Intel Ops – Austin, Texas: Recursion Prime

 

I have been wondering what Intel Ops was about and finally decided to try it out during the Austin, TX Recursion Prime anomaly. This is an event that depending on how well you and your team does, you can earn Intel for the next day’s anomaly.  You will also earn a medal in your scanner as well as a physical Intel Ops patch.

Niantic doesn’t create these events, they contract out to another company, Foxhound Urban Adventures.

I was on the fence on whether to try it out after hearing horror stories from the past anomalies but my good friend Agent GiantFox said he was going to do it, so I signed up for his team. Our team put together by the one and only Agent Violentwaves aka “The Bat Herder” was comprised of Me (GoonieGuy), GiantFox, xxse7en, 5il3ntB0b, SalamanderSlim and our Ops Bettychan.

This picture was taken after the event and I did a horrible job of keeping it still, so sorry about the horrible quality.

I will be talking about everything I know of this event, as I don’t think it will spoil anything in the future as they appear to change the challenge completely to take agent feedback into consideration and to keep them fresh.

First we all checked in and met with each other to discuss possible tactics and wait for the start of the event. The start entailed waiting for a Short video to play. Below is the beginning of the event and the video. It’s raw unedited footage so you might want to forward it a little bit.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/co6bQTMygR4Fuc4P8

After the video played, we soon received a link in telegram which was, unfortunately, a .zip file.  No one on our team had a way to view it with us, so we waited as ops downloaded it and gave us our first mission.

Message received:

Agents: We have lost contact with an Asset in the Austin area. You will be working through the last intel we received from them, in hopes that we can retrieve the sensitive data they were carrying. This data may be of value to you tomorrow. We have prepared a packet with your working material at this location: https://www.filehosting.org/file/details/765880/austin_IO_mission_drop_ENL.zip

Control is available to assist as necessary, but we have our hands full preparing for tomorrow’s mission, and you’ll mostly be on your own. Check in with us as you complete tasks so we can track your progress. Best of luck, Agents!

My first thought was, Hey — try changed the _ENL to _RES and see if you can nab the other team’s mission list as well, but testing the links now that I’m on a computer I see that was not possible.

Opening this file revealed a list of dead drop locations, surveillance target locations, 3 flyer images and a text file named “live and let die.txt” with only the words:  page 123/125

Each team was given a target to go check out to look for dead drops.

Our team was given the location: World Famous Hut’s Hamburgers – and so we discussed how to get there quickly and decided to use mobile transports, ie electric scooters.

Quickly, we downloaded the app and started our scooters towards our first location.

Upon arrival, we were instructed to look about a lightpost outside there. Looking into the “dead drop locations.csv” you can see this was: World Famous Hut’s Hamburgers,On light post nearest sign

The light post was covered with stickers of all shapes and sizes which we all looked over not seeing anything that jumped out immediately. So we began searching the nearby area. Not seeing the csv file instruction ourselves we were not sure if that was the general area, or if it was supposed to be on the pole.

Finally we spotted a piece of duct tape at the bottom of the post which was covering an sd card.

Foiled again since we did not have a way to access this, we reported back to ops and began thinking of options while checking our supplies to make sure no one had a phone with an sd card reader or another device.

Luckily, 5il3ntBob had a laptop back at his car, so we all jumped on our scooters and rolled out through the streets of Austin.

Once at the car, we put the SD card into the laptop and found a password protected PDF file. Alerted OPS to the discovery, we sent them the file to keep working on it while we waited for our next task.

We were then given a surveillance target, Slake Cafe, South. This was a good bit a ways from us, but we had our trust green electric scooters which helped us zoom down the sidewalks and through alleys to quickly make it to a restaurant that appeared to be closed. Luckily, because I think we would have hassled them to no end looking for our target, which upon arrival we were instructed to face south and take a picture of which you can see below.

We were also instructed to look for 1 of 3 items there that had to do with a missing cat, yoga flyer or lost bracelet.

After a thorough search around Slake, across the street from it, and the surrounding area, we found nothing. We did stumble onto a magnet with binary, but that ended up having nothing to do with the event. So we continued to search and wait.

I’ll go ahead and spoil something here. It turns out at the surveillance spots you were supposed to find a flyer of one of those 3 items as ween below, but apparently, the street cleaners had started taking them down. In Austin, you need a permit to put flyers up, which Foxhound was not aware of. They had been watching them all day with no issues, so they thought things were fine. We later found out they had a backup plan but due to someone not showing up for work, they just didn’t have the manpower to deal with it. This also created an issue with response time to clues which meant more waiting.

Anyways, back to the streets of Austin. Where things get weird or something like that. They have a crazy catchphrase. But speaking of, while searching the area, a gentleman came up to us and asked us if we were or knew a person he was looking for. Some type of meeting with a start-up company. In the video, there was some information about finding someone and this seemed like we were sent our next clue, so we began asking him questions and giving him the passphrases that we were supposed to give the contact. It was really uncanny how he was acting. We really could not tell if he was part of the whole event or not. Spoiler alert. He was not.

After waiting quite a while, we were given a new target: Littlefield Clock Post – Where we once again flew through the town of Austin and made it to our destination in record time. This time we were instructed to face SouthWest, take a picture and again look for clues. Still not knowing that we were ONLY supposed to be looking for these three flyers, we searched for any clues. Finding weird stickers on a pole towards the South West, we thought we had possibly found something. But due to the diligence of one of our agents who searched the nearby trashcan, actually found the sheet of paper these stickers came off of and it quickly became apparent they had nothing to do with Intel Ops.

This is also where we learned the Austin Ambassadors were tearing down and throwing away the flyers. We talked to a group of them who explained about the permits but unfortunately couldn’t remember where they had thrown them away.

After a bit more waiting, we were given one last target, as time was running out. This would be The Chicago House.  After a short ride a few blocks over, we began our search again. Behind a dumpster, in a dumpster in a dark alley. Again nothing. Thinking we had been foiled by the Ambassadors once again, we thought we were done. Then, I believe it was GiantFox, found a flyer with bright green masking tape. On the back, glyphs. We reported these back to Ops

So that was time, and that was it. Time to head back for check out.

Using the glyphs as the passcodes for the PDFs, were able to unlock them, so in the end, as a team, we were able to unlock 9 PDFs gaining 27 pieces of intel with information about various portals in the anomaly the following day.

There were parts of the event that I was not able to see and only heard brief descriptions of them. One team was able to gain access to a target’s hotel room and search it for clues. Another was being followed and had to lose their tail and then another walked the streets of Austin finding absolutely nothing. Yes, they were not happy.

Was the event a success? I would say it depends and this is a big thing about Ingress. It’s not always about the actual event. It’s about the people. I got to spend a fun night roaming around a city I had never been in working with some of the most intelligent, creative and tenacious Agents who share a passion for the same thing I do, Ingress. I had a blast and will probably try it again.

Back to the actual event. There were some definite issues. Some could have been avoided and some not and Agents. To be brutally honest, there were no difficult puzzles here. It was all pretty basic and that was the biggest problem. Overthinking everything was really easy to do. If the flyers had not been taken down, we would have found them in 30 seconds. The passwords were only difficult because you wouldn’t think it would be as easy as just plug in the 3 glyphs (though that may be Foxhound not understand that Agents know glyphs and most knew what they were right away without even having to search for them). So it really did just end up being a bunch of running around doing the same thing all night long. Go to the portal. Find blatantly obvious Flyer. Input 3 glyphs from the back into pdf code. Rinse and repeat.

Thank god we were using the scooters or we would have had time to probably hit one or two spots as it was. And I know that sounds harsh, and it may be, but I’m just being honest. I still had a great time and would do it again.

I was really happy to see that they were taking the comments and heavy criticisms from a few agents well and explaining intentions and where the breakdowns happened. Asking for our feedback and it seemed like they were truly interested in what we had to say. For the most part, Agents seemed happy. There was one really frustrated agent who didn’t get to find anything all night, and they took his criticisms well.

My advice to Foxhound would be to work more with Ingress agents who live the game,  and possibly give more instruction to ops on how to handle some of the intel (they may have been doing this, but it didn’t feel like it – as they should have told ops to open the zip files and send all the contents back to the agents, which would have reduced some confusion). Also, though it might break the 3rd wall a bit, maybe have some mark on actors in the game so you don’t hassle people needlessly. There were multiple times that homeless people in Austin were acting in ways that you were not sure if they were part of the game or not.

A few other things they could think about next time. We will probably be walking a lot the next day. We don’t have to walk all over the city. It would be ok to walk to areas and have multiple tasks in that same area for instance, instead of ping-pong back and forth across the whole downtown.  Speaking of the tasks. Go for varied tasks over the same one over and over again. You know, roughly, how many teams you will have. If each of those teams had a major task to complete for the night to work together to solve the main task.

Have the players work together more. I would have loved to have found the SD card as we did and then when we tell ops, Hey we found an SD card but can’t open it because we don’t have a device and they respond with, Team 2 found a laptop, and team 3 found a password for the laptop so you all meet at this other location to combine what we found, then possibly team 4 found the flyer with the glyphs that we need for the file we found on sd card.

Anyways, if you have any questions about the event that I didn’t answer in the post, feel free to ask them and I’ll answer them in a reply or on the show.

//Agent GoonieGuy

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