It’s been a long time coming, but today sees the release of Prison Architect version 1.0, the hugely entertaining prison management sim from Introversion Software. As anyone who’s listened to Geektown Radio recently will know, I’ve been a little obsessed with this game for a while now, and we got to interview Chris Delay (Director, Lead Designer & Developer) and Mark Morris (Director & Producer) for the show last week.
For those that haven’t come across the game yet, inspired by a trip to Alcatraz and Chris’s Dwarf Fortress obsession, Prison Architect allows you build and manage a maximum security prison, from hiring guards, to building showers, to sending someone to the electric chair… Pretty much every aspect of prison life is covered. You have gangs, which will start turf wars over the best places to hang out. You have snitches being shanked in the showers. And if you don’t feed the inmates or keep their needs met, you may end up with a full blown riot on your hands.
For a game that’s only today had it’s version 1.0 release, Prison Architect already has a dedicated following. The reason for that is they have been in public ‘alpha’ for 3 years, which meant you could pay a small amount, and play the game whilst they are still developing it. If you’re familiar with Steam’s Greenlight and Early Access system, you’ll be aware how this works. However, unlike many developers on Early Access who tend to go quiet for months on end (with some games never even being finished), Introversion’s Alpha for Prison Architect was a perfect example of what Early Access should be. Constant communication with the community. Monthly (often hilarious) update videos, and monthly game updates adding new features and bug fixes. It’s been a fantastic ride, and it’s not stopping yet, as the guys at Introversion are planning to continue the monthly updates free of charge for at least the next 12 months.
Up until now the game has mainly been one big sandbox, allowing you to build whatever you like. Whilst sandbox mode is still there, 1.0 comes with a couple of new game modes for people to play with. The first is a Campaign Mode, which gives you a set of interlinking story scenarios, with tasks to complete and advance the plot.It’s surprising how emotive you can actually get with the relatively simple, cutesy graphics used in Prison Architect, but I did find some… erm… dust getting in my eye… upon completion of the last chapter. The first 5 chapters serve as nice intro to the games various systems, showing you how to build kitchens, or how to quash a riot, but hopefully this will be expanded with more advanced scenarios over the next few months.
The 2nd new option is Escape Mode. Rather than being the Architect, you become the prisoner, allowing you to experience life inside either yours, or someone else’s prison. Via Steam Workshop you can download one of thousands of prisons uploaded by players and try to escape it. You do that in the same way your prisoners would. Stealing tools, and getting some mates to help you! It’s a fun mode to play with, but could do with a bit more tweaking, as I found I could wander around where ever I liked when it clearly said I should have been getting food. I’d also like to see more interaction with other prisoners, other than just being able to recruit them or punch them, such as trading, or being able to earn cash and pay off the guards. It’s early days though with this secondary mode, so I look forward to seeing it expanded as the months go on.
I’ve been a huge fan of Prison Architect for years already, so it’s great to see it finally get it’s version 1.0 release. I’m also happy to hear from Chris & Mark that Introversion will be continuing to update it each month.
Prison Architect is out now on PC & Mac, and there is also a mobile version coming to iOS and Android in the not too distant future. If you love sim building/management games, Prison Architect is well worth your time.