Change is not often received well. When change is made without explanation from the powers that be, it can be misunderstood and hated. Niantic Labs recently changed the game mechanics in Ingress regarding portal keys. Many of the beta players are frustrated with this change.
It is helpful to look at some of the reasons that this change was made. Many players believe that the original intent of the key acquisition logic was flawed. In the original implementation a player could not acquire a second portal key for the same portal simply from normal hacking. Two methods could be used to obtain multiple keys, the first multi-hacking, was clearly cheating. The second method, whereby a player would drop his existing key, hack for a new one and then pick the original key back up was considered by some to be cheating but by others to be a normal part of gameplay because there was a risk of losing the original key to a lurker. Many players interpreted the intent of this game mechanic was to limit the number of keys in play, forcing cooperation to create links and control fields.
So then, if this was the original intent of the game why are players up in arms. Simply put, many players got used to working on their own and were hurt by the sudden rule change. They made long drives anticipating the ability to collect keys only to be frustrated when they came back empty handed. The rules of the game changed without notice which can hurt user experience. However, this game is still in closed beta and rule changes, even unannounced ones, are part of that process.
The rarity of portal keys is actually a good thing. It forces the game to be more cooperative and slows the rate of leveling. This could potentially level the playing field.
Cooperation is built into many elements of the game. For example, as you become a higher level you must cooperate with more and more players at your level to build a portal equal to your level. By making keys rare it encourages players to cooperate to create fields and maintain portals. This also requires players to negotiate who will earn the AP from creating fields. It adds complexity to the cooperation and this makes the game more interesting and engaging. It also encourages people to get their friends involved in the game. One other aspect of cooperation will come from breaking links. Keys dropped from breaking links have become more valuable. It will be worthwhile working as teams to collect these keys.
Many players in the closed beta have leveled very quickly by creating massive groupings of fields over and over. By limiting the number of keys available the amount of AP available is also reduced. Players will also need to plan which fields the will create and defend those fields more aggressively rather than simply allow them to be destroyed in order to rebuild them.
In many areas one team dominates. They then proceed to blanket the area in fields stifling the ability of the other team’s players to create links of their own. Suddenly those areas are ripe with AP from created fields without the equivalent opportunity for earning AP from rebuilding. This gives the underdog the ability to level up relatively faster than the dominant players. It’s likely that dominant teams will continue to dominate, however the non-dominant players will not be shut out as they were before the change.
We won’t see the real impact of the change until surplus keys are used up out of player inventories and players adjust to the new strategy. These changes however should make the game more playable for everyone over the long term. It will however have a negative effect for people who want to play solo or who want to shut other players out of the game.
--This post was written by Stephen Cerruti