Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Category: Ingress Page 2 of 3

N is not for Niantic

At 5:30 EDT yesterday afternoon, every Ingress player got an in-game push of this G+ post:



All the tech news sites burbled into action.

The funny thing is, so soon after the announcement of the reorg of Google into Alphabet, this first major transaction appears not to involve creation of a letter of the Alphabet.  Niantic is really going its own way (with ownership interest, but not full management, by Google).

This will no doubt mean a stronger need for Niantic to be revenue-generating, and it’s hard to think of ways for that to happen that don’t degrade the experience of playing Ingress. Unblockable ads? A paid premium version? In-game purchases for good items? More, and more aggressive, vendor tie-ins? Some or all of these are probably coming.

Deciding to continue to play is pretty much a daily task. We’re usually not conscious of it. That could change very soon.

I updated my series of Ingress introduction posts to cover the new items that were introduced recently, the SoftBank Ultra Link and the MUFG Capsule.

You can read them here:


Impressions from an Ingress Op

Southern Shore of Lake Ontario, 2015-07-25 14:42 UTC

Southern Shore of Lake Ontario, 2015-07-25 14:42 UTC

Participated in an operation with a contingent from our local Ingress Resistance team to build a BAF (Big-Ass Field, the absolutely official Ingress terminology for that thing).  Here are some random impressions from the process:

  1. There is no such thing as too much planning.  Eisenhower was quoted as saying, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  I agree with the second part in our case today.  As for the first, the plans we did have were very good.  More planning would have been still better.
  2. Communication is priceless.  Some of the plans that were in place were not disclosed to all team members ahead of time, and some of the things that were disclosed left a bit more to the imagination than we might have liked.  Thorough communication, even over-communication, of the sort, You!  Go there!  Do that! would have made up for a lot of this gap, once the work began.
  3. Always hedge for uncertainties.  When we arrived at the south rendezvous, one party was running late, and they had ALL the keys to the western node.  Someone said, “dang!  I should have given so-and-so half the eastern keys and taken half of their western keys!”  Yup!  So there we were with all the keys to the eastern node, no keys to the western node and 9 minutes until the scoring checkpoint deadline.  Or so we thought. Which brings me to…
  4. Check your constraint values.  We were aiming for a 14:00 (all times given in UTC) checkpoint to have the field up and have the score counted in the global game total.  All our preparation got us, nervously but effectively, to that point with about 9 minutes to spare.  But it turned out that the actual next-checkpoint time was not until 16:00. So our meticulous work was likely to be elbowed out of counting for the global score.  If we waited two more hours, until closer to the checkpoint, we could lose the east-west base link that had been up since just after 11:00, and/or any of the work done clearing blocking links along the routes of the main east and west link bundles.  This would likely have meant not getting the BAF up at all.  On the other hand, putting it up two full hours before checkpoint gives the other side a luxurious over-helping of time to react and dismantle it before it counts.  Still, that is not the only goal of the operation.
  5. Know everything you want out of the project.  In addition to the goal of making a large (well over 4 million units) contribution to the global score, the team’s members each have individual goals they are working toward.  Each op team member completed one layer of the 12-layer field you see illustrated here, and many individual Gold and Platinum Illuminator badges were thus earned.  Had we focused too narrowly on the global objective, many of us on the op team might have missed out on this individual achievement.

Sure enough, by 15:00 the pretty dozen-layer field was no more.

Is it too much to presume that, having participated in one of these, I could plan the next one?

Ingress Leveling and Badges (long)

In the first and second installments of this series I talked about all the operations players can perform in this game, and this final installment will give some details of how players move up through the sixteen levels of the game.

Player Level Requirements
All players start at Level 1.  Getting to Level 2 is very easy, a few portals captured, a couple of fields and you’re there.  Level 3 is a bit more of a climb but by getting to that point you can finally start to use some Bursters that do a bit of damage, and you’re also probably hooked on the game by then.  So you move on.

L1 = 0 AP
L2 = 2,500 AP
L3 = 20,000 AP
L4 = 70,000 AP
L5 = 150,000 AP
L6 = 300,000 AP
L7 = 600,000 AP
L8 = 1,200,000 AP

Hitting Level 8 is an important milestone because you can now use every item in the game.  Also, your XM bar capacity has gone from 3,000 at Level 1 by increments of 1,000 to 10,000.  Beyond Level 8, the increases will be in jumps of 1,500, not 1,000.  This tops out at 22,000 for Level 16.

In order to move up levels beyond 8, you need to start accumulating advanced levels of the various badges awarded for cumulative action in the game.  The requirements are:

L9 =  2,400,000 AP + 1 gold, 4 silver
L10 = 4,000,000 AP + 2 gold, 5 silver
L11 = 6,000,000 AP + 4 gold, 6 silver
L12 = 8,400,000 AP + 6 gold, 7 silver
L13 = 12,000,000 AP + 1 Platinum, 7 Gold
L14 = 17,000,000 AP + 2 Platinum, 7 Gold
L15 = 24,000,000 AP + 3 Platinum, 7 Gold
L16 = 40,000,000 AP + 2 Onyx, 4 Platinum, 7 Gold


This is a little less daunting than it might seem if you take into account the fact that any higher level badge also counts as all the lower levels for the same badge.  So for example, if you currently have Gold in Recharger and Trekker, plus Silver in Guardian, Illuminator and SpecOps, you have all the badge requirements for Level 10.  This is due to the fact that those two Golds also count as two of your five Silvers.
Badge Requirements
The badge (sometimes called “medal”) definitions and levels are:


Badge Name & Measure Bronze Silver Gold Platinum Onyx
Explorer – hack unique portals 100 1,000 2,000 10,000 30,000
Seer – discover and submit new portals 10 50 200 500 5,000
Trekker – kilometers walked 10 100 300 1,000 2,500
Builder – deploy resonators 2,000 10,000 30,000 100,000 200,000
Connector – link portals 50 1,000 5,000 25,000 100,000
Mind Controller – create control fields 100 500 2,000 10,000 40,000
Illuminator – Capture MUs in Control Fields 5,000 50,000 250,000 1,000,000 4,000,000
Recharger – Recharge portals (000s) 100 1,000 3,000 10,000 25,000
Liberator – Capture Portals 100 1,000 5,000 15,000 40,000
Pioneer – Capture unique portals 20 200 1,000 5,000 20,000
Engineer – mod portals 150 1,500 5,000 20,000 50,000
Purifier – Destroy enemy resonators 2,000 10,000 30,000 100,000 300,000
Guardian – control portal for consecutive days 3 10 20 90 150
SpecOps – Complete unique missions 5 25 100 200 500
Hacker – hack portals 2,000 10,000 30,000 100,000 200,000
Translator – Glyph Hack Points 200 2,000 6,000 20,000 50,000
Sojourner – Consecutive Days Hacking 15 30 60 180 360

A word or two about some of these:

  • Seer: When I started playing the turnaround time from submitting a suggested new portal to getting an answer from Niantic was fairly steady around three to four weeks.  Sometime in the months leading up to the iOS version of the game releasing (May-July ’14), the lead time started creeping up.  It’s now highly erratic and in the area of five to seven months.  Also erratic is the quality of review.  Junk portals are being approved while excellent public art is being rejected.  Sometimes the rejection reason is given, but more often it’s a simple boilerplate “does not meet our criteria.”  You can read the criteria in vain for anything that your portal submission misses.  To deal with what was obviously an unmanageable backlog, Niantic has stopped crediting new submissions (as of 2015-01-01) toward this badge.  Perhaps that is preparatory to canceling it or mothballing it entirely.  TL,DR; I do not recommend submitting new portals until the review process is improved.
  • Illuminator: When you make the third link completing a field, you get credit toward this badge for all the MUs enclosed by that field.  If you make several layers of an onion field, the MUs really add up.  I advise finding the active group of your team in your area and pitch in on some team operations that will make multi-thousand-MU fields.  Even Platinum level in this will be accessible to you pretty quickly.
  • Recharger: Another badge that’s very accessible to get to higher levels even for novice players.  Spend a rainy afternoon somewhere warm and dry with a hundred or so keys and power cubes from your travels.  All the XM points you expend recharging friendly portals count toward this badge, and it’s not at all challenging to rack up a million an hour.
  • Guardian: There is indeed one badge in the game that creates more complaining than Seer, and here it is.  This is the only badge where succeeding in making higher levels of this badge is almost completely out of your control.  What happens here is, you capture a portal, you become its owner, you place your resonators, you keep a key and you hope for the best.  If your portal gets attacked and taken down, you start all over.  Some players (who clearly need lives) monitor the comms using scripts that filter for news of a portal being taken over.  If it stays in one player’s ownership for close to 90 or 150 days, they send out alerts to other players like themselves who will then go out specifically to deny people the Guardian achievement.  Mind you, this accrues no benefit to them other than knowing it has caused someone else frustration.
  • SpecOps: A relatively new feature of the game is called Missions.  These are little side-quests created by other players that string together four or more portals (and possibly Field Trip waypoints (about which the less said the better, but if you must know start here)) into a kind of scavenger hunt that you can travel around and play.  Finishing a Mission you have never done before gives you a count toward this badge.  If you’re out playing anyway, the Portal card now has a Missions button that shows you any Missions of which the portal is a part.  Highly recommended.
  • Translator: Another side-game you can play as you hack portals, if you have time.  By long-pressing the Hack button instead of tapping it, you are brought into a new screen where you are shown a grid of 11 dots and then anywhere from one to five patterns of lines connecting the dots.  In the game’s story, these patterns are called Glyphs, and they represent the Shapers’ attempts to communicate with us.  Our task is to repeat the pattern(s) we have been shown to acknowledge the message. Successfully replicating even one Glyph gets you bonus items on the hack, while replicating all the Glyphs offered gets you points toward this badge.  The higher-level the portal, the more complex the Glyph-Hack and the more points it’s worth to succeed.  There are practice apps to help you get good at catching the Glyphs and reproducing them.  Apparently the idea is, each Glyph stands for a word or concept, and the sequences are “sentences” expressing ideas that the Shapers wish to communicate to us.  Well, the fact is, once you associate each pattern with a word it becomes easier to produce it again from memory.  Whether you think you have been “enlightened” or not is a separate matter.
  • Sojourner: Hack every day, never let 24 hours go by without hacking.  That’s all there is to this.  I think it was introduced to get people calmed down somewhat about the Guardian situation, since there’s clearly nothing Niantic can (or is willing to) do about the scummy characters described above.  I have found that the best and safest pattern to keep your progress going toward this badge is to make sure you hack sometime in the morning and sometime late in the afternoon.
So that’s it.  Aside from Niantic’s own site, I did a fair amount of the research I needed to do on Decode Ingress, which I recommend as a good reference site that is keeping itself pretty-well updated.
A final note: Niantic is in the process of rolling out a new game, called Endgame.  I don’t know about it, though.  It seems like a senseless time-suck.

More About Ingress (long)

UPDATED August 1, 2015 for SoftBank Ultra-Links

In my first post about Ingress, I introduced the basic principles of the game and I surveyed what I think a novice player needs to know about hacking portals and deploying resonators.  Today I will continue with a discussion of the remaining in-game operations you can perform.  The final installment will discuss player levels, and the assortment of achievement badges that are required for players to advance beyond Level 8.  Careful: that one might get a bit opinionated.

Modding is the action of adding items to a portal (which must be your team’s color) to improve its performance in various ways.  Each portal has four slots for mods.  A player may only have two mods on a portal at a time.

Portal Shields: Passive defense for your portals.  Shields and linking are the two things that make portals more resistant to attack than they would be otherwise.  Two good shields and three links will combine to make your portal over 90% resistant to attack.

Heat Sinks: Heat Sinks cause the portal to “cool down” quicker after being hacked so the player can hack again.  Multi-Hacks: Portals can only be hacked by a given player four times every four hours, and then will “burn out” unless one or more Multi-Hacks are applied.  More than one Heat Sink or Multi-Hack can be combined on the same portal but the incremental effectiveness of the second or third goes down at an alarming rate.  I don’t recommend this except in very specialized situations.  (Google “Ingress flash farming” if you’re curious.)

Link Amps: extend the distance limit of links that can be made.  Rightly famous throughout the player community as being pretty useless, since the allowable distances without this mod are more than adequate.
UPDATE: In June ’15, a new type of Link Amp called SoftBank UltraLink (SBUL) was introduced.  These do in fact have a use that can help an everyday player: they will allow more than the default 8 outbound links from the portal.  Each SBUL added to a portal adds an allowable 8 more outbound links.

Turrets: These items increase the probability that the enemy hacking or attacking your portal will be counter-attacked.  Should that attack occur, Force Amps will increase the intensity with which your portal will attack.

Once a mod is on a portal, only an enemy attack on that portal can remove it.  With their tight damage radius, Ultra-Strikes are often used for this purpose; by standing at the exact location of the portal and firing, a player can blast mods off with minimal or no damage to resonators.  That is, as long as the resonators are deployed a reasonable distance from the portal itself.

Consider this scenario: My friend and I find a green Level 8 portal (P8), near a bar, with a good radius to its resonator deployment.  We check its mods.  If they are not heat sinks and multi-hacks, we will stand on the portal itself and fire Ultra-Strikes until the mod slots are empty.  Hopefully, we can do this without destroying any of the R8s deployed on the portal (it’s OK if they take some damage).  Then one of us will use an ADA to flip the portal from green to blue.  Using a virus has the happy side effect of repairing any damage to the resonators; they are restored to 100%.  Finally, we will each add a heat sink and a multi-hack.  Then we settle down with a couple of drinks and hack that baby ’til burnout, which will last at least an hour, or until we can no longer find the buttonsh on the shhcannerrr I know it was shomewhere around here.

Linking & Fields
Among the most important things you can do in the game is link portals to one another.  This apparently simple act is the seed of all that is really larger-scale fun in the game.  Requirements for linking are (deceptively) simple.  You need:

  • Possession of the portals at each end of the prospective link by your team (not necessarily you personally, just the right color).
  • For each portal to have all eight resonators.
  • To be in hacking range of one of the two portals (we’ll call it the origin).
  • To be less than the maximum linking distance from the distant (target) portal.  Maximum distances vary with the level of the target, but at 100 KM for just a P5 they are usually adequate for all but the most humongous fields.
  • To have a portal key for the target.  Be careful if that is a key you need for keeping the target recharged; unlike recharging, linking will consume the key.  Have a spare!
  • To have a line of sight (on the Great Circle route if that matters at your distance) to the target portal with no other links of either color crossing the path.  Links are not allowed to cross one another under any circumstances.  If you see a link crossing another, you are seeing a bug in the software.
  • For there to be fewer than 8* pre-existing outbound links from your origin portal.  Which links are outbound?  You get to guess, unless you use IITC.  And IITC is nominally a TOS violation and can theoretically get you banned from the game.
    * – unless increased by the use of SBULs, see above.

Luckily, this is one area where the scanner will do most of the work for you.  Stand in range of the desired origin and tap LINK on its portal info card.  The scanner will rummage through all your keys (those not in capsules) and offer you a flipbook of any portals to which you can legally make outbound links at that moment.  Pick one and it is done.

Now think about your high-school geometry.  For the purpose of this discussion, assume the surface of the planet is a plane; in every important respect here, the game’s behavior is unaffected by the fact that it is not.  By linking, you have just defined a line segment; a one-dimensional object.  The next step is to define a two-dimensional object, a polygon.  In fact, it’s going to be the simplest of polygons, a triangle.  When you complete a triangle of links among three portals, subject to all the rules for linking that I outlined above, you will see it fill in with a haze in your team’s color.  You will be told that you have created a Control Field and how many “MU” it controls.   This stand for “mind units” and it’s roughly calculated by the surface area of the field you made times the average population density under it.  That gets rolled up for local and worldwide totals every five hours and produces the big numbers on the scoreboard and in your scanner’s welcome message.  And to play and enjoy the game you may safely ignore it completely.

There are some restrictions on what can happen inside fields.  For one thing, new links may not be created if the origin portal is inside a field (regardless of color).  So fields can be layered over one another – which runs up the MU score, because each layer counts all the MUs in its area again.  But to do this, you have to start from the innermost layer and work outward.  This is called “onioning”.

This topic can quickly become very complex, and it’s not something I am going to cover in a blog post that is already too long.  It’s also the aspect of the game that spins up some of the biggest operations of team-play, with fearsomely complicated logistics and enormous butt-hurt from the opposing-team players.  ‘Nuff said about that for now; if you get into Ingress at all, you’ll find out and if you don’t, it won’t matter.

There are three weapons classes you can use to attack enemy portals.  Bursters, Ultra-Strikes and viruses.  Bursters and Ultra-Strikes do increasing damage, over an increasing radius, with their increasing levels.  They currently exist up to Level 8.  It’s best to fire up to Level 5 Bursters (B5s) near the resonators you are targeting.  B6 – B8 have enough effective radius to do the best damage from the portal itself, unless all the surviving resonators are on one side.

Ultra-Strikes need to be fired directly on top of the item you wish to damage or they have almost no effect.  This is annoying among tall buildings because there is often a 3-5 second lag between your Fire command and its occurrence, and during that time your device’s GPS reading can easily drift 15 feet or more.  I feel I’m having a “good day” with Ultra-Strikes if I can get 50% of them to hit something.

Unlike almost every other action in the game, deploying a virus gains you absolutely no AP.  It does, however, look wicked cool in the scanner.  That’s probably my favorite animation in the game.  And yes, I said, “wicked cool.”  I’m old.  Deal with it.  In fact, I have been all but told outright that I am too old to play Ingress… but that’s a story for another time.

Strange as this may seem, I have talked to several players who gave up the game after only a few days, and it was because of recharging.  Here’s the deal: you go out, you find — or make — some grey portal.  You deploy the first, and then all eight resonators on it.  Congratulations, this portal is now yours!  It’ll have your handle right there where it says Owner: and everything!  But even if it doesn’t get attacked by enemy team members, it will not remain yours unless you take care of it.  Without any intervention, portals will lose 15% of the XM charge on their resonators every 24 hours.  And if they get to zero, they’re done.  They go grey again.  This is why you have to keep portal keys of the portals you care about.  Having the key in your inventory (and not in a capsule) allows you to recharge the portal’s XM from your XM bar any time, from anywhere (within reason).  If you are in range of the portal such that you could hack, link, mod or deploy on it, you can also recharge it even without a key.A L1 player can recharge a portal up to 250 kilometers away, and this goes up linearly with your player level, up to 4000 KM for a level 16 player.  There’s a drop in the efficiency of recharging with distance, 1% for every (5 * player-level) kilometers away.  So a L8 player can recharge a portal 640 KM away with 84% efficiency, which means every 1000 XM she puts into recharging will replenish the resonators 840.  When that efficiency decrease passes 50% you can no longer recharge at all, and that is how the maximum distances for recharging are defined.
Recycling is the process of destroying items in your inventory and reclaiming them as XM, which goes to refill your scanner’s energy bar.  There is a limit of ~2000 items on what you can carry, so sometimes recycling less-vital items is a good way to keep yourself some headroom, especially if you are farming and getting better stuff.  Recycling junky items and remotely recharging portals I care about is absolutely not the worst way I have ever spent a rainy Saturday afternoon hour or two on my couch.  Just be careful to use Power Cubes; never recycle those.  There’s no cure for how stupid it makes you feel, to have recycled a Power Cube.  Never mind how I know this.  Just… never mind!
There are two main reasons for dropping items.  One is, to give them to another player.  The other is, just to get rid of them when you can’t even be bothered to recycle them.  Equipment exchanges are common when planning larger operations, or just to help out a fellow player who’s short of this & that.  For most items, Capsules make this much easier than it used to be.  Somehow, though, the incredible challenge of giving us a way to handle Portal Keys with some ease continues to elude the brain trust at Niantic.
Next installment: Leveling, Badges, and miscellany

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