Prison Architect diary: Welcome to Stabshank

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 low capacity 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.

Stabshank is open for business. The first truck pulls up and the prisoners step off into the delivery area. I've decided to focus on James Pritchard, a 50-year-old con with a rap sheet longer than the Magna Carta. He's serving 15 years of a life sentence for double murder, and I notice that he's managed to sneak in some garden shears. I could have ordered a guard to search him in lieu of a metal detector, but I leave him be. He probably won't stab anyone with them.

Pritchard has a wife, four sons and a daughter, but he won't be seeing them any time soon. There are no visitor rooms at Stabshank. A guard leads him to his cell and doesn't seem to notice the deadly garden equipment shoved down his trouser leg. Immediately, I spot a problem. I forgot to plumb in the cell toilets, so I quickly order my workmen to do so – not realising that this will involve opening the cell doors. Predictably, Pritchard uses this opportunity to bolt. But I don't worry too much, because the area outside is blocked by two gates that only guards can access.

More prisoners have broken free, and a riot erupts outside the cell block. Pritchard, aided by another inmate and fellow murderer, attacks a guard with his shears. There's blood everywhere, but the guard is only knocked unconscious. Pritchard plucks the keys from his belt and they run towards the nearest gate.

Before any more screws can come to quell the riot, they unlock it and make a run for it. I order a lockdown to stop anyone else getting away, but it's too late. Pritchard and his buddy have escaped, and will probably kill again. Oops.

Order is restored, but the lack of an infirmary means that a few guards, and some prisoners, are lying bloody and unconscious at the scene of the riot. Life ain't pretty at Stabshank. It's night, so I speed up time and wait for the next batch of cons, which is arriving at 8am sharp. John Cadwallader is our next prisoner, a 34-year-old man convicted of torture and forced imprisonment. Oh, how the tables have turned. He has no family and is serving ten years.

After getting used to his new cell, Cadwallader is escorted to the yard where he mingles with the other prisoners, occasionally lifting weights. While he's busy, I dismantle all the telephones in Stabshank. This cuts off contact with prisoners and their families completely, which should get them nice and steamed up. I also decide to build a few solitary cells. Guards will shove unruly prisoners in here, giving them time to cool down and think about what they've done, or develop a slow, burning hatred for the no-good pig who tossed them in there.

Cadwallader is disappointingly sedate for a guy whose turn-ons include locking people up and torturing them. When Prison Architect's cons aren't rioting or stabbing, they're pretty boring, wandering back and forth aimlessly, eating, pumping iron, showering. They don't have much personality, and their behaviour seems to only be determined by their security status, not their crimes.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.