Prison Architect

Introversion on why they're done with Darwinia

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Tom Senior at

We had the chance to catch up with Introversion at Bit of Alright recently, to talk about their new project, Prison Architect, the fate of Subversion and their plans for the future. One thing's for sure, Darwinia won't be part of it. Creative director, Chris Delay and managing director Mark Morris told us how the company ended up working on one game for so long when, in the beginning, they set out determined to keep making new games every one or two years.

"We’d started it in 2002 and it didn’t ship until 2005" said creative director Chris Delay. "Then we had Multiwinia, which was 2008. And we had Darwinia+, which was 2010. So we’ve kind of been working on Darwinia for 10 years and it was never meant to be that big a project. To say that we were sick of it is an understatement."

One of the strengths of a small team of indie developers is their ability to throw up new ideas and change direction faster than large, publisher-funded studios. In Introversion's case, Darwinia's runaway success only slowed them down.

"We kind-of accidentally got trapped into making all of these different versions of Darwinia," said Mark Morris. "Because we won the IGF award, there were a lot of different people asking about different versions, and different ports so we kind-of naturally went down that route with it."

The experience of releasing an acclaimed title brings with it the lure of financial stability, and the threat of creative stagnation. After years of uncertainty during development the ability to fall back on a proven idea can prove tempting. "It’s very difficult to know what to jump into next," said Mark.

"You’ve got this game, it’s gained a bit of traction, people like it, you’ve put all this effort in, and you’ve launched it. It’s natural then to to keep working on that on different platforms because you know it’s a safe bet."

The decade of Darwinia development clashed with Introversion's ethos. They released Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon in their first six years, demonstrating a determination to keep working on fresh projects. This had been their plan from the very beginning.

"When we started the company we didn’t want to do loads of sequels," Mark explained. "Back at the turn of the century, all of the old creativity that existed when me and Chris were growing up in the 80s and 90s had gone and it was all big-budget AAA stuff. Thankfully, we’ve returned to that now. The indie scene has brought that back."

Introversion recently demonstrated that willingness to drop everything and start something new when they announced that they were putting their long-running bank heist game, Subversion, on hold to work on something entirely new. That something was Prison Architect. You can find out more about how that's shaping up in our Prison Architect preview.