Is Pokemon Go at all the best Augmented reality game?

This week, millions of people got their first taste of augmented reality gaming with Pokemon Go. But for those who can’t stand Pokemon, there’s actually a much better AR game already out there: Ingress.

This week, millions of people got their first taste of augmented reality gaming with Pokemon Go. But for those who can’t stand Pokemon, there’s actually a much better AR game already out there: Ingress.

It’s easy to see why Pokemon Go, released a week ago, has already become one of the most popular mobile apps of all time. Partly it’s the nostalgia factor for the original Pokemon game franchise fans, who have spent their childhood in playing Pokemon games.

For the first time, though, Pokemon fans and other players are discovering the pleasures of playing a game that takes you to local landmarks and various points of interest all in order to collect rare monsters. Some say they’re walking more than they have in years and discovering new places that are in fact very close to their places. Also there’s this unique thrill that comes from realizing strangers passing on the street are also playing the same game.

Another reason Pokemon Go is so much fun, is that its co-creator—Niantic Labs—has spent the past three and a half years building its augmented reality skills with its flagship game, Ingress. Since Ingress’s launch in late 2012, it has gathered a small but devoted player base around the world. The game has been downloaded more than 11 million times, same as Pokemon Go.

There are many reasons why Ingress is actually the superior Niantic offering, despite its more cultish appeal. While Pokemon Go is a remarkably social game, Ingress takes this aspect much further. In Ingress, two teams—the Enlightenment and the Resistance—battle to control portals, similar to gyms in Pokemon Go scattered throughout the world. Stronger Ingress portals are more difficult to capture, but stronger portals can only be made from higher-level gears which requires coordination between the team mates. Players must meet up in person, eight or more at a time, to build high-level portals and hack items from them. These events are frequently called farms, and many players use them as opportunities to share a meal, get drinks, visit interesting sites together and get to know other local players in real life.

But that’s really just the beginning. While Pokemon Go is kind of an easier version of the original Pokemon game, Ingress has a much complicated architecture. The game is built around a sci-fi storyline involving creatures called Shapers who want to control the world’s minds through an energy force called Exotic Matter. Players connect to portal in trios to create a force field and the more people there are under this force field, the more mind units are controlled by those fields. The team with the most mind units in each region is considered to be the winning team while their fields are active.

But then there’s a catch - The connections between portals can’t cross other such connections, so making large fields takes an impressive amount of planning, coordination, and cooperation between teammates who may be countries or even continents apart.

A few times each year, the Enlightenment and Resistance teams gather in massive numbers in cities around the world for Anomalies, large-scale portal battles organized by Niantic itself. This takes in-game teamwork to yet another level. Captains lead their teammates in contesting in-game spots.

Ingress offers more and richer opportunities for players to feel like the guardian of the strong holds. Pokemon Go on the other hand is based on these same portal idea - the gyms where only the rich kids have stand a chance in winning battles. Also compared to Ingress, the gyms are comparably fewer and farther. Ingress also gives out player badges for visiting unique portals. This encourages players to explore and even travel more, seeking out new sites and experiences both in the game and in the real world. Pokemon Go also does it but in a different way.

To be fair, Pokemon Go is in its earliest stages. Niantic may eventually add features that will make for more social interactions. Teasers for Pokemon Go suggest that players will eventually be able to participate in anomaly like events of their own; given Pokemon Go’s runaway popularity, those events are likely to dwarf attendance at Ingress anomalies by many orders of scale. It’s possible that, with time, Pokemon Go’s gameplay may approach Ingress’ richness.

For now, though, these two games are leagues apart. Pokemon Go’s instant hit is definitely a positive sign for Niantic and Nintendo and all the fans, but as a gaming experience, Pokemon Go currently has plenty of limitations and it is unclear how many of those limitations will persist as it evolves. For players whose frustration are growing because of these shortfalls should consider giving Ingress a spin. There’s a whole world of teammates out there.

Pokemon,Mobile games,Augmented Reality,Ingress,Niantic

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