Playing Ingress and Pokemon Go in parallel

People are playing Ingress and Pokemon Go in Parallel. Both games use the same geo-located points and walk the same routes. They have the same places to farm and combat. I started playing Ingress again, but only a few minutes here and there. As I play I see new faces and new people at Ingress portals. They are no longer my age or older. They are much younger, in their teens.

Yesterday as the neighbours were having a party I decided to take advantage of the excuse to go out and play Ingress. I went to the four or five portals in my village. At the village church I saw a youth drive up to it on a scooter, farm via the Pokemon Go layer and then leave. Nothing changed on the Ingress layer. No damaged resonators, no upgrades.

I like that people can play two entirely different games at the same location. I see this as the future of geo-located games. I see this as the next wave. The physical world provides the location and then the layer (or game) provides the user interface, the virtual world we interact with. With imagination more and more layers can be added. This will provide people with choice.

The next step is smartwatches and augmented reality goggles. Those who have played Ingress intensively know where all the portals are so they can put their phone away when walking from point to point. The same is probably true of Pokemon Go players. One person wrote that he uses his smartwatch to farm when walking around. Imagine if Google Glass had come out now. If it had come out now, with the Pokemon Go craze people would buy them.

At the moment to play pokemon Go and Ingress you walk in a position, that given time, will turn us in to hunchbacks. Rather than being from manual work in a field or a coal mine it will be from walking staring at a phone. I write this with a certain sense of humour. The market for Augmented reality goggles is ripe. Device manufacturers should grab this opportunity while it lasts.

Ingress no more

Somewhere in Geneva

For months I was passionate about Ingress. I was passionate about the game until fuel costs, parking costs, device costs and time costs were too high. When you play from level one to eight the game is fun. You progress quickly and you meet new people. You discover new places and it’s enjoyable.

As you reach level 8 and above the game becomes more like a chore. You have to walk hundreds of kilometres and you need to perform tens of thousands of actions to progress anymore. Every medal takes time. This time, when you drive from the countryside to a town or city is money.

Imagine doing something different. Imagine writing or taking pictures. Imagine reading current affairs articles or donating time to an event or charity. Imagine what you could walk away with. Imagine what achievements you could tell people about.

The biggest waste of time with the game of Ingress is farming. Farming in the game refers to hacking portals to get weapons, mods, shields and more. I find farming to be the most boring and tedious part of the game. You spend two or three hours farming and within twenty minutes your stock is empty.

Imagine if you had used that time to go for an energetic bike ride.

On the lack of Common interests and mobile phones getting the blame

On Linkedin and Facebook people believe that mobile phones are making people less sociable then they would be if phones were not around. They believe that the world in which we lived before mobile phones was an open and sociable place where everyone communicated with everyone. These people are forgetting the social context that brought them Home Alone, Problem Child and other films.

Society and social interactions have always been about finding the people whom you appreciate and those whom you prefer to keep away from. In the age before mobile phones I remember watching films and cartoons where certain characters were ostracised for being different. These people were seen as isolated or loners. Society does not like these people. We see it conversation and we see it in films.

If a group of people in the physical world does not want to spend time with you, does not want to listen to you because your passions are incompatible with theirs, because your tone of voice is not right then that is their right. These people though, are not satisfied with excluding you from their conversations, are not satisfied with having their monologues and showing no interest in you. They will go a step further. They will prevent you from entertaining yourself.

One of the most common forms of entertainment when people are not fully engaged with groups is the mobile phone. Mobile phone use is stigmatised by a lot of people. Just a few weeks ago I took a chance and met with a new group. As I am an ingress player and as I had nothing positive to add to the conversation I took the opportunity to farm from two portals that were in range. As I live in the countryside Ingress “farming” is a treat and I took advantage of the opportunity.

I was listening to the conversations taking place on both sides of me. On one side it was the stereotypical “What do you do?” International community conversation and on the other they were discussing a few topics. One of these topics was music festivals. I have had a lot of fun at music festivals but I also have some views that I share with facebook friends rather than the wider world as it would see me ostracised.

As I drove home from the meeting above I got a text message and felt that it would be bad. I read it when I got home and left the group. I won’t be told how to behave by strangers. I won’t be judged in a town by a group of people who hike and do via ferrata. If you participate in both of these sports there is a good chance that you will appreciate my company. When I am in the mountains one of the cameras I carry around is out but my mobile phone is in a pocket until I get to the end of the activity or the car.

I am a member of the Geneva Ingress Resistance as well as the Lausanne Ingress resistance. As a result of this I have access via Google Hangouts to at least 120 people in the Lac Léman (lake Geneva) region. These people are unique. What makes them stand out is that they’re always looking at their mobile phones and when you see the entire group is silent it’s because they’re “glyphing”. I like to spend time with these groups because we eat crisps, drink wine, eat ice creams, hike and do other activities. These people meet because of the game but you see that there are deep friendships that have benefited from mobile phone use.

I love the paradox. The paradox is as follows. Every user is in the Google Plus community, every user converses with other players in Google Hangouts and every player meets other players in the real world. The mobile phone is a link between those who are not present and those who are present. In effect whether you converse with these people from a computer, by mobile phone or in person changes little.

Last week at the end of one operation to field over Yverdon with blue fields and another operation to field another city a phone call was made via google hangouts and we all answered and put the phones to our heads for a conference call. Instead of the mobile phone isolating people it is doing the opposite. It is uniting people.

Look at the conventional social interaction. When two normal people call each other the people you’re with are isolated for a period of time. It’s the same when people in face to face conversations start talking about mutual friends, certain types of activities and more. Sometimes the conversation that two conventional people are having is more likely to isolate the people you’re in the same physical location with. More often than not small talk is frustrating because A) you don’t know whom they’re talking about and B) you don’t know the context. As a result small talk is less polite than mobile phone use.

I love the mountains and I enjoy via ferrata and hiking when it’s with the right people. I also enjoy spending time with ingress players. With these three groups of people I feel that I can be myself. I spend no time acting and performing. They appreciate the real me.  When I go to towns and listen to normal people small talk I get bored and I feel isolated. It has nothing to do with the mobile phone and everything to do with the difference in interests and passions.

If we don’t have the same interests and passions then don’t blame mobile phones for our lack of conversation. Either we find something we are both passionate about or we co-exist in the same space without talking much… Sometimes the inability for people to accept silence when they are not alone encourages others to be alone.

Fribourg was liberated by Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva Ingress resistance fighters

This weekend teams of Resistance Ingress agents from Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva met in Fribourg to neutralise and capture all Enlightened portals. Some teams were on foot to liberate portals from the centre of the city. I was with the bike team and we took care of liberating all of the portals on the outskirts. It involved cycling up and down hills, a thunderstorm and being rained on.

I really enjoyed being part of the cycling team. It’s a fantastic way to get around and it’s a good way of seeing a big portion of unfamiliar cities with a minimum of effort. My team members were on electric bikes and I was on a mountain bike. This was great for me. I had to work hard to keep up with them. This was a good workout. There were moments where I generated up to an estimated 1300 watts of power for very short bursts and got the fifth best time on a segment.

I enjoyed this experience so much that I would love to do this again in other cities around here. Cycling gave me a workout and playing Ingress gave me time to recover. It seems that if you’re creating fields having a bike is ideal. You can get almost anywhere from anywhere within a city within minutes with a minimum of effort. By car this would be dangerous and impractical and on foot it would be slow and impractical.

Ingress Operation Apache, Covering Geneva in Blue.

Operation Apache

Operation Apache

Ingress is a selfless game when you play as a team. The driver gets no AP. Other operators get a few AP for breaking portals. Three individuals gets hundreds of thousands of Mind Units (MU). Rather than feel a sense of achievement I feel fatigue.

The first reason is to do with the hangouts. You have to be serious. When I work in a team I want to be able to joke around. The most fun you have is with people who know what they’re doing and despite the stress have fun doing it. When you do something for free this is even more important.

The second is driving a hundred kilometres. I don’t like driving without something to do at the destination. I also prefer to be active during daylight hours rather than once the sun sets. I am not a vampire.

The three day rains don’t help either. Three days of rain, seeing the Arve saturated and very high. The Pont Rolex is a metre from being flooded.

Friday I drove three hundred and seventy kilometres for another operation. I drove an hour to the location and an hour back from the location. On this previous up the engine had run for six and a half hours.

I drove up one slope and fire crews were present. They allowed me to go on and I drove up beside the stream running down. The water wasn’t too deep but there were a lot of stones and mud. I felt the car loose traction so tried to keep my speed up. I saw where a storm drain intended to take water in was overflowing like a spring.

In total I drove 470km on half a tank of diesel so fuel wise it was probably still cheaper than driving to meet people in Geneva. I think I’ll take a break from communal activities and play solo. I’ll stick to Via Ferrata and hiking as team activities. I will feel good about the op in a few days, when the sun starts to shine again.

Ingress and it’s barrier to entry

Google has an excellent reputation for server uptime and reliability. They pride themselves on making processes so efficient that hundredths of seconds after a request is sent the answer. As a result of their very high work ethic and desire to excel logic would indicate that Niantic labs would follow the same work ethic and strive for the same quality of service.

Over the last few months of game play I have found they resemble an early twitter. Loading the game for the first time of the day can take several attempts, loading the inventory can be unreliable, charging portals can be unreliable and sometimes trying to do any action can fail 70 to 80 percent of the time for several hours in a row.

Unreliability is perfectly normal for web services. They are pushing the envelope and they need to find ways to do new things and prevent bottle necks. Twitter had severe issues for months and so did many other services.

A few people say that Ingress is a free game, that because it is free we shouldn’t worry about unreliable actions.

Ingress is not a free game. At the very least it takes a lot of time to play such a game. Levelling up can take progressively longer going from hours from the first levels to months or even years for the higher levels.

There are a number of costs associated with Ingress:

A smartphone:
A local data plan
International roaming plan
A battery pack
A car or other form of transport
petrol
parking space
Hotel rooms

You also have to consider whether you live in a village or a town or city. If you live in a village you may have to travel to another village several kilometres before you can play the game. I created the account but did not play until several months later due to a lack of local portals. Towns and cities have a lot of portals so this is a city slicker game.

If you drive half an hour, from the country side to a city to play the game and when you arrive at your destination and the game is laggy then you have wasted money on petrol, you have wasted time on driving and you have to wait until the next weekend to play.

As I have said lag and server issues are part of online life. From 1996 to 2015 I have grown accustomed to these problems and have no issues. I am less forgiving of companies whose policies make servers issues worse. Niantic labs is making mistakes. They created a new badge to encourage people to sign up more accounts which resulted in more server stress and a degraded quality of service. They then encouraged people to make mega fields which the servers can’t deal with. We have seen that every single time a megafield is created the game suffers for periods of time ranging from a few minutes to a few hours. Yesterday agents created a 6880km link which resulted in a degraded quality of service for hours afterwards.

If Niantic labs and the story line continue encouraging actions that Ingress servers cannot cope with then I will see my passion for the game degrade further. My willingness to drive 40 minutes to participate in activities will vanish.

I am not picking on Niantic labs and ingress. I have seen twitter have problems, I have seen facebook have problems. I have seen Seesmic have issues. I have seen suunto movescount have issues. I have let each of these companies know that I expect more.

I will only continue using an unreliable service as long as I don’t find a better alternative.

A proposal for a crowdsourced portal acceptance system for Ingress agents.

People love to submit portals and portals add excitement to Ingress. The more portals there are the busier you are. Cities are fantastic places for ingress players for this reason. Geneva, Barcelona, Neuchatel and other cities already have hundreds if not thousands of portals but go to the swiss countryside, the spanish sea side or away from big cities and portals are few and far between. As a result of this rural players don’t have much to do unless they get in a car and create megafields.

What I propose is a crowdsourced portal acceptance system. The system would have two features:
Proximity to other portals. If you’re in the middle of the countryside and the portal is submitted then it is moved to the top of the submission list for quick approval. By getting remote locations to have higher portal density so users are encouraged to become more active. As people see them play so new players are encouraged to join in the game.

The second variable is based on geographic location. If a player in New York submits a portal then a player in Madrid from L9 or above sees the portal submission and decides whether or not it is too close to other portals, whether it is legitimate and whether it is worth validating. If a player from Paris submits a portal then a player can accept or refuse that portal.

Of course the second feature requires for the Portal acceptance interface to be opened up to players of level 9 or higher. The permissions would only be “approve” or “reject”. will allow players to question the submission and let a group of people decide on the future of specific portals.