In a national disease center, hire and position agents in the field to ensure the current outbreak does not get out of hand. Knowing when to introduce a cure and how strong is important, as the infection will mutate to avoid detection and elimination.


CDC Award for the Destruction of the Eastern Seaboard
Presented by hodgestar

Give this entry an award


Ratings (show detail)

Overall: 3.3
Fun: 3.0
Production: 3.3
Innovation: 3.6

8% respondents marked the game as not working.
Respondents: 23


File Uploader Date
Mac OSX .app, final version
saluk 2011/09/17 23:51
Windows exe, final version
saluk 2011/09/17 23:46
Full source, final entry
saluk 2011/09/17 23:44
saluk 2011/09/16 08:07
More gameplay, hope I dont cause too many headaches
saluk 2011/09/16 06:49
Fargo, you will be missed. Thank you for your sacrifice.
saluk 2011/09/14 19:41
Go Charleston Go!
saluk 2011/09/14 19:07
Uh oh time
saluk 2011/09/14 08:48
saluk 2011/09/13 21:33

Diary Entries

Seeding a mind

So now that the themes are announced I can start to figure out how they fit into my master plan. I have been thinking a bit about what kind of goal I want to accomplish this coming week for some time. I do have a general esoteric idea that's in the dustbin of my brain that I was planning to pull out. Before the age of 15 I had a spurt of great ideas, most of which have yet to be attempted. But an idea is such a simple, weak thing. It is formless and without structure. It's like a packet of seeds, with no picture on the packet of what will grow when planted, or what proper care should be taken for it to grow. Or perhaps, it is the perfect garden environment for a specific kind of plant, but lacking the seed that will thrive there.

The themes announced are the perfect food for the strange vegetation that lies somewhere to the left of my vision, just in the corner there - waiting to grow. Each theme will emphasize a different feature of the plant. One may make it grow a bit taller, another could contribute a specific and pleasant smell. How to choose one theme over the others? It remains to be seen what this thing is going to look like when exposed to the light. For all I know, it could be a noxious weed that eats up all potential loveliness that could inhabit the garden otherwise. How to choose the proper conditions for a plant to grow when I don't know if it is tropical or temperate. Spring or Fall vegetation. Blooming during the day or in darkness. Whether it should be occasionally pruned - and how much.

The only thing for me to do is stick the seed in the ground, pour whatever theme pops to the top of the pile onto it as fertilizer, then spend a week watering, grooming, perhaps singing to it, and ensuring it gets some sunlight. All I can do is care for it the best I know how, and hope that it blooms into a beauty rather than an eyesore. For the most part, I am at the whim of nature. And if it doesn't grow, there is always the next seed.

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A game design emerges. What do you do, player?

Like some of you, I have been working on coming up with workable plans for each of the 5 themes under contention. I also did some brainstorming in the weeks before, to kind of pick a direction I wanted to head. All of my plans are meant to be manifestations of the same idea, but colored and shaped by the theme. There are a few concepts I am aiming for to explore with my design this week:
  • Clear and meaningful player choice
  • Be inspired from abstract concept rather than other games
  • Flexible game system
  • Emergent simulation
  • Light on time consuming elements such as graphics

And here are some very brief statements about the more concrete plans I have for the themes.

  • More criticals - change a populations viewpoint on a topic (critical mass to sustain the viewpoint) through social networking. Primary inspiration: political campaigns.
  • Mr Fixit - take jobs to fix clients broken devices, but parts can be hard to come by, and when the devices get strange, you may wonder if you should accept the jobs at all. Primary inspiration: Brazil
  • Mutate - fight the spread of infectious disease without causing it to mutate and invalidate all of your work. Primary inspiration: pandemic. Ok, so it IS a game, but at least it's not a video game :)
  • Mysterious stranger -You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now are caught between rival factions and their turf war. With no fighting skill or any skills of note for that matter, survival lies in turning enemies into friends. Primary inspiration: Enemy Mine
  • Negotiator - You are used to receiving some pretty strange and difficult calls working for the local counseling and crisis hotline. But through negotiation with a few callers you become aware of a dangerous situation that seems to be brewing in town. Trapped in the crisis center and armed only with a phone, can you make a difference? Primary inspiration: natural disasters

So far, I only have real gameplay planned for criticals, fixit, and negotiator. For those games I can visualize what the interface looks like, and how the game proceeds. Mutate has not yet taken complete shape in my mind, but I have an inkling of what it may be like. Mysterious stranger is the theme I have had the hardest time with, and it was the last one I came up with an idea for. I have no actual gameplay idea for it at all at this point.

Also, each idea I came up with I thought was better than the last, until I got to mutate and negotiator, which I feel are weaker. So please, vote for more criticals, negotiator, or mr fixit :)


Immunity: brainstorm and outline

As a manager at the CDC, it is your burden to ensure that you have hired the right people to the right positions around the country. You never know when the next outbreak may occur, and when it does, you want to know where it came from, where it is going, and how to stop it. Little do you know that the next disease is already here, and it's going to be the toughest fight yet.

Basic premise: You are the manager of the CDC, or a CDC like organization. You have a limited budget and staff. A viral infection is on the loose, claiming victims across the country. During the game you will hire various agents to posts around the country from a map like interface. Each agent exerts some influence over an area. Their work will find out causes of the disease, lobby local governments for actions to help stem the spread of it, and research and implement of cures. As the game progresses, and you think of solutions to the problem, the virus is also thinking. It will react to every action taken against it. Cures used will no longer work, it will change its attack vector to avoid detection, and it will spread in different ways to help it reach places that you aren't looking for it.

Can you stop it before the nation - nay, the world - is completely wiped out?

  • Exploration/planning - recruit and position your team, try and spot when the disease hits and from where
  • Curb and slow transmission - use media campaigns and travel restrictions from keeping the disease from spreading, while also investing in keeping the infected alive as long as possible to allow proper study
  • Develop and implement a cure - try and save as many people as possible and wipe out as much of the strain as possible
  • Immunize the rest - if you are successful, you will have stemmed the spread before it mutated. If not, be prepared to restart the cycle with a variant of the disease :)


  • Hire/fire members of your team
  • Assign workforce to the locations on the map
  • Give members of the workforce a job focus
  • Follow up on incoming information to be able to react
  • Initiate specific special action plans

Disease modelling:

  • Each location has an infectable population, divided into 1000s
  • Each of those infectable population groups belongs to a demographic
  • Population groups move around the map
  • Disease starts with certain characteristics - spread vector and rate, time to symptom, symptoms, time to live, death rate, and resistances
  • Disease will latch onto a population and be represented as a number of infected in that population
  • Based on the activities of the population, and the spread vector and rate, the disease can be added to another population in the same space
  • Local situations on a space, influenced by the agents there, will adjust these spread factors
  • Cures or treatments can lower the infected amount in populations
  • Diseases that are attacked (cures, immunization) but still alive, will tweak their characteristics


  • Not too realistic - have fun with it
  • Interesting symptoms!
  • icons and interface clear enough to have an idea of whats happening, without being too transparent (hidden information is an important part of the game mechanic)
  • Pixel art for various things, but low on animation. A shot of someone in a hospital bed for instance. Only the bare minimum of art.
  • Exciting interface to make up for lack of art, icons moving from place to place, color cycling, etc
  • Creepy music stolen from ccMixter. Lots of it on a cycle.
  • Nice interface sounds, clicks, pops, etc that feel good

Development plan:

  • 1-2 days of design. Breadth and depth. Occasional programming, but only to check if an idea is worth pursuing or not. NAIL DOWN SCOPE - What is absolutely necessary? What isn't?
  • 1-2 days engine work. Focus on the feel of the game. The icons and menus. Basic basic graphical elements - but not so programmer arty that they can't be used in final. Don't worry about being able to "win". The game may ultimately not be winnable anyway - the virus keeps evolving until it is unbeatable? Ensure all of the REQUIRED elements are in, even if not tweaked well.
  • 3 days of tweaking and additions. Add elements that are not required. Make game fun. Must stress again. Make game fun. Identify potential problem areas early on and get them taken care of. First 10 minutes, not the third or fourth 10 minutes of gameplay. Engine should not have obvious bugs by this point.

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Mutagion - day 1

I decided to change the name from immunity (kind of boring) to mutagion (mashup of hot new movie contagion and the theme).

Today I did hardly anything. I waited most of the day for theme announcement, then after a short brainstorm session, I left it to simmer. Then right before bed, I picked up my notebook and started planning this stuff out.

First, rather than having faceless population groups on the map, I decided I should add some character. Each population group will be represented by a single character. For instance, a child group in an area will be abstracted away as Sally, the 6 year old rich girl who has all of the standard immunizations. Don't hurt me if some of these are racially or gender stereotypical :( I will try not to but it's hard. Ultimately all of the characters at the start of the game will probably be randomly generated though, so that might help.

I haven't decided yet whether you will be able to monitor the status of all people (clicking on a city, you see a list of all of the representative characters), or only see the ones who have reported they are sick. But you will in some fashion be able to read about the characters and try and spot the ones who have more than just the common cold before they die. Of course you will get reports of deaths as well.

I'm also throwing out the mechanic of hiring disease center agents and placing them on the map. I'm not sure what I'll be replacing it with, but it felt too indirect. And like a different game. I know there will be some types of actions you can take, ranging from things like collecting a blood sample from a person (which will give you a piece of info about the virus, if they have it); to more drastic actions like implementing a campaign for safe sex to curb spread of std (if the disease happens to be transmitted via sex).

The former will be far less costly to you as a player than the latter, and these resources will be one of the main mechanics. One of the ways to gain influence is to simply wait for the disease to be more of a threat. I'm not sure of other ways, but perhaps spending cash or healing famous people lol.

One of the things I want is multiple "solutions" to the game. For example, I thought of a strategy where you basically pick a city, and build up enough influence to implement the most drastic actions there. You halt air traffic in or out, block the roads, and make breathing masks, water filtration, and abstinence mandatory by law. Then you wait as the rest of the world is taken over by the disease :) Not that this is necessarily a good ending, or that I plan to actually implement this strategy or make it viable, but I want the possibility space of the game to be big enough that people can come up with crazy ideas like this and see what happens.

Scope still too big. Plan for tomorrow: simplify more, and begin coding diseases, spread, and how to influence them.


Day 2.5 - mutagion design is hazy, time to march forward

I didn't make much progress today at all. Too busy with other things :( I wish pyweek had been last week, when I was a bit less overbooked. Also, all the time spent thinking up ideas for the other themes last week just made me more disappointed with this one, which is making it hard to keep pressing forward. I'm very close to quitting, but I keep telling myself to just put one foot in front of the other...

My design is still pretty unclear. Yesterday evening and this morning I worked on modelling viruses and populations. It has potential but I am not really seeing how it all fits into the gameplay at this time. Just to get some actual coding started I spent a few minutes putting music and the in game map together for the first real game screen. That made me feel a little better, even though objectively it doesn't really get me any close to the goal.

Tentative plan for the rest of the week:

  • continue with existing virus, people, and cities; get them running on the map
  • add things for player to do to win
  • extend simulation
  • add things for player to do to win
  • iterate until pyweek ends

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Mutagion - game development begun

Yay! After a lot of difficulties just getting started, I have gotten a bit further. This morning I implemented the map, which took a surprising amount of time. I pulled in some real life city positions from a data file (I didn't want to manually place everything), but then I realized I had no idea how to turn latitude and longitude into pixel positions that would match up with any of the maps I had. So I had to go out and find a map in which the latitude and longitude lines were straight, so that I could handle the conversion myself without a bunch of crazy polar coordinate business that I don't have time to figure out right now. A good map that could be used in the game was really hard to come by. I managed to find a world map, took the america portion, and blew it up in a semi ugly but semi interesting pixelated way.

Then I put a glowy green filter over everything. I want to simulate the kind of outdated computer terminals that I like to imagine in my fantasy world the government still uses in these kinds of positions.

But once that was out of the way, I attached the virus simulation to it, and it is pretty cool to watch. There is still nothing for the player to do, but it's cool to watch the green cities turn red over time. And sometimes it will jump across connections even though I don't have air travel implemented, just because of the way people like to walk around. The coolest run only saw a portion of the map go red. Everyone must have died before it managed to spread everywhere? It's pretty rare to not get a total wipeout though. And air travel will probably kill the chances of that.

Tomorrow I need some gameplay, but I have a lot of ideas for that, so it should be fun to see how to interact with the already interesting simulation.

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Fargo may be lost to us, but we have won

I added population data to cities. I played a game where the virus started in fargo. It didn't have enough time to spread to any other city, so I basically won.

Now for the mutation, perhaps it should adjust it's kill rate if it sees that it is running out of hosts?

But still it was pretty cool to "win" even though there are still no player actions available!

This is a more common occurance:

Everywhere is hit, but one or two holdouts survive.

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Mutagion is still not a game, but I march forward anyway

I don't know why I am having such a hard time going from a (broken) simulation to a game. One of my goals at the outset was to make sure I have a game, because I wanted to fight my natural inclination when creating simulations like this to just keep tweaking the simulation forever. After excessive tweaking, not only is the simulation completely broken (the virus does not spread beyond its first few victims), but there are still no meaningful actions for the player to even do. I did however add the basic system for doing actions, so that's a start I guess. You can hire doctors and researchers to a city, but they don't actually do anything.

I feel like it is so close, and if I am able to get the tuning on the simulation right, that the game will just naturally emerge from the soup of stuff I've been cobbling together all week. But I'm risking a lot on that assumption :) Here's hoping tomorrow is a bit more productive than today was!

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Mutagion - finished!

Yay! I managed to connect the dots. Started the day with some simulated elements, some interface, some resources, and some major bugs in the simulation. Ended the day with something that more or less feels 'gamey'.

My best score is pretty abysmal: 30%. Can you do better?

I apologize for no tutorial. The game is pretty simple, but I assume some of the interface may be a bit difficult to get used to.

I wish I had been able to work on the game a bit more during the week, I think I had a gem of a base for a game.