Mini Metro makes mass transportation sublime

I don’t remember much from Jeen-Shang Lin’s Soil Mechanics class. Beyond a vague inkling of his whiteboard doodles and that time he paused mid-lecture to remark on my unexpected presence, most of it remains a formula-laden blur. Except for the one time he mentioned Pittsburgh’s North Shore Connector project. I can still recall his perplexed laugh. “Pittsburgh has some beautiful bridges,” or something like that, he said. “The people know how to build them, how to fix them … so why the hell did they decide to dig a tunnel underneath the Alleghany?” A shrug. More laughter. Then back to…


Learn the science of the subway in Mini Metro

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Mini Metro (PC, Mac)  BY Dinosaur Polo Club New York City admits now that it made a mistake when first rejecting Massimo Vignelli’s subway map back in 1972. It had a modernist design that favored clarity over the clutter of trying to be geographically correct. This meant a preference for turning the urban sprawl into a series of straight lines and bold colors. This visual design is something we’ve come to expect of subway maps these days. And it’s what Mini Metro, a strategy game about…


Travel back in time with the 1994 Texas budget simulator

The workings of a democracy are never pretty, but in 1994 the process of governmental sausage making couldn’t even be cloaked in a sleek interface.  In the spirit of remembering those halcyon days, feast your eyes on the 1994 Texas Budget Simulator created by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and lovingly preserved by the Internet Archive: The Texas Budget Simulator does exactly what the box says, which is to say it’s a gussied up actuarial table. Actually, it’s barely gussied up. This spreadsheet is only a game insofar as it…


At last, a city-building game that allows for meaningful economic experimentation

We are all low-poly before God and the free market. Polynomics is about the latter case, though the distinction is far from precise. Slated for an initial release in early 2016, Polynomics is an economic simulator. You play as the federal government of an unnamed area, issuing a currency, collecting taxes, and enforcing laws. The non-player characters in this world, which might also be called citizens, are perfectly rational actors who seek to maximize their utility through each of their actions. The intersection of all these wants and needs with (your) government objectives can be a messy one, and Polynomics…


Electronic Arts realizes modding might not be so bad for SimCity after all

After nearly a year, Electronic Arts is now allowing SimCity to be modded, so players can tweak, twist, rejigger, and reinvent the metropolis-building game free of legal concerns. Yes, there are some stipulations, such as that modders can’t sell their mods, although asking for a donation is OK. Also, they can’t deliberately make the game inhospitable to other players. I’m guessing that rules out my plans for a rapture mod that randomly abducts others’ citizens.   This is a nice gesture to the SimCity community by Maxis and EA, as modding is a crucial aspect of gaming on PC. Without…


How SimCity is replacing reading, writing, and arithmetic

When I was growing up, games were demonized as the harbingers of bad grades. But games such as SimCityEDU, recently released at schools, are now seen by grownups as compelling ways to teach middle-schoolers complex systems.  SimCityEDU is a mod of SimCity, the re-imagining of Will Wright’s world-famous city building game, the one from earlier this year that the internet freaked out about. The modification was done by Glasslab, an organization that takes videogames and transforms them into learning tools. The game differs from the SimCity you may know, as there are no rampaging Kaiju, and children are tasked with…


Pregnant Sims can no longer "Brawl," and other hilarious patch notes from The Sims

People often ask why games aren’t more ambition with in terms of scope. The reason is because things break. A lot.  – – – Even with games that give you a good deal of agency, like Mass Effect or The Walking Dead, your path always pivots back into an overarching throughline. And when I profiled Ivan Belanszky for Issue 6, who has been working on the open-ended RPG Newcomer for around twenty years, mostly trying to eradicate thousands of bugs, it became obvious how the complexities can quickly multiply towards infinity. So when you create a living, breathing ecosystem with…