The Audball and I went out today to play…REALLY play…more Ingress today.
Some backstory and infill since my previous post on the subject.
As soon as she was done with the tutorial, and had Jarvis patch up her installation, she hit the secluded codebase installation I’d found the night before, and she loaded up on resonators, AP, XM, Portal Shields, and XMP Bursters. We headed out to go tag some portals, because I’d figured out this afternoon how to use the Ingress Intel Map to sniff out unclaimed portals in the vicinity. Turned out there was one a half a click from the house. We jumped in the car and headed out to go stake our claim for our side in the conflict, and as we pulled in the parking lot, we found that we were on opposite factions! As I drove back home, she jumped into a quick google search, where she found it was a fairly common issue. The article she found even had a link where you could get the issue sorted out…eventually. The person posting it had already waited several days, with no luck. A few minutes later, we were home, and found that on the PC, we were both of the same faction. With some head scratching, she signed out of the app on the phone, and signed in again. Problem solved! Away we went, seeking fame and glory and portals and resonators, Oh My!
The next day (Saturday) about 5:30 in the evening, Audrey’s request to “Switch sides” from Enlightened to…Enlightened…went through without a hitch. Unless you count “having your account reset, having to pick a new name, having your inventory wiped, having to re-do the Tutorial, having the Resonators you’d placed “destroyed” by a Resistance player named “Agent_723474″, and having the passcodes you’d previously entered respond with “PLAYER_ALREADY_REDEEMED” to be a “hitch”.
Yeah, us neither.
Initially, it was no big deal. It’s a BETA after all, right? The higher level items she’d had in her inventory she’d be able to replace by the time she needed them, and then some, for sure, so those were no big loss. We could go out that night and more than likely re-place the 16 or so resonators that were destroyed. After blasting through the tutorial in 5 minutes, she tried to choose the name she’d had before. The game client complained “that name is already in use”. Well, duh. We were at home still, so some quick work with Google and we found the Name Change Request Form. In the interim, she picked a new name, and we went out and played more that night. For about 90 minutes or so, we drove around the area around the house with her hacking portals and placing resonators to make up for the ones that the account reset had ‘destroyed’. It was reasonably fun, and it seemed like the biggest setback she’d had was having to re-collect the Portal Keys she’d gotten the night before.
We presumed that her codename would change silently, since there was nothing on the Codename Change Form that indicated otherwise – unlike the warning that the Faction Change form has. That request went through the following day (Sunday) while she was visiting her parents. It went through without a hitch. Yes, that means exactly what you think it does. Now, mind you, the Faction Change form has a BIG HONKIN’ WARNING. “YOUR PROGRESS WILL BE RESET”, while the Name Change form does not have that warning. We even supplied Niantic with the name she wanted to change back to – so, in theory, they could have just reset her name in the database, silently.
Nope. Her account was reset. Again. Her inventory was wiped. Again. She had to re-complete the Tutorial. Again. The resonators she’d placed TWICE now were blown up AGAIN. She still couldn’t use any of the codes that had been published, they still registered as “PLAYER_ALREADY_REDEEMED”. Her Ingress App continued to ask her to pick a name and complete the tutorial every night this week. It only quit asking Thursday night.
So, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing this week at all. That hasn’t really dampened our enthusiasm very much, and we were looking forward to some experimental Ingressing on Thursday, with a Laptop, USB GPS, and Wi-Fi HotSpot set up for mobile access to the Intel Map (which we’ve had no success with – neither of us have been able to find the WiFi Hotspot option under Jelly Bean on our phones…curious).
WEEK TWO GAME PLAY: According to the US Census Bureau, MORE THAN ONE HALF of Americans live in the Suburbs. The “Gameplay” in the suburbs is essentially non-existent. Portals are a mile apart, at best. That means you have to upgrade them to be L3 Portals at a minimum to link them.
There have been grumbles about “what about new players once higher level players have established portals” in the Ingress Community all week. I’m here to say that those worries are completely founded.
“Today” actually started last night. Audball went to see Sudden Uproar
last night at the Gothic with our friend Erin Joiner. I was home, planning our Ingress outing for the day. The other side had made some pretty serious progress on the east side of town, and I figured that would be a nice place for us to blow up a couple of Portals for some AP for Audball. That’s not quite how it worked out, since Erin left something in Audball’s car last night, and we needed to return it to her. We started the day by trekking down to return Erin’s stuff at the south end of the Denver Metro area, and then worked our way north from around Lone Tree to Glendale, and the Ingress Riches promised there.
FIRST STOP: LAT: 39.94107 LONG: -104.979079
Our first stop were two portals just west of the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Buchtel. One portal was at the Post Office that was driven by L2 and L3 resonators (and was thus unassailable by us), and there was a second portal a half block west of there at Buchtel and Monroe streets, which was stocked by guybaxter with 5@L1 and 3@L2 Resonators. Excellent! If Audball and I could knock it down, and she could replace it with 8 resonators for our side, that would be a fair amount of AP for her for knocking down the Resonators, breaking the link, and putting up her own resonators, so we went for it. We got guybaxter’s portal down to just three weak resonators left. Two L2′s and a single L1. We ambled back and forth between the two portals that were about 200 yards/175 meters/3 minutes apart, hacking them every 5-7 minutes hoping that we’d get lucky and pick up some more L1 or L2 XMP Bursters so we could finish the job. With two of us working at it, we’d blown our whole inventory trying to take down ONE low level Portal, and we’d failed. We did get lucky on our very last attempt to hack the Post Office to the east. I picked up a single L1 XMP Burster, and a single L2 XMP Burster. Audball picked up a single L1 Burster. We MIGHT JUST DO THIS!
We went back to the Portal to the west. I stood exactly in between the two weakened L2 Resonators and popped the L2 Burster. It took one L2 Resonator out, and left just a tiny sliver on the other two – one L1 and one L2. I stood on top of the L2 Resonator and popped my one remaining L1 XMP Burster. It took out the L2 Resonator, and left just a tiny sliver of health left on the single remaining L1. Audrey stood directly on it, as directed by the GPS. At this point, she was standing in the middle of the turn lane, so I stood traffic watch while she fired off her last L1 XMP Burster. It was winner take all. The moment of truth. We’d used every XMP Burster we’d collected this week getting ONE Level One Portal down to this tiny sliver of health, and it was down to this one XMP burster that Audball was lucky enough to have just picked up. Audball stood right on the East Resonator. She had just the one XMP Burster left. She tapped her screen, selected FIRE XMP, and…1%. The Resonator stood.
She swore…loud…”You have fucking got to be fucking kidding me! ONE PERCENT!” She’d done ONE PERCENT damage to the Resonator she was standing on top of, and that left that little sliver of health…which meant the portal was still owned by the other side. We failed to take out the simplest of objectives in Ingress after BOTH of us expended our entire arsenal that we’d spent the week stocking up. We were out of inventory, out of options, and out of opportunities to potentially get another burster out of one of the two portals. We’d been there almost 45 minutes dicking around with this, and we’d burnt both portals out. It would be another 4 hours before we’d have an opportunity to hack them again. We’d collected 400AP each and a few low level resonators for our time. We’d gotten no tangible reward for our efforts at least 3 of the 8 “hacking” attempts we’d made on the two portals. If the weather had been worse, we’d not have even gotten that. Battered, but not defeated, we decided to get back in the car and scout out more portals to the north, toward Glendale. With some luck, we’d get an XMP Burster, and we could come back in a few minutes and finish the job.
SECOND STOP: LAT: 39.690174 LONG: -104.942971
By following the edge of an enemy field line we found a cluster of 3 portals in close proximity near Florida and Jackson streets. We parked the car and walked between the two closer portals again. Again, we had TERRIBLE luck getting anything but the nominal 100AP for hacking an enemy portal. I was 0 items for 6 hacks between the two portals when we decided to reposition to hack the third portal in the vicinity from the comfort of the car.
THIRD STOP: LAT: 39.691975 LONG -104.942109
At this point, we were starting to get frustrated at the lack of progress we were making. 100AP per hack means that Audball would have to hack an enemy portal ONE HUNDRED times to reach Access Level 2. That’s equivalent to burning out twenty five portals (which means sitting around waiting for portal cooldowns for up to six hours), and she’d managed to do that with two so far. We were able to hack this portal three times. Neither of us got any items except the portal key. It was now long after dark.
FOURTH STOP: LAT: 39.698439 LONG: -104.936651
A Post office. This is where we discovered that Ingress doesn’t agree on where we are. The parking space closest to the Portal showed me as being 35m away (Can hack) and Audball being 40m away (Cannot hack). Frustrating. We stayed long enough to hack the portal a couple of times while we discussed what to do next. We both got more Resonators, and some L1 XMP Bursters. I also FINALLY reached Access Level 3 after crawling toward it for the better part of 1000 AP.
We decided that a better use of our time would be to relocaate to the Downtown area and hack our friendly portals, which we’d found anecdotally give up more items. We wouldn’t get any AP, but at least we were more likely to stock up on some useful items, since the portals are thick on the ground downtown.
It’s INCREDIBLY HARD to find portals in the suburbs by just roaming around. At this point, we’d been out in the field trying to make some headway for about 3 hours.
FIFTH STOP: LAT: 39.736918 LONG: -104.956853
A quick hack at the Columbine Street Apartments. Neither one of us got anything.
SIXTH “STOP”: LAT: 39.732079 LONG: -104.959552
Successful “drive by” hacks of both “Albedo” (at the listed location) and The Denver Botanical Garden Portal over the course of two loops of the block, thanks to heavy pedestrian traffic to look at the Holiday Lights in the Gardens. I got a L3 Burster out of the deal. We’re going back to see the lights next weekend. (This may be Niantic’s goal…)
SEVENTH STOP: LAT: 39.731362 LONG: -104.961473
We parked at the end of Gaylord Street, and could just barely reach this portal standing near the wall. Or rather, I could. Ingress thought Audball was 5m further away than I was, even when we stood in the same spot. Side note: At this location, we were standing on a dead end street in between two homes whose combined value is 9.01 million dollars.
EIGHTH STOP: LAT: 39.732283 LONG: -104.965847
Finally, some success!
Because I’d attained Access Level 3 at the Post office on Birch Street, I had a stockpile of L3 XMP Bursters to burn here. I had to knock this one down, because after all the stops and hacks and driveby hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks, Audball STILL HAD NO XMP BURSTERS.
I knocked the whole portal and two fields down using only two L3 Bursters, thanks to poor Resonator placement by whoever put the portal up in the first place. I got AP for destroying 8 Resonators, 2 links, and a control field (1424AP). AP that would REALLY have helped Audball, had she had XMP Bursters to use against this portal from ALL THE OTHER STOPS WE MADE. She set up 8 L1 Resonators, and got 1250 AP for it, putting her at about 62% through Access Level One.
At this point, we decided to head to our home area. There may only be 6 or 8 portals there, but at least they’re not somewhere between “halfway across town” and “ALL the way across town” and we could scoot home pretty quickly once the cold set in for the night.
NINTH STOP: LAT: 39.755084 LONG: -104.986167
On the way home, we found an opportunity to hack a friendly portal. We got low level resonators and the Portal key.
TENTH “STOP”: LAT: 39.76429 LONG: -104.994678
Audball was able to hack the Platte Valley Time Vane as we drove by. She got low level Resonators.
ELEVENTH STOP: LAT: 39.912309 LONG: -104.978306
Our first stop in our home neighborhood was the Post office at 119th and Washington. We got a couple of bursters and some Portal Resonators out of it, but no AP, as we own it. At this point, Audball still had about 6300 AP, and was still level 1 after being out “playing” Ingress for ~5 hours.
TWELFTH STOP: LAT: 39.914379 LONG: -104.919091
Enemy Portals Ahoy, Captain! We hustled down to the Wright Farm and Anythink Libraries at 120th and Holly. Those were owned by the other side, and we thought we might have a chance at taking those, since they were stocked with L1 and L2 resonators the last time we’d checked, and I’d managed to pick up L3 along the way, so I had those L3 XMP Bursters that I’d been collecting via Ingress Passcodes that I could finally use, plus one that I’d gotten earlier in the evening. We arrived, and found that the owner had upgraded the two portals with 5 Level 3 Resonators between them since we’d checked them that morning. That made these two portals completely unassailable for us. There was no possible way we could flip them, given that it took our entire arsenal to *not* flip the one portal earlier in the evening, and we flipped the second portal by the luck of me having upgraded to Access Level 3, which opened a new cache of equipment that I could use on the weak L1 portal at Cheeseman Park. There’s no way we could take out L3 Resonators with the tiny sum of L3 bursters I had stored up. So, we resigned ourselves to collecting a measly 100AP per hack attempt before going home for the night, since it was rapidly closing in on 8pm, and we’d been on the road for FIVE HOURS at that point.
THIRTEENTH AND FINAL STOP: LAT 39.922164 LONG: -104.958424
Our final stop was the Post Office on York Street. I upgraded the L1 Resonators to L3′s, and we found we could link to two other local post offices. I made one link, Audball made one link, but we needed keys to link my remote end to her remote end. We did some calculation, and came to the conclusion that even if Audrey made the link (313 AP) and set up the Field between the three Portals (1250AP), she’d STILL not have enough AP to be Access Level 2.
So, we went home bitching about how terrible Niantic’s fucking game design is, and how they don’t understand some REALLY BASIC SHIT about getting players addicted to playing your game, and the don’t seem to understand the most basic “I Want To Play This More” trigger (The hit of Dopamine you get when you “score” in a game).
We drove (and walked) around Denver for 5 hours. Put 40 miles on the car beyond what we would have in just returning Erin’s stuff, and in return, we got…frustration and anger.
As an Alternate Reality Game played on the Internet, with clues and a puzzle to solve, Ingress is PHENOMENAL.
As an AUGMENTED Reality Game that you go out into the world and interact with real places, Ingress blows.
Ingress is expensive. Unless you’re a hipster or hip, worldly businessperson living downtown, a Courier, or a Taxi Driver, you’re going to have to go out (way) of your way to find and interact with Portals. That means *driving*. Driving has a very real cash and environmental cost associated with it. In my case, that cost is about seventeen cents per mile, or 6 miles per dollar in gas.
Ingress is not fun. Boy, there are few things I’d rather do in life than sit in the parking lot of a post office waiting for a fucking timer to count down so I can push some buttons on my phone and get a message telling me that I completely fucking wasted that 5 minutes of my life. Oh. sorry. Did I say wasted my time? I meant to say “YOUR HACKING ATTEMPT PRODUCED NO ITEMS”.
Ingress is not Suburban-Friendly. The US Census Department statistics show that 50% of the US population lived in Suburbia in 2000, and the percentage has been climbing for the last 100 years. Despite that, the VAST majority of clusters of Portals are centered around Downtown Zones. In Suburbia, the existing portals are a mile or more apart, and the scanner range is so small that it makes discovering a portal that isn’t pre-populated on a Post Office or Library absolutely about luck… Add to that the increased time it takes to visit portals that are not walk-friendly, and Ingress loses the appeal for the 150 million Americans living in the suburbs.
Ingress is not friendly to new players. As you can see from our adventures of a Saturday Afternoon, it is pretty well impossible for a new player to make any headway in the game, even when assisted by a player with a higher Access Level. The primary cause of this is the extremely low drop rate of usable items for players. I currently have over SEVENTY L1 and L2 Resonators, but only 5 L1 and L2 XMP Burster.
When a Level One XMP Burster does 15% damage to a Level One XMP Resonator¹, a new player has no hope of flipping even the lowest level Portal they encounter, as it will take (quick calculation²) approximately 33 L1 XMP Bursters to destroy 8 L1 Resonators. If the portal has shields, that number will increase substantially.
XMP Bursters are not currently dropping from Portals at anywhere near the rate that they need to in order to allow new players to have any hope of accomplishing anything in Ingress whatsoever.
XMP Bursters do not do enough damage at low levels to allow new players to have any hope of accomplishing anything in Ingress whatsoever.
Low Level XMP Bursters do PATHETIC Damage against XMP Resonators that are even a single level higher. A single L2 Resonator placed on a portal increases the number of XMP Bursters a new player needs to reduce/flip a portal by at least 22% and potentially much more than that.
Given the tremendous gameplay issues that Ingress currently has, NIANTIC does not seem, on the surface, to understand what makes games fun, and would do well to (re)read Reality is Broken and A Theory of Fun.
Specifically, the folks running Ingress are hoping that I will take my time and money and visit public places, largely at night (because the sun goes down at 5PM) in the cold, in December, and stand around (or sit in my car) for 15 minutes at a time, looking “suspicious” at any time, waiting to push a button on my phone in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some electronic doodad that will put me 1/40th of the way closer to destroying an imaginary portal that my imaginary “enemy” has.
At this point, over the course of one weekend, I have gone from Niantic Fanboy #1 (spending my days answering questions on the ingress-discuss group, registering two ingress-related domains, setting up two G+ pages for Ingress, and evangelising wherever I could) to a gigantic Fuck You, Niantic.
I’m done with Ingress for now. But I believe in Constructive Criticism and leave The Niantic Project with these suggestions.
1) Never, ever, EVER give your player *NOTHING* for taking the time, energy, and effort to hack a Portal, friendly or enemy.
2) Programmatically increase the number of automatically generated portals. Suggestions would include adding Parks, Schools, Churches, Hospitals, and (for GAZILLIONS of portals) Bus Stops. They’re visible in Google Earth, I know you could get on it.
3) Significantly increase the drop rate of low level XMP Bursters to more accurately reflect the number of XMP Bursters required to reduce/recycle a low level Portal. Bursters should be dropping at *at least* a 4:1 rate over Resonators. The challenge should definitely NOT be in “Can I reduce this Portal? (NOPE!)” but in “Do I have enough Resonators to fully stock this portal once I have reduced it?”
4) Increase the damage that low level XMP Bursters do overall. This will make new players more effective against new and experienced players alike.
Overall, I will continue to follow the progress of Ingress on Google Plus and in the Game Discussion Areas, but for those of you who are still hungry for an invite…be warned. Ingress is nowhere near as cool or as fun as the buzz surrounding it makes it out to be at the moment.
¹ You do 15% damage ONLY WHEN YOU ARE STANDING DIRECTLY ON TOP OF IT. If you are not, the damage falls off to 5% or 1% very quickly. If the Resonator is located in an inaccessible area, such as a fenced in area, or inside a building that you cannot access, you will not do 15% with your XMP Burster.
² 28 bursters each to reduce cardinal direction resonators to 10%. NE/NW/SE/SW resonators reduced to 16% by collateral damage (5% from adjacent cardinals, 1% from non-adjacent cardinals). 4 additional bursters triggered over NE/NW/SE/SW Resonators to mop up. (10% to Cardinals, 15% to non Cardinals, remainder cleaned up by 1% Non-Adjacent splash damage) 1 Spare burster “just in case”.