Mini Motorways

A game simulation of traffic in a city with a lot of potential
by Harshvardhan J. Pandit
Apple-Arcade blog video-games image for Mini Motorways

I want to call this game a 'traffic simulator' - even though its own description doesn't say that (it should). Mini Motorways is all about building a city with roads that connect warehouses to homes so that people (in cars) can go and be productive (hello industrial dystopia!). The warehouses and houses are coloured and cars can only move between the same coloured buildings. This leads to a quickly devolving situation where the roads affect traffic (congestion) and warehouses get impatient to get their work done. Eventually, if a warehouse does not get sufficient people, it will shut down the entire city (game over). There are a few (busy) cities around the world provided - though only in name as it does not involve any specific attribute other than partial layouts such as sea or rivers.

Roads can be built and removed at any point - but if there are cars using it the current road will continue to exist until all cars have vacated it. There are a limited number of road tiles (and city space) so choosing which paths to build is tricky. Additional challenges are provided in terms of rivers/lakes that can be crossed using a bridge, a motorway that directly connects two places, and a traffic light that somehow feels like it causes more congestion than reducing it.

All in all, mini motorways is an interesting game - and certainly that I found exciting to play, but in the end felt quite disappointed at all the wasted potential. In particular, it would be great to have an emulation of how cities and roads function currently. I'm using this post to note down some ideas:

  • Multi-lane roads: cities that start with narrow roads are doomed to fail in terms of traffic. There should be ways to make mult-lane roads to ease the congestion and also to direct traffic more efficiently.
  • Programmable traffic signals: there is no point in a four-direction signal if the majority of the traffic will always flow in two directions. And wouldn't it be a fun game in itself to get as many cars out by linking connecting green signals?
  • Speed limits: Currently the automatic speed limits enforced are great because they do a great job of speeding up the cars when there are no paths and slowing them down when there are junctions coming up. But with a traffic signal, the speed limit should be consistently enforced so that more cars pass through a point.
  • Connect motorways or split them midway: Two or more motorways can have the same starting point, and so there should be a way to split a motorway in the middle so that cars can go to two destinations while sharing some of the road. Ideally this should include multi-lane roads.
  • Mark zones as residential or industrial: This would enable much better space management as roads can be planned.
  • Car pooling: It changes one of the core mechanics of the game - but would be really fun trying to set up a car pool system.
  • Public transport: Same as above, having a public transport system makes traffic more efficient.
  • Real-world city layouts: Currently the game does not do a good job of setting cities up based on real-world uses. Instead, actual traffic problems can be simulated in the game in terms of locations or existing roads.
  • Pre-built challenges: Same as above, but with an emphasis on non-real-world locations. Secretly I'm hoping for a road for the rover on Mars!
  • Roundabouts: Instead of the current four-direction junction, a roundabout should speed up the movment.
  • One-way roads: Making roads one-way enables faster travel for cars - and works great with multi-lane roads.
  • Enable manual placement of warehouses and houses: Again changing the core mechanics of the game, but this would essentially turn the gameplay into city management simulation - which I think is where the true potential of the game lies.