Ingress: The Second Week

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While my intent is not to turn this into an Ingress blog (it's not, really), I do want to talk about the second week of playing.

Before I ever received the Ingress invite, I knew we needed to take a trip to Northern Virginia. Checking the game, there area we were going to did not appear to get a lot of activity. There were a few clusters of portals in Orange and Madison (places I was going to be), This was really surprising given the proximity to Charlottesville. I figured there would be some UVA groups that might head that way for easy farming. But who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I kept watching the area over the last two weeks until the neutral portals become portals controlled by the opposition, and that was pretty much where it stayed until we arrived.

Getting to Orange, there was actually an opportunity to hit some capture some portals. It seems whomever setup the portals had not learned the best practices we're telling people. There were no shields, and the resonators were set close to the portal. Easy kills, except for one location, where 3 of the resonators I just couldn't get close enough to kill without drawing a lot of unwanted attention.

While I was able to reach level 3 early into the trip, the need to get certain things done, and to be certain places (with lots of other people) while not wanting to explain exactly what it was I was doing limited my capability to get more done.

And I ran into some significant limitations in this game.

Data and GPS

It's bad enough that one has to keep the Ingress client active and the phone awake all the time one is playing the game, but we are starting to notice a significant lag in data hitting the screen. There were a number of times over the weekend in Orange and Madison that I didn't even see a portal on my screen until I was right on top of it. This is bad when one is in a car.

The mobile data network in the that area was at times 3G, other time 1X, and lots of times non-existence. But I saw the same things happen this evening in Hampton Roads, with my phone reporting full-strength 4G, in a portal heavy area. I'm having a problem with an old running injury, so I was hoping to pretty much stay in the car, as walking is a bit of an issue this week. That means moving at 15-25 mph, and with a 1/4 mile view on the phone, this shouldn't be a problem. It wasn't last week. This week it is a problem.

Lose the data network, you might as well close the client and come back later. And with the portals showing up on the screen late, well, you might as well walk, because in a car, it's too fast and too dangerous to stop till the screen catches up.

GPS is a bit more of an issue. It seems that my Galaxy Nexus starts to drift significantly when I'm standing still or moving slowly. This means trying to stand on a resonator to maximize damage is HARD. I can't compare this GPS on my phone with my Bluetooth GPS, because for that to work, Android phones need mock locations enabled, and Ingress refuses to run with mock locations turned on. Too easy to cheat (yet people have figured out how to do it, it seems).

Imagine if you will trying to walk onto a spot in a hotel parking lot, trying to based just on your phone's GPS, and what the phone says is the direction you're facing is just far enough left or right of where your nose is pointing that it's hard to figure out which way the phone thinks is straight ahead when you're zoomed in on the map. And then the drift sets in, so you're turned around and moving when you're trying to stand still ...

Portal Density

Multiple portals on the same building or statue. This is still an issue. Even in Orange and Madison it was still an issue, with the train station having 2 portals that appeared to point at the same thing, in this case, about 100 meters apart.

I really would love to see Niantic and Google provide a way to report portals that should be considered for consolidation.

Gameplay

I will say that this trip was good for my score, but there the GPS and data issues are going to make contributing difficult for at least through level 4. This is mostly a time-opportunity trade-off.

There has also been a little talk about if there will be some kind of reset when the beta is over. In chat, a few players were complaining that if there was a reset, they'd stop playing. They've gotten too used to using high level weapons, and just can't see themselves grinding back up. Most of them have had it easy, playing the first two months of the beta pretty much on their own.

The game today (beta start + 2 month) is different from the game they started with. Inventory works different. Portal keys drop less often, and there are more lower level players looking for opportunities to gain levels. They didn't have cities full of portals too high for them to damage without spending hours and hours farming for XMP, while high level players don't even blink about burning through portals that they could only dream of taking down without help.

For me, the game is starting to get a little frustrating. Some of this is having trouble walking (Dr's Wednesday, fingers crossed), but some of this is just not having enough of a return on the time I can spend playing.

Case in point, this evening I drove around for about an hour through a portal rich area. In that time, I was able to get points from 17 interactions with portals. And that only yielded 2100 points. I still need 10x that for the next level, and about 100x that till I reach a functional level against the average portal in the area.

We've been told players will not be reset, but that doesn't mean something doesn't cause a change to portals, and links. And I hope this is reflected in the story.

I think in order for the game to be enjoyable, the gamespace has to be dynamic. And for me to have fun, the story has to be more than just a collection of puzzles just to frustrate players.

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