Ingress Lag Getting Awful

Ingress has never been known as the speediest of games. In all fairness, a lot of people play Ingress simultaneously from all over the world. Keeping it running is an impressive feet. Still, sometimes, it seems like Niantic puts exactly ZERO EFFORT into speeding the game up or making it more efficient so that all that traffic can be handled. Instead, developers seem hell bent on adding more bandwidth hogging animations or cosmetic interface changes. These days, deploying a portal can take 90 seconds or longer. Worse, sometimes, the game will just animate while doing nothing. And, yet again, it seems in version 1.72.1 that not only was no effort made at making the game faster and more playable, but it seems slower than ever.

Why you no want people to enjoy playing your game?

scumbag steve ingress

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Jamba Juice Portals Gone in Ingress

Well, isn’t that a bummer. After the bonus of adding new Ingress badges, there was the slight let down of a mass portal removal.

JambajuiceUntil this week, all Jamba Juices, regardless of location or significance, were portals inside of Ingress. Even Jamba Juice locations that had moved or gone out of business were frequently still on the map. But, earlier this week, all of the Jamba Juice portals just vanished. It would seem that the good folks at Jamba Juice decided that having multiple people stand outside of their stores hacking portals and building links wasn’t a useful add-on to their business after all. My guess is that they did not renew their promotional agreement with Niantic and so their portals were removed. I doubt they’ll see much drop in traffic.

If Niantic wants to use partnerships to help fund Ingress, it will probably need to be a little more creative or involved in the process. One could imagine if everyone of those Jamba Juice locations had a sign in the window offering a discount if you showed them your scanner, that might have increased sales and visits. Or, if like the Hint Water out there, if Jamba Juice offered cards with passcodes on them free to anyone who requested them, with any purchase, of course.

Just being a portal isn’t likely to be worthwhile to anyone, unless the location is one that would be a great hit, if only you could draw traffic to it. Out of the way museums, or tourist attractions would fit this bill. Of course, they could qualify as portals for free, so again without some sort of additional incentive, one could see why this scheme is failing.

What would be really great would be a way that you could, non-intrusively, offer a deal or special when your portal was hacked. Not a pop-up, or something that would interrupt the game, but a COMM message offering buy one get one free burritos might really be something that would work. Or, maybe something like, “Hey it’s freezing out there. How about a cup of coffee, free with purchase of a sandwich?”

For now, of course, these monetization offers are nothing more than alpha tests of a concept. All of Niantic’s money currently comes from Google, who has a history of funding things like this knowing that maybe the knowledge gained over the long-term is more valuable than a few million bucks.

For those of you using a Jamba Juice location as your Guardian Portal, my condolences.

Half-Assed Ingress

For a half-month, we’ve gotten half-assed Ingress play, at least in my area. We talked about the (soon to be ending) second anniversary rules before, and how I don’t think that the changes produced anything close to what they were supposed to accomplish. After playing with them for some time, while the rule changes did perhaps enable the take down of some strongholds, what they really did was disincentive rebuilding.

Don’t Build 8s

In the area where I primarily play (Denver) there are both Resistance and Enlightened strongholds. Resistance seems to control downtown Denver pretty well, mostly because there are more of them who work down there, plus a terminator-level player who works nights. There are plenty of areas outside of downtown where Enlightened dominates, the most prominent of which is the city of Berthoud where no blue portal stands for long.

Featured image

Where are all the Level 8 portals? Check back next week after half-effort Ingress is over 🙂

In both areas, there are semi-standing Level 8 farms where the faction build, and quickly rebuild L8 portals that can be farmed for gear. Typically, a player or two from the opposing faction will show up, burn the farm to the ground, peg the portals with a single resonator or two, and then move on. The players from the original faction, will swarm down and quickly take back the portals, and over the next day or two, players will provide their 8s and rebuild the farm. In fact, in both factions, if it takes more than a day or two to get the portals back to L8, there starts to be some hand wringing about how, and how fast, the farm will be rebuilt.

However, with the half-month or so of 2nd Anniversary rules, those farms have gone fallow. No, the Enlightened doesn’t have many portals downtown, and Berthoud isn’t blue, but neither has seen Level 8 since the anniversary rules went into effect.

I’ve wrote before about whether or not anyone at Ninantic plays Ingress enough to truly understand the mechanics of their creation. In particular, I wonder if they realize that the most scarce resource in all of Ingress is the Level 8 XMP Burster. Certainly some items are more rare, but scarcity is the combination of both the rarity of the item and how quickly it is used, and by how many people. Once you reach L8, there is nothing you are more likely to run out of than L8 bursters.

As a result, when the L8 farms in downtown Denver and in Berthoud went down, no one bothered to rebuild them. Why give your opponents access to the one thing that you both need more of in the game? With triple bursters going to dirty hacks, not only did the farms not get rebuild, but no one cared. There were no messages about getting it back up and running.

Theoretically, this may be what Ninatic had in mind. The idea is that now, an opposing faction could get a toehold. That may be true in other areas, but here in the Denver Metro area, it just means we did without farms. For me, it means that I was very careful in what I attacked, and made more use of L7 and L6 bursters, eliminating only the portals that I needed for a link or field instead of clearing out all the portals in an area. My opponents in those areas do the same. There are no new strongholds, there are no newly ascendant players. Just like always, there are some new 8s around, and there are some 8s who aren’t around anymore, but most of us are just kind of sort of building and attacking.

I suspect that will all change once the temporary rules expire.

Oh, look, there’s a message from my faction now about when we should rebuild the farm. See you next week, for full-contact Ingress 🙂

Ingress Portal Rejections

One of the most frustrating aspects of playing Ingress is the process of submitting portals. On the one hand, it is a remarkable game feature that lets anyone, anywhere, submit portals that are then incorporated into a game played by millions of people from all over the world. In other words, there is no reason any area can’t have portals no matter how far they are from someone who works at Ingress.

On the other hand, to avoid Ingress cheaters, and other people who don’t care about the game as much as they care about their own little desires (spoofers, and bot runners are other examples) there has to be a review process to make sure that submitted portals are both legitimate and worthwhile. However, with players all over the world, submissions are numerous. As a result it takes a very long time to get submitted portals reviewed and approved. Last time I checked in with team members, it was taking nearly four months to have portals reviewed.

Check out my Credit Karma review.

The long review period in itself acts as a bit of a deterrent to Ingress cheats. After all, if it’s going to take four months before any submitted portal goes live, there is no way to submit a portal quickly and use it to build a BAF (Big Ass Field) or a flash 8 portal to gear up with. In fact, many players who submit couch portals, or other portals, aren’t the ones who end up using them. After four months, players quit, circumstances change, and so on.

The long review period also causes considerable frustration. Players attempting to get the Seer Badge, for example, not only have to find new portal candidates, they have to wait a very long time to get them approved. If you have zero submitted portals today, no matter how many amazing portal candidates you find, you will not earn the Bronze Seer Badge for at least four months. In a game with mostly real-time feedback this is hard to put up with.

Even more frustrating is when a portal you submitted, and then waited months to be reviewed, is rejected. Even more frustrating that that is that in order to make the portal review process move along even at the current glacial speed, time can’t be spent by the reviewer to tell you WHY your portal was rejected, other than the form letter text that the submitted portal doesn’t meet the requirements. And, even more frustrating than that is when a portal you submit is rejected while a very similar portal is accepted.

Keep in mind that when the game was starting more portals was a good thing. These days, some areas are choked with portals. So, what was once a good portal is not a good portal now. Cheeseman Park in Denver, Colorado, for example, is filled with portals that are memorial benches. A memorial bench, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, is nothing more than a regular park bench that someone donated money to put a little plaque on. These benches are in no way cultural. In fact, they are routinely ignored. However, they have been there for a long time, and are fun local place to play Ingress.

Rejected Ingress Portal

Still, it is a little hard to swallow when I submitted a Memorial Garden that is,

a) bigger than a bench,

b) has a bigger, more impressive sign than the bench, and

c) is in an area with just a few portals existing.

If you ever submit a portal that you know SHOULD be accepted, there is an appeal process. Don’t be a jerk though. The portal review and appeal process is already choked enough without belligerent chuckleheads insisting that their portals must be approved. I’m not appealing this portal rejection. After all, I know that it is in no way culturally significant, and while I want my Bronze Seer Badge to make the last lock on my stats go away, I know that it’s a judgement call. Now, if a large, beloved local statue was rejected, that would be different.

In the end, if you want your Seer Badge, of any color, start submitting portals now. You’ll need to think of them the same way you think of Guardian Portals. Just having the one and hoping it makes it is not an intelligent strategy. Submit everything you find, everywhere you go. Eventually, even though it make take months, or even a year or more, you’ll get your badges, and have plenty of new portals to play with as well.

Almost to Level 11

I realized several months ago when the new higher Ingress levels came out that I was going to have a lot more AP than the minimum for getting to Level 10 and then eventually Level 11. Of course, back when I started playing Ingress, Level 8 was the highest level and the badges weren’t really for anything other than vanity. As a result, I never focused on doing the things that counted toward badges.

Just the things I did playing the game counted toward getting, of course. I blew up enemy portals when they were in my way, too big, too close, or just on the way when I had some free time available to play. I also deployed resonators in order to build my own portals, linked portals to turn the skies blue, and so on. But, in the end, badges came without any effort or knowledge on my part. I remember getting the Gold Guardian badge one day and then looking it up to figure out why I got it. (I capture and keep a lot of portals around my home and work. One of them lasted 20 days. I didn’t even try.)

The one thing I had going for me was that I didn’t like the idea of my portals dying for no reason. That is, I didn’t let portals decay. I started by recharging anything that was sentimental or otherwise important to me. Then, I’d charge whatever I needed to keep up my fields or links. I’d charge portals that I knew were particularly irksome to other players, and finally, I’d charge anything that was about to die. I’d leave my scanner on when I drove places. At red lights, I’d recharge with the XM I collected on the trip. I didn’t save everything, of course, but I did save a lot. As a result, the first ever Platinum Badge I got was the Recharger Badge. Now, I have the Onyx Recharger Badge. Currently, I’m sitting on 28,246,948 XM recharged.

onyx recharger badge

The point is that I got that badge just because that was how I played. Other badges came too. I basically got the 6 Silver Badges before the higher levels came out. As I mentioned, the Recharger and Gaurdian badges were already Gold before I had to bother “working” at it. Ironically, my first effort to actually, deliberately go get Gold Badges didn’t work out before my next badge just kind of came to me. My Mind Controller Badge went gold, and while I certainly was aware of it happening, I didn’t necessarily force it the way I have my quest for unique captures and unique hacks.

Unfortunately, as a freelance writer that works from home, summer is not the most productive Ingress time for me. While working from home usually affords one some flexibility in Ingress time, watching kids on summer break while also trying to maintain quantity and quality of work does not. As a result, I’m still just Level 10 as the middle of August approaches. However, Level 11 is close at hand (I’ll have it in a single day if I’m not already there once the kids go back to school.) Even more interesting, it that by playing in the small spurts I’m able to put together, me and my over-sized L10 AP are actually very close to Level 12 as well. I’m less than 50 unique hacks from Gold Explorer, 51 unique captures from Gold Pioneer, and 1,100 links from Gold Connector. So, as fall rolls around, it looks like I’ll be L12 very soon.

Current Status:

  • 10,666,439 AP
  • 10 Silver Badges
  • 3 Gold Badges
  • 1,966 of 2,000 Unique HACKS for Gold Explorer
  • 949 of 1,000 Unique Captures for Gold Pioneer
  • 3,902 of 5,000 links for Gold Connector

Basically, any one of the Golds above gives me Level 11.

Two more golds gives me Level 12 (I already have enough AP for that.)

For Level 13 I need another 3,000,000 million AP and one more gold and one more platinum. I seems like that might be the level where my AP needs match up more closely with my badge needs, unless I get lucky with a Guardian portal hitting 90 days.

Ingress Is Addictive

Wow. This blog ended up neglected rather quickly.

The reason?

Ingress!

Ingress Addiction

Like all addictions, Ingress starts out as just recreation, something you do every once and awhile. Pretty soon, you’re playing every day. Then, you’re neglecting friends and family in order to hack one more portal.

I kid, but Ingress is definitely habit forming, for certain people.

One of the things that makes Ingress so addicting is the constant state of flux the game is in. One of the common complaints from certain types of players is that there is really no way to play a reasonable defense against anything but low-level players. A Level 6 player with a pocket full of bursters, a handful of power cubes, and a willingness to stand there can blow away a fully shielded Level 8 portal in a few minutes. That means that “your” portals are constantly being neutralized, which means you have to go out and retake those portals. If you had built control fields around those portals, you have to reconstruct those as well.

Since Ingress is played in the real world, that means getting to your portals via car, bus, bike or foot, doing your activities, and then returning home or to work, or whatever. That can add up to a rather big time commitment without you realizing it, and that’s before you go do anything new or offensive in nature.

The more you play, the more you can do. The more you can do, the more you want to do. The more you do, the higher your level. The higher your level the more you can affect the game. The more you can affect the game, the more you feel you should/could/would do.

The genius of Ingress is that you can play for just a minute or two, or given the willpower and free time, a day or two. The whole world is your game board, and new players come and go continuously. Just when you think you’ve dominated all the players into leaving your home turf alone, along come some high level players from another part of town, attracted by your grown control fields and concentration of blue (or green) portals. 

Even trickier are players leveling up and growing in strength. That new Level 2 player who used every bit of gear they had without being able to take down your shielded Level 7 portal as you remotely recharged it, is a Level 7 player hammering your guardian portals with piles of L7 bursters and a stack of power cubes. 

In the end, “one more portal,” is the call of the Ingress addict, and I find myself saying it more, and more, every day.

Ingress Badges

Badges? Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Ok, so one of the things that Ingress has for you to achieve, besides just leveling up, are various badges you can earn. Various Ingress badges have different names and mechanisms for achieving them. Once you get the badge, you can earn higher versions of each badge. Before you earn the badge, your agent screen just displays a lock. There used to only be nine Ingress badges, but when I looked at my agent screen today (to see how much more AP I need to get to Level 8) I noticed that there are ten badge spots now, the final one is MORE and it shows the extra badges when pressed.

Here’s a screen shot from when I was Level 6, when there were only 9 total badges.

ingress badges screenshot

Old badges screen on Ingress

 

You see the locks are things I haven’t earned yet. The fist badge is the Guardian badge which you earn for holding a portal for more than 3 days. That particular version is the one for holding a portal for 10 days. There are others for 20 days, 90 days, and 150 days. Pretty much all the badges work this way. You can click on any of the badges (including the locks) to show what they are and how much you need to earn them.

Types of Ingress Badges

There are 10 badges now, as of January 10th, 2014, with a MORE button to show the extra badges. Here is a list of types of Ingress badges and the minimums needed to earn them.

  • Founders – Reach Level 5 before mid-December
  • Guardian – Hold a portal for at least three days
  • Hacker – Hack at least 2000 portals
  • Builder – Deploy at least 2000 resonators
  • Connector – Link at least 50 portals
  • Explorer – Visit and hack at least 100 distinct portals
  • Purifier – Destroy at least 2000 enemy resonators
  • Seer – Submit 10 new portals that are accepted.

New Ingress Badges

The two newest Ingress badges are Liberator – Capture at least 100 portals, and Pioneer – Capture at least 20 distinct portals.

Ironically, I still don’t have two of the original Ingress badges (Purifier and Seer) but I already qualified for the first level of both Liberator and Pioneer before I even knew they existed. Here’s a shot of my Agent panel today. Just about 160,000 to go for Level 8!

newest ingress badges picture

Here are my current badges.

Supposedly, the developers of Ingress have several updates in the works, including the possibility of higher levels beyond Level 8, which is currently the maximum. Since some agents already have 20 million AP, or more, they would presumably qualify for higher levels immediately, unless the way leveling up is going to change for higher levels as well.

Either way, it’s nice to see the game is still moving forward.