The most recent Ingress report alludes to new scanner technology for the near future – entities known as the Jarvis Virus and the ADA Refractor. Both of these are deployed to an enemy portal to effectively ‘flip’ their alignment over to your faction.
Not much is known about these new mods (herein known as viruses for simplicity), but from the initial proposal, I am rather skeptical about them bringing a positive impact to the game, and I’ll like to propose an alternative.
These viruses appear to be too close to a god weapon, undermining all of the recent work encouraging people to group together to defend/attack, as detailed in my previous Ingress post. If well-linked portals can be simply flipped, then the incentive to level up portals to very high levels isn’t as strong – the enemies will just take them. Chances are the portal’s links will decay when a portal is flipped, as it seems unreasonable for the virus mod to travel to all linked portals and flip their alignment too!
What this does create, should a player store up lots of virus mods, is the ability to almost effortlessly create a high-level portal farm. Unless there is a significant XM cost to deploying the virus (which can be remedied using power cubes anyway), then it will be possible for an entire team to quickly-change a few high level portals, farm them until they burn out and then rampage around a city. This might be fun in the sense of the back-and-forth action it creates, but in a game where attacking has always been favourable to defending, this does nothing to address that balance. Having an ‘all-or-nothing’ weapon seems too powerful.
A virus mod should have a level associated with it, just like resonators, bursters and power cubes. When it is deployed to an enemy portal, it attacks that portal (rather than instantly flips) and then spreads along the portals links! When it gets to those portals, it attacks them too! The strength of the attack is determined by the level of the virus mod. As it travels down links, the attack strength decays proportional to the length of the link, such that linked portals close by will suffer lots of damage and further away portals take less.
The effect of this is to avoid the ‘one man army’ player who can roll into town with lots of virus mods, flip a lot of portals and them level them up further. Instead, it brings a tactical dynamic to the game, as defenders need to be aware of calculating an optimal link density around a portal. Right now, the incentive is to defend by linking portals as much as possible. But, if that very defensive action could be turned against the faction if taken too far, you’ll end up with a far more interesting challenge.