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On The Internal Economy of Ingress

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Game Logic | 25 comments

On the Internal Economy of Ingress

I’ll start by posing this question: What is a level 8 resonator worth?

What is a resonator worth?

What is a level 8 resonator worth?

To clarify. I’m talking about its in-game value, not what it costs or can be sold for in real money. Deployed resonators can create value for their faction by holding territory and increasing the value of gear that allies can get out of a portal – they can also create value for their faction by increasing the effort it takes for the opposing faction to remove them.

 

The first core truth that needs to be recognized when thinking about the economy of Ingress is that this usefulness-of-a-level-8-resonator isn’t fixed. It’s contextual.

 

A resonator deployed in a level 8 farm attended by 20 people helps create perhaps 88 new level 8 resonators, even if it only persists for less than an hour. That’s useful. A resonator on a portal hacked by nobody for six months can be useful as well, if it helps hold down territory. Most deployed resonators are going to have life stories that are less useful than those two examples, but on a basic level usefulness-of-a-l8 resonator derives from the interaction of how many friendly players benefit from it and how long it persists in the game environment.

 

In other words, it’s worth what you can do with it and what you can do with it depends on the state of the game in the local area.  What you actually do with it depends on you, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

 

That leads to the second core truth: the more dominant your team is in your area, the more useful the gear in your inventory is. Even assuming every player on both sides is at item cap, the team that is larger, more organized, and/or already owns most of the portals is at a distinct advantage because their resonators when deployed last longer and provide benefit to more of their team.

link advantage

The advantage is even more marked for xmps, because Niantic has made design choices (link mitigation, shields being just another type of gear) that are of much more benefit to the dominant team’s defense then the weaker one. The dominant team’s shields get destroyed less frequently so they persist in the environment longer, they have more opportunity to add additional mitigation over time because of that greater persistence, they have more opportunities to add mitigation through links because they own more portals and those portals are more likely to be fully deployed, and because they have more link mitigation opportunities they can use cheaper and fewer shields to gain the same defensive effect that the less dominant team would have to use a larger number of more expensive shields for. In addition, high mitigation is exponentially more useful than weaker mitigation, so even a low difference in the average mitigation achieved by each faction can translate into the weaker faction needing several times the xmps the dominant faction does to achieve the same destructive effect.

 

Note that I have not even touched on scarcity issues here. These observations are true even if every player on both sides has identical access to gear.

 

As a practical matter, though, dominant teams worth their salt can significantly limit the other team’s access to gear. What this means is that weaker teams have access to less gear and the gear they have doesn’t go as far, and stronger teams have more access to gear and that gear goes further. This creates a positive feedback loop.

 

This is itself a design choice. In board game circles it’s referred to as the “runaway leader” effect – winning makes it easier and easier to keep winning. It has a few advantages – it is a more intrinsically realistic dynamic. There are some games, like Monopoly, in which a runaway leader taking over is the entire point of the game in the first place. However, runaway leader positive feedback loops are not viewed as good design for longer games because players tend to dislike games where the outcome is decided very early on but they are obliged to keep playing. While nobody is actually obliged to play Ingress, player attrition rarely helps with the underlying balance issues.  Note that a game having a runaway leader effect doesn’t  mean that a team in a weaker position cannot ever achieve victories – it just means that the odds are heavily stacked against them.

 

design choices

 

Ingress is a very long game, and also intrinsically different from most other real world team activities. You do not get extra points in football for sneaking into the other team’s field at 3 AM and kicking goals. Nobody is going to view a cricket match as legitimate if one side has five fewer players and no bats. Yet Ingress puts players in that kind of situation all the time. You just have to make the most of it.

 

Here’s how highly effective players get gear in my city:

 

Ideal farms are around 50-60 portals arrayed in a driving loop in an isolated location. 50-60 portals because the more portals in a farm the more gear surplus is gained from it. Players prefer to farm as few times as possible to get the necessary gear to keep up with the gameplay pace in the city. Even so, the pace in this city is fast enough that top players often farm 50-60 portal farms daily or more than daily, with multihacks when the other team is lazy enough to permit. Driving loop because our city has a farm-crashing culture and the farm needs to be completed as fast as possible to gain any benefit from it, and also because as mentioned the farms are in isolated locations. The isolated locations without serious local opposition is to give a head start.

 

Farms on foot usually do not produce enough gear to compete with the gear produced from driving farms. They tend to be either small (up to 20 portals, very limited geographic area) or slow. That means they usually either provide a much smaller surplus than a driving farm, or are liable to be crashed. The last only matters if you’re in an area that has a culture of crashing farms, but if you are in that sort of area it matters a lot. Usually they are both small and liable to be crashed which is a double penalty.

 

Crashing a farm is sending a player to interrupt and destroy an enemy farm before they can get much gear out of it. A team’s ability to crash farms depends on player ability, player availability, player transportation, awareness of where the other team is likely to farm, and surplus gear. A team with comfortable gear surplus can take risks with their gear – if it takes 200 or 400 level 8 xmps to stop the other team from farming, it’s nothing, they know where to get more. A team with no surplus has no gear to take risks with and has a much harder time interrupting enemy farms. Since interrupting enemy farms is the easiest way to suppress enemy gear acquisition, this is another aspect of the game that leads to positive feedback loops in favor of whatever team is currently winning. If meeting people to get gear becomes risky, inventory-painful, and pointless, people become less willing to do it.

 

A key concept to remember when thinking about the production and consumption of gear in Ingress is “pace”. If you are not successfully farming at at least the rate your opposition is farming, advantage will accrue to them. If you are farming once a day, that’s not enough if your opposition is farming twice a day. If your opposition has a standing farm and can farm on demand… you’re in trouble. One of the things hardcore players do to lock casual players on the other team out of areas is to push the pace of play so hard that the casual players might as well not be playing. Most quit at that point. weekly statsThere is no limit to how long a player can play as long as they have data access and power to their phone. Compared to a player who plays 18 hours at a stretch, even a player who plays 1-2 hours a night is “casual” and liable to be locked out. Ultimately, players who can best approximate a bot in their ability to acquire and consume gear win out. There are many ways to play Ingress, but most of them depend on there not being hardcore PvP players opposing you at every turn.

 

 

Why chase opposition players out of the game? Basically, your ability to do awesome things in Ingress is inversely related to whether the opposition is there (“Opposition” can come from your own faction as well as the other one). If they don’t show up, either because they don’t exist or have been demoralized, you can do fun and cool things like 8′ing your entire city or building field art or megafielding. If they do show up, your ability to do such things drops precipitously and swiftly approaches zero. How much effort your team puts into these accomplishments has much less relation to whether they are successful than the presence or absence of the other team. Perhaps unfortunately, only absolute accomplishments count for Ingress glory. Relatively, it could be much more difficult for one team to build a level seven farm against local opposition than for another team to field three countries against zero opposition, but the second team is going to get all the accolades. This is a strong motivation to chase people out of the game. Some players do that through playing hard, others in a less ethical fashion.

 

It’s true that there’s not much point to playing Ingress against a total lack of opposition.  Players do prefer having opposition, but they prefer that opposition to be much, much less effective than they are. The threshold at which players become disappointed at the lack of opposition in this game tends to be well past the point at which that opposition is completely demoralized by its inability to accomplish anything.

 

And that’s how the gear economy works and drives the balance of power. It’s rough on people. The inventory production/consumption cycle is used to ration play, drives how territory is divided, and has a huge effect on how well teams are able to contest anomalies. When it’s unbalanced, as it is now, that creates major distortions in play that amplify other existing imbalances. Unlike other games where the territory fought over is imaginary and players can choose their home turf, Ingress is fought over real territory. It does not artificially balance teams and it makes no allowances for how people are distributed in real life.

global dominance

Runaway positive feedback loops aren’t an inevitable problem for a game like this to have. A few negative feedback loops introduced to the mix could make the game more competitive and less about constant grind for all players. Here’s a few suggestions from a 40 million AP perspective:

 

1) Give thought to making underdog play interesting and fun. Even if a player is faced with a sea of max-mitigated and linked enemy portals as far as the eye can see, she still should be able to accomplish things. There should be easy ways to do minor random sabotage to portals in this game, perhaps by using keys.

 

2) Stronghold portals need to get weaker over tactical timeframes. A farm should be hardest to take down when people are farming it and easier to take down (soon) afterwards to encourage players to defer destruction and slow down the pace of the game. Currently a farm tends to be poorly mitigated when built and gradually grows stronger as it’s linked and shielded, making hitting mid-build the most cost-effective approach for attackers on several levels..The current decay mechanic is too slow to be relevant within tactical timeframes, and remote recharge ensures most portals someone cares about will get recharged, and only the scraps will get easier to take down with time.

 

3) Slow down high-intensity players in a targeted way. Per-player resonator and mod limits would accomplish a lot here. Have more than a set (or cell-scaled) number of level 8 resonators deployed? Your burster effectiveness takes a hit. You already have 10 very rare shields on portals? Sorry, that’s all you get to deploy, wait for the ones you have to be destroyed.

 

4) Mitigation needs a lot of work. A large fraction of mitigation comes from links, introduced to motivate players to link before scoring was introduced. As earlier mentioned this favors the dominant team. It’s also anti-pedestrian in environments where links are longer than a reasonable walk away. Reducing maximum portal mitigation (currently 95%) by 1% per link would make highly mitigated portals much less spammable. 1% reduction doesn’t sound like a lot, but 90% mitigation is half as strong as 95% mitigation. That would make a fully shielded portal with 5 links take twice the damage as a fully shielded portal with no links. That’s just one possible tweak – the whole mitigation system is heavily unbalanced.

 

5) Mercilessly oppress agents who play without ever leaving their cars. “It’s time to move” is basically a joke in nearly any pedestrian/car player interaction, and despite frequently claiming Ingress is a game about exercise in interviews, Niantic is putting more and more emphasis on large-scale fields that require heavy car use. It’s not just destroying by car that’s the problem; hacking and deploying 8s from vehicles is equally problematic for game pace and balance.  Agents over 12 mph being limited to effective level 6 for firing xmps, deploying, and hacking would be one approach to this issue that would probably work well.

Scanner v1.50.0 Update

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Game, Updates | 70 comments

Ingress scanner v1.50.0 is slowly being released to agents in the field!
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New Levels
Ingress Report 54 teased at Levels 9-16, though didn’t give us much more information than that.
ingress_9_16

Hidden in the APK we were able to find more details on these new levels, and their requirements.
new levels

We also noticed that black notches have been added to the inner circle of the current level notches on the agent avatar. It is speculated that these will fill in as levels 9-16 are obtained.
black notches

APK Mirrors:
Mirror 1
Mirror 2
Mirror 3
Mirror 4

This Week in Niantic History, April 13-18, 2013

Posted by on Apr 19, 2014 in Stories | 1 comment

Good afternoon, Agents and Investigators! My name is Mustafa Said. I’ve decided to launch a new project here on Decode Ingress!

This project is known as This Week in Niantic History. Every Friday, I’ll take a series of updates from the Niantic Investigation that were released one year ago and bring to light what was revealed in the Niantic Investigation at that particular time. In fact, I’ll go one step beyond. I intend to take the week’s worth of Intel and connect it to the present day.

 

Let’s start this with what came out on April 13th, 2013:

imminent1

imminent2

In this conversation between ADA, Zeke Calvin and Ken Owen, lives hang in the balance as the trio work together to stop a fatal attack on the Investigator duo H. Richard Loeb and Klue. They barely managed to pull it off-but not before ADA reveals some demands of her own….

 

On April 14th, 2013, another conversation appears on the Investigator Board.

14 - 314 - 2rightthing3

ADA is talking to Henry Bowles, the engineer who created her. In the conversation, ADA compels him to help her survive the oncoming Niantic Shutdown…

 

On April 15th, 2013, yet another document surfaced.

bad

 

This time, Yuen Ni, NIA Director and J. Phillips, grisly head of Niantic security, converse about the failed attempt on Loeb and Klue. The document is rather interesting..it reveals that the NIA aren’t the only ones who are watching the Niantic Project…..

On April 16th, an audio file appeared.

Carrie Campbell Entrance Interview

 

It was a entrance interview between ADA and the late Carrie Campbell…within the interview, Carrie goes into the possibility that we, as humans in our limited world with our limited resources, could be able to accomplish things that the Shapers can’t. Think about that for a sec.

XM has allowed us to do amazing things…revive people from the dead and introduce us to a whole new world. But what about the idea that the beings responsible for all of this think of US as the real Shapers, the ones changing the course of the world every time we log into our Scanners and go do things?

 

 

On April 17th, another audio file came up.

 

http://niantic.schlarp.com/_media/investigation:arose.mp3

It was a continuation of the previous update from yesterday. In this update, she talks about the idea behind “attacking our world through artwork.” To me, I think it relates to how the Shapers are using art as a medium to release XM exposure in the world….maybe I’m wrong, maybe not.

 

And finally, on April 18th, 2013, the fourth installment of the Ingress Report was released:

INGRESS REPORT EP 4-Niantic Project to Close?

So, there’s been quite a lot of intel this week. But what does it all mean? And how does it all tie into the greater picture?

Well, the build-up to Operation #ShaperData that Sunday was growing. Agents were not the only forced on the move that week, ADA was very active in securing the resources she would need in order to evade the Niantic Shutdown. The higher ups of Niantic were also on edge as their attempts to remove all traces of XM knowledge failed. All in all, everything was culminating to the big showdown on April 21st.

What secrets would the Niantic Shutdown bring? And what would the valuable “Shaper Data Packets” hold inside?

Keep your eyes glued to Decode Ingress next week to find out what happened next in Niantic History!

A first glance at Capsules

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Game, Updates | 29 comments

We’ve known about their arrival for some time now, and they are finally making their way to the masses. Yesterday, Ingress announced it’s newest item, The Capsule. We were able to interview a trusted source close to Visur, and these are our findings so far.
6

What does a Capsule do?
“Rare Capsules can hold up to 100 items, which count towards your Inventory. Capsules are reusable, and marked with a unique ID.”
SNP_99E809090F6F05A939EC9D2C74BE798015A8_6011339_en_v0

Are there other rarities other than Rare?
Like with Turrets and Force Amps, Capsules seem to only have a single rarity. It’s undetermined if smaller or larger Capsules will be released.

How much space does the Capsule take up in your inventory?
Only the contents of the Capsule + 1 (the Capsule itself) counts towards your inventory. If I were at item cap (2000), and you wanted to drop a Capsule with 50 items in it for me to pick up, I would have to get my inventory down to at least 1949.

Can I put a Capsule in another Capsule?
No.

What happens if I recycle the Capsule?
You will be given a confirmation prompt to recycle the Capsule or not. If you choose to recycle the Capsule, all it’s contents are recycled with it. Unknown if you get the cumulative XM for all the items, or just for the Capsule itself.

Do Capsules have their own category in the Items list?
At this time, no. You must access Capsules from the All inventory section.
UPDATE: A server side update was made that now gives Capsules their own category.
2014-04-09 (5)2014-04-09 (4)

How do I put items into the Capsule?
After opening the Capsule from your items list, tap LOAD. Find the item(s) you want to put into the Capsule, and tap the - or + buttons to specify the quantity. Tap the Transfer button to put the item(s) into the Capsule.
2

How do I take items out of the Capsule?
This works almost the same as depositing items into the Capsule. Tap UNLOAD, use - or + buttons to specify the quantity, and then tap Transfer to put the item(s) in your inventory.
4

Are items usable while inside a Capsule?
No. You can’t fire an XMP, use Keys for links, Recharge, Recycle, etc. Pretend they don’t exist except for taking up room in your inventory.

Can I use Capsules for key farming?
Most definitely. When you put a key into a Capsule, the portal you are hacking will not recognize it, almost guaranteeing you a key on your next hack.
5

How do I get a Capsule?
Right now, you can only obtain them via passcode. No hacking them yet! Ingress is having Design Competition where folks can show off creative or original designs for a chance at a Capsule passcode.
74

UPDATE:
Official help document now published: https://support.google.com/ingress/answer/6011315?hl=en

The Stream Enterer

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Stories | 0 comments

In our ongoing DI Guest writer series, Mike Wright ( https://plus.google.com/109318668583537518813/posts )   agent @RAYNEBLYTHEWOOD digs deeper into the concept of Simulacrums and what this might mean for Hank Johnson.  

   The word Simulacrum comes from Latin and it means likeness or similarity.  Late in the 16th century it was first recorded in the English language used to describe a representation, such as a statue or painting, especially of a god.

    One could gain a large understanding of the Hank Johnson situation by reading “The Circular Ruins” written by Jorge Luis Borges.

 

    The short story deals with the manifestation of thoughts in the “real world”, meaningful dreams, and immortality.

    From a different view one could look at Tibetan Buddhism teachings of spiritual discipline known as Tulpa.  The term “thoughtform” comes from the Tibetan  Book of the Dead. The text is intended to guide one through the experiences that the consciousness has after death, during the interval between death and the next rebirth.

    Rebirth in Buddhism is the idea that the evolving consciousness or the stream of consciousness upon death, becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new aggregation.  The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely different from that in the deceased, but the two form a casual continuum or stream.  Within one life and across multiple lives, the changing self not only affects it’s surrounding external world, but also generates (consciously or unconsciously) it’s own subjective image of this world.  Which it then lives in as ‘reality’.  It “tunes in” to a particular level of consciousness (by meditation or the rebirth) and selectively notices, and interprets what has been sensed to form a distorted interpretive model of reality.  With each rebirth I believe Hank will be able to physically see XM and portals without the use of a scanner device.  His sensitivity will increase each time.

    Drawing upon these conclusions leads me to one disturbing question.  How long?  Through my research I’ve located information that could provide that answer.  An ordinary person is trapped in the endless cycle. One is reborn, lives, and dies in endless rebirths, either as a human, animal, male, female, ghost, hell being, or various other entities on different categories of existence.  An ordinary entity has never seen and experienced the ultimate truth of Dharma and therefore has no way of finding an end to the cycle. It is only when suffering becomes acute, or seemingly unending, that they look for a “solution” to and, if fortunate, finds the Dharma.   In Jainism dharma refers to the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the “path of righteousness”.

 See, for instance, the “Snake-Simile Discourse” , where the Buddha states:

‘For those who are arahants, free of taints, who have accomplished and completed their task, have laid down the burden, achieved their aim, severed the fetters binding to existence, who are liberated by full knowledge, there is no (future) round of existence that can be ascribed to them. Those monks who have abandoned the five lower fetters will all be reborn spontaneously (in the Pure Abodes) and there they will pass away finally, no more returning from that world. Those monks who have abandoned three fetters and have reduced greed, hatred and delusion, are all once-returners, and, returning only once to this world, will then make an end of suffering. Those monks who have abandoned three fetters, are all stream-enterers, no more liable to downfall, assured, and headed for full Enlightenment.’ (Nyanaponika, 2006)

     In Theravada Buddhism, an Arhat; “one who is worthy” is a “perfected person” who has attained nirvana. In other Buddhist traditions the term has also been used for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment.  In later Mahayana Buddhist tradition a group of Eighteen Arhats with names and personalities were regarded as awaiting the return of the Buddha. They can be seen as the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saints, apostles and early disciples and leaders of the faith.

The fetters they refer to are commonly viewed as :

  1. sensual lust

  2. anger

  3. conceit

  4. views

  5. doubt

  6. attachment to rites and rituals

  7. lust for existence

  8. jealousy

  9. greed

  10. ignorance

There is still a world of information out there to decipher and interpret. Until then I urge you, fight what you don’t know, until you want what you know.

@RAYNEBLYTHEWOOD 

 

Scanner v1.49.0 Update

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Game, Updates | 7 comments

Ingress scanner v1.49.0 is slowly being released to agents in the field! From what we can tell, this is mostly a graphical update along with a few bug fixes.
1

Agent Arrow redesign
The arrow now has a golden outline along with a gold under shadow.
2

Agent Profile redesign
The Agent Profile tab received a makeover. Aside from aesthetics, all badges appear to be displayed with the MORE button removed. Also tapping on a badge will now open it’s overlay in the Agent Profile itself, not in a separate badges screen.
3

4

What else have you noticed in the update?

APK Mirrors
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Mirror 3
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