Gaming: Infected!

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realised you are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environments but you humans do not. You move to an area and then you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human being are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague and we are the cure.

Agent Smith should have played Plague Inc. I became aware of this game last night, at 1am, thanks to this post my Mrrx. Gank commented that it was available on Android – thereby immediately threatening any hope I had of a good night’s sleep – which was not a given since despite the fact it was 0100 and I knew I was likely to be woken up some time around 0600 – I was not tired at all. It happens sometimes. So I played a game, since nothing is as guaranteed to keep me awake even longer than lying in bed unable to go to sleep. My first disease was called Sleepitis, and humanity discovered a cure in time, though I took about half the world’s population with me.

The basic idea of the game is really quite simple. You have to balance several factors – how infectious the plague is, how deadly, and how effective humanity is at responding to it. Too many symptoms and humanity will realise something is up and start to research a cure before you are ready. If you are too lethal you run the risk of killing off the infected populace before everyone healthy has been infected. The environment (hot/cold humid/arid) and state of human settlement (urban/rural dense/sparse advanced/third-world) all effect how your virus spreads. As the game progresses you can develop your pathogen through DNA points, some of which you acquire just as the plague infects and kills people, and others by touching various notifications that appear on the screen. You can use these to improve the modes of transmission, strengthening it by making it harder to research or more durable, and also direct what symptoms. Symptoms can also develop through undirected spontaneous mutation.

Today I have managed seven more games. Ditzy was my second plague, starting in Mexico. This one fell into the lethality trap. Humanity survived – in Greenland. Just abut every other nation collapsed, but in Greenland a few thousand clung on. Greenland is a tricky place to get to, and by the time the plague had gotten there it was too virulent.

My third plague was called Nokia. I had intended to start it in Finland, but when trying to zoom the map accidentally clicked on the UK instead. Nokia was my first success, but it was a near-run thing. Once again it was a case of almost being too lethal, with a low infection rate in Canada (thanks do doubt to its cold climate and sparse population). So with the rest of the world infected I devolved two of the deadlier symptoms, and whacked some DNA points into transmission vectors. This did the trick, and Canada fell.

These first three games had been played on the casual difficulty, but now I decided to try to play a Normal game. This plague came from Egypt and was called Red Bull. This proved to be another close-run game – humanity had the cure 98% researched when the last countries collapsed – it was really quite exciting. What was fun about this one is a news story came up about increased bird migrations, so I developed the first level of the bird-vector. The a second story occurred about how bird migrations were even more extreme – and so I researched the second level of the bird-vector. The plague spread like wildfire after that.

After this I had unlocked the next level of plague – Virus. Viruses have a feature that is both a help and a hurt – they mutate more rapidly. This means that the plague can both be noticed sooner, and its lethality be more difficult to control. Unlike in the first game mode, which is called Bacteria, you do not get DNA points back but have to spend them to remove un-wanted mutations. On the other hand if you can control the virus in the opening stages it will largely develop the necessary lethality with minimal prompting allowing you to conserve DNA points for resisting humanity’s effort at developing a cure.

I played three games at this level (including Samsung starting in Korea and AAPL starting in the USA – I make no defence for my sense of humour). Amusingly AAPL has my highest score so far – it took a long time for that one to get going but once it did it was fast. It was also a normal level difficulty, which unlocked the next pathogen type – Fungus.

My first Fungus I called Gold and started it again from Egypt. Fungus plagues apparently have difficulty spreading long distances, and I could see that in the game. Deaths were occurring before most of Latin America became infected. On the other hand one this one got rolling it could spread within a high-population country like nothing I have yet seen. China went to full infection in almost no time.

Along the way I have worked out the tactics, more or less, that Mrrx discusses in this follow-up post. So far I have worked out the same overall strategy more or less works for Virus and Fungus, but you do need to modify it a little.

All in all I can see this being an excellent time-waster for some time yet.



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