Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Ingress-aversary

Today is my Ingress-aversary!

One year ago today I received my invitation to play Ingress. Back then it was still very much the same game, but far few portals and the scanner functions are much more basic.

When I first started playing I was a lone wolf. just playing on my own where and when I could. Which wasn't much and there were only 2 portals in my town and no opposing players. I also played a little on my way to and from work, but really didn't pass too many portals. 

All that being said it took me a long time to level. I had just made Level 5 in June when I went to Disney, which was my first experience in a portal dense environment. For better or worse at that time it was all basically green, so there wasn't a lot of AP to be gained. 

Then in July I met up with our local Enlightened group. I went from a low Level 5 to 8 pretty quickly from there. While I was a fan of the game before, this is where I became addicted. The social aspect of this game is like no other. The teamwork, camaraderie and more make this game like no other and have kept my interest in the game high - even the fun banter with opposing players.

Thanks +NIA Ops for making +Ingress  and thanks to all of my friends I've met the last year playing. 

Happy Hacking!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Portal Submission Tips

Following up on my last post on complaining about portal submissions I wanted to give my tips to help maximize your chances of having your portal accepted. I'm not saying this will guarantee acceptance, but will increase the likeliness of them being accepted. Many of these things come from the Ingress Portal Submission Guidelines, others come from posts on +NIA Ops and others come form personal experience and elsewhere.

Lets start with the portal you are interested in submitting. Good portals are:

  • Public/Municipal portals-
    • Libraries
    • Water Towers
    • Public Park Signs
    • Post Offices
    • Train, bus or other transit stations
    • Fountains
    • Gazebos
    • Memorials
  • Art
    • Statues
    • Sculptures
    • Murals
    • Plaques
    • 'Artistic' Graffiti 
  • Buildings
    • Historical
    • Unique
    • Interesting Design/Architecture
    • Religious
      • Churches
      • Mosques
      • Synagogues 
      • Temples
Portals that are generally not accepted include:
  • Police Stations*
  • Fire Stations*
  • Hospitals*
    * These items were once commonly accepted, but Niantic has since stopped accepting them. The rumor is that they are even removing these portals.
  • Schools
  • Bridges
  • Homes (non-historic/unique design)
  • Landscape Images
So now you've selected your target portal you would like to submit lets talk about actually submitting it.

There are 2 methods of portal submission through your scanner. One is taking an existing photo which is in your scanner and selecting share and then share it to NIA Super Ops. Select the location, Enter the Title and description and then submit. Pretty easy.

The second way, and from what I understand is the way Niantic prefers, is in the game touch your scanner on where the portal should be. Select "New Portal", confirm the location (you will probably have to make a slight adjustment because it will locate to where you are), enter the title and description and you're done. Again pretty easy.

Photo Tips:

  • Use your scanner's camera
  • Activate GPS tagging on your scanner's settings.
  • Take a quality picture 
  • Do not include people, faction type objects (frogs, smurfs, androids, etc)
  • Do not include identifiable information such as license plates
Your title can make a difference in getting your portal submission approved. Your title should be brief, concise, catchy and accurate. Your title can help tell the reviewer about the portal. For example my local fire department has a pretty cool mural on the side of their building. Now when submitting it I wouldn't want to call it "________ Fire Department" regardless of what it you are submitting and how good the picture is or the mural is that title is begging to be rejected. A title with a greater probability of being accepted would be, "Mural Honoring Firefighting Heroes."

Likewise a boring title could also work well for things which are commonly accepted like libraries, water towers, post offices work well like "My Towns Water Tower."

Descriptions are not always necessary. Many possible portals are self-explanatory like water towers and post offices, but other portals a description will help the reviewer rule in your favor. I've found this is particularly helpful with historic buildings, unique architecture and local unique businesses. 

Remember you know why you thing the location is portal worthy, the reviewer may be thousands of miles away from you and is impartial. You need to convey to them the significance of your portal. 

Now while you want to to give a good description, you don't want to copy and paste from Wikipedia or some other source. 

With these tips I think you will find your acceptance rate increases. 

Good luck and happy hacking!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quit Your Bitching!

Of the many people, places and things I follow on G+ I also follow +NIA Ops. You get some good information on game updates, portals of the week and more. But since I follow them I also see all of these ridiculous #PortalAppeals.

People if your portal is rejected get over it. The vast majority of them can be answered by looking at the Portal Submission Guidelines.

If you think it qualifies as a valid portal just resubmit it.

Here's a portal of a church I submitted but got rejected. I figured it was because of poor picture quality, so I was going to go resubmit it the next time I was in the area. But before I even made it there it was accepted without an appeal.

And another thing stop referring to the folks that approve/deny portals as "portal approval monkeys" or likewise, they're just doing their job. Have some respect.

Cheater, Cheater Pumpkin Eater

I last posted about Ingress banning players who used IITC or Broot Mod while playing and how I didn't necessarily consider those cheating. Here is what I see as the cheating problem in Ingress. Let me define my premise, cheating is doing something outside the the rules or norms of the game in order to gain an advantage. No advantage, no cheating. 


Just to refresh your memory, spoofers are people who use certain applications to falsify their GPS location. With these apps a player could sit comfortably in their home and hack level 8 portals in both Paris France and Paris Kentucky without leaving their couch. 

How easy is it to do???
Apparently pretty damn easy. Just go to the Play Store and search for GPS Spoof or Fake GPS. You'll see dozens of apps. -- And no I haven't done, nor would I do this.

Niantic has done some to thwart spoofing, but it causes another problem. They have put a "speed limit" on scanner activity. It appears that if your speed between two portals is greater than approximately 35 mph, you are prevented from not only hacking, but doing basically any scanner activity which you can gain AP or items from Hacking to recharging. There has also been discussion that this is a safety measure to prevent playing ingress while driving.

In my opinion that is not a legitimate defense against spoofers. It is more a hindrance to real players.  Here is my real life example. In the picture to the right my local team did an event in one van we had 9 level 8 agents, and had more in other vehicles. We would at times have to wait at certain portals a few minutes before we could take any action. This became very frustrating. We weren't speeding, driving hazardously or anything else (okay we had 9 people in a vehicle which seats 8). But this hampered our enjoyment of our day and event. 

I don't know the answer to how to solve the spoofer problem, but the speed limit is not it. 

Illegitimate portals
I believe submitting a knowingly illegitimate portal is cheating. You've probably seen post on G+ like this one where people find illegitimate portals. Some how they got through the portal approval process. In this picture someone actually was successful at submitting their TV in their home. 

Other illegitimate portals include:
  • Intentionally submitting inaccessible portals. There is a player in our area who lives in a gated community. The community has fountains, statues, gazebos and a park sign which would all normally be legitimate portals, but they are inaccessible to the public. Even a Level 8 XMP wouldn't reach any of them. So for a while he had his own private level 8 farm as he would invite other members of his faction in to upgrade and hack. Do you need to guess what type of mods this has on it?
  • Fake portals. If you follow some of the G+ posts you will see things like backyard playground sets, private garden statues, gnomes, and the like which are not unique or interesting. 
The only reason people submit illegitimate portals is to gain an advantage and as such this is definitely cheating. Sure I'd love to sit at my couch and hack my personal portal in my living room, but that's not what the game is about.

Multiple Accounts
Here's a problem I see first hand and it frustrates me. It doesn't matter if your second account is with the same faction or the opposite faction both are equally bad.

Children's Accounts -  In my area we have a player who has played multiple times under both factions and each time this player also gives their child an account. This player is quite obviously playing both accounts as I see the "child's" username over the COMM at the crazy hours of the morning I play and/or I will see the child's account activity on the Intel Map desktop COMM with no activity from the parent. How ridiculous. This person is either obviously cheating or a horrible parent or both.

If a child wants to play and is legitimately playing, I have no problem with that. Heck, I've been places with many portals before with my son and handed him my phone and let him go hack portals. If I were to get him his own phone and he wanted to play Ingress I'd let him. Even though it is a TOS violation for children to play. If done legitimately, there is no advantage gained other than another player for your faction.

So these cheaters can now single-handedly create L6 (or more with more accounts) portals. Which you will use to hack and gain items gaining an advantage.

Storage Accounts -This is something opposing players in my area were talking about and dare I even say bragging about, having a second account specifically for storing items therefore getting around the 2000 item limit. They swear they don't play with those accounts, they just store items with them. Give me a break...

This too is obvious cheating. The game is set up with a 2000 item limit. As much as I wish it were more or keys wouldn't count or something similar, that's the way it is.

Opposing Accounts - While I haven't seen directly or suspected others of this, I was reading about it. A person creates accounts with both factions, then plays as one fully charging portals, linking, creating control fields, then logs in with their second account destroying what their other account created and rebuilding for the first account to destroy again. These cheaters gain advantage by being able to quickly gain AP and level themselves quickly, or sometimes they spy for one faction, the other or both.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ingress Dropps the Ban Hammer

At the end of October NIA Ops posted to Google+
Attention Agents: 

As a reminder, the use of unofficial Ingress software or add-ons which interact with the Ingress game server or client may violate the Ingress Terms of Service. This includes but is not limited to mobile clients, desktop clients and plug-ins. In an effort to protect the quality of service and integrity of the game for all our agents, the use of unofficial Ingress software or add-ons may result in your account being banned, reset, or permanently deleted.  

Transmission Complete

This wasn't necessarily new, there was nothing new there had been some other reminders like this. What was different though is that numbers of players were reporting that they were banned.

Reportedly the emails banned players received much later read:

We have reviewed your account and it remains permanently terminated for violations of the Ingress Terms of Service, including Section 2. Use of the Products - Permissions and Restrictions. This includes, but is not limited to, falsifying your location and/or accessing Ingress clients or backends in an unauthorized manner including through the use of third party software.

Please check out our FAQ on this topic for more info
This player said that they used IITC.

Apparently this "reminder" had some bite behind it and was directed to players who used IITC or Ingress "Broot" mod.

Posts on G+ and other places started appearing with players stating they had been banned. Many admitted using IITC, Broot Mod or some other 3rd party product which was in violation, others firmly denied it.

I will admit I used the Broot Mod on my phone briefly, but had removed it well before these actions by Google. I also used IITC desktop to a much greater extent. Once I saw the reality I ditched IITC too.

Are using those things a violation of the TOS, absolutely. Were they cheating, meh.

What were the advantages of Broot Mod? In my opinion very few hardly constituted cheating IMO.

    Broot Mod Item View
  • What I liked best was the chart of your inventory. I could see all my Items in one fell swoop. Quick and easy.
  • Another feature I liked is that you were able to disable animations like rotating items.
  • Another cool feature was the start up was much quicker. Fortunately a later version of the official version added that. 
  • Placing your resonators correctly was also easier with this unapproved version as it told you how far away you were from the portal.
  • The portal view also allowed you to see how old the portal was. 
All of these advantages were what I would consider convenience and aesthetic. Nothing dramatically altering the game experience in your favor. 

As for IITC, I only used (past tense) the desktop version and I really liked it. It offered the interaction I wish Ingress would have offered. It made working with the game much easier. Some of the features of IITC:
  • First and foremost it was much more user friendly.
  • Downloadable plugins to further enhance your use.
  • Much easier to plan fields
  • Player tracker Plug in, you could see where players were recently.
  • Sortable list of portals (one of my favorite things would be to track which portals in the area were how old and plan to attacks on the enemy's portals before they earned Guardian Medals)
  • You could get the street address for portals often (Great for using navigation to get to unfamiliar portals)
  • Counts of portals in a specific area. Good to measure you performance against your opponent.

Once again useful information, but not what I'd consider cheating.

I actually think the Google/ Niantic team should be looking at these things and make changes based on what these products are offering. We've seen that they did shorten the start up animation, and offered a total count of items based on feedback. Hopefully this is just a start.