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

Comments

This is BS. Maybe it is a "good thing" from the POV of an L8/L7 player, but from my POV as an L1 player who plays for more than one week after reading this I consider dumping Ingress altogether. "Slow rate of leveling" means I now have no chance of reaching higher levels within reasonable time - this is very demotivating. Below L5 you can't practically do anything - portals around here are at least L5, I can maybe get some equipment out of them but that is all - attacking them with my L1 XMP doesn't make a difference, recharging doesn't give much points. My only way to higher levels - or in other words real game play - was through setting up links and fields, but now it was taken away. A very stupid move.

Emin, I didn't write the article above, but the increased rarity of portal keys has the potential of causing control fields to decay because there are less portal keys for users to remotely recharge. Hence giving you more of a chance of being able to capture decayed portals. You get far more AP from capturing and completing a portal than you do from creating a portal link.

-lunger

Lunger, the article is interesting, but having spoken with many players about this issue, I think it represents a viewpoint that is not widely shared. I suggest you find someone to write a counterpoint article so that all sides are represented on this site. I agree with Emin - this change is bad for all players, but especially bad for those just starting out. I was at level 7 when the change went into effect and was able to change my playing style to more destruction of enemy portals to continue gaining AP and reach level 8. Lower level players generally don't have this choice. You say that there will be more decaying portals, but higher level players like myself have adapted to the key change - I am now not linking unless I get multiple keys and am ensuring that I keep at least one key for every portal in my area to remotely recharge. Lower level players are the ones whose portals will decay because they cannot depend on the AP from attacking portals, so they will use their keys to create links even when they don't have a backup key. I also disagree with you regarding how linking contributes to AP growth. With less ability to create links and fields, new players' ability to gain AP is significantly reduced. Take the example of a player that discovers 5 portals in an area, three of which are friendly but unlinked, and two of which are unclaimed. Before, they could build up the two unclaimed portals for 3500AP, and then create 7 links and 3 fields for an additional 5941AP. Now they can get the 3500 but will be lucky to make one or two links. Granted, this is one scenario in an extremely complex game that is dramatically different in areas that have many portals vs. areas with few, but I think in most situations this change slows the game down to the point where it's much less fun for many players.