Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ingress updates: Improvements, but not there yet

I quit playing Ingress after the last Anomaly event in Austin. I still log in to charge my few remaining guardian portal candidates, but that's all I do. I have some opinions on what's changed, and what still needs to change. I'll break down my opinions below.

New Levels
I think this is a great improvement. Tying higher levels to AP and badges makes for more well rounded agents. Increasing remote charging range and XM storage limits are helpful, but not game changing. (Edit: I mistakenly thought that Ingress was increasing the amount of storage per level as well. Increased XM capacity isn't as good as additional storage, but it's still good). I think this is good enough incentive to encourage people to level, but not devastating for people that can't (or don't want to) play enough to get to level 16. The rumored requirements are difficult for just about everyone, but basically impossible for many players (like myself). I think they've chosen a good balance between rewarding people that can play a lot and not putting people that can't play a ton at a huge disadvantage.

Ultra strikes
This should never have been exclusive to one type of phone. Phones and carriers are expensive, and don't work everywhere. I'm all for unique in game items, and Ingress turning a profit, but this wasn't a good way to do it. Unique codes in Doritos? Sure, that's reasonable. Having to buy a new cell phone and switch carriers? Ridiculous. I do have a problem with Ultra strikes, but I'll cover that in a later section called GPS drift.

Capsules
Capsules are a much needed improvement to the game. Overall, I think it's a good idea. I haven't used one yet, so I don't know if there are any issues with game play or UI, but from what I've seen, it looks good. I do think that they could make it even more useful if they created VR capsules that held 500 items. Yes, you could just pass the capsule back and forth 5 times, but why not just increase the capsule size? It doesn't hurt the game mechanics in any way, it just makes a game mechanic easier. For more info on capsules - http://goo.gl/RjXMsS

GPS Drift
Every cell phone or tablet I've tried playing Ingress on has issues with the location. Some devices are more accurate than others, but all of them have had issues. I don't know if this is an inherent problem in cell phones, or an issue with Ingress. I spent 10 minutes walking in circles in a parking lot trying to get an ultra strike to fire in a precise location. Sometimes I'd walk 10m, and it wouldn't move at all. Then, it would jump the 10m I actually walked, plus another 5 more. Correctly placing resonators at the max distance is tedious and annoying. Multiple times I've been standing still at the max distance, and my location either jumps to within a few meters of the portal, or jumps out of range. This game is supposed to get you off your ass and moving. It's not supposed to make you walk endlessly in small circles in a parking lot. I've attempted to incorporate Ingress into exercise routines, but GPS drift makes it difficult. Even when GPS is completely accurate, portals and resonators are not always in completely safe places. Resonators in streets are the perfect example. This game is already suspicious enough, do we really need to look completely crazy walking in circles, leaning over a bridge, or leaning against a limited access building to try and take out a resonator? I suggest that the game be changed to allow you to place resonators at what ever distance you want (to the max), as long as you are in range of the portal. I also think that you should be able to touch anywhere in the 40M radius around you to fire an XMP or ultra strike. Yes, there will always be portals that are hard to get to, but giving us a buffer of ~40M would eliminate the vast majority of gps drift issues.

Intel Map
Seriously? This is one of the worst parts of the game. It's slow. It's glitchy. It doesn't have any way of planning, making notes, sharing your location, communicating only with a group, or any other much needed tools. My suggestions is to either hire some of the third party add on developers, or create an API for them to use. I've helped with planning, and been an ops manager during large fielding operations. The Intel map is basically useless. All of the field art and mega fields? All of it was done with third party (against TOS) add-ons or some other mapping software. The most creative and dedicated players are at risk of being banned or have a ridiculously difficult time using tools not linked to Ingress data. This is pitiful and embarrassing. When helping with mega fields, I was using Glympse to know where all of the people playing were. Hangouts to send messages to different groups. Zello to communicate with people driving so they wouldn't die. The intel map with an addon that allowed creating virtual links between portals. It was still difficult to accomplish, and the mega fields weren't even that big.

So, after all that, am I coming back to Ingress? Not yet. If all of the issues I listed get fixed or improved, maybe. If it stays the way it is? Too many issues that directly affect the fun of it.