Mini Metro

Zoning Out

Taking a trip on the London Underground is taking a trip through beautiful design. The physical experience is horrific. The graphic design experience is fab.

The journey goes as such:

  1. Start in a station;
  2. Look at a map;
  3. Identify which colour of the line you are travelling;
  4. Follow the sign for the coloured line;
  5. Choose which of the two directions you are travelling on the line;
  6. Follow the sign for the direction;
  7. Get on train;
  8. Look at the map above the door for when to exit;
  9. Don’t breathe in, don’t make eye contact, don’t emote.

Elegant isn’t it? I mention this only to say that I’ve thought often about how I enjoyed the little design journey I went on each time I got the tube back when I lived in London. It made a complicated journey simpler. If not any less painful on the human body.

Mini Metro is simple and elegant and very, very good.

The gifs in this article show a timelapse of some of my games of Mini Metro. The objective is to design a working metro network by drawing lines between the geometric stations in order for the passengers (not shown in the gifs) to make their little geometric commutes. If a station becomes overcrowded the game fails. Stations appear, often of a shape that forces a reconsideration of the design of the network. It’s a game of adapting, expanding and commuting.

It’s zen, baby. The soundscape is a gentle accompaniment of tones that chime as trains pass along and across the lines you draw. It’s a soundscape that surrounds completely. While this is one of those games where you are staving off disaster for as long as possible, it doesn’t have the stress of, say, something like a Flight Control.

My Mobile Commute

I’ve played this game for years on my iPhone and iPad. It’s a mainstay of both devices seeing me through real-life commutes, plane journeys and idle Sundays. Alongside a BAFTA award, you know this would have bagged a Screenie award from me at some point.

96 Passengers
104 Passengers
147 Passengers
156 Passengers
196 Passengers
176 Passengers
201 Passengers

The above screenshots document my moment of pure zen, total enlightenment. Perhaps it was the ageing processing power of my seven-year-old iPad mini 2 but this game reached stability. This may be one of the optimum networks for the game’s London level. Slowly but surely this network withstood the increasing passengers and operated continuously for over an hour until I tried to save a gif and the damn iPad crashed. Not one of the 200-odd passengers were injured in the crash.

On the PC

I’ve bought Mini Metro on PC but I’ve only booted it up once. It seems to have additional stats, which clearly I’d enjoy, but there’s just something transcendent about the informal play of the mobile experience that doesn’t translate to the slightly formal experience of playing on my PC.

Clearly, I still crushed London.

I’ve played this game for years and I know I’ll be playing for years to come. Like in Snowpiercer, this train has an infinity engine and it just keeps rolling down the tracks.

Recommended Reading

This reflection from a real life transit network designer on applying formal techniques to Mini Metro is brilliant.