When the mobile platform was at a nascent stage of developing the real world social games, Niantic labs, a startup within Google, set its massive foot by bringing forward this augmented reality game called “Ingress” which involves two distinct factions to fight for their existence and ultimate dominance of the heavenly world. Players, also termed as ‘agents’, are allowed to choose between any of the two factions after getting introduced to its back story and hence, they take an oath to abide by their faction and together they fight the enemy and free the world of its perils.
The game which was launched as a closed beta in November 2012 while the general release took place on December 2013, has since been one of the best augmented reality massively multiplayer online role playing location based game and has won a ‘special mention’ at the 2013 Android Player’s choice awards. The game has a well written fictitious back story where the earth is considered to have been filled with exotic matter (XM) that powers an alien race known as the shapers. The Enlightened, one of the two factions depicted in green, believes that the shapers will cause the upliftment of mankind and thus are focused with assisting them while the other faction, Resistance depicted in blue, believes they are protecting the earth from shapers ingression. Enlightened players are termed as frogs or toads while the resistance players termed as smurfs. The game was also launched for Apple’s IOS platform on July, 2014.
NIA ops did a splendid job of modifying the gameplay so that it mimics the back story in the best possible way as well as to inculcate a feeling of jingoism within the agents. The game starts with a comprehensive UI which is called the scanner, fixing the location of the player (GPS should be ON) and then loads an augmented view of the real world Google map with a dark and sci-fi theme. There is an arrow head pointing the agent’s position with a 35 metre circle which forms a perimeter within which objects are accessible to the player.
The map continuously scans the area around to locate places of interests like historical or religious monuments, street carvings, public arts and murals, libraries or any popular landmarks. These places are marked as grey portals (ghost) which must be captured by deploying resonators, a defensive inventory item, which powers that portal for the corresponding faction. Every portal is assigned a level up to 8 which is determined on the level of 8 resonators used to power that portal. Once captured, the agents should try and link them with other nearby captured portals using a portal key which is obtained on hacking that portal and make a mind-control field by linking three portals in a triangular manner. The field belongs to the corresponding faction and the area captured depicted in mind units adds up to the global count which contributes to the world wide struggle for dominance between the two fighting factions.
If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. SUN TZU's 'Art of War'
The XMP busters, an offensive inventory item can be used by the opposite faction to neutralize those portals and recapture them for their own by in turn deploying resonators of their own faction. Both Attacking and hacking an enemy portal exhausts the XM bar, which is the powering element for one’s scanner, which can be refilled by collecting XM scattered across the map. Also, capturing, attacking and other actions increases an agent’s AP (action points) count and are honored with medals on the basis of these stats. Both AP and medals helps an agent to level up (till L16). Every new Agent-Level unlocks new and more powerful resonators and XMP busters that in turn help in defeating stronger portals and creating longer links and larger mind-control fields. Apart from these, there are different mods to enhance the defense or attack as well as there are very rare trump items like ADA refactor and JARVIS viruses to effortlessly flip a green portal into blue one or vice versa. Quintessentially, NIA is addressing to the excessive demands and introducing quick important updates with new inventory items to meet the players’ needs. Like the recent launch of MUFG capsule which can store items as well as multiply them overtime has created some havoc among the agents. Also glyph hacking was one major ingress update which provides many bonus items based on hacking accuracy and speed.
As a L10 smurf and been on the game for more than 2 years (don’t judge me on my level), I am completely overwhelmed by the conviviality with which NIA has organized this game to connect the people of this world. The novel concept of organizing worldwide ingress events in the form of anomaly where players come together, strategize and fight over an area of dominance in a span of 3 hours comprehensively outplays all its rivals in this augmented reality game’s arena. The back story of the game gets modified on the basis of winners of the anomaly. I can never forget my first anomaly ‘Recursion’, first ever in India with primary site at Bangalore and how badly I struggled with my Ultra low end Samsung Galaxy Y, could hardly make any contribution.
Recently, NIA has also started to host Ingress First Saturday events in different cities on the first Saturday of every month, where new agents are given a chance to level up fast with double AP bonus, socialize with their faction-mates and also it’s the stage where both Enlightened and Resistance are on slightly common terms that mitigates the tensions within. The socializing aspects, the significant efforts of strategizing and the zeal to beat the shit out of the toads (no offence to enlightened) are the most engrossing facts about this game which keeps me going till today. The crazy faction farming (rigorous hacking of a cluster of portals) with full powered and modded portals and the stupendous Ops with BAFs covering miles of areas are some of the mesmerizing aspects of this game.
The gaming graphics are well optimized for a medium to high end smartphones. Having tested it on a Qualcomm snapdragon adreno 330 chipset, I can tell you that the game has a smooth gameplay interface and the same can be guaranteed for NVIDIA Tegra X1 chipsets. Though some people with low end phones and lesser screen resolution have experienced disproportionate view of the in-game tabs and scanner objects. As the game is heavily based on mobile internet connection, there has been intermittent lags in dense areas with cluster of portals or when there is a rigorous battle for capture between agents or when the scanner bleeds blue (or pees green) due to big ass fields (BAFs). Many devices also face the issues of not getting a GPS lock over a stasis area. Also agents suffer from lack of network coverage at many places and the chronic network failure sometimes has led to some deleterious effects of OP failures and losing battles. The game is data extensive anyway so one needs to have a good data pack plan.
“Newbies Heads Up”
- Ingress Intel Map :- Agents can log in to www.ingress.com/intel to view the entire augmented world map powered by google map-style interface and can discover nearby portals as well as easily strategize and carry out operations.
- Glyph-hacking :- Agents can acquire bonus items on long pressing the hack button to initiate glyph hacking mini game. After tracing a series of glyph patterns, agents receive bonus inventory items.
- Drop-Hacking :- Agents can hack for multiple keys of same portal by dropping the acquired key before hacking again. It is essential for carrying out operations.
- Layering :- Agents can score twice the number of mind units or MUs by constructing mind control fields and later nesting them with even bigger control fields.
- Meet your local community :- Ingress ain’t a solo game, hence, one should get in touch with local team mates who can help levelling up in initial stages and later together can form high level portals as well as plan for big ass fields.
The game has also incorporated a thrilling background sound with a solemn female AI voice who narrates the actions of the game. The game UI is equipped with a faction chat and an activity section at the bottom to help agents socialize, comment and get notifications for various activities. The agent section displays the stats of the player, mission badges and achievement medals. The Intel section displays the regional and global MU score, agent rank, checkpoints and regional cells of operation to help agents organize their action plans. Passcodes are frequently released encrypted codes which are hidden in between ingress posts and need to be decoded according to rules which rewards some bonus items. Ingress reports are a weekly release of Ingress news which updates players with all recent updates and happenings of the game.
Ingress, in just over 3 years into its launch, has become one of the most widespread and revolutionary game in the field of reality based augmented mobile platform games. It has a google+ community of over 3.8 million members and social networking apps like google hangouts and telegram are most used for faction chats. NIA has confirmed they have 7 million players across the globe. It is a free of cost product by NIA ops that gives an insane augmented gameplay of destroy, capture and rebuild areas of control for one’s faction and dominate the global MU (Mind Units) struggle. Gameplay is butter-smooth with soft touch play but network connectivity can cause intermittent lags. The game is a must-play and comprehensible for all age groups. If you want to get over your insipid day to day life, then as NIA would say, “It’s Time To Move”.