Hypothesis: Ingress is a great game, but only at relatively narrow range of scale

HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

Time travel back with me a little bit to pre-Machina Ingress

Imagine that you are the only player within 100 miles. Ingress would not be very interesting for you because there's rarely going to be any competition. There have always been a few people in this situation and over the last couple of years a lot more have found themselves without opposition. Ingress really isn't a very good game in those circumstances.

Now, imagine the opposite extreme and every single person on the planet plays Ingress. That wouldn't be a very fun game either because everything would be a highly-contested area with no ability to ever build up high level portals or control an area. Ingress isn't a very good game at this extreme either.

Somewhere between those two extremes there's a sweet spot for Ingress where there's enough competition to make the game interesting but not enough for the playfield to become perpetual chaos. I don't know how to quantify that sweet spot but it's obvious to me that it exists and that getting too far outside of it makes the game less interesting.

Machina has been introduced to help players out in areas that have very little competition, and it does help some but it's not a replacement. Machina can't throw an annoying field over you, and it won't care if you throw one over it. It's never going to (deliberately) throw a strategic blocking link, it's not going to smash up your farm, and it's never going to rent a 15-passenger van and roll hundreds of P8s through a city. It's an interesting chaos agent but it's not active opposition.

Competing as a team against another team is what makes Ingress great, IMO. Unfortunately it is likely to be its downfall as well since it needs to retain a minimum player base but there's also a cap on how big the game can get and still be fun. That makes me sad, but unless the game radically adapts it will be the eventual outcome.



  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    P.S. Pogo does have similar issues but only as it applies to a small part of the game. Before I quit I'd played in areas that had constant gym churn... if you held a gym in midtown Manhattan or downtown San Francisco for more than 10-20 minutes during the day it was a miracle. I also know people who have held a gym for years because nobody else plays in that area. It doesn't hurt the game as much because holding gyms isn't the primary goal of the game.

    (Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of that insane gym competition is from spoofbots.)

  • I don't know how to quantify that sweet spot but it's obvious to me that it exists and that getting too far outside of it makes the game less interesting.

    Different strokes, different folks ..

    I'm sure there are players who enjoy having a large bunch of portals and no opposition to do whatever they want. Similarly, there are players who would love a near constant battle for portals.

  • KonnTowerKonnTower ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Hosette you have three things to read up on. 1) Game Theory focusing on infinite-turn prisoners dilemma, 2) Business terminology revolving around "Netork Effects", and 3) Group Dynamics revolving around the phases of a group's lifecycle. Usually described as Forming/Storming/Norming/Adjourning.

    Sadly lots of the way the game was designed originally with fielding pushed out a lot of new/fresh blood in mid-stage ingress. Post-Prime and PoGo players getting portal nominations, the game has steadily lost population to the point BAFs pushed out a large portion of players. Those remaining, did the covering. Under-field linking was a great addition, but too little too late and has now angered the remaining folks who did the covering.. The network effect of the game was already broken and the game itself has been in the adjourning phase for the last couple years post-pandemic. Niantic told the Ingress team they have to be profitable and can't live under the PoGo umbrella, but PoGo is a bigger, faster dopamine hit for way way way less effort. Additionally, Niantic is starting to struggle as PoGo is winding down and they are making less and less money. Layoffs are hitting them and the **** rolls downhill, so to speak.

    That equilibrium you're talking about is a Nash equilibrium. It occurs when enough people have tired of regular play and limit it to just their immediate areas and stop going out of their way to play and interact with others in the community regularly. Or they retire and only show up for events. There are chats I'm in littered with these people who like to own chats, but don't play, but are considered leaders in the community. Attrition never made a good succession plan for running a competitive organization. Works for a social club, but slowly it leads to gatekeeping behaviors. There are "the OG", leadership connected to faction-orga, and "the others" who have no room to advance, so they leave. I myself have stopped attempting to reach out and get more involved with ENL orga, I have experienced a constant moving set of goalposts over the last 5 years in my area. I'm just going to act like the others in the chats and only show up for events. I decided I no longer need to chase after the "next level of play" because it stopped existing as a possibility about 4 years ago. It's a social problem Niantic would have to be very creative to fix… You could use some economics and scoring systems to help revive the meetups that have disappeared, but man, I get paid enough in my real job that it's not my problem to fix Niantic's issues.

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭
  • KonnTowerKonnTower ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 31

    Not everything needs to be a long thought out post, sometimes it's more fun to meme on current events. I have a few longer posts in my profile.

    Bye bye Ingress forums. 4/1/24 (1 day, 30 minutes left)

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @KonnTower Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response… it's a breath of fresh air among the rudeness that seems to have taken hold here.

    I actually do know a fair bit about some of those topics… I used to be a professional poker player and I've spent a lot of time over the last few decades hanging out with people who play poker, chess, backgammon, scrabble, and lots of other games at a world-class level. I was recently explaining Nash equilibria to some non-nerds in a simple enough way for them to understand the basic concepts.

    In my original post I was looking at Ingress from a fairly pure theoretical perspective of the game being played by individuals… no drama, no communities, no BAFs, just a simple thought experiment about what playing the game would be like at the extremes of the player base. If you were the only player on the planet you'd probably get bored with it pretty quickly because there's no competition. Sure, you could invent things to do like writing messages by systemically dropping gear or drawing elaborate field art but that would get boring pretty quickly. If every person on the planet actively played Ingress then it would also not be particularly interesting in most areas because it would essentially be a giant anomaly without teams, and everything you build would get torn down quickly. In the densest areas you might never even be able to fully deploy a portal before it gets blown up.

    My main point was that Ingress needs to be in a certain sweet spot of player base in order to be sufficiently interesting. Losing a significant portion of the player base over time would create a deaaath spiral that would be hard to recover from, and the game seems to be in that spiral. I just got back from NY and I found red portals just south of Central Park and a big swath right next to Madison Square Garden. I've played Ingress in New York City a fair bit over the last decade and those have always been high-turnover areas, especially the tourist-heavy areas around midtown Manhattan.

    You are absolutely correct that there are lots of things that pile on top of this… including community, a lack of new content, a lack of support, bad actors, and game mechanics that exacerbate the other issues. I played PoGo, Pikmin, and Peridot and because they focus much more on individual achievements rather than playfield control they can be enjoyable even as a solo player. eventually quit playing all of them because time is a major limiting factor in life and I decided I'd rather spend my time elsewhere.

    I still play Ingress because I enjoy it and I still live in an area with active competition. I've dropped out of most local communities for the same reasons that I quit playing the other games… the amount of my time and mental bandwidth they consumed was not worth it for me. (Also some mild toxicity but that happens in most groups.)

  • Modern players and "classic" players are very different mindsets.

    Modern playstyles tend focus on single player smaller area, heavy layer fielding, where competition (and Machina) is an annoyance. This seems to be due to the period of very low player density, when players reorganized themselves to play solo and focused on emphasising MU as their sole success measure.

    Older playstyles were focused on teams and regular meetups etc, where fielding was about how much area you could cover in one field. Community was the focus, and different people had different goals.

    Some areas retain the older mindset, and the community aspect, but the lower player base makes this much harder to maintain. So the difference playstyles are largely driven by player density. If Niantic wanted to ever bring back the community (and it really seems like they don't) then the focus would be to raise the player retention and help communities come together with events.

    If they're happy to focus on the more moden play styles, then they should ensure dev works on things like expanding the leaderboards for solo play and adding a few more metrics to focus on.

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