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Diversion and Distraction of the Ingress Kind: Tactical Portal Defense / Portal Control

 

Time for another Ingress post, maybe a book post later too.

 

This post is on the topic of portal defense / portal control in Ingress. I am talking specifically about purely tactical, within action range, portal defense / control. I happen to work right next door to a portal (OK, considering how much time I spend at work I practically live within range of the thing), and since I’ve been playing it has more or less been mine. This is not to say that the silly Frogs haven’t tried to take it away from me on occasion and that is what this post is about. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at tactical portal defense / control.

Caveat #1: I am perfectly aware that portal defense / control of this kind, however it is done, is in the end something of a waste of resources, but because of my dedication to the logistics of the game I am well prepared to expend the resources in order to achieve the psychological advantage of this sort of confrontation. If you aren’t loaded to the inventory cap with a full range of resonators, portal shields, power cubes and high level XMP bursters, this is not for you.

Ok, a little background on the situation. I live in a medium sized city and while there are active Ingress players there aren’t enough of us, green or blue, to trip over each other (the iPhone release of Ingress may change that, too early to tell). We, more or less, know who each other are and the areas we tend to play in. I specifically have two greens whose preferred play area overlaps with mine at my work portal. We are all at this point Level 8, though they started about a month after I did so until recently I was a level ahead of them and had a very slight power advantage. Their advantage is that they always play together (though their speed is pretty lacking in my opinion). My city is also situated so that out-of-town players come here to power level so I’ll get the occasional green dropping by to knock on my proverbial door. My work portal makes an inviting target for them as it is usually an anchor for multiple links and fields. Until I fight back, that is.

Tactical portal defense / control ultimately depends upon how fast you get the notification that your portal is under attack and how fast you can pull up your scanner. You first need to assess the situation. If you still have resonators on the portal you are in luck. Your first job is to make sure your portal is fully resonated with the highest level resonators you can place. Don’t start throwing low level resonators on the portal (more on that later). Once that is done turn your attention to the portal mods. Shields are the key. They are expensive in logistical terms but even a common shield will keep your resonator placements coming faster than your opponent can kill them, just make sure you keep at least one shield on at all times. Considering the cost, common shields are your best bet and two is better than one thanks to Ultra Strikes. A common shield and a force amp or turret is nice, but if you lose the shield you will lose resonators faster than you can replace them. With the shield, even in a 2 on 1 engagement (which I’ve had more than a couple of times) you can keep ahead.

At this point you have an XM advantage. Attacks from your portal are affecting your attacker and sucking away their XM. You only have this advantage because, you will notice, you haven’t tried to recharge a resonator, merely replaced them. I think recharging is a mistake for two reasons. First, it sucks away your XM. Second, your opponent is probably going to be able to reduce your resonators faster than you can charge them and speed is key in defense / control. It costs far less to place a new resonator, in XM terms, than to charge one, especially a high level resonator. If you can determine where your opponent is attacking from you should, of course, place your highest level resonators at the farthest point from them. More on physical position later.

Caveat #2: Whatever the level of your portal when you start out at the end of the contest, should you prevail, your portal will likely be reduced to the highest level portal you can field by yourself. Your fields will probably be gone. Your links will probably drop. Any that you manage to keep are bonuses in your favor, but assume they are gone, don’t chase keeping them. That is why this is portal defense / control.

So what happens if you get the notification and your portal is already gone. Hopefully it hasn’t yet been fully resonated because you need to stop it before it does. Why? Because you need to be killing resonators before your opponent deploys a shield. You have lost the defense fight already, but you may still control the portal. You are essentially now playing the other side of the previous engagement but you have the advantage of surprise and preparation. To put things in Boydian terms, you have an OODA advantage.

Caveat #3: There is a delay in your scanner between what your opponent does and what you are doing. If you are on the resonator placement side of the engagement your resonators will dissappear suddenly when, to your scanner, they look to be at full power. You have to keep in mind how many of what level resonators are deployed and switch very quickly between them. Again speed is key. On the attacking side your scanner may show few to no enemy resonators. They are probably there, you just can’t see them yet. You can recon by fire, do it, assume there are resonators and act accordingly.

So the idea on the attacking side of portal defense / control is to, obviously knock down the resonators to keep the portal from being fully resonated. Note that it isn’t as to kill resonators as fast as they appear. It is a delicate tightrope to walk, but even with logistical superiority you need to be hitting more than one resonator with each XMP. I would recommend using Level 7 bursters if 8s are harder to come by in your area, but if you have a pocket full of 8s go right ahead and use them. Usually in my battles so far the resonator destroyed notifications come in groups of 2-4 and that’s about right I think. It is tempting to try and jump back to the resonator placement side of the battle, but be careful. Because of the delay in your scanner you may waste valuable, irreplaceable, time trying to slip a resonator on the portal while your opponent (who is already placing resonators) blocks you with their own and potentially fully resonates and shields while you are poking at your phone trying to get back into attack mode. My thinking is that once they give up and go away you can resonate all you want. Keep up the pressure. In a 2 on 1 engagement, if your opponents aren’t communicating (and I don’t think mine do very well) they may be trying to place resonators over top of each other, all to your advantage.

Note: A common mistake that many players will make is that they start using lower level resonators because they feel like they are wasting their higher level gear. They are probably logistically insecure, and it is also easier to just keep throwing out Level 1 and 2 resonators than switching back and forth and keeping track of how many higher level resonators they are using. It just means they are easier to kill, so keep at them. You might be able to downgrade to Level 6 bursters though and still keep up the same pressure. It depends on how fast they are.

Position: Because of where I usually am in relation to the portal and where my opponents have typically positioned themselves (Usually in the parking lot of the building next door, sometimes positioned almost on the portal in order to use their Ultra Strikes) I have had the outer position. With Level 7+ XMP bursters and the ability to deploy resonators at greatest distance from the portal itself. The further they are from the portal, the more likely you are to need higher level bursters on the attack side of the engagement. I also have the possible advantage of playing from wi-fi though I think it is pretty negligible. Many times if you take a physical position where you can wave politely at them and give them a big shit-eating grin they will give up and go away. It also keeps them from thinking you are a spoofer which is good. I don’t do it unless I don’t know the attacker.

 

So that is my take on tactical portal defense / control. The goal is to keep the portal tuned to your faction, and more importantly hand your opponent a psychological (strategic) defeat. They might decide to leave you alone, or they might decide to come back when they know you aren’t there and take your portal anyway (Big deal, you still beat them, they know it, and you can take your portal back at your leisure. No portal is safe in this game and you get game points for taking it back). The point is to not make it easy for them and to make them expend resources they can’t afford to waste. Good luck and happy Ingressing.

Diversion and Distraction of the Gaming Kind: Ingress

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Those who know me, who have played games with me anyway, can tell you I don’t like to be restricted by a small board. For example, I dislike chess because I find the board too small and crowded. I think I may have found the game that really suits my personality, Ingress.

Ingress is an augmented reality game (really an overlay of Google maps created by Google’s Niantic Labs) that uses the real world as it’s game board and an Android smart phone as it’s interface. Nominally the point of the game is to link portals that appear at notable locations to create fields that either control (for the Enlightened/Green/ Frogs team) or protect (for the Resistance/Blue/Smurfs team) the population using/from the influence of XM, or exotic matter. Control of territory by way of insurgent warfare sounds very strategic, and it is, but the true heart of the game is logistic. To me this is the future of gaming.

Maybe I’ll find time to post about some of my Ingress adventures, if I stop playing long enough.

Classic Sci-fi / Fantasy Distraction

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When you come in to work and find boxes full if classic Sci-fi and Fantasy paperbacks sitting out, (Chalker, Hambly, LeGuin, Asimov, Harrison, Heinlein, Card, among others) don’t be surprised when the store almost doesn’t open on time.

Just sayin.

On the Bookshelf: Influx by Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez is one of those authors that in a few more years (or after one of his novels reaches the big screen) is going to be talked about as one of the top authors of contemporary science fiction. His latest book, Influx, while I wouldn’t say is his best novel (that honor in my mind goes to Daemon) it is probably his most cinematic.

The plot is based around a “what if” scenario. What if humanity was in reality far more technologically advanced than we thought we were? What if we had already perfected fusion power, created true nano tech, found the cure for cancer, created Artificial Intelligence, vastly expanded human longevity and physical and mental limitations, and made huge advances in materials science? What if the human race had all these things but they had all been hidden from us by an organization that hides them from us for our own good because the consequences of their discovery would do more harm than good?

When you put it like that it sounds noble. However, as the main character of the novel, Jon Grady, finds out it is far from anything of the sort. Jon is a thinker with a unique mind and discovers a technology that could represent one of the greatest technological shifts in human history; the Gravity Mirror, a device that can harness the most powerful force in the universe. That’s when the BTC, the Bureau of Technology Control, arrives and destroys his lab before any news of his accomplishment can spread.

You see, while the BTC may be protecting us from rampant change it has also been taking all of this revolutionary technology and hoarding it for itself, abducting those who created it and attempting to turn them to its own research agenda. Those scientists who decline their offer are imprisoned and tortured. Jon is one of these Resistors.

Influx is a roller coaster read with a wide-ranging scope and well thought out premise. A summer blockbuster waiting to happen.  I think I killed the book in about two days because it is one of those page turners that you don’t want to put down. I only have a few quibbles. 1) While most of the book has dead-on pacing the finale seemed a little rushed, but that may only mean it will translate even better to the big screen (including the epilogue that I think could have tied up some loose ends with just a few more words . 2) One of the characters is improbably able to acquire and adapt the BTC’s advanced technology and provide it at the most opportune moment. 3) One simple answer invalidates every single disaster model the BTC produces: Space Colonization. The last scene is good and I like the feeling behind it, but all I need is an orbital elevator or space launch to make me feel better.

On the Bookshelf: Bolos

Bolo Mk. XX

I haven’t, lately, been much into writing but since I have a few minutes I thought I would ramble a bit about some reading I’ve been doing lately. On a whim I picked up a paperback that has been on my bookshelf a while (an old friend already well read) and since have read through most of its series brethren. This book was Bolos Bk 1: Honor of the Regiment, a collection of short stories set in a universe created by Keith Laumer that features huge self-aware tanks known as Bolos.

It may be kind of a small thing but the very first time that I read these books the aspect that probably hooked me was the name for a Bolo’s main offensive weapon, a kind of plasma cannon that in the books measures its destructive output in megatons-per-second; the Hellbore. The picture above, a Mk XX Bolo (the first marks that were considered to be fully self-aware), features two Hellbore cannons as well as a suite of point defense and anti-personnel turrets (known as Infinite Repeaters), a bank of mortars, and magazine fed VLS missile cells behind an armored hull strong enough to resist the fire of virtually anything except for another Bolo’s Hellbore. Furthermore, this arsenal is powered by a pair of fusion reactors, and rolling on multiple, independent, track systems capable of cruising at 55mph and spiriting at 75 mph. It is a fourteen thousand ton juggernaut and later marks just get bigger, smarter, and more powerful.

Now, there is something to be said for the utility of tanks this size, especially in the current era of warfare where the tank seems to be falling by the wayside (the earliest Mk. I Bolo was essentially a late-model variant of the Abrams tank) but I always saw it in the context of where the Bolos fought, which is mostly not on Earth. No, Bolos are the human’s sword and shield on battlefields among the stars, against aliens who see us as prey, wish to take our resources, or stand in our way.

After all is said and done the very coolest thing about the Bolo universe is that most of the books are collections of short stories written by a whole host of sci-fi authors. While this does lead to a bit of confusion at times as the different authors sometimes are inconsistent in the capabilities of the Bolos themselves, it leads to many voices exploring different aspects of the universe and as a reader I love that.

Diversion and Distraction of the Amusing Kind: The Killing and Firefly

I was watching the first episode of the new season of The Killing on AMC. We meet Detective Holder’s girlfriend played by Jewel Staite (who played Kaylee on Firefly) who reveals Holder’s “Serenity” tattoo.

I had to pause my DVR. That’s just about as funny as Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) dressing up as Mal for Halloween.

By the way, though the first two seasons of The Killing seemed to drag on interminably, the third season starts a whole new case and it is looking incredibly interesting based off just the first two episodes.

The 2012 / 2013 Jericho Award

Jericho AwardFor those of you who aren’t familiar with the Jericho Award, that honor is bestowed, by me, upon the best new show of the season (starting in the summer and ending with the close of the spring finales) that was cancelled. Granted, it is kind of an ignominious award to win but, it is also intended to point out injustices and frustrations with “The Powers That Be” who decided what shows live and die even apart from their respective, and sometimes rabid if small, fan bases.

This year I even kept track of all of the new shows I started watching to make my selection process even easier! In no particular order:

Defiance on Syfy

I don’t play the game so I’m not exactly sure how it ties in but the show has… potential. I kind of like it because everything isn’t explained right away, avoiding hours of exposition for the sake of explanation. I also dislike it because we, the audience, need some exposition from time to time to figure things out. A note to the writers: a lot can be learned just by showing the audience a map, no dialog needed.

The Following on FOX

The only problem I have with this show is suspension of disbelief, otherwise it had some pretty good entertainment value. If think were it lost me most was watching Kevin Bacon personally end a cult member or two in virtually every single episode. Actually I think he did shoot somebody in every single episode.

Ripper Street on BBC America

Why did I start watching this one? I have no idea except to explain it as the curse of the DVR. So many shows, so much memory. I actually kinda liked it. I’m pretty sure it is a cleaned-up depiction of Whitechapel in that era, but the acting is good and the writing doesn’t assume the audience is stupid. Check it out on DVD if you run across it.

Revolution on NBC

You know what? I don’t like this show and yet I continue to watch it out of sheer stubborness. I haven’t even watched all the episodes and I’m pretty sure I know how the season will end (the last episode is either on my DVR or will be soon). I so wish it had hewn closer to S. M. Stiriling’s “Dies the Fire” type of world, but it didn’t, it has guns. I’ve got news, guns pretty much killed any reason to carry a sword that you actually fight with. Aside from that, the plot is so convoluted and contrived in order to put a dozen people at the heart of every single major event before and after the power went out it blows my mind. Seriously, aside from these dozen people nothing else has or will happen in this world. Everybody is just waiting for them to get near so they can actually do something.

Elementary on CBS

Far and away my favorite new show of the season. I wasn’t sold on Watson being a woman at first but I really like the juxtaposition. The writing is smart. The acting is great. Above all Holmes isn’t single-handedly solving every crime for the NYPD. My only complaint is that Moriarty was introduced way too early in the series. I could happily have watched whole seasons without bringing in the arch-nemesis. Make him go away for a few years then bring him back when you know you only have a few seasons left.

Copper on BBC America

A gritty and brutal period show. The crimes and mysteries and situation seem believable and the acting and writing is very well done. Another show to watch on DVD.

Arrow on CW

Another show I liked quite a bit. Granted, it is on the CW so there is a fair amount of “pretty people doing pretty things” but the action is good and you need a little bit of brain-candy every now and again. It also did a really good job of working in the back-story all through the season instead of dumping it in all at the beginning. Some of the acting is good, some is pretty rotten but hey, how many other live-action super hero shows have made it on TV without being really weak in writing and acting or just  too campy. I think Arrow will avoid both of those things.

Continuum on SyFy

I started out not liking this show, probably because the main character relied very heavily on her future tech at the beginning. As episodes went on it gradually was whittled away from her and the show got better. You get to see her actually being a policewoman and a detective. Great job writers! (Everybody else take notes, Bond has toys because he is Bond and he is awesome. Your characters need to be characters first and use gadgets second). I like where this show is going. Lots of potential.

Perception on TNT

Sherlock Holmes meets A Beautiful Mind. Yeah, I can watch that. The imaginary people seen by the main character are more interesting than most of the other characters on the show but I’ll take what I can get.

Longmire on A&E

My second favorite show of the season. The acting is super. The writing is spare and elegant (Walt Longmire is a man of deep introspection and few words).  This is the kind of show where something happens and it seems at first to be straightforward, but Walt gets those narrowed (or more narrowed) eyes and you know there is something else afoot and the next hour of TV is going to be interesting to watch.

Hannibal on NBC

This show has grown on me. I started off not liking it simply because of Lecter’s terrible accent. I still don’t like that accent. It is Scandinavian meets Scottish and somebody is making him hold a marble under his tongue. Otherwise, since they are going to be using many elements from the books it looks like something that will get better. I hope so.

Last Resort on ABC

This was a terrible, terrible show and I’m glad it was canceled without finishing. Not even the phenomenal actors and great locations it had available could rescue the ridiculous premise or the horrific writing. Seriously, if all you see is Andre Braugher’s speech in the first episode you have seen the best this show has to offer. Everything else is downhill from there.

Robot Combat League on SyFy

I don’t even know if this is a show that will come back but I really liked it. Actually I liked parts of it. I really liked the fighting parts. I couldn’t have cared less about the reality-show parts of it. I hope that this season will serve as a proof of concept and next season, or even a new show, will feature robots that follow game rules but are designed and built by the teams themselves (A whole other show I would watch). Even if the network bankrolls the production costs I want to see teams that are invested personally through blood and sweat in their bots and who will innovate nifty ways of beating the hell out of each other for my personal amusement.

So, who wins the Jericho Award for 2012/2013?

Nobody!

Only one of these shows was cancelled and that was Last Resort and I refuse to give an award of any kind to that show. Really this is congratulations to all the other shows I listed here. I enjoyed watching your first seasons and you remain programmed into my DVR for this coming season. Hopefully your freshman compatriots of 2013/2014 will be able to follow in your footsteps and get picked up for a season 2.

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