Hands On: Prison Architect

By Jim Rossignol on April 20th, 2012 at 10:00 pm.


This is my second time with a pre-release version of Prison Architect. You can read my first impressions right here. This time I’ve played a slightly more advanced version, albeit one that is not tuned for IGF judges. Fresh thoughts stockaded below.

Last time around the game landed me in the story sequence of its tutorial, and taught me quite a specific lesson about building certain things in the game. This time, however, I landed straight into a large pre-built prison, and instead of following instructions I simply took charge of what someone at Introversion – perhaps Chris, the programmer – had already constructed.

I watched things play out. As soon as I’d loaded the level up there was a fight about to break out in the showers. A huge brawl of bodies surged into the large shower complex, with one of the inmates going down quite rapidly. A lone guard, far ahead of his colleagues, waded in, and was stabbed to death. Soon after the rest of the guards bundled in, pacifying the riot and cleaning up the mess. Even before it was over I had begun to wonder at the collection of rules that must govern the behaviour of the AI, and dictate how events play out in the prison. I looked at the tiny corpses of the guard and inmate. I reloaded the level.


The brawl erupted again. This time guards responded faster to the fracas, and two of them arrived on the scene ahead of the main group. Already, within seconds, Prison Architect’s systems were playing out the complex interactions of a large group of prisoners and their guards in a different way. This time the fight was quite different. One of the guards went down, but was only injured – the fighting between the inmates, however, was far more ferocious, and four of them ended up dead on the shower room floor. Grisly, despite the plain, clean, cartoon visuals.

Watching the guards clear up and carry bodies to the morgue, I swept the camera around the rest of the large prison. Some inmates were in their cells. Others in the canteen. One was still fleeing from the fight, pursued by guards. On the other side of the prison some inmates were getting exercise before wandering back their bunks. It was a large, bustling complex that I was in charge of. I swept across it, and spotted the warden in his office. He pootled back and forth, as if unsure of his responsibility. I knew how he felt.


There’s something about watching these sorts of systems that fascinates. I am not sure quite why it’s so compelling, but you can see it in everything from The Sims, through old Bullfrog games, and into more complicated corners of gaming, like Dwarf Fortress. Prison Architect certainly appeals to that caretaker-voyeur feeling in gaming, and I can appreciate exactly what Introversion were trying to do when they put this together.

Of course there’s also the raw prison-building aspect, and I began afresh as soon as I’d bored of tinkering with the pre-made prison. There’s definitely a solid theme/manager building process at work here. I was rapidly engrossed in making every cell have a toilet in the centre of the room, like a peculiar echo of the nearby electric chair. But balancing the budget at the start was maddening, too. This is one of those game development things that I am sure Introversion will have to sink endless hours into balancing, but I can already see what the game is here: the juggling of resources to take on more inmates than you will ever really have space for. I hope there’s a deluxe wealthy prison option, too, so I can go to down on grand detention plans.


That said, I wonder precisely how the game will escalate beyond opening up a tech tree of facilities for you to build. Dangerous prisoners? A Charles Bronson you must contain, at huge expense? I also felt, as I built my cells and shower blocks, that there was something missing in the planning element of the game. Perhaps it was my haste to get something put up, but I kept making mistakes, and felt that my prison was less architected than it was simply cobbled together, as if by accident. “Prison Cobbler” doesn’t sound quite the same.

Still, it was clear that my slam was no panopticon, and that I am more a builder and manager than I am any kind of spatial visionary for the future of keeping people incarcerated.

But these are silly, hand-wavey quibbles. The truth is that Introversion are building something that sits within a familiar heritage for PC games, and they are doing it with style. The game’s systems are fascinating, and the blue-printy style is bang on, well complimented by the dark sound effects that rumble beneath your mouse pointer.

And yet there’s still clearly a long way to go, too. I am looking forward to getting my hands on a final build, and see exactly what the little British game company made instead of Subversion.

, , , .

81 Comments »

  1. RakeShark says:

    Radiant says:

    IF THE NEXT ARTICLE IS NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT THREE NAKED GUYS OF ASCENDING HEIGHTS RUNNING AWAY FROM RESPONSIBILITY I WILL BE SORELY DISAPPOINTED ROSSIGNOL.

    Well, it is a game about a prison with showers. So I guess Rossignol delivers?

  2. UsF says:

    I just forgot about this game and my desire to play it, why must you be so evil hype people?!

    And why isn’t there a public “buy now, play beta” option for introversion games yet? :(

    • seanblah12 says:

      exactly, evil
      I keep checking introversions website but noooo

  3. Xune says:

    In the top picture, is the guy at the middle shower on the right showering in blood?

  4. The Tupper says:

    “A huge brawl of bodies surged into the large shower complex, with one of the inmates going down quite rapidly.”

    Indeed.

  5. Torgen says:

    Perhaps you mean Charles Manson? Charles Bronson was the 70s actor in “vigilante” movies.

    • Mordsung says:

      Charles Bronson is also a man who is known as “Britain’s Most Violent Prisoner”.

      There is a movie about him called Bronson, with Tom Hardy as Bronson.

      • Torgen says:

        I’ll take a wild guess and say that they aren’t the same man. This is the man USians think of when we hear the name Charles Bronson:

        Charles Bronson (November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003), born Charles Dennis Buchinsky [1] was an American actor, best known for such films as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, Rider on the Rain, The Mechanic, and the popular Death Wish series. He often cast in the role of a police officer or gunfighter, often in revenge-oriented plot lines. During his career, Bronson had a long-term partnership with directors Michael Winner and J. Lee Thompson.

  6. Duckee says:

    Will it include *ehum* research laboratories? Please say yes.

    • wedge99 says:

      That made me laugh in the small lab I’m currently in. I would love to be an evil warden of the prison profiting through the roof off of experimented prisoners. Until they revolt of course and the prisoners hang the experimented corpse of their warden over the gates of the prison. They could all yell Attica while doing it lol.

    • wodin says:

      Concentration camp manager….

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Someone’s been watching Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS…

  7. dsch says:

    “go to town”?

    When’s this due? Any ideas?

  8. crinkles esq. says:

    With most games, I can see how a certain segment of people could really find this or that an engaging experience. But a prison god/tycoon game? It’s like torture porn movies. I don’t get them. I have no idea what makes people want to watch them other than an elevated delight in schadenfreude. And I have no idea what would make people be excited in a game which abstracts a prison experience into numbers and build trees and fluffy icons.

    Perhaps it’s because the developers are British that this concept seemed a fun idea to explore. As someone from America, prisons are not an abstract concept. They are not lighthearted except in the rare case when a privileged white guy gets his just desserts. For black males here, they often represent an institutionalized form of racism. There is a term here now, Prison-Industrial Complex. Prisons are an industry here and a method of governmental control; a further decline into a fascist state. They have no concern for rehabilitation; in fact, it is in the corporate prison’s interest to make sure the prisoner ends back in prison again. US tops the list of incarcerations per capita, while England/Wales is 90 on the list. Did you know a black male in America has a 28% chance of being imprisoned in his lifetime, versus 16% for hispanic males and only 4% for a white male?

    The thing is, it’s not any game about prisons seems abhorrent to me. But it’s this sort of voyeuristic, detached narrative that seems to be at the core of Prison Architect that I find distasteful. I will not speak to the developers’ personal beliefs and insights into the prison system, but this game comes off as very privileged and callous. From what I’ve seen so far of the game, there’s a missed opportunity to explore the REAL issues of the prison system (and not where the best spot to put the toilet is). The mechanics of this game seem able to provide cold experiments on the dynamics of prison environments. But there seems to be no humanity in this ant farm.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Agreed, it’s definitely a weird topic. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with it.

      • BobsLawnService says:

        So in an industry which largely revolves around glorifying war and murder, a game about prisons is where we draw the line between being comfortable and uncomfortable?

        • Bhazor says:

          It’s a tricky idea isn’t it?

          War, mass murder, torture, blood sports – Fine
          Rape, consensual sex, real world issues – Crossing the line

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          Perhaps. It depends on what you think about the death penalty, I suppose. Most games about war and killing people do so within the context of war, and do so with saving the world heroics as justification for the slaughter. The discomfort in the case of Prison Architect is that you are sending people to the electric chair because of processes of law and management. It’s a different sort of fiction. And so a different sort of discomfort.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It is problematic, to say the least.

      You know, if you want to make a game without touching too heavily on political/social/ethical issues, you could shift the setting to a WWII POW camp, like the Escape From Colditz board game. So 1) it’s historical rather than current, 2) Hogan’s Heroes set a precedent for a lighthearted take on the subject, and 3) you *know* you’re playing the bad guy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      I think you’re probably over-analysing. Is it a missed opportunity to explore issues of rehabilitation in prison etc? Yeah, maybe. But, you know, we most strategy games are about planning actual wars.

      I understand where you’re coming from, but there’s nothing wrong with simulating the 1950 Alcatraz that all 12 year old kids have heard about without having to consider the societal impacts of prisons today. Especially seeing America is a creepy, creepy outlier on that front.

      Also, the idea that prisons are a method of “societal control” and the road down to “a fascist state”….eurgh. Sorry, but no. Ten years ago, all the research seemed to show that if you built more prisons and put more people in prison, you get less crime. Sadly, that didn’t account for our hugely unequal society and the impacts that could have on demographics, nor did it consider the impacts gigantic mega-prisons could have on rehabilitation. It has NOTHING AT ALL to do with fascism.

      • The Tupper says:

        Without knowing anything much about prison/societal demographics, I nonetheless agree this is one of those times where it’s permitted to throw down an ‘it’s only a computer game’ flag.

        • soldant says:

          Exactly, there’s no way to cover all the bases. It’s just a game, not a social commentary or criticism of the prison system or anything. Such a complex topic would be incredibly difficult to effectively manage in a game, unless you take one biased side and ignore the other entirely as some art games like to do.

          • The Tupper says:

            Yup. Citing a prison setting as being an unsuitable theme for a knockabout RTS opens the floodgates to a lot of daft criticism.

        • Boosterh says:

          I’m going to have to agree here: the whole point of using an abstract sim like this is so that we as gamers can excercise our planner/manager muscles, (make an orderly, secure, fiscally sound prison) without the real world ethical implications (racial inequality, punishment vs rehabilitation, recividism rates, etc.) It’s the same willing divorce of action from implication that lets me use peasants as arrow soaks, or swarm my enemies with suicidal attrition attacks in strategy games. As a soldier in RL I know that my commanders don’t use these tactics (well, not much anyhow) because of the human cost, and if I am put in a command position I probably won’t use them either. The whole point of including them in the game is just to give me the opportunity to play with them in a pure problem solving arena.

          That being said, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a game that did deal with these issues; but since this game seems to insulate itself from the larger issues simply to focus on the plan/build/manage sim, I think we should just let it.

      • crinkles esq. says:

        If you don’t like the term ‘fascism’, you can replace it with ‘corporatocracy’ — I don’t really want to derail the discussion into the weeds of political theory. But I don’t believe, as you seem to, that politicians blindly and naively thought more prisons made crime go away. Sure it does, because you create in effect a separate prison state inside the country. A prison state that the politicians can financially benefit from.

        You seem to be okay with the concept and gameplay of Prison Architect. I’m honestly curious: would you be okay with a Death Camp Simulator where you play the commander in charge of figuring out the most efficient way to exterminate prisoners? You mention a child’s view of prisons like 1950s Alcatraz. But should we as adults be content with gaming from an adolescent perspective, one devoid of ethical and philosophical considerations?

        I understand that this game *attempts* to provide a human aspect via the narrative of a single prisoner whose story you follow. But (without having played the game) this seems disconnected from the actual simulation. Sort of shoehorned in for the sake of a narrative. Are gangs simulated? I don’t know about British prisons, but American prisons are heavily segmented based on race and on criminal gangs which exist both inside and outside the prison system. This is part of the human equation I’m talking about.

        I feel like, at the least this game should simulate in painful detail the actual prisoners in the prison. They should have names, ages, rap sheets. You should be able to see exhaustive, depressing graph and chart breakdowns of the prison populations. As the omniscient voyeur you play, you should be able to see which prisoners are actually innocent and wrongly convicted. Then you might feel a cringe of guilt when one of them is executed. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say this game needs humanity. Maybe all this stuff is implemented, but what I see so far seems to really gloss over the prisoners to the level of sims in a SimCity game.

        • Apolloin says:

          I hate to break it to you but they ARE sims in a sims game. I am FAR more okay with locking up little computer people than I would be with locking up REAL people – just like I am FAR more okay with the idea of a Death Camp Sim than I am with the idea of REAL Death Camps.

          You might as well say that Dwarf Fortress is sick because it involves the death of hundreds of Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs and so on. Hell, while we’re on the subject, perhaps I should hand myself in as a mass murderer. Over the last thirty odd years of gaming I’ve killed more frigging people than Tubercolosis, after all.

          It’s all very well to be politically aware, but let’s not take it as far as psuedo-intellectual, university commonroom, bleeding heart bleating, eh?

          • crinkles esq. says:

            I think you misunderstand me. What I mean is that the simulated prisoners in this game should be characters that you can identify and empathize with, as you would with characters in novels or games that manage to draw you in. To not do so is a missed opportunity. It leaves the game in a sort of juvenile state that simulates a whitewashed version of prison. Dozer’s message below has a good point – this is more like an Aperture Science testing facility than a “living” prison. Except you play as the amoral AI. It’s torture porn. It doesn’t reach beyond its own mechanics to tell a story, to provide a platform for discussion of the complicated issues surrounding prisons. It’s a scientist with lab rats.

          • seanblah12 says:

            I agree with crinkles on the empathising aspect (not much else sorry) but it’s already been said that individuals will have personalities and needs and even psychological problems that have to be dealt with. this, and maybe telling you what they’re in the prison for in the first place would have this covered for me

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Quite frankly, I wish we had had even half as much outrage about a certain game where you PUT GLASS IN A MAN’S MOUTH and then go on to PUNCH HIM IN IT.

        As a normal means of interrogation, natch.

        Seriously.

    • seanblah12 says:

      to me it seems like they’re taking it a bit more seriously than say theme hospital, doubt you’re going to get “doctor needed in the electric chair room” or anything

    • Soon says:

      I do wonder whether they’ve misjudged it. Naked, cartoony men stabbing each other to death in the shower, and beating lone guards to a bloody mess is more off-putting than I expected (I think there’s some fear of a prison environment which is adding to that). It’d have been easy to make it lighter. But maybe that’s the point.

      • sexyresults says:

        I just don’t understand why prison is the cut off point morally. Plenty of war depictions are done in a similar fashion but don’t get this response. The only difference I see is that there are more war games so you guys are used to it and less put off by it.

    • Premium User Badge

      El_MUERkO says:

      They appear to have little bumper cracks, I wonder if they’ll add rape later, sure won’t that be a hoot!

      • The Tupper says:

        Here’s hoping. Y’know that those little ‘bumper cracks’ aren’t real, right?

        Without wanting to single you out, sometimes the unctuous, over-earnest tone of discussion here moves toward the absurd.

    • psyk says:

      Ha. That’s what I’m hoping they will do, at least to some extent. Is always time to look at the american prison system and what better way than a tycoon.

      Nice layer of black humour with some well placed digs at the system ;D

    • Somerled says:

      God/Tycoon games are more about creating systems than voyeurism. Even in the ultimate torture sim, Dwarf Fortress, they feel like software pushing around data structures, not little creatures to interact with.

      Its in that vein that I expect Prison Architect was born. In reality, one of the few places you really get a self-contained, interdependent population is a prison.

    • Maldomel says:

      I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to take on some of those issues when the game will be finished. Like, maybe putting more money to make better cells (or bigger ones) and make your inmates less likely to snap and rape everyone in the shower…maybe. I hope so.

    • ShotgunJustice says:

      I find it amusing after killing a person in an online shooter.. shooting them in the face after they’re dead to celebrate, and watch their head bobble. I enjoy killing & torturing innocent townfolk. I like throwing corpses of enemies in Deus Ex up in the air, to see how many bullets I can put into them before they hit the ground again. I enjoy prison mod in counter-strike where as a prisoner, you look for your opportunity to stab the prison guards. All these things are absolutely hilarious & harmless.. and I’m ok!

      Always something in a game that won’t agree with someone, but It’s simple, just don’t play it. But alot of us are desensitised as long as it’s occuring ‘in a game’. The same way we are desensitised watching cartoons where a poor animal get’s tortured in tom & jerry or pick any other cartoon that get’s a little crazy.

    • ShotgunJustice says:

      “Did you know a black male in America has a 28% chance of being imprisoned in his lifetime, versus 16% for hispanic males and only 4% for a white male?”

      Wouldn’t that suggest that there are more black people committing crimes? Perhaps there are more poor communites made up of mostly black people as opposed to white communities, which is where you get the most crime, poor communities.

      The point is, with all these games, you’re never meant to take them seriously. When I first played counter-strike, I thought it was graphic and I felt bad shooting another person (even though that game could have been much more graphic than it is) but I got desensitised, and now It’s funny if anything. Management games like theme hospital have their niche, It’s fun, and the great thing about games are, they don’t have to be too real.

      • The Tupper says:

        Shotgun, I’d suggest you’re not de-sensitised as such, it’s merely that (when playing a new game) the novelty of the initial experience develops into something else.

        As I suspect you’d agree, Prison Architect appears for all the world to be an old-school management sim for which we should be grateful. I honestly don’t give a toss about what cultural connotations the setting may evoke.

        It’s a game. The clue is in the word ‘game’.

      • PopeJamal says:

        “Wouldn’t that suggest that there are more black people committing crimes? Perhaps there are more poor communites made up of mostly black people as opposed to white communities, which is where you get the most crime, poor communities.”

        That’s really cute, but not even close to being accurate. Generally speaking, “brown” men in the US are substantially more likely to get the maximum punishment allowable for most offenses. This is even true for first time offenders. A Caucasian male is more likely to get the minimum sentence allowable or even just probation. Additionally, in the 80′s, drug laws were changed such that you can get much more time for peddling “poor” drugs like crack than for selling “high-end”, expensive drugs used by the more affluent sections of the population.

        The end result is that you have more “brown” people in jail for longer periods of time. But yeah, I guess it’s just because they don’t know how to behave themselves, huh? Those damned darkies!!

        • ShotgunJustice says:

          Hmm.

          Well I’m no expert on the U.S. & racism. But that would be my.. ‘initial assumptium’ based on that one line of statistics. I’m sure there’s quite possibly a different explanation for his figures, in line with the points you’ve raised. That is, unless the person I’m speaking too is a racist black person, trying to paint it the way they need to believe it. Forgive my ignorance, It would’ve been wiser for me to leave that line out, as you’ve demonstrated.

    • sexyresults says:

      You could copy replace many things that relate to prison to war and a massive chunk of the games market would fall into that. I think your stretching, a lot.

  9. BooleanBob says:

    Sounds like that weird problem all managements sims have finding the balance (if there’s even one to be struck) between giving you a progressive, video-gamey challenge and just letting you create. Where does the fun really lie? To my 10 year old mind, at least, Theme Park only really started when somebody spoke that fabled, beyond-mythical word:

    Horza.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Damn, memory is a strange thing. I must not have played Theme Hospital since I was 13-14, but mentioning Horza just immediately brought a huge flood of recollections.

  10. caddyB says:

    Looking interesting, but I’ll stick to my dwarves for the time being.

  11. codename_bloodfist says:

    Everybody in this game is overweight… yep, sure is Britain.

    • wodin says:

      Thats because we stupid Brits like to follow everything the Yanks do..including obesity.

  12. Dozer says:

    …does the prisoner in the 3rd screenshot have a caption saying “100% Damaged”? The one who’s just been taken to the morgue?

    This isn’t a prison. “Remember, Android, robot hell is a real place where you will be taken at the first sign of disobedience.” This is the wing of Aperture Science where the robots scream constantly for no reason.

  13. i saw dasein says:

    I’m honestly shocked at the pass this game is getting from the press. The modern prison – especially Anglo-American prisons – are really terrible places. They are places where people with drug addictions and mental illnesses are locked up, abused, and taught to be worse criminals than they were before (so we can lock them up again). They are places were people are stabbed, raped, and abused. They are places where people are forced to work for pennies a day. They are places where people go and spend decades without ever seeing the sun or feeling the rain. They are places where people go to die. It is a terrible thing to make a management game out of. I don’t see much of difference between making this game and making Theme Auschwitz.

    • bigbadbeasty says:

      Do you feel the same about the masses of war games? Be it RTS, FPS, strategy etc?

    • vanilla bear says:

      Not sure why you’ve singled out UK prisons here ..

    • somnia says:

      Shocked? What about all the military shooters, wargames, is the battlefield not a terrible place? Hell, what about Theme Hospital? Do you think hospitals all around the world are pretty pixelated peaceful places? Just because America is the king of the world and has terrible prisons and medical shows with clean and wonderful hospitals doesn’t make Prison Architect worse. Come take walk at a public hospital in eastern europe, middle east, or asia minor, and then be shocked please.

      • Josh04 says:

        The point isn’t just that prison is a terrible place and so shouldn’t be shown, it’s that prison is a hugely terrible place, a gigantic industry where money is made from keeping people in the system. More people are imprisoned in America now, as a percent, than any other society in history. American prisons operate ‘non-forced’ labour; the workers are of course free to object, but they will be quietly abused and bullied until they submit.

        So it’s immoral when treating prison in any kind media to gloss over that fact – to reinforce the common perception of it as not-a-problem. Theme Hospital was deeply satiric on the US healthcare system from the opening cinematic and all through the mechanics. Prison Architect ought to be the same. I won’t be buying it if it isn’t.

        And yeah, modern-day first person shooters are by-and-large shitty propaganda vehicles for liberal interventionism. If ‘it’s just a game’ where’s my Taliban campaign?

        • somnia says:

          “Theme Hospital was deeply satiric on the US healthcare system from the opening cinematic and all through the mechanics.”

          Yeah, the US healthcare, which is by miles better than the examples I tried to give up there. But it would be ridiculous if I said Theme Hospital is a bad game because it’s immoral to gloss over the fact that the healthcare in half of the world is much shittier than what you have in the US, that we have public hospitals more crowded than a standart US mall in Christmas, and that the doctors are paid just a little higher than the minimum wage, are not allowed to work elsewhere, are therefore miserable and treat their patients even more miserably.

          The criticism that Prison Architect is a bad game because it doesn’t cover America’s prison problems is stupid as hell because America is NOT the world, which may come as a shock to you.

  14. Stardog says:

    The game looks seriously impressive. The preview video from a while back looked great, with really smooth animations and complex-looking interactions.

    @crinkles “characters that you can identify and empathize with”. It’s not their job to make the game you want them to make.

    “It leaves the game in a…state that simulates a whitewashed version of prison”

    Well done. You’ve figured out the point of the game.

    Maybe Crinkles and co will have more fun playing Sword & Sworcery EP. A game that has no gameplay, but it does have electronic ambient music and an arty tone. That’ll keep you happy.

    • hello_mr.Trout says:

      hey stardog, don’t you think you are being somewhat dismissive of crinkles’ argument? i think there might be something to it – if there isn’t some degree of empathy involved with the characters/tiny people on screen, the player would be merely building and zoning in a sterile environment? -> that doesn’t sound very engaging. oh also, played sword & sworcery – it was pretty neat :)

    • crinkles esq. says:

      Heh, I didn’t actually like Sword & Sworcery much. The art style and feel, yes. That was great. But I’m not much for find-the-hidden-doodad-to-click game mechanics.

      I certainly know it’s Introversion’s job to make the game they want to make. After all, I imagine that’s why they scrapped Subversion. But I can still give my opinion on where I think they’ve strayed; fortunately America still lets you do that without being thrown in prison. And FWIW I’m really not trying to slag on Introversion; I like their prior games, mostly, and I wish them success.

    • Soon says:

      I think there’s something about a prison setting itself that touches on something innate in at least some people (some psychological aspect aside from a moral stance). I’m surprised it affects me when, as pointed out by others, we happily gun down little computer men in their thousands. It’s an obvious hypocrisy that I’m aware of, and, following that, I’m probably still going to play it.

  15. Plasmamate says:

    I think it’s too early to really tell if it’s just a sim-prison or something more deeper where you kind of “care” about some of your prisonners a la Dwarf Fortress.
    But for people interested in the “Prison-Industrial Complex”, is an interactive web documentary about the so-called Prison Valley in the USA :

    “Welcome to Cañon City, Colorado.
    A town in the middle of nowhere with 36,000 souls and 13 prisons, one of which is Supermax, the new ‘Alcatraz’ of America. A prison town where even those living on the outside live on the inside. A journey into what the future might hold.”

  16. jeremypeel says:

    I hear people’s concerns about cartoon institutionalisation, but I also wonder if we’re underestimating Introversion, who have proven themselves to be capable of handling tonally extremely complex matter before.

    Does nobody remember Defcon? Their strategic sim of nuclear holocaust, in which the number of dead floats solemnly above the names of real life cities?

    The presentation here is simplistic, even silly, but if you don’t think Introversion will make use of that juxtaposition then you don’t know them at all. This will not be Theme Hospital.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      This is the point I was about to make. In Introversion’s games I’ve destroyed the Internet, killed the population of Earth many, many times over and rescued cute but incredibly stupid AIs from computer viruses. Introversion have form, they’re not hacks and the fact that we’re even having this debate shows that the game itself helps raise consciousness of how fucked up USian prisons are.

    • copernicus_phoenix says:

      Absolutely. It’s mad to try and discern the tone of the game from early developmental work. Introversion have form for getting that tone right, and there is no reason to suppose that that will not be the case here.

    • Bhazor says:

      I always used to find Theme Hospital quite grisly.
      Treatments were cartoony but sometimes grusome like remember the deinflator? The patients head flopping down with a thlapp noise as they’re trapped in a vice. Or more poignantly the little ka-ching of money even as patients died in the puke filled halls.

      I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Levin’s was right and the whole thing was a slam on the private healthcare industry. In particular the part where you can refuse to treat dying patients so that their death won’t affect your prisons rating.

      I personally would of loved to see peoples reaction on the internet if it had come out around the whole “Obammacare” media bukakke.

      • GT3000 says:

        It wasn’t drummed up because most adults can distinguish silly gameplay design choices and art direction from real life, besides, that would be the least of our concerns. If Theme Hospital came out when that legislation was being passed that means Bullfrog would still exist.

  17. Bhazor says:

    “I was rapidly engrossed in making every cell have a toilet in the centre of the room, like a peculiar echo of the nearby electric chair.”

    So do you have to plan every cell individually like Theme Hospital or is it like Hotel Tycoon where you can set up different template layouts to use?

  18. Kadayi says:

    Despite being an advocate of IVs earlier games I have to say this just looks kind of ‘meh’. Sims has scope, Theme hospital had humour, The Movies had a rather fancy machinima toolset strapped onto it. This…at best your responsibility is to keep violence in check. It’s akin to being a teacher overseeing an exam hall and ensuring the pupils aren’t cheating. The optimal game play state isn’t equilibrium it’s boredom. Beyond the avid ‘IV can do no wrong’ fanbase I’m wondering who the likely audience tbh, let alone whether there’s any profitability in it.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      You seem to be assuming the goal of the game will be to maintain the status quo for the prisoners. Prisons are not just for punishment, though. What if the goal was rehabilitation, to have your prisoners leave with the best outlook possible? There’s plenty to work towards in that case.

  19. cptgone says:

    this review got me looking for my Theme Hospital disk again :)

    BTW, how about a Prison Architect 2: river Kwai? with a tower defence minigame and waves of walking dead ;)
    a Colditz scenario could add lots of fancy escape plans.

  20. Maldomel says:

    I don’t know if that makes me a bad person, but I can’t wait to tinker with inmates, guards, showers and whatever the game got in store to toy with.

  21. lijenstina says:

    The Panopticon sees all. Wave at the watchtower and pretend you’re smiling.

  22. vonkrieger says:

    The real question is whether or not the morgue will have an option to allow the selling on of the ex-inmates organs for profit.

    Just think, Bodies Exhibition: The Game.