Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Follow-Up: Ingress

Early this year, I wrote about a game that Google had put together for mobile play.


I ... I wasn't a fan of the game, as it had a number of flaws that made it less-than-fun for me.

I still play, and, in fact, have made it to fifth level (out of eight possible).  The game has been patched a number of times, changing the overall experience at the same time.

Many of my complaints still stand, however.

The game still has zero direct player interaction, other than the comms. And the comm channels have been updated so if you try to get someone's attention, you can. It allows for a bit of coordination, but it's still not a game in which you can expect to interact with other players.

In January, I talked about portals. I said, "Occasionally, you will find a Portal. Inevitably, it will already be claimed by someone of a much higher level than you are. If it's claimed by the same team, then it won't attack you when you hack it and you won't gain any experience points (AP) for hacking it."

This is still partly true.  There are a lot more portals than there were at the time.  A lot more portals.  To the point where I can't turn around without hitting one. In the area where I play, every entrance to the mall has a sign, and every one of those signs is another portal.

I suspect that the game is still frustrating for low-level players, as all of the portals near my office are regularly claimed by high-level players.  I'm high enough level that I can knock enemy portals down (if I have enough XM and the time to spare), and I've made a point of leaving portals partly open so that lower-level players can game some experience points by dropping resonators.

You can also now gain experience by maintaining portals.  It's not much - it's only 10 per time you charge the (gradually decaying) resonators, but it adds up over time.  And for low-level players in a high-level area, it may be the only way you have to gain experience. Or if you are in a one-portal town.

In fact, I mentioned the "tourist problem" for the one-portal towns, but - in all honesty - I'd love to have a hostile visit my town and take over my portal if I lived in a one-portal town.  Because you get 100 experience for hacking an enemy portal, and you can do that several times per day.  It's a much faster way to go up in levels when compared to maintaining a portal via recharge.

There are more mods than just shields, now, too.  So now there is actual thought necessary before you upgrade your portals.  If you can get the other mods.  What is missing is any sort of in-game documentation.  I have several mods that I don't know what they do.  The various Ingress communities on Google+ have been very helpful as far as that goes - but some of them are still woefully unclear, even with help.

I talked about low-level players wanting a lot of Bursters before attacking enemy portals - and that stands.  A Lv1 XMP Burster only does 1% damage to most resonators.  In fact, XMP Bursters seem to be a near-waste of time until about fourth level or so.

It still takes 10,000 experience for a Level 1 player to hit Level 2.  I can recharge resonators 10-15 times just on the way to work in the morning - that's 100-150 per day.  At that rate, it'd take about three months to hit Level 2.  And, looking at the game, that doesn't sound unreasonable.  Level 1 players - more than anyone else - need to make higher-level friends who will knock portals down so that Level 1 players can plant resonators and gain the experience for it.  Otherwise, you just won't get anywhere.

Let me go over the four big problems I saw last time:

Not Enough Portals: PARTLY FIXED

There are areas with too many portals.  And there are a few areas with not enough.  But, for the most part, this problem is fixed (even if some of the portals are in some odd places).

Level One Players Will Never Get Anywhere: NOT FIXED

There just aren't enough things for players to do at low levels, and it's next to impossible for low-level players to advance without significant help from higher level players.

Items Are Not Explained Well: NOT FIXED

They added a bunch of other stuff - but they didn't explain it in the game.  And even the fan forums are a mixed help.


This is less of a problem than I thought it was - portals decay over time.  And there are limits to placing resonators - for example, I can only place two Level 5 resonators on any given portal.  And four Level 4 resonators.  So if I grab Podunk, ID for my faction, I won't be dropping a set of eight Lv 8 Resonators.  And my resonators decay at 15% or so per day.  So - in theory - I can continue recharging the portal, but there were a few other changes to the game - for example, it now costs XM to deploy resonators and to fire Bursters.  So I may decide to save my XM and let the portal decay - if it's not part of an important link, I'm less likely to maintain it.  And, if it's further away, it will cost me more XM to recharge than if I'm nearby.  In fact, I have keys for some Baltimore portals that I can't charge at all - they're too far away.

In short:  The game is improving.  Slowly.  But Level 1 still sucks.  And Level 2 isn't much better.  I didn't start really enjoying it until Level 4.  And there are (in some areas) finally enough portals.  And some areas have too many portals.

I still can't give the game two thumbs.  I'm enjoying it, but new players won't.

(And, by the way, I have some invites available if you have an android phone and want to try it - just let me know).

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