The Pathology of Plague Inc.

The Pathology of Plague Inc.

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Plague Inc.

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Wait... Didn't humanity lose much of it's genetic diversity 50,000 years ago or so...? We're boned.

DrThodt:
Wait... Didn't humanity lose much of it's genetic diversity 50,000 years ago or so...? We're boned.

I feel like by the time the lack of genetic diversity proves to be a real problem, we'll have mastered the genome and will be able to purge genetic diseases.

OT: I was going to point out how suspiciously this game looks like Pandemic II, but it appears that that controversy ship has sailed. http://www.modojo.com/news/plague_inc_creator_denies_accusation_of_being_pandemic_25_ripoff is my source, though they didn't mention that Pandemic II came out YEARS ago as a flash game on Kongregate (I think) and that the real similarities are between Plague Inc. and that game.

That said, it's entirely possible that the UI and mechanics are the only similar things, and that Plague Inc. uses better, more thoroughly-researched algorithms that don't have the entire world shutting down its airports because of your *coughing* plague.

Is the final boss of Plague Inc Madagascar?

Awesome piece Mr. Rath. I enjoy your articles here so much it's getting fanboyish.

As a biologist I love these portrayals. It's like the movie Contagion. The script was so real, so unsympathetic of its characters, so unmiraculous, that it did feel like the a fine representation of what would happen in real life. The disease doesn't care who you are, you are always at risk and tons of people will die. I haven't played Plague, Inc., so I don't know if it incorporates riots, famine, and other humanity crippling events into the simulation. Does it do that, or is death only dependent on infection?

valium:
Is the final boss of Plague Inc Madagascar?

For me, it tends to be Greenland - really sparse population and hostile environment, coupled with really occasional ship access from only a couple of North European countries... It's almost always the stumbling block holding back the end-game slaughter, I find!

shiajun:
I don't know if it incorporates riots, famine, and other humanity crippling events into the simulation. Does it do that, or is death only dependent on infection?

This is the one bit I would have liked to see them do a bit more with this game - a country only drops out when EVERY living sole in it is dead, and the government "collapses". There's an in-game message where the US President gets infected and dies, but beyond that there's very little visible response to your spread, bar things like the mentioned WHO mechanics, such as closing ports and distributing face masks or bottled water. Mass panicked emigrations would be cool, as would death toll from rioting, vigilante attacks, international conflict (trying to eradicate the population of a neighbouring infected country, perhaps) etc.

One nice touch is executions of infected; especially on Brutal difficulty, countries will occasionally round up and execute a chunk of their infected or, if the numbers are getting high, I've seen cities bombed in a bid to stop me. Can make it a bit nail biting when the last, isolated country in the harshest environment executed 90% of the infected, and you have to quickly get rid of your more lethal mutations so you don't burn yourself out!

It's a nice little game, but I'm a bit sad that there's a whole cluster of intriguing disease types behind 1.40 each, when the actual game's less than half that :(

The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

valium:
Is the final boss of Plague Inc Madagascar?

I know it was in pandemic, but I have yet to play plague inc. Still a fun read and it is always fun to destroy the world.

Wicky_42:

For me, it tends to be Greenland - really sparse population and hostile environment, coupled with really occasional ship access from only a couple of North European countries... It's almost always the stumbling block holding back the end-game slaughter, I find!

this is very true. in my experience with plague inc. Greenland is a huge jerk.

i even remember one time i was playing and i think i had over 60% of the world infected, and maybe 5000 in Greenland, and then Greenland was like NOPE! and actually killed off all of their infected peoples. i was shocked

Reading this I can't help but see a massive IP that could spawn dozens of games. A good one could be playing the game in reverse; you play as a WHO agent trying to wipe out a recently discovered disease before everyone dies. An interesting part of the game could be putting it online; rather than play a random virus you play against a human designed plague. Two options that I could think of:

1. After you wipe out humanity you can upload your game to the network, just a list of what you did and when. Someone playing defence mode can play against your virus and try and stop it. They control all the measures that you see the game use (port closures, culls, etc.) and try to save humanity.

2. Real time 1v1 (literal) deathmatch between a player controlling a plague and someone controlling the response team. No idea what the other player is going to do so it turns into almost a game of chess, moving things around and anticipating what the other guy is gonna do.

Then there's the usual survival/post-apocalypse RPG/RTS where you play as a survivor of the plague (an interesting idea would be having you start in an area where an uploaded playthrough failed to kill everyone in the original game, giving different starting conditions based on where survived) and you have rebuild society, dealing with all the dead and the destruction caused during the plague. Every so often you could run into a new mutation of the plague and have to research a new cure, or have the option in game of stopping vaccinations (much like we don't vaccinate for smallpox any more) saving money but running the risk of a resurgence.

Quite a lot possible from the games original premise.

OT: Great article as always Robert.

valium:
Is the final boss of Plague Inc Madagascar?

I'm Canadian and oddly enough my first successful disease, Love, conquered Canada last. Everything was solid red except Canada... so odd.

Good article, though I still prefer Pandemic 2. It's just more satisfying.

I'm also getting a bit sick of this growing trend where earlier, sometimes better versions of games appear on the internet, but the one that gets famous is the watered down mobile version. The one that bugs me the most is that Angry Birds has become such a ridiculously huge phenomenon, when flash game sites had versions of the same game that are a THOUSAND times more interesting and complex completely free.

Still, interesting stuff about plagues and whatnot. You should do an article on DEFCON. Fascinating game.

DragonStorm247:
The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

Oh god I love doing that. My favorite is to go for the brain upgrades and make the entire human race go insane AND blind simultaneously.

The other thing I love doing is when the world is basically destroyed and the message about the last few humans dying in holes pops up, sell all my lethal upgrades just as there's a dozen or so humans left. Then slowly killing them with horrific combinations of rashes, blindness and diarrhea, imagining as their hopes rise that they are getting better, then sink as the symptoms return. The the tiny group then bands together, huddled amongst destroyed buildings and mountains of human corpses, watching as the terrible disease picks off their companions 1 by 1. The final survivor feels the blindness becoming stronger, as their vision goes dark. Staring across the seas of rotting bodies, before collapsing, insane, blind and completely alone, contemplating humanity's final moment as a species, before the excruciating suffering takes over and claims their life as they die of vomit induced dehydration and organ failure.

A fascinating and surprisingly upbeat article. Good show.

Everytime I see people praising the game Plague Inc I can't help but think that its just a massive rip off of Pandemic - a flash game by DarkRealmStudios that was made all the way back in 2009. The gameplay is exactly the same as far as I can tell.

Unless I'm completely misguided and that DarkRealms is the same dev as Ndemic Creations or that Ndemic actually made a version of the game first I'll continue to feel bitter at Plague Inc's commercial success.

It does seem to copy Pandemic, but it's a little bit better than Pandemic as well. However, I feel it's a bit silly that onc eth ecure is created, everywhere around the world gets it immediately (rather than, say, rich countries first), the ability of a small, poor country to go into complete lockdown and not let anything near it is spectacular compared to real life (where animals would be much harder to stop and people would be going in droves from infected coutries to healthy ones and spreading the disease), and lastly, most mind-boggling of all, you counter safeguards on planes and ships by evolving the associated transmission, which I find counterintuitive. If ships were cleaned better, wouldn't that make a water-based plague worse off...?

EDIT: Oh and the other thing is, the events are really few and unimaginative. Almost every time the Olympics infects Britain, whether or not they're already infected, and if the game needs an excuse for cysts to be more effective, just any fucking country - and I've seen this happen in Afghanistan - holds a 'Festival of Love', which is rarely appropriate.

EDIT 2: And an anecdote, I normally name my diseases something serious, like Syrax or Verdew, but for some reason as soon as I name a disease 'Weed' it gets the high score. It's still there to this day, with 'Communism' not far behind, spoiling my sensible leaderboard.

DragonStorm247:
The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

I love doing that!

Anybody know when the next plague type is supposed to come out?

Funny, I just got this on my phone and have been playing it off and on during coffee breaks at work. It seems for once I got a game before hearing about it here. o.o

Thankfully I already knew that the plagues I'm unleashing would have a lot harder of a time trying to kill everyone here in the real world. Otherwise I might have just gone full germaphobe.

DragonStorm247:
The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

Trouble is, I always end up failing to kill anyone when I do that, as once a critical mass of people are infected you stop getting evolution points from infections, and only get them from pop-ups and deaths... leave it too long and although everyone's feeling like crap, no-one's really dying as they casually knock up a cure whilst you're scrabbling for enough dna to stop their hearts!

yamy:
Everytime I see people praising the game Plague Inc I can't help but think that its just a massive rip off of Pandemic - a flash game by DarkRealmStudios that was made all the way back in 2009. The gameplay is exactly the same as far as I can tell.

Unless I'm completely misguided and that DarkRealms is the same dev as Ndemic Creations or that Ndemic actually made a version of the game first I'll continue to feel bitter at Plague Inc's commercial success.

Meh, I found Plague Inc. to be much much better than Pandemic myself. The graphical interface is far better, the statistics tracker is far better, the actual spread of diseases feels better, and the actual game part feels better. People can not die to anythin nonplague related in Pandemic, whereas I've actually had deaths from things like riots in Plague Inc.

Wicky_42:

DragonStorm247:
The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

Trouble is, I always end up failing to kill anyone when I do that, as once a critical mass of people are infected you stop getting evolution points from infections, and only get them from pop-ups and deaths... leave it too long and although everyone's feeling like crap, no-one's really dying as they casually knock up a cure whilst you're scrabbling for enough dna to stop their hearts!

But once everyone's infected, you can just sell all of your spreading traits, then use them to buy more symptoms. For maximum cheapness, sell the low end symptom prereqs as well.

DrThodt:
Wait... Didn't humanity lose much of it's genetic diversity 50,000 years ago or so...? We're boned.

Yep, we aren't that diverse compared to other animals, but still diverse enough to survive anything but the most impossibly unlikely single disease.

On topic:
Another area where the game sacrifices realism for gameplay is in the ability of the human race to suddenly find a Cure for a Virus. Also infected people never become uninflected (barring a Cure) regardless of what they do or how weak your disease is. Plague Inc. is a good game but it never once struck me as realistic, or scary.

DragonStorm247:

Wicky_42:

DragonStorm247:
The most fun thing to do is maximize infection rate without having any symptoms. Once everyone in the world has it, turn on all the lethal ones.

Entire global population has heart attack all at the exact same time.

Trouble is, I always end up failing to kill anyone when I do that, as once a critical mass of people are infected you stop getting evolution points from infections, and only get them from pop-ups and deaths... leave it too long and although everyone's feeling like crap, no-one's really dying as they casually knock up a cure whilst you're scrabbling for enough dna to stop their hearts!

But once everyone's infected, you can just sell all of your spreading traits, then use them to buy more symptoms. For maximum cheapness, sell the low end symptom prereqs as well.

That works for, say, bacteria on normal, but on Hard you get diminishing returns on selling traits, and some disease types cost DNA to sell off symptoms (eg, virus), and each sale increases the cost (unless you get the mutation to counter that, though obviously that's a trade off). The issue is, if you have already bought lots of symptoms you need thirty+ DNA to get a decent killing trait, which you just can't get by selling traits in many scenarios. Though obviously it does work in several cases :)

get the salt er... antiseptic

image

I would like to see a version of this game with the following features:

1. End-goal isn't humanities total extinction, that is just unrealistically apocalyptic
2. Winning strategy isn't full spread no kill, wait until everyone infected, then suddenly crank up the killing.
3. A world map with province-level disease spread and realistic province migration via major roads (think paradox-style map).
4. Goal of causing long-term damage over sudden death spike
5. Multiple diseases in the world, along with multiplayer.
6. Evolving your disease doesn't cause everyone in the world to suddenly get the new version of your disease.
7. Ability to play as individual countries and try to respond to the disease without breaking your economy or causing riots.

Blaster395:
I would like to see a version of this game with the following features:

1. End-goal isn't humanities total extinction, that is just unrealistically apocalyptic
2. Winning strategy isn't full spread no kill, wait until everyone infected, then suddenly crank up the killing.
3. A world map with province-level disease spread and realistic province migration via major roads (think paradox-style map).
4. Goal of causing long-term damage over sudden death spike
5. Multiple diseases in the world, along with multiplayer.
6. Evolving your disease doesn't cause everyone in the world to suddenly get the new version of your disease.
7. Ability to play as individual countries and try to respond to the disease without breaking your economy or causing riots.

5. makes for a nice setup la Left 4 Dead - several teams of diseases fighting over who gets the most kills - hilarious :D

besides that, of course it's unrealistic - it's a game. look at any game ever, they all are - if i wanted to "play" even more reality, i could just go back outside. or to work. or join the army, if i was into RTS or shooters ;)

but i completely agree on the no-single-winning-strategy - once i got it, i marched up right to, what was it? bio-weapon? in no time (although that one was a female dog, as it started killing WAY to early xD ) - totally takes the challenge, and thus the fun, out of it. oh well, that's what that brain parasite is for, right? kind of reminded me of Planet of the Apes 2, when they were revering the bomb xD

oh, and regarding Greenland (good god, i HATE you, Greenland): that's why i switched to starting there - once it gets out of there, you have a realistic chance of having all of Greenland infected along the rest of the world (as having ports shut down basically means Game Over), so i can be sure to have them Greenlanders at their... sensitive parts ^^ (sure, there's still Madagascar, but it's never as much of a hassle as Greenland)

 

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