Ingress (the Niantic Project)


While the game is played on an Android phone or tablet, the PC can be used for planning. Here is a map of the southern tip of Norway, which I mostly have to myself.

Ingress is a game which blends with real life. You use your Android phone (although there is an unofficial version for Apple, the game developers are actually working for Google). While the Ingress app is running, your phone is called a “scanner” and displays a map of the terrain around you, but without text. It mostly displays the roads … and Portals and XM.

XM is “exotic matter”, a kind of fog or energy that enters our world from Elsewhere, mostly through portals but also where people spend a lot of time. Portals are places where XM leaks into our world, and are typically sculptures, unusual architecture, or other outdoors permanent art. You can submit pictures of such things with your scanner to get them evaluated as possible portals. After a while you may see XM start accumulating rapidly around them, or perhaps not. Read the guidelines carefully.

The scanner absorbs XM until it runs full. The capacity increases as you level up. The highest level is 8, which also happens to be the number of “resonators” you can have on one portal. Resonators are virtual gadgets placed around the portal, claiming it for your faction. They must be recharged, as they lose 15% of their maximum power each day. Like you, the resonators have levels, and you cannot place resonators higher than your level.

At higher levels, you can no longer place many resonators at your maximum level. For this reason, you will need allies if you want to make high-level portals. The range of a portal increases exponentially with level, so you need this high-level portal to make long-range links. If your faction’s links make geometric patterns (usually triangles, but it is also possible to make more complex patterns of straight lines) the area enclosed will take the color of your faction, blue for the Resistance and green for the Enlightenment. Roughly speaking, the Enlightenment welcomes the ingression of XM into our reality, believing it will spur human creativity (since it associates with creative structures). The Resistance prefer to keep unknown extradimensional entities outside, thank you very much.

The range at which you can access a portal is just under 40 meters / yards. It is possible to access some of them from a car if the traffic allows, but they have to be in pedestrian-friendly locations, so the game encourages people to get out and about on their feet. Bikes are also common.

The way to level up is to use XM to perform certain actions, which give you action points (AP), serving the same function as experience points (XP) in other roleplaying games. These actions can be claiming neutral portals by placing resonators – you get points for each resonator and a bonus for the final one – and for creating links and fields. Or you can get AP by destroying resonators, links and fields on portals claimed by the opposite faction. There is also a small amount of AP to gain from recharging resonators, either when they lose their daily 15% or when they are attacked by the other faction. If you own a portal, you will be alerted if it is attacked. You need a portal key to defend it from a distance, though, and even then you suffer a penalty depending on the distance.

You hack portals to get keys, resonators, xmp (bursters used for attack) and some other virtual gadgets. You generally get more stuff from portals belonging to your faction, but you get AP for hacking opponent portals. These also tend to drain much more of your XM when you hack them. Unlike recharging, hacking can only be done locally. By default you can hack four times every four hours, but there is a cooldown of 5 minutes as well so you can’t just chain hack a portal and then move on to the next. You have to either wait or wander back and forth between portals.

In other roleplaying games, you sit in a chair while your avatar moves around doing stuff, leveling up and getting stronger. In Ingress, you are the avatar. You are the one moving around on the map, leveling up, getting stronger, meeting people and either befriending them or competing with them. (Relationship between factions can be tense in some places, but generally it is understood that having opponents is good for your progress, since there is no AP from hacking your own portals and only a tiny drip from recharging them.)

Level 1: You watch the first video and is amused by them saying “this is not a game”, because it is totally a game. But the backstory is halfway cool, and it is a new and different type of game so you want to try it. You are led through a series of easy sample missions. If there is no nearby portal, a temporary portal appears so you can learn to use your scanner. You feel incredibly self-conscious walking around staring at your scanner.

Level 2: You notice that there always seem to be people staring at their cell phones, could they possibly be agents of the opposition? Your scanner can hold a bit more XM now. You wander around your town, noticing sculptures or buildings that did not interest you before. Perhaps you drive to a neighboring town or city and check out these as well. If the weather is too bad, you stay indoors though.

Level 3: You have submitted your own portals and probably had some of them accepted. You know where all the portals in your town is, and probably in the city where you work as well. You no longer need to have your nose in your scanner when navigating around the town, you have been to each spot often enough to know the way.

Level 4: You are thinking differently. Is it the XM? Probably not, but you find yourself getting up earlier in the morning so you can hack those portals before work. You stay in town for a while after you clock out so you can hack them again. You have bought new jogging shoes, or fixed up your old bike. Oh, and you ordered an extra battery pack for your phone.

Level 5: You have met and befriended other agents from your faction, and know the names on your scanner’s Comm channel so well that you can spot a newcomer or visitor. You have joined the Google+ communities, first the open and then the secret ones. You marvel at the high-level players and their intricate plans.

Level 6: You bought a portable battery charger or a second mobile phone or tablet because the battery lasts longer that way and you don’t want to risk having to change batteries in the middle of a heated battle over an important portal. You are biking everywhere, or if walking, you are walking fast. You regularly visit nearby towns to get portal keys, either by hacking or exchanging keys with local agents there.

Level 7: There is no mistaking it: The XM has changed you. Your stamina is greatly increased. You can cover long distances in a loping gait, and you find your way even in the night. Weather no longer affects you. You have at least one portal near your home or near your workplace, quite possibly both. You recognize all members of both factions in your area on sight. Newbies are in awe of you, as you travel from city to city taking down opponent portals so they can claim them for your faction. Then you upgrade their portal so it becomes harder to take down, but you let them gain the action points of linking the portals together locally. Your mind is working on a larger scale now.

Level 8: You are One of Those. You are trusted in the most secret of the secret communities on Google+, on a state level or perhaps, one day, even higher. You take part in daring plans to link together cities across the entire continent, swiftly and precisely. Travel for work or vacation means gathering keys, and your family knows better than to try to dissuade you. You recruit new members and teach them the ropes, but you don’t just recruit any warm body. You know what kind of agent to look for. The goal now is nothing less than world domination. Your doctor is amazed by your physical perfection, but you don’t tell him that it is caused by a mysterious energy from a parallel dimension. The humans will soon enough come to know…

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