Google's MMO mobile game Ingress leaves beta in December

The alternate reality game from Google's Niantic Labs is currently available for download on Android.

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If you've been waiting for an invitation to get in on the beta of Google's massively multiplayer online mobile game, Ingress, then you're in luck: starting today, the game is open to all Android owners. Opening the doors on the game comes almost a year after the game's introduction and is part of the lead up to the official release on December 14, 2013.

GameSpot spoke with John Hanke, vice president of developer Niantic Labs, about his team's work and to learn more about the game. There's a deep backstory to the game and a lot going on gameplay-wise, but in basic terms, Ingress involves two factions (the Enlightened and the Resistance) battling for their individual causes. Teams of real-world players must work together to create and link portals using their mobile devices in public places around the world to score points for their side.

Hanke says that he's most happy that "the game has become an excuse for people to get out and explore." He describes seeing players stopping one another on the street and being able to bond over their shared experiences in the game as incredibly satisfying. "[Ingress] gets people out exploring their cities and towns...and working together" And Hanke also says, that though he originally expected to have to manually balance characters across the two factions, the game has independently maintained a self-balanced state. When players see one side getting ahead, they're drawn to the opposite faction, keeping the global score very close.

Even in limited beta, the game has been downloaded over 1 million times, but Hanke isn't expecting any of the normal problems that plague console and PC MMOs when they go public. With Google's experience and resources, he is confident that the increased traffic from opening up the game will not present any technical problems.

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The beta's end is preceded by a global game event call Project Magnus, which kicks off today. Players on the game's Enlightened faction will attempt to piece together an entity known as Roland Jarvis. Meanwhile, Resistance players will be fighting to stop them. The game's website says, "This effort will literally span the globe as Agents from the over 200 countries where Ingress is currently being played cooperate to achieve their goal." The effects of who emerges victorious will leave a lasting mark on the game's narrative and will also herald the end of the beta period.

But just because this is an open-world title with a constantly evolving story doesn't mean that there's isn't a planned endpoint. "This isn't going to be something J.J. Abrams-like where people are left wondering about the ending." Hanke says. "We're going to draw the narrative to a satisfying conclusion, and it should take roughly 24 months." After that, depending on the player reaction, Hanke says there could be a sequel or the team may spin-off into a new experience entirely.

More details about the game's global events are available on the Ingress Google Plus page and the game is available for download for Android on the Google Play website. Have you had the opportunity to try out the game yourself yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Justin Haywald on Google+

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