Open Letter to NianticIngress User Interface Enhancements
It has come to my attention, that over the last few days, Niantic has been sending ToS violation letters to users who use 3rd party/modified game and/or intel clients.
While Niantics point of view that any 3rd party clients could be used for abusive or cheating purposes is of course legitimate, the majority of people who use such software are not trying to cheat or obtain an unfair advantage. They are simply attracted to the improved user experience offered by these 3rd party clients.
Whilst Niantic has been somewhat receptive to user suggestions in the past, any implementation of popular requests has been at a glacial pace at best - inventory count took several months for a rather trivial feature, and Intel has been essentially unchanged for about a year. Despite this, almost every new release of the game client includes some sort of new animation. While flashy animations are great for marketing the game, I do not believe more animations are a hotly requested feature from users. This is not helpful in discouraging users from alternate clients.
People are drawn to 3rd party clients not only because they offer an improved UX, but because users feel they can suggest improvements and have their voices heard. The most popular 'alternative' clients for the game and the intel page (I won't name names), both have a dedicated G+ community, as well as a public bug/feature tracker on Github, enabling users to easily engage with and get feedback on suggestions from the developers and other users, as well as seeing current development status.
Contrast this with the official Niantic/Ingress channels available to users. The primary option is a single G+ community, which has poorly defined categories, no direct communication with developers, and only a weak presence from Niantic staff. UX improvement suggestions are quickly pushed off the page, and difficult to find again. G+ might be great as a news feed, but its useless as a bug/feature tracker.
In the long term, it is my belief that Niantic should set up a dedicated feature/bug tracker, and allow users to upvote/downvote UX enhancements (among other things). This would result in a curated list of all suggestions in one easily searchable place (reducing duplicates), thus allowing Niantic staff/developers to easily provide progress updates on various topics, without getting lost in the noise of G+. Users will be more satisfied with the level of engagement such a system would provide.
In the short term, Niantic needs to put in some work to improve the game client user experience. I will list in the comments below some of what I am told are the most useful UX enhancements offered by the most popular 3rd party game client (as well as a few points of my own).
Readers, please +1 anything you would like implemented. Most of these things would require very little effort to implement by Niantic, and would provide great utility to all players, without impacting game mechanics or balance.+Ingress +NIA Ops +Brandon Badger +Joe Philley +Brian Rose +Anne Beuttenmüller +John Hanke