Games

Games

Inside XM Truth

No, that is not a cable news style podcast about the augmented reality game, Ingress, although it could be. It is one of the many ‘glyph hack’ phrases I’ve come to recognize playing Ingress. In the game, you hack portals to get gear for playing the game. They added a new feature several months ago called glyph hacking. If you repeat a pattern on your phone successfully, you get extra gear, and if you do it perfectly, you get glyph hack points. You get more points for more complicated patterns from more powerful portals.

Then, you get badges for depending on the number of points. The highest glyph hacking badge, onyx (or black) requires 50,000 points. I’ve gotten pretty good at glyph hacking and yoday, I got that badge. However, at the level I’m at, other badges become further and further apart.

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Random Ingress Thoughts

This evening, I’m going heading off to an Ingress event. Ingress is an augmented reality game played on smartphones that I’ve been playing and writing about for quite a while. I haven’t written much about it recently because there hasn’t been much to say. I still play regularly and meet with friends I’ve met through Ingress.

There are things I could say about my strategy, but Ingress is a team sport, and I don’t want to advertise my strategy to people on the other team that might take advantage of knowing how I approach playing. I could talk about various milestones. I’m level 15 out of 16 levels. I’ve walked over 1800 kilometers playing the game. People who play Ingress mostly know this already and it probably doesn’t mean much to those that don’t play Ingress.

One of the things I was very interested in, when I started playing, was the story line of the game, but I never got as caught up in the story as I thought I would. I’ve also mostly chosen to simply play and not get involved in some of the drama. There is a lot of drama between players in the game.

It raises some interesting questions about how you manage the community around a multi-player game. I touch on this in a post on an Ingress related forum the other day, but haven’t really thought out the details. This is probably an area well worth the research, and I wonder if any of my old Internet Research friends are starting to do studies on Ingress.

Ingress Stats

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog post about the augmented reality game, Ingress. If you’re not an Ingress player, you may want to skip this post.

I am approaching 100,000,000 XM Recharged and it made me stop and figure. For each 1000 XM recharged, you get ten AP. If the resonators are close to fully charged, you might be able to get ten AP for less recharging than 1000 XM, but to keep things simple, it works out to be 1 AP for every 100 XM recharged. So, 100,000,000 XM Recharged would be a million AP. So, when I get to 120,000,000 XM recharged, I will have recharged enough to make it to Level 8 on just recharging.

This got me thinking, what is the mix of AP that I’ve received? With 125 AP for each resonator deployed, I’m around 7.4 million AP just for deploying resonators. With 500 AP for each portal captured, I’m at about 3.8 million AP for portal captures. I’m at about 2.6 million for resonators destroy and another 2.6 million for fields created.

I find the numbers fairly well reflect my style of play. I’m more of a builder than a destroyer, but when I destroy enemy portals, it is often to take out fields. While I have done a lot of recharging, it remains one of my lesser methods of gaining AP.

The other set of statistics I look at is when I’m likely to get my next badges. Some badges are so far out on the horizon that I doubt I’ll ever get them. For example, at my current rate of play, I’m unlikely to get my next mind controller badge for another 13 years. My next Connector badge is just under 10 years away. But, there are between five and seven badges that I could get within the next year.

All of this is based on the game remaining the same as it is right now, and my level of activity, likewise, remaining the same. However, I expect that we will see more changes over the next year, and my level of play will ebb and flow.

So, how are your Ingress Stats?

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Players Who Suit Ingress

In 1996, Richard Bartle wrote and article, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs in which he explored four basic player types in text based virtual reality games called MUDs or Multi-User Dungeons. He summarizes these types as follows:

So, labelling the four player types abstracted, we get: achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them).

He uses this to explore ideas like game stability and player interactions and recently, I've been wondering how this relates to the Augmented Reality game, Ingress.

In Ingress, players interact with one another, destroying opponents portals, fortifying portals that other faction members have captured, recharging portals, exchanging gear, etc. There is an achievement aspect in terms of what level one is and how much gear one as accumulated.

I suspect that the player styles may change as people level up as well as when an area gets more players of one faction or another, and that each player has a little bit of each style.

For example, I probably started off primarily as an achiever, seeking treasure and trying to level up. Once I reached Level 8 in Ingress, which is currently the highest level possible, my focus on seeking treasure has diminished, but I still seek a basic amount of treasure. Now that I'm Level 8, I tend to move more towards being an explorer or a socializer. I like exploring new areas and I like interacting with players.

I've met some players who fit very nicely in the into the socializer category, always dropping inventory for new players and helping them get started. I've ran into players who remain very focusing on achievement, trying to build up Level 8 farms, and gather as much gear as they can from them. I've run into others that focus mostly on tearing down other people's farms.

Another component of Ingress is establishing links and fields. With this there are several different styles, that I haven't really figured out how they best fit to Bartle's model. Some people rarely link, or create links to support a farm. Others create long wild links, which make it difficult for others to link but don't serve any other apparent purposes. These links are used to establish fields. Some people establish large fields, mostly as an achievement, which the killers take down as soon as possible. Others create lots of small fields, overlapping as much as possible.

Bartle spends a bit of time talking about interactions between different styles of players and it is useful to read through the section, think about what sort of player you are, what sort of players are around you in your faction, and what sort of players are in the opposing faction. It may provide insights that can make the game more fun for players, no matter what style they adopt.

So, do you play Ingress? What style of player are you? What style of players are around you in your faction? What style of players dominate the opposing faction? How do these insights change the way you approach the game? Or, do you think Bartle's ideas don't translate to Ingress? Is there something that better explains player interactions? Let me know your thoughts.

Ok, Glass… Hack Portal … Geek Cred Restored, Good Work

Ok, Glass…

This box is 100% paper. So use it to write a letter to your Grandma. Or at least, please, recycle it. All of it.

That's what it says on the side of the box my Google Glass came in. Perhaps it says something about the demographic Google is targeting for their Explorer program.

Google Glass is a pair of glasses you can wear with a little screen above your line of site you can use to communicate online. It connects with your cellphone, with BlueTooth and Wifi. It has a camera you can take pictures with and a speaker you can listen to things with. It takes voice commands and you can send additional commands by touching the side of the Google Glass.

The Explorer program is for about 8,000 people that responded on social media; Twitter or Google+ about what they would do with Google Glass. Back in February, I tweeted,

#ifihadglass I'd look to improve #healthequity using augmented reality for Public Health and #fqhc

They liked the quote and invited me to join the Glass Explorer program. I told people at work and they were very excited. They kept asking me when I would get Google Glass. I waited and waited. Finally, on June 5th, I got a message from Google:

Your Glass is now ready! Please purchase within 14 days. Follow this link to pay and schedule your pickup:

Yesterday, I joined two of my coworkers in New York to pick up Google Glass.

Hack Portal
I caught the train from Milford, CT. Before I got on the train, I stopped to capture some enemy portals in the game, Ingress. Ingress is an augmented reality game for cellphones developed by a NianticLabs at Google. As you walk around an area, you see an overlay of game pieces on you cellphone. There are portals which are controlled by two different teams, the resistance, sometimes called Smurfs, since their color is blue, and the enlightened, sometimes called frogs since their color is green. If you destroy an enemy portal and capture it for your team, you gain points. Your level in the game is based on the number of points you've accumulated. I was about 90,000 points away from reaching Level 8, the highest level currently possible in the game. I gained about 30,000 points in Milford waiting for the train.

There are many Ingress portals in New York City, and everyone said I should easily be able to gain the remaining 60,000 points there. Yet I didn't have a lot of time. Along the way, I captured a few portals and then visited my brother, who was already Level 8. He gave me some items for the game that would help me reach Level 8.

I met with my co-workers and we discussed how we would use Google Glass in health care. This is a discussion just getting going. We sat down for my Google Glass fitting. My account was set up for Google Glass, connecting it with features on my cellphone. We tested out various features and details about Glass were explained. It was all very exciting.

To activate Google glass, you tap the side of the glass, or glance upwards. Then, to send a command, you start with, "Ok, Glass…" You then tell Glass the command you want. Take a picture. Record a video. You can also send messages, call people, look things up in Google, get directions, and join a Google Hangout. There was not an option to "Hack Portal".

On my way to the train station, I captured a few more portals. Down to 30,000 points needed to achieve Level 8. I could have easily reached level 8 if my battery hadn't died on my cellphone. It appears as if the battery also died on my Google Glass. On the train, I plugged both of the devices in to recharge and had a good discussion with people sitting next to me on the train about Google Glass.

With Glass partly charged, I tried to power it up, but I get a blank screen. I'll get back to that later.

I arrived in Milford and found that all the portals I had captured in the morning had been recaptured by the opposing team during the day. This was actually fortunate for me. My phone was now about half recharged, and there were plenty of portals to try and recapture. Using some of the items my brother gave me, I quickly gained the remaining 30,000 points and reached Level 8, even though members of the opposing team appears to be actively trying to stop me from capturing their portals.

Geek Cred Restored

The past year has been a challenge for me. I ran for State Representative. I often tell people that I didn't get elected, but I won. I won by talking with people about issues like education and health care, about the failures of test based education and about the inequities in our health care system. I did my fellowship in the Connecticut Health Foundation's Health Leadership Fellows Program. I mourned the death of my mother, and through all of it tried go be a good husband, father, and employee.

At the same time, I have been trying to spend more time writing, improving my craft. Yet with all of this, I've spent less time on more geeky pursuits. My old linux based Nokia N900 cellphone is on its last legs. I played a little bit with Raspberry Pi, but not a lot more.

When you capture a portal in Ingress, the game voice says, "Portal Captured, Good Work". Even though can't hack a portal with Glass, the combination of getting Google Glass and reaching Level 8 in Ingress, perhaps, restores a little geek cred.

"Good Work."
My mother was born in 1931. The youngest of seven children. Her mother was born in 1897, 116 years ago. I was the next to the youngest of my siblings, so my grandmother was 62 when I was born. My father's mother had died of cancer before I was born, so I never got to meet her.

My earliest memories of my grandmother are from when she and her husband lived in a small house in central Massachusetts. She would have been in her late sixties or early seventies. My grandfather would have been in the living room, watching a ball game on a small old black and white TV. He would offer us candies. My grandmother would be in the kitchen with her daughters, preparing the food for the family gathering. I would be running around with my siblings and cousins. With the exception of my younger sister, everyone would be older, perhaps much older.

My mother's mother died on flag day, June 14th, 1977. Yesterday was flag day, the thirty sixth anniversary of my grandmother's death. She died before cellphones, the internet or digital photography became ubiquitous. So, I won't be writing a letter to her on the box that my Google Glass came in. All of this is from a much different world. Yet what remains the same is the importance of being connected with one another, through pictures and videos shared via Google Glass, through getting together with people who have a shared interest in a game, whether it be golf, tennis, or Ingress.

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