If you don’t know what Ingress is, then either a) the conspiracy is real and THEY don’t want you to know, b) you are less obsessive than I am regarding following news related to mobile tech, or c) you don’t have an android phone (so thank you for reading this, anyway).
Google calls Ingress “alternate reality gaming” (when it even admits that Ingress is a game). You can see a teaser video here that tries to explain what the game is, and, as you may have guessed, this week’s blog post is about more of the actual nitty and gritty from the perspective of a newbie player.
In the story of the game, the Niantic Project is a record of the discovery that there is a type of energy leaking into our world called Exotic Material (referred throughout the game as XM). With this material, and the portals that allow it into the world, XM can be used to control minds or to free them. The game is competitive between two factions: The Enlightened–who intend to free the minds of their fellow man through the use of XM making them, also, Enlightened–and the Resistance who believes the Enlightened are using XM to brainwash people, either because they don’t fully understand what they are doing, or because its always cool to have a conspiracy where someone is brainwashing someone else. The link above to the project includes everything that has so far been learned by players around the world playing the game.
In effect, Ingress is two games–one involves using your phone to wander reality and do stuff to the “reality” of Ingress (more on that in a minute) and the other is to uncover clues and then talk about them, extrapolate on them, etc. to try to solve mysteries and learn more of the overall story of the game. The actions you do with your phone benefit the faction you’ve joined, encouraging the discovery of new information about the plot of the game. Meantime, the physical activity gives a good reason to go out and walk around in a world where games typically are played sitting down inside a nice warm abode of some sort.
To address the elephant (that is rapidly shrinking) in the middle of the room: Ingress is invite only…right now. Google has, to great affect, used artificial scarcity (such as invites) to increase interest in a product. Ingress is not exempt. I waited two weeks for my own invite, and there are a series of memes where people post pictures begging for Invites, with humor or humility on display hoping someone from Google will take pity on them.
That said, once you get your invite, you have a tutorial to complete before you can actually “play.” Playing the tutorial is fun, and may be considered play, but you cannot choose a faction nor do any actions you take (from collecting XM to hacking a portal–again more on that later) is permanent until you complete the tutorial. Also, if you wait long enough on a tutorial task, it will restart. Finally, when in tutorial mode, my experience was that where I activated my phone with Ingress and it gathered my location for the first time, is where the tutorial stuff was. So, I activated before I headed to work, assuming I could complete my tasks there…only to find that nothing showed up at all until I returned home. Turns out powering down and powering up (and/or otherwise causing it to reassess your location) would have caused it to allow me to do the tutorial at my work, but then it wouldn’t have allowed me to do it at home.
And now, what the heck you’re doing in the tutorial (and thus the game) in a physical space: you’re trying to gather resources and deprive the other faction of resources.
First, you need to collect XM–it operates as energy for you in the game. Opening your phone to view what only can be seen through the Ingress program, you’ll be walked through the tutorial to collect XM (for tasks during the tutorial). For those of you without Ingress, the screen will look something like this:
Note that there are no street names in the game, but, streets do appear (as do the outlines of houses, etc.). In the initial tutorial, there will just be floating motes of light–the XM–but later you’ll either see a nearby portal or you’ll make a temporary one to complete your tasks (which are the crystal spikey things in the picture).
To use the XM you’ve gathered, you need to target something–a resonator (more on that in a minute) or an actual portal. When you target the item, you’ll get a countdown to how far away it is from you, and whether or not its in range of your ability to do anything to it (or its ability to do anything to you, again, more on that later).
Once you’ve gathered XM, and targeted something, you’ll use it. You will hack a portal which takes XM energy, but produces resources to make taking other portals, hacking other portals, and a variety of other tasks easier. Hacking a portal can also drop clues about the overarching plot of the game, in the form of secret files, pictures, etc.
After you’ve hacked a portal, you’ll fire up resonators; these help fuel the portal as well as protect it from people who might wish the portal harm. Once you’ve fired up resonators, you’ll learn how to join portals (you require the “portal key” which you can get from hacking, from each portal). Joining more than two portals creates a field. Fields protect things within them (and, for example, make it harder to hack things protected by a field).
Note: accomplishing these tutorial tasks will have you wandering around the streets staring at your cell phone. My neighbors thought it a little weird, but don’t wander into traffic or lose complete bearing on your surroundings it is a) just a game and b) you don’t want to get mugged.
Next you learn to “attack” resonators and portals by firing XM at them. This eats up your XM supply, and, inevitably, the resonators attack back also draining your XM supply.
And that fulfills the basics of the game. Go places. Find portals. Harry your opposite faction. Help your own. Uncover clues. Uncover codes to get additional cool stuff and resources. For example, there are a lot of codes here, that can be entered in your phone or on the Ingress “intel” site: http://www.ingress.com/intel. Try not to lose all your XM.
- Know your area — the actual map on your phone isn’t as useful as it could be. Use the Intel site thoroughly before exercising shoe leather express and running around trying to find things.
- Use passcodes — like the ones I listed above or found elsewhere and shared.
- Pick sensible places to attack. I’m on the border of Bellevue and Redmond in Washington; apparently the Microsoft folks have decided to go the Enlightened route; EVERYTHING is green there (the color of Enlightenment) and I have to be careful picking targets or all my XM will be drained. Seattle, however, is mostly the land of the Resistance (at least at the time of this writing). While you get additional experience for facing off against the opposition, you still get nifty resources for hacking your own faction’s portals. More experience translates into better resources to use at higher levels of your Ingress expertise.
Finally, I’d like to talk about cars. You don’t always have to go everywhere on foot. However, if you are going to use a car to play Ingress, don’t be the driver. Seriously. Don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive, and don’t try to play video games and drive. The not-real world is totally not worth a real-world accident. Also, its a lot easier to give directions, move closer and further from targets, etc., if you have one person fully on the game and one person fully in control of your vehicle.
So there you have it: Ingress. I hope I’ve taken some of the mystery out of it (and maybe put a little bit more back in).