When it launched a little over two years ago a few friends jumped on Google’s alternative reality game (ARG) and started to play Ingress. I ignored it on purpose; I was just too busy.
I’m still busy all this time later but at the start of the month I started seeing people discussing Ingress again. It turned out to be a good time to join in. I’m glad I did. The secret war in Edinburgh is on-going, but with new innovations coming to the game I predict we’ll see plenty more local players getting involved.
Once I had the app installed on my HTC m7 (just waiting on the HTC m9 to hit the shops) I was good to go. Since launch the location based game is now also available on iOS too. The first thing I had to do was pick a team; blue team or green team.
I did just a tiny amount of research before picking a team – after all; I wanted to play the game – and settled for the greens.
I joined the green team for four main reasons; they offered a fun, friendly and active community of players around Edinburgh complete with social events and online help, sites like www.enl-ed.co.uk and other Google+ communities meant I could still take part in the team efforts even if I didn’t have time to make the meetups, I didn’t trust the blue’s backstory in the game’s plot and because my local area in Edinburgh had plenty of green activity.
A highlight of the game for me to date has certainly been the great green community. I don’t have first had experience of the blue team but I imagine it is similar.
Getting started without community help is a bit tricky. The app turns your smartphone into a Tron like scanner that shows our roads and pavements but also areas that look like burning columns of light and lots of little particles.
The little particles are “exotic matter” or XM. It’s the discovery of XM that starts the game. This is a new substance that can inspire people or even control them. The columns of flames are portals that the two sides battle for control over. Your job is to convert the column – which are actually portals – to your side/colour.
Converting a portal means using your “XM Bursters” to blast away enemy “Resonators” and then deploy your own Resonators. It’s like a giant game of reversi.
There are complications. You acquire your supply of bursters, resonators and other goodies by hacking portals. You gain extra points by linking portals together and if you manage to make a triangle of links, you create a control field and score higher.
Ingress has several positive aspects beyond the game and the community chat. Portals are places of interest – you could use Ingress as a tourist, going from portal to portal and discovering great local works of art, statues, ancient buildings and so forth. As a local it gives me an extra reason to get away from the TV and go for a walk. I’ve already found myself, on the spur of the moment, pop into a pub after a local green player invited me in.
There are some downsides; the game can be a little addictive – if a member of the blue faction flips your portal, the urge to go back outside and flip it back is high – and the app is a terrible drain on your smartphone’s batteries.
I’m still also trying to unpick the plot of the game. The good news is that you don’t need to pay the story any attention to enjoy the game. I’d like to get my head around it though.
As best as I can understand; here’s a very brief summary of the action so far.
Exotic Matter is discovered in Geneva by/or quickly secured by a mysterious organisation called Niantic. One of the first things that the extra doses of exotic matter allows one of the scientists on the team to do is build an artificial intelligence called ADA.
There’s an accident (or incident created on purpose), people are dosed with really high levels of XM and some of the artists appointed to the team decide they need to flee.
One of the escaping artists, Roland Jarvis, is shot dead by secret agents at Zürich railway station. Blame falls on the AI known as ADA.
It is discovered that there are secret messages hidden in the exotic matter. These messages seem to be coming from otherworld being called “Makers” and it also seems that the Makers have been around for a while and influencing the development of humankind.
At this point there are two competing factions and they both have inappropriate names. One side, the Greens, are known as the Enlightened.
The Enlightened believe exotic matter should be free and untampered with, that the Makers could help guide humanity and therefore we should embrace the discovery.
In opposition to the Greens are the Blue. This faction is known as “The Resistance” as they resist the possible influence of the Makers, want to modify the XM that comes in through the portals so that it is safer and are led by the AI ADA.
The current drama across the world is that some of the portals have been turned into beacons. These beacons seem to be summoning the enemy of the Makers – another alien group known as the N’zeer. The Enlightened are worried about what the arrival of the N’zeer might mean and there are factions among the Resistance who welcome them.