5 reasons Ingress is better than Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO is all the rage at the moment and everyone is cashing in. From local businesses capitalising on near-by Pokestops, to mobile battery suppliers and network providers lapping up the extra time you are spending on your phone. But what some people might not know is that Pokémon GO isn’t the first Geolocation based game by the developers, Niantic Inc. In fact it’s not even their second, but third GPS game. Their second was Ingress, and it formed the foundations on which Pokémon GO stands.
Ingress was a game I played and loved when it first came out. In the beginning it was an exclusive club, you had to be invited to play on your Android device when it first came out back in November 2012. By October 2013 however, it was open to all and finally also came to iOS devices the following summer. I believe that Ingress is still a better game than Pokémon GO, and I’m not talking about because of server issues, as Ingress had them too at the beginning. I’m not even talking about people wandering into gardens or out in front of traffic, as that also happened with Ingress. Here are my five reasons why Ingress is better than Pokémon GO.
Pokémon GO was built on Ingress
This doesn’t necessarily make Ingress better, and the whole point of developing another product is to make it better than the previous one, but the fact is that without Ingress, Pokémon GO would not exist. Niantic Inc. were formed as an internal startup at Google and as such had all the access they needed to make a GPS real world map based game. In Ingress you walk around the real world in search of Portals to hack and take control of. Sound familiar? The trick was that all the “Portals” in the game were user submitted. A few criteria were set, but users were encouraged to take a photo of any sort of landmark, provide a name, description and location, before submitting it for vetting from Niantic. A few days/weeks later you could find your Portal in the game as part of the map.
So consider that Ingress has been around for about three and a half years. That means there a lot of Portals out there, all over the globe. The perfect platform to then build a brand new experience on top of. Slap a well-known brand and a theme that fits on top of that and you have a winner. While the lore of Pokémon is already written, and familiar to many of its players, the story behind Ingress is one that has evolved over the past three years, details of a conspiracy unfolding depending on how the global meta game is going.
Everything you do in Ingress has a Global effect
And that takes us to my main reason for saying Ingress is better than Pokémon GO. Everything you do in Ingress has a potentially Global effect in the game. There are two factions in Ingress, Enlightened and Resistance, each battling for control over every portal. You can link portals together when they are in control of your team, and linking three together in a triangle creates a “field”. These fields are worth a certain number of MU (Mind Units) depending on how big they are. There is both a regional and a global scoreboard for MU, so even creating a tiny field is adding to your factions overall score board.
Sure in Pokémon GO people are fighting over control of the gyms, but there is no grand scoreboard for which team has most control on a global scale.
There’s much more to do in Ingress
Remember the Portals we talked about above, and how Ingress users were welcomed to submit their own suggestions for new locations? Well there are a lot of Portals in Ingress. Taking our home town of Glasgow as an example, in the centre of the City we have a plaza called George Square. It’s about two blocks long and one block wide and in that space alone there are seventeen portals. So all over the world there are a not even imaginable number of Portals (one site suggests near the 5 million mark).
So how many of them are used as Pokémon GO Pokestops/Gyms? A very small percentage. Take the same area in Glasgow and there are only six of the seventeen used (five Stops and one Gym).
And what about the Gyms? If your local gym is blocked out by high level Pokémon, far above the reach of your own, what are you going to do about it? Nothing. Your best bet is to move on, or wait for someone else to take it down for you and battle it out over some lower level stuff. That doesn’t happen in Ingress. Even if you are a complete newbie you can walk up to a high level portal and hack it to get some goodies out of it. You still won’t be able to bring it down, but at least you can get something out of being there.
Because Ingress was created when Niantic were still part of Google, large communities of players were gathering in Google+ groups, usually on a per region/per faction level. This resulted in game events being organised on a regular basis, with groups of players organising a mass mission against the other faction and going for a walkabout over the weekend. We’ve already seen the same kind of thing appearing with the first ever Glasgow Pokémon Pub crawl, but it doesn’t have the same effect on the game. Here in Glasgow we also negotiated a pact between the two factions that the George Sq area was to be kept to a low level, to help new players to train in the area. If any player from either side broke the pact, a high level player from the other side would come in a reset the area again. But with only a single gym in the area to fight over in Pokémon GO, we would never see the same sort of co-operation between players.
The Ingress map is cooler than the Pokémon GO map
And it’s not just the map, but everything about the UI and the style is more appealing, to me at least. For example, you can select a Portal on the map and “target” it. When you do you get a radar bleeping sound and a voice updating you on how far away you are from the portal and in what direction.
There is no “AR” mode in Ingress
This is the one that really gets me. As developer who has worked with Augmented Reality for the past four years it is great to be finally hearing the words “Augmented Reality” (or AR) hot on everyone lips. But what Pokémon GO has is not Augmented Reality. OK, in the literal sense of Augmented Reality you could argue that Niantic are Augmenting Pokémon over the real world, but in truth it is just a live camera feed with gyro control over where the Pokémon is on-screen. Now if the Pokémon got closer/further away when you moved towards/away from it then yes, THAT would be Augmented Reality. True Augmented Reality works best when the content is actually fixed to something physical, such as an image or an object in the real world. For a good use of Augmented Reality go and have a look at Quiver (formally “colAR”) or Craolya Colour Alive.
Despite what most people say, Ingress isn’t an Augmented Reality app at all. Those who have that impression may have gotten it from the games trailer below, but the fact is there is no Augmented Reality element to Ingress, so can we all stop calling it an Augmented Reality game now? Thank you.