Gideon Hallett (gmh) wrote,
Gideon Hallett

Ingress and infamy.

Herein lies a rather longish post about Niantic Labs' game Ingress.

Read on if you're very, very bored. Or interested in that sort of thing.

So, back in the middle of last year, I noticed via a friend that Ingress was available for iOS. This made me happy, as I'd had a beta invite for it back in 2012 ...two days before I broke my work Android.

So I signed up, worked out the basics and started going around doing Ingressy stuff. All fun and highly addictive (and I walked about 80km in my first week!).

I also managed to pique clanwilliam's curiosity. She joined in (and I realised that I'd unleashed a monster on the world of Ingress!); we started walking around places as a team and generally delivering fresh hot flaming death to all the troglodytic Resistance types out there. We captured game locations (portals) and made them our own (mostly!)

As we started levelling up and expanding our range, we started building our own home area; we also started encountering other players on both sides - and once you spot someone standing in a strange part of the street hunched over and prodding at their phone with a finger, you start to recognise fellow agents fairly easily.

Hellos led to drinks, drinks led to hangouts and all was pretty much fine. We started getting attacked by a local Resistance player (let's call him Tafka) who was a royal PITA, but - on meeting him - a lovely guy (for a filthy Smurf!).

He'd smash our area a bit; we'd return the favour and everyone got AP (ingress experience points). We also got to expand our range, by working with our fellow Frogs (Enlightenment players) and generally doing the teamwork thing.

The months passed, the AP piled on, we went to other countries and turned them a nice shade of green... and our home area just sort of grew bit by bit until a number of them hit the maximum level (Level 8, or P8 for short).

Now, P8s are always a target for the opposing faction. They give you the best rewards, they're often the hardest to take down, and having them is useful. So our area started hitting the Resistance's radar; which is fair enough and all a part of the game.

People would roll in from elsewhere, smash stuff - and we'd take stuff back and rebuild from scratch.

For those who do not know Ingress, you get given medals for achieving things; resonators destroyed, portals hacked, portals captured. One of these is the Guardian badge - a badge you get in varying levels for holding onto a portal for a given length of time. Since portals in busy areas swap hands fairly frequently, getting the two highest Guardian badges (platinum and onyx) can be something of a challenge - you have to hold a portal without losing it for 90 and 150 days.

(However, there's a catch; you must have a resonator (control unit) on the portal for it to count.)

As this can be a real struggle, there's a certain code of honour among players; it's widely (though not universally) considered bad form to go hunting for someone else's guardian portal if you know where it is; it leads to personal confrontations, bad blood and people taking the game too seriously.

So you will sometimes see people appealing to members of the other side in game chat or Google hangouts to leave a particular portal alone; and mostly this is respected, as Ingress has a reasonable degree of inter-faction courtesy and friendliness.

Back to our story...

Sometime in the autumn, when clanwilliam was still a fairly junior Frog, we took a portal in our area back after it got wrecked. Somehow, she held it; and our local teammates upgraded it and defended it until it became a P8. It somehow managed to escape destruction for several months, despite some close shaves. However, clanwilliam no longer had a resonator on it, as her low-level ones had over time been replaced by higher-level resonators. So she suggested to our resident enemy Tafka that if he was passing, he might like to knock one resonator off so that she could replace it and get the Guardian badge - he didn't, but neither did he smash it, which he could easily have done.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago; the 8th or 9th of January. One of the other reasonably local Smurfs (AdmiralPellew) had recently started going down Kingsland Road from Dalston at lunchtime, taking out portals where he could. One person on their own has a challenge taking out more than a few P8s, but Pellew started bringing other Smurfs with him, including a returning high-level Smurf (call him Idig). I saw portals falling, including some of mine, and was at home, having the day off. So I went out to intercept them; I was outnumbered and outgunned, so I couldn't do much more than harry them in passing.

However, they approached clanwilliam's guardian. At which point I figured that I had to do something or she'd lose it. So I went up and introduced myself; and we had a cordial chat; and I said to them that I'd seen them passing and decided to pop out; and asked them if they could spare that one particular portal, as it would mean a lot to clanwilliam to keep it. They were amicable and pointed out that there was another portal very near it; I said that they were welcome to any other portal, but I'd really rather they spare that one.

They nodded, said goodbye, and started attacking the nearby portal. I managed to hold clanwilliam's guardian (thanks mainly to clanwilliam dragging herself out of her sickbed and turning up in the nick of time!); and the incidental damage they did enabled clanwilliam to deploy a resonator on the portal to her considerable relief.

(It turned out that she'd held the portal for 117 days; she got her platinum Guardian badge that evening.)

Pellew and Idig continued their attacks during the next week; provoking some discussion in the local Frog hangouts; during which I spoke in favourable terms of them, saying that they seemed like good players and decent people.

Turns out that I may have been half wrong on that score...

Last Friday lunchtime, one of these Smurf raids went down Kingsland Road again; the same duo as previously, plus a couple of others.

We were a little apprehensive as they approached clanwilliam's guardian; but they obviously and deliberately avoided it; they wiped out the portal right next to it, but damage to her guardian was minimal; to her considerable relief.

Now (exposition time again, sorry) with the typical Ingress weapon, the burster, it takes multiple hits to take out most portals; and when a portal is hit, it alerts the owners of the portal's resonators, who can recharge if they've got a key for the portal. If you've got a sufficient number of people, you can sometimes save a portal from destruction that way.

There is another weapon, however - the 'flip card'. What this does is to instantly change the portal's allegiance from one side to the other. It's a rare weapon and is an instant attack - the only thing you ever see when your portal is flipped is that you lost it instantly; there is no defence against it.

So it came as something of a rude shock to our generally favourable view of the Smurfs when AdmiralPellew made a separate solo trip up to Kingsland Road last Friday evening and flipped clanwilliam's Guardian portal. He did not attack any of the portals around it; and he had been effectively informed that it was a guardian just a week earlier (in the presence of Idig, who can confirm the story above).

It is difficult to think of this as anything other than deliberate guardian hunting.

So clanwilliam's guardian was destroyed in a way that gave her no chance to fight back. She was somewhat annoyed about this, as she'd held it for 124 days at that point; less than a month to go for the Onyx Guardian badge. However, a single attack doesn't make someone a villain of the worst sort; and it's a game where you will sometimes upset people.

What looks less favourable, however, is deliberate personal targeting and attempted extortion...

Yesterday, AdmiralPellew went on another of his long lunchbreak trips, this time up New North Road. He started smashing our portals, we alerted local allies and everyone who had keys for the relevant portals started recharging (the local Frogs are a good team and we cover each other's backs). AdmiralPellew managed to take down pretty much all of the local P8s on the street, but it obviously cost him a lot of his arsenal.

We sighed and added that to the 'to be rebuilt' list.

Fast forward to last night...

I received the following communications on ingame chat:

Now, that was a slight surprise. Deus Per Omnia is a portal of mine some way off any route he's ever attacked before. The implication should be obvious; that he was looking for our portals to attack.

I sensed from his last comment that he was trying to get a rise out of me. I wasn't going to rise to the bait, so I said we'd rebuild it.


Yes, I was doing the 'what, me, bovvered?' response.

He then complained about our recharging efforts and said it cost him a load of bursters - and tried to extort some out of me!

I was momentarily tempted by his offer, but I know full well what Danegeld is; and I certainly didn't trust him after last Friday's action; but I thought I'd play along for the moment.

When he saw my comment about how many bursters I had, he realised that I had more weaponry than he thought I did; and he got greedy.


I really couldn't be having with that, so I decided to call a halt to dealings by pointing out that I had portals he wouldn't be able to reach in any reasonable lunchbreak.

At which point, he tried to haggle! - his demand for 400 x8s went down to 100 x8s; but I was tired of the game, and pointed out that he could wipe out everything I had in London repeatedly without delaying me to any real extent.


When he realised that he wasn't getting anything out of me, he gave up and threatened to destroy our area.

Which he can probably do, although it'll take him time and materiel; but all he will do will be giving us easy targets and rebuilding opportunities - and attempted extortion on an open channel is not a good look on anyone.

Ingress is a team game, and there are decent people in both factions. Unfortunately, the opposite also seems to be true.

For the record; everything I've said here is true (from my POV, anyway!) - and I hope that Tafka and Idig are willing to corroborate the bits that they were party to.

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