How to NOT pick an anomaly site…
Sorry for the long read. Tl;dr: Do a better job in picking anomalie cities.
Dear @NianticOfficial , Dear @NianticBrian , Dear Ingress-Team,
Remember me? So I had hoped for a long time that things would get better for Ingress, but seeing how Munich and LA were handled, it has made me doubt this a lot. I was curious to see new sites were picked, and I was really surprised, but not in a good way. That's why I thought you may need a reminder of what a good anomaly city should have to give your players - your paying customer, the reason you get a paycheck - a really great experience. (I’m going to use the word customer in the following text instead of players, since players are your customers)
What do we need for a good anomaly city?
- The city needs an active community of both factions
- The city needs enough portals for the customers who are going to attend the event to be able to play without standing on top of each other
- The city needs enough accommodations for the visiting customers to stay at locally
- The city needs to have good connections to public transport
- The city needs the infrastructure to support high peaks in the mobile network
- The city needs to be safe
Why do you need these things?
Anomaly events require significant planning and resources from the customer base. They rely on a large and active customer base to be successful, and without enough customers in the area, the event may not be well-attended or enjoyable for the other customers that are traveling to the event. As a gaming company, your focus should always be to provide the customers a pleasant experience when they travel to your events. Remember that some of these customers may be spending upwards of a couple of thousand dollars to travel to and spend time at the location you have chosen to hold the anomaly at. Not having an enjoyable experience at one site may lead these customers to not attend another.
I guess you are wondering why you need customers in the cities to organize things for your event. Well, let me explain. Ingress - the first game you developed - is a community game. The basic game design is that you need 8 customers to build a Level 8 portal. So, in order to do this, your customers have formed communities in the last several years to achieve different things, like building Level 8 portals as a starting point, then building city fields and then building international and even transoceanic fields. Because one single customer can not do this alone communities started to spring up to make these efforts easier. So when you decide to use City X for your event, customers from City Y will ask customers from City X where to stay, what can be done in the downtime of the event, how to come to the event, how to use the public transport in the City, etc. Because usually you as the company can not answer those questions, it falls to those who have made communities and connections to those communities to answer them. Also, over the years your customers have become so connected, that friendships, partnerships, and even marriages have emerged. The events you offer are a chance for your customers to see friends from other places all at the same time. That's one of the biggest reasons your customers are traveling to your events. So this is why it's important to have an active community in the city you pick, because your customers will ask questions you can not answer. That is why they go to the locals in the area. In the early years of Ingress you offered some get-together on the day before the event and sometimes also an afterparty. I understand that because of costs, you had to cut these, but your customers still want to attend such events. So, your customers in the chosen city have stepped in and organized this for the faction they picked. Most of the time organizing event locations is more than a signal person can do alone, so it takes a small group to put things together. Also, people liked your physical swag but also wanted to show off their love for their faction and support the local community with any cost they might have to cover, so it became common for the local community to offer faction swag with their own logo. I remember in Munich how excited the Ingress team was about all the great faction swag, so it seems like this is something that many of the employees at the company also like and want to get; but, still you need active customers in the city to achieve this.
To make the experience a pleasant one for your customers, you should also know about the dos and don’ts in the city you picked. Which portals are behind paywalls, which portals are inside a temporary construction site and can not be used. Where are the areas that should be avoided for safety reasons? The local police or government usually can’t help with those questions, so you need, surprise, a group of active customers in the city to tell you that information. The result is always that you need customers in the city from both factions that are willing to help you with the event that you decided to put into their city.
On to the question of portals in a city. Anomalies typically drive a bigger group of customers into one city, so it is important to have a playbox that supports the number of customers that are coming to visit. For example: A playbox with 100 portals and 1000 customers is way too small for a good customer experience. In the end, the faction with more customers in the city will overpower the smaller one. 10 customers per portal is not a good ratio for the customer experience, and also can not be handled by your servers. On the other end of the spectrum, having 10 portals per customer, leads to a playbox that is too big. Which is also a bad customer experience. Another factor that you should consider in picking a city is, in which region the event is happening. Will there be other events in the same region, or will it just be this one? For example, Europe has had 3 cities that host an event at the same time. So the customer base has divided themselves amongst the three cities. You also established single city events like Superposition in Munich or Epiphany Dawn in Los Angeles. The numbers of those events should be an indicator for you how many people you can expect for an anomaly. For example, Munich had roughly 1300 - 1600 customers on ground from both factions. This means for future events, you should consider cities that can provide enough portals to play with. Imagine that all those customers that attended Munich are going to attend the event in Rotenburg where there are roughly 190 portals in the playable area.
Now, having a good understanding of expected customer numbers influence portal requirements for a city, let's look at Accommodation. The city that you pick for the event should have enough hotels, hostels, B&Bs, Airbnb, etc. to make it possible for the players to stay overnight in the city. Meaning, a city that only has one hotel with 40 rooms might not be a good pick for an event in some areas where a big attendance from your customers is expected.
Also needed for your customers, in most areas, is good public transport. Customers will fly by plane, travel on trains or drive by car to reach the anomaly city. If one of those things is not close by it may not be that big of a problem, but most of the time you need to have some reliable public transport for customers to visit those cities. Especially if you want customers to travel environment friendly, as this is a really important reason for some folks to be limited in their travel arrangements.
Another essential factor for your game is that the servers are stable during the event and that the data network is not overloaded. We already saw it makes a huge difference at events in the past. Sometimes your servers struggle with the amount of data that is produced during such an event. But we also know, especially from the Pokemon Go Events, that the data network can be overloaded if a lot of customers are playing at the same time, regardless of it being in a large or small city. This means your chosen city should have a stable network situation because nothing can be more frustrating than extended lag during gameplay or getting stuck in a login-loop because the network and servers are having a hard time keeping up the data requests. Your customers won’t be happy as Ingress in these situations is a highly competitive game and if people can not log into the game during an event, no matter if it's your servers or the data network that is having a difficult time, it won't be a pleasant event for them, and they might not come back to another one. Especially since there are customers who never had the chance to go to an anomaly before because of the global situation.
Does every city for the new series have all of those things?
Some of the cities that got picked check most of these boxes when it comes to transportation, accommodation, and safety. But some cities are just big surprises. After looking into all the sites on intel, it seems to be that at least ⅓ of those cities are mostly abandoned from Ingress. 9 cities have more neutral and/or red faction portals than actively played portals. Some cities have only a handful of active customers from both factions. And now those customers have the responsibility to be Points of Contact for the rest of your customers to ask questions to. Some cities have to ask customers from surrounding areas to be the Point of Contact because there is no active playing community in the city at all. Sometimes cities are abandoned because of the amount of spoofers and bots in their area. (But this is a whole different issue)
Some sites are just weird and not logical at all. For example, Rotenburg an der Fulda. We are looking at a city in the middle of Germany, one of the bigger Ingress communities in the world. Historically sites in Germany have had around 400 - 3000 customers on site. The last Anomaly in Germany was Superposition Munich which had roughly 1300 - 1600 customers attending the anomaly in Munich. Even if only ⅓ of this number of customers show up for an event in Rotenburg, we are still talking about 400 - 500 customers in a city that has, in its center, a maximum of 190 portals. This means that the ratio of customers to portals will be between 0.3 portals per customer. Now, I know you are going to say “we can deploy virtual portals to increase the ratio”, which could be a smart idea, but it doesn’t make the area where people can play bigger; so there will be more portals on a smaller playfield than your servers can handle. Let’s do some quick math on what the servers will have to handle. When one L8 XMP goes from hitting 1-10 portals at once in an area to hitting 30 - 50 at once in the same smaller area, times 400 - 500 customers, times 8 Resonators per Portal, times 4 Mods per Portals. I leave the math to you on how many comm messages this will generate.
But not only is this an odd pick because of the possible playbox, even the point of public transport is something you should have looked into. Rotenburg has a train station, but only for local trains. From a bigger city like Kassel, it's an hour with the train to get there. There is also no direct highway connection in Rotenburg. Parking is limited. Accommodation is limited. And the active community from both factions has 3 customers. And now you are expecting those 3 people to help you organize an event when most of your customers have already recognized that this is beyond an odd decision.
The reasoning for the pick: some of these cities signed up for a Kythera or Kureze Event is a big downplay on the amount of work that is going into hosting an anomaly. The Kythera and Kureze Events happened under different circumstances than what we have now in 2023. During the time registration for these events happened, people didn’t or couldn’t travel a lot. And therefore there was not the need to travel since the badge could be gained with local activity too, so those sites were smaller than normal anomaly events. And also those events happened in way more cities at the same time as what is planned now. If you really want to use entries from these registrations as an anomaly site, you should have checked before with the submitting customer if they are willing to help to hold such an event in their city/town/village.
The choice of Colombo, Sri Lanka was poorly considered given the current events in the nation. The choice of Izmir, Turkey may need to be revisited in light of the recent earthquakes hitting the country. While the city itself was spared, there may be logistical and other issues arising with the current crisis.
The overall conclusion is: Not every city that you picked for these series fully fulfills all the needs that were named before. Sometimes it's not a dealbreaker, but sometimes you should think about if the decision to choose the city is the right one.
What to do better in the future?
- Check the cities before you announce a site there. It's easy to do.
- Check your data of the last month if and how many customers played there.
- Check the accommodation situation etc.
- Do your research. It's not hard to google cities to find out if they are a good candidate for an anomaly.
Also make an application form for sites and work yourself through this list and make sure that valid accounts submitted the form and that the city checks multiple boxes of the previous stated standards.
i can just 100% sign this.
and i invite any Niantic employee to join us onground in Rotenburg.
Also please just talk to the local players that apply beforehand so you have multiple options to choose from and then make informed decisions before you decide.
Because after announcing a site there is no real going back anymore. People will book accomondation the moment the announcement is made so changing locations would mean all those people would need to cancel their reservations and may have to pay cancelation fees,
So please before choosing a site check if the city is actually applicable for the kind of event you want to run and the expected number of players that will show up to such an event.
Also a very easy metric would be: Are YOU willing to travel to that city and organize an event there with: Pre Reg, Registration, Afterparty, Missionday, GoRUCK. If the answer is no the site is probably not really a good choice for an anomaly site.
You spelled "customer" wrong :P
As always, you are very insightful in your letters. I always apprechiate that you take into consideration the entier player base when it comes to what you do and what you have to say. Thank you for doing what you do for the larger community as a whole.
100% agree with the sentiments.
During the time registration for these events happened, people didn’t or couldn’t travel a lot.
and that's why battle beacon only "anomalies" happened for Kureze and Kythera
Munich was a special case because it was supposed to be a site for Requiem back in 2020. It's safe to say it became a test for a return to physical anomalies.
To be honest, it really has been a trial by fire for locations even when Google was heading the efforts. (locations did depend if there was a Google Headquarters present) The research and methodology you have presented are what the POCs did in the weeks leading up to the event.
I do 💯% support this post.
This. So much this!
I mean, I've been saying it, since about 9 years now, to all the community managers for ingress that I met... Contact well known and well connected players from both factions, and either discuss ideas for sites with them or ask them for contacts in a given area, so you are not left with one player and his sock puppet from the other faction, that filled a form together... (this last statement intentionally does not differentiate factions,bad apples exist everywhere..) just... Don't throw darts at a world map, please... It's been 9 years, you really!!! Should know better.
ENL, Berlin, Germany
Thanks Claudia for this letter. I agree wholeheartedly.
Niantic made themselves a laughingstock.
The only bright side of this whole situation: I will forever fall into giggles when I'll hear "Rotenburg an der Fulda". This event will always be remembered as "the only anomaly site where we visited all portals during our stay but didn't get the unique visits". XDD
I fully support that. On the morning of the announcement, I thought it was a premature kind of April Fool's joke. As a single person, I didn't know how to deal with this information at all. On top of that, you are left completely alone by Niantic. I had had a good experience with Ingress for 7 years so far, only to see it all thrown out the window now. Pls Niantic take care of it
I am one of the three players from Rothenburg an der Fulda. I wish I had direct contact with someone from Niantic.
Initially, I was so excited to see so many anomaly sites. But then, when I looked closer and when I heard from other players, I realized what an absolute mess it is.
I know what it’s like to plan an anomaly, and mine was in a large city. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to try to do this in a small town with very few people to help and no infrastructure to support an event like this.
I can’t imagine that holding an event that ends up being a **** show would be better than not having one at all.
I really don’t understand the process through that which these were chosen. Did someone throw darts at a map? Before finalizing a list, someone would run some kind of idiot, check, no? Make sure the city is populated with agents, has transportation, infrastructure, etc.? Quite frankly, the lack of this kind of check confuses me.
The small german city makes no sense whatsoever for hosting anomaly.... i bet that one will be a huge letdown for those going there... overall a weird choice of cities for europe imo...
Totally agree with this post, At the end of 2023 after all this happened. If they don't give a forceful blow on the table Dear and beloved @NianticOfficial @NianticBrian It will be yourselves who sh0oting yourself in the foot and begin with the inevitable fall of our beloved Ingress. They have the solution in their hands. Listen to the customers, more than ever I would say that we are really trying to keep this community alive. Ignore those who ask for "innovation" and when they get something out they end up complaining as usual, Give a Priority to the Vanguard Program! They are Clients, they are Agents, They are people who, like everyone in the community, love the Game and would be more than willing to offer them a hand and not only them, any of us would be willing to help. But you turn a blind eye and deaf ears Suggestions that seem to be spoken to heaven, complaints that are carried away by the wind and words that end up being forgotten. That is the impression that you are leaving me Personally and not only me. maybe many more @NianticOfficial
My most sincere regards
I absolutely agree with the post. Rotenburg is way too small, not easily reachable. I have been at about every anomaly since I play - this will either result in agents flooding a small town and surrounding areas. In "I went to the anomaly and didn't have the chance to use a single burster". Or it will result in few people being there, leaving the people who step up for the organization out in the rain.
Also the points about Izmir (people have a different focus at the moment, than doing on-site organizing) and Colombo are not to be neglected. I know that there seems to be an intention of getting ingress into more rural areas. When one could apply for the small Mission Day format, I recall there were under ten German towns qualifying.
Dear @NianticBrian @NianticOfficial , Dear Niantic Team, I really love this game despite of the obstacles you throw into your player base's way. But please do your research.
you say Redding (USA, Pop.: 93k) wouldn't be the best place for next years Superbowl?
An issue with small towns with large influx of players is also the possibility of cell tower capacity saturation.
I 100% agree!
I'd wonder how the network operators would react to a request to install additional mobile equipment for the event. In Rotenburg? Are you sure? For thousands of people? 😂🤣
Dear @NianticBrian @NianticOfficial @NianticBlue
As a real anomaly veteran I was ROFL as I heard about Rotenburg as a place for an anomaly. There is only one Pro for me. It is 4 hours for me by car.
This is a small city with less people than my Berlin suburb village. There is no infrastructure and no player base for an anomaly.
I know, you never make faults. There should be a reason. Will this be like a second Kaltenberg event? Will you use the military training range there?
Fantasio, Res, Berlin Area
100% agree, and i like the use of "customer" as a synonym of "player", though i'm a litte concerned about what's worse: not caring about the players or not caring about the customers. And i still don't understand why @NianticOfficial still rolls the dice to decide where events take place, they should know better
How many years does Ingress has so that we still have to teach them how to do stuff (their job actually)?
Oh sorry, they KNEW how to do it, they just fired the ones that knew and loved to do...
But here we are, with forum, block chain and web3. Nice!
Niantic doesn't help itself.
It's just Calvin ball as always have been
Maybe we should try some reverse psychology with Nia. You know, suggesting wrong ideas and expect them to do the otherwise. :]
LOL. I was just Googling the Super Bowl and I found this:
New Orleans was originally set to host Super Bowl LVIII in 2024. However, due to conflicts with the Mardi Gras celebration, its turn as host was moved to 2025. The Big Easy will host Super Bowl 59 on Feb. 9, 2025.
So not just Niantic that has problems with failing to account for local events, then...
The location of the Superbowl games are chosen a few years in advance. There's actual time to prep in this case.
Have to wholeheartedly agree with this post. When I saw Rotenburg I was like: sweet, that's not far for me. Then I saw the posts appearing, questioning whether Niantic made a mistake. I can totally see why. For example, any anomaly site I have attended there were many many many hotels to look into and to pick from. Rotenburg has 3. THREE! That's it. When it's smack dab in the middle of Germany it would not be weird to receive quite a few players (or customers as @Claudija said) which just does not fit.
Especially with such a little amount of portals, there would not even be any kind of tactical play possible. It's just spread all your factions customers and see who has more on the ground. Not to mention the fact that a mission day afterwards would be ...... disappointing.
I fully have to agree with all that has been said. Some years ago I've actually been to Rotenburg and captured some portals. It is a nice little town, but completely lacking the portals, accommodation and public transport that is needed for such a large-scale event. When I had read this announcement first I had thought it was a mistake and Niantic had meant Rothenburg ob der Tauber instead (which is a famous touristical spot and a little larger than Rotenburg an der Fulda, but still probably too small).
Xmas, vanguards, why cant you discuss locations with them before release the list? Poor choice Nia... Esp that german town. No sense to me
Couple of VERY idiosyncratic North America choices as well that looked like, " what's half way between .." and that's how Charleston W. Va, and Winnipeg happen. Yay for the Canadian prairie provinces finally getting something, but Charleston W.Va over Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati?
Casual traveler would look at that weirdly. There better be a plot reason why.
Jacksonville , Atlanta, Seattle-Tacoma, and Honolulu each make sense