Introversion Unveil Prison Architect’s Alpha Launch

By Jim Rossignol on September 26th, 2012 at 3:54 pm.


Prison Architect is coming along nicely, as I’ve reported previously. Now though, the Introversions – Chris Delay and Mark Morris – want players to help push the design process along, as well as some pre-order money to keep themselves in bread and water. With that in mind, there’s now a tiered pre-order option open, and you can get involved for a price. We talked to them about that at length, and you can read the interview – and watch the videos – below.

RPS: Whatcha doin’ Introversion?

Delay: We’re launching the alpha! We’re including most of the stuff that we’ve got finished, which is everything that we’re happy to show that we’ve made so far. There are a few features that are so game-breakingly broken that we don’t dare include them in this alpha release, but other than those we’re putting in the lot. It’s quite similar to the build that you played which had the Death Row story level and the open sandbox, where you could just build whatever prison you liked… until it descended into open riots.

RPS: Is a stable prison build possible?

Delay: You mean “is it possible to build a prison that will last indefinitely?”

RPS: Yes.

Delay: Well it is possible, but I am working relatively hard to rule that out! Not really. But I think it will depend on the options you choose to start your prison. Right now there aren’t that many options for the sandbox starting conditions, you can only really pick the size of it, but I like the idea of expanding the concept of fun within the idea of building a prison. I’ve always liked the way Dwarf Fortress does things – there’s a fatalism about it: you know that your fortress will always be destroyed eventually, and the reason is that every year you’ll be attacked by a bigger and nastier horde of enemies. The equivalent analogy in Prison Architect is that you have a finite amount of space, which is set at the start, but you continue to receive prisoners. That resulting compression of space over time becomes the limiting factor, and will eventually result in devastation. But again, this an alpha, so it’s going to be interesting to see what people think about these ideas. We want to get people’s opinions. If they’re things that people want to do next, then they’ll start shooting up to the top of the list.

RPS: This is going to be the kind of alpha where progress is defined by the feedback loop between grumbling players and desperately coding developers?

Delay: You describe it in such enticing terms! I think we’re definitely hoping for that. We’ve been developing Prison Architect for two years now, and I think when you’ve been developing for that length of time you can become myopic and get focused on lots of minor details. We’re really hoping with this alpha to open it up a lot more. We have a list of things that we want to put into the game, but we want feedback from players now. Mentioning Dwarf Fortress again, I love that he has this huge list of things he wants to support, and we do too. Now, though, we want to see what things on that list players are interested in. It’s an open list.

RPS: How has the response been when you showed the game at events like Rezzed?

Delay: Anecdotally we’ve seen a lot of people interested. At Rezzed we had four computers showing the game the whole time, and they were never actually free. They were busy the whole time.

RPS: That was the second most popular game on the attendee’s survey for Rezzed.

Delay: That’s one of those facts that’s simultaneously both really great and really annoying.

RPS: Yes, it is. But given the breadth of games that were there – Borderlands 2, Day Z – it seems to me that to come second really says something. Although perhaps it says something about the mind of the kind of people who like to fill in surveys.

Delay: Yes, you will get a curious sub-group with that survey, won’t you? All the people that came to the Rezzed, and then that particular type that filled in the form… But yeah, we got good response. We had to boot people off at Rezzed, with folks sat playing for hours. It hasn’t always been like that for Introversion games.

RPS: Yes, you’re going into a more Bullfrogian open-ended management with this, where the previous games were more tightly “gamey”. Is that a maturation of your interests?

Delay: Possibly. Bullfrog is my favourite game developer of all time. I’ve loved all the management games, each one for different reasons. More recently I’ve got into Dwarf Fortress and games like that, which in my mind are offshots of previous eras of management games. They’re niche variants where everything is so detailed. And so, as ever, we’ve ended up making a game that I really want to play.


RPS: Do you think certain people will be put off by the prison theme?

Delay: Possibly, yeah. I think it depends on the handling. We’ve been developing for a couple of years, largely in isolation, we’re probably not aware of how people are going to respond. Going on the reactions at Rezzed, well, we did see it evoke an emotional response in players.

RPS: I think the thing that struck me in the couple of times I’ve played it is the dissonance between it being quite cartoony in presentation, and being brutally dark, thematically. You feel uneasy after a while. Grimness in icon-based presentation, it’s extraordinary. Someone said to me that it was disappointing to see you guys going down a “standard art route”, rather than something glowy and neon, but I think this is actually an even more interesting mixture of classic management presentation and human horror.

Delay: That is intentional. There are two sides to Prison Architect: a series of campaign levels, which are story and objective-driven, and an open-ended sandbox. In the first design of the game it was just the sandbox, but very quickly we realised that very few people know how to build a prison, and very few people know why they would want to buy a prison. So we started out with tutorial levels, and this has evolved. We realised we were dealing with a political topic – you can’t remain abstract when it is a game about prisons. We had to have a story involving characters which was told in a relatively mature way. That was the birth of this mixing of cute abstract sprites and the more realistic weighty story. I’ve been attracted to dark themes – perhaps most obviously in Defcon, which is a genocide-level strategy – but we’d kept that fairly abstract. It didn’t need to be humanised. But this game did. Not all the story levels will all have the same level of darkness as that death row level.

RPS: Well even in the sandbox you are seeing the tiny iconic inmates being beaten to death in the showers…

Delay: Yes, and that is interesting because there you are seeing what in any other game would be a full on battle. It’s an odd one for a strategy game, because the enemy is always within your own walls, and you’re not ever allowed to engage them directly. Normally, in Dungeon Keeper for example, you build up and army and fight the enemy. Here, though, there is no definite enemy, no final battle.


RPS: The AI behaviour, all the little guards and prisoners, that seems to have had a lot of work put into it. I played out one situation – a fight on some showers – several times, and each time it played out differently. Is that intentional?

Delay: I know specifically what you are talking about, and that’s actually quite a serious bug. That’s the fight in the showers at the bottom left of the map? The thing is that we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out causality, and make it so that prisoners need a reason to fight each other. I think in that build that area had the odds of a fight tuned up really high, for video capture purposes, and that’s why you experienced a strange randomness.

RPS: Hmm, but even the fight itself played out quite differently each time.

Delay: Yes, there are a lot of factors kicking off when there’s a fight. And one of the key aspects of Prison Architect is that you don’t have direct control over the guards of the inmates. You don’t leave your guard there and that’s it. It’s all indirect. Your guards simply do their best to deal with the situation they face. That’s one of the areas that we want to point out, for the sake of the alpha, aren’t finished yet. We have some designs for how guards deal with fights, but few real game mechanics yet. We haven’t figured out how to do it in a good way. I’ve always wanted the game to occur at a higher levels, where you set policies, equip guards, set rules of engagement, but once fights break out, you just have to see what the aftermath is. You get to see the results of your decisions. During the alpha we’ll be tackling that.

RPS: Why is indirect control interesting?

Delay: I think it’s because I want to be able to create a prison which is completely self-managing – players arrive, go through the regime, leave again, and the whole operation of the prison is simulated and automated. And you can never get there, it’s never really achievable. The issue with the indirect control over your teams, is one of fitting with the game. You never even directly build anything: you simply request that the workmen go and do it. I like that element of not being able to directly control, and partly that’s a visual thing: a satisfaction of watching a large group of entities carrying out your commands. The clean up operation after the fights for example, is fascinating to watch. This all happens in response to the policies you’ve set. This mass movement of people and debris happens and it’s a fascinating experience watching that play out in your world. I still love the Starcraft mode of micromanagement, but this isn’t that game. In Darwinia you created officers and gave them instructions. It’s a common theme that I’ve always liked.

RPS: So what’s the plan for this alpha release then?

Morris: The basic tier is $30. You get access to the alpha immediately, and you’ll get the full game and Steam keys and all the rest of it when that’s finally done. We’ve created a series of higher tiers. The more you’re willing to pay, the more you can get involved in the alpha. You can get your name in the game and write the prisoner biography, that goes all the way up to our $1000 tier where you can design a unique warden who has an individual power like the world leaders in Civ do. We want to offer genuinely valuable opportunities to get involved and immortalise yourself in the design process, while tapping into the enormous vein of generosity that exists in the gaming community. I don’t think anyone has taken quite this approach before, so we have how this will work. It’ll be really fascinating for us to see how interesting it is, whether we’ve got the pricing right, and so on. We’ve never done anything like this before!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

The Introversion alpha bundle is available now.

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109 Comments »

  1. JFS says:

    30 bucks? Seems quite steep for a pre-order/alpha version of an indie game. At least you can get your name into the game for just a little more, but the entry barrier seems to be a bit high for me.

    • Jac says:

      Depends what sort of game you enjoy. This and clockwork empires are the games I’m most looking forward to – and there’s a lot of games I’m looking forward to at the moment that will be £30 when I buy them.

      I’m in for £20 fo sho.

    • futage says:

      Absolutely agree. $30 is taking the piss given what else that would buy.

      • Unaco says:

        Some, but not all, of the DLC for Borderlands 2?

        • futage says:

          Hah. I’m enjoying tl2 roughly eighteen thousand times more than bl2, so no. Instead, 2 extra copies of tl2 for friends!

          Also, having now read an interview with Introversion over on pcgamer, the $30 makes more sense. So I withdraw my pisstake remark. I just hope the finished product is closer to $15.

          • masodnab65165 says:

            Me too, I don’t know why, I thought this was a prison break type game. Still interested indeed, just seems like this could be a game I don’t want to play even if the mechanics are very enjoyable like The Binding of Isaac.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeG8vN4wM3s

        • Branthog says:

          Borderlands DLC is $30 (yes, using that stupid bullshit “season pass” nomenclature).

      • Caiman says:

        I must have missed all the internet rage when most Kickstarter projects started offering beta access to their game for pledge tiers similar to this (and in some cases quite a bit more). In fact if this was on Kickstarter not a single eyebrow would have been raised. Oh well, another day, another Internet.

    • RogB says:

      yowch, WAY too steep for an alpha. im interested, but i’ll pass.

    • BubuIIC says:

      From Quinns interview at PCGamer. He asked about the high price point and they gave a pretty good explanation:

      PCG: Isn’t $30 a little higher than normal for alpha or beta access?

      MM: There are a couple of reasons for that. We’ve got a pretty close relationship with the Humble Bundle guys, and we were talking to them a lot about how they do things. Another is that we’re more interested in a smaller number of players that are more engaged in what we’re doing, than a huge audience that want to pay less. There’s a quality bar we’re putting in there.

      Imagine the [alpha] went on sale for $10. This is all “ifs”, right? But imagine it goes on sale for $10 or $20, and people chose to buy it, and it doesn’t work for them, and they say, “This is bollocks. I hate this. It’s crap. It’s broken. It doesn’t work.”

      Here’s the interview.

      • RogB says:

        that doesnt appear to address anything?
        from what I can gather their reasoning seems to consist of ‘people who pay more are less likely to complain if it doesnt work’

        • Chris D says:

          I think it might be more along the lines of people who pay more have a higher level of commitment to the project and therefore are more prepared to engage with it to figure out why it’s not working rather than simply throwing their hands in the air and saying “This sucks!”

          • RogB says:

            ah so its about getting a smaller and more dedicated base for feedback, that makes more sense.
            the whole ‘quality bar’ and not wanting people to criticise it just came off as outright snobbery imo, but I get it now.

          • Cooper says:

            IV’s betas have been small, invite only affairs in the past. The high price point retains that small community with a different mode of selection.

            Not sure I agree with it, but it’s better to have a small group of comitted testers than hundreds of vocal moaners…

          • grimpunch says:

            I agree that it’s a good idea to keep it small, but still I’m a poor student, I loved the game at Rezzed and I spoke to Chris Delay about the game for quite some time, giving my opinion on the current state of the game and pointing out things I felt really worked well.
            I can’t afford £20 now, but I could justify it if it was just a little lower, because I can’t wait to play this and I really want to help it’s development by being one of the interested voices…
            A barrier to entry for quality control of responses shouldnt be based on a pay wall. :/

        • BubuIIC says:

          I’d rather say they are more likely to give constructive criticism. And that is, besides the obvious money part, what they are looking for.

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        >Another is that we’re more interested in a smaller number of players that are more engaged in what we’re doing, than a huge audience that want to pay less. There’s a quality bar we’re putting in there.

        Really? You want to be the train simulator?

        • Derppy says:

          No.

          They just don’t want half a million guys buying a sorta-cool-looking game at 5$ and raging around the forums that it doesn’t work, while getting flooded with crappy suggestions that miss the point of the game.

          Because they sell the alpha at 30$, they will get much smaller, but way more dedicated community that understands the alpha state of the project and genuinely wants to support it, instead of just getting another cheap indie game in their Steam library.

          The guys willing to pay 30$ for this are more likely true fans of the management game genre and familiar with games they draw inspiration from, such as Dwarf Fortress. This is likely to result in better feedback and suggestions that share the mindset and goals of the developers.

          Of course there’s exceptions, in many cases paying more for a a game just means you have more money and will to spend it, but I believe this is the Introversion’s reasoning and I support it.

          I’ll happily pay the 30$, because this project seems very potential, I’d love to get another great management game and I’m a big fan of Introversion’s previous work. With the relatively high price point and the resulting smaller community, I also feel the project is more likely to cater to the niche audience who wants depth and complexity, instead of being simplified and going for the biggest audience.

          I now realize I pretty much said I want the game to be Train Simulator… oh well.

          • frightlever says:

            The guys willing to pay $30 are probably Introversion fans – so you’ll get the sort of skewed opinion-averse Beta that Stardock has specialised in.

            I will re-iterate I have bought and played every one of Introversion’s games and I don’t like any of them. This might be the one to change my mind but I can wait until it’s in the inevitable bargain bucket. Frankly I feel like I’ve done enough for them already.

      • zeroskill says:

        tl;dr

        The guys at Introversion don’t want kids in their alpha. Fully understandable.

      • cptgone says:

        “imagine it goes on sale for $10 or $20, and people chose to buy it, and it doesn’t work for them, and they say, “This is bollocks. I hate this.”

        $10 would have been an insta-buy for me (although i rarely pay that much for a game).
        even if i wouldn’t like it, i wouldn’t complain in such a way, over an alpha.
        OTOH i don’t have the time to play alpha’s.

        i hope the final release will be cheaper.
        if not, i’ll just bide my time, despite of the fact i’ve been yearning for a game like this eversince Theme Hospital hit the shops (why o why doesn’t that game have a ‘skirmish’ mode? huh?)

        anyway, best of luck to Introversion!

    • bitbot says:

      Yeah, aren’t alphas supposed to be cheaper than the release, because it’s not finished? Maybe they plan on selling the full game for $50?

      If this $30 is exactly what the finished game will cost, then I’ll just wait for that.

      • BubuIIC says:

        From what I gathered from the PCGamer interview it might be cheaper on release. Maybe this is a strange decision, but actually I can understand the reasoning behind it.

        This article by Jeff Vogel tackles a related issue, why he is selling his games cheaper on steam than on his own website. http://jeff-vogel.blogspot.de/2011/08/avadon-is-out-on-steam.html

        • MaXimillion says:

          Well, it’s kinda similar to how future F2P games like DotA2 and PoE charge for beta access. They get money from the people who want it now, and they keep their beta playerbase size at a manageable level.

    • satsui says:

      I came here to say the same thing. “Oh, and alpha! I wouldn’t mind paying $10 for a game like this!” Then I find out it’s $30!? Are you serious!? This game may not even be worth $30 when it’s complete!!

      • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

        You sound like the kind of person they’ve priced it at $30 specifically to keep out…

  2. lordcooper says:

    Bought it instantly, I’ve been craving this since Rezzed.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Could you, or someone else, report back in the comments on how playable it is? Is it more of a rough proof-of-concept that’s likely to crash all the time or is it fairly playable?

      • lordcooper says:

        It was perfectly playable 2 months ago ;)

      • DyingTickles says:

        It is perfectly playable. It starts out with a tutorial encompassing the death row scenario that has been discussed and then lets you just build a prison from scratch, choosing Small, Medium, or Large size. I’ve only played for about an hour or two, but I haven’t come across any problems.

  3. thijmenbink says:

    Ofcourse, it’s a private Kickstarter, but brilliant nonetheless :) Love the visual presentation of it too. Plus the game ought to be(come) awesome too.

  4. MOKKA says:

    I think those were the quickest 50$ I ever spent.

  5. CaLe says:

    I’ve bought into 2 betas/alphas recently, with Xenonauts and Path of Exile. I’m immediately put off by the price of this one..

    But damn if that’s not a good youtube pitch. I hope it is successful for them.

  6. The First Door says:

    Wow, that announcement has really brightened up my rainy day! I believe I’ve have to go lie to myself and justify a higher than strictly necessary price tier.

    Edit: Random question though… why are all the prices in USD? Hurray for it being the same price globally, but it seems a bit odd given they are a UK group!

  7. Unaco says:

    I take it you’ve got over your discomfort for the game then Jim?

    Am looking forward to this myself… Don’t think I’ve been disappointed by an Introversion game yet, unless you count Subversion getting canned/delayed.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I do think the Prison theme is odd – see my question in the interview – but I’ve nevertheless enjoyed. I just think I would prefer to be the architect of… something else.

      • The First Door says:

        That was always my problem with DEFCON too. I loved the game, but the presentation and sound effects were too well done and I just ended up feeling depressed playing it.

        • zebramatt says:

          I’m a lot more comfortable with a prison management theme here than I am with playing a virus whose mission it is to wipe out mankind in Plague Inc. on iOS, and I love that game.

          I can see why the prison issue gets under some folks’ skin but for me it’s certainly no more morally contentious than playing a soldier at war or a gangland criminal.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        I love management games, and it’s good that they’re taking the issues seriously, but I can’t help but think that it’s going to be an uncomfortable experience. And there’s the risk of attracting really terrible fans, the type who are completely detached and indifferent to such things.

        With a different theme, I’d gladly pay $30 for a good management sim alpha. But I’m really going to have to wait this one out.

      • dontnormally says:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_industrial_complex

        I agree. The idea of merriment about a Prison given the current state-of-things in-the-states (especially; you’d have to fill me in on the rest of the world) is a bit… eh.

        I hope they use this engine to make a different game.

        • BubuIIC says:

          Perhaps this game won’t be all about merriment though. They could use the theme and game to educate people about the problems and discrepancies in the prison system.
          As I read the interviews they don’t know yet how much they’ll be going in this direction vs. just a fun management simulation set in a prison. But if they do it right and find a good balance this could be a really strong point of the game.

        • zebramatt says:

          This especially strikes me as an odd comment to make in the face of the multitude of wargames in the world.

          Maybe the Parker Brothers should have used their Risk game concept to make a game about cattle wrangling instead.

      • matnym says:

        Maybe Evil Genius is more up your alley then (it sure is for me) ?

      • crinkles esq. says:

        I appreciated you bringing that up in the interview, Jim. But nothing he said made me think he understands why he’s making a game about prisons, or understands how uncomfortable the subject is to American audiences. I really like Introversion as a studio — despite their lack of support for existing games — but I just can’t get my head ’round this one.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      I think the prison theme is excellent – it’s mature and I expect it will force you to recognise difficult social problems that you genuinely feel uncomfortable about. I think computer games need to move in this direction and away from escapism if we want them to be considered on a level with cinema and literature.

      • ocelotwildly says:

        I’ve been itching to play it, so jumped on the Alpha as soon as I saw it pop up on my Twitter feed. I was previously sceptical about the concerns raised over the subject matter, but having just come out of the tutorial mission I have begun to see why people may feel a little uncomfortable.

        It’s not just the prison theme itself that is troubling but (in the tutorial at least) the ethical implications of your work are really placed front and centre. I can imagine it’s a lot more difficult to sit back and admire your perfectly functioning prison complex, if in its perfect function it is leading endless streams of people to the electric chair. I like the way that so far I have been repeatedly reassured that I was only doing my job and that the decisions over life or death were not in my hands. Because it certainly didn’t feel like that!

        • Sassenach says:

          But that’s why it’s funny.

        • BubuIIC says:

          But that’s actually good to hear that they do raise these issues. I think I could not play the game if you were supposed to just look over all the moral problems and play it like any other management simulation.
          I’m definitely curious where they are going to take this element of the game. Could be really great or could be quite awkward.

        • StevoIRL says:

          How is this any different to the millions of people that you have killed/murdered in so many other games with 10x the detail?

          • DyingTickles says:

            I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but it is. I’m one of those players who will gleefully run over civilians in GTA, but in this I felt…conflicted, even though I had no choice for my actions in this (it was a scripted tutorial), and in GTA it was purely my choice.

            The art style is definitely in contrast to the theme and feel of the game.

      • Dervish says:

        Social problems / discomfort is not the opposite of escapism. You can escape / immerse yourself in a simulation of a troubling situation that makes you think.

    • Calabi says:

      I hate prison films so I doubt I’m going to like this game.

  8. Premium User Badge Faldrath says:

    Can you rehabilitate/educate prisoners? Because that’s the only thing I’d *want* to do in a game like this.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes, you can. Although I am not sure how mature that process is in this version of the game.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Me too, I don’t know why, I thought this was a prison break type game. Still interested indeed, just seems like this could be a game I don’t want to play even if the mechanics are very enjoyable like The Binding of Isaac.

    • Andr says:

      Gotta check this: are you the Faldrath from Avengers of Balduran forums?

  9. terry says:

    Bought instantly. There’s so few worthwhile tycoon style games these days that when one comes along I cannot resist. This afternoon at work just got super long though…

  10. Gnoupi says:

    “RPS: The AI behaviour, all the little guards and prisoners, that seems to have had a lot of work put into it. I played out one situation – a fight on some showers – several times, and each time it played out differently. Is that intentional?

    Delay: I know specifically what you are talking about, and that’s actually quite a serious bug. That’s the fight in the showers at the bottom left of the map?”

    Gotta love programmers. The initial question was around “oh, neat, it’s actually going differently each time!”. And in the programmer’s brain, this is wiring directly to what is underneath, how it’s made, the bug they encountered, and the existing bugs they can’t tackle yet on the topic. This leads to taking the question as a critic, for which he is justifying “oh, yes, I know, it’s a bug, will fix it”.

    Funny. And concerning, seeing as I often react this way.

    • zebramatt says:

      Yes, he’s definitely got his head firmly in the code right now!

    • merc-ai says:

      Chris’ reaction is my favorite part in the interview!

  11. Meneth says:

    What I’m wondering if it is possible to make pleasant prisons. More Norwegian-style than American-style. Would be nice as a more relaxing game mode where people aren’t trying to kill each other half the time :P

    • Belsameth says:

      Bah! Hippy!
      What this game needs is multiple, belt fed, electric chairs!

      Fry em all, let god sort em out :p

  12. Bhazor says:

    I think I played this like 5 years ago.

  13. Premium User Badge Haphaz77 says:

    Argh. Bad timing. Another game I’d like to play, but Xcom and Dishonored out first. Will look at the Alpha options to see how long the Alpha offers are likely to run for.

    Edit: Just watched the video. Splendidly crazy halfway through and honest about the limitations of the Alpha buying approach. Not sure who’s nicked prisonarchitect.com WITHOUT the hyphen…

  14. GernauMorat says:

    I don’t take offense easily, but I have to say the concept of this game makes me uncomfortable.

    • Premium User Badge Haphaz77 says:

      I can see what you mean, but taking a step back, most of gaming is about abstracting various awful things (alien / zombie invasions, beat ‘em ups, assassinations, war, football management) when you think about it. This game isn’t that graphic.

    • Writhe says:

      That’s weird coming from someone who played Azad.

      • GernauMorat says:

        Haphaz77 – I know what you mean, and I’ve certainly played plenty of violent etc games. I guess its just me. I was looking in to he US prison system recently, which probably doesn’t help either. Its not the ‘graphic’ aspect, its the theme.

        Writhe – Ha! Well spotted

    • razorramone says:

      First of all, prisons are a real thing in real life. This game will give you only a taste of the violent and sad world of our prison systems. These things shouldnt be ignored or avoided just because they are uncomfortable to confront. Getting offended or avoiding the game because its subject is not “happy happy fun fun”, is stupid and willfully ignorant.

      If on the other hand you feel uncomfortable because the game gives you as the architect, the agency to contribute to this system, and to create suffering in the imaginary people, well okay that is understandable. BUT you should also recognise that many other games also do this. In Civ you can wage war and kill millions at a whim. Most FPS place you as a mass murderer. Stealth games let you kill people just for convenience.
      Games giving you the power to do bad things is not an Unusual Thing. If you are offended by this game, I suggest you will be even more offended by mainstream gaming in general.

  15. Chris D says:

    Edit: Supposed to be a reply to GernauMorat above, though, anyone else, feel free to respond, obviously.

    Could you elaborate on that? I mean, I can see there are many issues surrounding the whole subject and can certainly understand anyone deciding it’s not for them, but I assume you meant something closer to “This is not a fit subject for a game” which is something I have a harder time seeing.

    • GernauMorat says:

      Chris D – I don’t think anything should be off limit in a game, or anywhere else for that matter. I just think it looks tasteless given the reality of prison systems; see Bremze below. Not for me, but then neither is the ultro-patriotism in later COD games. A matter of taste in the end, I guess

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Hello. Might I suggest that building a prison is in fact a noble thing to do, whereas shooting someone in the face is usually less so (I see that you most likely agree with this position, but it’s worth laying out)?

        Prisons are normally bad places, but this game may offer the chance to try and build one which is safe and productive and/or understand why so many aren’t. Maybe that’s better than shying away from addressing the subject at all?

  16. krisanto says:

    Has anyone here tried the other prison simulation game? I’m talking about Mdickie’s “Hard Time”:

    • Redd says:

      Yup. Went full retard on it for a few days. Actual days immersed in the game. I still think of it from time to time, as if it were a part of my life that actually happened. Tangible memories of place. I guess it’s because it’s so unique – both in theme and production/presentation. Let’s face it, most people would say it’s awful. But its very turdosity is what causes you to apply heavy dollops of imagination to it and allows you to come away feeling like you’ve gotten through a bad chapter in your life. Which, if you’re playing Matt Dickie games and walking away smiling, I suppose you genuinely have.

  17. Bremze says:

    Can you intentionaly create prison gangs, lose control over them and watch them spiral into a horrific entity of their own? Squish as many inmates in as little space possible, use them as slave labor and lobby politicians for more strict prison sentences? Execute minors? Turn a blind eye on guards and inmates physically and sexually abusing other inmates on a daily basis? (Guess how many of these are true in the nice place called USA?)

    The prison theme is disturbing, because prisons are disturbing. We’re just not used to confronting the issue.

    • Kingmarzo says:

      Shooting/stabbing someone in BF3 or whatever should be disturbing but its so common now that nobody notices.

      I have no problem with the theme and Im suprised people even mention it?

      • Sheng-ji says:

        I think because when you play a soldier, you are pitted against other soldiers and usually the odds are overwhelmingly in their favour. Here you play effectively the prison system – being given that sort of power over helpless people – admittedly not innocents – is quite a disturbing feeling, especially as the results of the Milgram experiment are so awful and I’m not sure the two are remotely comparable.

        • Dilapinated says:

          I think this is a point a lot of people are missing.

        • razorramone says:

          I disagree about the power balance in FPS, in many it is heavily in your favour. The gameplay of FPS usually require some kind of plot device to explain why you can survive wave after wave of enemies The usual way to justify this is that you are some superhuman or elite agent. In this situation the player has much more power than the person you are harming.

          Also it’s common in a lot of FPS nowadays to allow you to avoid killing people. The persons life is in your hands, you choose if they live or die. How is this not giving you power over them?

          For sure there are exceptions to this. Stalker comes to mind, where you are an average joe in a hostile world. But even then – isn’t there always the theoretical option to escape, run away? No one forces the player to decide “okay, im going to kill all these guys”.

          I think the reason this game feels worse than an FPS is simply because we’re so accustomed to the FPS genre, we don’t even think about what is really unfolding on the screen. A game set in a prison, and where you are semi-helpless with no direct control, thats unusual and makes us think more than usual.

  18. CharlO says:

    If I get payed around $30 bucks a day as a QA analist, how many hour of my life should I give them to play the game?

    I don’t see why people would pay to beta, let alone alpha, test software, sure, you are an early adopter, but it’d be buggy as hell, and you are paying to do their work.

    For 5 bucks I might consider this, as I would spend like 5 hours, infuriate myself and leave it alone till finished.

    • zeekthegeek says:

      This isn’t exactly alpha from my experience (A former QA tester myself also). All in all quite playable, didn’t really bug out except for one little thing when I deleted single tiles out of a pre-set foundation. Nothing particularly game-breaking. Quite good even I’d say.

  19. wodin says:

    Personally I can never understand why people get so hung up on morals etc when it’s just a game..nothing more nothing less..me thinks they take it all abit to seriously..

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I’m sure even you have a line you wouldn’t cross: Would you play a graphic, realistic rape simulator, or a game where you play a gay cowboy set in a tent with another gay cowboy and you have to seduce him. I’m sure you can think of something you would find distasteful, maybe depending on your nationality and love of your country you wouldn’t want to play a game where you are trying to hijack a plane and fly it into the world trade centre. How about a game where your aim is to cause your own mother and father to commit suicide by how gruesome your own suicide was.

      The point is, even if none of those are examples that put you off, there will be a line and everyone sets the line differently with different subjects. I for example work very closely with prisoners who have, since their conviction been acquitted so the subject is very close to home for me.

      • wodin says:

        I see your point..but committing rape in a game compared to managing a little sim people in a sim prison(they don’t look human, which is why I really like the sprite art here..it makes it feel like this is a prison for sprite people if you see what I mean)

        Still I get your point, but I have yet to find a game that abhorrent and I wouldn’t buy it..just like I’m not keen on some of those Japanese games we’ve had on here.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Maybe I’m being silly, but it seems like you just compared homosexual romance to rape. Um, don’t.

        • zebramatt says:

          Yes – I’m not offended by this game but I was offended by that!

        • tomeoftom says:

          Yeah, what the fuck? I can’t believe he just said that.

        • Premium User Badge dog says:

          his point was (and he did make it very clear, i thought) that there’s things which people are uncomfortable with… whether it be gay sex, rape (which everyone should be uncomfortable with) or even something like going to the dentist…

          the point wasn’t to compare these things, but as examples of things which may make uncomfortable gaming ideas.

          • The First Door says:

            Yeah, I’m calling bullshit. When the other examples involve rape and murder you can’t put homosexuality in the list and not expect people to be insulted. You are implying they the same level of ‘distasteful’ which is obviously offensive. This sort of implying a causal link between homosexuality and other acts has been going on for years and in most cases it is a thinly disguised way of insulting a whole group of people.

          • vonkrieger says:

            Does this game even support gay rape yet or will that be a Beta feature?

  20. celozzip says:

    i hope there’s an option to use pre-made prisons. i liked the tutorial but now faced with having to design one from scratch, build the rooms, lay out the pipes and so on, seems boring as hell. i used to really like theme hospital when i was younger. maybe i’m just tired tonight.

  21. TAPETRVE says:

    I bet my hairy arse that some idiot will come up with a Nazi death camp mod within a mere few days after release.

    • wodin says:

      Thats what I was thinking..not sure if I’d try it or not…

  22. flipflop mcbop says:

    this impressed me more than I really thought it would having finished the intro.
    I love the artwork and was surprisingly polished in its presentation.

    Interestingly for me having only read about the game so far I wasn’t bothered at all by the theme, including executions, but having now played it I’ve changed my mind., Though it has clearly been deliberately designed to get you thinking about the more complex moral issues of imprisonment, correction, rehabilitation etc. I’m hoping it doesn’t lay it on too thickly.

    Intro was a bit bleak, was searching for a way to change the outcome, kind of hoping that will be possible in the rest of the game.

    I’ve owned and played all of introversions games, but this so far even in alpha tops the lot, I think it could be a big success for them.

  23. Pod says:

    I’m always disappointed by how crap Introversion are at staying clear of the bankrupt zone. They continually seem to be teetering on the brink, no matter how many of their games I’ve bought. (Even Multiwinia). It’s like that bright, promising but ultimately criminal youth I’m sure you all know. Really nice, could probably get a Maths PhD if he tried, but instead he got 3 gids pregnant and robbed a shop. (I’ve never know anyone like this)

    Maybe it’s because I original pirated Uplink when it first game out? Maybe they’re in dire straights because of this? (I bought it a few months later, mainly to get the secret code thingy inside it, along with some tiny bonus disk thing.)

    Whilst I can understand the motivation for the $30 tier, I think the other tiers above that should be a bit cheaper (discounting the obvious cost of physical goods, which I hope they’ve accounted for). I think this because then I would buy them, which would ultimately give them more money.

  24. chromeshelter says:

    i find 30$ A LOT. ive read why they made it 30 bucks but i still find it a lot. but maybe its just me, i was also shocked by the fact that castle crashers (which is still buggy and is not getting updated anymore, plust the official forums are kinda dead) costs 15$ PLUS extra for the DLC-s…. and i just discovered that you can buy chivalry for 30$ (which is okay-ish), but you need to pay an extra 20$ for two weeks of beta access. i am getting used to big publishers beeing greedy as fck, but small indies started milking ppl… and lets not talk about that greedy terraria fucker getting his game ported to consoles instead of supporting the pc version as he promised.

    • chromeshelter says:

      and i have to add that i am a huge fan of introversion. bought all of their previous games, defcon is still one of my favorite games EVER. but 30$ seems incredibly steep for this. i will wait for a discount / bundle / etc.

      • zebramatt says:

        They’re intentionally pricing the alpha version high in order to reduce the player base to something manageable and more committed to providing constructive feedback.

        They fully intend to release the game as part of a Humble Bundle, so you might even pick it up for a few quid at full retail. And I can’t imagine it’ll be more than a tenner if it ever hits Steam.

  25. TheTeal says:

    Has anyone here bought the $40 introversioner bundle and can confirm that you receive steam keys for all their previous games?

  26. wodin says:

    The issue I found with the programmer after watching his speech at rezzed on here is that he seems excellent at systems and detail but has little idea on how to make it into gameplay.

    Take the game he cancelled. He said he didn’t believe in changing the systems in play so they make the game playable or fun. I could see several things they could have done with that game to make it work yet he was against restricting systems etc for it to work as a game. Which is the wrong way to go about it I feel.

    • zebramatt says:

      I saw the same interview and my reading of it was slightly different: I think what he was trying to bring to the table – his unique creative vision, that would make his game stand out; the very appeal he was striving to capture – revolved around the theme of complex interconnected systems playing out incredibly emergent situations. In the light of which, compromising on those systems arbitrarily for the sake of gameplay would kill the core design concept dead. And frankly, you don’t need the complex underlying simulation structure if what you’re left with at the end hides most of it for the sake of gameplay – you could make a far less complicated game engine altogether.

      But then that’s basically the same as admitting the core game was dead – which they very nearly did there. The fundamental shift in focus to being the architect of those complex interconnected systems really cut to the heart of what Delay had picked up on throughout the conception of the original game: there’s something innately fun in setting up overlapping systems and watching something emergent arise.

      • wodin says:

        I do love his ideas and what he likes I do too..however he didn’t need to restrict the systems to much..alot of what he did could have been used, he just needed to look at it from a gameplay perspective aswell and got those great systems to work within it…but I think he was that focused on the systems he couldn’t see the game design as a big picture..

  27. merc-ai says:

    I really like their idea of combining Alpha testing and Kickstarter-like crowdfunding.
    The $30 may be a bit high to some, but it seems to work (aimed at dedicated players with understanding, instead of random crowd of players that are more likely to complain).

    Though personally I will hold off for now – too many exciting games coming out. I’m also wary of the “dwarf fortress” approach, because I do not see losing as “fun”. Hopefully the game does not evolve in that direction and goes closer to Dungeon Keeper’s “winning is fun”.

  28. terry says:

    Having played about six hours of this, I can confirm its a lot of fun and worth the bucks. I agree it’ll be a hard sell to those that aren’t interested in complex systems but for programming and game design geeks I’d say its worth it just to see the insides, so to speak. Gameplaywise, I’m finding analogous to Dwarf Fortress in a lot of ways, without the same degree of pointless detail but enough cogs and wheels intermeshing to generate some bizarre and tragic scenarios. It’s not a question of winning, but how long you last before you lose.

  29. Prime says:

    I wonder how long it’s going to be before I stop grieving for Subversion?

    • wodin says:

      never…

    • Caiman says:

      Watch their Rezzed presentation, that might work. Chris was right, it just doesn’t look fun at all. However, it looks like it might be possible to make it fun, but it needs a whole additional layer of gameplay on top of its current objectives.