Whats wrong with Ingress? Part 1: Defense

This is the start of a three series blog post that I will write over Google's augmented reality game. If you are not aware of this game, I'd recommend reading the Wikipedia entry over the subject, then return back to this post.

As the first paragraph just showed, Ingress is a game at its heart. While it continues to serve more purposes than just that, we must remember that Ingress is, and will always be a game. All games have balance, some more balanced than others. Halo didn't get to where it was today with unbalanced gameplay (though it took some time).

Now I'm not a game designer, and besides peeking around in the source of Ingress via byte code, it seems most of these decisions and values are left server sided for Google to decide which gives them the benefit of automated changes without apk updates.

What I'm going to do is just describe 3 situations which I find myself in quite often and hopefully we can gather some opinions about a way to solve this, because for one I'm tired and exhausted of portal turnover. It's not fun only holding portals for less than a few hours.

    • As a L8, I took a trip to the opposite faction school campus that was littered in 30-40 L7/L8 portals. Most were filled with anything from very rare shields to turrets / force amps. From experience on my campus, building something like that takes 4-10 players who are willing to drop some mods knowing that'll be destroyed. Not to mention getting everyone to take part takes a day or two, so it takes time to build those farms up. The sad part is? I single handily destroyed every portal there in under 30 minutes using about 30 XMP's and 4 cubes.
      • The problem? Something that takes multiple agents to build, can be destroyed by one agent, especially when that something is in the magnitude of 40+ portals.
      • The possible reason for this? Apparently, they want portal turnover, but at the cost of loosing their pool of agents? Maybe I'm being over-reactive.

    • I was sitting at 55 days owned on a portal, and anytime I got a notification for it. I'd use cube after cube just trying to recharge one resonator so that I wouldn't lose it. This I learned was a useless attempt. After mashing the recharge button 10 times, I only add 8k health back to the portal (assuming I'm recharging one L8 resonator), at the rate of the attacker possibly dealing anywhere from 2k -> 3k of health on each hit. That means inevitably they will win as I will run out of cubes or miss-click one button, which will cost me the 5 seconds that I needed to defend my portal. This is also assuming it is one attacker, if there are two, the chances are slim to none.
      • The problem? Remote defense is non-existent and never beats a persistent agent. The only viable option for defense is to be physically at the place during an attack with the ability to drop resonators as they are being blown up.
      • The possible reason for this? Back in the day, it was easy for one defender to defend an entire farm from remote recharging. Obviously they tried to balance that, but didn't succeed. I feel we just shifted the off balance from defense to offense.

  • In the first few months of Ingress (for me, January onward), there wasn't a portal in  town that was unclaimed or lacking resonators. Agents had very little bursters and couldn't take down portals themselves due to the low damage of our weapons and the rate the defenders could recharge. This was fun for most of us on both sides, because those who played together kept their portals alive and could pack a punch towards the enemy.  A month or so later we had a L8 passer-by come through our town before any of us were L8, and deployed L8 resonators on all of our portals. I kid you not his resonators stayed for 3+ months giving all of our portals a huge boost. Then things slowly changed as both sides got their first L8 agent, portal submissions tripled and our small town of 18 portals became 48. If you saw an enemy portal above L6, you would drive by it and fire a few bursters and it was gone. You'd leave it unclaimed for a lower agent to claim and leave. Our town became a wasteland of unclaimed and partly filled portals, as holding portals became too much of an effort and led to our recent L8 agents to quit.
    • The problem? L8 agents are quitting. There is too much effort to put up a L8 portal / farm, to have it torn down by one opposing agent.
    • The possible reason for this? Lower level users have a chance with the huge portal turnover. There wasn't portal turnover when I got L8, and it took me 4 months, but compared to people getting L8 in 20 days is just insane. Though, the faster they get to L8, the faster they contribute to blowing up everything, leaving a wasteland.

Ingress is getting more and more popular and portals are hard to hold. For some this may be fun, as its more AP for you. Though, once at L8 there isn't really anything to strive for. Sure there are the medals, but those are really only reachable in highly portal dense cities.

The current state of defense has upset a lot of our local agents. My last example comes from our month-long coordinated effort to make a three state wide field. A month later during the night we put the field up like clockwork exactly how we planned and thus celebrated, and lost it about 2 hours later. We tried to defend it and remote recharge, but we needed to have a body sleeping at the portal at all hours to have any attempt at protecting. Most of our agents were asleep at that point and we couldn't hold our amazing field to even show for in the morning.

Next month, Part 2: Portals, Cheating and Gameplay