Highs and Lows

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Sometimes playing a game in Meatspace and away from the computer is trying.

I had a moment on Sunday afternoon.    I needed to hit the ATM, and make a return at Best Buy.    Of course, this meant I took a circuitous route and stopped up at the top of Bouquet Canyon and Plum.   There were two portals up there, and with links from these two I could make a couple of nice fields.    So I parked.

And I’m standing in the bright noonday sun, heat radiating off the pavement, trying to get the phone to connect to the GPS satellite, or to Verizon, or whatever in the hell was keeping it from working well.    I walked right on top of one portal.    The arrow didn’t move.    I moved around, and then the arrow moved, but in the wrong direction.

Sweat accumulates on my hands as I futz with the phone, and make the links when the connection finally hit.   But now, I should update the resonators on these portals – for the obvious reason of strengthening them, and because my inventory is full as usual.    But the connection doesn’t want to go through.     And upgrading a reso, for whatever reason, probably takes longer than doing anything else in Ingress.

Why am I doing this again ?    I’m a grown man, wandering around in the sun and poking a phone instead of doing errands.   I contemplate deleting the app.    Instead, I decide to take it easy for the rest of the day.   I think I upgraded a couple of resos on these tough to connect to portals.    I did nothing else on Sunday.    I slept in on Monday, even though I had the opportunity to start Ingressing at 5 am before work.   Worked through lunch as well.

Then, Monday afternoon, the game redeems itself.

On Sunday night, my Ingress nemesis “The Bad Man” managed to create some very big fields while taking down some big blue ones.    Just how big ?    In area at least, about 5% of the LA cell.   So, very large, but mostly mountains.    Not a lot of MU, but very impressive looking.

"That's no moon......"

“That’s no moon……”

After I brought it up, the SCV team started talking about how to take it down, and before I could get out of work and actually do anything about it, there was complete destruction of the field.    But the play by play was even better, and a ton of fun to watch.

  • Five different points on the west were all anchored by one remote point on the east, which we all ignored.
  • Portal #2 was killed dropping the largest part of the field, by Agent #1.
  • The enemy’s wife heads out and starts knocking down friendly portals.
  • Agent #2 reaches the area and kills the third portal.   More field is down.
  • The Bad Man reacts.   What is this guy doing, sitting at home waiting for Ingress ?   How it appears is probably very different than it actually is, but he heads out and reclaims Portal #3.
  • The Bad Man drives on, and Portal #2 is reclaimed.    The area gets refielded.
  • Agent #2, chilling at Portal #3, reclaims the portal and kills the field.
  • Agent #3 reaches Portal #2.    Technical difficulties keep her from being effective.   Agent #4 reaches the scene to help out.
  • The Bad Man takes Portal #3 once again.   A shrunken field is created – much smaller in size.   He’s out of keys, thankfully.
  • Agent #2 kills portal #4, and #5, in short order.    The field is now a small slice instead of a monster.
  • Agent #6 takes a hike and wipes out the last of the field.   The Canyon Country Cross belongs to the Resistance again.

Add to the mayhem surrounding the big field, greens coincidentally active in other areas (or coordinated!   Distraction tactics?), and duels happening in the lower part of the SCV, and it was a fun thing to watch.

Me, my part was played by capturing a mere three portals and throwing a blocking link.    Way to be useful – not !   Chronicling the war is a lot of fun too, however.

I suppose I’ll have to keep playing.

 

Ingress Vacation Album – Heading Home

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The week in Guernesville was relatively uneventful.    I spent a day kayaking, and a day hiking, with the many family members getting on each other’s nerves, and then it was time to head homeward.

Spent another day running around vineyards and tasting wine.   The kids played Bocce, and Dad submitted 10 portals at various wineries.    I really liked the Guerneville area, and it also had rock-solid reception for Verizon.

Winery featuring very long Enlightened blocking links.   No linking to Guerneville downtown.

Winery featuring very long Enlightened blocking links. No linking to Guerneville’s downtown.

Then we drove through San Francisco, for the second time, without stopping.   Why would we ?  – we’ve visited many times, and have other destinations in mind.    I, however, have never driven through while playing Ingress.   I was surprised at the amount of concentration needed, and the quantity of drivebys possible.

There is a lot of green in San Francisco.

There is a lot of green in San Francisco.

My inventory was at around 1980 items.   We ambled down the Highway 1.   Simple hacks produced a lot of keys which accumulated.    I recycled them immediately.    Portals came and went, and I hacked as many as possible.    Friendly portals (the definite minority) got hacks and upgrades if I could manage it as we drove by.     Stops meant firing weapons and wrecking what was possible, and capturing what I could.   I caught my wife shaking her head at me once – the “buzz” when hacking an enemy portal or taking damage was confusing her.

The results were worth it.    1,430 unique hacks, up about 400; 2,000 is my target.    533 unique captures, up about 140; 1,000 is the next target.    Moving forward to gold badges for those, and I know I need another gold at some point.

Sadly, the little bit of blue fields I was able to introduce here were taken out before this screenshot.

Sadly, the little bit of blue fields I was able to introduce here were taken out before this screenshot.

Tomorrow morning is the trip home to the SCV to be followed by a day of rest.    Sojourner still active at 123 days.

Ingress Vacation Album – Final Destination

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Saturday dawned early.   With a gaggle of relatives all around, we headed off farther north, and I found myself in Downtown Sonoma.    What a neat little place !    There’s a central square surrounded by a bunch of touristy shops.    The Cheese Factory was a great place to eat lunch.   And the portals…… Yes, there were lots of portals.

This would be a great place to farm.

This would be a great place to farm.

I captured many portals and wrecked many enemy ones.    We saw the sights and my wife bought a bunch of junk – that’s a pattern with us.    As we were driving away I got messages indicating a local was cleaning up my captures, which was fine with me.   I’m just passing through.

And towards the end of the day we reached our destination city – Guerneville CA.

This is where we're staying.   Yuch.

This is where we’re staying. Yuch.

The greens had established a very large rural field beginning in Guerneville, but a quick walk through the town revealed one of the anchors, and I took it down.    I made a few links and several captures and called it a day.

Hopefully wandering will fill the river area up with blue.

Hopefully wandering will fill the river area up with blue.

In the meantime, there is big regional action across the west coast.

Apparently up for a half a day.

Apparently up for a half a day.

Los Angeles and San Diego fielded.   Well done greens.

But that wasn’t all – San Francisco was fielded (Right over Belmont, nothing I could have done would have helped) along with Washington and Oregon up to Alaska.   Yikes.   The Enlightened are really on a tear out there.

 

Ingress Vacation Album – Heading North

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As most of us do once a year, the family went on a little vacation.     This usually means Dad picking some game/games and loading up the laptop, and getting in a little gaming when possible.    But Ingress changes things a bit.  With Ingress, every moment moving is an opportunity to take a game action.

First day was spent driving.    First stop, a shopping mall (Why ?   My wife is crazy) meant five additional unique hacks, much glyphing, and a new 30 point field being created.    Lunchtime resulted in stopping at Kettleman City, which has the worlds busiest In N Out, along with a brand new roadside stop filled with silly stuff, and portals.    Lots of Portals.

"Let's stop at In N Out"  She said.  Ok.

“Let’s stop at In N Out” She said. Ok.

That's a unique capture, and a few quick hacks.

That’s a unique capture, and a few quick hacks

We’ve stopped here before, so I knew it would be a good place.   For portals.    With less attention on the family I’d have owned the area, but we just drove by instead.

First night stop is in lovely Belmont, CA.   I’m in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, with a lot of blue portals around, but with one very large set of green fields.    Right down the street from me.

The circled area was all green fields.

The circled area was all green fields.   About 7 of them.

The enemy was awake – as soon as I’d blown the shields off he started recharging, but I killed the links anyway.    I used his local farm for 15 minutes for more gear, and headed back home.

Tomorrow the real fun begins – We’ll be in our vacation rental by noon.   The area is almost exclusively green owned, with around 30 portals in walking distance.   How much of that will I smash and keep ?    I really don’t know.   All I care the most about is 1) Having a good vacay, 2) Keep the Sojourner active.    Should be no problem there.

Power – I Want More !

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Marvel Heroes is really all about improving your character.   There’s no exploration and quests like a traditional MMO.   Mine need to improve – I still get creamed when I try Cosmic difficulty.    And I continue peeling the onion of character improvement.

With Cyclops having reached Level 60, I now have three top-level heroes.     Next goal – and one I should have pursued earlier, but what can you do – is to get Legendary weapons for all three of them.

I purchased Gungnir for Captain America, and just managed to get the 300 Odin marks for the Axe of Ares for Hulk.    I now need to grind out Odin marks for Cyclops.   I also need to XP grind for the other two so their Legendaries unlock their full potential; I think the amount of XP needed is just insane, but the point is it’s fun to go out and whack baddies around in this game.

CapLegendary

Then, I found out about costumes.   It turns out they are a massive resource for additional buffs for your characters.   I can put four different “Affixes” on each one, in an offensive or defensive style, using nothing but those crafting elements.    This is in addition to the Costume Core that I’m trying to decide what to give Hulk and Cyclops.

CapCostume

I still can add Runewords to some of my gear, whenever I manage to collect the right runes.    And I finally managed to trade in some uniques and get more relics; Hulk has 134 of the Gibborn relics thanks to adding two stacks of fifty trade-ins.

My Eternity Splinters continue to tick up; there’s no real reason to buy another hero with three that I “Need to play” already.    The only currency that’s in short supply seems to be the Odin Marks.

To grind Marks, you have a “Legendary” quest that just updates over and over as you complete one, and you get additional marks.    Maybe something happens after you complete enough of them, but I haven’t managed that yet.    Earn one or two marks for completing this, along with 6 or so from daily Midtown / Industry quests.    They also pop up as random rewards based on whatever the developer’s are giving away today.

The quests are not legendary in the ordinary sense of the word.

The quests are not legendary in the ordinary sense of the word.

Your characters powers aren’t too hard – you select whichever ones you like, and put as many points into each as necessary.   Omega points are bit different – I am thoroughly confused about how to pursue them.

I set out to have Cap use the Augmentation group since his picture is on it, and I've got this setup.  

I set out to have Cap use the Augmentation group since his picture is on it, and I’ve got this setup.

 

Hulk is using the Nanotech group, which I’ve progressed him quite a ways up thanks to the free respecs.     I’m not sure what to give Cyclops at the moment, he still has the heavy “Free XP” bonuses that litter the Omega landscape.

Feels right for Hulk, too, just based on the old comics.

Feels right for Hulk, too, just based on the old comics.

I’m in for $15 at this point, having purchased three different bank space upgrades for a total of four.    The items in them include :

  • Crafting Elements
  • Uniques, sorted by hero and item, for relic trade-in
  • Runes
  • And a bunch of artifacts in the “inventory” for the team-up character.

The ultimate goal – get tough enough to play Cosmic.

An Ingress picture worth a thousand words

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The Canyon Country Cross is a Christian cross on public land, that’s rather inaccessible – you have to hike to it.   It’s also an Ingress portal.     Teammates had to make the hike to it, and they snapped this picture.

This picture really says a thousand words about why Ingress is so cool

This picture really says a thousand words about why Ingress is so cool

The 14 freeway in the background.   Standing on top of a big hill.   Taking a hike with a fellow gamer.    Cold brews after a successful capture.    An important action for the team, taken care of.    Yep, this is why Ingress is cool.

Also, a few other things that I’ve figured out lately while Ingressing.

Key Confusion

I realized that keys you possess are actually shown on the portal screen.

See that Icon ?

See that Icon ?

There’s a key icon on the bottom left.   Right now it is ghosted out.    This means I have no keys in my inventory.   I might have one in a capsule, but otherwise I have nothing.

But now - it's not ghosted out.

But now – it’s not ghosted out.

This portal has a single key – that’s why the key icon shows up brightly.    This is the part that eluded me for too long, but shoot, nobody ever told me about this.   I had to figure it out !    I couldn’t understand why sometimes it would show me how many keys I have, and sometimes it doesn’t.   I’ve seen the below many times :

Two or more keys

Two or more keys

The important bit – it never says x1.    That’s instead the middle screenshot.

This is important if I’m trying to be more efficient in the field.   When viewing a portal, I know immediately if I have a key or not.    Because before, I would attempt to link to figure it out, or look in my keyring, and these things take time.

Big fields ?   Or little fields ?

You don’t really have to choose one or the other, but these are the two possibilities for scoring in Ingress.

Make a Big Ass Field.    A huge area covered with just three anchors.

Make a Big Ass Field. A huge area covered with just three anchors.

Make a spiderweb field - use every portal and link it up.

Make a spiderweb field – use every portal and link it up.

I participated in an big op once, and experienced all the bad things about cooperative play for a guy with commitments.    Set time for the op – you can’t do it any other way.    It ran really late.   And I got a lot of flack for annoying another agent, even as I got literally no in-game benefit.    The points were very very worthwhile for the team, which is the most important bit – but you have to remember to enjoy the game, or else, what are you doing ?

I think I’m done worrying about how big the fields I’m creating are.    BAF’s come down with just one anchor killed – I should know, I’ve personally killed two in the SCV.   Spiderweb type fields break, but never collapse.     One portal down will bust between 3 – 10 little fields, but the rest will stay up.

Even the big fields I scramble to create – they’re seen by the enemy, just like I’m seeing theirs.   And they make the effort to either block me from doing it, or take it down immediately.    I think I like the approach of just blanketing everything blue much better.    Not that the greens will just let that happen, but still.

All that said, I still want to break my 5,941 MU record field though.   That’s one of the blog’s masthead images, and chronicled here.    Big scores are always fun.

 

A Three Tiered Stool

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Seems I’ve settled on a three – legged set of games to play for the moment.

Mobile gaming is Ingress.   Enough said.    Read recent posts for more info :) .

PC Gaming alone is Marvel Heroes.    Cyclops will soon be level 54, and 60 won’t be far behind.

The fights are colorful, and chaotic.

The fights are colorful, and chaotic.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of the game as well – just what are you supposed to do in the game ?

  • Level up to 60.   This is not the end of the game – it’s the beginning.
  • Acquire uniques, at quality 63.
  • Acquire a legendary weapon – go to Asgard and buy it with Odin marks.   Time to level it up.
  • Gear grind.
  • Somewhere in here are blessings for your weapons – final level of uniques is quality 69.
  • Unlock more heroes, and do it again.   Many synergy bonuses here.
  • There’s more that I don’t quite get.

The gear grind manifests itself in many ways, instead of older-school MMO style of “Go on a raid and hope something drops for you, and you have enough DKP”.     Omega points are one, although they are usable by all your heroes, I think starting at level 30.   Relics are another – bind them to a hero and collect them, one at a time, for teensy extra bonuses each.   Trade in your uniques (?  They’re unique, but I collect them?   Whatever.) and get other bonuses.

It’s best enjoyed in small doses.

Multiplayer gaming is Minecraft.

I read with amusement TAGN’s getting treated like a noob by his daughter while playing Minecraft.   “No Dad – hold down shift”  << sigh >>.      I’ve experienced that many times myself.   And sharing the world with his daughter.

And I thought – why not try that with my son ?    I loaded up my old world from last year, and didn’t really feel like continuing it.   I wanted to start again, map as I went, and build my railroads a lot faster rather than trying to experience all the biomes – I’ve done that already.    And using tools for intel I don’t think helped either.

I did use similar world-building parameters, so I’d get enough Iron and a smidge more diamonds, and started the game up.

And so, my first world.

And so, my first world.

I ran like a madman looking for the most important thing for your first day of Minecraft – sheep.    Kill three sheep, and you have 3 wool, and can make a bed and survive your first night of minecraft.

I couldn’t find any sheep.

World #2.   This time I start in a swamp.

World #2. This time I start in a swamp.

A swamp island on the edge of an ocean – and wonderously, sheep right next to the spawn.   I swam from the island to what looks like a continent, and found coal in a little tunnel drilled through a hill.   And so, my first base was born.

After closing off both ends of the tunnel, it's now a base.

After closing off both ends of the tunnel, it’s now a base.

My son, not interested in the idea at first, watched me play and said “Wow that actually looks like fun”, and came into the world to help me at this point.    Wheat farming is now started, a mine to level 12 has been established, and a treasure room is under construction.    I’ve even escaped death so far.

I plan to make it look nice immediately – I typically have waited until I have thousands of items stored in chests, and I’m not going to do that this time.   Having found lava, I set to work baking cobblestone in my oven, while my son clears trees from the area – the base is in an Oak Forest biome and so there’s tons of cover for monsters during the day.

Started on the interior roof, since I had to fill in the holes anyway.

Started on the interior roof, since I had to fill in the holes anyway.

2015-07-18_16.33.31

My boy pushed back the forest this far at least.

So we have an intensely PvP-like game (Ingress), the ultimate in relaxing and sandbox (Minecraft), and an exciting MMO pulling you along on a treadmill (Marvel Heroes).    That’s a good mix for the moment.

Cold Blue

Remember how I got motivated from the Downtown Burbank farming on Tuesday ?  The motivation continued all week.   I was determined to single-handedly turn all of Burbank blue.    Thankfully, I ran out of time before such insanity really took hold, but still, I hit the Downtown area hard.

Burbank, 8 pm Friday

Burbank, 8 pm Friday

I was an iceman.   Ice-cold blue.    I walked from portal to portal, filled them out, linked them up, defended when attacked, and repaired the damage.   To be sure, I had help, including the “night shift” for the area.    But I did a mad amount of capturing and linking.

Oh yes – and I completely neglected my job yesterday.   It was a light day, but still – I had things I should be doing, and instead I painted the town blue.    I ate lunch at my desk (so the phone could charge), wandered in and out, and linked up portal after portal.   Ingress is a dangerous game – it’s sapping my motivation to work.

I have to say it to myself a little louder : One action a day is all that you have to take, to help the team win.     Take more actions *IF YOU HAVE THE TIME* .

Fighting Over Downtown, and Marketing

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Last night, I returned home after the workday and turned off Ingress.   While I was logged off, the greens completely wrecked Downtown Burbank.   Not only that – they flash farmed it.

The terminology can get you tripped up in this game.    Some definitions :

  • FARM : an area of portals which you hack many times, just to get gear.   Best when Level 8.
  • FLASH FARM : A set of portals put up before the enemy can knock them down.  Again, usually Level 8.  And they’re put up for farming, instead of for fields and MU.

There must have been a lot of greens, and interestingly, they were from many areas – Central SFV, SCV, and Burbank.    No doubt they were tired of seeing blue – the Burbank crew are good at keeping it that way.    I know some of them read the blog occasionally – hat tip guys, you did that well.

And so I get to work in the morning, and some cleanup had been done by other local blues, but the entire area was unlinked, with several L8 green portals still up.    I spent a few hours of the workday cleaning up, slowed down a counterattack, and left with things half linked.    It could be my easy days of being surrounded by blue are over for the time being.

Downtown Burbank, 8 pm.   Little green is left now.

Downtown Burbank, 8 pm. Little green is left now.

What I found interesting was the motivation it gave me.    I picked up 100k AP during the day and played quite a bit.    So by my definition, their op was a failure in terms of the impact it had on me – you want to encourage the enemy not to play, not the other way around.

Then there was the study in the power of Force Amps and Turrets.   I’ve been told by other agents, and experienced it in small doses – always pair these little guys.   In an area full of portals, it’s good to seed the whole area with these for maximum enemy pain.   And boy, does it work – I got a taste of that via the mid-day counterattack.

The two green agents had taken a cluster of about 8 portals.   I like to think I stopped them from picking up more, but maybe they ran out of time.    Either way – they linked them all and made a rough little circle, with plenty of these mods sprinkled in between.    I went after it on my way home.

I stopped on top of a FAT’d portal.   (FAT = Force Amp and Turret).    I fired a Level 7 burster, and watched 25% of my XM get eaten up.   Ouch.    I fired twice more and was depleted, and had to leave – gotta go home sometime.    Only a little of a couple resonators were depleted, given that shields stayed up.

I can only imagine the rage and frustration the greens would have experienced during their attack having this happen to them – during Tuesday I had seeded about 10 portals with FAT’s that would have zapped an enemy attack hard.    Hoping to stop an attack is always too much – the best you can hope for is to slow them down.   And hopefully I did that well.

With any luck, the Blue “Night Crew” will finish the job.

************************************

I’ve noticed the sponsorships in Ingress and been intrigued by them.   Apparently, Jamba Juice stores were at one point all portals in the game, but they’ve been taken out.   Perhaps it didn’t work – I would think, you might get more people buying your smoothies if they are in the area – since they’ve been removed.

Then there’s AXA insurance.   I’ve never heard of them – apparently they’re a British insurance company.    They have my favorite shields in the game however, which subtly works on your subconscious making you equate AXA with super strong.   Seems like good advertising to me, although I am confident I’ll never use AXA insurance.    And they’re calling the partnership a success.

MUFG (They of the interest-bearing capsule) and Softbank (with the linking mod) are both Japanese companies sponsoring Ingress.    I’ll never use either of their services either, but it’s brand recognition for what it’s worth.

My best sponsorship thought would be 7-11.    This is a place where people hang out a bit, but just a bit, buy stuff, and impulse buy.    You’d want to attract people to a convenience store, especially (as I see them, in the suburbs) stores with their own parking lots on small plots.    Impulse buys from a place with a lot of product options – unlike Jamba Juice, yeccchhh – would work well.

Fast food spots, and Starbucks would work too – although I never buy from Starbucks etc, not enjoying coffee, I’m noticing that nearly everybody buys some kind of refreshments from the place.

And strangely, I make an effort to buy things when I’m active in an area Ingressing.    Just waters, sodas, snacks, but still – It just seems polite as you traipse through a mini-mall to grab a soda while taking out the enemy farm.

Badgeing my Ingress

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There’s not much change happening in the Ingress war over Santa Clarita and Burbank.   So I figured I’d examine stats a bit.

I am pretty close to Level 11 – 35,000 or so AP.    I also can see clearly, that I have enough badges to get the level.

Nowadays it tells you right on your profile.

Nowadays it tells you right on your profile.

I was also curious about how my progress stacks up for future levels.   12 requires 6 golds and a silver – I’m good there.   Level 13 wants six golds and a platinum; so I’ll need one more gold to meet that bar.

What’s my most likely additional gold ?    It’s really far away for every silver badge; I’m halfway or less for three of them, and Mind Controller I need another 800 fields or so – 60% of the way there.

Level 14 and up, it’s all about better badges instead of number.   I’ll need an additional platinum badge for 14.    Depending on how long it takes to get the AP for that, my Sojourner should hit platinum on about October 1st.    I’m halfway to platinum for Glyphing, and my Trekker has 60% of the 1000 kilometers (ie, 620 miles).

Level 15, I just need another platinum so I’d be good there – by that time I’m sure I’ll hit Trekker and Translator.   And Level 16 wants two of those badges to be Onyx, and with Onyx recharger, I’d expect Onyx translator as well.    So that’s the badge part of the path to 16, never mind the 34 million additional AP that would be needed.  The only real roadblock might occur picking up Level 13, although with another 6 million AP necessary being 50% of the way there should not be an issue.

The next badges I expect, not worrying about the leveling aspect, are Liberator (72 captures to go), Engineer (206 mods to place), and Builder (2000 resonators to deploy).   Or, if I manage to do another mission, I will hit 5 and get my bronze SpecOps badge.   Like most players, I have no progress on the recruiter badge – I need to email someone, get them to use the link to install the game, and help them get to level 3.   Other than phonying it up by “inviting” my wife and using her phone for awhile, I can’t imagine getting anyone else to play.

I find myself focusing a lot on captures and unique captures.    The part of the game I like best is fielding, but that often comes down to what portals I can take.   Add in the 500 AP capture bonus, the Purifier badge (destroy enemy resonators), and I find myself trying to kill portals as much as possible.

Badges are fun.   And being real close to a level like this, is also fun.

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