EgressMarch 4th, 2013
Ingress was a fun game, for a bit. Now it's not, at least for me. I'm just shy of reaching level 8, but I don't think I'm going to bother crossing that line. The game simply doesn't offer me anything in exchange for my time and effort.
The game mechanics are pretty flat. The actions available to each player are the same for all players: there's no specialization, and no real strategy to the game:
- Hack a portal
- Attack resonators attached to enemy portals
- Deploy resonators on unclaimed portals, or upgrade resonators on existing team-owned portals
- Create control fields
Lather, rinse, repeat.
The game encourages team work by restricting the number of high-level resonators that can be deployed on any portal by a single player. A level 7 player can only deploy one level 7 resonator, for example. So in order to get a portal completely stocked with level 7 resonators, seven unique accounts are required to each deploy one level 7 resonator.
Note that I said "unique accounts", as opposed to "unique players". There are a lot of people playing the game using multiple accounts. This is in direct violation of the Ingress terms of service, but it's a hard thing to police. So one human being could use two or three accounts to work together. This greatly improves their individual item inventories, and makes it much easier to tag-team enemy portals.
All games are going to have griefers. It's a fact of life. Whether they're violating the terms of service by using multiple accounts, or they're actively cheating by spoofing their GPS coordinates, there are a lot of ways to abuse Ingress. Folks like me who play by the rules are the losers. We don't level as quickly. We don't have as much access to inventory items.
One of the truly frustrating aspects of Ingress is that it take 8 unique accounts to build up a portal to level 7 or 8, but a single account can tear that down in a matter of minutes. So while (ostensibly) eight people need to coordinate their schedules to upgrade a portal together (synchronously or not), a single player of a lower level can come along at their leisure and undo all of that hard work.
There's no win condition to Ingress. You claim some portals, maybe make a field. The enemy comes along and blows up your portals, tears down your fields. They claim your portals, so you go blow up their stuff and reclaim them. This repeats forever. That's not particularly fun for me.
Indeed, there's no strategy for Ingress. Sure, you can argue about the relative value of where to place individual resonators, or when to make a field. But this is all academic: the enemy can and will destroy anything you create. The unending back-and-forth only rewards one specific kind of player: the one with ample free time.
I have a full-time job, and a family with which I enjoy spending time. I don't have the free time to constantly farm friendly portals for enough items to then make it possible for me to harass the opposition. There are a number of players on the opposing team who seem to have enormous amounts of free time. Ingress rewards them, and punishes me.
The lack of strategy means that all players are essentially equal. There's no specialization. Perhaps the game dynamic might be more interesting if different styles of play were rewarded. If there was some long-term in-game benefit to maintaining a control field, or recharging resonators, or something.
The one really great thing to come from Ingress is that I've met -- virtually, and in real life -- a terrific group of players. The amount and quality of ad-hoc organization our team has performed is nothing short of amazing. I suspect the opposition does the same thing, though my personal experience with most members of the opposition has been less than friendly. That's unfortunate.
I don't know how long I'll remain in touch with the other players once I cease my involvement in the game. Participation in the larger community doesn't make much sense if I'm not playing the game. See also the bit above where I enumerate the restrictions on my free time: these restrictions also make it hard to attend team meetups.
Lest this sound like a pity party for poor skippy, let me state unequivocally that the Ingress technology is really impressive. I hope Google / Niantic Labs learn from this and make a whole slew of other location-based games. I hope professional game designers take notice of what's happening, and work location-based gaming into new projects -- preferably ones with clear skill specialization opportunities, and less mindless grinding!
And for folks who still enjoy playing Ingress: good on yer! Keep playing. If this is the kind of game you enjoy, that's awesome. Getting out, learning about your town, and meeting new people are all awesome ancillary benefits that go along with Ingress.
It's just not the game for me.