Prison Architect Is The Daddy Now

By Alec Meer on October 29th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

Introversion’s management sim/financial experiment Prison Architect has done reasonably well for itself off the back of an alpha version alone, managing 10,000 sales and not too far south of $400,000 as a result.

Those are small beer numbers for a full release game, but we’re talking about a far-from-finished alpha only available direct from the developer. In that context, it is BIG BEER.

It’s also “way beyond our expectations,” say they. I should probably be more Ice Cold Objectivity Man, but after seeing Introversion have a bit of a rough time in recent years, I’m really glad that things seem to be working out agian.

Introversion have also declared that PA won’t be out of alpha any time soon – they want to get this one bang-on right. Updates will be regular, however – they put out the first major one last week, and reckon “somewhere between two and four weeks” is the likely frequency of future updates.

There’s a detailed breakdown of planned changes and improvements over in Chris Delay’s lengthy state of play post here. He sounds dead chuffed, too.

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49 Comments »

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  1. MrLebanon says:

    I always look at this game and go “wow looks cool” and then go to the purchase page and go “hmph… 30 dollars”

    • Stardog says:

      You’ve spent more than $30 on worse.

      • MrLebanon says:

        very true… very true. but what do I do when I live in a shoe?

        I’m considering the 40 dollar option that comes with their other games. I heard DEFCON was quite good, and I’m a fan of nuking everyone

        • DerNebel says:

          You should totally buy and play DEFCON. Twice.

          I have played a full match of DEFCON only a couple of times and I feel that my money has been well spent. It invokes a feeling no other nuclear war art has ever achieved and for that it is brilliant. Just wait until your first nuke connects. That alone is worth atleast half the price.

          And then the hard rain starts falling.

        • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

          Defcon is really, really fun. It’s not bad against the AI, but it’s sort of like Left4Dead- okay for a couple hours’ diversion alone, or years of fun with friends.

    • buzzmong says:

      You’re buying into the alpha version though. The cost of the final game will be lower.

      Introversion are charging more for the alpha in the hope that the people who *do* buy in are more interested in the product and give much better feedback.

      I’ve been on the forums of a number of alphas with low entry costs, and I don’t envy the developers having to sift through dozens of slightly differently worded bug reports by people who can’t/won’t read the known bug list and are reporting the same thing over and over again.
      Or the dozens of posts complaining about balance when it’s been stated balancing will only be properly done when the game is feature complete.
      Or on that note of not being feature complete, people complaining that feature X is missing, when the developers have already said it’s on the to-do list.

    • Taedirk says:

      That was exactly the response they were looking for. The $30 price tag means you get alpha players who really want to play and will (hopefully) give better feedback than people grabbing another cheap game.

      • MrLebanon says:

        This (and buzzmong’s comment) I did not know! I’m so accustomed to the “25-50% off alpha buy in” that I saw a 30 dollar alpha and thought this was going to shoot up to 40-45 in the future!

        *phew*

      • Premium User Badge

        Dilapinated says:

        Or:
        Players with sufficient means who really want to play.
        and
        Richer players of varying levels of enthusiasm.

        • Sidion says:

          I’m gonna be honest. This is a game I am horribly interested in playing, but the price is just TOO steep for an indie game to me.

          Could it be worth it? Sure probably, but when I no longer will pay retail for a big budget release (Damn you steam) I just can’t do it.

      • socrate says:

        Would be alots more fair if they would give them 3 other copy in the end for helping them….i mean you ask money to get tester at this point…its really…weird

        Natural Selection 2 gave all their old member an upgraded version and a free version of the game + they said they would give them pretty much all for life for supporting them that much which is really really awesome from their part.

        but this game look nice….not sure about the serious story though and the price…10$ at this point for the quality this offer would be all i would give,unless it change dramatically.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    Gosh, that is big beer.

  3. Terragot says:

    Good news? In my UK? Fiddle-sticks, poppy-cock.

    But seriously, it’s good to see something – that isn’t the unhealthy 99p pricing scheme – do so well. This is probably down to their reputation and presentation and good faith than the actual game. Introversion have a good long term business outlook I’d say, oppose to, say, Zynga. Who’d of thunk it, an honest, clear and fair package can sell for a high value?

  4. Pootie says:

    30 bucks for alpha!? Not gonna happen. Also PC game industry should stop selling alpha and beta games…

    • Premium User Badge

      lazy8 says:

      Why? I like alpha and beta games, it is the finished products that I don’t like. (continues playing lifeless planet in alpha)

      • Pootie says:

        Well sure, you can like alpha and beta but why pay for it? I play beta all the time but would never pay for it. Isnt the point of a beta to let players try the game so they can also look for major bugs and report them. Thats why usually games in beta stage dont cost any $.
        The fact that you like to play alot of alpha and beta is prolly the reason why you dont like final releases. By the time the game is released you already had nuff of it. That happened to me quite few time too. Also if its a game (especially online) that requires you to level up and maybe unlock things there is of course always that pre-release wipe. After that I usually stop playing since I dont have the will to do it all over again x-(

        • Belsameth says:

          Because you believe in the devs and parting with your money is your way to help them.
          Because you enjoy having the idea that you can influence the dev process at least a tiny bit.
          Because most indy devs are <3.

          And sometimes because you *need* a game yesterday, no matter how unfinished

          *waves at Maia*

          • Sidion says:

            You never regret that you’re paying for a game, AND offering them free labor in testing it? I’m a huge gamer, I love playing games, but playing an unfinished product to test for and find bugs/problems is something I should be paid for.

            QA testers get paid, why is it we now have to pay for betas?

          • MentatYP says:

            @Sidion

            That’s the thing–you don’t have to pay for the betas. It’s merely another choice. The benefit on your end is you get early access to the game. The benefit for the developer is they have a bigger group of people testing. It’s a model that works well for indie/small developers who don’t have a 100-man QA team hammering on their game. Don’t like it? Don’t partake. It’s simple really.

            Personally I think it’s great. I’m not going to buy into the alpha/beta of every game I’m interested in, but there are some that I’m passionate enough about to want to help the development process, for instance Xenonauts. Others I’m happy to leave the testing to others and pay for the finished product. Choices–it’s what makes the world go ’round.

          • tetracycloide says:

            @Sidion:

            QA testers get paid, why is it we now have to pay for betas?

            Probably because QA testers are QA testing and we’re just playing the game.

    • Moraven says:

      You know what you are getting, an alpha/beta version of the game with the ability to help test and meld the game into something you will like. That is what people are buying into. You know full well what you are getting. Not “Hey, Beta, I can demo the game now!” and never file a bug report and just complain about something being broken.

      Now, games that are mastered and released (Most MMOs, SotS2, Elemental, etc) are still in beta form at launch. This happens despite some of these games having an open beta and feedback clearly showing the game is not ready for release. Understandably they are forced to release a game due to financial reasons but it can do more harm than good in the long run. But not everyone has the option of finding additional funding to help finish off the game suitable for release.

    • MasterDex says:

      They should? Care to elaborate on that? I see no reason why PC developers should stop. Let’s look at why they shouldn’t.

      1. Releasing a game to the public before it’s ready has the great advantage of allowing the developers to quickly react to issues as they build the game so instead of a thousand bugs being discovered on the first day the public gets their hands on it, those same thousand bugs (or more than likely less as the developers have been able to stay on top of them) are taken care of quickly. No game can be bug-free but releasing PROPER alpha and beta packages improves the chances of bugs being dealt with in an expedient manner.

      2. From what I’ve seen, the only developers to go the pay-for-alpha/beta-access are the small independent developers. This is ideal for them as they can continue to fund development without worrying about things like loans, debts, greedy investors, or starvation.

      3. Early releases allow the developer to refine and retune their game to cater to their audience. It allows them to remove features early on in development that didn’t turn out as imagined or add features in that they didn’t even consider. This is much messier to do with a final build.

      4. Paying money for an unfinished game shows a commitment to that game on the part of the consumer. A consumer that is willing to pay for a work-in-progress knowing that it is a work-in-progress is more likely to contribute to the development and improvement of the title.

      I’m sure others could add more reasons why this model is a good thing. I’d love to hear your reasoning on why it isn’t – and remember, “because I don’t like that model” isn’t a valid reason.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        As a single counter-argument, I would like to point out the travesty that was Red Orchestra 2’s preorder beta access. Not only did the beta actually turn out to be the final release build, but the devs completely ignored community suggestions in the two short weeks the beta was available for public testing. RO2 probably lost half of its player base soon after the official product was released into the wild because the devs were never intent on implementing a proper beta program — it was purely a selling point used to move more preorder copies.

        I mean, I think you’ve got the big picture right, but there are obviously exceptions.

        • mouton says:

          That’s a question of developer reliability. In this, buying an alpha is not so far from a kickstarter – you need to have some trust in that developer.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            We’re not comparing apples and oranges here. Alpha, Beta, Zeta, what difference does it ultimately make when developers are using paying consumers as guinea pigs to test their games?

        • MasterDex says:

          Oh yeah, certainly. I’d even go so far as to say that the ones that do it right are in the minority. Open beta testing on PC is nothing new though and although the model has changed from yesteryear, there are still plenty of developers that view beta’s as little more than marketing tools, or at most, server stress-testing.

          I think with a couple of more years of developers like Introversion doing it right, everyone else will begin to catch on. Also, if you see that it’s a 2 week beta, it’s a good bet that very little, if anything, will be fixed.

    • Rindan says:

      I won’t bite for this game, but only because it isn’t a game that captures my attention. A game that does capture my attention will probably get my money. Why? I have the money to blow. Some people blow thousands of dollars on “man cave” theaters. Some guys piss away tens of thousands of dollars on a SUV / penis extension / sports car. I blow $30 on indie developers and don’t bat an eyelash. If the game is teh sux, it is okay. It was just $30. If the game is teh pwn, then I get to play it early and have a warm fuzzy feeling in my belly because I helped something awesome get birthed into the world.

      Personally, I don’t mind the model. The indie gaming scene is exploding with fantastic stuff because for the first time these guys can have a crazy idea, get the cash, and run with it. Occasionally you buy a lemon. That is okay. What was I going to do with that money anyways? Staple a few phallic objects to my car in the desperate attempt to bump my manliness rating?

      It isn’t for everyone. Namely, it is probably a bad idea if you are resource scarce. College me would punch me in the face for wasting money that could have brought ramen noodles and cheap vodka for a month. For working stiff me of now though? I skipped all the traditional materialist vices and was left with a pile of cash. I’m happy to throw a few bucks to people making stuff that I love.

  5. SkittleDiddler says:

    Having watched Oz, I can say with personal certainty that prison is not as fun as this game makes it look.

  6. MistyMike says:

    I would prefer if the game was set in Scandinavia and the player was in charge of such a Nordic-style prison. He would build gyms, classrooms, workshops and gardens for the inmates. And no execution chambers (countries in that part of the world have some of the lowest repeat offender rates in the world btw).

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      As far as I know, PA does let you build educational facilities, gyms etc.

      • Dark Malady says:

        there is the YARD where prisoners exercise and call home…
        Introversion haven’t said a lot about Scandinavian type prisons but there does seem to be a Lengthy to-do list.
        they have yet to implement sentence times and prisoner security typing… but those are coming in a later update… so imagine that better rehab will follow them.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Also as far as I can tell the execution chamber is only used during the tutorial at the moment.

  7. wsworin says:

    Hmm.. I’m curious to try this out.

  8. SonicTitan says:

    I’m fascinated by this game. I’ve heard some people express discomfort over the subject matter and for what it’s worth I agree. The very concept of a prison is anathema to some people’s entire political and social world view, and they’re things that, in many countries, institutionalize murder, dehumanization and rape. To make a game in which the player is the architect and overlord of such a place is a dark rabbit hole, and depending how deep Introversion wants to go it could be one of the more thought-provoking titles ever made. And we all know that Introversion has never shied away from dark concepts and ice cold executions of them, eh DEFCON?

    • Dark Malady says:

      the tutorial mission features a man sentenced to death, it gives you a little scene of his crime (he confessed) and some NPC’s talk, one in favour of removing the killer from the world, one more forgiving, but over all it is a tone of this is his sentenced crime, you as Boss Man must follow the Law and enact his sentence.

      in another note there are people clamouring for shower rape, conjugal caravans… and I have no idea where i stand on that. if it ends up in the game i will probably do my best to have a nice prison… but at the same time… there are a few crimes which I would take great pleasure in not being very nice to the perpetrators, even fictional ones.

      • ocelotwildly says:

        ‘People clamouring for shower rape’ is, I imagine, not a phrase that gets wheeled out with much regularity! I think that in the context of the game this may be getting a little to involved – prisoners already beat each other up in the showers, I’m not really sure what additional benefit being informed of a ‘rape’ occurring would do to the players experience (the sprites do not really appear to be endowed with enough going on below the waist for this to be a serious issue). I get the impression that there are some people out there who simply want this game to be as grim as possible.

        I think that (rape aside) I don’t have too much problem with the darker aspects of the game being included, presuming that the lighter, nordic style prison system can also be modelled. Games such as this have always been about an element of role play for me, and I thing that there are some interesting emergent experiences that could be had, if your liberal prison heaven is consistently disrupted by a particularly violent prisoner, causing you to have to either accept the collateral damage or become more authoritarian against your better judgement.

        I don’t really think this game really has any greater ethical questions to answer than any other sim style game, I mean in the Sims you can wreak vengeance on a poor virtual persons life should you choose to, or numerous management games where victory can be achieved through devious bastardness. Whilst these things would be horrible in real life, in a computer games it can just be fun to set up a situation and see how it unfolds, especially if it would be something that would horrify you in real life.

        • vonkrieger says:

          Calling it now; “Don’t drop the soap” steam achievement.

      • Sumanai says:

        It would be interesting if after a prisoner is dead or released (assuming they can’t come back, or the game decides they’ve died outside of prison) the game revealed what crimes they were committed for and what they have actually done in a way that shows what they got away with, or what they were falsely incarcerated for.

        It would be quite interesting to hear how this would affect how people play the game in practice.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I’d say that most “political and social world views” are actually contingent on the existence of prisons. Prisons are not the unequivocal evil you suggest, they’re crucial lynchpins (pun not intended) of every culture.

      In fact, the role of prisons is to produce a safer, more moral society, so prison as a concept is good. Prisons go bad when they’re run by bad people or are managed badly. So if this game gives you a better understanding of that, where’s the problem?

  9. Richeh says:

    Just bought it. I can confirm that It Is Fun.

  10. lordfrikk says:

    I played a bit of PA and I was totally caught off guard by the presentation, it looks very polished and slick even now, regardless of the bugs underneath.

  11. smiddy says:

    I jumped at the chance to give them more of my money. These guys created Darwinia, which is one of my all time favourite games. I became utterly immersed in that word of theirs. It could be frustrating as hell at times, but when you pulled it all off you would feel so good for helping the little Darwinians out. And because it all took place inside a computer, at time it almost seemed real.