[Transcript] 24 March 2022 - Q&A with Brian
@NianticBrian: Thanks for all your excellent questions. There's more than I can try and answer in one hour, but I'll come back to your questions and try to answer more later this afternoon. We're also going to copy-and-paste my answers to create a post in the Ingress Forum as another archive of this AMA. Let's go:
vaskincall asks, “You disabled Ingress in Russia and Belarus. We could have created our own spoofer armies and killed this game all over the world, but we didn't. What will your actions be to prevent this and rebuild the community?”
NianticBrian (NB): We stand with the global community in hoping for peace and a rapid resolution to the violence and suffering in Ukraine. Suspending gameplay in Russia and Belarus was a very difficult decision, and we didn’t make it lightly. We hope to re-enable gameplay in the future, and we’ll continue to work towards improving our anticheat solutions.
astraeus4 asks, “Why does Niantic allow new accounts to redeem passcodes that are older than the account? Why doesn’t Niantic wipe spoofed Portals when the account is banned, automatically?”
NB: There are passcodes used for New Agent Training and passcodes embedded in story assets that we still want players to use or decode, and those were originally created a long time ago. I realize there are also players who just copy-and-paste passcodes, and we’ve been discussing how we might try and address that, but it’s a tradeoff of how much time we spend trying to reduce players misusing passcodes versus time spent working to build new features or fix other bugs.
We don’t automatically wipe or neutralize a spoofed Portal because this could also be weaponized by bad actors. If a spoofer chose to upgrade a legitimate player's Resonators on a Portal, then work to get their spoofing account banned, wiping or neutralizing the Portal might have unintended consequences. Anticheat continues to be a cat and mouse battle.
iknition asks, “Why do special items count towards the Inventory limit? (Beacons, Apex). Also, why do you appear in Niantic Social as ENL if you're RES?”
NB: All premium items, including Battle Beacons, Portal Frackers, and Apex count towards your 2,000 or 2,500 Inventory limit as a way to try to encourage more fairplay across all Agents, even those who haven’t subscribed to C.O.R.E. or who don’t buy IAP items. I’m not sure if it’d be straightforward or easy to make specific item types not count towards Inventory, like media objects, but I feel premium items should continue to count towards your Inventory cap.
Playing with or using multiple accounts is against our Ingress Community Guidelines; however, I need a work account under the @nianticlabs.com domain that I don’t play Ingress with for Niantic Social and the Ingress Forum. Separately, I have a personal account that I do play Ingress with, which is GPC2C, and I’m currently on the Resistance but I do plan to recurse again and switch back to my original Enlightened Faction, but it’s taking me a long time.
InvestigateXM asks, "Any updates on the lag? It still feels sluggish from time to time, and while it feels better, it's certainly not "gone" yet.”
NB: Unfortunately, we shipped a speculative fix specifically for lag when recharging, but that didn’t resolve the increased latency (for recharging or for deploying), and we’re still actively investigating what the root cause is. We know how painful this bug is, but it has been extremely difficult to pin down. It's still in-progress right now.
Gargish asks, “Have Mission Day applications been processed and when will accepted Mission Days take place again?”
NianticThia [NT]: The Mission Day Guide for 2022 has been finalized (with thanks and feedback to some of our Vanguards, XMAs, and mission-lovers for their feedback!) and it was sent for localization; I'm working on the application form now. My hope is that these are available for Agents to apply for in April.
Stand alone sites from 2020 were contact late last year (I think, what is time?) to see how things are looking in their areas and to consider when they may want to reschedule. Mission Days that were tied to Hexathalons will be reached out to Soon(™) to see if they would like to host their MD as a stand alone or hold until we know what may be happening with those events.
Once the 2022 guide and application forms are back, we will reach out to those sites again to see what their preference is for rescheduling.
MrFlamingo13 asks, “What's the frequency of your release cycle?”
NB: In the past, we tried to ship new Ingress updates every 2 weeks. Lately, we’ve been experimenting with 2-week sprints and a 4-week release cadence, and we’re still evaluating what makes the most sense for our team and for our Agents.
One thing I’m not sure many Agents realize is that our Ingress team is less than 20 people across everyone—engineering, art, marketing, and community. I see our team as a kind of scouting party at Niantic, where we’re the first team to try things like Portal nominations and reviews, the C.O.R.E. subscription, Portal Scanning, Niantic Lightship integration with Meshing, and Niantic Social. Then we share what we learn back to the rest of our Niantic game teams.
The best way to describe how we work is a build > measure > learn cycle, where we launch then iterate. And the question we always go back to, for every release, is, “What should we ship that Ingress Agents will thank us for building?”
everyone asks, "When will Mortuus recurse?"
NianticBrian: This was a lot harder than I expected, but also I think we should do more of this. I need to run to some other meetings, but I'll try and pop back here later this afternoon to answer a few more. And I'll work with NianticThia and [Niantic Social Support] to schedule more AMAs like this with more advance notice going forward
Thank you for all your great questions, and for being a part of our Ingress community
NianticThia @everyone: Thanks for joining us! I'm working to collect all of the questions from today and will work with folks to see about getting some answers to other questions.
I came back to answer a few more questions, but I don't know how to edit @NianticThia's original post. So adding this follow up as a reply:
@ATR0P0S asks, “Are there any plans to add or clarify elements of the Ingress Community Guidelines/Ingress Support pages to include information on items addressed in AMAs by previous Niantics eg wintrading? If so, what would be the timeline on this?”
NianticBrian: I think the player guidelines you’re referring to are the Niantic Player Guidelines, originally posted at https://nianticlabs.com/guidelines/en/. I wasn’t able to get win trading explicitly called out here or on the copy of this text that we also mirror, but I consider win trading cheating (so a violation of the “4 - No cheating” section).
But to be clear about what I consider the act of win trading: to me, win trading is when 1 party colludes with another party to intentionally boost their account level or AP, or “trade wins.” If you’re playing Ingress at a First Saturday event and you’re helping a new player understand how to play, walking them through the basics, then I don’t consider that win trading. My guess is the difficulty in trying to explain this nuance is why Niantic chose to include “No cheating” in our Niantic Player Guidelines, but not specifically state the words, “win trading.” Don’t cheat.
On a side note, another good general rule of thumb is, “Don’t be a ****.” Ingress is a competitive game, but I also want to ensure that the community is a welcoming one to everyone who plays fair.
@AisforAndis asks, “Why restrict new Portals with the 20m proximity rule?”
NB: I’m trying to remember back to The Before Times when we originally implemented the 20m rule for new Portal submissions, and IIRC I think it may have been related to UX/UI of the mobile client and our disambiguation menu. If you’re in an area with extremely high Portal density, it makes it difficult to play in addition to creating performance issues. For example, here’s an area in LA near where I live that’s infamous for this: https://intel.ingress.com/intel?ll=34.060706,-118.44575&z=18&pll=34.060196,-118.445404
Integrating with Niantic Wayfarer was meant to help somewhat, in that now these new Portal submissions won't be lost even if Ingress doesn't ingest them. They could still be used by other Niantic games, or if we were to revisit our Portal ingestion rules, then we can pull from Wayfarer's database of accepted Wayspots.
@Naruwasher asks, “Where do you see or would like to see Ingress in the next 5 years?”
NB: I originally joined Niantic Labs@Google before we shipped Ingress. There aren’t many games that have run continuously for 10 years, and I’m very excited to cross that milestone this coming Nov. There’s no game that I can think of that can activate players to coordinate global operations across languages and borders, encouraging people to hike out to remote locations with friends, that connects people and places in the ways that Ingress does every day. I look at the Intel Map and the planetary scale of the Agent community and what you’ve all accomplished—Ingress is so much more than just a video game.
Right now, I’d like to see Ingress continue to grow our playerbase, and I think one way we could do this is by updating the early game to better show, not tell new players how to play. There are a lot of people who download Ingress but get stuck after the New Agent Training or don’t know what they should do next. Something beyond the, “How do I move?” stage, but before the, “How do I create Fan Fields to maximize MU and AP gain?” Connecting more new players to local communities could also help, which is why I’m so supportive of everything our Niantic Social team is working towards.
Looking forward to the future, maybe a hypothetical 2027, I put on my AR glasses as I head outside and listen to my daily briefing: ADA informs me there are strategic Portals that I have Keys for that need recharging, and with a few quick swipes, I’m done. ADA then lets me know there’s an enemy anchor Portal 1.2km away that should be neutralized before the next Checkpoint, and I see a countdown timer on my HUD showing me the time remaining. I accept the challenge, and she paints a path on the ground that navigates me to the Portal. On my way, I get an alert from a friend asking if I want to grab coffee and put up a Flash Farm. I retake the Target Portal, then go to meet up. As I walk up to say Hello, ADA recognizes that we’re both here together, and asks us both if we’d like to accept a joint sponsored mission from ITO EN. We were going to get coffee anyway, so why not? We accept the mission and start walking. The last mission waypoint leads us to a Whole Foods store with a clue
Hello my name is quinoa amazon.com/locker. My friend receives one half of a passphrase
WXYZ while I get the other half
1234. We punch the
WXYZ1234 passphrase into the Amazon Locker, the door automagically pops open, and there are 2 bottles of ITO EN green tea inside. Cheers!
Most of the pieces or technical infrastructure to put these kinds of experiences together are already here. We could even start experimenting with gameplay like this right now if Agents are interested. The future is wildly unpredictable, but I want to continue experimenting with ways to make the real world more fun and game-like, and I love working on Ingress because we can take these kinds of ideas, together with Agent feedback, and build the future together.
Alright, I’m going to sign off for the night! Thank you again for all of your questions. Until next time, hack the planet, and take care.