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In the Time of Pandemia

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2 5 Points

Make par at Zone 2. Lower score is better.

3 5 Points

Make par at Zone 3. Lower score is better.

5 10 Points

Make par at Zone 5. Lower score is better.

4 25 Points

Make par at Zone 4. Lower score is better.

6 25 Points

Make par at Zone 6. Lower score is better.

7 50 Points

Make par at Zone 7. Lower score is better.

8 50 Points

Make par at Barrio Otso. Lower score is better.

COVID Conqueror 100 Points

Make par in all zones. Lower score is better.

Author Comments


You're a crisis manager of a town under the grip of COVID-19. Your mission is to save lives.

*Instructions inside.

*Includes a sandbox mode with level codes to share.



# "COVID Conqueror" trophy now unlockable. Thanks to @HerbieG for the report.

# "4" medal now worth 25 points. Thanks again @HerbieG.


# Adjusted par scores. Thanks to @redgamehunter for the feedback on this.

# Long simulation codes in sandbox are no longer concatenated. Thanks @PBSfanboy for posting your code.


# Streamlined the level progression. Compensated for lost points by increasing the value of the remaining medals. Acknowledging @Ericho for this.


The compound I stay at is about to be cordoned. We've been contact-traced by the police, swabbed by medical personnel covered in protective gear. One of our housemates works at a government hospital and tested positive for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

The pandemic closes in from all sides. What can a game-maker do in a time like this?

I've been asking myself this question since the beginning of community quarantine. I'm based in Cebu City, now the top hotspot fior COVID-19 in the Philippines in terms of incidence proportion. I'm at a quarter called Barangay Guadalupe which goes in and out of first place for most number of infections. The once lively streets are empty while yellow tape festoons more and more houses like the aposematism of poison frogs—except it strikes fear in both marked and onlookers alike.

A local writer compared the experience of pandemic to the Five Stages of Grief. In my case, I went from denial to a form of suspended depression. As if in a fog, I felt helpless as the pandemic tore through the City. I wanted to do something, anything, to help, and perhaps truer, to find a lifeline out of this dark place between helplessness and despair.

Games can make abstract concepts accessible, awaken empathy, and move people to action. Games can allow us to explore the possibility space to not only see but live through proposed solutions and their consequences. The final push to action came from a Facebook post by Raph Koster calling for an interactive COVID-19 simulation where he sketched the game design that became the starting point of this work.

We thus developed In the Time of Pandemia—a simulation game in which you take on the role of crisis manager of a town under the grip of COVID-19. The core art, music, and code were created during Jamdemic 2020. After the jam, I proceeded with development in pockets of lucidity in the next three months—implementing a sandbox mode, searching the literature, and iterating in light of player feedback.

To quote the statistician George Box to qualify the scope of this piece: "All models are wrong, but some are useful." The game incorporates data from published sources to attain plausibility. However, it's a toy model roughly approximating a complex and evolving phenomenon.

In the end, the attempt to articulate a game-maker's perspective on COVID-19 has enabled me to somehow transcend the chaos outside and the turmoil within. It's become a welcome respite from isolation, a thread connecting me to a diversity of talents who've been truly generous with their expertise and encouragement. As incidences continue to rise here and in many parts of the world, our hope is that the game will be of some use in showing what it takes to flatten the curve and in advocating for communities most in need.

Take care.

Khail Santia

July 23, 2020


Notes on parameters and limitations including the references can be found here.

I consulted with experts on the plausibility of our model, but having made the final decisions, I take sole responsibility for the flaws in this work.

Your suggestions and feedback will be much appreciated.


Inspired by & based on Raph Koster's call & game design sketch for an interactive COVID-19 simulation.

Lead Game Developer: Khail Santia | Visual Artists: Ramon del Prado, Linya Fernandez, & Troy Logramonte Valdehueza | Composers: Algernon Van Peel, Filip Žarković, & Jom Ouano | Mathematical Epidemiologist: May Anne Estrera Mata.

Engineering Feedback: Scott Cameron, Daniel Fernandez, & Juan David | Medical Feedback: Mariane Faye Acma, Kiselle Campos, & Noeme Sobrevega | UX Feedback: Séverin Larose, Louis Tessler, Nathan Valdez, Wyndel Sañoza, Annel Pabitu, Pope Vergel, Ashley Uy, Raphael David Condor, Harry Rodriguez, Keiji Santia, Crina Escabarte Tanongon, Angelica Norrie, Charlotte Mae Efren, Beverly Mae Kirit, Maia Diaz, Queenie Maria Guibao, Cerino Ligutom III, Renz Torres, Carla Bien, Janyl Tanoy, Mary Queen Villafañe, Gregg Lloren, & Jay Jaboneta.

Special thanks to Kaelan Doyle-Myerscough for organizing Jamdemic 2020, Grant Sanderson for making the video Simulating an epidemic, John Albano for pioneering the same themes tackled here, Milan Andrejevic for recruiting Filip, Jovelyn Carmona-Quizon & Vicente Patalita III for showing the game to your students, Richie Eve Ragas for the introduction to May Anne, & the Household of Eugene Faelnar for keeping me fed in these months of lockdown.

Dedicated to the frontliners in the fight against COVID-19;

to Jocelyn & Leizel, who are in the thick of the battle.

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good, but basically quarantino with more lag and deproved graphics. it doesn't really do anything to make itself special.

wow kikill el proyecto que hay detras del juego es asombroso por eso te doy 5 estrellas como quisiera poder ayuderte pero no soy un adulto y no puedo apoyar monatariamante pero voy a intenter exparsir la voz sobre este juego grandioso grasias ´por leer.

kikill responds:

Thank you! This review already helped.Sharing it will too. Best regards.

Wow massive kudos to you for this project ! Regarding all the references I hope you made it into a paper ! It communicates the complex situation very well. - - To simulate different risks of transmission you could add (invisible or marked) zones in the map that elevate risk (mall, sports, or use a noise map since the patients move randomly anyway). Might over-complicate things but since you mention it prominently under limitations.

It really gets frantic in the later stages and shows how hard decisions fall onto the decider.

kikill responds:

Thanks again Kamikaye! Your feedback makes me feel validated in more ways than one. You're the second epidemiologist to give a favorable view of the work. And as a long-time active (and decorated) contributor of the Newgrounds community, I hold your opinion as a gamer and game-maker in very high regard indeed.

Thanks as well for giving me an idea I can get excited about for Version 2 of the game.


The anti-maskers make it so much harder

kikill responds:

They do, MrMeatballRedux, as in real life. =( Thanks for your rating and review.

Okay I get what you're going for. Money doesn't matter as much as as people getting sick, people getting sick but recovering doesn't matter as much as deaths. In addition, you want to somewhat realistically model the difficulties of people ignoring isolation or quarantine as well as limited hospital and governmental resources.

As a pure simulator of those things, this is great, and a good education tool, and I want to stress I commend you for that, especially since I'm going to go on a math rant in a second and get pretty critical on the game aspect of this. So just like, remember that I *really* appreciate that and the work that went into it before the rant starts XD

As a game the design is pretty bad. You're telling me to get below a score that will be RNG determined 90% of the time. It's infuriating and bad design for a game. My only options as a player are tests, isolation, lockdown, and hospitlization. Let's take Zone 4 as an example. It has 40% compliance and only 10% observance of things to keep infectivity down. You start the level with 5 out of 25 people infected (says 24 total on intro screen but that's apparently a mislabel). Even assuming I immediately started the level by testing everyone and telling everyone to isloate and locking down *everything* with no regard for money (so making it hard to avoid going over par already), statistically 2 people who are infected will continue running around with another 8 healthy people, with a decent chance of getting them sick. Par is set at 5004, so if a *single healthy person* gets sick, I have to restart. To not get fudged, I'd need either every sick person to listen or the surrounding people to listen, and while the math on the second is harder to get, the first is ever so slightly over a 1% chance. So even being super generous with the second situation and going up to 5%, that means that only 1/10 times am I even going to have a *chance* to beat par on zone 4. While this might be a realistic model that's very useful for teaching us, it's a *terrible* playing experience, and it's only the third real level of the game.

Basically what I'm saying is, if you want to keep the realistic simulation there (which I know I'd prefer as well), you need to relax par a bit or it's just nightmarish to play. And its easier to teach people through things like this if they don't rage quit after a few levels.

kikill responds:

I appreciate your giving the game some thought and for acknowledging our labors in making the game a vehicle for players to understand the difficulties and dilemmas of pandemic management.

You're right, deciding on the par scores was a struggle. On the one hand, I wanted to make the players feel a sliver of how it's like to battle the current crisis, on the other hand, I also wanted to keep them in the game long enough to absorb its message. It's a design risk I took to lean more towards the former than the latter. The frustration, desperation, even rage that running after the par scores could evoke in the player I believed was part of the message. The pandemic is a maelstrom of disparate variables and random happenstance can overturn the most studied of strategies.

However, to say that the scores appear 90% random is a bit of an exaggeration. Even if 60% of the townsfolk won't comply with quarantine, you still have other options: (as you've said) you can quarantine the people surrounding a non-compliant person, you can send the sick to the hospital (who to send is also crucial), there is even a subtle way to influence the movement of individuals. The 90% non-observance of hygienic practices doesn't translate to the scores being 90% random. Poor observance of masking, eye protection, handwashing, and social distancing increases the chances of infection on contact, but as has been mentioned, contacts between townsfolk can still be reasonably controlled even in the worst zones.

Having said that, this game design is a living document which I continue to iterate on in response to feedback such as yours. The par scores were just taken from my best scores. Although I can see that several players have already beaten those and some even messaged me that the early levels are too easy, I'll try pushing back the par scores a notch for each zone.

Thanks again for sharing your observations.


Good catch on the "24" mislabel. It's from an earlier iteration.

Credits & Info

3.78 / 5.00

Jul 31, 2020
6:54 PM EDT