CategoryComputer Games

Ingress in West Seattle

On Saturday, Susan and I spent the day in West Seattle doing an Ingress mission series.
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It’s OK, My Lawn is Your Lawn

My perspective: veteran Ingress player, no previous experience with Pokemon Go, a fair bit of mobile gaming work experience.

I’m not gonna do the whole “wow, look at the wild news story!” thing. Hot take: geo-located gaming generates interesting behavior patterns. I do have one item I can’t resist sharing, though. Pokemon GO chauffeur services are here. (But don’t buy egg hatching services, since you’re not allowed to let someone else use your account even if they’re carrying your phone.)

I am happy to see lots of Pokemon Go players. More money for Niantic increases the chances that Ingress will have a long lifespan. Some Pokemon Go players will try Ingress, most won’t like it, it’s all cool. A lot of Ingress players will quit to play Pokemon Go. I worry a bit about viable Ingress populations but time will tell.

Some things I do think are interesting:

Pokemon Go hit #1 grossing game in the US App Store on the first day. It was not featured by Apple in any way. As far as I can tell, Niantic and Nintendo did no user acquisition — no Facebook ads, no mobile adds, nothing driving players to the game. #1 without any of that is unprecedented. Flappy Bird had to build to #1 downloaded. Clash Royale was featured and had a robust in-house user acquisition network.

A good geo-located game has strong virality because human interactions are the core driver of any viral loop. It’s also sticky for the same reasons. The problem has always been getting critical mass. Apparently Nintendo’s IP is pretty good for that.

Second, it’s worth comparing Pokemon Go to Ingress. In Ingress, you can’t do anything meaningful till you hit level 5 or 6. If you’re playing by yourself that’s a long grind. In a busy area, you may be unable to capture portals, which is the core of the game. The new user experience sucks.

In Pokemon Go, the new user experience is still pretty bad — no good tutorial, easy to get lost. But it’s also easy to muddle your way up a few levels and you feel like you’re making meaningful progress immediately. You can always capture Pokemons.

The next interesting question for me is the elder game. Is it dense enough to sustain continued stickiness and monetization?

Another Thursday Night

San Francisco Fielding This is what I did with my evening. To be precise, I had a small part in creating the conditions that made this possible. We did not execute perfectly for various and sundry reasons, but that’s what the human ability to learn and improve is for.

For non-Ingress players: the primary means of scoring points in the game is creating fields. Bigger fields are more points. Fields are always triangles. You create fields by generating links between portals. You make a link between two portals by going to the source portal and using up a key to the destination portal.

Thus, you could make a big triangle like that by creating a link between a portal in Oakland and a portal in Marin Highlands; then between the same portal in Oakland and a portal in Half Moon Bay; and then between the Half Moon Bay and Marin portals. Boom, lots of green.

Oh, yeah. The tricky part is that links can’t cross. So if there was already a link between, say, Candlestick Park and Alameda, you couldn’t create the link between Oakland and Half Moon Bay. This makes life tricky.

The coordination aspect of this is really the fun part, particularly since the other team will try and stop you from scoring via various methods if they notice. It’s like a much lower pressure version of moving your servers between data centers: plenty of planning, lots of moving parts, and a good team of people.

Badging

Platinum SpecOps I think I’m the first Ingress player in the Bay Area to hit platinum specops, which means I’ve done 200 missions. (Missions are player-generated mini-quests that can be as easy as interacting with 4 portals or as hard as figuring out a set of passphrases over multiple miles.) This was not super-hard to do, but it did require a lot of persistence and some planning.

My 200th mission was Climb Mount Davidson by Agent hiryu; it was a nice walk up to the top of Mount Davidson, which was not terribly strenuous but which rewarded me with a great view nonetheless. My longest one — probably Hike Mt. Wanda, in Contra Costa County, which was a couple of miles of hiking up a nifty trail.

Plat SpecOps Badges I completed eight missions at Walt Disney World a month before Niantic opened up mission creation to almost anyone. If I had taken that trip two months later, I’d have been able to do 100+ missions in that week with minimal effort. No regrets! I did 17 Disneyland missions on our last trip there. I have 16 missions from business trips to LA, and four airport missions (one of which overlaps with the LA mission count). I did more annoying “hack every portal on this downtown San Francisco street” missions than I want to think about.

I completed 45 missions in Contra Costa County in one weekend, thanks in large part to a very busy mission creator in Martinez. I completed 26 of those missions on Saturday, a personal record that’ll stick until my next Walt Disney World trip. I then knocked off another six missions in San Francisco on Sunday, thanks in complete part to my own obsessiveness.

I completed a set of missions whose badges spell out “RESIST” and I completed a set of missions whose badges spell out “SMURF TEARS.” I was careful to do neither of them in order, because I think that kind of thing is a bit silly. My badges spell out “SISTER” and “MTRESAURSF,” instead. I didn’t take the time to figure out something clever to do with sad smurfs at the time, but if you need a good anagram, I’d recommend “FASTER RUMS” or “TSAR’S FEMUR.”

I don’t know that I’m going to hit onyx specops — 500 missions — any time soon. However, I’m not going to stop doing missions just because I got this badge, so we’ll see.

I will chatter on about any aspect of missions on demand, regardless of faction.

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Susan and I spent the afternoon hanging out at Point Bonita Lighthouse on the off chance that someone of the blue persuasion would drop by and try to do something interesting, in which case we had plans to dissuade them. As it turned out, we did get one visitor, but since our teammates had already done something larger and more interesting, there was no chance of tumult even if she’d had plans.

So we took a lot of pictures instead.

Golden Gate Bridge

Point Bonita Lifehouse

Coast North of San Francisco

This Way To The

I’ve been playing a lot of Ingress recently. Short form: it’s Google’s augmented reality alien invasion PvP game; you physically go to in-game portals, which correspond with the locations of landmarks, public art, and so on, and perform various actions which lead to creating fields of influence over various areas. The two factions are competing to control the most minds; it’s literally scored in terms of mind units. Kind of sinister when you get right down to it.

The game interests me on a number of levels, so I’ll probably write a spate of posts about it before trailing off into inactivity again. The game design is perhaps accidentally interesting, the ad hoc social networks are totally fascinating, and it hits a sweet OCD spot for me in a way which has me exercising. I averaged around 5 miles a day of walking in December. Go me.

Oh, and the lore is written by Flint Dille. Old school tabletop gamers can be suitably amused at this juncture.

Here’s an excellent story about getting involved in the game. It’s what got me and Susan playing, and everything in it is entirely true. Except the bit about the scooter. I can’t attest to anything involving scooter play first hand. I have, however, had experiences analogous to everything else she talks about.

This is a pretty good primer on the game; it’s a little dated, since like any decent MMO Ingress has occasional updates, but on the whole it’s solid.

If you decide to play because you are reading this, you should play Enlightened. The most meaningful currency in Ingress is time. Skill matters some, but the balance is skewed way over towards time, particularly before you get to the tippy-top of the elder game. The only way to generate time out of thin air is to convince people to play on your side. So: play Enlightened.

Yes, the Resistance is the attractive spunky underdog group. Next post sometime this week I will provide you with a conceptual framework that explains why the Enlightened are the real underdogs, which hopefully will allow you to play Enlightened without feeling like you’re supporting the Illuminati.

Elder Scrolls Online Launched Clean

So saith Massively. I am not at all surprised given what I know about the engineering teams working on that title. I am, nonetheless, tickled pink by this paragraph:

From my 50-hours-of-playtime perspective, though, the launch has in fact been completely lag-free. It’s also been one of the more polished overall launches I’ve experienced in a number of years, though I wouldn’t say it’s number one (Lord of the Rings Online had fewer quest bugs out of the gate, which was all the more impressive since smooth MMO launches were unheard of in 2007).

Aw yeah. Champion and still #1, LOTRO launch!

The Secret World

My current secret MMO crush is Funcom’s The Secret World, which will be a modern dark fantasy conspiratorial MMO. I don’t expect much from it, which is why it’s a crush — the ideas are hot but as much as I want to like each and every Funcom MMO, there’s always been a bit of a gap between concept and execution. Hope springs eternal nonetheless.

Now there is a trailer, which will probably not bear that much resemblance to game play. There is also a sort of informative interview. Starting locations will be London, New York, and Seoul. I so much want this game to be good.

Please Please Me

Even after downloading and playing this I’m still substantially surprised that Richard Thompson found his way onto Rock Band. But it’s awesome!

The fan reaction has also been pretty gratifying. There’s a lot of “it started badly but then I got to the solo, whoa.” It’s weird realizing that this track has the potential to be the top selling Thompson song ever.

My favorite comment on the video: “Is all of that solo really played on a guitar though? Man, I wish mine sounded like that. ;P”

Deep Rock Band Thoughts

Nothin’ ain’t somethin’ till there’s mashup DLC.

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