UPDATED August 1, 2015 for SoftBank Ultra-Links

In my first post about Ingress, I introduced the basic principles of the game and I surveyed what I think a novice player needs to know about hacking portals and deploying resonators.  Today I will continue with a discussion of the remaining in-game operations you can perform.  The final installment will discuss player levels, and the assortment of achievement badges that are required for players to advance beyond Level 8.  Careful: that one might get a bit opinionated.

Modding is the action of adding items to a portal (which must be your team’s color) to improve its performance in various ways.  Each portal has four slots for mods.  A player may only have two mods on a portal at a time.

Portal Shields: Passive defense for your portals.  Shields and linking are the two things that make portals more resistant to attack than they would be otherwise.  Two good shields and three links will combine to make your portal over 90% resistant to attack.

Heat Sinks: Heat Sinks cause the portal to “cool down” quicker after being hacked so the player can hack again.  Multi-Hacks: Portals can only be hacked by a given player four times every four hours, and then will “burn out” unless one or more Multi-Hacks are applied.  More than one Heat Sink or Multi-Hack can be combined on the same portal but the incremental effectiveness of the second or third goes down at an alarming rate.  I don’t recommend this except in very specialized situations.  (Google “Ingress flash farming” if you’re curious.)

Link Amps: extend the distance limit of links that can be made.  Rightly famous throughout the player community as being pretty useless, since the allowable distances without this mod are more than adequate.
UPDATE: In June ’15, a new type of Link Amp called SoftBank UltraLink (SBUL) was introduced.  These do in fact have a use that can help an everyday player: they will allow more than the default 8 outbound links from the portal.  Each SBUL added to a portal adds an allowable 8 more outbound links.

Turrets: These items increase the probability that the enemy hacking or attacking your portal will be counter-attacked.  Should that attack occur, Force Amps will increase the intensity with which your portal will attack.

Once a mod is on a portal, only an enemy attack on that portal can remove it.  With their tight damage radius, Ultra-Strikes are often used for this purpose; by standing at the exact location of the portal and firing, a player can blast mods off with minimal or no damage to resonators.  That is, as long as the resonators are deployed a reasonable distance from the portal itself.

Consider this scenario: My friend and I find a green Level 8 portal (P8), near a bar, with a good radius to its resonator deployment.  We check its mods.  If they are not heat sinks and multi-hacks, we will stand on the portal itself and fire Ultra-Strikes until the mod slots are empty.  Hopefully, we can do this without destroying any of the R8s deployed on the portal (it’s OK if they take some damage).  Then one of us will use an ADA to flip the portal from green to blue.  Using a virus has the happy side effect of repairing any damage to the resonators; they are restored to 100%.  Finally, we will each add a heat sink and a multi-hack.  Then we settle down with a couple of drinks and hack that baby ’til burnout, which will last at least an hour, or until we can no longer find the buttonsh on the shhcannerrr I know it was shomewhere around here.

Linking & Fields
Among the most important things you can do in the game is link portals to one another.  This apparently simple act is the seed of all that is really larger-scale fun in the game.  Requirements for linking are (deceptively) simple.  You need:

  • Possession of the portals at each end of the prospective link by your team (not necessarily you personally, just the right color).
  • For each portal to have all eight resonators.
  • To be in hacking range of one of the two portals (we’ll call it the origin).
  • To be less than the maximum linking distance from the distant (target) portal.  Maximum distances vary with the level of the target, but at 100 KM for just a P5 they are usually adequate for all but the most humongous fields.
  • To have a portal key for the target.  Be careful if that is a key you need for keeping the target recharged; unlike recharging, linking will consume the key.  Have a spare!
  • To have a line of sight (on the Great Circle route if that matters at your distance) to the target portal with no other links of either color crossing the path.  Links are not allowed to cross one another under any circumstances.  If you see a link crossing another, you are seeing a bug in the software.
  • For there to be fewer than 8* pre-existing outbound links from your origin portal.  Which links are outbound?  You get to guess, unless you use IITC.  And IITC is nominally a TOS violation and can theoretically get you banned from the game.
    * – unless increased by the use of SBULs, see above.

Luckily, this is one area where the scanner will do most of the work for you.  Stand in range of the desired origin and tap LINK on its portal info card.  The scanner will rummage through all your keys (those not in capsules) and offer you a flipbook of any portals to which you can legally make outbound links at that moment.  Pick one and it is done.

Now think about your high-school geometry.  For the purpose of this discussion, assume the surface of the planet is a plane; in every important respect here, the game’s behavior is unaffected by the fact that it is not.  By linking, you have just defined a line segment; a one-dimensional object.  The next step is to define a two-dimensional object, a polygon.  In fact, it’s going to be the simplest of polygons, a triangle.  When you complete a triangle of links among three portals, subject to all the rules for linking that I outlined above, you will see it fill in with a haze in your team’s color.  You will be told that you have created a Control Field and how many “MU” it controls.   This stand for “mind units” and it’s roughly calculated by the surface area of the field you made times the average population density under it.  That gets rolled up for local and worldwide totals every five hours and produces the big numbers on the scoreboard and in your scanner’s welcome message.  And to play and enjoy the game you may safely ignore it completely.

There are some restrictions on what can happen inside fields.  For one thing, new links may not be created if the origin portal is inside a field (regardless of color).  So fields can be layered over one another – which runs up the MU score, because each layer counts all the MUs in its area again.  But to do this, you have to start from the innermost layer and work outward.  This is called “onioning”.

This topic can quickly become very complex, and it’s not something I am going to cover in a blog post that is already too long.  It’s also the aspect of the game that spins up some of the biggest operations of team-play, with fearsomely complicated logistics and enormous butt-hurt from the opposing-team players.  ‘Nuff said about that for now; if you get into Ingress at all, you’ll find out and if you don’t, it won’t matter.

There are three weapons classes you can use to attack enemy portals.  Bursters, Ultra-Strikes and viruses.  Bursters and Ultra-Strikes do increasing damage, over an increasing radius, with their increasing levels.  They currently exist up to Level 8.  It’s best to fire up to Level 5 Bursters (B5s) near the resonators you are targeting.  B6 – B8 have enough effective radius to do the best damage from the portal itself, unless all the surviving resonators are on one side.

Ultra-Strikes need to be fired directly on top of the item you wish to damage or they have almost no effect.  This is annoying among tall buildings because there is often a 3-5 second lag between your Fire command and its occurrence, and during that time your device’s GPS reading can easily drift 15 feet or more.  I feel I’m having a “good day” with Ultra-Strikes if I can get 50% of them to hit something.

Unlike almost every other action in the game, deploying a virus gains you absolutely no AP.  It does, however, look wicked cool in the scanner.  That’s probably my favorite animation in the game.  And yes, I said, “wicked cool.”  I’m old.  Deal with it.  In fact, I have been all but told outright that I am too old to play Ingress… but that’s a story for another time.

Strange as this may seem, I have talked to several players who gave up the game after only a few days, and it was because of recharging.  Here’s the deal: you go out, you find — or make — some grey portal.  You deploy the first, and then all eight resonators on it.  Congratulations, this portal is now yours!  It’ll have your handle right there where it says Owner: and everything!  But even if it doesn’t get attacked by enemy team members, it will not remain yours unless you take care of it.  Without any intervention, portals will lose 15% of the XM charge on their resonators every 24 hours.  And if they get to zero, they’re done.  They go grey again.  This is why you have to keep portal keys of the portals you care about.  Having the key in your inventory (and not in a capsule) allows you to recharge the portal’s XM from your XM bar any time, from anywhere (within reason).  If you are in range of the portal such that you could hack, link, mod or deploy on it, you can also recharge it even without a key.A L1 player can recharge a portal up to 250 kilometers away, and this goes up linearly with your player level, up to 4000 KM for a level 16 player.  There’s a drop in the efficiency of recharging with distance, 1% for every (5 * player-level) kilometers away.  So a L8 player can recharge a portal 640 KM away with 84% efficiency, which means every 1000 XM she puts into recharging will replenish the resonators 840.  When that efficiency decrease passes 50% you can no longer recharge at all, and that is how the maximum distances for recharging are defined.
Recycling is the process of destroying items in your inventory and reclaiming them as XM, which goes to refill your scanner’s energy bar.  There is a limit of ~2000 items on what you can carry, so sometimes recycling less-vital items is a good way to keep yourself some headroom, especially if you are farming and getting better stuff.  Recycling junky items and remotely recharging portals I care about is absolutely not the worst way I have ever spent a rainy Saturday afternoon hour or two on my couch.  Just be careful to use Power Cubes; never recycle those.  There’s no cure for how stupid it makes you feel, to have recycled a Power Cube.  Never mind how I know this.  Just… never mind!
There are two main reasons for dropping items.  One is, to give them to another player.  The other is, just to get rid of them when you can’t even be bothered to recycle them.  Equipment exchanges are common when planning larger operations, or just to help out a fellow player who’s short of this & that.  For most items, Capsules make this much easier than it used to be.  Somehow, though, the incredible challenge of giving us a way to handle Portal Keys with some ease continues to elude the brain trust at Niantic.
Next installment: Leveling, Badges, and miscellany