The story behind the creation of MetroVille

Raf Peeters, January 2008


Before I started MetroVille I had 2 goals with this concept: making a puzzle game without loose parts and making a SmartGame that not only appeals to children but also to adults. That's why this game looks more serious and abstract then the other Smart Games I invented. 


The inspiration for MetroVille was obviously a subway. The object of the game is for the player to turn the switches until a metro can ride over the tracks in the order indicated on the challenge card. This is a double challenge because it can be difficult to be sure that you’ve orientated the tracks correctly, so players also need to check their result with the solution. Since you can make your metro ride over the tracks in more than one way, this is often the most difficult part of the challenge.


There are 8 challenge cards, each with specific starting positions for the switches (indicated in the middle of the card). Each card is named after a big city with an extensive subway system. On each card there are 8 different challenges from easy to difficult. This means you only need to change the location of the switches every 8 challenges. It would have been better if you didn’t need to change the location of the switches at all, but I couldn't generate enough interesting challenges this way. Every starting position has its own strong and weak points and after 8 challenges it is time to move on to another city. 

Because of the different cities/challenge cards it’s not possible to play all challenges in the right order from easy to difficult like you do with other SmartGames. For each city you start again with an easy and end with the most difficult one. The best city to start with is Paris, because the challenges on this card are slightly easier than the one on the other cards. That’s why I always use this city when I give demonstrations and people play the game the first time. I am not a great puzzler. I prefer creating puzzles to solving them. Some people can search for a solution for 20 or 30 minutes, while I usually get frustrated after about 10 minutes. But I really liked solving this one, perhaps because I could do it quite quickly. Since I play my own games more than I want to, before I ask other people to test them, this was rather helpful. 


Some people find this game complex, but that is only their impression when they first start playing. My own experience and the results from all the people who tested the game indicate the opposite. This is one of the reasons why there are 64 challenges instead of the usual 48, because they are quick to solve and I always try to keep the total time you need to solve all challenges similar for all SmartGames.

The challenges for this game were also calculated with a computer program that Saskia had written. And some of those challenges were even more fun than the ones I created. Sometimes a solution takes you through several loops around the same track. This is a nice example of doing more with less. The same switch can give a different result, depending of the direction you drive your metro over it.


Since many years MetroVille is no longer being produced. Maybe the complexity of the setup or the abstract look scared away potential customers. Also the rotating mechanism never worked as fluently as I wished. But in 2021 I created a new game that offers a similar type of gameplay: Horse Academy. It doesn’t have a rotating mechanism and does have a theme. So this new version has only advantages over MetroVille, unless you don’t like horses ;-)

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