The game still feels like a big story to me, and still under-reported; so herewith Ingress coverage, featuring tourism, community cancer, client controversy, and tactical tips. With pictures of places Ingress players see.

Previously in this series: Ingress Weekly, Ingress, Month 3, Things About Ingress, and Ingress.

Tourism · I’m still not a serious player; you can’t be one of those with a job and family and so on. But I travel a lot.

Last time out, I mentioned the fun I’d had playing Ingress in London. Ditto for Tokyo, ditto ditto for the Big Island. I guess if there’s an Ingress-photography genre, it’s gonna be mostly cellphone photos. But not here.

Ingress portal location, Tokyo

There’s a portal nearby.

Whatever Ingress’ virtues and problems, it absolutely makes travel more interesting. You go places you wouldn’t have gone, you meet people you wouldn’t have met, you photograph things you wouldn’t have seen.

Also, for weeks afterwards, you get Ingress emails about how portals you set up back there have been attacked; a nice bit of short-term nostalgia.

Portal at my desk

General State of Play · It’s not bad. The early-2013 problem, where one side or the other took total control of an area then locked out the other, seems to have been pretty well resolved; most maps I look at have a sane mixture of blue and green.

One thing that’s helped a whole lot has been the injection of many new portals. People have figured out that they can submit loads of candidates near where they are, and some get accepted. So on the walking route from my office to the craft-beer store to my house there are now five portals (not all my submissions). I’m totally changing from six-packs to individual bottles.

And (heh-heh) check the screenshot to the right; the little blue triangle is me, sitting at my desk.

Finally, on March 29th every player level 6 and up got an invitation to pass on to anyone; so I suspect Niantic thinks they’re ready for some serious scaling.

Community Problems · I suppose it will surprise exactly nobody to hear that in an unmoderated game-focused online community, bad behavior has occurred. This includes but isn’t limited to: bullying, bigoted name-calling, outing players’ real-world identities, and various forms of cheating — most commonly one person playing multiple accounts.

Southernmost bar in the United States

There are a couple of portals here, down by the southernmost bar in the United States, in Naalehu. Unclaimed! But I didn’t notice till after we’d driven away. Sob.

It got pretty bad here in Vancouver, but a combination of community pressure and one intervention from Niantic — a notorious potty-mouth got banned for a while — seems to have brought things mostly under control.

It totally defeats me why, when a person is called out for unacceptable behavior, they think it makes any difference to say “I was just doing it for the lulz” or “Only trolling”. The Internet is real life. If you say things on the Internet that only an asswipe would say, you’re an asswipe. That’s all there is to it.

Client Controversy · There’s a Web view of the state of the game; called the “Intel map”, it uses gobs of JavaScript to give players the big picture of what’s going on.

Unsurprisingly, someone reverse-engineered the protocol, pulled together some different gobs of JavaScript, and published “Ingress Intel Total Conversion”; it presents a different view which many people have said is more useful.

View across False Creek from Science World
· · ·
BC Place from Science World at night

Multiple portals at (and lots more in the view
from) Vancouver’s Science World.

This may or may not be against the Ingress Terms of Service; I don’t have an opinion. Surprisingly, IITC’s author wrote to Niantic asking if what he was doing was OK. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t like the answer he got. Nobody can possibly complain, this is a free service being offered by Niantic and if you don’t like the terms you shouldn’t play.

So now everyone’s still using IITC, but from one of a bunch of Github forks and guerilla sites.

Me, I can’t figure the rights and wrongs of this situation. Obviously, Niantic has to try to make sure the game stays fair, that the clients don’t hit the servers so hard that they ruin performance, that nobody’s privacy is compromised, and so on.

On the other hand, it’s not obvious to me that it’s technically feasible to keep people from building alternate JavaScript clients. And, given a reasonable regulatory framework, it might be a good thing to have an ecosystem of clients for this new server offering.

Public Servants · I went out to play a bit of Ingress in Kona and the portal was in the weeds behind the fire station; I was picking my way past when a fireman popped out and asked “Can I help you?” I explained; he was a bit baffled, but OK with me fighting through his underbrush.

And just recently, because even though I don’t play that much any more, I’m very near Level 8 (weeks and weeks after all the guys I was playing with in January got there) and thus motivated to get out and grind a bit; so I was cruising through Vancouver’s Old Chinatown and wandered into the notorious Downtown Eastside. There I was among various flavors of drug victim, and of course drug-victim suppliers. This friendly cop came along and said “You know where you are, right? I’d hate to see you lose that nice tablet.” I find the DTES sad not scary, but I guess he had a point, so I knocked off and came home.

Tactical Tips · [Probably unintelligible to non-players.] When you get to L7 or L8, you’re probably furiously farming L6 and L7 portals to get your ammo and resos. And for every portal you take on your own you need either 3 (L7) or 2 (L8) sub-L5 resos to fill it up. It’s real easy to run real low on those.

So here are things you can do:

  • Go farm some L3 portals (boring).

  • When you’re smashing enemy portals, hack ’em as you’re taking them down when they’re at L3 or so, then pause for reflection and hack ’em again as you’re deploying when they’re at L3 or so (slows you down).

  • Play with a high-level friend. Problem solved. (Neither boring nor slow.)

A New Thing in the World · That’s what Ingress is. I’m enjoying watching its trajectory as much as I’ve enjoyed watching any New Net Thing in recent years. Stay tuned.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ed Davies (Mar 31 2013, at 02:48)

“Obviously, Niantic has to try to make sure the game stays fair, that the clients don’t hit the servers so hard that they ruin performance, that nobody’s privacy is compromised, and so on.”

OK about not hitting the servers too hard but if any of the rest rely on no reverse engineering, particularly the privacy, then the protocol is broken. Be much better if they documented the protocol even if they reserved the right to change it at any time - having to maintain backward compatibility is such a pain.


From: Fraser (Mar 31 2013, at 02:52)

My ladyfriend plays this game and I have to say I don't quite get it.

As you say, it takes you places you haven't been before etc.

However, when you are walking round the shakey neighbourhoods of the local cities just to press buttons on a device, does it not seem odd?

I suppose it's a little better in America, people are nicer and it's not so cold.


From: Dan Guy (Apr 02 2013, at 08:41)

I've almost entirely stopped playing. My area is infested with trolls who insult me (via COMMs), threaten to vandalize my car (when I run into them out and about), and have threatened to call Child Protective Services to have the kids taken by the state because they assumed (wrongly) that no one was home with the kids when my wife and I were out late playing. When I stopped reading COMMs and stopped engaging them at all, they banded together and all reported me for allegedly cheating and stalking and I was banned for a week. Even after that, I was getting threatening messages via G+ from people I'd never met saying they were going to get me fired and ruin me financially.

It's just a game. It's not worth this kind of risk, or putting up with this much grief.


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