix that emerged, in the best evolutionary style, from a coding error.
On February 2nd, what looks like a big fat bug (known to cognoscenti as “the Zipcar license scam”) meant that any player who happened to be up real late that night could load up on essentially infinite amounts of Ingress ammunition.
The effect on the game has been dramatic: The trailing side can suddenly fight back in convincing style and take down its opponents’ best achievements, notably including 28 of those 29 portals my side built the other night.
So maybe Niantic Labs should just arrange, on an intermittent basis, to let everyone load up on ammo without having to work much for it.
Web Technology Wins Again · On February 6, Stefan Breunig introduced ingress total conversion, a Greasemonkey script that dramatically improves on Ingress’ Web interface, increasing its information density and general usefulness. A huge proportion of the Ingress community has switched over, more or less instantly and with zero friction.
This is a good thing. I’m hoping the Niantic folks agree and go with the Web flow on this one.
Friday Afternoon · After lunch, I’m stepping out briefly to rendezvous with a couple other players. It turns out that one of ours is about to give birth, so she wants to pass her weaponry on to others who’ll find it useful while she’s doing the new-Mom thing. Don’t think anyone predicted this particular future.
Next Week’s Ingress News · I have no idea what’ll it’ll be. Isn’t that wonderful?