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.

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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.

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.

Why You Should Recharge Other Player’s Portals – Ingress

When I first started playing Ingress, I learned that the one thing you want to do is level up fast in Ingress. Anyone of any level can hack a portal and get some equipment. Each hack is worth some AP, which helps you level up. Then, you find empty portals and build them out. Fully building out a portal is worth a lot of AP. You get 125 AP for each resonator you deploy (8 x 125 = 1,000 AP), then you get a bonus for fully filling in the portal, and you can get another 313 AP for every link you build. Plus, your name goes where it says “Owner” of the portal, which is cool too.

Higher level players will often go through and area and attack the other team’s portals. Often, they’ll leave behind one or two fully loaded portals that they used to build links and control fields. Then, they’ll leave other portals behind either empty, (so newer players can use the above technique to level up faster). Sometimes, they’ll leave behind a portal with just one or two high-level resonators in them. If it isn’t their home area, these portals will decay over time and eventually revert to empty.

How Recharging Team Portals Helps You

recharge-portal-ingress

Recharge those high-level resonators now! Then, drop your highest level resonator in that empty slot and upgrade that Level 3 if you can. Voila! High level goodies all day long from hacking this portal.

My initial conclusion upon figuring out the above was that it benefited me more to let other player’s portals decay away to blank so that I could “own” them and fill them all the way out. After all, I don’t really care about who is winning the worldwide score and that is the only way someone else having a control field benefits me. And, since this is my backyard, and I’ll be doing all the work, shouldn’t I be getting all the credit?

Unfortunately, this is rather short-sighted.

First, higher level resonators are harder to destroy, so every Level 7 or Level 8 resonator on a portal makes for better portal defense, especially if those opponents are Level 8 players. That isn’t to say they can’t be destroyed, but it can be the difference between a Level 8 player marching through your entire area and destroying every single portal, and just a few areas getting hammered before they move on.

Secondly, and more importantly, is that higher level equipment comes from higher level portals.

Hey, check out my articles about credit karma here.

To encourage the “social” aspect of the game, each player is limited to how many of each level of resonator he or she can put on a portal. So, for example, as I write this, I am a Level 6 player. The best portal I can build is one with the following configuration:

  • 2 Level 6 Resonators
  • 2 Level 5 Resonators
  • 4 Level 4 Resonators

That adds up to a Level 4 portal. It also means that I don’t get high level XMP Blasters or Resonators as often from hacking this portal versus higher level portals. This really matters at Level 5 and 6 because I can attack a Level 8 portal with defenses and as long as I’m close and using Level 6 XMP blasters I can almost always win this battle, even if it takes a power cube or two. However, this gets harder with Level 5 blasters and uses up severl power cubes. Worse, if the player is active and notices the alert, he/she can remotely recharge the portal as fast (faster?) than I can take it down. That wastes a lot of blasters and power cubes for nothing.

However, if I find a portal with a couple of Level 7 resonators on it, and I keep those charged up, then I can have a portal like this:

  • 2 Level 7 Resonators
  • 2 Level 6 Resonators
  • 2 Level 5 Resonators
  • 2 Level 4 Resonators

That’s a higher level portal and it will give higher-level stuff more often. If this is in my backyard, then I can get better stuff more frequently, and then I can take down those enemy portals that are bugging me without draining all my cubes and resonators.

Well, now, who cares whose name is on the portal? Isn’t what the portal can do for you more important?

So, when you find portals with high level resonators in your home area, nurture those portals. Use the XM laying around to recharge them every time you go by. If you’re lucky, those portals will stay there for a long time generating high-level stuff for you to use as you level up. When someone takes them down, rebuild and fill them out, but keep those high ones around for as long as you can.

Can’t Defend Portals in Ingress

There are a lot of players who complain about the game mechanics of Ingress. By and large, I’ve tried to ignore such things because,

a) I’m not really that into whining

b) I haven’t been playing long enough to really know what does and doesn’t work

c) I like the game and I don’t want it ruined for me… even if I figure it out and it gets ruined down the line.

However, after this weekend, I feel like I can comment on one problem people frequently note in Ingress. You see, on Friday afternoon, a certain player came through the area where I play and systematically destroyed every one of the portals in the area. It would be interesting if there were a way to play a defensive strategy too, but I’ll just go out and knock down what is there and the rebuild them on Monday.

You Can’t Defend Portals Well in Ingress

Defend Portals Ingress

One of the complaints I hear from the various boards and Google+ pages and communities is that you can’t really defend portals in Ingress. Sure, you can install shields, and some weapons, but the truth is that if someone (who isn’t below Level 3) wants to take down your portal, they can, no matter how well it is defended. This is true even if you are Level 8 and you built a full-Level 8 portal with full defenses and the other player is Level 5, or even 4.

When you attack a portal, you use an XMP blaster. It’s a radius weapon that takes out a percentage of each resonator attached to the portal. Fire enough times, and the portal will be defeated, that’s it. The only limitations are how many XMP blasters you have, and how much XM you have.

If you are not familiar with Ingress, XM is basically the same thing as Hit Points in other games, or the amount of “Life” you have in video games. In Ingress, however, you cannot die. If you have too little XM, then you cannot do things because everything costs some amount of XM in order to be able to do it. This does mean that if you run out of XM, then you cannot keep firing your blasters. More on this in a second.

XMP blasters are something you pick up by “Hacking” portals, whether your side’s or the other side’s. Sometimes you don’t get anything from the opposing side portals, but you do at least half the time. XMP blasters are very common thing to receive whenever your hack a portal, so they are not hard to come by. After playing for a few days, assuming you aren’t firing them as you get them, and assuming you are playing in an area with a reasonable density of portals, you probably have dozens of XMP blasters.

As with everything in Ingress, you can only fire blasters equal to or lower than your level. So, if you are a Level 5 player, you can fire Level 5 and less blasters. That does not mean that you can’t pick up and keep higher level blasters. So, as you go along hacking portals, you are also building up an arsenal of higher level weapons for the day you achieve that level.

When you decide to destroy a portal, you simply get close to it and start firing your weapons. The portal will defend itself, but that isn’t necessarily very harmful. Eventually, if the portal is well enough defended, or if you are trying too low of weapons, you will run out of XM. At this point your attack is over… except…

Running Out of XM While Attacking Portals

The trick is that XM is all over the place. There are small amounts just laying on the roads. I leave my scanner open while I drive around (I don’t play, obviously, just leave it running) to sweep up stray XM as I go from one place to another. Second, portals give off big pools of XM around them. So, to reload, you just walk, bike, or drive over the next portal. This makes certain portals more susceptible to defeat than others.

Imagine you are attacking a portal that has numerous other portals around it. Refilling on XM is as simple as wandering over near another portal and picking up XM then returning to finish the portal off. If you are driving or biking, this can be even easier. Portals with parking lots, or places to pull over are particular susceptible to the attacker driving around the block to another portal and returning.

Theoretically, you get notified when your portals are under attack, but there is a significant delay. Unless the attacker had to take time to refill his XM, chances are the portal if finished by the time you know about it. Even if not, recharging portals doesn’t happen as quickly as a Level 6 blaster takes them down.

Does It Matter That You Can’t Defend a Portal

If it sounds like Ingress is tilted toward offense and destruction, it is, but not to the detriment of the game.

First, constructing a new portal is just as easy. You can deploy all 8 resonators in less than 2 minutes, link a portal in a minute, and if your links make a triangle, a control field is automatically created. Making higher level portals takes more people, but no more work.

Second, while destroying a single portal is a simple task, taking down several can be more difficult. If it takes 10 blasters to destroy a single portal, then it takes 50 to destroy five portals. Running out is likely before you can take down dozens of portals.

Third, the mythology and game design of Ingress is of a world in flux. Teams of nearly equal strength battle for the Earth. The myths are deliberately inconclusive about which side is “right.” No one is supposed to be able to win, not yet at least.

Fourth, unless you are already Level 8, destruction is nothing but good for you. In order to attain higher levels, you need to gain AP (experience points in other games). However, having portals and links and stuff gives you precious little AP. Recharging resonators, for example gives only 10 AP. Deploying (building) a single resonator is worth 125 AP. Filling all eight slots is worth more, and then building links is worth 313 AP, while continuing to have the same link is worth nothing.

I assume at Level 8, the idea of building sounds more interesting, but then unlike other games where high-level players interacting with lower-level players is simply bullying, here, that Level 1 player can take down your carefully constructed control field as easily as any other. That means you must continue to rely on your strategy and teamwork, which is what the game is all about.

Have fun out there, and remember, if you’re rebuilding what someone smashed, you’re getting stronger and more powerful. If you’re just admiring those portals that have been sitting there for weeks, you’re stagnant.