Minimal mass transit designer
One of the gaming highlights of the week has been the discovery of Mini Metro, a simple puzzle-type game where you are in charge of designing a city's underground (subway) network from scratch. How many times have you looked at the Tube's network map and come up with your own improvements simply out of boredom? Every city has its own weird rail planning decisions and Mini Metro is the way to learn why these mistakes happen.
Still on development stage, by the time I read about it, it has already blown out of proportion with mentions on Kotaku and The Verge. My immediate reaction? Go to the game website — there is a browser version to play for free — and download a Mac build in case it wouldn't be able to cope with the traffic. In the course of the week more builds with significant improvements have come out, showing development is on full swing.
As it currently stands, every Mini Metro game begins with three stations that you need to connect in any way you want with a limited amount of resources. You start out with three lines and each of them only has one train. As time passes, passengers gather at the stations wanting to travel to other points on the map, possibly having to change lines at an interchange station or simply waiting for you to extend a line to a new part of town.
The actual game in Mini Metro is not on the track drawing but in the strategy and timing. Since passengers need to wait for the only train on the line, which are awfully slow, you are constantly try to correct designs, shortcuts, duplicate lines, change direction of traffic and a bunch of desperate measures to handle the peak hour. Just like in real life, a station overcrowded means Game Over and you need to take the bus. The frustration of a bad run is a strong motivation to try again, but in Mini Metro stations are randomly generated, so each game poses new challenges.
The team at Dinosaur Polo Club has confirmed a mobile version is a thing and will be coming soon. Peter Curry, one of the devs, has even posted a picture on Twitter demoing the game to his parents on a tablet great. The end version might differ a bit for phones as the game relies on real screen state and finicky touch controls (I imagine) that could obscure what you are trying to do.
The initial alpha builds show a lot of promise of what can be done without very complex rules or awkward challenges. From a design standpoint the graphics are inspired by Henry Beck's Underground map of 1931, which really calls home for me. Parts of the early user interface are based on the New York subway though. Despite the simplicity of the graphics, there are very good touches: the way the end of the lines overlap, the classic London colour palette, the 45 degree angles and preview of the tracks before you place them are all superb.
Every time I play — now becoming a worrying addiction — I fantasise with improvements for the game that would add some realistic and annoying aspects of travelling on the Underground. If the games were a bit longer, I would like to see some 'signal failures' happening in segments of the network, prompting you to create bypasses and emergency solutions. For a more realistic approach, there could be a game mode where you are limited by the amount of track sections you can delete in one go, punishing you for your mistakes earlier in the game. Then, there's the option to have multiple trains on the same line instead of just adding a new carriage to boost capacity.
Mini Metro is not finished yet but it's really good already.If you like what you are hearing, the game is now up for public voting on Steam Greenlight to make it happen.