Interview: Higher levels and missions for “Ingress” are coming

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Great interview with Niantic’s one and only Anne Beuttenmüller by Georg Pichler, for derStandard.at, 15.11.2013

anne-interview

The mobile augmented reality game “Ingress” has been engaging players around the world for a year now. The blend of geo-caching and roleplaying game has also found a solid user base in Vienna, Austria, where both factions, Resistance (blue) and Enlightened (green) will face each other at “13Magnus”, a global series of clashes which is currently taking place. It is the first time, Austria’s capital has been selected as battle ground for an official event. The game has been developed by Niantic Project, a startup company within Google. The GameStandard has talked to their representative for Europe, Anne Beuttenmüller.

From side project to main job

“We are a small team”, says Beuttenmüller, answering the question about how many people work at Niantic and how many are maintaining “Ingress”. Exact numbers, however, are kept secret. Beuttenmüller has joined Google six years ago and started working for Niantic shortly after “Ingress” was launched. At first she gave out invitiation codes on Google’s social network Google+ as a side project. Those codes were given to players who submitted creative content related to Ingress.

“It was great to see what the users were doing – from shaving the logo into their hair or even knitting stuff”. In June,she took the opportunity to work as product marketing manager for Niantic, representing the company in Europe. 70 to 80 percent of her work involves community management, her other duties are managing press and partner relations. Beuttenmüller hopes to receive backup by a new team member soon. Since she has engaged with the community for months, she is known to many “Ingress” players, who constantly keep submitting feature requests, ideas, and also criticism via Google+.

Zero tolerance for non-official software

A recent post by Niantic has sparked heated discussions. The company once again stated, that the use of modified game clients or alternative versions of the official “Intel map” (which is used to get an overview of the status quo in terms of portals), is against the Terms of Service and might lead to consequences for players. Especially the “Ingress Intel Total Conversion” (IITC), basically a collection of browser scripts which enhance the functionality of the official map by a great deal, is popular among players. It is often used to plan special in-game actions which often have been featured by the official “Ingress” page on Google+ as well as the weekly “Ingress Report” videos.

Despite users complaining, Niantic remains rigid on non-offcial tools, with punishment imminent. Penalties are ranging from warnings to account resets, temporary bans or even account deletion. Meanwhile, Niantic is working on opening the platform on which “Ingress” is running in 2014, so other developers can realize their own game ideas on the same infrastructure. Beuttenmüller emphasizes that the team continues to develop enhancements for the offical map.

“We have our own timeline”

Regarding new features and game content, the Niantic-represantative sticks with the company’s “no comment” policy. But for a reason, she says. “This policy gives us a certain freedom to shift our priorities and change things quickly. That’s why we are reluctant with announcements.”

This way of handling things has often been critizised by players. The communty has been repeating the wish for an item overview to be implemented into the game client since 2012. This only just happened this month. “Almost every feature we implement is based on player feedback”, Beuttenmüller explains. “But we have our own timeline.”

Higher levels, missions and localization in the works

But Beuttenmüller did reveal two upcoming changes to the game when talking to the GameStandard. Niantic is definitely going to introduce missions and will raise the level cap, which is currently at level 8.

While the existing player levels are reached solely by gathering experience points (so-called “AP”), higher grounds will have to be climbed otherwise – for example through fulfilling missions. When those extensions are going to be implemented is, for now, known only to Niantic.

Localization is also work in progress. Until now, the “Ingress” software and story has been published in English only. But this is about to change. “Ingress” will be translated into other languages. Up to now, story and software were only available in English. Now videos offer subtitles, with other steps to follow.

“We see everything that goes on in the community”

For months a rumor about a third faction has spread within the “Ingress” community. The idea has also been discussed at Niantic, Beutenmüller says. “We see everything that goes on in the community”, she explains. The developers are familiar with on-going discussions and memes that have been created around that rumor. “There are even speculations about a fourth faction”, says Beuttenmüller with a smile, without disclosing anything about Niantic’s plans for the future.

Dynamic story development

The background story of “Ingress”, revolving around a mysterious type of energy, its possibilities, dangers and usage, is being developed dynamically. It is influenced by the outcome of events like 13Magnus. What is going to happen when the Enlightened or Resistance claim victory has already been laid out, but Niantic stays “flexible and open” for changes.

“We let players participate, offer hints and clues and watch what they are doing with them. Then we try to react.” The faction winning 13Magnus in Vienna will receive items and documents relevant to the story.

A bar of chocolate and a crying smurf

Anne Beutenmüller does not only supervise the “Ingress” community, she is also an active resistance player going by the nickname “Anne”. Due to her duties, she only rarely finds time to play. The last time she found some extended time to go on portal hunt was during her vacation, together with her husband. Else, she plays on her way to work and back and sometimes finds time to open up the “scanner” (Niantic’s official wording for the “Ingress” app) when traveling around Europe.

Of course there is a portal at her workplace in Hamburg. It has been the target of a special suprise organized by local Enlightened agents. They made it Hamburg’s first level 8 portal and left a “care package” for Beuttenmüller at the door. It showed a crying smurf and contained a few presents, including a bar of chocolate. Beuttenmüller enjoys the creativity and spontaneity of the players. “That was really sweet!”, she comments.

Both factions have developed “pet names” for each other. While resistance agents are known as “smurfs” in the “Ingress” world, the Enlightened are called “frogs” – hence their colors.

No faction change planned

Beuttenmüller’s choice to join the resistance was not based on the storyline, but made for “pragmatic reasons”, she explains. Her workmates had started playing for the Enlightened. “I thought it wouldn’t be fun if everyone were green”, she argues. “So I chose blue.” She has not been thinking about a faction change so far, also for very personal reasons. “”If I joined the Enlightened, my husband would file for divorce”, she explains tongue-in-cheek.

Niantic “very much interested” in “Ingress” for Glass

Working for Google, Beuttenmüller is one of few Europeans to be able to experiment with Google’s augmented reality glasses, called “Glass”. This platform is quite relevant to Niantic, who have already released a Glass version of their virtual travel guide “field trip”. According to Beuttenmüller, they are “very interested” in creating a Glass-compatible version of “Ingress” some day.

For now, the game is available only on Android. An iOS version will follow next year. (Georg Pichler, derStandard.at, 15.11.2013)

Disclaimer: The author is playing “Ingress” as Enlightened agent in Vienna, using the player name “peorg”.

About Author

Founder @ DecodeIngress.me & TourVia.me.

15 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that there is “zero tolerance” for using IITC for two reasons. First the official game map doesn’t work. Second, they state they are going to open up the platform to developers. How is this different from what IITC is trying to do?

    • Kyle La Perle on

      The purpose of releasing the api for developers, imho, is for the purpose of developers to create their own game separate to ingress yet using the infrastructure of ingress in which to create a game with the core fundamentals of getting users more mobile in playing a game and to get users to visit new places. This should allow for businesses to advertise their businesses within the game that not only is mors gamer friendly but also gets that user to their physical location in anticipation of conducting business. In my opinion this is absolutely brilliant, and in reality Google could ultimately sit on the api and wait for ingress to have further growth after being released publically and then sell the api which would be in high demand. Look at other free apps that have to amrket advertisement through annoying banners in attempt to fund the ongoing developement and maintenance of their game.

      The problem that google has with IITC, and similar third party software, is that developers are utilizing this information to affect the game of Ingress itself. I have seen some functionality of the IITC map that seems to be functionality and/or information that users seek in either the scanner or intel map. I am pretty sure that Niantics is aware of this and anticipate on providing to users, but as this article softly points out is there are on going priorities that are newly developed that take presidence.

      All in all I think Niantics, and Google, are doing a great job revolutionizing the mobile gaming atmosphere! I am fairly certain that they have plans and anticipations to enhance the game even further, as this article and Beuttenmüller indicate, that I am excited to witness.

  2. IITC is a vast improvement on their default map. Their jealousy of it is transparent and their threats for using it are ridiculous. They’d end up banning more than half their playerbase.

    • Personally I think they tolerate it, but cant officially say so (for reasons involving money and possible problems with the law in some countries). Id say that they are quite aware that the IITC plays a major role in planning and realizing actions and events often featured on the official Ingress-page on G+ or even the Ingress Report.

      Modified game clients, however, are a totally different story.

    • How is IITC a vast improvement over ingress.com/intel? I have used both (mind you I only used IITC for about 2 weeks before reading this interview) and I find ingress intel to be just fine.

      • IITC is very helpful even just for customization alone. I can take out links, specific levels of portals, measure radii or portals, lay down planning links, calculate the number of players needed to level the portal for said link, and much much more. None of these things could I not do with a large amount of time and a calculator, but IITC makes these actions simple enough for all users to utilize. And if that’s not enough to convince you, IITC Mobile is actually usable, unlike the official map.

        Best wishes!

  3. “Almost every feature we implement is based on player feedback”

    – Please get rid of all those stupid animations that have slowed the game down to a crawl!

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  6. Give us the 3rd faction!
    Red for the blood of mankind that they free and defend!
    Servants of mankind!
    Fields for freed minds!
    And with them introduce new weapons to keep mankind pure & preserved!
    Proximity mines!
    Portal to portal missiles (very rare items) for remote attacks (one must be at a portal to fire on another portal and possess the key to the portal they wish to strike – not from their couch)!

    • Yes, and make tgat third faction iPhone users only. It will give the Enlightened and Resistance a common enemy that we’d all love to hate!

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Interview: Higher levels and missions for “Ingress” are coming

by Bojan Cincur time to read: 5 min
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