As a preamble, I’m going to try (once again) to write columns more often for the site and this time, I’m going to try to talk less about what may or may not happen and just put out content. I may write an opinion piece, I may do a review, or I may rant about something… in any case, I’m going to try doing a regularly weekly bit and hopefully get enough into a pattern where I’m reviving the stagnant SpecterFit column… and possibly other stagnant columns like Chess Specter, Game Specter, and the like.

On to the topic.

I have been a long time player of Niantic’s Ingress game. By long time, I mean I’ve been playing for at least a couple of years and while I’ve taken “a healthy time off” from the game, I still have it loaded on my phone in case I get the itch to play again. Niantic is the company that brought us Pokemon Go, too, and I jumped in on that as soon as the game was released… but unlike Ingress, I don’t really care much about continuing to play Pokemon Go.

The initial game release was hampered by crashes… lots and lots of crashes. I estimate that in the first three days of playing I had to reload the game due to a crash somewhere around 400 times. That, my friends, is excessive. Niantic released an update, though, and the crashing almost completely went away. There were other little bugs, but without the crashing, I was doing okay.

Then came the other updates.

Pretty soon we were getting notified on launch to “pay attention to our surroundings.” Anyone playing this game who gets hit by a bus, falls off a cliff, or wanders into a shooting range deserves the death they get. I’m a proponent of removing warning labels from everything and letting the stupid take care of themselves. The warning wasn’t that obnoxious, so I kept playing (though less frequently).

Shortly afterwards was a warning to stop wandering onto private property. As with the above warning, if you’re breaking the law by sneaking onto military installations or climbing fences to get onto someone’s private compound to catch a Pokemon, you really are too stupid to be considered for anything important in life.

Then came the update that broke the camel’s back for me.

Niantic’s EULA states that if you drive around and the passenger in the car is playing both your game and their own, that play is illegal (breaks the EULA). This goes for Ingress and for Pokemon. People still do it, though, and I will admit to being one of those people. At least I’m not driving into things, people, or killing myself because my attention is on a phone rather than a road. Others, however, do not share my desire to stay alive or not drive into a tree.

There was someone, multiple instances of someones if you want to be truthful, of people plowing into trees, fences, people, and whatever while driving AND playing Pokemon Go. I cannot stress enough how these people shouldn’t be stopped from doing this as they will kill themselves and leave the Earth for those of us smart enough to survive something more massive than a Burger King closure (like a zombie apocalypse).

Niantic’s solution to this was to add a warning into the Pokemon Go game that pops up (rather frequently) warning you that you shouldn’t play Pokemon Go while driving. If the car is moving at a certain speed, this warning pops up about every couple of minutes, making trying to play the game (even as a passenger) nearly impossible. What did that do to Niantic’s Pokemon Go usage?

Active players dropped 15,000,000 players in a month. I am one of those players.

Now, I understand that the company wants to be responsible and make sure things aren’t being done by players that shouldn’t be done. If that is the case, then why not implement a work around that I came up with instead of barring playing while driving?

My idea was that your “circle of influence” (the ring to which things have to be inside of to catch Pokemon, hit Poke-stops, etc) is larger the slower you are moving. For example, if the current ring is 40 meters in diameter, when you’re traveling faster than 10 MPH then your ring should shrink by 2 meters for every MPH you are going over 9. If you’re driving on a city street that the speed limit is 25 MPH, then your circle of influence would be a mere 10 meters, hardly large enough to get to the sidewalk much less the range you’d normally have. Maybe implementing this gives the stationary, or slowly moving player, a larger ring (say, 50 meters) as a bonus. This REWARDS players for not moving very quickly and keeps everyone safe.

Look at that, I solved the problem and didn’t need to pop a warning up even once.

The thing that really gets my goat is that as soon as Pokemon Go dropped Ingress updates all but stopped. Ingress players don’t get the obnoxious warnings about driving and playing. Ingress players don’t have warnings about wandering into locations they shouldn’t be in while playing. Does that mean Ingress players are smarter than Pokemon Go players? Considering the mean age for each game is different, with Pokemon players skewing 20 and younger, I’d say that is true. But when you release a new game that is basically a re-skin of the game you already had why do you completely stop updating the old game?

How am I supposed to feel about that?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel but I can tell you how that makes me feel: like my playing your product doesn’t matter because you want a “newer and shinier” version to hook kids on.

Count me out on that one, Niantic. I may still play Ingress, but the level of activity will be similarly low as it currently is.

Think on it.

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