If I've learned anything from prison dramas, it's that sometimes a stern talking to just doesn't do the trick. You also need plenty of hard-work, a commitment to understand your prisoners, and a rousing and inspirational third-act speech, in which you learn that, actually, it was them teaching you all along. Alternatively, you need guns. For Prison Architect's seventeenth alpha update, Introversion have gone for the second option.
A scenario: somebody builds the biggest prison imaginable, fills it full of the most hardened criminals, then, through careful management, has it turning a regular profit. Are they proud of their achievement? No. All they really wanted was to run a jail full of clowns. By default, Prison Architect doesn't contain clowns, which I think we can all agree is a shame. Luckily for our fictional warden, this latest update for the prison management sim codifies mod support, making it easier for them - or other clown hating players - to reskin the game's prisoners.
Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson recently gave a London Games Conference presentation on the piracy of Football Manager 2013. The figures he quotes may well be enough to wipe the shout off the mouth of their faceless manager man. According to Jacobson, over 10 million unique IPs have been reported as using an unregistered copy of the game. That's despite FM2013 having not been cracked until over six months after its initial release last year.
Over 250,000 inmates are now being held by Prison Architect, according to the latest sales figures for Introversion's still-in-alpha management sim. That's an impressive amount of people, and an even more impressive amount of revenue: $8,001,530 as of writing. SATIRE MODE ACTIVATED: It turns out the news wasn't lying when it said the prison system was one of the world's fastest growing industries.
I'm starting to think you could go back through the history of Introversion's alpha release videos, and map out the increasing eccentricities of Mark Morris and Chris Delay as they continue to work on the game. This time: philosophical musings on toilet queues lead into an exploration of the latest update's features, which include dogs, extensive optimisation, and the sale of prisons.
Welcome to Stabshank, a maximum security penitentiary that I’m about to flood with murderers, thieves, videogame pirates and other ruthless criminal scum. The best way to play Prison Architect is to start with calmer, less stabby minimum security prisoners, then bring in the psychopaths when your security is more solid, but I won’t be doing that. I’m going to fill my basic lowcapacity prison with some really, really bad people and a skeleton crew of guards.
As each truck of convicts rolls in, I’m going to pick one and follow them. I want to see how deep the simulation goes, and whether their crimes dictate their behaviour. I’ll track their lives until they die, escape or are otherwise incapacitated.
I won’t be installing metal detectors at the front gate or in the canteen, so any contraband – shivs, drugs, forks, etc – will be freely circulating. I don’t want Stabshank to be too efficient or secure. I want these guys to get angry, because the angrier they get, the more likely they are to do something interesting. By which I mean stabbing.
Prison Architect has sold 124,691 copies and made a gross revenue of £2,679,730 ($4,031,925). If you’re one of the remaining major videogame publishers, that’s pocket change, but if you’re Introversion it’s more money in ten months of alpha sales than your previous four games made in over 12 years. If you’re Chris Delay, the game’s lead designer and programmer, it’s the opportunity to start a family. And if you’re the three founders - Chris, plus college friends Mark Morris and Tom Arundel - it’s the difference between being comfortably wealthy and living in fear of spending time in a real prison.
“Tom was convinced that we were going to go to jail,” says Chris. “He was convinced that we were going to go to jail because he thought that for most of 2010 we’d been trading insolvently, which means trading knowing that there’s no chance you’re going to survive.”
Prison Architect is the game that saved Introversion, one of gaming’s most interesting and longest-serving indie developers, but if you’re a gamer then it also represents a bunch of other, similarly excellent things.
How best to persuade you to sit through an exploration of the underlying tech powering the new features of a management sim? For Sports Interactive, the answer is to announce the release date of that game at the end of their five minute info-burst. It's a clever idea, but one that I'm going to immediately nullify, by posting that date right here in this paragraph. Football Manager 2014 is coming out on the 31st of October. You should still watch the video, though.
I'm putting my trust in the fact that these two new video blogs for the upcoming Football Manager 2014 are informative and useful. I did try to watch them, but was overwhelmed by the incomprehensible stats and jargon. I'd have an easier time bringing the nations of the world under the flag of some military empire, than I would trying to assault Wigan Athletic with a handful of costly footbalteers. If your preference is for conquering terraces, Sports Interactive have explained their new game's improved UI and News systems.
Introversion have released a new build of crim sim Prison Architect. Alpha 13 gives inmates the ability to tunnel out of your jail, which - and I'm just guessing here - sounds like something they might want to do. As always, Chris Delay and Mark Morris have created a video update taking you through the cells, buildings and underground holes of the game's latest version.
If football is a game of two halves, football managing is a chaotic, multi-segmented mess. There's the dealing with spoilt millionaires half, the pretending to care about the board of directors half, the not admitting that thing you did to the press half. Somewhere, among all these many jobs, there's the actual bit of the game where football is played. And that is the subject of this first video of Football Manager 2014 in action.
Miles Jacobson is, in his own words, “a bit tired, actually.” It turns out the Sports Interactive boss was up until the small hours the previous night organising screenshots for the announcement of Football Manager 14, this year’s iteration of arguably gaming’s most famous simulation. With a promised 1000 improvements and a wealth of new features that offer much more scope for user-generated content, it sounds like a pretty substantial overhaul. So we rang him up to find out more, and ended up discussing pots, PR training and parallel universes.
The tumultuous intrigue of medieval Europe? The delicate diplomacy between hostile alien races? Pah! The offices, changing rooms and dugouts of a mid-table League Two team are where the real tactical geniuses are born. And that headless shouting man above can mean only one thing, Football Manager is back for a new season, offering an improved line-up of enhancements and features.
The latest update for Introversion's Prison Architect is all about contraband. Prisoners - already notorious for their love of the illicit - will attempt to steal things from rooms that contain any one of a number of different categories, including alcohol, drugs, weapons and, for some reason, toilet brushes. It's a good thing prisons are better stocked than our office: all they'd be able to pinch would be discarded coffee cups, chocolate snacks and copies of The Sims 3: Showtime.
With every update to Introversion's Prison Architect, the lives of its incarcerated 'guests' become that little more harrowing. The alpha 10 patch is only slightly different - it instead gives your prisoners a way to express their increasing displeasure. Unfortunately, rather than anger management sessions, or rehabilitative education, their new means of release is good old fashioned rioting.
Prison Architect has received its first update since being transferred to Steam's high-security Early Access wing. The Alpha9 patch is out now, and brings some big new features - including prisoner employment, laundries, workshops and family visitation. Introversion's Mark Morris and Chris Delay run through the additions, while simultaneously assuring that prisoners "can't hydraulically press the heads of other prisoners... yet." That's probably the most alarming feature tease in the history of management sims.
Introversion's slammer-sim Prison Architect has kept a pre-release alpha for purchasers through its official website for some time now, even racking up a cool million from buyers eager to push around teeny convicts in what amounts to a penal ant-farm. The various purchase tiers are now on Steam for immediate play, and it makes up a part of the first set of in-progress games offering immediate buy-in access to pre-release versions through Steam's new Early Access system.
The latest Prison Architect update celebrates the incarceration management sim's recent milestones by inserting the faces, names and bios of all backers who've pledged the required amounts. Players who've paid at least $50 can find themselves in the new Name in the Game option, and request to have themselves transferred to their jail.
Which means you can now watch helplessly as you're shanked in your own prison. Weird.
Inversion co-founder Mark Morris recently spoke with VG247 about his decision to bus slammer-sim Prison Architect over to the PC instead of Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network, citing the prohibitive cost of acquiring test kits to meet quality standards and telling Microsoft and Sony to "piss off" after calling them "second-class customers."
“I’m pretty happy with the way it is at the moment,” says Sports Interactive boss Miles Jacobson of the latest edition of the world’s most popular footy management sim. After yesterday’s video announcement, we rang Miles for a chinwag about challenges, cheats and camera angles – and why this year’s edition promises to be the most accessible Football Manager in years.