I Tried Ingress

There’s a game on the Play Store called Ingress. It’s an augmented reality game that allows you to pick a faction and play a very large game of Capture All The Flags. There are portals all over the place and it’s your job to help your team control all of them. The more in your team’s colours, the more territory they control and the better.

It’s interesting in how it does require you to actually physically move to locations in order to perform actions. You are supposed to go and capture portals at physical locations that are set around some kind of landmark1 and once you’re there, you can actually act upon it.2 I can see it as a neat way to explore a new city.

I wish they’d done more with the narrative, though. There’s an intro telling you that the two factions are trying to control the portals because of Exotic Matter and Shapers and you can either be Enlightened or Resistance3. Green or blue. They really didn’t do much with the narrative from what I could tell, given that after that intro I had one other media file after a week of playing and that was it to enforce the story. Everything else was all about the game play,4 which left me a little disappointed because that felt like a lot of wasted potential.

But that wasn’t my ultimate issue with Ingress.

The real problem I had with it5 is that it completely drains my battery. It is, by far, the heaviest app I have ever had on my phone. With it requiring that your screen be on the whole time and it using data to constantly update your location, it just sucked the life out of my phone. I played mostly on my way to work in the morning and in the hour it took from stepping out the front door to sitting down at my desk in the office, I went from 100% to 18%. That was an hour.

It’s okay as a game. I probably would have continued it casually if it wasn’t such a drain, but when I’m out and in places where I would play it,6 I usually need my phone as, well, a phone. I can’t have it die on me because just one app.

  1. No matter how minor the landmark []
  2. My phone kept jumping me to random spots so I didn’t actually have to go to a lot of them to do anything []
  3. I was Enlightened []
  4. Why not make the fact that you’re on a phone part of the game play? Introduce the paranoia element of the enemy being everywhere and set it in the real world to make the experience more immersive? []
  5. And why I’ve uninstalled it []
  6. Waiting for something, killing time until the next thing I have to do, generally on transit []

Star Wars Augmented Reality Game

Has anyone else seen this? Because it’s damn cool.

To promote their product, TomTom seems to have only started by harnessing the Star Wars fanbase with their commercials, which feature such amazing things as Darth Vader trying to say “Round about” and force choking the hell out of anyone who dares tell him he’s doing it wrong.

But it doesn’t stop there. On top of that, they’ve created an interesting game to go with their contest to win a free one, all based around Star Wars which tests your ability with the force. If you have a webcam, I recommend at least checking it out because it’s incredible.

And, to make this somewhat credible and not just gushing over an advertising campaign, a little explanation on augmented reality.

Augmented reality is when you have to do something in the real world to affect the game world. I have a little experience doing this but, that was an art installation and not quite as accessible as this one is. It can involve things like an augmented reality tattoo or just physically moving in front of a camera and interacting with the system in the physical world without using a controller.

And, it seems, that these are better pulled off by advertising companies as small gimmicks than game companies who try to do whole games based around them.

Although I do wonder if you could implement some of these games into an alternate reality game in the future. It would certainly make the experience a little more immersive … but I’m getting carried away and this is a much longer post for another day.

The feasibility of it is pretty dependant on funding, so they aren’t quite so common right now, though there are more coming out of the woodworks. Yoda and Vader yelling at you for failing the Force test certainly isn’t the first example of it, but it’s certainly the coolest that I’ve personally come across.