Coming in from the cold after 8 Months of Intel Ops

In July of last year, Foxhound started a journey that has completely challenged the reality of how we design Spy Games. Back in Feb 2018, we started a business relationship with Niantic Inc, (of Pokémon Go fame) to support their mobile game Ingress at a series of citywide meetups that they host here in the US and internationally on a regular basis. We would we adding a 2 hour Spy Experience, called Intel Ops, to the weekend long list of activities that players, known as Agents in the game, could sign up for. We started the whole series off in San Diego and were immediately thrown into the deep end.

We thought we were prepared for San Diego, we really did! In addition to the whole team being immersed in Ingress for the previous couple months, we invented new dead drops (Tony Mendez would be proud), commissioned new gadgets, & hired actors. We rented

Copying the sim card in this phone was part of a Hotel Mission in San Diego

hotel rooms to “break into” and planted vehicles to “monitor”. We even coordinated with the other Ingress event that was happening that night, Stealth Ops by Goruck, to have our Intel Ops agents pass info to their Stealth Ops agents. Unfortunately, there were a few things we didn’t plan for. Players weren’t used to our kind of real-world dead drops or surveillance techniques and we weren’t used to teams of players working together, organizing as a whole faction, and agents avoiding the other faction like the plague. The night ended with us giving an abort signal to the players and sending one of our team to hand out swag and try to gather feedback from lots of frustrated agents. First attempt: crash & burn (but we found the black box!)

We learned many things about this type of event in San Diego and applied them immediately to the next event in Philly three weeks later.

We used these James Bond comic books as a contact ID in Philly.

We overhauled how we organized the event and came up with a plan to communicate with players better and also tried to ease them into our type of trade-craft. This was a much better event but not everything went as planned (“Hey, check out this piece of paper I found!”). We discovered that we still had many things to improve upon. These lessons were put into practice once again as we had a couple of month respite until we took our show on the road to Austin.

One of the elusive paper flyers that survived the Austin cleanup crews

Austin was our best event yet (exchanging books on a bridge with the other faction!) but it wasn’t perfect. Things were broken or unanticipated and we weren’t satisfied with how players were rewarded for their hard work. Lots of people had an exciting experience, but not everyone. Ultimately we felt that players should get more out of the night that would make the next day remarkable. Which brings us to Georgia!

Atlanta is our next event (happening next Friday night!) and we are really excited about what is planned for players to experience. We are taking lessons learned from all the previous cities, and applying them here. Agents have told us that they want more Ingress integration during our event, so we did that. Agents have asked about more physical & digital rewards, and we added those as well. Agents asked us about easier digital file manipulation and we’ve changed the way those get stored & shared. When we hit the ground in Atlanta, I think we are set for our best Intel Op yet!

For Atlanta; burner phone in an attache case…sans handcuffs.

The thing our team absolutely loves about these events is that the Ingress agents keep pushing us to develop new methods of trade-craft. If we try to use the same fake fire hydrant dead-drop screws from San Diego in Philly, agents in Philly spot them instantly because an agent in San Diego briefed them. Players from the last city event brief everyone for the next city event, which makes these events a great challenge for us, and so the envelope is pushed forward. Also, it’s really fun to talk with Agents about this stuff!

I’ve still got quite a few things to put together, so I’m going to wrap this up. If you are going to be in Atlanta next weekend for the anomaly, there are still spots open for the Intel Op. If you are a lover of espionage, like we are, you should come out & try your hand at being a spy for a few hours. I’ll make it worth your while…

See you in Atlanta!

—Shannon