Hey Reddit

I’m James Vaughan, Founder of Ndemic Creations, and creator of hit mobile/PC/console games Plague Inc. and Rebel Inc. (as well as a board game)

Today is Plague Inc’s 10 year anniversary and over 180 million people have played it! I started making Plague Inc. as a hobby in 2011. Since its launch in May 2012, I quit my job and now spend all my time making games with 12 other people at Ndemic Creations.

A lot of people don't know about Plague Inc: The Cure. We made it with the help of the WHO back in 2020 and it's free at the moment. https://plagueinc.com/cure

Ask Me Anything!

Proof: Here's my proof!

Edit5: Right - I've done a pass of the questions that came in over night. If I haven't answered your question - it means I've already answered a similar question already. Thanks so much everyone for getting involved - maybe see you all in another 10 years lol!

Comments: 1944 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

JENOVAcide3207 karma

How did you design the different types of infections and mutations for Plague Inc?

But honestly, thanks for such a great game that's killed the hours on long drives as a passenger.

NdemicCreations2926 karma

Thanks :) For all the different special diseases and expansions we have added over the years - I just focus on making something that I think will be fun and play differently to what we have already. I.e. with the zombie Necroa Virus - I wanted to try giving players a bit more control over how their disease spreads. When we added the fake news scenario - it was the UK elections and I wanted to try and use the game to help people understand what was going on (it turns out that diseases and fake news both spread in the same way!)

MrStork2532 karma

Do you live in Greenland? Should I move to Greenland?

NdemicCreations2469 karma

Heh, nope - I live in the UK. I think I remember the greenland tourist board talking about Plague Inc. at some point though - can't quite recall...

captaintagart658 karma

Plague Inc has been instrumental in teaching me world geography. Yeah, we learned it as kids, but I didn’t remember much until I repeatedly sent neurax worms to Eastern European countries and made simian apes cross oceans to build new colonies.

NdemicCreations429 karma

Its crazy how many people say this!

cacoecacoe1802 karma

Did it feel a bit awkward when the pandemic started and you were profiting on a game that made light of pandemics?

(I've actually probably played well in excess of 1-300 hours, wouldn't be able to say but it's a lot, huge fan)

Were you concerned that there would be backlash in the media?

NdemicCreations3755 karma

Awkward is putting it mildly! It felt very uncomfortable seeing all the fictional things I had put into the game playing out in real life. I want my games to do well because they are good games - not because of a serious global disaster. When covid first hit (before it spread worldwide) I immediately got in touch with various medical / scientific experts I know to get their thoughts on how we could best help. In the end, we donated $250k to the WHO and CEPI and also made Plague Inc: The Cure to help people understand the complexities of stopping a pandemic.

ZSpectre174 karma

Thanks for the answer! And I didn't even hear about "The Cure," so I'm hoping that that's not indicative of how less known it is compared to the original. I should check it out sometime (especially if it involves public social factors such as the spread of misinformation and paranoia)!

NdemicCreations284 karma

It's an expansion inside the base game! Plague Inc: The Cure is free at the moment btw!

BigHungry701494 karma

What's your personal favorite news headline in game?

NdemicCreations2622 karma

There is one which pretends to be a message from a person trapped inside the game - that one always makes me smile!

KyRhee1258 karma


NdemicCreations1071 karma


General_BP1479 karma

What in the game’s design causes Madagascar to close their borders so quick making it difficult to infect them?

NdemicCreations1964 karma

Both Madagascar and Greenland are tricky because they are islands with few travel connections. So if countries start to close borders then they are completely cut off. Also people normally don't start outbreaks there because it takes the plague a long time to get going for precisely the same reasons.

SuspiciousAct66061079 karma

Do you plan on updating Human behavior in the game to reflect a percentage of people who do not believe a plague is real?

NdemicCreations1731 karma

It certainly turns out that I was a bit too optimistic when designing humanities response to a pandemic! Definitely not going to change the core game but it would be fun to do a scenario / special disease about it at some point. No promises though

tequilablackout948 karma

Do you remember how you came about to develop the concept of the game? How long did it take you to bring it to fruition?

NdemicCreations1700 karma

I was inspired to make a game about diseases by a 2008 flash game called Pandemic. I played it just when I was wanting to start making a game and I had all these ideas about what I would do differently and how I would make it a better game. So - I decided to give it a try and the rest is history! It took around a year overall - working evenings and weekends as I was at work during the day.

Chromehounds96101 karma

Have you ever had any contact with the original developer? I would have thought you were the same person.

NdemicCreations176 karma

Yes we spoke together a few times (I reached out to him before Plague Inc. launched as well). Last time I spoke with him (many years ago now), he said something along the lines of him resenting Plague Inc. initially but afterwards when looking at it dispassionately, he viewed the situation as a learning opportunity.

JukeSkywacker879 karma

Love Plague Inc.!

Always wondered, how much does a developer such as yourself earn from a game of this magnitude?

NdemicCreations1848 karma

I don't have specific numbers but Plague Inc. has been lifechanging for me. I was able to quit my job and focus on making games full time. Because of Plague Inc., there are 12 people at Ndemic Creations now and we are able to focus on making the games that I want to make without worrying about monetisation. Being able to focus purely on the game like this is an enourmous luxury!

Jim__Kerman818 karma

Will we ever get custom scenarios/special diseases for cure mode?

NdemicCreations813 karma

Custom scenarios - probably not. Special diseases - I really want to so hopefully but will take a while.


How comfortable were you - or anyone else on staff - with calling in sick during production?

NdemicCreations914 karma

Well when I made the original game - it was just me and Mario (programmer) working remotely so it didn't matter if we were ill! These days, the whole company is remote so people call in sick when they need to.

FlyingAce1015746 karma

How big was the player count uptick since covid-19?

If that's something you have statistics on figured it would in a strange way become quite popular. Because viruses would be on people's minds more.

NdemicCreations1449 karma

Interestingly, Plague Inc. has always got more popular whenever people get ill. e.g. When Plague Inc. was #1 in Japan - we saw big spikes every time there was a bad flu outbreak. When Ebola was spreading in 2015, we saw a big worldwide spike in players. When covid first started though we saw the biggest increase in players ever - it lasted for about a month and then went back down to normal levels. It wasn't just our game that had a big increase in players though - I also saw it happening to disease related films, books, tv shows and board games. People really wanted information and turned to whatever sources they could to learn more about pandemics.

zeedog1378 karma

will you release more plague inc plushes? the neurax worm is just the cutest!!!

NdemicCreations441 karma

They are handled by a separate company - send them an email and ask them - if they get enough demand they might :P

super5aj123368 karma

During playtesting, were there any ridiculously overpowered strategies that needed fixed before a final release? If so, what were they, and how did you fix them?

NdemicCreations511 karma

Heh, there would have been lots but they were not really strategies - more issues with the way I'd created the model. e.g. Initially, it was too easy to spread your disease without ever being discovered so I added the mutation mechanic in. I make games through constant iteration so the whole model is constantly tweaked and finetuned until it gets to a state I'm happy with. I think of it like carving a statue - you cut bits of stone off around the place, eventually cutting smaller and smaller bits until it looks perfect!

Aphesius354 karma

You just might be the only person who can answer this. What is the determining factor for what makes the orange bubbles spawn in Plague Inc?? I have been wondering this for years and have never figured it out. Huge fan of the game though, spent a lot of time in school playing Pandemic instead of working and glad it lives on.

NdemicCreations513 karma

Hah, I had to go back and look in code. They happen randomly over time, getting less likely each time you get one. Various other factors at work as well (e.g. more likely as cure research gets higher) but mainly there to give you DNA if you haven't had DNA for a while and haven't had too many bubbles already.

bestoboy324 karma

Did the guy that made Pandemic/Pandemic 2 ever contact you about the game? Also, what inspired you to make Iceland immediately close borders instead of Madagascar?

NdemicCreations346 karma

I contacted him before the release of Plague Inc actually and we spoke a few times after it came out. A complex situation but things were left on a positive note.

I didn't set out to make any countries hard - that is just what the simulation did based on the underlying data!

EmotionalBig854286 karma

I know this is asked frequently, but what plans are there for plague inc?

NdemicCreations432 karma

The plan is to keep on updating and supporting it for as long as people keep playing it and telling their friends about it! I want to do more scenarios and special diseases - in particular for Plague Inc: The Cure. Don't have a specific timeline to share though - its hard being a small team and maintaining 2 games whilst also working on new stuff

Littlebigs5262 karma

Are you satisfied with your cash model ? Would you have done it differently if not?

NdemicCreations758 karma

Do you mean selling Plague Inc. as a paid mobile game? Yes - very happy with it. Being paid means that I could focus on making the game I wanted to play without worrying about how to monetise it. Note - the game is free on android but we went for a 'premium unlock' model. Definitely could have made more money if we had gone for a more traditional freemium model but that is not the kind of game I want to make or play.

GlitchHunter14192 karma

Did Rebel inc receive any controversy because of what it is based off of? (Afghanistan war, poppy trade, etc...)?

What was your reaction when you realized that a real life pandemic declared? (The reason why Plague inc was banned in china)

Who is your favorite governor in Rebel inc?

Which do you prefer, Rebel Inc or Plague Inc?

NdemicCreations299 karma

Re Rebel Inc. - no no controversy but that is because we took a huge amount of care when making the game to make sure we were addressing the topic carefully and sensitively. I even visited the Afghan embassy in London to talk to their Ambassador about it.

Re a real life pandemic happening - I wanted to try and use Plague Inc's position to help in whatever way we could. I knew that millions of people would be playing the game to try and learn more about diseases so I worked with CEPI and the WHO to direct them to the experts

Favourite governor = economist or civil servant Favourite game - You can't ask a parent which of their children they prefer :P

brunchlord56 karma

Re: discussing the game with the ambassador. That must have been an awkward, if not stressful, conversation! Kudos for doing the right thing.

NdemicCreations83 karma

No not awkward at all actually. Everyone there was really supportive about the game - they felt that anything that helps people understand / think about what is going on in Afghanisatan is a good thing. (This resonates even more following the taliban takeover again).


Safi_Hasani52 karma

hey! i never played rebel inc because it did feel insensitive through its promotion and concept. i’m afghan, so those topics hit close to home. can i ask what the conversations with the embassy looked like? knowing that there was afghan input in the production of the game makes me a lot more interested!

mattreyu180 karma

Have you plotted your sales data geographically over time to view it like a spreading plague?

NdemicCreations222 karma

Hah no unfortunately didn't get that level of detail from Apple initially. Would have been fun though. I always wanted to have a system where people could share the game with friends and see a map of how far 'their' infection has spread in the real world. Was too complex to sort though!

maplehoneys142 karma

You were part of the iconic iPod homescreen for me! Right next to Jungle Run, Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride... how's it feel knowing you're a significant part of 90s/00s kid nostalgia?

NdemicCreations113 karma

It makes me feel old when people say they played Plague Inc. when they were at school :P (and honoured too!)

GBAura-Recharged137 karma

There were plans for an official HIV scenario at one point for Plague Inc, but it was scrapped. Was it because the scenario itself would bump up the age rating or the subject itself was controversial?

NdemicCreations366 karma

Even though Plague Inc. is a game about infecting the whole world with a disease, I try to make sure it never focuses on or makes light of real world, individuals suffering. HIV felt too real so we decided not to include it.

black0lite135 karma

I want you to know that your game taught me a lot about symptoms of disease when I was younger (especially terms like hemoptysis) and transmission, and am now on my way to medical school.

I was wondering: what IRL disease do you find most interesting? I am fascinated by different diseases and their potential cures, so I was curious if you had a specific interest in one.

NdemicCreations106 karma

Thank you - it's always awesome to hear that my game helped people pick and decide a career path - good luck with it!

Re diseases - I always found this one interesting - and it actually inspired the Neurax Worm in game https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasmosis

HiImYourDadsSon133 karma

What would be your best tip for getting into the game industry? What are you looking for the most when hiring people?

Btw love Plague inc!

NdemicCreations153 karma

Thanks :) My way into the industry was quite unusual as I had never worked in the games industry before I made my own game. In general though - I would say to make prototypes/ playable demos of your personal projects. What we look for from people depends on the type of role we are hiring for but it is always extremely powerful to see content that the applicant has created as a hobby.

comradoge107 karma

Is Plague Inc. really a hyperrealistic game like it suggest in the beginning behind the curtains?

NdemicCreations262 karma

It is a game first and foremost - not a scientific simulation. When making Plague Inc. - I started from a position of reality and then adjusted / tweaked things to make it a fun and accessible game (e.g. the world is flat in the game but no-one ever seems to mind!)

Sainsbury_Bag101 karma

Was there any concerns when making the game?

NdemicCreations316 karma

I guess I was a bit worried about spending all my savings on a hobby - especially if it all failed and I never even released anything. Luckily, that didn't happen and it made its costs back in about 15 minutes after launch!

Jumza106 karma

That’s so quick! How were you advertising the game to people before launch? How has advertising mobile games changed since you first released Plague Inc?

NdemicCreations154 karma

No advertising - it was all word of mouth!

Doffryn75 karma

Hey, I'm one of the 180million!

What's your favourite uplifting game, or uplifting moment in a particular game?

NdemicCreations104 karma

This is the hardest question so far! :) I always remember the sense of awe when I was playing civilisation 2 and managed to get to Alpha Centuri - so I guess that's my answer...

EzinessGoBrrr74 karma

As a super plague Inc fan, how do you think of fellow plague Inc fans?

NdemicCreations151 karma

Plague Inc. only did as well as it did because of fans. Players told their friends about the game and it went viral (!) - I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who ever played Plague Inc. or told their friends about it

how-tf-am-i72 karma

Have you gotten any ideas from the real life pandemic to incorporate into the game?

NdemicCreations86 karma

Lots - they all went into Plague Inc: The Cure! https://www.ndemiccreations.com/en/57-plague-inc-cure

bikki42069 karma

Will you ever make a game about dentistry? Plaque Inc.

NdemicCreations61 karma

Hah, you have no idea how many times I've written that by accident!

Earl_Dolphins68 karma

Did you expect the game to be as well received as is it did. Hell I remember playing this on a web browser in school now it's on phones and consoles XD?

NdemicCreations75 karma

Absolutely not - not in my wildest dreams. Because it was a hobby, I told myself that I shouldn't expect to make any money at all and that I would be lucky if anyone except my friends and family played it

mopteh61 karma

Having seen how vaccines became something controversial and political, do you plan on adding that factor to the game?

NdemicCreations110 karma

I would like to but needs to be done in the right way. No specific plan to share at the moment

ZBMakesSongs52 karma

Would it be at all possible to add accessibility features to the game such as support for screen readers?

NdemicCreations67 karma

We did look at screen reader support after the game came out but it would have required a full game rewrite. I am keen to do this more with future games - e.g. colour blindness is something we actively try to think about even in early stages of design now

kasakavii37 karma

Do you have any specific Plague Inc scenarios that are your favorite to play? And whatre some of your favorite strategies?

NdemicCreations53 karma

I really enjoy playing the Fake News and Ultimate Board Game scenario as they are so different from everything else!

unimportantthing33 karma

This thread reminded me that I purchased the app long ago (like 8 years), and now have room again that I got a new phone. I went to the app store and decided to redownload it. While I was waiting, I decided to read through some of the bad and good reviews, and some were quite entertaining.

Do you (or your team) have a favorite review? Do you have a favorite bad review that makes you laugh at its ridiculousness?

NdemicCreations58 karma

We try to share reviews between the team when we see them - normally good reviews to remind us that people enjoy our games. We have definitely laughed at some bad reviews in the past - I remember one which said that the game would be used to train terrorists...

OrderOfMagnitude30 karma

One time, I turned off all the deadly symptoms right as the world's population was dwindling to zero, and everybody except one person died. I was left with 1 human being tasked with researching a cure.

My question: did I get ridiculously lucky, or did you write some special I am legend code?

NdemicCreations20 karma

Very lucky - I have never managed it!

DeathPer_Minute29 karma

Did you have any funny bugs/technical glitches during development for the game(s) or content updates?

NdemicCreations57 karma

I had to deal with dead people resurrecting a few times - that was annoying!

bigmen027 karma

What was your thought process when designing/creating Rebel Inc? Did the game change at all in development?

NdemicCreations45 karma

Rebel Inc. is actually a game idea that I had before I started Plague Inc. I wanted to make a game that showed people how complex the situation in Afghanistan is - how it isn't something with a black and white answer - that there is no perfect outcome, just less bad ones. Also how important a peace process would have been in real world. The game changed a lot during development as all games do - one key change I made was removing the ability to manually target airstrikes and drones in the base game as players were finding it too complicated.

MBatomzeus27 karma

Is India supposed to be the best start always? It feels that way to me. Warm, densely populated, poorly sanitized, etc

NdemicCreations62 karma

No, I never actually sat down to make certain countries better or worse than others. I just used data from the World Bank to set their initial traits and then let the game engine take it from there

armour66626 karma

Now that we have had a pandemic and seen how different regions behave. Does that change your ideas of the game engine modelling behaviours?

NdemicCreations84 karma

Well I changed the game model a lot when I made Plague Inc: The Cure with the help of the WHO during the pandemic. In the original game, I was far too optimistic of how well humanity would work together to stop a pandemic so as soon as one country detects a disease - they immediately tell the whole world about it. Didn't quite work like that in real life :(

Chaff525 karma

How does it feel knowing that you may have inadvertently saved thousands, maybe even millions, of lives by creating a fun way for people to understand how infections and diseases spread?

Your game allowed me to understand how bad COVID was really going to get; thank you.

NdemicCreations21 karma

I'm glad it helped you and I feel really proud that my game has helped people understand pandemics even in a small way. Also - getting to hear that people from the WHO and CDC think the game is great was awesome as well: https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/experts-and-gamers-join-forces-to-fight-covid-19-and-stop-future-disease-outbreaks-via-plague-inc-the-cure

Recent-Cause515723 karma

How much are you still working on the game and do you have any other projects you are working on that are similar to Plague Inc?

NdemicCreations34 karma

We split our time between Plague Inc., Rebel Inc. and a new, secret project!

dangerousbob21 karma

For other indie devs, what is the number one thing that helped you get Plague off the ground and shine above the rest?

NdemicCreations34 karma

Impossible to know for sure but I think that the most important thing was that I was making a game that I wanted to play. There were no games out there already which did what I wanted so I went and made it. Turns out there were a lot of other people who felt the same way as me! Quality, polish and accessiblity also very important. Also - if your game does well, keep on updating it and improving it - maintain momentum - even if you want to try and work on something else.

Kakapo11720 karma

Did you learn anything new or interesting about diseases/virology while making Plague Inc.?

NdemicCreations38 karma

I had to do a load of research so learnt a lot about them in general. One thing that always stood out for me is how many awful diseases have impacted humanity over time and how lucky we are today to have modern medicine to protect us. Very easy to take it for granted but things like anti-biotic resistance scare me a lot

Boring-Thingy18 karma

Will there be a Rebel Inc. board game?

NdemicCreations33 karma

No - I don't think so. Plague Inc. The Board Game has done really well but that is because Plague Inc. is such a big game. Rebel Inc. is smaller and I worry a board game wouldn't get enough players to justify all the time it would take me. A pity as I do have some cool ideas for it!

The_Nim17 karma

Will there ever be a mode that assumes actual real world reactions now that we know them?

NdemicCreations20 karma

I'd like to but no promises. (more info in other answer)

SAM-WAF14 karma

Do you give your diseases serious names? Or funny ones.

NdemicCreations15 karma

Serious normally!

SovietKatyusha11 karma

Why a game based on diseases?

NdemicCreations38 karma

See previous reply but in a nut shell - inspired by a 2008 flash game called pandemic. At the time, global pandemics were pretty fictional and an interesting topic to explore...

bjarneblasma6 karma

Any plans for a sequel?

Would love to see one with a 3D world and more complexity added.

NdemicCreations8 karma

Plague Inc: Evolved on has a 3D world but it doesn't change the gameplay. No plans for a sequel currently - I want to keep updating and expanding the game as it is!

Laynay173 karma

How to lunch a new app? How you did? Marketing or just published and wait new users overtime?

NdemicCreations4 karma

Published and waited - not a sensible strategy but luckily the game was different to what was available already and a lot of people wanted to play it. It was hard to get noticed 10 years ago and it is infinitely harder now unfortunately!

SuitableManager8082 karma

How guilty do you feel for creating Covid19 in a Wuhan laboratory?

NdemicCreations5 karma

Very funny :P On a more serious note though - loads of people have got in touch over the last 10 years to say that Plague Inc. helped inspire them to enter medicine / become doctors and nurses etc. I'm really proud that my little game helped people find their way to such important careers

bright_shiny_objects1 karma

Have you learned anything from this pandemic that you’ll use in the future updates?

NdemicCreations2 karma

A lot of learnings went into Plague Inc: The Cure! https://www.ndemiccreations.com/en/57-plague-inc-cure