The systemic issue with hyper-durable portals and historical key duplication

HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

Over on the Wayfarer forum there's a discussion about a durable portal that I'm pretty sure is not technically a candidate for removal but it (and others like it) break the game in some kinda bad ways. I wrote a fairly long explanation for the PoGo players about how this works and why people wanted that portal gone and added this to the end:

To some extent I believe this is a flaw in the Ingress game design. Strategic and tactical portals have always been a key component of the game for those who play it in that way, but one of the limitations on them was that you had to physically go to the portal to hack keys. This meant that gaining keys to strategic portals required significant effort and thus they were used rarely and with careful planning.

Some years ago Ingress introduced a type of capsule that you could put keys (and other gear) in and items would duplicate. The chance of a duplication was random but was on the order of 1% per day. This allowed people to put high-value strategic keys into capsules and over time make more of them... exponentially more. For example: I was once gifted a souvenir key to a portal in Antarctica, just one. I put it into an interest-bearing capsule and let it cook and ended up with dozens... I gifted a key to a few friends so they could also have a cool souvenir and those people did the same thing and also ended up with dozens.

So imagine you somehow managed to get to the Moloka'i lighthouse and capture it for your team. You would farm as many keys as you possibly could while you were there, but unless you had a lot of time to spend there you could probably get a maximum of 50-100 keys. That's not a lot, and you would use them judiciously. Enter capsules that allow duplication. Assuming I've done the math right and that the interest rate was actually 1% (it was close to that but I'm not sure of the exact number) a year later you would have roughly 1900 keys... which means you could use them quite liberally. Two years later you would have over 71K keys. Even if you started with a more modest ten keys you'd expect ~375 after one year and over 14K after two years. One person can only hold 2000-3100 items, but that's OK... spread the keys out among a couple hundred players and the team still winds up with that many keys only they're geographically distributed for easy sharing and use.

Niantic recently removed the ability to duplicate items but for longstanding high-durability portals the damage is already done and will probably persist through the time that Ingress sunsets.

This combines with Niantic's rule that safe pedestrian access means that someone has to be able to access the portal and you get into situations where it's nearly impossible for anyone to ever access a portal and it becomes a permanent, untouchable asset for one team and that team now has nearly infinite resources to use it as often as they want. I've certainly gone to some extremes to access difficult portals and my teammates have as well. At some point difficult crosses over into impossible (at a practical level, at least) and Niantic doesn't handle this case very well. It's a thorny problem to be sure.

I understand why Niantic removed key duplication, and I'm fully behind them on that decision. Unfortunately that doesn't really help the current problems because of a combination of two factors: the massive number of keys to strategic durable portals that were acquired through duplication, and the fact that some of these portals have effectively become inaccessible over the years. Niantic has always said something to the effect of a portal is considered to have safe pedestrian access if someone can access it, and that it doesn't have to be accessible to everyone. I understand where that rule comes from but the years have really shown why it's problematic.

Imagine a location that, say, ten people in the world are allowed to access. One time, five years ago, they had a special limited tour and someone managed to light up the portal there and farm a couple dozen keys. Since that time the facility has had a budget cutback and now the only people who can get there are two researchers and a caretaker and they're all in the witness protection program so you have no way of figuring out who they are. However, that one agent who farmed a few keys well and truly understood the lessons about compound interest that they got in math class. Now the team has 3000 keys to a portal that no Ingress agent has been able to get to for years.

Is the game any less broken now that those 3000 keys can't turn into 5000? No, I don't think so. Even if the team used one key every day it would still take eight years to exhaust their supply of keys. I'm fairly certain that Niantic's goal was to have a competitive but sometimes-challenging playfield, but not one in which one team can lock up an asset for years and use it with impunity because they will never run out of keys. That's just not a good game mechanic.

What's the solution? I don't know. Maybe Niantic needs a better definition of pedestrian access, one that doesn't permit portals that are technically accessible to a handful of people but in practice are inaccessible... though I don't know how to define that in a workable way. Maybe they need a different game mechanic about long, longstanding links. I don't really have any answers. I hope that @NianticBrian and the team are thinking about this.



  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭

    Maybe they need a different game mechanic about long, longstanding links. I don't really have any answers. I hope that @NianticBrian and the team are thinking about this.


  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    For those who disagree, I'd really like to understand why.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @joecain I'm not sure what I'm suggesting other than finding some way out of the problem that comes from having portals that for all practical purposes are 100% inaccessible and have an unlimited supply of keys. In retrospect we've learned that key duplication for durable portals was a terrible horrible very bad no good idea but now we're stuck with the outcome.

  • VenomousToadVenomousToad ✭✭✭✭✭

    It really comes down to how to determine what level of accessibility should be no longer allowed. A portal accessed only by a small number of people and none of them actually play the game seems plausible. But who will vouch for that and I'm already seeing ways people will use that mechanic to eliminate many portals just by lying. Portals on military grounds should be easy to determine and remove because it should be fairly simple to determine where military grounds are. But random lighthouses with no access, who determines that? Businesses with portals on private grounds with no players, who determines that? How would someone report restricted access areas with portals without lying just to get them removed? There's just no way to do this without bad actors ruining it for everyone. And bad actors will abuse it. Because of that it just can't be done fairly. Military portals should be super simple to report, prove and remove but Niantic still will not do it. No reason to think a lighthouse will get removed.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @tp235 Destroy them constantly is an interesting theory but it's typical for links to also be from highly-durable portals that can be expensive to get to even when they're accessible. That eventually devolves into a game of wallet chicken with both factions chartering boats and helicopters and burning through satphone data. That doesn't seem like a good game mechanic either.

    @VenomousToad You're absolutely right... it's a thorny problem. I've noodled on this a fair bit discarded most of my ideas pretty quickly. One of my early ones was that any portal that hasn't been hacked (not via drone) in N months becomes unlinkable, but then I applied my own test to that one... "How would a bad actor evade that restriction?" The answer to that one is too easy, unfortunately. One idea I'm toying with right now is that a portal has to have public access at least once every six months or something like that but that is a) hard to manage, and b) has some unpleasant side effects. I don't really have a good solution

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭

    @tp235 made an excellent point.

    Instead of crying to niantic to make the game easy for you, go out and destroy the other end of the link.

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭

    It's time to move 👌😉

  • NysyrNysyr ✭✭✭✭
    edited April 13

    If you take away this kind of durable then you leave the team with restricted-access ones at much greater advantage as those can be farmed repeatedly for gear

    Think of gitmo for example, agent there can farm endless keys to distribute, hard blockers res would use to contain that cant be visited near as often and keys would be whittled down

    I feel like the board states going to quickly deteriorate to restricted access durables staffed by an agent

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Nysyr I'm not suggesting taking away hard-to-access durables. I'm saying that having durables that neither faction has realistically been able to access for years is problematic.

  • MinusFiveMinusFive ✭✭✭

    Perhaps a stipulation that allows a Wayspot to be retired if there’s no general public access for over a year would help. That Wayspot removal might be appealed in the forums citing the stipulation. Then if and when the Wayspot site becomes available to the general public again then the Wayspot can be requested to be restored.

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭

    "General public access"?

    Gitmo does not have general public access. Can we bin that one?

  • SSSputnikSSSputnik ✭✭✭✭✭

    The main issue, as with all "inaccessible" portals, is proving that it's inaccessible.

    I also agree with the sentiment, that removing some strategic blockers will favor other strategic sites that have agents onsite / limited but faction restricted.

    BGAN data is a bygone thing with the advent of Starlink, its MUCH cheaper and faster.

    Very few sites are truly inaccessible, (get a helicopter etc). The main one's military sites - we have one military one near our airport. As such, it's a no fly area, so no helicopter option and no access. (Which is why a blanket ban on military one's is desirable).

    The main way to fight this, **** links other ends, put blockers in, move.

    Ingress has always been a "Who will drive/fly the furthest to win" type game.

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭
  • MinusFiveMinusFive ✭✭✭

    I must admit I have not researched Gitmo but I am guessing they are not issuing day passes to the general public. If that’s the case in my opinion Waypoints there should be retired from Ingress. Some folks might say the staff in these types of locations may want to play Pokemon Go. Maybe the Wayspots are flagged in Lightship and retired in Ingress. However, maybe the other games decide how they want to handle the tag. Perhaps Pokemon Go decides that having Pokestops in Gitmo isn’t an issue to their gameplay. Recently NBA All-world was able to create custom Wayspot rules. NBA All-world included K-12 locations that are prohibited in the other games.

  • Returning to old ideas:

    An expensive but viable way to cut long links (over a certain length, like over 10kms) allowing you to build your own blockers to avoid the link being rebuilt. These should be either Boost items, or very very rare, so that they aren't a constant unbalancing effect.

  • joecainjoecain ✭✭✭✭✭

    So a cross link mod? Didn't agents get upset that red portals were cross linking?

  • Not cross linking. Destroying long links so you can make your own, rare enough that people only use it for links off durable portals.

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