Let me just start off by letting you know that I have never actually been to Prison. I have had a few tours around Lancaster Castle and once designed a prison map in Unreal Tournament 2004, but no, I have never actually been locked up in some prison somewhere. What the above title is actually phrasing is this:
Since about September 2014, one game on Steam I have always found myself returning to play one way or another is Prison Architect; a game where you; the player receives the opportunity to build and run your own prison. Why you would actually want to is really up to you to decipher, but as a game goes, this actually rather fun and one I have played on and off for 200+ hours now; it’s the one game I have spent more time playing than anything else in my Steam Library. Anyway, to cut a long story short, about this time last year I began (voluntarily) writing for a Video Games website, and though was rather fun and really enjoyable; my time there on the whole was actually quite short, and one thing I really wanted to write for the website was a guide from an experienced player on how to build, or at least start your first prison in Prison Architect. So, a few weeks ago I re-installed Prison Architect (again), and set to work capturing some images, and coming up with a plan as how best to explain/demonstrate how to go about getting your foot on the ladder in the prison construction world (I should just note that while the game does have some scenarios to help you get started, most the in-game scenarios are only rather for learning about specific situations).
When you launch a brand new prison, you will discover that all there is, is a large plot of land dominated mostly by trees. As the game begins a couple of lorry’s will come down the nearby road ferrying workmen and materials free of charge to go into building your new prison from scratch. To begin with you have a few free things but not much, and in total have no more than $30,035, a strange amount yes, but that’s what you have to work with. My first tip is to pause the game speed, as you will need some time to think about how you want to approach the construction. You may also want to turn your prisoner intake to closed (click on the box below the clock and a menu will open with several options including Staff, Grants, Prisoners and Intake to name but a few you can click on, choose intake and set to closed), just so you don’t receive any convicts out of the blue when your prison is not ready yet. Now, to business:
The first thing I want you to consider is that the game title says Prison Architect, obviously. While the game may be about construction and then later administration of a Prison, to begin with I would only take notice of the word Architect. Before any building’s construction is started, an Architect has to plan out the building. Probably the game’s most useful tool is the Planning tool on the lower toolbar. This button will give you access to some drawing tools, use these to design your prison. Using the drawing/planning tool is a great way to start off any prison. Use this tool to decide where the walls are going to be, where the walls to your rooms are going to be, how it’s all going to fit together. You can decide to design your entire Prison right here right now if you want to, but right now let’s focus on the basics.
Like any great plan, there needs to be direction and an outcome. With an empty plot of land, you can pretty much do anything you want; but to get your prison going, you are going to need some basics and a checklist. In your first few games, the one thing that is more your friend than anything else, is the Grants page, on here there is a list of objectives which provide and reward you with money for starting and completing them. In this instance, what you want is the option to build a basic detention centre. So firstly open the page (click on the money sign at the top of the page for quick opening) and choose that grant, to which you will be awarded some more money. Now that you have a little bit more cash and a plan, it’s now time to draw then build your prison.
What I would start with more than anything else is to draw a square around the perimeter of your land so that you can at least have a scope of where the outer perimeter wall is to be. Now for some reason, the game won’t allow you to build a wall on the very outer edge of the current plot of land, so if you design it to be one square in, around, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. As with most of the games planning and construction tools, choose a location to where to start from, then quite simply click, hold and drag out as far as you want, then let go. Then, if you go to the top of the map next to the road, and on the left hand side of the map, attached to the wall, plan out where you are going to build your storage room and power plants. Now as ever with this tutorial, you can build where ever you want to, it’s just that from my experience, if you allow your prisoners to be delivered on the very edge of the map, they have more chance to escape once delivered. The more middle the delivery point is, the more you may be able to prevent escapes. When designing the store-room, a good thin-ish rectangle I find is a good way to do it, and then next to that, build a similar sized, but not as long rectangle to be the power room. The storage room as suggested is where you store your materials, and the power room is where power for the prison, (plus water too if you do it like me) is supplied from.
Once you have planned those out, it may be a good idea, to build a new delivery spot next to the road, but outside the storage room just for easy delivery and storage. Just like any building designation in the game, all you do is click and hold on a part of land or a building where you want it to be then dragging it to its optimum size and space. From that point forward, that area is designated a delivery zone, and will remain so unless changed. Any other delivery areas should wisely be removed by the same process but right clicking and holding instead of left clicking and holding. On this map, I have also done the same for Garbage and Exports at the bottom of the map, this is just so Garbage and Exports can be dealt with and removed quicker. Once you have those designs in place, you can then get your workers to earn their pay checks, by choosing the Foundations icon, then selecting the brick wall option, then holding and dragging over the spaces you have designed, then letting go when it has reached its optimum space. Then (remembering to un-pause the game to allow it of course) all you do is let your workers get to work building that section of your Prison.
While that is happening, it may be time to let you know how to put Objects in your Prison. On the lower toolbar, there is an objects button, opening this will allow you to see the range of objects you can put in your prison. To do this, all you do is select the one you want, and click on wherever you want it installed to install it. I say this now, as while your rooms get built, you will need to put some doors in to allow construction to be completed; so as your workmen get to work, choose some doors to put in, for this I would suggest using Staff Doors, then rotate them using the ‘R key’ if you need to, then place them directly over a wall, and click them into position. It’s the same with all objects, (although, only doors need to be placed on walls), and, once those buildings are completed, you will need to fill in any gaps where walls should be; and then using your new object adding skills, install your power generator, some capacitors directly next to the generator, and nearby a water pumping machine, plus some cables to power the room lights, and the pumping machine.
Now that you have the basics, things get a bit quicker from here (he says confidently). Nearby to your new delivery site, start planning where your inmates will be living, eating, exercising and showering when the first batch turn up. For this you will need to plan and build where you are going to build your Holding Cell, Shower, Yard, Canteen and Kitchen.
My advice would be, to build the holding cell practically right next to your delivery spot, as this way prisoners can be admitted quickly into your prison system without too much of a hitch. The Holding Cell needs to be pretty big as it needs to accommodate plenty of prisoners at least just until some proper cells are ready for them. Next to that, or at least nearby, build a small shower block, and a small canteen. Remember the Yard needs to be outdoors, but also still needs to be entirely surrounded to prevent escapes. Some things these new rooms and yard will require include Benches, Tables, Serving Tables, Shower Heads and of course Toilets. Installing all of these objects is the same as before, but for a toilet to work it needs Water. To do this you will need to connect pipes from the Pumping Station to your Toilets. It works the same way as laying electrical cables and most objects though, so it’s pretty easy. Then just as before, let the builders do their job and designate room space just as before.
Doing a kitchen is pretty similar; however, I would locate it near the storage room, one for Staff safety, and two, for ease of cooking. From here on, building rooms and installing objects gets pretty samey really. Just build it and plug them all in. From there, all you need to do is hire some guards to handle with the cons, and some cooks to handle the food. To do this, choose the staff tool on the tool page, pick the required person, and then click them into life. Once you have met all the requirements of the grant, you will receive some more cash plus have all the basics to start your prison and receive prisoners, so, set your prison to the required level of prisoner intake and then get ready to punish some cons.
From here on it pretty much comes down to whatever you want to do with your prison. If you run short on cash or need some direction, pick a grant and get to work. If you want you can personalise your prison with some floor materials or add some fun things for both staff and prisoners, but from here, it’s all really up to you. So, I hope this was both understandable and helpful, as you go out into the big wide world of Prison Construction, Management and Architecture.