Google launches 'Ingress' - a real-world augmented reality mobile game

Google launches 'Ingress' - a real-world augmented reality mobile game

Called Ingress, the mobile app puts a strong emphasis on outdoor real-world interaction. Based on the idea that all is not what it seems, with the world and humanity actually at threat from a mind-controlling "power," players can choose to play as either one of two teams -- the "Enlightened" who intend to cultivate this "power", or the "resistance" who fight this "power."

Whichever team players are on, they have to use the phone's camera and the app's augmented reality overlay to collect energy units, known as "XM", which are cultivated by walking certain designated paths in their area; then using these energy units, they have to complete missions at real-world easily accessible locations such as public libraries or museums, essentially "tagging" these locations for their team in a similar style to the system in Tony Hawk Pro Skater or Conquest mode from the Battlefield series of games.

The game is currently in closed Beta but once released onto the Google Play store could, theoretically, be played by anyone with an Android phone in all compatible locations around the world. In this aspect Ingress draws parallels with MMO games such as World of Warcraft where thousands of players are all playing the same game around the world yet can club together to launch co-ordinated attacking or defensive strategies.

Players in more densely populated areas will face stiffer competition for resources and access to portals than those in less densely populated areas, and users will be able to see the wider area of game play from their computer.

Since its launch, the app is causing quite a stir on social networks such as Google+, where users such as Hasan Hosgel are smugly sharing the news that they received a password to the game, while others such as Hauke Holtkamp, who writes "I need an invite so badly #ingress" were not so lucky. Others, such as Rob Michael, who writes, "It's the middle of the night and I'm being led around my house by my phone #ingress #WhatHasHappenedToMe", seem to be getting rather into the whole thing.

News of Ingress is also spreading on Twitter where it is receiving a largely positive reaction, author and gamer Jane McGonigal, for example, tweets, "I won't lie: I love it!! Google releases an alternate reality game, big on physical activity and real locations" and links to an allthingsd.com report on the game, while others are looking for fellow gamers in their area such as IT writer Martijn van Beek, who tweets "I'm in :-) Anyone playing in The Netherlands / Amsterdam? #Ingress."

The app was launched in closed Beta on November 15 but is expected to be fully available on Google Play soon. It was developed by Niantic Labs, a project of John Hanke, the former director of Google Geo division, which includes projects such as Google Earth and Google Maps among others. While augmented reality apps are undoubtedly a growing trend, and have been for several years, this latest project by Google is by far the largest and most inclusive game of this type.

Ingress will be free to download but it is thought that Google will attempt to make money from it by means of advertising revenue from the inclusion of real world companies and products in the game.

To request a password and access to the closed Beta Ingress potential players should head to http://www.ingress.com/