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Player characters from “Endgame: Proving Grounds.” (Credit: Niantic Labs)

Google will be turning the real world into a battleground thanks to a new mobile game from the company’s Niantic Labs division. Called “Endgame: Proving Ground,” the app offers users the ability to create a character and do battle for control of “key sites” around them in the real world.

“Proving Ground,” which will be released later this year, is built on the foundation created by Niantic’s first game, “Ingress.” The two share similar core mechanics: both use apps on Android and iOS to let players interact in a game world that’s overlaid on our present reality. In both cases, people who play the games by picking a side and then fighting for control of important points by performing game actions. In “Ingress,” players set up “resonators” while “Proving Ground” players will place “tokens” on the site.

One of the weapons for “Proving Grounds”

One of the biggest changes with “Proving Ground” is the addition of a player-versus-player combat system that will allow people to fight digitally for control of a key site. Like a typical RPG, characters can equip weapons and other gear, and then use it to fend off or initiate attacks. It’s a more direct form of interaction than what’s used in “Ingress,” which doesn’t have a direct player to player combat system.

Combat doesn’t require both players to be present at one of the sites – the defender will get a notification on their phone, and if they’re not available, the game will get one of their teammates to step up and fight or fall back to an AI in the event nobody is free to battle. The game is designed to offer support for a variety of playstyles, and the amount of combat someone runs into will be based on how they play.

“It really depends on the gameplay style of each player. Some players enjoy just going out and checking out different weapons,” Khaled Abdel Rahman, a project manager at Niantic, told GeekWire in an interview. “There’s the compulsive loop of collecting all the weapons in the game, and checking every variation, all of that. Some players might not engage in battle. Some players might enjoy going and placing tokens on sites where there are slots available for them without going into any battle.”

91-nNxO5k2LThe game is tied in to last year’s release of “Endgame: The Calling,” a novel written by James Frey and Nils Johnson Shelton about 12 ancient bloodlines that have been chosen to represent humanity in a global game that will decide the future of all humans on Earth. Frey approached Niantic about the deal because he wanted to include a mobile game component in the Endgame world and was a fan of the group’s past work.

Niantic is an autonomous unit within Google that’s focused on getting people out in the world through the use of mobile games. It’s the brainchild of Keyhole founder John Hanke, who joined Google after the search giant acquired his company and used Keyhole’s technology to power Google Earth. After spending 6 years running Google’s Geo team, Hanke wanted a change, and worked with Google to create Niantic.

“Proving Ground” is just one part of Frey’s massive transmedia strategy for the world of Endgame, which is supposed to be a trilogy of books and acompanying movies. The book itself contains a series of puzzles for people to complete, and that sequence includes a reward of $500,000 in gold. There’s also an alternate reality game being run by Niantic as a way of introducing people to the Endgame world through a series of puzzles and real-world interactions.

People who complete challenges in the alternate reality game will get bonuses in the mobile game when it launches. Top players will even get early access to the “Proving Ground” invite-only beta.

“People with a lot of interactions and a lot of engagement on the (ARG) site are the people with the highest chance of getting access to our beta,” Rahman said.

It still remains to be seen how many players Google will be able to draw to “Proving Ground.” Events for “Ingress” will draw hundreds of people to a single location, but it hasn’t really become mainstream more than a year after its general release. “Proving Ground” will have the benefit of the book and movie tie-ins to drive user growth, though.

Rahman was very clear that Niantic will continue to develop “Ingress” going forward. The group is continuing to roll out updates to the game itself, and it’s linking the stories of both games through special events for “Ingress” players. Niantic is also planning a convention for the players of that game later this year.

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