Low XM But More Power Cubes

If you have played Ingress lately, you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot less XM around than usual. For those of you that “just play the game” this may seem unusual.

What is going on with less XM in Ingress is that the story part of the game, that you get if you actually watch those Media items, or if you read the emails or otherwise follow along, is that there is currently an Obsidian Shield creating a worldwide shortage of XM.

The latest update is that some guys did some thing, and now there will be more Power Cubes in Ingress when you are hacking portals.

So, the good news is that at least you can use Power Cubes to refill your XM reserves, even if walking around (or driving to fill XM) isn’t really working like it used to.

What happens next?

ingress power cubes increase

Who knows. It seems that some people, including the folks who make Ingress, really like the whole story and mythology part of the game. For them, these little wrinkles are fun. For those who are just trying to play “normal” Ingress, you can consider them special events that you just have to deal with like they were actually part of the game.

Strategies for dealing with lower XM amounts are now less necessary, so long as you keep hacking and getting those power cubes.

For some of us, we somehow end up stockpiling them without trying very hard, and it’s been nice to have a need to use them other than just burning through them in order to manage Ingress item inventory limits.

If you are the kind of person who already has a lot of Power Cubes, you’ll want to watch your inventory so that this extra high hacking of Power Cubes doesn’t fill up your inventory, especially when hacking lower level portals and Power Cubes.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Playing Ingress While Traveling

Recently, I took a family vacation that allowed me a little bit of time to play Ingress in another city. Playing Ingress in another city near your own town really isn’t that different than playing on your home turf. Hack what you can, attack what you want, link and field, and then when you are done, decide which keys to keep, and which keys to recycle.

However, when you travel farther away, especially if you are gone for a longer period of time, things can be a little different. Here are some tips for playing Ingress on vacation, or while taking a business trip.

Key Management

One of the first things you will find, is that your home keys are not very useful in another city. Chances are you can’t link from Florida to Chicago, or from Cleveland to Seattle without a little planning, and some help clearing blocking links. However, that doesn’t mean your home keys are worthless. After all, you’ll be going back there sooner or later, and starting over from scratch collecting keys isn’t appealing.

Also, there may be some portals that you want to keep alive by recharging. However, distance makes each recharge weaker. How much weaker depends upon your level. One of the only benefits from levels higher than 8 in Ingress is longer distance for recharging. Recently, I was in Florida, as a Level 10 player and recharging portals in Denver came in at just over 51% efficiency. In other words, I needed about two recharges in Florida for every one charge while I’m in Denver.

Fortunately, sorting your keys by distance should keep your local “away” keys separate from your now distant “home” keys. However, while traveling, it is useful to utilized capsules for keeping your keys separate. I find that sorting my home keys into those that I’m just holding on to until I get back from those I intend to use for recharging into two different capsules saves a lot of scrolling and time. It also keeps you from missing an important recharge among all those “not now” keys. Since you can’t recharge keys from inside of a capsule, I find that using a third capsule for my current location keys makes everything run smoothly.

To use the system, put your home keys into two different capsules. One capsule is for dormant keys that you don’t intent to use while you are gone. The second is for the capsules you want to recharge or keep an eye on. When you arrive at your destination, you should have no keys outside of capsules. Now, you can hack and acquire new keys and play, link and field without your home keys getting in the way.

When you feel like recharging, you can, of course, pull out your keys one or two at a time. However, I find that that it is easier to load all the keys I have acquired on vacation or on that business trip into a capsule for temporary storage. Then, unload all the keys from your home recharging capsule. Scroll through and charge what needs charged. Move the keys for any portals that are captured or destroyed into your non-active, home holding capsule. This way, only the keys that need your attention are left. Depending on how many portals you own, and how long you are gone, there may only be a few keys left when you head home.

When you are done recharging, reload all of those home keys back into their capsule and unload all of your current location keys. Now you are ready to play again without having to mix, match, sort, and watch different sets of keys.

Hack Everything When Traveling

Whether you plan to do anything with the keys and portals you get while traveling, be sure to hack absolutely every single portal you can. Unique hacks can add up to give you a gold or platinum Explorer Badge which you may need in order to have enough golds for Level 11 or enough platinum badges for other levels. Likewise, always capture any gray portals, even if it just a single L1 resonator. Those unique captures count toward your Pioneer Badge. And, as a dedicated Ingress player, you should of course, take down any enemy portals that you can based on your time, location, gear, and ability.

Connecting With Ingress Players in a Different City

If you are traveling with family, or your business travel schedule is just to tight for you to really connect with the Ingress community in other town, you can just go about your business. Teammates will never begrudge the help purifying or fielding their city, and the tears of your enemy taste just as sweet in any town.

On the other hand, if you have some free time, you may want to give out a shout in the local comms and see if you can connect with other players. You may be surprised to find out the community is very much NOT the same in every town. Some Ingress areas are very friendly with plenty of cross-faction interaction. Other communities are less friendly. Some are downright unpleasant, and worst of all, some areas are nothing more than the playground for bots. However, Ingress is a social game, and most times, you’ll find at least a few friendly compatriots. Grab a beer with your new comrades, then head out to field up downtown, tear down that enemy field, or just pitch in. Ideally, they’ll do the same when they visit your community.

As always, have fun, no matter where you play Ingress.

Collecting Uniques Isn’t a Picnic – Ingress

Turns out that even though collecting various “uniques” is still likely the best bet for many players to get two more gold Ingress badges, it isn’t necessarily a quick task either. (Update: Playing Ingress on vacation is a good way to rack up some uniques, if you can get away to play.)

Yesterday, I managed to grab about 40 uniques, and squeezed out another 30 unique hacks this morning between dropping off kids and getting to work. Still, that’s a long way to go to get the next 681 needed for a gold Explorer badge. A local player says that there is a 100-ish portal cluster nearby. That might be my next move.

Getting unique captures for a gold Pioneer Badge is even a longer process. There, you need not only new portals, but new enemy portals. Then, you need to have the gear and time to take down those enemy portals and capture them. I know where there are some good enemy portal clusters. Unfortunately, most of those are heavily linked and shielded. Not that I don’t love a good fight, there is just a very big difference between racking up quick captures and taking down a big enemy field.

I guess it’s time to hit the Ingress Intel map and find clusters of Level 4 green portals, hopefully unshielded 🙂

Latest stats:

  • 7,200,758 AP
  • 1,129 / 2,000 Unique Portals Visited
  • 616 / 1,000 Unique Portals Captured

L11 Progress Pictures

 

Level 11 and 4 Gold Badges

On the day that the new levels in Ingress went live, I had enough AP to be Level 11. Unfortunately, I didn’t have all the necessary Ingress badges, so I only jumped to Level 10. I did have all the Silver Badges, and I had two of the four required Gold Badges. However, as I played I realized that unlike the previous levels, just “playing” Ingress wasn’t going to be enough to get to Level 11 any time soon.

Level 11 AP and Badges Requirements

I checked around with my higher level Denver players. Most came to the same conclusion I did. I would have far more AP than necessary for Level 11 by the time I actually got the four gold badges needed to achieve 11. Ironically, according to decodeingress.me, the original required AP for Level 11 was going to be 7,500,000. That might have been a lot more realistic number for your average Ingress player as the point where 4 golds might actually happen.

As it turns out, I’m a fairly balanced player. I have the two “easy” Gold Badges: Recharger, and Guardian. The rest are all Silver except Purifier, and I’m pretty close to getting that one to Silver too. However, that also means that there isn’t one of the badges that I’m much closer to going Gold on either.

Level 11 Badges and AP

The only badge I don’t have is the Seer Badge. Honestly, it took so long for portals to get approved, and at the time, the only meaning for the badges was as trophies, that I just quit submitting portals. That’s too bad, because by now, all 5 of the portals I did submit late last year have been approved.

Targeting Gold

For most of the badges, there is really no way to go after them any more than you already do when you are playing Ingress normally. For example, the gold level Hacker Badge requires 30,000 hacks. Right now, I have 14,885, so that leaves 15,115 more hacks to go.  That’s more than all the hacks I’ve ever made during the entire 5 or 6 months I’ve been playing Ingress. There is simply no way to “hack more” than I already do. If I have Ingress on (most always) and there are portals in range, I hack them. I could deliberately hack a little more, but no matter what, it’s just going to take time.

I could target getting the Gold Seer badge, but with four to six months for portal approval, that’s a pretty long wait for L11. In fact, I am going to start aggressively submitting portals, but I think that a Gold Seer Badge will help a lot more for Level 13, than L11 or L12.

Links and Fields both sound deceptively close. I have 2,517 out of the 5,000 links needed to get a Gold Connector Badge. But, again, there is no way to “force” links. There are either portals that I have keys to or not. True, I’m linking pretty much anything to anywhere instead of carefully creating fields, but that still doesn’t give me a way to just go out an get 1,500 more links. The same is true of the Mind Controller badge where I have 1,385 out of 2,000 necessary fields. Again, I’ll field anything now rather than trying to create bigger, or more nested fields, but without the portals to link and field, it’s just going to take time.

Getting Gold Badges Faster

There is still a way to maybe force the issue of two more gold badges faster. The added bonus, is that along the way, I’ll be moving forward toward the other badges too. After all, chances are that I’ll have 8,400,000 AP much quicker than I’ll have 6 Gold Badges that you need for L12. (Fortunately, I already have a Platinum Recharger, so L13 is just one more Gold).

Two badges require “unique” portals. The Explorer Gold Badge requires 2,000 hacks on unique portals, and the Pioneer Gold Badge requires 1,000 captures of unique portals. In this case, unique, means a portal that you haven’t hacked or captured before.

As of this morning, I had 1,140 unique hacks and 606 unique captures. That means I need 860 for a Gold Explorer and 394 unique captures for a Gold Pioneer. Those aren’t close by any means, but unlike the other badges, these may be ones that you can push ahead a bit.

If you are like me, you play Ingress in a fairly standard area. That area may be big or small, but it’s your “home” area and you defend, attack, field and link there most of all. That’s awesome, and you are building up tons of AP, and resonators deployed, and resonators destroyed, and so on, but by now, almost none of them are unique.

Fortunately, I live in a decent size metro area, and I have my own car, so that means all I need really push those two badges ahead is to play in some new areas. Thanks to some help from local players, I think I have 300 unique hacks that I can get in some fairly tight clumps. That’s without even checking the map. The 40 new uniques I got this morning happened to be in a beautiful L8 farm that I never made it to, so I stocked up on gear, and got some hacks.

The captures will be more difficult. Ideally, I’ll look for places that the other side has recently captured but doesn’t intend on keeping. Those areas are often left with one resonator or low-level resonators without shields. Otherwise, the newer more powerful shields make captures and resonator destruction more costly.