Welcome readers, as I attempt to introduce you to the wonderful world of Ingress, which is currently taking off in Canberra and worldwide. You may have seen two ‘strange’ articles on here recently relating to Ingress, and have wondered what it is all about. This is my attempt as a brand new player to help explain Ingress. So far I haven’t gotten into the ‘field’ yet – still arranging an Android phone to use – but I have read extensively about Ingress online now so far so hopefully that’s enough to make this article informative.
What is Ingress?
Important to note first up – Ingress is FREE TO PLAY!
Ingress is a near-real time augmented reality massively multiplayer online pervasive game created by Niantic Labs, a start up within Google, currently for Android devices, but, expected to be available for Apple’s iOS in 2014. 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, cenotaphs, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular fields over geographic areas. Progress in the game is measured by the number of Mind Units, i.e. people, nominally controlled by each faction (as illustrated on the Intel Map). The necessary links between portals may range from meters to kilometers, or to hundreds of 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: 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.
Understanding or following the backstory is not required for gameplay, although it makes it more interesting. If you enjoy RP (roleplay) content you will the backstory, if that’s not for you then a cursory reading may make some game terms make more sense but otherwise is not required per se.
Apart from the gaming aspect which appeals to many, the game involves lots of walking about (healthy! driving isn’t forbidden but isn’t encouraged) and visiting local cultural, artistic and community landmarks, helping you to better get to know some of the hidden or not-so-hidden gems in your home town (or the city where you are visiting). There is a big social aspect to the game, and players will regularly meet up to engage with each other and teamwork is a big part of the game (although possible to ‘solo’, the game is more fun with others).
A player using the mobile app is presented with a map representing the area nearby. The map has a black background while only roads are represented in grey and the entire map is completely unmarked. Visible on the map are portals, Exotic Matter, links, control fields, portal keys, 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 oval which represents the perimeter within which direct interaction is possible.
Players are rewarded with AP (Action Points) for actions within the game. Accumulating AP beyond certain thresholds grants you higher access level i.e. access to stronger items. The access levels are number 1 through 8 with 8 being the highest as of January 2014. Niantic Labs announced that they will introduce missions and higher levels to the game.
What do I need to get started?
First of all, you need an Android phone. iOS support is coming very soon, hopefully early 2014, and I will announce in a specific news post on here when the iOS app has come out. Keep in mind the following – to work with Ingress, the phone must have a minimum 480×800 screen resolution, a GPS and be running Android 2.3 or higher.
This means any Android phone from the last few years (expect ultra small models) will generally work. From looking around at second hand phones recently, I found a number of older HTC Desire phones going for around $60-90 which fit the bill quite nicely and were quite a good phone in the day, or ask around your friends and family, you probably know someone with an older model that would work you could borrow if like me you have an iOS device and don’t want to wait for the iOS app.
NOTE: There is a non-official app called Ingrios for iOS – this is NOT associated with the game and using this app to access the game will result in a ban from Ingress – don’t do it, get an Android phone or wait for the official iOS app.
Second, many players use an external battery recharge pack for their phone, as gameplay will drain your battery, most people will get 2-4 hours play time on a full recharge, due to the GPS and Wifi/Bluetooth being active while the game client is active.
There are a LOT of different options out there for this, so after some extensive research on my part, I am going to personally recommend the ‘Satechi ICel 5200 MAh (2 Amp) Battery Extender Pack And Charger’. This device is very well reviewed, and should give about 1.5-3x (conservatively) full recharge for your phone depending on the size of your phone battery, and is $49.95 shipped, which is the best price I can find for a quality charger given many 1000 MAh models go for around $40 at most retail stores. The only place I could find to order this particular one from was here: http://bit.ly/1atLMun
Different people will have different opinions on the best recharger, if I find a better option I will update this article to reflect that, so please comment. Note this isn’t needed to play the game, but if you get serious about Ingress, an external battery recharger is something most players use.
Lastly you need a mobile plan with a good data package, as playing the game will burn through your mobile data. I would recommend at least a 1-2GB data allowance / month for a moderate player, and you will want more if you get serious about the game. I don’t want to endorse any particular provider over another here, so the best thing I can say is there are many good options for cheap prepaid sim plans with good amounts of included data, just do a bit of google research and you will find something that suits you.
Where to from here – Getting Playing
If you have an Android phone already, head to the Google Play store and download the Ingress app to get going. You will need to pick a team, Enlightened or the Resistance, and changing team isn’t easily done, so take a moment before deciding which team to pick (the further reading links may help you make up your mind).
Most of the communication for Ingress happens either in the game client or on Google+ (being a Google made game), so head on over and sign up at the Canberra Ingress google group: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111105705477540202146
To get a grasp on the gameplay, I recommend reading: https://support.google.com/ingress/#topic=3261401
Then I recommend watching the video series here to get a *very basic* background on the game terms and what has happened so far in game: http://www.gamezebo.com/news/2014/01/07/ingress-google%E2%80%99s-location-based-game-coming-iphone
To delve right into the depths of the game background and maybe find special game codes, check out the following two links:
http://www.nianticproject.com/ – the official project page for the game.
http://decodeingress.me/ – A community based site that analyses the game info.
Next up: Part 2 – Joining the Resistance – the next guide in the series will detail my journey as I hook up with the Resistance in Canberra and my experience as a new player in the ‘field’ – stay tuned! Hope you found this article useful, please ask any questions you have in the comments.
ED: This bit seems to have been inexplicably missed [NSFW]: