Roadwolf's portal for his random thoughts and ponderings

Prison Architect

I must admit that I purchased this game on steam after watching the Indie developers video walk thru of the latest version. The game is still in Alpha, so it might be unfair to review it fully. They were kinda funny, and the game seemed to have some interesting mechanics, so I bought it and am trying it out. The game appeals to my 'sim management' side, and has the grand old feel of some of the earlier sim management based games, like Theme Hospital. But the cool aspect is that things can go wrong so quickly. The fun part is trying to get things back under control again.

Your prisoners have needs, and tend to get upset if those needs aren't met. Like most management games, you have a budget and need to try to stay within it. I tend to enjoy big challenges - so of course I tried a sandbox game on the largest map, with new prisoners being added every day. This forces you to expand your prison constantly which is an interesting challenge to do while the prison is in operation. This large expanding game-play captured my interest for several hours as I built up a massive prison complex and learned the game by trial and error on my part. The problem I came across was when there is a lot of stuff going on it tends to lag the game down quite a bit. I experienced this around Roughly 50 prisoners. Keep in mind that I am running an Asus G53 gaming laptop with an i7 processor and a large chunk of RAM... Eventually the game became so lagged that it was sadly unplayable. I suppose I should limit myself to small or medium sized maps for now however. The developers have a ways to go towards optimizing the memory and CPU usage of this game, but if they do, then I think it will be a classic hit!

I am looking forward to more updates regarding this title, and I do expect to be playing it a lot in the future.


I have continued to play the game some 40+ hours since writing the bit above. The lagging issue can be reset by saving and restarting the game. Also do not assign your workers too large of an area to work on, or too many tasks at once. That tends to bog down the system. That and try to do work at night when the prisoners are sleeping. Because their daily actions also contribute to the lag.

That being said, I must say this game has been worth the price for me. Having already put in well over 50 hours on it, I can surely say that this game has captured my interest.

While it is still in Alpha I figured I would write about my prison and some of the tidbits I have learned along the way. Also, here are a few photos of the game. I tried screen capping it, but that didn't seem to work - so I had to use my phone.

I designed my new prison as seen below. I used the planning tools to chalk outlines of the plan before I started building. The main gate is simply a room with a normal door on the outside towards the street and a staff door on the inside. I have metal detectors on both and usually station a few guards in there. So far I have yet to have anyone escape through it, and it serves as an effective way to let staff and visitors enter and exit quickly. On the other side of the main gate is the general office and staff area. This would be where your utilities and offices are located, as well as your kitchen and storage. This makes it quick to get items from the delivery bay to the areas they need to be. Visitation is also in this area, keeping the public out of the main prison area. The only time prisoners are in this area are when they are being escorted by guards. Otherwise the prisoners stay on the other side of the inner security area. The yard is used as a central zone. It is fenced in and isolated from the main travel paths. The main travel path is a open square path around the yard that allows for traffic flow between each area. Each area has its own controlled access to the central traffic path, usually with metal detectors and guards stationed nearby. None of the different areas open up to each other, only to that central path.

I tried a few indoor based prisons at first, but could never seem to get them to work well enough. My current prison is an outdoor prison revolving around a huge 50m x 50m Yard. The front gate is comprised of a security office, Wardens office, and storage and utility room. With a visitors center and some other offices within the initial area. The kitchen also has an entrance into this area so that cooks don't have to pass thru checkpoints to receive food deliveries.

The kitchen is directly connected to the Canteen which is quite large and has 5 serving tables. Currently the Kitchen can't fill all 5 of them at each meal, but eventually I hope to enlarge the kitchen.

Rotating Clockwise around the yard, in the lower right area of the property is where my Solitary Detention building is located with only a toilet in each cell. There is also an overflow Holding Cell in this area which is usually empty, and the Laundry and Workshop. One thing you may notice in the photo below is that there is no door separating the main room from the cell block wing. I find doors in the corridors to be hampering to the guards duties. The doors slow them down and really do not help much against riots. I like to keep them open. It helps the guards patrol too. When you place a door to separate off the cell block wing, it actually creates another guard section, and you would have to place a guard within the cell block wing which isn't always needed. However I did notice that during laundry time, the prisoners tend to deliver full laundry baskets to each different block of separated cells. But if you have a large building with 4 wings all connected, they will still only tend to deliver one basket to that building, not 4. So you may need the doors in order to force the AI to bring a cart for each wing. I have noticed a few other bugs with the laundry system too, but we won't get into that here.

The lower portion of the property was my first Cell Building. It has a Common Room along the length facing the Yard, and 4 blocks of 22 cells each extending towards the bottom of the property. The whole building is 60m wide, with the cell blocks 12m wide. They have standard 2x3 cells along each wall, with windows looking out to mall courtyards between each block. At the lower end, far from the Common Room, is a Shower at the base of each cell block. I find it good to schedule shower time right when the prisoners wake up. This cleans them off and makes them happier. I would suggest stationing guards in each shower however. Notice also I am using Staff Doors for the cell blocks. This allows cleaners and maintenance people to get in to the cells to service things. They are also strong enough to keep a prisoner occupied for a while before he can break it down. And if he gets out into the hallway, so what?

The lower left corner of the property is where my Medical facility and Morgue are located, along with some storage and a building intended for the electric chair whenever it gets included in the game. I try to add bookshelves, and TVs in each cell when my budget permits me too. I also add windows and sprinklers in the corridors. I am not sure if either have any effect or not, but figured it couldn't hurt.

The left part of the property has a similar Cell Building, but his one is designed with slightly larger cells, and will be for Minimum Security prisoners. It is still being worked on.

The top portion of the property will likely have some more workshops and Laundry facilities, and also a Max Security building. Laundry facilities are a must and you do need to research your Bureaucracy abilities as soon as you can. They will seriously help you stabilize your population. I have already seriously expanded my kitchen and now have 25 cooks. With about 120 prisoners, I can make just enough meals for them. I hope that by adding some more equipment for my newly expanded kitchen I should be set to add some more prisoners soon without having to worry about needing more cooks.

I have found that a schedule similar to the one posted below works well. But you may have to edit the regime due to special events like riots which may disrupt it. Just manage it in a way that address the prisoners major concerns the quickest. A lot of the game is trying to balance the Regime to adapt to how the prisoners are reacting. Give them what they want and they will calm down and be happier.


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