The game is a complex prison management game, inspired by games such as Dwarf Fortress, Theme Hospital and Dungeon Keeper according to the alpha release developer video. Starting with a plot of empty land an a handful of workers you must create a working prison out of nothing in order to house convicted criminals and take care of their needs.
Similar to other management sims, Prison Architect lets you control, build, and even escape from any number of prisons that you or other players have built. You're in charge of housing prisoners safely and securely as well as staffing the prison so it continues to run smoothly. Each building you create can be turned into any one of the many rooms available in the game; from a holding cell to an armory for armed guards, to a visitation center or a solitary confinement wing. All the while your workers work in real time running down the building orders as you give them. You are also given grants and a budget with which to ensure your prison runs smoothly.
Many of the buildings you construct must have resources purchased and brought in, and your prison will need staff members who you will hire and coordinate. Staff members include Wardens and Security Chiefs who, along with four other high level staffers, can research and put into effect new rooms, programs, and building types. Also on the staff are lowly janitors and gardeners, as well as workmen, doctors, and other important but less highly paid employees who keep your prison afloat, sometimes literally.
Selling your prison and grading your prison are two ancillary features. Selling your prison can give you more money on hand when starting a new prison giving you more options when it comes to designing your new penitentiary. Along the way you can sell stock in your prison, never more than 50%, but this will lessen the amount of cash you'll receive if you ever choose to sell.
Grading looks at how well treated, punished, and reformed each prisoner is and gives your prison an overall series of grades. This system lets the use gauge how well each prisoner is being treated and will eventually be a part of an overall end game for prisons.
As soon as the game begins a clock begins counting down until your first round of prisoners arrive and you must be prepared to house them securely, though time can be paused at any moment, and orders can be given while the game is paused, so that the player should never feel rushed. There are three types of cells for holding these prisoners inside away from proper society.
Holding Cell: At least a 5x5 building that must have a bench and toilet. Designed for holding 8 prisoners but only temporary with a lack of a bed which is required for prisoner's to get adequate rest. Best used in the initial phase of a prison until your workers have built individual cells. Housing too many prisoners together in one cell like this can lead to violence.
Cell: At least a 2x3 size building that must have a bed and a toilet. These are only for one prisoner and provide the inmate the comfort of a bed. These help to separate individual inmates in case of fights, riots, or any prison emergency.
Solitary: Another individual cell that has no size requirement and only needs a solitary door on it's entrance. Only used when prisoners get out of line or violent and only a few are really needed per cell block.
Unless you want some stinky prisoners a shower is needed. No size requirement but it does need a shower head hooked up to the water pump. Some drains added will also help with the flooding that can occur when too many prisoners are showering at once. The more shower heads the better since the shower is often times the place where fights and even riots break out.
Prisoners need a place to eat and a kitchen to cook (and even work in). The canteen can be any size and only needs a serving table to work but should also have either benches or tables and chairs so the prisoners have a place to sit and eat. Similar to the shower frustration about waiting too long for food or not having a place to sit could result in fights. The kitchen houses your hired cook and is where all the food is prepared. It should be placed nearby the canteen for easy access by the cooks.
Exercise could turn a frustrated and violent inmate into a tired and willing one. Having an outdoor space, properly secured of course, is key for the yard. Also having a few payphones could help with homesickness and a weight bench with any exercise needs. A tree or two could also be nice for the prisoners but you don't have to placate to their needs every time.
Common Room: When prisoners have free time their choices can be limited and thus boredom can set in. Having a room or building set aside with a TV, bookshelf, or even pool table for those well behaved inmates may keep their hands busy instead of watching them stab a guard.
A phone just isn't enough and families may want to visit their loved ones in prison sometimes. A room with a visiting table is all that is needed to prisoners can relieve their homesickness.
Some rooms can be designated as places for prisoners to work. The laundry room and workshop both allow prisoners chances to help with upkeep on the prison or earn the prison some extra cash. The laundry room is a basic work area requiring no training but the workshop requires a worker to teach prisoners how to operate equipment but also give prisoners an opportunity to steal tools and other potential weapons.
Other rooms can be designated as prison work friendly. These include the kitchen, which also requires teaching, and the cleaning cupboard. Similar to the workshop however these may give prisoner's something to do and work towards reform it also gives them direct access to weapons and chemicals which an unruly prisoner could use for ill purposes.
Added in an update, this room gives prisoners a chance to earn an advanced education while spending time behind bars. Requiring a staff desk and student desk, this room is for reforming prisoners in hopes of getting a hire grade.
Prisoners are provided spiritual guidance in this room, which will have a calming effect for up to a maximum of 20 prisoners. The Spiritual Guidance program not only calms the prisoner in the program but can be passed on to other prisoners as well. A chapel requires an altar, pews and prayer mats.
Offices: In order to properly run a prison you'll need staff around to keep things running smoothly. A good chunk of your staff (like your warden, psychologist, foreman, etc.) will require an office before they truly can begin work. Each office must be a 4x4 room with a desk, chair, and filing cabinet. Once your staff member has their very own office their work can begin and often times it means they can research more options for your prison.
Storage: A room with no requirements where your construction workers will place their extra equipment, removing it from the deliveries area. This can remove unsafe and dangerous materials from a prisoner's violent hands.
Cleaning Cupboard: Very similar to the storage room, this room is meant specifically for use by janitors. This room will house mostly bleach and other cleaning products janitors need for their jobs but prisoners could use for dangerous things.
Infirmary: In order to treat some of the more serious injuries that can occur in a prison your doctors will need an infirmary The only requirement for this room is infirmary bed which will allow wounded prisoners a chance to rest up and heal.
Morgue: Despite all your safety measures, locked doors, numerous guards, and hours of planning a death in your prisoner could be inevitable. There needs to be a place to place those bodies whether caused by an out of control prisoner of coming from the hands of the electric chair. This room only requires a cadaver slab in order to be considered a morgue.
British developer Double 11 is currently tasked with porting Prison Architect to Xbox 360, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Psych Ward: Warden's Edition: Released on November 21, 2019, the Psych Ward: Warden's Edition expansion Adds criminally insane prisoners, shrinks, Psychiatrist’s Offices, padded rooms, as well as new objects, new prisoner behaviors and additional contraband.
- Processor:Intel Core2 Duo 2.4Ghz or Higher / AMD 3Ghz or Higher
- Memory:4 GB RAM
- Graphics:Nvidia 8600 / Radeon equivalent (2009 era)
- Hard Drive:100 MB HD space
- Processor: 2009 era Macbook Pro, Core2 Duo processor
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Hard Drive: 100 MB HD space
- OS: Ubuntu 12.04 or later
- Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 2.4Ghz or Higher / AMD 3Ghz or Higher
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia 8600 / Radeon equivalent (2009 era)
- Hard Drive: 100 MB HD space