If you tend to stay up-to-date on all the latest tech news, you’ve probably heard of Google’s mysterious Niantic Project. Speculation about the specifics began back on November 1st, when a Google-hosted website launched, featuring a bulletin board full of cryptic videos and odd posters. The board was titled “The Sphere of Weirdness,” and new, unexplained pictures were uploaded every day, adding to the mystery.
As it turns out, this was all a big introduction to Google’s brand-new mobile gaming experience, Ingress. The project has been in development for several months, led by an internal development team, Niantic Labs. The team has been led by John Hanke, former CEO of Keyhole, Inc., a software development company that was acquired by Google back in 2004. Shortly after, the team’s mapping technology software became what we now know as Google Earth.
An Alternate Reality Game, or ARG, Ingress puts players into a story centered around portals that have recently begun to open throughout our world, essentially bridging our universe with another. However, these portals are only able to be sense by those who possess such an ability, which is where your mobile device comes into play.
Portals can be found in real-world locations based on Google’s database of interesting locations. All of the portal sites are public areas, such as museums, libraries, and other similar well-known locations. When starting Ingress, players must choose a faction to work for; The Enlightened, whose sole mission is to share the existence of these portals with the world, or The Resistance, an organization dedicated to controlling the portals in order to protect the world from potentially dangerous powers.
The bulk of the gameplay comes from visiting these portal locations in an attempt to capture them for your chosen faction. It’s as simple as traveling to the specific museum or public venue and pressing a button on your device, and your GPS is used to validate your location. Players can then work together to create shields for protecting portals, or begin attacking enemy-controlled portals.
Players can only see what is happening in their immediate location while using their mobile device of choice. However, Google and Niantic Labs have created an online client that provides a world map of game activity, so users will be able to keep track of how their chosen faction is doing worldwide.
Google isn’t the first to release a mobile game centered around real-world exploration. However, it’s the first to offer a real story combined with social interaction between players. Whether or not the experiment is a success remains to be seen.
As of right now, the app is only available for Android operating systems, though an iOS version is in the works. Check out the video below for an introduction to the world of Ingress.