Wizards Unite in Overlooking Ingress

November 18, 2017 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: games.

Harry Potter - Wizards Unite

One latest buzz doing the rounds is the news that a new game, Harry Potter Wizards Unite, is in the making. The difference with this one is that it is not just a mobile game but an Augmented Reality (AR) game.

If you don’t know what an AR game is then here’s a quick rundown. AR uses your geographical location as part of the play. So, if you have to be within 50 metres of a specific location in order to perform a game task then you have to get up off your arse and go there.

For example; in the AR game Ingress, the world map is dotted with features called “portals”. Players have to interact with these portals in order to win them for their team, take them off the enemy and interact with them to “hack” for new kit that they will require during game-play or to link portals together, triangulating them to build fields over populated areas and win points for themselves and their team.

Does that sound a bit complicated and jargon filled? Well yes it is. And no. When I first started playing Ingress nearly four years ago it was a lot to take in. But you soon get the hang of it and here I am still playing it on a daily basis.

Pokémon Go is the same concept. In fact, it’s the same platform (as Ingress). The details are different but the game relies on you being at a particular place in order to, again, acquire kit but also to battle monsters.

One reward of AR games is that you score points and win awards for the amount of ground you’ve covered. So, in nearly four years of Ingress gaming, I’ve walked and cycled nearly 2,500km. Some of my friends have already done that in less time. But the idea is that it gets bums off couches.

Another in-game reward, in both Ingress and Pokémon Go, is earning awards for the number of different places you go to.

So, AR games encourage people to get up, go out and explore. Pokémon Go was released in July 2016 so there were millions of people out on the streets and in parks across the world playing this crazy new AR game at the time.

With Harry Potter Wizards Unite, we’ll probably see a very similar style of gameplay. After all, it is being developed by Niantic Labs, an independent games lab and former Google offshoot.

And the reason I titled this blog post Wizards Unite in Overlooking Ingress is that in the articles about the upcoming game title that I’ve seen so far, they all mention Niantic and Pokémon Go. Talking about Pokémon Go is fine because it was and still is a worldwide phenomenon. But having played Ingress for over two years years before PG was launched, the populist journalism I’ve read so far really does overlook Ingress’ contribution to the new game here.

The main issue is that every gym and poké stop in PG is in the same location as a portal that exists in the Ingress world. Those portals were user-submitted by us Ingress players and the photographs we took of them are also used in PG. So we made the map, we laid out the landscape and Niantic used the User-Generated Content (UGC) for both games.

The location of all those portals is the fundamental basis of gameplay in both Ingress and Pokémon Go, so to talk about the forthcoming Wizards Unite without mentioning Ingress does a huge disservice to a cult game that laid the groundwork for both PG and HPWU.

It’s OK, I don’t mind, I just believe in credit where credit’s due. Niantic have done a great job and so have all the millions of players worldwide who have contributed too, both in terms of gameplay, feedback and even financial contributions. Yes, you can download and play for free but there are things you can do in both AR games that require payment too.

So, I wish journos would do a better job of looking into the history of this latest upcoming AR game’s path and not just go back to Pokémon Go but head back another couple of years to where this development really started.

I’m sure Harry Potter Wizards Unite will be a roaring success. I’m really looking forward to the team play aspect. In Ingress we belong to one of two warring factions; The Enlightened and The Resistance, the green and blue teams respectively. In PG we are one of three teams; Instinct, Mystic and Valo(u)r. Yes, they sound like teams from The Apprentice.

But as any fan of JK Rowling’s universe knows, we have four wizarding houses at Hogwarts to be represented; Griffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravensclaw and Slytherin. Will we be able to choose which house we play for or will there be a Sorting Hat?

I’ve also read that, as well as battle mythical beasts, probably at Key Ports based on our portal and pokestop/gym locations, we’ll be able to cast spells too! I’m hoping that this aspect alone will add a great new dimension to gameplay but then we do have to bear in mind that as well as us more mature players, we’ll have many kids playing too, so it can’t be too complicated.

I’m looking forward to the new Harry Potter game, I’m sure, with the backing of Warner Brothers massive clout and resources, we’ll see a fantastic new development that will bring new players in and create yet another long moment of human unity across the globe.

Even better, is that I hope that Niantic look after the Ingress ecosystem better and bring some innovations in. PG has had new monsters added to the Pokedex, on at least a couple of occasions. They’ve also had the recent weather aspects added, meaning that more of certain type of monster appears when it’s raining, cloudy, windy etc.

By comparison Ingress has seen little obvious improvement. There have been anti-spoofing measures and they reintroduced portal submissions and the seer badge. But these were necessary and aren’t nearly as much of an evolution as we see in PG. I’ve no doubt HPWU will have the same demands and updates that we see in PG.

So please, Niantic, let’s see some love for Ingress and it’s loyal contingent. We helped you build the system to what it is today and allowed you to expand into populist territories to your great credit. But let’s have some new levels, new weapons, new mods, maybe even a new faction or two.

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