Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category


COVID-19 – How realistic is Plague Inc?

March 19, 2020

Plague Inc is a simulation where the player evolves a plague, with the goal being to eradicate (or enslave, depending on the plague type) the entire world. The game has recently been removed from Steam (China only) and other online game stores in China, although there is no formal evidence this is linked to coronavirus / COVID-19.

Now, while it’s pretty easy to topically accuse Plague Inc of disrespecting those affected by COVID-19, I’m more interested in whether or not the game’s simulation of an actual pandemic outbreak comes close to what is happening right now, on this wonderful planet we call home.

There’s a very simple way to test this, which is what I’ve done: create a ‘virus type’ plague, give it coughing and pneumonia symptoms (adding pulmonary oedema later on), a few abilities that make it hard to cure, give it a starting location of China, let it loose and see what happens.

Some info about how I played this: I set the game difficulty to ‘mega brutal’ which means the world has the best chance of beating the plague. If the virus mutated, I removed the mutations to keep it as close to the current version of COVID-19, at least as far as we can figure out what that is, based on available information.

Here’s the story of how it played out, with some screen images of the way the simulated COVID-19 affected the world.

If the plague has no (serious) symptoms, it tends to go unnoticed for a long time, but in mega-brutal difficulty it can be spotted in a random health check.

Once people start to die, the plague gets mentioned in the news, a cure will start to be developed, and countries might start closing airports and locking land borders.

While the country where the plague started works on a  cure, the virus continues to spread to other countries.

China shuts its airports, but the plague has already got out and is infecting other countries quite quickly, albeit with only coughing and a bit of air transmission to pass it around.

As the death toll rises, the WHO puts the plague on a watchlist. Other countries are taking various actions but the cure is barely starting to be developed.

Less than a year in, and more than half the world has been infected. The cure is still more than a year away.

Random news events occur in the game. In this session, the USA President is taken ill. Note the news stream at the top of the screen casually mentions the UK distributing face masks.

This one is pretty realistic, with the 2022 world cup being cancelled. Looking at the state of that map, with almost the whole world infected (even Greenland – yay!) this is hardly surprising.

The cure is more than half completed, but the virus is still doing a good job of infecting almost the entire planet. Note – I didn’t allow the virus to mutate any symptoms, so this is still just coughing, pneumonia and pulmonary oedema causing these effects.

No healthy countries left. Some infected countries still have healthy people, and there are no destroyed countries due to the relatively low lethality of the virus.

Although, even with a fairly mild virus, the death toll is still high.

And…that’s it, they developed a cure and started to deploy it around the world. Congratulations, but look at the death count.

That graph shows the way the infectivity tended to rocket, while the severity and lethality were fairly flat. The highest peaks were where Pulmonary Oedema was introduced. I took it away the first time it appeared, although it seemed like it did fit in with the way COVID-19 is affecting people so I put it back later on.

This is interesting, at least by ‘graph’ standards. The death count, as a percentage, is very low – you can see it at the bottom, most noticeable at the lower right of the graph. The percentage is pretty close to the overall percentage of deaths per cases being seen with the actual COVID-19 virus.

And there you have it, all over in 665 days. I really, seriously, hope it doesn’t take that long to deal with COVID-19 and get everything back to whatever ‘normal’ used to feel like.


This opinion article was written on a dasKeyboard Model S Professional.
I also write novels – JW Tapper website








Grim Dawn Forgotten Gods – Hardcore Oathkeeper – Part Two

March 30, 2019

The planned progress update at level 20 has turned into this level 36 progress update…

I’m currently about halfway through Act 2, taking my time after a couple of ridiculously close calls, mostly due to the combination of the lack of tank skills in my Oathkeeper build and my own reckless attitude to rushing into the Steps of Torment on Veteran difficulty. Which unsurprisingly led to this near-death experience at level 33:

That picture, and a few others in this progress update are still images from recorded footage – apologies for the quality but you can see what’s happening!

I was planning on sticking with a pure Oathkeeper until level 50 but leaving it until then is just not going to be viable, knowing what I’d have to go through to get to that point. Due to the skills I’m using (and really loving, I have to say) the only real choice for a second mastery is Soldier because I need the tank skills and various backup plans that come with them. I’m also going to start getting some health/resistance devotion constellations sorted out after I complete the Magi constellation. This is what my choice of Oathkeeper skills looked like at about level 35:

I’ve ditched a few early skill choices and gone for an almost totally damage-based build, primarily Burn and Fire, with some Vitality damage. I made what I suppose a lot of people will think is an odd choice of attaching the Bat constellation’s Twin Fangs to Eye of Reckoning, but this is how it works: Eye of Reckoning is set to a level where I can pretty much keep it on all the time because the amount of energy it uses is constantly being restored due to the energy regen rate I’ve got. Now, Eye of Reckoning deals damage every 0.2 seconds (at 100% attack speed). Twin Fangs has a 20% chance to occur on attack, which means the EoR skill is firing off five times a second, so Twin Fangs is activating approximately once every second. Twin Fangs has ‘% Attack damage converted to health’ so in a big fight something is always getting tagged about once a second and I’m getting health back from it. Not a lot, and certainly not enough to compensate for reckless behaviour. Should be a different story once I get Menhir’s Will and Overguard early on in the Soldier skill tree.

Overall, with the damage skills set up this way, I’m having a whole load of fun with the new mastery from the Forgotten Gods expansion. I can see a lot of different ways this class could be used, and I suspect the way I’m doing it is fairly predictable. For now, I’m not looking at anyone else’s Oathkeeper builds or videos so what I end up with is pretty my own invention. Always assuming this character stays alive long enough to get there!

Link to Part One

I also write novels:

Grim Dawn Forgotten Gods – Hardcore Oathkeeper – Part One

March 27, 2019

Last time I posted something like this on Arcadelife was back in 2013 when I was playing Diablo 3, trying to get a hardcore character to the level cap. This time (with a lot less available time) I’m trying out the new Oathkeeper class/mastery in Grim Dawn’s new expansion – Forgotten Gods, which was released about five hours ago on Steam.

I’ve already taken a couple of hardcore characters to level 50, completing the base game (i.e. not including the Ashes expansion) with one of them, so I’ve got a reasonable idea about what I’m doing. Unlike in Diablo 3, where there’s a 10 second countdown whenever you try to leave the game, Grim Dawn can be paused at any time and you can quit immediately – this makes hardcore mode considerably less stressful.

Currently, my hardcore Oathkeeper character is level 15, which is exactly where I planned to get it to on day one. I’d already figured out where I was going to assign mastery points which you can see here in a screenshot from the game (not from Grim Tools, which is a truly brilliant site, in case you were wondering):

Getting to level 15 was pretty quick. I used the Crucible (sort of an infinite arena mode if you don’t know what it is) from level 7 until I unlocked 5 devotion points, after a couple of runs through the Slith island very close to the start of the first campaign area. For early levelling, and clearing trash mobs, Aegis of Menhir is adequate but nowhere near as effective a starter skill as the Necromancer’s skeletons or the Shaman’s Devouring swarm. It starts to look good once you get the mastery bar up to level 5 and start putting points in the Avenging Shield skill which lets your Aegis hit more targets. This is what it looks like early on, in action at character level 6:

As I mentioned, I used the Crucible from level 7, once Aegis of Menhir was doing enough damage to be effective at clearing waves of enemies. Crucible is a quick and easy way to get 5 Devotion points before wading into the main campaign. I wanted to get the Fiend constellation as quickly as possible because of the percentage buffs to fire damage – which is the default damage type on Aegis of Menhir. You can modify it to acid damage, which I probably won’t bother with, and the whole point of that would be if you were going for a totally different damage focus on a particular build. Fiend also gives you this 25% chance damage effect – I’ve got it bound to Righteous Fervour which is being used as default attack (left mouse button). Just one point in that skill; I might stick with it but I’ll probably swap Flame Torrent out for a better devotion skill at a later stage.

Reprisal unlocks at mastery level 20. This looks very much like something they added in for all the people who quite sensibly want to dump all their attribute points in Physique and not bother putting any in Spirit. As you can see (pic below) each level of Reprisal lowers the energy cost of Aegis of Menhir in addition to adding a large amount of burn damage. It also includes a new buff type that appears in Forgotten Gods – the addition of a percentage of retaliation damage to attack damage. Again, they’ve realised the basic retaliation builds are a bit boring to play because you generally just stand there and don’t attack anything. This type of buff just gives you more options, like you’d maybe want to equip that Perdition set you’ve got hanging around but never really wanted to play a Retaliation build because it sounds too boring.

That’s about it for level 15. It’s pointless talking about gear because I’m picking up whatever drops and occasionally swapping around some items where I’ve got low-level rares and epics in storage. Nothing worth mentioning – it’s the same stuff every player will have seen if they’re played a few different characters through normal/veteran.

I’ll aim to get an update posted when I reach level 20. That could be before or after getting past the warden, depends how tanky the Oathkeeper is feeling at that point. If you’re playing this expansion, have a good time with it – it’s looking fun so far.


I also write novels:

Titan Quest iOS – Dev Diary 2

May 13, 2016

This has just been added on YouTube.

I played the hell out of Titan Quest on PC. The touch interface looks absolutely brilliant – great job, DotEmu. Now I just can’t wait to play this all over again on iPad, ten years after it was first released.


I Sell My Kids For Rock’N’Roll

September 24, 2014

Crucified Barbara have a new album out – In The Red, available on iTunes and everywhere else where you can buy music. iTunes has them listed as Hard Rock and they’re not kidding. There’s not really a single weak track on any of their 4 albums and that wonderful example above is track one from the new album.

I’m already hooked – Mia can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned – so it’s kind of pointless reviewing the band’s new album because I’d just be saying, “It’s great, buy it, etc.” and I know that most of the (3) people who visit this site don’t like stuff like Motorhead so they’re probably not going to take my word on this. Ok, fine, don’t. Just play that video and make up your own mind.



Revenge of Toxic Frog – hints ‘n’ tips

January 29, 2014

Here’s my guide to Revenge of Toxic Frog (iOS/Universal) or, more accurately, my guide to achieving the highest score possible in that game.

Getting a very high score, reaching and passing the 500,000 milestone (and earning the Arcadelife Cup achievement), relies on one thing: combos. Specifically, it relies on being able to string together a constant sequence of firefly captures without missing any at all and without dying. I’ll tell you how the combo system works, the base scores for each type of firefly and the best levels to exploit for the highest score possible, as well as some tips for staying alive and maximising the combo multiplier in the time available.

The base score is the score you will get for landing on a firefly with the combo multiplier at 1.

RoTF - normal firefly

The normal firefly has a base score of 100. Each successive normal firefly that you land on – without any hops between fireflies – will increase your combo multiplier by 10. This means that the second firefly that you collect will have a multiplier of x10, giving you 1000 points for that firefly. The next one will have a multiplier of x20 (2000 points) and so on.

An unbroken sequence of normal fireflies will give you a score that increases as follows: 100, 1100, 3100, 6100, 10100, 15100, 21100, 28100, 36100, 45100, etc. The key to really huge scores is building the score multiplier up to over x200.

RoTF green firefly

Green fireflies have a base score of 1000. They also temporarily give your frog the ability to hop to any visible lily-pad on the screen. Green fireflies are a great help with high scores for two reasons: their base score is already 1000 and they will give you the chance to reach a firefly that you would otherwise have been unable to reach, speeding up your combo building. Additionally, they do not break your combo streak when the hopping power-up wears off. They first appear on level 7, which is worth knowing if you plan on incorporating them into your scoring strategy. Note that collecting a green firefly with a score multiplier at x200, for example, will instantly increase your score by 200,000 points.

RoTF purple firefly

Purple fireflies have a base score of 1000. They grant your frog temporary immunity from yellow fireflies, enabling you to collect those for a short time, much like the power-pills in Pac-Man. This sounds like a great way to score high, but there is a big catch: When the purple firefly’s immunity wears off, the combo multiplier resets. I always avoid collecting purple fireflies, preferring to wait for them to return to the normal state before grabbing them, unless I encounter one when I have less than 15 seconds remaining and my multiplier is at least x200. Otherwise, you’re throwing your combo multiplier away in exchange for whatever you manage to score while the immunity power-up is active.

RoTF yellow firefly

Yellow fireflies can only be collected while you have the purple firefly immunity active. The base score (yellow firefly collected while immunity is active and combo multiplier is reset by 1 or more non-scoring hops) is 2000. If you manage to get your multiplier to at least x200, then pick up a purple, then pick up one or more yellow fireflies in sequence before the multiplier resets, you will achieve an impressive score. It isn’t something that you can plan for, but you need to be prepared to go for it on the rare occasion when the situation arises.

The last element that you need in order to score high is time. As the levels get harder, you are given more time to complete the goals. This additional time is also a great help for scoring high. The downside, of course, is that the later levels have more hazards. After significant experimentation, I arrived at the following conclusions:

RoTF pic 1839

Levels with owls – forget it. The owls fly around the screen, killing your frog instantly if they pass over it. This is a hopeless situation if you are camping on a lily-pad waiting for a firefly to float past.
Levels with the Toxic Frog(s) – almost guaranteed rage as they will hop onto your lily-pad and kill your frog when they float within range.
Levels with Tiki bombs. Don’t even bother.

The levels with giant catfish are fine because you’re only ever going to be hopping to lily-pads with fireflies on them. Catfish will never appear on the same lily-pad as a firefly.

Best level for early high-score chasing: level 2. This level is perfect, apart from the relatively short amount of time available. Scoring over 500,000 is possible, it just requires a lot of patience and a purple firefly very near the end of the timer.

Best overall level for high-scores: level 8. Time available: 02:35. There are catfish, but no other hazards apart from the yellow fireflies. There are also green fireflies which can contribute to massive scores. I finally managed to break the million point barrier on level 8.

Level 7 – If you prefer the night levels, 7 is reasonable for high-scoring but you have 10 seconds less than level 8 and the stars seem to take up a lot of the lily-pads.

It’s worth noting that the score multiplier only affects firefly scores. Collecting stars or flowers will always give you the same base score, it will not be multiplied by your combo multiplier.

Now all you have to do is get the game and you can be just as tragically obsessed as I am.


Revenge of Toxic Frog – scoring a million points

January 27, 2014

Once again I appear to be really good at a game that hardly anyone else plays. Ninjaboy, Rocket Warrior, Coverfire, the original Toxic Frog and now Revenge of Toxic Frog. After being involved with the game before it was launched and then playing it every day since its release on the app store, I finally broke the million point barrier today.

revenge of toxic frog pic 0772

Of course, nobody cares because for some reason this absolute classic game has gone unnoticed by the majority of iOS gamers. Also, I’d assume that not even the people who own this game care because the scores I am achieving are so high they probably think it’s a glitch with Game Center. Yes, I really am that good. If you don’t think so, you know what you need to do… Click this link:

iTunes link


R-Type update (iOS)

December 19, 2013


It’s great that the buttons can now be moved around and re-sized, but the local high-score is still not retained between games and the sound controls are still backwards, with the FX slider controlling music volume and the music slider controlling sound effects. Come on, get that high-score to actually show the high score and fix those volume control icons.

R-Type is a classic shooter, one of my all time favourites, and it plays wonderfully on touch screens. Get it from the app store HERE.


Volgarr the Viking (PC)

December 12, 2013

Volgarr 2013-12-10 19-38-00-81

This has been out for a few months, but I only recently spotted it on Steam while I was browsing for platform games. It’s retro hard with a distinct lack (or scarcity, I haven’t figured that out yet) of checkpoints and a combination of level design and enemy placement that is frequently nasty.

Volgarr 2013-12-12 20-53-18-85

It reminds me of Rygar but it has a bit more variety, particularly with the spears that can be used as a ranged weapon, charged up to deal more damage or cut down multiple enemies, or be thrown at vertical walls to form a makeshift ladder.

Volgarr 2013-12-12 20-56-44-17

The lack of checkpoints and abundance of death opportunities mean it will have quite limited appeal but, if you’re after a modern take on the brutally hard action platformer genre, you’re probbaly going to enjoy this as much as I do.


To find out more and see some videos of it in action, here’s the Steam store link:

Official description: “Remember when games were tough? Return to the Golden Age of arcades with an all-NEW hardcore action experience that pulls no punches. Volgarr the Viking possesses all the hallmarks of the true classics – simple controls, high challenge, and meticulous design – combined with hand-made pixel animation, an epic soundtrack, and buckets of…”



Tesco – you’re having a laugh

November 17, 2013

I’m not criticising “money off” vouchers, I love a bit of money off, but when I got this one I thought they were taking the piss just a bit:

tesco_pennyI haven’t redeemed it, so feel free to grab the code and use it online if you are desperate to save yourself 1p.