Open Letter to Ingress

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The Setup

Ingress created a game, a game we all enjoy, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.  We get frustrated, angry, excited, etc about this game, and the things that happen with it.  It’s a testament to how big this is in so many peoples lives.

We the players, have created communities around this game.  There are cell, city, region, state, country, and world communities.  Resistance, Enlightened, and Cross faction for all, as well as public, private, and “trusted” circles.  There are so many Google Hangouts it’s sick, all from people that either talk about Ingress, investigate the hidden world that’s created, or just for goofing off because it’s people that know each other through the game.  When people travel, they contact the target destination groups, to see if there are any places to visit, any people to meet up with.  When people move, they are typically invited very quickly into the local communities.  This all is a testament to the level of commitment that is in play with regards to this game, how much it has affected, and continues to affect, our lives.

Then there’s a level of leadership.  This isn’t a democracy in the strictest sense, no one voted for these people directly.  This isn’t a dictatorship either, as who will listen to someone spouting off orders when they have no real power.  No, this is a series of individuals who have made themselves known throughout the communities by being a part of the community, being a person that people can go to with problems, and have some sort of solution.  These are the people whose names are well known throughout the communities that have sprung up around this game that you have built.  While not everyone knows them, enough do that they can go virtually anywhere in the world and have someone that they will know.  These are the ones that help manage the communities, that get invited to every hangout imaginable, that get complaints fielded to them on a weekly/daily/hourly basis.

 

Where we are now

This is the age we live in, the age of the internet, of world-wide communication and cooperation.  We have seen operations which have crossed religious, country, and political boundaries numerous times.  We have seen opposing forces join together to help individuals in need, or just to create some awesome artwork.  We have seen people fly halfway around the world for a set of keys to use in a single operation, just for the sake of saying they did it, just for helping out their team.

There is no monetary compensation for any of this.  There is only the community, the community that has built up organically around this game you have created.  There’s no compensation for the time spent by the leadership in planning for operations, or anomalies, helping gather the supplies needed, helping to fix problems with spoofers.  These are the leaders that not only help us players, but also help you.  They are the centralized points of contact for you.  Imagine….every single person coming to you for every single little issue.  It’s overwhelming to say the least.  Instead, at least some portion of these individuals go to the local leaderships, local discussion boards, communities, and hangouts.  These are the people the community have put their trust in to get things done.  Either by communication with you, or assisting with other players, these leaders help regulate an otherwise wild west of a gaming world.  They do this with no compensation, and with vast amounts of time sunk into each of these activities.

The massive number of hangouts mentioned, yep they are involved in nearly every single one of those.  So many that they are often leaving hangouts just to get things done during anomaly times.  These people are huge filters for you, and can be massive headaches as well.  But they do this because that’s what the community needs, they need someone to go to, to be able to talk to and get answers from, without having to wait in any hole of a customer support queue that may exist in ANY company, Niantic or otherwise.  No matter how good, there’s only so much that a company can support without spending more on support than it pulls in.  Sometimes it’s as simple as “yes, you can only deploy 2 mods now.  We don’t know why they changed it, but there it is”.  Other times it’s more complicated and there isn’t a clear answer, because it isn’t known or given.

Any company, in order to grow, needs to learn and understand it’s customer base.  It can’t dictate what the customer “should” have, without providing some give and take on what the customer wants.  And that’s what we are, non-paying sure, but customers nonetheless.  And these leaders help define that, consolidate that information, reduce the fluff and create a comprehensive, consolidated response to the issues, problems, potential improvements, and suggested solutions that are coming from every angle.  Sure, you get a ton of them, but think about how many more would be coming without these filters, without the people having someone else to go to.  Because, if people have issues with your game, and they can’t get a response from you, and there is no other recourse, most will just leave.

 Specifically regarding the Recursion badges, you did something that was good.  You attempted to show appreciation to those that participated in the first event, and got blasted for it.  It wasn’t a blast(necessarily) about trying to show appreciation, but moreso about a failure to acknowledge those others that assisted as well.  Those that spent time beyond just driving and fighting, but those that helped plan for weeks ahead of time, those that spent the afternoon assisting with Intel support for those on the ground, those that spent the rest of the afternoon answering questions and fielding complaints about the lack of appreciation for the satellite locations and remote support.  There’s always a line, obviously you can’t provide decode packets to all locations every time.  You can’t provide badges to everyone who was at least somewhat active in fielding(for MU counts) during the event(I mean you could, but that’s extreme).  You can’t please everyone, that much should be obvious.  However, you can understand there was a failing on your part, a failing to fully acknowledge at least the satellite locations.  Sure, they can’t get everything that the primary sites got, sure you can’t send someone out to every satellite because of costs.  But there are ways to acknowledge that participation, without spending money.  You opened the door with these badges.  Without them coming around, no one had a reason to complain.  But give something to one person without another getting an opportunity to obtain it…..and you will catch hell.  An understanding of customer bases comes into play here.  Look at any gaming system with badge/achievement systems in place, and you will find “completionists”, those that want to obtain the highest of every badge/achievement, and everyone of them.  Now that they know they can get a Recursion badge, I’m sure you’ll have more flock to the events.  But not providing them to satellite locations….you’re suddenly going to get less attendence because they feel slighted(and rightly so).  It isn’t the badge, the badge itself doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t give us special powers, doesn’t give us additional hacking ability or money.  It’s just there, we participated, woohoo.  But to not get it when we might otherwise rightly deserve it….well that’s just going to piss people off.

Solutions

At this point, you have all of the pieces in place, you just need to put everything together.  You have customer support, +NIAOPS, etc to field problems/requests/etc.  We have local/regional leadership elements in place that can assist in fielding and breaking down the problems, potential solutions, etc.  You just need to connect these elements together.  Provide an avenue for support beyond the “everyone complains everywhere”, provide some unofficial “official” community leaders that volunteer their time to helping with these elements.  An Agent Advocate program of sorts, maybe limited time in the seat.  A few people that can be the voice of the players for you, while filtering out the every day muck.  Some people you feel can be trusted to give you the down and dirty without leaning things too much one way or the other.  Constrain their scope of what they can/can’t do, what their focus should/shouldn’t be(e.g. DO help report actual spoofers, DON’T field us complaints about multi-accounts).  At the very least, USE these community leaders, people that WE the agents have faith in, to provide you the insight from the community at large.  You can’t see things from every angle, we know that, but that’s why you have to listen, and why you can have access to these leaders to help you understand.

The Recursion badge situation is an excellent case-in-point.  A single post seemed to start the flood of comments, of what the players wanted….no needed, to see.  And it made a difference, even if it was painful on all sides to see and deal with.  But it shouldn’t take player outrage to get things like this rolling.  This is something we can do on a more discrete level than community wide posts and resulting flame wars.  Let’s work together to make this easier, less convoluted, and a more stream-lined process.   Get Agent Advocates in place, let them be the voice of the community.  And when a preset time limit is up, or they just aren’t working out, let’s cycle in a few new agents.  Don’t let so many agents continue to think “why bother, it’s not like Niantic does anything about these problems anyway”.  The Recursion badges showed us you are willing to listen, but we don’t need to make it a habit (for either you or the agents) of causing an uproar just to have something so simple fixed.

Lastly, instead of building out this program yourself, build it by starting it right away.  Agent Advocates and Niantic, let’s get a few rolling right away, and their first order of business is to determine the scope of the program.  Will this include privileged information, short-term warning/notifications of new features or APK releases, assistance in investigation of spoofing reports, feedback on possible upcoming feature sets?  There are already numerous agents that are in contact with Niantic, agents that on some levels are trusted individuals from both sides, agents that already speak on behalf of the multitude of players that come to them on a daily basis.  Let’s get started with those known individuals and work from there.  Let’s continue working together to keep Ingress an evolving and viable community for years to come.

Why is the badge issue such a big deal?  It’s not the badges, then what is it?  Why would such an outcry happen over something that doesn’t change a single thing in game?  Think on that, mull it over, and you’ll start to understand why you got so many people coming out of the woodwork.  If you can’t figure out why it’s such a big deal….well there are tons of people you can ask, including those community leaders already mentioned.  We aren’t trying to screw up your game, we want it to succeed, as should be evident by the voracity of the communities this world over.  Don’t slight us, but do try to do right by us.  We will help you, you only have to ask.

Hey Agents! Want to have your voice heard? Fill out our (user generated) survey for requested changes to ingress and we’ll present them to Niantic. Hurry! Survey ends soon!  SURVEY

About Author

Casual Ingress agent, but enjoys digging into and searching out new information.

13 Comments

  1. This game is a love/hate relationship, but fortunately mostly love. One thing I’d love to see Niantic do is better leverage the community to make up for their own lack of resources. Give players a “reputation” score. Use players with high reputation to distribute the validation of portals and look into cheating issues. Give players more reputation for helpful feedback, and punish a users reputation for false reports and bad submissions. This can be used to prioritize the backlog of submissions and issues Niantic deals with, and possibly automate actions if enough high rep players from both factions agree on a change. The current situation is only going to result in a longer and longer backlog as more players slowly overwhelm the few Niantic employees that exist to help the community.

  2. I think Agent Advocates are a terrible idea. An agent is either Enlightened or Resistance… they are automatically biased one way or the other. Setting up someone on a faction who has more ability or even influence than others unbalances the game further for that area. Many areas are one highly organized faction on one side, with a more loosely set up faction (or multiple small groups) on the other. In that case, even if an advocate were created for both sides, the more organized one would be able to do more and would increase the imbalance between the two sides. Any changes that put power in the hands of an individual instead of an area will just increase any imbalance that already exists.

    Just to preempt the “But we would never use our new-found powers for evil” comments… “we” may not, but I guarantee you someone would.

  3. I am getting really frustrated as I first joined Ingress in the beginning of the year (2014) in a city (Maputo) where I am the only active player.
    There were only 11 portals back then and I managed to get them all, and since then I learned how to submit new ones and so, I did it over 40 times.
    Unfortunately none has been approved or reproved by now, and I am getting soooo bored over this game now!
    Badges…. they don’t really annoy me or cause anything on me!

  4. I have the same problem: I have submited some portals in december 2013 but nothing happend, I have reported inexisting portals , nothing happend and so on…. :(

  5. nwmonkey Susan Woody on

    I have stopped submitting portals because I’ve submitted over 100 and not even 1 has been approved, denied or even acknowledge. I’ve waited months! I don’t understand what the issue is but after so much effort with no results, I have up. I figure if their that back logged, why add to their plate by continuing to submit new ones? anyone know what’s up with this issue?

  6. Weel, I have commented above and I am glad to announce that of the 7 responses Ingress gave me, 4 were approved portals (3 rejections).
    It’s taking them around 75 days to respond!

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Open Letter to Ingress

by Alcamar time to read: 8 min
13