Incentives and Locations

Where Ingress was structured almost entirely around portals, Pokémon Go has incentives both to seek out those same locations and to head away from them. This is healthier on several levels.

Ingress’s portals are Pokémon Go’s gyms and PokéStops. Gyms are the PvP spots, and PvP seems much narrower in Pokémon Go. You can control gyms for your team, and there are moderate incentives for doing so. PokéStops provide items, notably the Poké Balls you need to collect Pokémon and the recovery items to heal after gym fights. Contrast with Ingress’s portals, where the same locations are your PvP control points and your source for items, with large incentives to control networks of them. (PokéStops dole out items every 5 minutes, like portals, but they do not “wear out” after 4 uses in 4 hours, so living or working at a PokéStop can let you refill pretty conveniently. “Never runs out” encourages camping a bit, but you only get your dose every 5 minutes, so that is pretty suboptimal unless there are also a few monster spawns.)

But you are playing Pokémon, so you probably want to catch some monsters. Where are they? Out in the world, go for a walk. If you sit on a spawn point, they do keep spawning so you can collect a fair number … of the same general type. Want something other than a 20th Rattata? Go for a walk. (I presume rare spawns are not easily farmable by hanging around the same spawn point, percentage chance? I’m not an expert here.) That is also a good way to level up, because you get a lump of experience points every time you capture a monster for the first time.

Eggs are the other reason to go for a walk. In classic Pokémon faction, you hatch eggs by putting them in an incubator and walking so many kilometers. You find eggs at PokéStops, up to a capped number. Want to hatch them and get more eggs? Go for a walk. Maybe you will find a new type of monster while you are out there.

I have friends who are now walking miles per day to look for Pokémon and check their gyms.

: Zubon

Portals and Pokéstops

Pokémon Go released last week. You probably already know this.

Pokémon Go comes from Niantic, makers of Ingress. All that data Ingress players collected was then used as the basis for a new game. People are laughing about how many churches have been tagged as Pokémon gyms. All those Ingress portals are now gyms and PokéStops, so the historical district of your town is probably full of Pokémon trainers collecting Poké Balls. The re-use of location data is efficient and sometimes surreal as some Ingress portals are misplaced, non-existent, tagged with Ingress RP, or otherwise inappropriate. Any stories you heard about Ingress players in a bad part of town or getting questions for lurking around the police station are now multiplied by the vastly more popular IP and the number of younger players.

Also multiply any positives, as one Pokémon app has done more in a weekend than a decade of obesity and exercise public service announcements.

: Zubon


In recent months players have been submitting an average of one million questions a day to Trivia Crack’s “Question Factory,” a section within the app, says its 29-year-old founder and chief executive, Maximo Cavazzani. Since each submission must get a positive rating from at least 100 fellow players to make the cut, only about 1,500 new questions are being added to the game each day.
“Can an App Be Too Successful” by Sarah Needleman, Wall Street Journal

I played Ingress for a while last year. I am still getting responses about portals accepted or rejected, and I have at least 50 more in their queue. Back then, the Ingress web site said portals were accepted or rejected in 4-6 weeks (not months); right now it says that due to the backlog they have suspended the achievement related to submitting portals (and also quietly removed a turnaround time).

I have wondered if the time delay is an intentional strategy to reduce exploits. If the average player quits before their submitted portals go live, there is less incentive to submit dodgy “couch portals” (portal you can reach from home/work).

: Zubon

Feedback Time

Before the age of digital cameras, it was said that the average American family went through two rolls of film per year (summer vacation, Christmas). You probably have some good photos from your youth, but those were what was worth saving after removing two with the lens cap on, three with a thumb over the lens, four out of focus, five where someone blinked… Whatever rosy view of the past may exist, people were at least as bad of photographers back then, and almost certainly worse. If 90% of everything is crud, taking 50 quick pictures per week will give you far more good pictures than 100 careful pictures per year. You can delete the crud. Also, you get better with practice, and you get a lot more practice with a smartphone camera than when you only take pictures at special occasions.

Part of the reason high volume practice is helpful is that you get feedback. If you took pictures over the course of weeks or months, then waited for film to be developed, you had a big gap between when you took the pictures and when you saw how it came out. Digital cameras are even faster than Polaroids: you can see in a second whether or not you took a good picture (and try again with a slight variation in technique). Until you see the results of your actions, you do not know whether to do things differently.

In Ingress, players are encouraged to submit potential portals. See something that should be a portal but isn’t? Take a picture and send it in. The game has an achievement track for it. The developers, however, are in no great hurry to review those submissions, or at least they do not have the staff to do so; wait time is 4-6 months (and that may be optimistic). The average player will have quit by the time his/her portal submissions are reviewed.

Most portal submissions are rejected. A lot of people can submit the same portal in six months. Indeed, that could be part of their filtering: don’t bother to review it until a half-dozen people have submitted it. But also, you as the player have a very long gap between the time you hit “submit” and when you get feedback. Lots of things are submitted that will never be accepted as portals, but you might submit 100 before you start getting that feedback. Many things do get accepted that clearly violate the portal guidelines, so either those “slipped through” or there are informal guidelines that you learn by feeling them out. So submit all the things; it costs you a minute, and it is a shot in the dark anyway. That cannot be good for data quality.

: Zubon

Second Order Preferences

A first order preference is what you want or like. You want pie. A second order preference is your preference about your preferences. You also want to lose weight, so you do not want to want pie. You can keep going to higher orders, where you might run into ambivalence as you miss being interested in something, so you neither want nor want to want it but you kind of want to want to want. Don’t go too deep down that rabbit hole.

I frequently find myself wanting to like things more than I like them. “This is my kind of thing. I should like this. Why don’t I like this?” It’s like I have some misguided loyalty to “my type,” even though I know a thousand details can make it unenjoyable. I tend to commit and stick with things, which is good when something goes through a bad patch but bad when it parks in the bad patch and starts digging a hole.

I’m past wanting to play any MMOs, but I still faintly want to want to play because I want to like them. I miss the original ideal of virtual worlds. I love the gameplay of League of Legends, but the community is still highly problematic, so I want to enjoy the game more than I actually enjoy it. Ingress is interesting in the abstract but mostly tedious when I play it more than casually.

I’m not sure of my higher order preferences. I recognize that having a disparity between first and second order is a problem, so I do not want to want to want to play, but I have a certain wistfulness and I am going to cut that thought off there because that way madness lies.

: Zubon

Vocabulary 2

This comic happens. There was an old Gen Con sketch from decades ago in which a couple of gamers get arrested after recounting their game of Top Secret (an old spy game) without considering their surroundings.

In Ingress, folks occasionally need a reminder to watch how they phrase things. You are not going to “go blow up the Capitol” or some churches. Leading “an attack on campus” is borderline. Going on a “gardens (or zoo) raid)” is probably abstract enough to be safe.

: Zubon


I attended the fifth Interitus anomaly this weekend. On the overall score, it was a dominating win for the Enlightened, largely on the basis of the special rule added for this one: every link from several cities to one particular portal in Texas was worth 20 points in the overall score. Before the event, teammates described that alternately as “Calvinball” and “a fair chance for the Enlightened to come back,” the latter of which made less sense to me since either side could go for it. There were 102 documented links (and more submitted late) for the Enlightened and 0 for the Resistance, making it a second golden snitch worth even more than the first one. I have no evidence if this was again running up the score on an empty field except “102-0”?

The nature of that extreme swing was somewhat cloaked because the points were awarded to the two primary sites, so it looked more like two big wins for the Enlightened. Removing both those points and the Resistance points for the global score, the Enlightened carried Santiago and squeaked a victory in Cincinnati, with the Resistance carrying every secondary site by at least 2:1 except for the one the Enlightened won 27:1.

I was on the ground in Cincinnati. Continue reading Interitus

Golden Snitch Caught

I am planning on attending an Ingress Interitus anomaly (gathering/event) this weekend, but I am no longer sure why. It is kind of like playing out the games of a “best of seven” series when one team has already won four. You can still play for the battle, but the war has already been won.

I don’t know if it was true in previous event series, but the event details include the note, “Research suggests the the [sic] outcome of the Interitus Anomalies will be dependent on total Values accrued by the Factions across the entire Interitus series of Anomalies.” One of the cities in the previous anomaly, Kansas City, was so lopsided that the blue team won by 1500 points. Outside Kansas City, the score for the entire anomaly was about 1500 for each side. That metaphor about running up points on an empty field? At least in “best of seven” that would count as just one game.

Funny thing is, Kansas City was an outlier but only as a matter of degree. Most of the anomaly events seem to be blowouts for one team or the other, with 5:1 scores not uncommon. If the game is not intentionally designed for this to happen, balance went astray a long time ago and has not been seen often since.

: Zubon

Internecine Tourism

Today has been “Be A Tourist In Your Own Town” day. The passport includes admittance to the local zoo. The local zoo has about a dozen Ingress portals. While you might not pay the normal zoo fee just to capture some imaginary portals (although it looks like some local players have annual passes), for part of a package that costs $1, you might go.

The local Ingress communications channel has been filled with players capturing zoo portals, linking them up, re-taking them from the other team, and generally making an imaginary warzone of the place. The only thing the normal zoo visitors would notice is that a few people are staring at their phones instead of the animals (more than usual) and may be very particular about where they are standing.

: Zubon

Try visiting something like the Ingress intel map and looking at Lake Buena Vista, FL (Disneyworld): theme parks all over Orlando and the surrounding area, with every ride, attraction, and statue marked. Some people are having a very different experience in the Magic Kingdom.