Prison Architect Alpha 25 Adds New Ways To Fail

All strategy games strive to reach a certain balance; the point at which the player feels responsible for their successes and failures, but where the simulation is so complex and alive that a perfect, static system can never be built. That’s apparently what motivates Prison Architect‘s 25th alpha, “one of the biggest updates” Introversion say they’ve ever done. The main new addition is prisoner reputations, a system of personality types that will make creating a perfectly functioning, forever peaceful prison practically impossible.

As ever, there’s a video talkthrough and some more detail of the changes below.

The full list of changes explains how the different prisoner reputations function:

– STRONG hits harder with each punch during fights
– TOUGH can withstand a lot more punishment in a fight. He can also sometimes withstand being hit by a Tazer
– VOLATILE liable to kick off without warning and for no reason
– STOICAL will not become suppressed when locked in Solitary
– SNITCH a known informant, and as such his life may be in danger. Don’t leave him alone with other prisoners for too long
– DEADLY a master in lethal combat moves, and can sometimes kill with a single hit
– EX LAW was once a Police Officer, or some other law enforcement profession. His life may be in danger
– COP KILLER guilty of murdering a Police Officer. Your prison guards may be unable to restrain themselves when subduing him
– FEARLESS not intimidated by the sight of Armed Guards, and is less likely to surrender during a fight
– QUICK an unusually fast runner
– INSTIGATOR sows seeds of discontent in all those nearby. When he causes trouble, nearby prisoners will feel compelled to do the same

Which all sounds very exciting. You’ll also very occasionally receive a “Legendary Prisoner”; a criminal who has so many above the traits that they’ll be extremely dangerous if let loose among your regular population.

Other changes include an overhaul of escape tunnels, the ability to put your prison informants (added in the last alpha) into protective custody, and lots of other things.

Prison Architect is still in alpha development, but is among the most fully-featured games still laying claim to the early access tag. Check out Brendan’s diary of the game from late last year, when running a stable prison was already too hard for the likes of us.


  1. Drake Sigar says:

    I’mma’ have Cyrus in my prison. Can you dig it?

  2. Llewyn says:

    Hmmm, not sure I like the idea of this – the prospect of having to micromanage several hundred prisoners without (in a24 at least) suitable tools to do so is not appealing. Neither is having to worry about individual prisoners unless I can get rid of the cretinous names of the internet generation backers.

    • Gemberkoekje says:

      They’ve added some extra groups, SuperMax security and I can’t remember what the yellow p*ssies are called, so the only micromanagement you need to do is to keep an eye out at your prisoners, and anyone having too much random hissie fits, or anyone with such a karate kick that they knock everyone’s teeth out by looking at them, gets into the right security wing.

    • P.Funk says:

      Or perhaps you should look at it like its a prospect that’ll guarantee your prison will not be mired in boredom once you min max yourself into a routine.

      My last serious play through of this game several builds ago became just that. No doubt these features will guarantee that I won’t get too bored.

  3. Brinx says:

    This game made me a horrible person. After reading this I just thought “I’m going to have to put them in solitary confinement right away.”
    They haven’t even done anything yet. I’m punishing them for their character traits.

    • Harlander says:

      Well, they’ve probably done something, or they wouldn’t have ended up in your prison.

      I’m guessing that the violent traits are correlated with crimes like assault and murder, and you won’t end up with a STRONG TOUGH VOLATILE FEARLESS COP KILLER doing a stretch for petty theft.

    • Stromko says:

      Technically they’ve done something just not in your prison, that’s why they call it reputation. Until they start adding false positive reputations (“You heard about that new guy? I heard he can kick a man through a wall!”), you can be fairly sure that a very volatile prisoner has done something to earn his rep.

    • Dynamique says:

      Prison Architect indeed has a haunting socio-psychological aspect, like e.g. “Papers, Please!!” – quite different games, though they’re both about bureaucractic efficiency, control, delinquency, de-humanization… (on different hierarchy levels).
      There’s a lot more room in PA to fulfil your totalitarian fantasies, though, imperatives more suble. And if you look at some of the comments, feature requests, and Steam Workshop mods (as kind of a “meta game”) from within the gaming community, you see that there are quite some players wishing to push this further…

  4. Stellar Duck says:

    I always enjoy the videos that follow these updates.

    And I really should get back into PA. It’s been quite a few updates since last time.

  5. Michael Fogg says:

    Haven’t played this myself, but I watch a certain ongoing playthrough on youtube, and I can definitely say that it needs more action. Even the RPS hands-on some time ago remarked that the prisoners are real jerks, but really so far they appear to be as law abiding as the citizens in Settlers 3.

    • buzzmong says:

      The changes in A25 sound like they’re really going to make it almost Dwarf Fortress style fun, as you’re correct in saying it was too easy to placate the entire prison in previous versions.

      I’m looking forward to failing miserably :)

  6. Shadow says:

    I welcome this beefy update, but wonder whether all this increased inmate deadliness, including their easier access to weapons, shouldn’t warrant increasing the effectiveness of guard batons somewhat.

    I mean, I think it’s the second-weakest weapon characters can use after fists: the basic shank is 6 times stronger, a knife 4 times and a fork 2 times as much, advantages exacerbated when you consider a prisoner could be strong, tough and/or deadly.

  7. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Have they added any ways to play the game yet?

    • JohnnyPanzer says:

      Yeah, that update came 1-2 years ago. You must’ve missed it.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Are you sure they didn’t remove it? I checked a couple of months ago and it was definitely unplayable.

        • noodlecake says:

          Uuummm. It wasn’t unplayable last time I tried it. I found it a really relaxing experience. I think it’s a little confusing at first because it doesn’t have a proper tutorial and you don’t know how big to make things to accomodate certain numbers of prisoners, but I found it pretty fun once I got over the initial learning curve. It’s an enjoyable sandbox.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            hehe… Ok I’m sorry but It’s fun to play the (1990s) troll sometimes. I like hard games and this one is ruthless. I agree that the tutorial doesn’t really prepare you for the full game but it has a lot in common with other games I like in that respect. What it could do with is a gated, start-from-scratch kind of tutorial that way new players have an idea of exactly what they need to support the first wagonload of prisoners. There’s currently nothing more disheartening than playing the tutorial, feeling you have a handle on the mechanics and then designing a prison that has everything you’ve been told it needs only to find that once the first prisoners arrive they immediately go crazy and start tearing it apart because you haven’t got the balance just right. Letting players experiment once they have a solid foundation is a better idea because they always have the option of playing the game within their limits and can start to push the boundaries at their own pace.

  8. Themadcow says:

    Isn’t the answer for people that say “too many things makes the game too hard to manage” (which is probably me, tbh) just to make sure that all the complexity adding features can be turned on/off when setting up a new game? Prisoner reputations sounds like fun but I understand it might make micro-management more necessary.

    Speaking of which, wouldn’t any normal warden make the big decisions around the prison, and leave the individual management of prisoners to the chief screw?

    • P.Funk says:

      I think really the answer is to instead carefully manage your expansion. If you keep things down to like 20 or 40 prisoners to start with rather than stampeding to the max number possible it should be easier to find a balance. Not everyone needs to make the biggest prison. Maybe we just want to create an elegant one.

      Also, isn’t this what minimum security is made for? People who want scale without as much risk? I would think that the tricky financials of running a minimum security exclusive prison would be a nice alternate difficulty to the higher risk one that would come with a med and max prison.

      • Hyomoto says:

        I think you are right, and I think they covered this pretty well in the video. I also think the type of people who want everything to be toggles are casuals that don’t realize when games just, simply put, aren’t for.