“What the hell are you doing ?”

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And I’ve achieved the original “top level”.

Level 8 !

Level 8 !

It didn’t hurt that my benefactor told me he’d give me free stuff if I hit it first.    Before the other guy, working in Burbank, who was almost level 8.   I beat him by a mere 12 minutes, and claimed 200 level 8 items.

One thing you apparently need to be careful about is…… what the hell kind of an idiot you look like when you’re playing Ingress.    Wandering the streets of downtown Burbank at lunchtime was a bad idea – all my coworkers, out for their lunchbreaks, spotted me.   A few asked me “What in the hell are you doing ?”, some kept silent, but I bet they were all thinking that.   Have to remember that I am, truly, well known among a 1500 person population and behave accordingly.

You have to move in a circle around a portal to deploy resonators, and walk to the middle to attack it.    Or both, as the tactical situation allows.   You also move from portal to portal as you collect keys.    This means, to outside eyes, you are wandering back and forth while glued to a screen, which all the muggles do not understand in the slightest.    All they think is what my IT guy told me – “That’s gotta be a crappy map app!”.    I blew it all off each time as getting out and walking, which is certainly partially true.

Hmmm.   Pretty accurate.

Hmmm. Pretty accurate.

Most of, or all of, downtown Burbank changed hands between green and blue 3 times or so this week, so it’s best to expect that and not get too invested in particular portals.    Now that I’m level 8 anyway I’m thinking more of the bigger picture – how to keep the global score for the Resistance higher than the greens.    To that end I’m less interested in making a control field for +6 MU’s.   Rather, I want to knock down the bigger green fields and build up a field of triangles myself.

I think one simple attraction of the game for me is – how exactly do I take this mess of portals and make triangles ?    It’s not always a simple question.

Ok - So...... where do I want to go, and in what order ?

Ok – So…… where do I want to go, and in what order ?

But.   Probably better walked in a straight line, if people I know are seeing me.

 

Gaming Paranoia, and Inventory Management

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Ingress is a game that promotes paranoia.   What do I mean by that ?

I’m in an office building, which sits catty corner from another one.     I see some player drop keys in the game, from the other office building.    Since there’s an enemy player taking portals right next to me, clearly, this is the guy.    The enemy is dropping keys.

This is a key, laying on the (virtual) ground.

This is a key, laying on the (virtual) ground.   It’s a yellow rod with a purple “cockpit” in the front.

The reason you drop keys, usually, is because you want to acquire more of them.   If I hack portal ABC, I can get a key.   If I hack it a second time, the game looks to see if I’m holding a key, and if I am, I will not get another key for the portal.    Strange mechanic, but that’s the way the game is played.

You get around this by dropping your keys, hacking the portal, then picking them up again.   Unless…..

Well, since it’s an enemy player I immediately picked them up.    I stole his virtual keys.    That’ll make it harder for you to link anything !  Cackling with glee, I then hustled over to the window and carefully scanned the building.   Is this guy walking around outside ?

I scrutinized every person out there on their phone.    “Is that….. THE ENEMY ?”    I do this naturally as well, anyone walking and pecking away at their phone prompts the question in my mind, is he playing Ingress.    It’s a strange feeling.     A complete enveloping of paranoia is what it is, and often wrong.

I spotted a young man in a ball cap glued to his phone, who hopped into his car and walked away.   That’s him, I thought.    Then the enemy took game actions again, and I realized I was wrong – Final answer is he was probably inside the other office building, somewhere.

Later in the day, the paranoia finally paid off.    I walked the streets of Burbank, and to acquire more keys, I dropped three of them near a portal.   Suddenly, they started….. DISAPPEARING.    My head popped up from the phone and I scanned the sidewalk.

Based on the way the guy was walking (glued to his phone), the game lag, and the direction of travel, this time I’m sure I spotted an enemy agent.     I’m going to call out to him if I ever see him again, a young fellow, not an old bastard like me.

I wonder if the demographics of the game are very young, or what.    So far it seems a mix of everyone which is kind of interesting, based on the people in the Resistance Hangout and the two real-life spottings that I’ve had.

The other problem I have is familiar to any MMO player.    I’m out of inventory space.

Maximum space, 2000

Maximum space, 2000

I’ve recycled all my Level 1 and Level 2 resonators (used to claim empty portals) and bursters (used to destroy enemy resonators/mods).    All the keys for areas I’m not interested in are gone.    I just have tons of stuff, but not that much ability to go out and use it.    As it is, I spend a ton of time on this game, and yet I have so much stuff I can’t use it all.

Perhaps it’s as simple as I should meet up with another player and donate some stuff to them.

AdVenture Capitalist

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For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing a new game.     Not Ingress.    AdVenture Capitalist.

Would you like to buy a lemonade stand ?

Would you like to buy a lemonade stand ?

On the one hand, this free Steam-available game is a total stupid waste of time.   It’s a set of progress bars.    You have ten business types available, and you buy more and more of these businesses.   So, wait for the bars to finish and you make money.

Then, they upped the ante with managers.    You can buy managers to click the bars for you, so you don’t actually have to be playing the game to progress.    So….. It plays itself.    Why am I playing it so much then ?

There’s the “just one more turn” phenomenon best exemplified by Civilization.    I just want to do one more thing….. and this game actually has that.     Just one more business for 2x speeds.    One more upgrade and I’ll let it run overnight.     One more minute and I’ll have a million angel investors.

I think I’ll let yesterdays Rock Paper Scissors article speak to the rest.    He’s a few days behind me but doing exactly the same thing as I am otherwise.

In the meantime, here’s what my game looks like at the moment.    I am cackling with glee and thinking about just how much money a nonillion really would be.    Ahhhhh……

Next purchase : 10 banks.    When I get the money.   In 20 seconds.

Next purchase : 10 banks. When I get the money. In 20 seconds.

The Back and Forth of Ingress

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The battle for Burbank over the past week has been a matter of constructing a careful spiderweb of links across the entire Downtown area – what I used to know as the Golden Mall, from around Olive to Magnolia, and up from 1st street to Glenoaks.     Every link, and every control field, will offer the same amount of AP’s.    The advantage to this seems to be like an actual spiderweb – you might punch a hole in it but it’s hard to knock down completely.

I’ll spend a significant amount of time making this whole thing, in pursuit of both AP (read : XP) and some level 8 greens (or multiple people) will go through in 15 minutes and wipe half, 3/4, or the whole thing out, presumably with level 8 weapons.    At the moment, I’ve assisted in covering half of downtown, with the only question being what it will look like on Monday morning.

It’s great to see an area like that that I’m concentrating on; and suddenly, another agent will make some fields or take other actions that hit the scanner.   The scanner has a communications feature where you can broadcast messages, and all link creations and control fields show up as well.    We’re all part of the same team, covering each other, and hopefully the entire area against alien attack.

I also get a sense of where big battles are being fought, based on the fields being created and destroyed in the Comms, and that is the LA Zoo area (which seems to have a ton of portals), and the Disney Studios lot (again, tons of portals).    Kind of funny to think that Disney employees, on both sides of the action, are duking it out against one another.    It sure isn’t the general public, because the studio lots are closed to them.

Then there’s Canyon Country.    Two agents – or one guy with two phones, I can’t decide which – are greening a large area including the canyon with Freedom’s Way.    I plan to be ready to build up the portal this weekend, by grabbing various keys for the creation of large fields across the mountains and a large populated area.    When I have enough keys, I can build up Freedoms Way again, then create several fields for many points.   I’ve not yet been able to make another field larger than 2.2k.

Most of Canyon Country stayed blue all week, with some fighting between agents, but it’s a much slower pace than the bloody streets of Downtown Burbank.    Resistance should capture a key portal in the middle of the mountains – Bear Divide Picnic area.   The greens had used that as an anchor to make tons of fields.

This sure is fun.     Readers, give it a try, and remember to pick Resistance.

My Lieb ! I’ve been Liebed ! And other bad puns inside…

I’ve been tagged in the latest meme/fad going around for bloggers, the Liebster challenge.   Thanks for thinking of me Wilhelm.    Lord knows it took me forever to write this – epic post for the time starved.

Am I doing this right ?

This time, I thought I’d participate, especially since the “blogging” community is pretty well established here in 2015.    Yall are people I truly know – why not share a bit ?

First step is to list of 11 random facts about myself, given that Wilhelm has also listed some, which for no particularly good reason makes me like him a bit better.    (My kind of guy!).

  1. I started drinking Coke back before I was 10 years old.     Maybe 8-10 years ago I switched to Coke Zero.     I stay well caffeinated – I don’t track how many I drink but it’s probably a lot.    I’m drinking one right now.
  2. I learned to play chess at 8 years old because of Raisin Bran.   There was a set on the box you could cut out and set up, and I did this.   I taught my sister how to play.   Mom loves to tell the story of catching us doing this and her delight, although she’s been less delighted with my other gaming activities over the years.
  3. I lived for one year in Indiana.   That was enough.    After winter was over I was told “Mildest winter in 30 years”, which really cemented the deal.   I moved back to Southern California and have lived here ever since.    I can’t handle all that bad weather, and I’ll trade that for earthquakes.
  4. My TV show is the Amazing Race.    What a lot of fun, watching “normal” people get thrown into a race around the world.    I’ve seen some other shows in the past 15-20 years but this is the only one I watch consistently.    I mean, who has time for TV when they game as much as we all do, amirite ?
  5. I am amazed at how many cars people buy.   I am on my fifth car lifetime, while I have friends who have owned 20 cars.    No thanks – I want something that’s going to last for awhile and I seem to have generally achieved that.    My only mistake (#4) was buying a Camaro as what my wife calls my “mid life crisis” car.   I ended up hating it and selling it after about a year.
  6. I have never used a grill.    Nowadays I kind of want to get the hang of it, but whenever people come over 1) My Wife 2) Bro-in-law 3) best friend all end up doing any needed grilling.    Maybe I just need to put my foot down and plan on making burgers on the stupid thing one day.
  7. My method of generating pocket money in my teens was aluminum cans.   I collected tons of them by roaming the streets and digging through trash cans, in the days before recycle bins and the three matching garbage bins in front of everyone’s houses.    My Dad had a deal with a lot of the stews at the local airport, and they’d save all the cans from the planes for him, which he turned over to me.   That was maybe half of it, the rest I dug up.
  8. I am apparently an extroverted introvert.     I always prefer being alone, at home, etc.    Whenver I get dragged to a social event, or one appears at my house thanks to my fantastic wife, I invariably perform well.    The wife even loves to show me off to whatever group is in vogue at the moment, all her various volunteering, foundations, work, etc.
  9. ?Funny story.?   I went to Italy in 1995, before America had also succumbed to the bottled water craze, and always drank from the tap, and always finished everything since I’m a cheapskate.     While we were in Italy, we got bought bottled water by friends who were trying to be nice, at the restaurant we were eating at.   I was determined not to waste it.   I ended up giving myself water poisoning and heaving it all back up.     After that, I just let them waste the water if it wasn’t finished.
  10. My kids are my pride and joy, and they get mentioned a lot on the blog, with the gaming connections.    Thankfully I did go and have kids because they’re a lot more fun that I ever thought they would be.    Hard to believe one’s starting high school next season.
  11. I’ve been working for the same employer for the past 28 years.     I know this place, and I know it well.     My role has changed – no longer am I the brash young punk who doesn’t know anything, now I’m the wizened old veteran who knows all the institutional knowledge and is trying to pump the rest of the staff full of it.

Next come Wilhelm’s questions for me.

Why Blog ?

This is actually answered in my last post.    I could video-log, but I don’t like that stuff.    I don’t talk during gaming.    I like the long form, and I loathe anything too short – Twitter is the perfect example, which just leaves me scratching my head.   I’m supposed to find that valuable ?   Blogging is perfect.   It’s semi private, yet shared with the world for the few who share my narrow gaming interests.    In fact, I also have branched out into the world of reddit, where you can read about jury duty if you are so inclined.    See how modern I am (or not) !??

Why MMO’s ?  Or why not ?

MMO’s started out with the promise of being virtual worlds.    The phraseology is important, because it gives you expectations.   For me, first is the idea of longevity and dedication.   And second, I understand it to mean a few competing alternate worlds.

That does not seem to have been borne out in the past 5 years or so.    The virtual worlds continue to splinter down and become tinier, in their slice of humanity, both in the time we invest in them and in the gaming public who enters them and plays.    So I’ve kind of lost interest in the concept, and I’m more interested now in what’s coming next.   What’s interesting.     Steam and Ingress, as of today.   Probably be different tomorrow.

Science Fiction ?   Or Fantasy ?

Both, or neither ?   I go back and forth and all around this one.    I suppose I can give the edge to fantasy but it’s a pretty slight edge.

What of Steam ?

Steam is fantastic.    One of my daily activities is a dumpster dive.   Can I buy some simple little game for 25 cents ?   And I do, often,  every 1-2 weeks.     And I play them a couple of times.    Sometimes they sell so cheap, you can make money by selling the trading cards, which is fun.     It sure won’t let me quit my job and become an arbitrage trader, but it’s fun.

I miss the old way we bought books.   I would wander a bookstore for hours looking for….. I don’t know.    And I’d pick it up, ruminate, and put most of them back.    Today, I have to know about a book somehow – ad, interview, recommendation – and I search it up, buy it, and read it on my device.    Something is really lost.

The old way we bought games – I feel nostalgic for it.   I picked up three copies of F-19 Stealth Fighter, because box #1 was missing a manual, #2 had a defective disk, and #3 let me play.    The store manager of Electronics Boutique was real cool about it.    I wouldn’t go back to all of that, but I feel wistful about its absence.   Plus, the cost has gone down to the level of buying candy bars in many cases, for any non-new games, and I never browsed games like books – I know what I want and I buy it.    So Steam is perfect as far as I’m concerned.

Gaming relics ?

I have some old game boxes from way back when, tucked away in the attic.    The disks (3.5 and 5.25 inch floppies) are tucked away in my computer room.    Hah.   Like I have a computer that could read them.

I still have my Ultima 3 cloth map; the Shanghai yin/yang balls; several strategy guides.   The guide to the original Everquest, Rome on 640K a day, and something I bought in a bargain bin, after the fact – the guide to Populous.

Mine is packed away somewhere, but the internet delivers as alway.

Mine is packed away somewhere, but the internet delivers as always.

So I don’t keep much but I like what I’ve kept.

Three games that shaped you

After careful consideration, I have two PC games and an arcade machine :

  • Space Ace / Dragons Lair : Many a night was spent psyching each other up, as me and the rest of the teenage slackers at Burbank’s arcades tried to beat down Borf.    It was a game of memorization and split second timing – depending on how forgivingly the machine was set.     The graphics were amazing at the time, but the frame rate left something to be desired, and a lot of the experience was your brain filling in the fun parts.    This game, primitive as it was, set my expectations for future role playing, all the way from Ultima series and up to modern day MMO’s.
  • Empire.    A simple little RTS production game without the RTS, as it was turn based.    But the game was all about building everything you could to grind your opponent into powder.    The very first game I played on the PC, a multiplayer extravaganza even : you could give the computer to your opponent, walk into the other room, and wait for him to take his turn.   Fun !   We loved it !   This is the earliest example for me of buidling bases, increasing production, zerging the opponents, and being “firstest with the mostest”.    Honorable mention here to Romance of the Three Kingdoms III with some similar multiplay features.
  • Civilization.    Playing a game that goes across the entirety of human history is exactly my kind of thing.    The longer the arc, the more fun.    The pollution bug at the end of the game was the only thing that stopped me from perfecting the planet, but I did it so many times just trying to eke out a bit more score.    And finally, here was a game I could point to that actually taught important historical values.
Man, now I want to play this one again !

Empire screenshot.  Man, now I want to play this one again !

Rolling up a new character

The first one is always a fighter.   I think it’s the idea of being a big, tough, violent guy.   Take all the hits and keep the enemy’s attention, while your DPS types burn him down.

My very first pen & paper AD&D character was a fighter.     I rolled one up and managed to get a guy with ST 18, CON 17, and INT 6.    I christened him Lamebrane and played him to the hilt.    My Diablo barbarian was Ajax the warrior.    My EQ character was Hammerbreaker the Ogre fighter.    On and on it goes.

What games did you play before MMO’s ?

Kind of a duplicate of question #2, and answered throughout this post.    I’d shortly describe my gaming history in stages :

  • Pinball machines (1970 – 1979)

    I haven't seen one of these in years, but I loved this one.

    I haven’t seen one of these in years, but I loved this one.

  • Arcade machines including pinball (1979 – 1988)

    I'd like to buy one of these and add it to my computer room.    Loved this game.

    I’d like to buy one of these and add it to my computer room. Loved this game.

  • Primitive personal computing (1982 – 1985)

    I programmed a Steve Jackson game clone on one of these babies.

    I programmed a Steve Jackson game clone on one of these babies.

  • Boxed war games, and pen and paper FRP (1978 – 1983)

    More rules than a lawyer  on speed.

    More rules than a lawyer on speed.

  • Personal computing (1989 – today)
    I was one of the few who bought one of these things.   Tandy 1000.   Radio Shack.   LOL.

    I was one of the few who bought one of these things. Tandy 1000. Radio Shack. LOL.

    On the Tandy, this had the most amazing sound you had ever heard.

    On the Tandy, this had the most amazing sound you had ever heard.

  • Mobile phone gaming (2011 – today)

That pretty much covers it, other than Battletech during the ’90’s at the behest of a co-worker.    And obviously, family board games and what not.

I’m not a definer.   Some people make an art of breezily putting gigantic ideas together, I don’t have that skill.  But there’s always been a certain “nerd culture” set of gamers that I’m very much a part of, and have followed throughout my life.   I think the list above shows my progression through nerd culture over the years, and how its changed – as well as how it’s stayed the same.

I think that list also shows my snobby side, as I’ve never played a console nor owned one – the family’s Wii doesn’t count, even if I’ve gotten a 300 at Wii Bowling.     I’m firmly part of the PC Master Race.

Videogame Capital Of (The / Your) World

That’s a toughie.    While I see a lot of gaming and pay plenty of attention, I notice what the games are; what type/milieu; what companies are involved; what programmers/designers are at play; any new paradigms (MMO’s, LBG, etc).    One thing I don’t have a good handle on is where the gaming comes from.    SOE is in San Diego right ?

Instead, I’ll share an anecdote.     For years I loved to visit the bay area because of the advertising and the companies that exist up there.   In LA, it’s all about the movie business.   I could care less, but I notice the Angelyne billboard and just think “Eh”.   (I’ve actually met her several times too LOL).    The latest TV shows too.

Still driving around a pink corvette today.

Still driving around a pink corvette today.

But silicon valley has all kinds of technologies, products, and widgets that interest and excite me.     It’s fun to cruise past Oracle campuses, no matter how evil Oracle is – tons of people like me are grinding away there.    So in some sense, I feel “Home” when I go to Silicon Valley.   I’m around my people.

Computer people.   Nerds.   Gamers.    People who make computers behave.

Which MMO’s have you really invested yourself in ?

Just a couple.   I tend not to play anything without investing myself heavily.    Original Everquest; Everquest 2; Lord of the Rings Online.    And depending on how you want to stretch the definition, World of Tanks.

How do you spend your time in MMO’s ?

Solo.    99% of the time, I’m solo.    I’m the guy who doesn’t want to work up a party or wait around for the raid to start, or coordinate that all somehow beforehand.    I get in, do my thing, and get out again.    Perhaps this is part of the reason I’m not keen anymore on MMO’s – I didn’t get human relationships out of them.   Who knows.

And that finishes up my answers to Wilhelm’s questions.   Thanks for thinking of me.

For my questions, all I want to see is the same questions I answered above.    I’m tardy with this, and I don’t want to further string it out by thinking of a set of questions.   And I hereby tag :

Gank – Who hasn’t blogged for awhile, but should.

Stargrace – A lady with a neat perspective, and a professional game journalist to boot.

Bhagpuss – Who will definitely see this, but won’t respond :p

Go on, respond.   You know you want to.    It was fun, even if I’m very slow doing this.

Shaking Hands in Meatspace

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I met another player of a location-based game for the first time yesterday.    Like, really met.

We are both active in Burbank (where we work), and I noticed him because I was wandering the same area that he was, hacking portals and putting up fields – playing Ingress.    Being that he is level 8, level 6 XMP bursters (weapons, for the uninitiated) aren’t that useful for him, and he’s also trying to help out.    So he calls me out on the comms and says he’d like to give me 100 of them, which I’d love to have.

I walked down the street – his office is about four blocks away from mine – and felt the surreal sensation of going to meet somebody who I don’t know at all other than via strings of text on a game screen.   Is it that guy ?    A very thin, tall, dweeby guy was hanging out on the street avoiding eye contact.    I walked closer, and he continued to avoid eye contact.    OK, probably not him.

Ah – I see it now.    My new buddy dropped something on the game map, and the Ingress client is showing it on the scanner.    I walk around the corner and head purposefully towards the resonator.    A man is sitting on a garden wall smoking a cigarette.    He sees me walking towards him, phone in hand, and stands up and looks at me.

I feel completely silly.   “Hi……     (Game name) ?”

“Yup.”

“Hi.   I’m Doc Burbank”

Speaking this stuff was the weirdest sensation I’ve had in forever.     There’s very little sound coming out of my phone, which is always silent.    My PC headset never gets used – I think my daughter stole it to make voiced videos with.    My wife obstinately knows nothing about gaming so we can’t talk about stuff.    I just never speak anything about gaming, and here I am.

We had a short and good conversation.   He had a few ideas about the game which I listened to.    Brand Blvd in Glendale is apparently also a great place to play the game.    I appreciated all the stuff he gave me, said goodbye, then I walked back to the office.

Some things I’m noticing playing Ingress.

  • Wow.   Outside.    It’s not just something you do with your family, there’s a lot going on when you walk around anyplace.   I see more crazy people, more cops, and more people checking me out as I walk in circles around a portal.
  • I swear to God – everyone is on their phone.    OK, not everyone, but 80% of people.    I guess I never noticed before because…… I was on my phone.     I felt many times that sensation “Hey – is he playing Ingress?”, but pretty sure none of them ever were.
  • I’ve walked 100 kilometers in the last three weeks.    I may lose some weight if this keeps up.
  • I love Burbank.    I love playing a game that makes me remember all the little spots around town that are cool, and introduces me to a few additional ones.     The usual game rot exists in Ingress too, the church that doesn’t exist anymore is a portal I’d like to claim for the Resistance.
  • I continue to have the feeling that I’ll get suddenly sick of the whole game, but for the moment I can hardly stop playing.
  • Taking a break at work ?    Sure !   That means I can claim a portal or do some links.    This is not typical behavior, I usually grind away at my work constantly.    That, plus going out for lunch instead of sitting at my desk blogging.
  • Honey, you want me to run an errand ?   SURE !   Time to drive over to Freedom’s Way again ( I eventually lost the portal but I want it back).     Normally she has to beg me to run errands.

And today, I got halfway to Level 8.

Level 7 !

Level 7 !

Battle for Freedom’s Way

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Picture the area I live in.     One road up to a hilltop, through a first canyon;  and one more road through a second canyon.   Both roads roughly parallel one another.   I headed over to the second canyon for some Ingress captures – there were four portals I could grab.

I really wanted the Freedom’s Way portal.    Neat name right ?   This is some kind of a small church in a mini-mall.   Keeping Freedom’s Way would allow me to link portals across canyons, and build large fields to protect the population.   Three portals around the local Elks lodge (across the street) completed the picture.  So I conquered Freedom’s Way, linked up the fields, and left the area.

Then the phone starts buzzing, while I’m at home sitting at my desk.   Freedom’s Way is under attack.   What now ! ?    I have been told it’s pretty impossible to defend in Ingress, but I’m determined to try.    I do not want to lose this portal, and leave the area in between un-fielded.

The attacker takes out one resonator, but gives up fairly quickly.     I recharged the portal a couple of times and felt satisfied.    Losing one resonator keeps me from linking the portal more, but any established links stay active.   Time goes by.  Nearly time to hit the sack for the night.   BUZZZZ !   BUZZZZ !    The portal was again under attack.    I was quick, and saved all the resonators.    No soup for you, greenie.

Off to work the next day, and I had a decent day along with some lunchtime Ingressing.   As I’m driving home – BUZZZ!    Once again, the same guy is attacking Freedom’s Way.    I’ve mentioned the anti-freeway rule about Ingress right ?    Well here I am cruising down the 5 freeway, finding my portal under attack, and trying to figure out what to do about it.    No, I did NOT want to give it up.

There was an exit nearby, and I pulled off the freeway.    A place to park took a few blocks to find.   Counted to ten – since the freeway rule takes a bit to stop being enforced – and called up the portal.

I watched resonator #7 disappear right before my eyes, leaving me with a lone level 5 resonator on the portal.    Recharge !    I hit it a couple of times and waited.

Next was the cat and mouse game.     The cat (attacking greenie) would hit the portal, and I (the mouse) would recharge if I was getting a full use of the recharge feature.    When will he give up ?    I was wondering, and I’m sure so was he.    Four additional attacks were prosecuted at different times that evening.     He used different frequencies of attacking, but none were successful.    It was very tense, and very fun.    Between picking up XM via the environment, and energy cubes, my only concern was getting the phone in my hand in time, and recharging effectively.    Cyberspace gaming happened while I cooked dinner and got camping gear ready.

8:00 pm.   Seems he’s given up for the night.    But I have errands to run, and I need to protect the portal.    Freedom’s Way must be saved !     So I headed over to the area again – it’s a bit of a drive, but worth it – and laid down new resonators along with protective gear.

While I’m here, I figured I’d hit the local Elks lodge portals again.  I took two – the other one was well defended.   But I got Greenie’s attention, and  as I’m driving again he reappeared in the area.   I think he lives in some apartments right on this canyon.   He retook both Elks portals.   Strangely, I was not able to get a key from either one and so I couldn’t defend them remotely anyway.

He attacked Freedom’s Way one last time, but it was well defended.   I didn’t even need to recharge it.    The fields were secure.    Freedom’s Way is mine.

You may take my portals, but you'll never take my.....

You may take my portals, but you’ll never take my…..

Epilogue – Just as I get back home, a key portal goes down to another enemy, and all my fields were taken down.    You’re only as strong as your weakest link, I guess.

Ingress and XM

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I discovered one additional feature of Ingress this weekend : XM collection.

Well, actually, I knew that XM was present in the game from the first – think “mana”.    You need to collect it to perform most functions in the game, including use of the scanner.    The scanner is, basically, the app.    It goes all snowy if you don’t have enough XM.    But I didn’t consider it too important because my XM bar filled up very quickly.   Then, I found myself in Belmont California.

Here was a place where I’m sitting in one spot most of the time (Easter weekend!) and there wasn’t any XM around my location.    My house is different – the XM just pops up and fills up the scanner fairly quickly, but not here.    Without XM, my scanner didn’t function.    I even took a walk, over some very steep hills, and it was difficult to fill the bar up.    Your XM does not simply regenerate, no matter how long you wait.    You have to move, with the app on, and make sure it’s active in order to fill it up.

I tried surreptitiously starting the app and sitting it in my pocket – since I was taking a group of people around – and hoping it would collect the XM as I drove.   No dice.    I don’t really know why, because I’ve driven a fair amount with the sole game purpose of filling up with XM.    This feature has annoyingly limited use because of the enforced “no freeways” rule.

If I could just sit in traffic and collect XM, I could recharge resonators and help defend something – in theory.    My lowish level stuff might not be able to hold, but I could at least try more.    The way the game is, you can charge some piece of a portal (at level 5 anyway) and you run out of XM.     And once the game detects you’re driving on a freeway, nothing works any longer.   Bah.

I managed to make a few fields while on vacation, but I’m heading home now.   I wonder how long it will take for the ENL to take down the remaining two.

My largest field to date.

My largest field to date.

One more bit of knowledge gained – key farming.    If I hack a portal, the very first time I’ll get a portal key.    All hacks after that, if you still are holding a key, you don’t get one.    Well, what if you want a bunch of keys ?    I sure do.     I need two to connect a triangle to that portal, and a third if I want to recharge it remotely.

The trick is to drop your keys while you hack.     Sure, someone else can come by and pick them up, but hopefully no one is operating in your area at the same time you’re doing this.   And you can limit this type of attack to only portals you find important.   I have several Belmont keys which proved the concept, but I’ll be recycling them soon as I don’t expect to get up here for many months to come.

217k of 300k towards level 6.

My Ingress Adventure

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So how does Ingress work, anyway ?

Read the Decoding Ingress manual, which is very useful, but I’ll summarize it a bit here.    First, you discover portals and “hack” them.    Blue or Green team, or neutral, only matter for your XP – which is called AP in the game.   By hacking portals you get items, including the critical portal keys.   Your items include offensive and defensive items, so it behooves you at first to hack without stopping.

When you have a neutral portal in your scanner – that is, you are a mere 100 feet away – you deploy resonators.    These items let you capture a portal.    Each portal needs 8, and here’s where the teamwork comes in – the higher level your resonator, the fewer you can put on the portal.   You can place a single level 8 item, or as many as 8 level 1 resonators.    Why do we want 8 of them ?   So we can link the portals.

Hopefully other players in your area also place some resonators, and with 8 level 8 players you can set up a level 8 portal.    Each player puts a single level 8 one on it.

To link the portals you need one to be in your circle – and remember, this is a tiny little 40 meter circle (Think 100 feet).  You need a key for the other portal to link.    Enemy links will block you if they are between your two portals.

The end goal is to establish fields, which are triangles of links between portals.     A field is either protecting humans (Resistance) or converting them to shapers (Enlightened).    The story is fun, so I picked the Resistance.   I’d rather not be transformed, thank you aliens.   The gameplay effect is the exact same, whatever side you are on.

You begin the game with very poor official information.   I literally had no idea what to do beyond what I could see with the application on the phone.    I was looking for something while driving, and I couldn’t find anything.      It turns out, despite what the app tells you, you need to discover your portals first and go to them.

The state of "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" in Ingress at the moment.

The state of “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” in Ingress at the moment.

So I drove around Santa Clarita.    Nothing showed up in my scanner, and I can only zoom it out so far – you can’t use the scanner to see areas outside of maybe 1/2 a mile.   As I drove, I looked for….. something….. but didn’t see much.    Santa Clarita is very light on the portals, but I eventually found one in a nearby park.

What am I doing ?   I don't know.

What am I doing ? I don’t know.   My first Ingress screenshot.

I fired all the boosters I had and not much changed.    The boosters were supposed to let you capture the portals but nothing was happening.   Never mind the obvious – I think what I had done was knock the portal down to neutral, and misinterpreted what that green meant.

I hacked the portal next, but found out I would need to wait another five minutes to hack it again.   What ?   I’m running errands, and I’m already being stupid and stopping in a park to play a phone game, and now you want me to SIT HERE ?   So I continued driving.

I found another portal under a bridge, but I drove so fast I couldn’t hack it.   Phooey.   Portals would appear but they were off of the roads in town, and I didn’t really want to pull over – which, it turns out, is the only way to play the game.

I came real close to uninstalling, but the fact that so many other people were playing kept me from doing it.   There had to be more to the game.    Instead, I figured I’d see what happened once I got to Burbank, and I’m glad I did.

Arriving in Beautiful Downtown Burbank, I found a ton of portals and proceeded to start hacking away.    And next I took over some.

A typical Ingress portal.

A typical Ingress portal.

I discovered how many times you can hack a portal – four.    And it will take four hours after that to start hacking another four times on the same portal.    You gain XP (I mean AP) by hacking portals (100), placing resonators (625 or less), and creating links, and then fields – fields are worth over 1,000 AP.  I drove a bit, taking all my breaks, and long lunches.   I wandered around parks, asked stupid questions in the chat, and fought for portals.     I started dumping resonators on nearby portals and then linked a ton of them to establish some fields.

Then I left Burbank and went home Monday.   That night, two Enlightened players wiped out most of my portals and all of my fields.    Rats.

An Ingress Badge is earned.

An Ingress Badge is earned.

I want to earn these badges for levels 9-16, and just because they’re fun.    The screenshot is a bronze badge.    Next is silver, then gold, then platinum.    But I also kept earning the levels.

Tuesday, I re-established several and got them mostly knocked down again that night.    I was gaining the levels at least, which is clearly important.   I think level 8 XMP items just totally wipe out the City Hall area with minimal effort.

Now I'm getting better.

Now I’m getting better.

Over the weekend the Enlightened have taken all my portals again, but I’m one of many Resistance players in the area.    It seems the key is persistence, so we’ll see how it all works out.

 

Ingress Vs City Domination

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Having “won” City Domination I found myself getting a bit bored.   I have nothing to do on my commute, other than drive.   (The Horror!)    Then I heard about another Location-Based Game.    I had not heard about it previously because, naturally, we have to change the terms whenever Google is involved.

Niantic Labs is apparently a division of Google, who markets a Augmented Reality Game (Ie, Location-Based) called Ingress.    You can get it in the App/Play Store for either IoS or Android.   The game is well covered with community based instruction – Google’s instructions, simply, suck hard.    I almost uninstalled the game in the first 3 days since I didn’t know what in the hell I was supposed to do, besides “walk”.    Decoding Ingress is an essential site for reading about the game.

This is a game that’s been around for 2 years plus, and it’s a bit of a fresh take on Location-Based Gaming.   I’m going to compare this to City Domination to get started.

City Domination has no levels.    Each person is as important as their upgrades purchased with gold bars.    And the bars are acquired either by completing badges or spending money.    Ingress, by contrast, has a levelling system (16 levels) and no monetary transactions.    The first 8 levels are the most important ones, with the remaining having minimal benefit – the biggest benefit I can figure out is “Something To Do”.    City Domination has the better system.    Levels are not much good if you are going to blow through them too fast – I am currently level 5 after 8 days playing.

Teams in City Domination are based on gangs.   Every player starts out in their own gang, and is expected to join up into bigger and bigger groups, or you can just dump your old gang and move to another.   Ingress puts players into two teams – the Enlightened (Green) and the Resistance (Blue).    Your choice is permanent.     I like the Ingress system much better – the only thing any gang invite ever made me think of is someone wants to “steal my points”.

In City Domination you take over squares.   The entire Google Map of the world is divided up into little bitty squares that you fight over with bots and the occasional human being.    Once you hold a spot, you hold it forever, until a bot or another player comes by and takes them.    Ingess, by contrast, is about “portals” where energy is leaking into our world from some other world.    Take a portal, and you have it for as long as its energy lasts – 15% decay per day in the game.    If your portal’s resonators decay, it goes neutral.    City Domination is the clear winner here – the decay mechanic is not useful, if you can prevent defensive lockout with other game mechanics like the 200 man limit and missions.

In City Domination, I can play on the freeway.   Freeways have just as many squares as any other area.   Ingress has a “40 mph detection” scheme built in, and no portals near freeways.   I have no idea how, but they know roughly when you’re on the freeway and when you aren’t.    (Something to do with the GPS obviously)   City Domination wins again.

For population, I’ve seen less than 10 other players on the map.    no more than TEN.    Kind of pathetic for a large urban area, right ?   Ingress has dozens and dozens of people who appear in the scanner taking portals and creating links.     Ingress wins in terms of player interaction.

From what I’m reading about Ingress, the big goal you should have is to get to level 8, so I’m working my way towards that goal.    Past that – I’m not really sure.    I’m entertained and playing so that’s going to have to do for the moment.     The real test is if you play a game like this for more than my current one week – but I’ll put that in another post.

 

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