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The History of Ingress [Part 2]

Welcome back to Part 2 of our multi part series documenting the entire history of Ingress. If you need to read Part 1, head back here and catch up. This post is a culmination of personal experiences mixed with combined research from everyone at Fev Games. We left off at Part 1 with the launch of version 1.20.0, so let’s hop into it.

1.20.0 on the outside brought the ability to enable/disable email notifications. For those that played often, emails from attacks became so frequent that your inbox could get 50 new emails within minutes.

Large amount of attack notifications from Ingress

Internally this version paved the ground for creating portals through the application vs emailing an address a picture. It however wasn’t enabled until 1.21.3 (the next version).


 

The Portal Boom

Another large feature packed version hit the store. This time bringing the following changes.

  • Submit Portals
  • Edit Portals (Description, Location, Name)
  • Internal Video player for the Media vs redirection out of application.
  • The addition of Google Play Services took control over the GPS management.
    • This allowed the GPS to ping less frequently when it detected no movement, along with other optimizations.

Creating a new portal screen from the app


The Zipcar Incident

At this point in the world of Ingress. There was an item limit of 2,000 items but passcodes did not respect that. This meant that at 2,002 items, you could redeem a zipcar passcode and receive the shield/items. This was nothing special, but some smart minds noticed the pattern of codes generated from Zipcar. Simply changing a number (sequentially) left a new code that would successfully redeem and provide gear. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Without an item limit on passcodes and curiosity some agents had upwards of thousands of shields.

  • 107NY3 – 175NY3 (68 passcodes)
  • 290TCR – 326TCR (36 passcodes)
  • ADU3492 – ADU3516 (24 passcodes)
  • FMN7278 – FMN7600 (321 passcodes)
  • FYD4500 – FYD4825 (325 passcodes)
  • FYD4975 – FYD5050 (75 passcodes)
  • FZG4650 – FZG4970 (320 passcodes)
  • GAH7940 – GAH8139 (199 passcodes)
  • HZZ7680 – HZZ7699 (19 passcodes)
  • 6SNU690 – 6SNU725 (35 passcodes)
  • 6TEE314 – 6TEE334 (20 passcodes)

Thanks to Decode Ingress for collecting the history of these redeemable codes. Obviously they don’t work now, so don’t try.

There was no bulk recycle so some agents were left fighting over mod slots to deploy the abundance of shields they had. Not to mention you could remove (destroy) your own mods and redeploy. This had some agents literally deploying a shield, destroying it and redeploying another. This was quickly patched with removing the AP bonus from shield deployments.


The PowerCube lives

v1.22.0 launch image Old wireframe Powercube

What was described as simply bringing support for @pinging agents and fixes, actually had its first surprise inside. Version 1.22.0 had the Power Cube, but not for everyone.

Those lucky enough obtained a wireframe version of a PowerCube. This was another game changer as you could replenish XM on demand. This quickly became a full rollout with a properly designed PowerCube in version 1.23.1released on April 9, 2013.

This version also internally packed additional sounds for attacking, new animations for XMP critical hits and much more.

1.25.2 was released about a month later and brought some interesting changes. On the outside, it was noted as only a “maintenance” release, internally however assets for the upcoming Jarvis Virus and ADA Refactor was added and the Handshake came to light. The Handshake was a set of server side values that were set on opening of Ingress. This allowed features such as recycling and more to be controlled without an APK update.

1.26.1 brought the changes live that 1.25.2 laid the ground for. The health and faction ownership of Portal Keys was now shown in the Inventory carousel. The interesting thing however was the addition of the flip cards. Brandon Badger once again “leaked” a video showing an ADA Refactor in use.

The Jarvis Virus

Communities around this time started learning the power of reverse engineering and handshake peeking. Hints at a new item (Link Amplifier) were found in both the APK and server. With flip cards going live and another new item already on the horizon agents were excited everywhere.

Around version 1.26.x, attention drew itself to a lot of the 3rd party tools/applications that existed. It is only fair to dig into the more popular ones.


 

3rd Party Clients – Broot & iOS & IITC

Broot Mod

Mid April began the development and launch of two 3rd party clients. First off was Broot Mod developed by brut.all, the original creator of Apktool. This was a modified build of Ingress for Android. It provided a great deal of changes.

  1. UI for small screens
  2. Disable graphic elements (XM & Portal Particles)
  3. Fullscreen Mode
  4. Remove Globe Intro
  5. New screen for Mod Settings
  6. New screen for Inventory in gridview
  7. Counted items providing an item counter to help identify how many items you had

The broot inventory grid screen. Broot added a "mod" tab to enable the cool options.

As you can imagine. This was short lived. Not more than 2 months later, Brut received an email asking him to end development of the tool. He obliged, as users of the tool would be allowed to return the stock client without a ban.

The broot client was carried on by o4kapuk. This ended around version 1.65.0 as various ban waves went out to those using it. The constant bans and new releases ended broot mod as the work to keep it alive was too much, especially with users of the tool being banned.

I reached out to “brut.alll” for some questions about the project. His response about the project is below.

At that time I was playing Ingress for several weeks already and I was one of the most active players in my region. I enjoyed the game, but I hated the official client. Its UI/UX was horrible, for me it was simply broken and Niantic seemed to not care about it at all. They also didn’t care about low end phones, even if it was technically possible to support them. I have never understood their motivation, but I have decided to fix what they’ve screwed up, so I’ve created my mod.

From the beginning I wanted to be very clear about the goal of the mod. It wasn’t for cheating, abusing the game rules or playing automatically. It was about technical fixes, UI improvements and supporting more devices/players. I didn’t want to annoy Niantic or other players and ruin the game – I wanted to make it more enjoyable. And I hoped Niantic will let the mod live if it won’t give too much of advantage to its users. Still I was expecting an email from them someday. Unfortunately Niantic didn’t like the idea and has emailed me, so I have immediately aborted the project. I personally didn’t like their decision, but it was their game and their rules. I have stopped playing Ingress, because official client was unusable for me.

After some time someone has suggested that maybe their reaction was caused by the fact that my mod was distributed as a binary, so no one knew what I actually put into the game client (of course it was easily diffable). It was a good point, because Niantic might feel responsible for potential malware in their game. Also if some game rules weren’t guarded by the server-side, but the client-side then I could easily add some cheating to it. I couldn’t ask Niantic about it, so I have decided to try once again, but with full transparency – I have open sourced a whole project. Unfortunately Niantic has emailed me again, so I have stopped working on it and have never tried again. In next weeks I got a lot of private messages where people were asking me to continue my work, but privately. My answer was always the same: I won’t do that. As you know Nikolas has taken the project.

Generally my mod was received by the community with enthusiasm. Most people enjoyed it and understood why I refuse to add some features. Still there were people criticizing it. I tried to argue, but I understood and respected their point of view. Nonetheless I have decided to continue my work.

Also it’s worth noting that during “my time” I have never heard of a single person who was banned for using this mod. I wasn’t banned neither, even if Niantic obviously knew who I am. I don’t like their decisions, but at least they didn’t overreact and punish people without a warning for using the mod.

I don’t play Ingress since then and I don’t even know if Niantic has fixed problems with their client or not.

— brut.alll / Ryszard Wiśniewski

iOS Ingress

iOS was not supported at this time so another 3rd party client known as iOS-Ingress was launched by alex-alex.

Viewing resources you had from shields to flip cards Display of the map with XM, portals, links and fields. Another grid view of resonators and weapons

This had quite an interesting UI which fixed complaints that most had on Android. It provided easy access to item counts and the ability to see inventory at a glance vs scrolling on a carousel for minutes. You have to remember, the stock application at this time had no item count. This application also being 3rd party carried an occasional ban wave with it.

For those curious why the screenshot mentions “Very Common”, “Less Common” and “Extra Rare”. The game actually has these values in it, but only “Very Common”, “Common”, “Rare” and “Very Rare” have been used.

I reached out to “alex-alex” for some questions about the project. He additionally created Ingress for Watch and Ingress for Glass as projects.

Q: How did the updates to Ingress affect each iteration of iOS-Ingress?
A: Niantic tried very hard to protect their API and cut off unofficial clients. Mainly because people started to make bots. But we always found some way.

Q: Did Niantic/Google ever send a message or anything asking you to halt development?
A: Yes, I received several of these. But because the project was open-source, it didn’t help them much. Bigger issue came when I released Ingress client for iOS on the App Store. Google legal department sent official request to Apple to remove it because of intellectual property infringement and Apple did.

Q: What was the cause of the end of the project?
A: Mainly because Niantic started to ban accounts of users who used unofficial client.

Q: You have a lot of projects (iOS Phone, iOS Watch, Google Glass) all about Ingress. What was the drive behind these?
A: I started first iOS port simply because Ingress was Android-only at that time and I had only iOS device. But it became so popular I started spending almost all my free time on it. I once got nice email from a blind person thanking me for making it possible for them to play by making the project open-source, so it can be simply modified for blind. Google Glass and Apple Watch clients were only hackathon projects and I never spent much time on those.

— alex-alex / Alex Studnička

IITC

We can’t talk about Broot and iOS-Ingress without mentioning IITC. For those unaware, IITC stands for “Ingress Intel Total Conversion“. It took the basic Intel map available at ingress.com/intel and using Javascript modified the interface to be faster and feature packed.

This didn’t happen without growing pains. First off, the original developer: breunigs removed the project early in its infancy. Heres what he had to say about it.

There is not really much of a story to tell. The summary is roughly like:

– “are you cool with IITC?”

– “no” (seemed like a canned response, too).

I decided I didn’t want to test if they would follow up with any additional steps and removed all content from the repository. I don’t recall the exact wording of their response and I don’t retain emails that long. However, there were no explicit or implicit threats in the mail, it was more of a “it’s infringing our whatever, please remove it”.

I don’t remember why I asked in the first place but in hindsight it was a pretty stupid move on my part.

— bruenigs / Stefan Breunig

Old IITC view showing mod information and enhanced map layer The player tracker at work creating lines between agent actions

IITC was revolutionary. The images above show the tool in its infancy. It was quicker than the stock Intel map and had some interesting features. It could “track” players by watching their COMM movement (resonator destroyed, portal claimed, etc) to build a virtual path of what an agent was doing. It wasn’t much of an “Agent Tracker” as it was an “Agent Locator”, it helped spot farms or agents in discrete parts of an area. This led to its popularity.

The project was shut down (as explained above) and the GitHub repository was deleted and then immediately restarted by  via the power of forked repositories. He and contributors updated it to work with the constant changing stock Ingress map along with the plethora of changes and additions that mods/links/artifacts/beacons had. Unfortunately in February 2016 we learned that even Jon Atkins had worked enough on the product and was stepping aside as the maintainer.

IITC became the ground tool for many faction only applications. Tons of applications, plugins and more were built off of IITC. With almost 44,000 +1’s on Google+, it’s fair to say a lot of people use the application.

The tool as mentioned did have some troubles along the way. Some plugins were coded incorrectly that requested data versus modifying the data stock Intel presented. This resulted in “soft-bans” as Ingress accounts would be linked to a massive load of outbound requests.

At this point after discussing the massive amount of 3rd party tools and updates to the scanner. We will end Part 2 here. Part 3 will start off with version 1.28.2 which brought some additional mods!

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