Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’


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








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.


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.


Dark Souls II – Again and again I come back…

December 15, 2013

ds2 logo

No confirmed date for the PC release yet, but it certainly won’t be before March next year. I don’t have a console (or time for epic games like this, really) but I’ll be making room in my life for the PC version as soon as it appears.

That last video is my favourite, because of the music, which is track 10 on this album, Industrial Complex by Nitzer Ebb.

And here are some pictures…

ds2 pic 01

ds2 pic 02

ds2 pic 03

ds2 pic 04


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.


Danmaku 2 vs Aftershock

November 12, 2013

danmaku 2 pic 0880 Motörhead_Aftershock







Purely out of boredom, during the flight from Birmingham to Larnaca a couple of weeks ago, I played Danmaku Unlimited 2 while listening to Motorhead’s new album, Aftershock. Completely nuts and easily one of the most intense ways to entertain oneself during a flight.

If you fancy trying this, and you should, remember to turn off the game’s own music or you’re going to implode. 


My best rating system ever

January 1, 2013

It’s the first day of a new year, so I don’t know why you’re looking so surprised. Of course I’m going to radically alter my rating system. Why? Because the old one was seriously flawed, that’s why.

First of all, why the hell did I include “Sound” and give it as much influence over the final rating as “Fun” or “Content”? Who knows? It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. As for the final ratings, they were generally way too high and way too inconsistent. Arcadelife’s average review score is somewhere around 80%. Great news for most of the games I reviewed but suggestive of a very lenient and probably less than informative scoring system. Either that, or almost every game I reviewed was very good. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

So … Here’s what you’re getting in 2013. It’s going to be a much better rating system, at least until 2014 when I decide it was rubbish. Probably.

The Sound category is OUT. I don’t care about Sound. Actually I do, but I am creating a replacement category called Presentation. The Presentation category will cover a lot of things, including sound, but will also focus on stuff like the menu system, tutorial (is there one? is it any good? is it needed?), slickness and overall polish. Damn, yeah, ok, I mentioned the word polish. The other categories are staying, because they make sense, although “Visuals” will now specifically mean the in-game graphics and not how pretty the menus are.

Numbers, don’t you just love them? I wanted to ditch the final rating score altogether and just use one of ten words or phrases, which we’ll come to soon, but then I realised this would screw up how the Arcadelife reviews appear on the iPhone Quality Index. They need a score in numeric form and I don’t want to burden them with the jolly task of deciphering a number from my rating words so I’ll use this principle:

The final rating (number) will appear but will be directly derived from the word I use to rate the game. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what the bloody hell is he rambling on about? It’s fairly straightforward really and I think most people will understand it, although they won’t necessarily like it. The solution, if you don’t like it, would obviously be to set up your own review site and go through this nightmare yourself, or just wait until I eventually create the ultimate best ever rating system and use that.

The final ratings and their numbers are as follows:

  • Best Game Ever – 10
  • Excellent – 9
  • Very Good – 8
  • Good – 7
  • Quite Good – 6
  • Mediocre – 5
  • Disappointing – 4
  • Poor – 3
  • Pathetic – 2
  • Atrocious – 1

“Best Game Ever” is a bit of an in-joke that evolved from discussions and text messages between me and my friend Ben, where we manage to find at least one BGE every week, if not every day. It doesn’t mean the game is the best game ever, obviously, just that it qualifies as one for at least the short period of time that we played it. The way I see it, developers and publishers are going to enjoy putting that in their app store description if it is ever awarded to a game, even if it’s not exactly a unique accolade.

I’ve also changed the scoring from a percentage to a score out of 10, mostly because there’s a universal fear of awarding a game 100% because “no game is perfect” and blah blah blah. People seem perfectly happy seeing a game get 10/10, so I’ll follow that trend, just don’t expect to see many games getting 10!

Now I just need to review a game to see how this works out…


Far Cry 3 – Holiday Photos

December 18, 2012

Here are some pictures I took during my recent holiday, sitting in front of my PC:














Sorry, but it wasn’t my fault.

September 14, 2012

Apologies to anyone who was expecting a review, news item or anything at all to appear on Arcadelife recently. My Internet Service Provider has been spectacularly failing to provide any kind of a service for almost three whole days which, as we all know, is a lifetime on the internet.

So, Virgin Media, no thanks at all for that. They can expect a communication from me very shortly stating exactly why I’ll be getting a refund. The stupefyingly annoying voice of the woman reciting the same uninformative phone message for three whole days should be worth a full year’s refund on its own.

Customer service? What the hell is that? At least I’m bothering to explain where this website has been since Tuesday and, last time I checked, nobody is paying me to do any of this.

I’ll get a review posted as soon as I can.