And Summer Vacation is Over

It’s been an interesting summer vacation for me.   Having stopped planning Big Fields, nobody wants to read the boring stuff.   But I keep moving onwards with it all, and vacation was interesting.

I am **this close** to 3 million MU captured, which would put me 3/4 of the way to the ultimate Ingress medal, Onyx Illuminator.    Somehow, counting up for a mere million points doesn’t sound that bad.    Got my gold Recon badge – the one you get for doing Operation Portal Recon – and also closing in on platinum Liberator, only 1200  portal captures to go for that.

The charging game is what it’s all about.   Charge, charge, and charge.   I am waiting to hear from anyone who wants to let things decay, but until then I keep everything up that I can manage, in this order :

  1. Strategic Portals – the really important ones even if unlinked.
  2. Things holding up fields – because it’s all about fields.
  3. Unlinked portals – every driveby might make it filled out.

And always field with the minimum amount of links (In the SCV that is).    You never know what your teammates are going to do and you roll with it, but the fewer portals we have to charge the more fun it all is.

I had quite the blast over summer vacation – I visited four different spots.

First we hit Monterey CA; a whole Downtown full of uniques.

Second we visited Auburn, CA.   This suburb of Sacramento features old style downtown areas to hit while you wander with your family; campgrounds being encroached upon by suburban sprawl – I was within walking distance of a brand new Target anchor store in a minimall with a portal, and a church featuring four portals; and the Auburn Mine.

This place was fielded over and the scene of an epic battle.

The locals were nice and over comms told me “Enjoy the mine!”.    We then battled while I wandered the museum.    When it was just my boy and I, I didn’t Ingress much – he asks so many questions as we figure out the mining equipment and his little engineer brain goes into overdrive.   The girls however, they look quick and move on, so I was hacking and firing like crazy with them.

When the battle was over I congratulated the ENL.   I was in the mine grounds for four hours.  They fought hard through all of it.   Still, the battle almost always goes to the attacker and I had captured almost all of the mine; two portals remained green and three uncaptured (they of course wiped out most of my captures the next day).   One guy I fought against lost his onyx Guardian and I got another unique.   I felt a little bad but it was clean playing – I had no idea this was a Guardian spot.

If you get a chance, go see the Empire Mine in Auburn.   It was an unexpected gem.

Our third stop was the Russian River and the town of Guerneville, just outside of “Bear Weekend” when the gay community visits in force.   We stayed in the absolute BEST campground – Cassini Ranch, near the hamlet of Duncan Mills.    If you like camping, stay here – the place also features four portals, while Duncan Mills has maybe a dozen.

Heading to our fourth stop I felt cocky.   No problem, I’ll get my portal hacks for my sojourner.   I got a bad feeling as we exited the freeway, headed along a deserted road with no signal whatsoever.  And I arrived at Lake Nacimiento, the lake with no portals and got nervous.

I planned this one out correctly at least.   We were in a boat all day, and as a concession I got the family to agree to “Let Dad go out and Ingress” when the sun went down.    I had spotted a portal on the intel map which was right outside the lake grounds, and it should be capturable.   I thought.

As the sun went down, the radiation interfered with signal, or something like that.   A 10 minute wait yielded no signal and I gave up, half frantic with the thought of losing my sojourner (It will end in December.   Then I’m free.)    But in between spotty internet connections I had noted some additional portals down the road in a direction we hadn’t been.    I headed in that direction.

Only a mile away is a new subdivision being built, with a minimall outside including a grocery store next to a post office – and a post office portal.    Now I’ll be good.   Right ?

Wrong.   No signal.   Again.    I sat and waited, and after forever passed I was positively panicked.    But I finally did get signal (I shall not reveal how), and captured the portal.    On my way back I hit the previously uncaptured portal – after sundown it was easy signal.    I bought groceries and even came back to the camper a hero.

Things look bad for the Resistance in Burbank.    My local that lived nearby moved away.    Starting Tuesday is the first school day, and I’m taking my kids to Burbank every day.   This means no more hitting the town early, or staying late.    Add to that the lower player count and I am pretty discouraged.   I can only do so much during working hours.   But the SCV stays blue, all the time, which is big.


The Game has Changed in Ingress


I went out today to run an errand around town in the SCV.   I looked on the intel map, and couldn’t find anything that I wanted to do for Ingress.    90% or more of the town is fielded.   The local greens have largely given up – including my nemesis and his wife.   It’s either a strategic move, to bore all of us blues, or they’re just done with the game.

The new opponent we face in Santa Clarita is entropy.   Keeping all these portals charged up and not letting them decay is a challenge.   Farming gear takes on a whole new meaning when you need hundreds of cubes.   Fortunately, I have generally saved and never used the Lawson / Circle K cubes which I have acquired and it doesn’t take too many of these things to fully charge – after eating all the cubes I have in my inventory, that is.

Resonators and weapons get destroyed to clear inventory in the hope of getting more cubes, and keys are used not for their intended purpose but as micro batteries.

I think, this is what victory looks like.

A few greens in the middle, but the exterior is covered.

Now Burbank is another story entirely.    Burbank has continued active greens, including my local nemesis.   They’re getting stronger.    I’m getting more work.   These things all result in a greener Burbank, and I can’t even keep up with Downtown that much anymore.

Just after I refielded those fields between 3rd & Glenoaks.

I find it interesting how victory in one area, keeps me from assisting as much in another.   Less micro fields and more charging to keep the larger fields alive.

All in all, Burbank is dominantly green.


1 1/2 Times To 16


I once thought I would never reach 40 million AP in Ingress.   Hah.

Got almost exactly 60 million.

Now, I’m half again that mark.   Looks like it took around eight months of gameplay.

The only real fun statistical thing to chase is MU.    2.55 million MU are scored, and 3m does not seem that far off.    4m is the Onyx badge.    I think it will/would be fun to count up from 3m to 4m, but I have 450k MU to score first before I’d find that out.

Everything else is just impossibly distant.   Onyx mind controller (Fields) badge is earned at 40,000 fields; I’ve just passed 10,000.    I have many gold badges inching their way to platinum.     Feh – Ingress 2.0 will be here before I onyx all of that stuff.

Blue dominant.

Santa Clarita is pretty firmly in RES control.    It’s a nice feeling.   The caveat being that normal gameplay has restarted today since the Magnus badge is finished.   Determined players on either side can either fill in all that blue, or knock it all down again.    It tends to creep blue slowly, both because that’s my natural game style, and because most other RES agents play that way too.    The greenies in the area fight over their neighborhoods and try to deal with being very outnumbered.

Battleground Area

Downtown Burbank just gets flattened, then blued up, then flattened, then blued up, and even greened up then flattened by the RES then blued up.   Citywide things are much bluer than they have been, which is a nice thing to see.    With a bit more ENL activity it would probably be 80%+ green – except Downtown.   Maybe.

Then again my only contribution to Burbank is Downtown.   And either drawing ENL to the area or just making them sick of flattening it and they head off elsewhere.   But the RES is much bigger than any one agent, and the team does a great job with Burbank all things considered.

I’ve seen multiple new portals in SCV and have hit most of them – and not a single new one in Burbank.   I think it’s slim pickings in Burbank anyway, seems that everything possible is already a portal.    I’ve added many deletion requests to the queue and we’ll see if any of them actually get deleted.    So far, I believe my deletion record is one, for the Cow Sculpture in Glendale in someone’s front yard.   And four new portals exist because of my submissions.

The Ingress lifestyle doesn’t stop.    Real life moves on.    I take my daughter to school every day, meaning that I rarely get a chance to leave at 4 am because of XYZ game reason.   Instead I arrive at work and wait for break time.    Then again, summer is fast approaching….

Most nights – as always – I don’t have the opportunity to run out and field/burn any areas, but I take them as I can.   And I run every errand my wife wants.   She’s figured me out, but she doesn’t seem to mind half as much as she used to.

It probably helps that I’m much more engaged in vacation/getaway planning nowadays.   I actually have ideas about places to go now !    As in portals I want to hit, uniques to collect, downtowns to wander, and weird tourist attractions to visit which just happen to have lots of portals.

Will I reach Onyx Illuminator ?    Or 100m AP ?   Only time will tell.

OPR – 1350 reviews later


I absolutely love doing portal reviews for Operation Portal Recon.

I have spent a lot of time looking at the Ingress Intel Map, planning fields and planning blocks.   And you get familiar with a lot of weird places across Southern California.    Playing the game also makes you wonder why portals got approved, why they got rejected, and so forth.   I get it much more, in my gut now, having run through the review process so many times.

As is often the case, there’s a fair amount of sloth, bureauacracy, and whim involved.

A random sample review

Your first question is “Should this be a portal” – it’s your first impression about the object shown in the picture.    If the thing looks *wow, fantastic* it’s a 5, and if it’s a picture of someone’s couch it’s a 1.   Once you rate it a 1, the review is recorded (presumably, as a reject) and immediately moves on.

Churches get automatic 4 stars from me, and usually 5 stars.   This is as per the portal worthiness guidelines.   I suppose libraries would too, except I’ve yet to rate one.    Automatic high stars also go to parks, fountains, and trail heads – since playing the game, I’ve found these to be good portals both in the sense of location, and neat things to be looking at or standing around.

Next you are asked if the title is correct.   It always is.   Unless it’s a really crap picture like someone just pressed the camera button randomly and described it as “asdf”.

“Is it historically or culturally significant” – a good criteria to use.    Not too many things are.    I have seen State Historic Landmarks, beloved local eateries, and rate those high for this point, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

“Is it visually unique” – In the area.   This caveat makes sense.   Niantic apparently doesn’t want multiple representations of the same thing in one close area, so that neat little bike rack that was mass produced and installed 100 times in the space of 5 blocks is a one star.    But it’s otherwise obvious.   I’ve seen a lot of murals and art objects that got five stars, and rated two stars a lot of little street arts and plaques.

The lower half of the review screen.

Here’s some of the real good stuff.   On the left, you review Google Maps and find out if the object actually exists as per this source.    It’s not always obvious – sometimes, things are built after the last Maps update.   Or graffitti / murals are painted over.    That sort of thing.    Some of the objects are inside, or underneath trees, so you don’t end up seeing them.    You make you best judgement and enter a rating.   It helps to see the existing portals to determine where the thing is too.

Rate the location’s accuracy – which prevents agents from submitting things under false pretenses, like the guy who submitted photos of trail heads and GPS located them at his house.    Everything gets rejected based on these locations –

Residential Property.   Who wants Ingressers hanging out in their front yards for a fracking party ?   Nobody.

Primary / Secondary Schools.   Preschools.   Daycare.    Please, no pedo portals.

Military bases.    This baffles me, the military folks who submit portals on their bases.   Nobody can get in there guys; that’s not publicly accessible.   Same thing for motion picture studios.    And I rejected the portal at Gold Base for Scientology for the same reason.

Closed businesses.    Once it’s closed you can rarely access the portal again.   Even if you can, does it make sense to be going after the church portal that has been turned into a Holiday inn ?   Nope.

Safe walking access ?    This is the biggest.   Can an agent get there on foot (or, after parking their car) without getting run over or arrested ?    There are existing portals that don’t follow this rule and you can report them, but there are too many agents on both sides who just say “F*** it ” and trespass or stand in the middle of the road to hit portals.  So I reject all of these.    Many, many portals fall afoul of the location rule in some respect or other.

You can move the marker around if the location is off as per the maps.    There are a couple of challenges with that – first, Niantic does not appear to care.   I spent a fair amount of time moving locations, and then managed to see three separate instances where the portal was approved, I was reviewing something else in the area, and the portal was in the original location anyway.     Second, the tool is buggy.   Reloading the page is often necessary.

And three – surprisingly – the Google Maps are not perfectly tied together.   They provide four views – north, south, east, and west – and when you rotate the map, you would think they would all show the same area exactly.   They don’t.   They’re off by a factor of yards, which can matter when you’re talking about a mural on the side of a road.    The difference between hitting the mural, and having it be on the side of a mountain, is important.   So I usually leave the location alone.

Then, there’s the right side.    You can use this to look quickly for duplicate portals.    People submit the good ones multiple times, and if you find one, you click the existing portal and mark it as a duplicate.

There’s also a box for your comments.   I put in explanations of why I pick whatever rating I pick – usually for the low ones – and web links when appropriate to explain why something is important.   Like the web page for Mc Connell’s Ice Cream, showing it’s a historic local business for Santa Barbara.

You can also select the object on a database of items.   I started doing this, but the interface is wonky and irritating, plus it doesn’t matter for the rating decision, so I stopped filling in this optional item.

You can see your performance, quantity of ratings, and how many were accepted/rejected based at least partly on your rating.

It’s almost more fun than playing the game.   But when I can tell I’m getting sloppy I log off and stop making ratings, and go back to Minecraft, or whatever.   Paid reviewers – or Google interns – don’t have that luxury.    Some of their bad decisions are surely springing from that problem.

Niantic have crafted the review algorithm to try and stop agents who review based on game factors.   For example, the big farm that’s always up would probably benefit from having more portals.    If the ENL all vote no and the RES all vote yes, it’s supposedly known and taken care of.   The details aren’t provided to us agents for obvious reasons.

I believe there’s a timeout feature that isn’t disclosed either.   If I spend 20 minutes trying to review a portal, I think they time out – or I am getting random web errors as they work on the system.    It depends on what I’m doing.    I have crawled the streets to find out that the fantastic MLK mural is not actually on 3rd street – it’s on 9th street, six blocks away, because the agent was in a car when they were submitting the portal.   The very random GPS errors I don’t expect to find, but I look anyway sometimes.

As a general rule, LA does not need any more portals.     The exception is newly created subdivisions and communities, and whatever cool things get built.    What I’m really waiting for is the community deletion / editing tool which I assume is coming next.    But first – time to deal with more of the backlog.

Exploring the Mysterio world

For quite some time, as I improved my Minecraft world, the map looked something like this :

The impression being, a huge ocean, with some land nearby.

I eventually got around to making a boat to get back and forth between the swamps to the northwest, and the ocean monument excavation to the southeast.   And I decided to find out how big the ocean was.

Oceans in Minecraft are not the globe-bestriding colossi you expect from planet Earth.   I was pretty sure they would end at some point, making them actually “Ocean Lakes”, and I think I was right.

Pretty much fleshed out. Only the northern extreme remains unknown.

Biome variety now stands at :

  • Swamp
  • Roofed Forest
  • Desert/Beaches
  • Oceans
  • Stone Beach
  • Extreme Hills
  • Forest (Regular)
  • Birch Forest
  • Taiga
  • Mega Taiga

So I’m still looking for the big three – Jungle, Mooshrooms, and Mesa.

I managed to find a Woodland Mansion, and went in to investigate.   One of the Illagers was inside, and despite my plain iron sword and Level – 30 enchanted armor, he cleaned my clock very quickly.    Stuff lost (nothing irreplaceable) and a new respect for the Vindicator.

I’m thinking I’ll carve a road through the Extreme hills, and bridge over the ocean, to make a connection with the village in the west, then move on with a road from there.

Boating past huge waterfalls

A Tour of Magnus


I may have been a bit too pessimistic about the Magnus badge.   I previously posted about the bad things it’s brought me.   But the best thing about it is probably the tale I’ve concocted earning it.

It started down by LAX, in an area called the Flight Path.

The best kind of Ingress farm – a bunch of plaques close together.  I walked the streets around LAX for quite a few more.    I missed out on the Proud Bird – closed for construction.

Opening in June 2017

Of course, Downtown Burbank figured prominently in my walk for the badge –

And I also went to an area I had been to once before.    Near Valley College is an area called the Great Wall of Los Angeles, because of it’s huge mural along a concrete wash.   Someone made a small similar one along the wall of Las Palmas Park in Sylmar.

Canyon Country also figured prominently in badge points.

This is usually friendly territory, but we got most of it knocked down so I recapped a bunch of stuff.

This is usually enemy territory – except for Canyon Country Park (center), which is a ton of grey portals nearly all the time.

Then we visited something really cool – Holly Hock house, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home in the middle of Barnsdall Park.

And the associated walk along Hillhurst avenue as we noshed on cakes from the Alcove Bakery.   After enjoying a huge late lunch at my favorite LA Mexican restaurant, the Mexico City cafe.

No search for portals would be complete without hitting Downtown Newhall as well.

And the local park at Placerita Canyon has a huge number as well.

Burbank also yielded the Olive Park portals.

It’s been renamed George Izay park, but I’m old school.

My return trip to LAX was interesting.   I first walked among high end hotels for travelers at LAX.

And I finished up my time there on Inglewood Avenue, in a poor neighborhood but proud, vibrant, and friendly.

I would have never known these old school markets were here.

The final stop, and earning the badge, brought me to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica :

And while wandering around with my wife buying nonsense in the stores on 3rd street, I have my Magnus Architect medal.   Happy Mother’s Day !

The Magnus Badge


After level 16, one of the things that keeps you going in Ingress are the badges.   The quantity of “things” you need to do to progress them is mind boggling, but it’s still fun.   Then, Niantic decided to mix things up a bit with the Magnus badge.

This badge is a limited time event, two weeks long, and you have to put down 1,331 resonators in different portal slots to earn the first level.    The second level is available at 3,113 slots.   I found myself with a whole lot of slots filled easily and decided to go for the Architect (level 2) version.

Most of the gameplay in Ingress is team based.    If someone else makes a field that you wanted to make, you can shrug it off, or create a nearby different (probably smaller) field instead.    You want to see all the portals a deep beautiful blue, defended and linked up, and you always try to take out green whenever you can.    The new badge has totally screwed that up.

This is a limited time event, so the only thing I’m doing is dumping resonators onto portals.   Then it’s on to the next one.    Then it’s back to reality.    Rinse and repeat.   I look over the intel map for big clusters of grey portals, and get annoyed when I find some owned by my own team.   I wanted to capture those things.

Linking ?   Defending ?   It is to laugh.   The challenge is to have enough resonators to dump down on portals, since each one has to be yours, and it’s easy to run out of some if you’re trying to fill every slot.    All other actions take time.   I need to spend my time on reaching, and filling out, portals.

You can upgrade portals for points towards this badge, but in all honesty, if I depended on that for badge points I would never receive the badge.   So I look for green portals to kill – which is good and normal – and stay away from any area that I have already been in (Bad !) , or which my teammates have blued up a bit (Very bad !).

I hope there aren’t any more badges that really screw the normal game up like this.   I like the idea, but the implementation doesn’t really work for me.    I get the problem – if they make it too easy, everyone gets it and kind of ignore it, and too hard and even the unemployed folks who 24/7 the game don’t get it.

It would also be solvable by just…. ignoring the damn thing.   I don’t seem to be able to do that.   So as of this writing I need another 180 points which should be doable in Burbank, and I need to complete it by 5 pm Friday the 19th.

Operation Portal Recon


For quite some time, Niantic has been tuning a new portal approval mechanism for Ingress, and it went live today.

This is the interface on Mobile

There are a number of criteria you are asked to rate each submission on –

  • Good Title
  • Historical/cultural signifigance
  • Visually unique
  • Accurate location
  • Safe access as a pedestrian

And ultimately, you rate it as to its worth as a portal.

This is specifically for the backlog of portal requests only.   Niantic hasn’t allowed new submissions for a really long time now, and presumably this is the first step to permitting them again.

(Then there’s the existing low quality portals that should be removed, but one thing at a time.)

Some submissions are pretty bad –

Nice baseball cap. Lousy “portal”.

Much better. A trail head.  And the Web Interface shown.

I can get behind helping out with the portal backlog.    It’s fun !    At least, at the start it will be.    Who knows if it will remain so into the future.

Sand, sand, everywhere


Still digging out the Ocean Monument.

The torch trick worked.    If you have a long column of sand to dig out, just dig out the bottom block, and super quick place a torch in there before the sand has a chance to fully fall.    The sand blocks then break themselves on the torch and you are left with a stack of sand in a fraction of the time it would take to break all those blocks… and drink milk to deal with the Guardians.

And it’s fully dug out….. sorta.

But I’ve only dug out a portion of the monument – maybe 1/3 of it.  So now it’s time to expand the box.

One thing I had figured out is that it’s easier to fill in if instead of simply pouring sand and super slowly expanding the “island”, you fill it in in a box first, and then put lines of sand through that.    It reduces the area that the guardians have to swim and spawn in.

Filling it all in

And then, I ran out of sand again.    Four large chests full and I can’t even fill in enough to start digging out.

Left side is about 2/3 full.

Out I went to gather sand, and managed to fill it all along the left side.   The process of digging it out was difficult, partly because of the difficulty of draining the inside of the temple.

All the sand is great at emptying the exterior.   The interior is a big challenge to fill with sand – bigger than I have patience for.    The second you expose the interior, Guardians are attacking you, and it’s very possible to get lost and drown trapped under the roof of the monument.   So I gave up trying to excavate it “dry”.

The destruction begins on the right wing.

Impressive screenshots are at an end.   Now it’s just a matter of breaking the thing down and getting at the “treasure” – sponges and gold blocks.   No elder guardians found yet – one is in the center top of the temple, and still looking for the other two.


Restarting an Abandoned Project


After my son, yet again, got interested in Minecraft and building all kinds of strange things, blowing things up with TNT, and all kinds of creative-mode shenanigans, I found myself loading up my latest Minecraft world and adventuring again.

While my super-long-road project was well behind me, TAGN took a slightly different take on the whole thing and has been progressing on it for months.

The Mysterio world – so named because I deliberately decided not to use the various tools for finding things – has revealed Swamps, Roofed Forests, Deserts/Beaches, and Oceans.    I have a cobblestone path through a lot of the ocean, having decided not to hoard dozens of chests filled with a single resource, and instead to put it to use building various things.     Seems I have not posted about this map since June of 2016.   And as I read my old post I realized I never finished digging out the Ocean Temple.

Time to restart the project.

Armed with tons of sand, I began dumping it into the ocean months back.  I had sketched out a box which, from the limited land-based view, seemed to cover the major parts of the ocean temple.    After running all over the desert I eventually got enough sand to fill in the box and cover a lot of the temple.

Only a lot.    The thing is much bigger than I had anticipated.    And I got bored.  So after filling in the box completely I completed a few additional projects –

  • Expand the wheat farm.   By the time I’ve finished harvesting, the first blocks are ready for reharvest.
  • Trap a couple of cows and start beef/leather farming.
  • Overland path along block 1000, connecting to a nearby village
  • Full enchanted Diamond equipment

All the beef and leather a man could want.

I have not yet managed a full chest of iron ingots – which is what I was waiting for to start building a railroad.    Increasing the iron generation in the game was a smart idea, so that instead of digging and saying “Bah.   More diamonds.   Need IRON !”, I have enough iron for a massive railroad.   If I can dig it up.

So far, I have resisted the temptation to simply harvest the exposed blocks and start destroying the Monument.   I just read about a trick to re-gathering the sand I will have to try out, which should make it a breeze.    And then, I’ll want to cover the left wing as well as finish covering the right wing.     One additional tidbit discovered having read a lot of Ocean Monument posts on the internet is that they are about 77 blocks long.    With a little math I can sketch the box out a bit more accurately.

The first hints of prismarine…

Huge columns of sand to dig out.

It’s getting to look like a structure under there !

So now, I should dig down to the point that I can walk into the front door.    It will take a bit of time, but that’s always available in Minecraft.   The Mysterio world has finished its first in-game year, but no end is in sight.