New Badges Reduce Importance of Guardian Badge

Once upon a time, just a few months ago, the fastest way to higher levels, some would say the only practical way to high levels, was to get Platinum Recharger, and Platinum Guardian badges.

You see, getting Gold level badges isn’t easy. I myself had to spend a fair amount of time chasing down unique portals, and then wait while I hacked and linked everything to finally collect the four gold badges necessary for Level 11, long after I had enough AP for Level 13. However, those badges are definitely doable for anyone playing the game seriously. More importantly, one could actually focus and move forward on getting those badges within a reasonable time frame.

Platinum Badges Ingress

But, once you start talking about Platinum Badges, the requirements start getting very, very big indeed. The kind of big that could take months, or even years, even with the most diligent playing. Consider this, I’m Level 14 now (more on that in a minute) and have been Level 8 for about one year. I’ve been playing overall since fall of 2013. I did cut way back on playing for three months last summer, because I’m a freelance writer, and work at home dad, which means when school is out, finding work time means using up Ingress time.

Even if we leave out that three months of summer, I’ve been playing pretty consistently, though not manically, for a year. In that time, I have hacked 32,448 portals. That’s enough portals for Gold, but to get the Platinum Hacker Badge, I would need to hack not double that, but over triple that. In other words, if it took me a year to get 30,000 hacks, the same pace would take over three years for me to get the platinum. It takes 10,000 uniques to get Platinum Explorer. I don’t think there are 10,000 portals in all of Colorado. I’d literally have to travel to get the Platinum.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course. I think Platinum should be hard to achieve. I think having Platinum Badges should show your long-term, or very hard core, commitment to the game. The catch is, however, if you want to get to Level 13, you need one of those Platinum Badges.

Recharger Platinum Level 13

For me, the easiest Platinum Badge was Recharger. I got it without really trying to do anything other than keep some portals and fields up. For a while, I dominated a small stretch of Denver, and took pride in keeping it blue and linked. The only way that stays up is if you keep recharging the portals. That, plus, I use a technique where I keep my scanner running while I drive to fill up with XM, and then recharge portals while at red lights, or whatever. (Do not play Ingress while driving, but there is nothing wrong with playing while stopped.) Today, I have over 45 million in recharged XM, almost enough for double black. Long story short, having one Platinum Badge was never a barrier to Level 13 for me.

recharger

Level 14 Two Platinum Badges

Which, brings us to Level 14, Guardian hunting, and 2 Platinum Badges.

In order to reach Level 14 you need two Platinum Badges. As I mentioned above, getting a Platinum Badge requires either years of play, or many, many long days playing Ingress. The one way to get another Platinum badge without losing your job and family was to get the Guardian Badge.

The Guardian is kind of a weird badge for Ingress. If you’ve been playing for very long, you know that Ingress isn’t a very defensive game. While a field of shield portals can be difficult and time consuming to bring down, especially if they are being recharged during the attack, a single portal really has no chance against a player that wants to bring it down. Thus, the Guardian Badge is less about you guarding anything and more about you hiding something, and remembering to recharge it.

There are two kinds of people. Players who “ended up” with a Guardian because for some reason it never got taken down, and those who deliberately sought out Guardians by going out into the boonies or setting up other difficult to reach portals.

Anyone “going for Guardian” will try and find out of the way portals. Many look for those where maybe only one carrier even has service, or better yet, maybe a portal where you would need special equipment like signal boosters, or even a satellite phone. Once established, you keep recharging and hope nobody notices it, and you don’t forget to charge it. Many a guardian was lost during last year’s “virus” thing where portal decay went faster.

I had a portal inside the Denver Botanic Gardens, a not very popular attraction with an entrance fee. It made it to Day 87. I don’t know if it was coincidence or if someone deliberately went in and got it. I also had a Guardian in a not remote area, but some distance from main roads, unlinked, and not near any other portals. In other words, you probably wouldn’t happen across it without deliberately going there. It was taken down on Day 89 by deliberate Guardian hunting.

Unlike many others I have no problem with Guardian hunting. It’s just part of the game, but until recently, killing a Guardian also meant killing your ability to move up levels. No Platinum Guardian, no Level 14.

New Badges Ingress

To this day, I still do not have a Platinum Guardian Badge. However, thanks to the new Ingress badges, I am already Level 14. In fact, I was one of those that got a higher level “for free” thanks to the Innovator Badge. Since I was Level 13 (AP + 7 Golds + Platinum Recharger) on the day Innovator Badges were awarded, I got the Innovator Platinum, and Level 14. Without it, I’d be Level 13 with 18+ million AP.

pioneer badge

But, the Innovator badge was a one shot deal, and for Level 15, and for everyone else who got Gold or lower Innovator, there was still the need to get that pesky 90 Guardian Portal, a bummer of a goal, because each time you lose it, you just have to wait. You can’t play any harder to make days pass faster.

Enter Trekker and Engineer badges. The Trekker badge, in particular, can be a savior for long-time players. Since Distance Walked has been tracked from the beginning, players get credit for the whole time they have been playing Ingress. At last check, I’ve got 869 km just by playing normally. In other words, when I hit 24,000,000 AP, if I don’t have a Platinum Guardian, all I have to do is turn on my scanner and start walking. Heck, I might hit 1,000 km naturally just by playing enough to get the 24 million in AP.

Engineer is further away for me, of course, because it’s a new stat. But, for players who are just now Level 4, plugging away for the AP to get to Level 8, and then one day trying to make enough Golds for Level 11 and needing a few Platinum for higher Ingress levels, well, Engineer might just be tantilizing close.

Either way, the days of desperately needing a Guardian Badge to achieve higher levels is gone. And, that may have done more to put an end to the drama of Guardian hunting than eliminating the data about when a portal was captured from the scanner. Whether they find my 70-something Guardian in the next 20 days or not is irrelevant. I’ve got plenty of ways to make Level 15 now, once I get the AP, that is.

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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 🙂

Temporary Ingress Anniversary Rules

In an effort to keep Ingress “fresh”, Niantic likes to make temporary adjustments to the rules. Sometimes, it makes the effort to build in something to the Ingress story in order to justify the game changes. For example, it claimed that someone created a virus that affected portals when it made the change to faster decay rates. Sometimes, it just announces new rules, as with the latest Second Anniversary Rules.

Ingress 2nd Anniversary Rules

ingress anniversary rulesThe new rules are simple enough. First, for two weeks, everyone gets double AP points for everything they do including recharging (20 AP instead of 10), linking and fielding. If you are an under Level 8 agent, looking to move up, this is great news. In my experience, most agents find the badges the limiting factor for higher Ingress levels, so it really doesn’t mean much to the over 8s.

You do get a new badge if you are over level 3, or something like that by the 2nd anniversary. So, that’s fun digital swag, if nothing else.

In addition, the rules were changed to give more resonators from friendly portals, and more Xmps (weapons) from enemy portals.

Hack output of the Portal Network has also been boosted:
3X more Resonators to help Agents upgrade Portals
3X more Xmps from enemy Portals to help Agents reclaim strategic Cells
3X more Rare Heat Sinks and Multi-hacks to help Agents replenish inventory

Every rule change comes with plenty of agents complaining about the new rule change, and that leads to plenty of agents telling those agents to shut up and quit complaining. However, what I find most fascinating is that Niantic never seems to get what it wants from the rules changes it makes. It’s almost like they don’t have any developers who actually play the game.

For example, the change to xmp hack output is to “help agents reclaim strategic cells,” while the boost to friendly hack output is to “help agents upgrade portals.” Although, anyone who actually plays the game knows that these changes will do no such thing.

Upgrading portals requires the ability to deploy additional higher level resonators, not having more of them in stock. No matter how many L8 resonators I have, I can’t put more than one on a portal. Even a Level 5 player only gets to deploy 2 L5 resonators, so what exactly will he upgrade with his huge new stock of 3x hacked resos?

I’m not sure how MORE of whatever reso gets hacked out of a portal are going to help. In fact, the higher level resonators are actually pretty easy to keep in stock because so few can be deployed on each portal. For example, you can only deploy one L7 reso on a portal, so having just 50 of them means the ability build or upgrade 50 portals, without a single hack to replenish them. I throw a L8 reso on every portal I walk by whether I care about it or not, just to help out the team. But, unless I go days without farming, I never run out of them.

I do build relatively frequently, and sometimes many portals at once, but it is rare for me to build or upgrade 50 portals in a row.I often run out of L4 resonators (I build L5 portals by myself, so I have to remember to build a L4 portal on purpose, or hack after deploying the 5s, to hack any L4 resonators.) Other players with the ability also build L5 portals at minimum, so you CAN run out of L4 resos. Of course, there are always 3s, 2s, and 1s to fill out the slots.

The actual result of the higher reso hack is only that I’m recycling many more resonators than ever before.

The higher reso hack, makes the higher output of heat sinks and multi-hacks almost comical. You can only put heat sinks and multi-hacks on friendly portals. But, those portals will already output 3x resonators so quickly that you will be forced to recycle them frequently. I recycle resos in batches of 50 to keep my inventory down. Plus, portals already gave out more resos than xmps. If you burned out a farm loaded with multi-hacks and heat sinks in order to get a stockpile of weapons, you would be recycling resos in batches of 100.

 

In contrast, going through xmps is very common. It can take 10+ L8 bursters to take down a shielded and linked portal. So, running out of XMPs is very likely. In fact, the only agents sitting on large piles of XMPs are those who have recently burned out a large farm, or those who don’t really attack much. Because of this, the higher hack output from enemy portals is actually the more desirable of the two changes. In fact, I now leave enemy L8 portals nearby untouched, so I can hack them for more XMPs. Some agents even used flipcards to get enemy L8 portals to hack.

I’m not sure that Niantic actually understood this dynamic when they implemented these rule changes. This isn’t a complaint or anything. Frankly other than being less compelled to attack every L8 enemy portal I see, and recycling a lot more, these rule changes mean pretty much nothing to me. I suppose the higher AP is a big boost to lower level players, but since I’m 600-ish hacks away from the Gold Hacker Badge and Level 13, with 3,000,000 AP to spare, I couldn’t care less.

It’s, just that it would be nice if it seemed like the guys developing the game actually understood it well enough to make it do what they wanted it to do.