|Release date(s)||Closed beta
November 15, 2012
October 30, 2013
December 15, 2013
July 14, 2014
|Genre(s)||Augmented Reality, MMOG|
Ingress is an augmented reality massively multiplayer online role playing GPS-dependent game created by Niantic Labs, a startup within Google, originally for Android devices, and since July 14, 2014 for Apple's iOS. The game has a complex science fiction back story with a continuous open narrative.
The gameplay consists of establishing "portals" at places of public art, landmarks, monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular fields over geographic areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of "mind units" (MUs), i.e. people nominally controlled by each faction (as illustrated on the Intel Map). The necessary links between portals may range from feet/meters to miles/kilometers or hundreds of miles/kilometers in operations of considerable logistical complexity. International links and fields are not uncommon, as Ingress has attracted an enthusiastic following in cities worldwide amongst both young and old, to the extent that the gameplay is itself a lifestyle for some, including tattoos.
The game makers' framing device for the game is as follows: Physicists at CERN have discovered that the Earth has been seeded with “Exotic Matter,” or XM, associated with the Shapers, a mysterious phenomenon or alien race which is neither described nor seen (and which thus functions as a MacGuffin). The in-universe motivation for the Enlightened faction is their belief that the Shapers are working toward a powerful enlightenment which will uplift all mankind. The Resistance believes that it is protecting humanity from Shaper ingression. The factions have, however, been occasionally observed to ignore the back-story and to co-operate for the sake of real-life gameplay and game balance, for example by establishing neutral zones and rules of engagement.
A player using the mobile app is presented with a map representing the area nearby. The map has a black background and is completely unmarked, except for unlabeled buildings and roads which are represented in grey. Visible on the map are portals, Exotic Matter (XM), links, control fields, and items that have been dropped from a player's inventory.
Players must be physically near objects on the map to interact with them. The mobile client represents the player as a small arrow in the center of a 40-meter circle which represents the perimeter within which direct interaction is possible.
Players are rewarded with AP (Access Points) for actions within the game. Accumulating AP beyond certain thresholds grants you higher access levels, i.e. access to stronger items and capabilities. The access levels are numbered 1 through 16, with 16 being the highest. Niantic Labs has announced that they will introduce missions to the game.
There are two factions to choose from. The Enlightened fight believing their actions will uplift humanity, and bring about the next chapter in human evolution, whereas the Resistance believes in preserving what freedom humanity has left. The Resistance is represented by blue and the Enlightened are represented by green. In some areas, the Resistance are jokingly referred to as "Smurfs" and the Enlightened are "Frogs" or "Toads". Portals are either grey (unclaimed), blue, or green.
In the game, Earth has a large number of “portals”, made visible by the "scanner" (the mobile phone game app). They are colored green, blue, or grey, depending on whether they are controlled by the Enlightened, the Resistance, or currently unclaimed, respectively. A portal with no resonators is unclaimed, also called a "ghost" portal. Players acquire game items (resonators, weapons, etc.) by maneuvering themselves, typically by walking or driving, so that portals are within a certain radius of their physical locations and "hacking" them by selecting this option on their scanners. Any player can hack any portal and receive items, subject to limits on frequency. Hacking a portal controlled by the opposing faction also earns the player AP at the risk of being attacked by the portal in the form of losing XM.
To claim a portal for a faction, a player equips, or deploys, at least one resonator on it. If a portal is claimed by the enemy, the player must first neutralize it by destroying the opponents' resonators and mods by firing "weapons" called XMP ("eXotic Matter Pulse") Bursters, the principal means of attacking a portal. In the lore, XM comes in two polarities, and the XM of one faction's polarity annihilates the other's.
A portal may be equipped with up to eight resonators from one faction, determining the level and the color, or faction alignment, of that portal. A portal with no resonators will be grey, requiring players to equip a portal with at least one resonator to claim, or capture, it for his or her faction. Resonators have levels, ranging from L1 to L8. A player can deploy resonators only up to his or her own level, with additional restrictions regarding how many of each level resonator an individual can deploy on a given portal. The game mechanics reward teamwork by limiting the number of high-level resonators a single player can deploy; up to eight players working together can create a far higher-level portal than any one player can create individually, and eight players are required for a portal to reach the highest possible level.[better source needed] Furthermore, resonators decay spontaneously over time, and must be recharged in order to maintain control of the portal. This can either be done on site, or remotely through the use of a portal key and XM reserves.
A portal may also be equipped with up to four modifications, or "mods". Six types of modification are available: Shields, Force Amplifiers, Link Amplifiers, Multi-hacks, Heat Sinks, and Turrets. These have effects such as making the portal more difficult to attack, increasing the intensity of the portal’s response to attackers, and increasing the yield of hacking the portal. Players are limited to placing no more than two mods per portal.
Portals are typically associated with buildings and landmarks of historic or architectural significance such as sculptures and other public art, libraries, post offices, memorials, places of worship, public transit hubs, parks and other recreational or tourist spaces. Players may submit requests for the creation of new portals, and the number of portals has increased steadily over the lifetime of the game. The density of portals correlates with population density, thus the central areas of cities typically contain the highest concentration of portals.
Two portals that have all eight resonators deployed and are controlled by the same faction can be linked by a player from that faction who stands within range of one and has a portal key, obtained by hacking, for the other. The maximum possible length of a link depends on the average resonator level around the portal – the higher the level, the longer the link that can be created. However, one cannot create a link that crosses a pre-existing link from either faction. Both portals need to be kept at or above a minimum energy level to maintain the link. The opposing faction can destroy the link by attacking one or both portals so that the energy level falls below the critical level.
When three portals are linked in a triangle, they create a control field, claiming the Mind Units (MU) within that field for their faction. Portals within a field cannot originate links, but can be linked from the portals on the perimeter. The opposing faction can destroy a control field by destroying one or more of the links that comprise it.
XM Anomalies are periods of unusually high XM (Exotic Matter) concentration where players from both factions compete to control clusters of portals in order to win points for their team. Anomalies usually occur over the course of several weeks, with different events located in major cities around the world. Anomaly sites are divided into two categories: Primary and Satellite locations. Niantic Labs employees, as well as characters from the Ingress story, often attend events at Primary anomaly locations. More points are awarded to the prevailing faction at Primary Sites than at Satellite sites. The outcome of XM Anomalies often influence future events in the Ingress backstory.
Recursion was the first anomaly series for which players were awarded badges, occurring from February 15, 2014 to March 29, 2014. However, there were anomalies prior to this, such as Operation Cassandra.
Interitus was the second anomaly series for which players were awarded badges that was held in April, May, and June 2014.
Helios was the third anomaly series for which players were awarded badges. The event sequence was held in July, August and September 2014.
Darsana was the fourth anomaly series for which players were awarded badges. The anomaly series started on October 18, 2014 and ended on December 13, 2014.
- Karen Strassman as Dr. Devra Bogdanovich
- Laura Bailey as ADA (A Detection Algorithm)
- Misty Lee as Misty Hannah
- Katy Townsend as Klue
- Ione Butler as Susanna Moyer
- J.B. Blanc as Roland Jarvis
- Christopher Corey Smith as Henry "Hank" Johnson
- Yuri Lowenthal as Dr. Oliver Lynton-Wolfe
Ingress was released in closed beta on November 15, 2012, with an accompanying online viral marketing campaign. The latter was noticed as early as November 8, and other, earlier publicity efforts have been noted at events such as San Diego's Comic Con on July 12, 2012. Google employees had been testing the game for at least six months. Ingress has exited beta and is available for download on Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. According to Alex Dalenberg of American City Business Journals, as of May 2013 there were about 500,000 players globally. In an interview in August 2013 with the fan site Decode Ingress, Niantic Labs founder John Hanke said "There have been over 1M downloads and a large chunk of those are active." Speaking with CNN, he said he didn't expect players to start talking to each other and forming clubs. The game has received local media coverage, and some players have attracted the attention of law enforcement, and hence commentary on the interaction of augmented reality games with real life.
The opposing faction members at MIT arranged a campus-wide truce after the death of Sean Collier, an MIT police officer shot by the suspects in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and placed their two respective portals side-by-side in a virtual cenotaph at the site of his death.
Ingress won a "special mention" at the 2013 Android Players' Choice Awards.
Similarity to Shadow Cities
The basic idea of Ingress is very similar to the older, now-defunct, augmented reality game, Shadow Cities. Both have two factions which are fighting for the future of the world with smart phones. The games have similar game mechanics and look-and-feel. There are clear differences, however. In the Shadow Cities players are in the virtual world, which is dynamically mapped around them, and can teleport within the virtual world, whereas in Ingress the portals are real world locations that players always have to actually move to in order to play.
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