What is 'community' and how can Niantic 'help' it?

PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

For years, the constant refrain has been "The core of Ingress is the community it created". But ask any of the early Ingress developers, and they'll tell you they never expected the community to appear like it did.

One early guideline for Ingress was not to approach strangers that you thought were playing. They expected people to play within pre-existing peer groups, not generate entirely new peer groups from scratch.

Yet, Ingress became for many people a community driven game. People did the boring repetitive tasks, because of the meetups, and BBQs and gatherings, and events, and anomalies. I personally remember remarking once, after offers from Anomaly participants, that I could probably couch-surf from one side of the US to the other, relying only on the kindness of Ingress players.

The community in Ingress has always been player driven, player organized, player developed. With large communities connecting up across the globe, it's also been player networked.

However, in recent years, the Ingress community has shrunk. The first real "obvious" blow was the loss of G+ but there had been declines before that, due to things like no new features or gameplay, lack of consistent event structures and timings, and other sorts of things. The second major blow came in the form of Prime, with many players quitting because they didn't like the new interface, or felt it was too buggy and annoying. The reduction in players has also resulted in a feeling of less community among the game, for many people.

Recently, with the pandemic suppressing a lot of player driven community, there's been repeated calls for Ingress to "Focus on community" and "Improve the community". But very little in the way of direct suggestions for changes, that would actually benefit community over simply increasing the player base again.

So putting aside things like "Make Prime not suck" and "Bring back players", what specific ideas do people have that would improve the community aspect of the game, not just the size of the player base? And how would those ideas actually make a change?

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Comments

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    While you can probably tie some decline with Prime and the demise of G+ at the end of the day ingress isn't the only show in town anymore.

    Definitely true, though the reasons I've heard from people quitting were rarely "This other thing is much better", but more tied to Ingress itself.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    To turn that around, what sorts of badge-worthy stats would you introduce (or which existing stats would you turn into badges) to encourage teamwork and community?

  • Redfox1701Redfox1701 ✭✭✭

    I see the problems with community building as the following. When Ingress first came out we had G+ and Hangouts. Local communities could create their own groups, but there was at least one singular place to search for things like "Chicago Resistance" or "NYC Enlightened". Niantic used to even support this with a whole website dedicated to posting your community's G+ link! With the **** of G+ and Hangouts, and Niantic's own community support, many people moved on to other communication apps. Now there's thousands of communities on as many apps around the world, and it's become nearly impossible to find locals without messaging people in game. Even then, unless you have a well established process for onboarding new players into your group, it's hard to connect. This division of the communities among the various communication apps contributes to the aforementioned gatekeeping. No longer is Niantic assisting players with finding their locals, its up to locals to find their own. This isn't just about Ingress either. Pokemon Go has NO community support.

    I think the distribution and gatekeeping has gotten so bad now, that Niantic has seen fit to purchase an entire company that created a Discord-like experience, so FINALLY people have one central place to find others. The question is: Will this be appealing enough for communities to go through yet another app conversation. Those who remember the Hangout to Telegram conversion that many Ingress communities went through, remember the difficulties people had with downloading yet another communication app. Will Niantic help with conversions through help documents and other ways, or will they yet again rely on free labor, and hope people help each other get on the new thing?

  • Well that's why I wrote the second paragraph with the more ingress oriented reasons. The lack of new features, declining daily player base, lack of incoming players to replace old ones due to a variety of reasons.

    I think his main point behind that badge is that scanning is one of the only "new mechanics" we have had for quite a while and has a badge attached to it. It adds a very small "gameplay" element that doesn't really freshen up the current structure of the game and has little to no impact on any other gameplay element.

    You could argue stuff like drones, kinetic capsules, etc, but they;

    • Don't impact the general gameplay loops besides a bit of gear acquisition which is the least engaging part of ingress gameplay
    • Don't have any sort of badge at all

    You could create a badge for those(drones, kcaps, etc), or make controller more of a part of the actual gameplay loop but even if you did all those things it really doesn't add any sort of variety for the game that some have played the exact same way for years. These are more QoL features then actual gameplay features. Scout controller I would argue is even less than that as it has the same sort of actual game impact that doing Wayfarer currently does.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 5

     No longer is Niantic assisting players with finding their locals, its up to locals to find their own. 

    While you have to acknowledge that G+ is beyond their control, https://community.ingress.com/en/categories/community contains quite a lot of posts in this regard. But yes, more structure to connecting new players to communities could help.

    I'm not sure what gatekeeping there is though. Can you expand on how people are being kept out of communities?

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Niantic has seen fit to purchase an entire company that created a Discord-like experience, so FINALLY people have one central place to find others

    Side Point of note: Mayhem is being shut down at the start of February. I think it was a talent acquisition, not a product to be integrated.

  • Redfox1701Redfox1701 ✭✭✭
    edited January 5

    The problem with that is, you need to be active. Nobody wants the Recruiting section of a forum to be yet another game chore that they have to do every day, and make sure they don't miss adding anyone. With the old community map, a new player could scroll on the map and click on a community they wanted to join. Yes, it was still an active process in a sense that those G+ owners would have to check their group, but at least they could get a notification immediately that someone wanted in.

    Yes, Niantic had no control over G+, but they did have control over their own central repository. People could have posted Telegram links, Facebook links, all sorts of things, to have a central location for new players to find locals, rather than locals having to check all sorts of places and hope they found a new player

    Edit to add: My only hope is that this new thing Niantic has coming is appealing and easy enough to move entire communities onto. Otherwise people will just keep doing what they're doing, and will still have a distribution of various apps, and nobody will find new people

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    With the old community map, a new player could scroll on the map and click on a community they wanted to join

    Oh wow, I'd forgotten about that. I think I used it once to submit a community then never looked again. I don't think even that was maintained.

    People could have posted Telegram links, Facebook links, all sorts of things, to have a central location for new players to find locals, rather than locals having to check all sorts of places and hope they found a new player

    So a way to provide something similar to the "Event Map" that Niantic now hosts, that allows a community to provide signup or contact links (and is maintained and updated)?

  • vidiconvidicon ✭✭✭✭

    Right now it's especially hard to get new players teamed up with the community because of the pandemic. Oddly enough it seems easier to get a new agent to show up at an in-person First Saturday or in-person happy hour than it is to get a new agent to join a Zoom call. And even if they do get on Zoom, it's not always obvious whether that unknown/shy person is a visitor from some far-away place just wanting to get a badge tick, or whether they are a new agent who is hoping to be greeted by the community. But obviously Covid is not something that Niantic has any control over.

    Beyond that, I think the biggest thing Niantic can do to encourage community is to keep doing things that reward cooperation with other agents. In-person cooperation is great, but it can be replicated online. The tessellation was a good example of this, although many agents were turned off by the storyline aspect of it. Even so, we had a very large active community of people who were working together to find, decode, and/or post media. The 13 Archetypes decoding challenge was similar - though I wish that one had some kind of a badge to show for it. Tessellation was explicitly faction-vs-faction, the 13AR decoding challenge was not, although people still generally cooperated in faction-specific groups. These mostly involved agents who were already looped in to their local communities, but it was an introduction to global communities for many. Also, the portal hunt challenges that have been part of IFS are another way that agents can team up online, which is arguably more approachable for new agents.

    I'd like to see more challenges that can be an on-ramp for teamwork, with an explicit suggestion from Niantic in the event announcement to reach out in faction comms if they are looking for agents to team up with. Ideally these challenges would be fairly low-stakes so that factions aren't too concerned with opsec to let in a new agent, but high-enough stakes to be worth investing time in. Maybe a tiered badge for challenges completed, and/or passcodes with a moderate amount of good gear (on the order of 10 R8s/X8s, maybe some rare mods, nothing VR).

  • vidiconvidicon ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 5


    Totally agree, community directory/map would be best, but faction chat can work in a pinch. Whenever someone speaks out in faction chat and says "I'm looking for a community" eventually a moderator for that community is going to see it and whatever the local process for getting people looped in will begin. The agents just need to know that they need to speak up, because otherwise they are likely to be missed, and/or people are going to assume that they just want to be a lone wolf. Even if Niantic can't/wont be the funnel, at least they can point in the general direction.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yeah, for me the "joined the Enlightened" things often triggered people to poke an organizer if the organizers weren't already on it.

  • Redfox1701Redfox1701 ✭✭✭

    Don't forget too, not everyone is willing to be whisked into a community of a game they just downloaded and started. That's why I'm more of the opinion of having the player find the community. It does work both ways though, I won't deny that.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    I would love community tools that weren't built around chat apps. I have come to despise chats (other than for very small groups) with the fury of a million white hot suns. They are abysmal for holding serious discussions or communicating important things because of the small window and incessant scroll. They either become a horrible time sink or you lose most of the conversation and miss things of value. Finding things from the past is usually awkward or impossible. There's no indexing or organization. They don't scale at all for larger groups.

    A Niantic-hosted community platform would offer a lot of advantages. Included in that list is a centralized location for new people to find community and automatic faction verification. If someone flips Niantic is the first to know, and would have the ability to automatically remove people from faction-locked communities.

    I don't think this is a realistic expectation from Niantic, though, for a variety of reasons. One is that it would be a cost center rather than revenue channel. There could be a high drama quotient for them. There's also not much advantage to the company itself.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Given many of their acquisitions, they have the talent to develop a "G+ lite" environment where groups can have private access control and long form posting, as opposed to ephemerous chat discussions. And it could be a revenue stream if you paid a small monthly fee to have a private group. I'm sure that plenty of the other Niantic games would be able to use it too.

    Alternatively, you could try things like Band for having permanent post discussions with integrated chat. I detest Facebook but it does seem to be the only one some people are willing to use for that sort of thing though.

    The old G+ community + Hangout format did lend itself to far more nuanced discussions and community, than purely Hangouts/Telegram/Discord does now, I agree.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 6

    Vanilla Forums doesn't function well with lots of sub-forums. Giving people that sort of control would grind it to a halt. And it's not a Niantic product that they can fix to do that well.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Why? Do you want to reinvent the wheel which already works for years?

    Because Telegram is not a suitable G+ replacement, just a Hangouts replacement. There is a lacking featureset.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @1valdis Telegram is nearly unusable for me. It's so incredibly painful to use that I almost never do.

  • GoblinGranateGoblinGranate ✭✭✭✭✭

    A spoofers banstorm and some detection system would definetely help.

  • mortuusmortuus ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 7

    Why? i feel its fast and super smooth.. no issues really. can sync accounts between pc and phones easy..

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @mortuus I almost never use chats on my phone unless I have no choice. The web UI is nigh on unusable, and every time I install the desktop client it randomly starts using 100% of my network bandwidth. The last time I actively tried to use the web UI I couldn't even follow a chat by having it open in another window and watching it scroll by... I had to keep reaching over and moving a scrollbar to see new content.

  • I'm not really sure why anyone expects niantic to do anything about building a community. They destroyed the player base with prime. It's a dead game now. Unless they actually address attracting new players there's really no point to keeping Ingress.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Admittedly that seems like a "specific to you" issue. Telegram as a chat program works great for me and I use it for far more than Ingress (especially in 2020).

    But Telegram is ephemeral. There's no way to make long posts like we have on these forums, and have people reply hours or days later. That's the thing lacking for most groups now. Everyone has a Telegram, or Discord, or Slack, or even Hangouts chat, but there's no permanent post platform that they can use in private, unless people want to dive into the muck of Facebook.

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