Prison Architect at Rezzed

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Chris
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Prison Architect at Rezzed

Postby Chris » Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:35 am

We did the Rezzed Game Show recently in Brighton, and it was awesome. We had four computers running Prison Architect (the first two story chapters were playable, as well as the sandbox mode), and they were permanently busy for both days. We chatted to a lot of players and took a lot of feedback and ideas from it. Some people sat down and just played for hours, which was really encouraging to see. Apart from Bit Of Alright, this was the first show where the general public have been able to play, and I'm really happy with how it went down.

We also gave a talk to a packed conference room about the gestation of Prison Architect - how we started out with Subversion, the things that went wrong on that project, and how a holiday to California resulted in a massive shift of projects. Eurogamer has published the video of this talk and you can see it here:
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012- ... itect-wont

This is what the audience looked like from the stage :)

The Rezzed show generated quite a lot of articles on various websites. Here's a rundown of the coverage if you missed it:

How Alcatraz and a chatty taxi driver led to Subversion's death and Prison Architect's birth (Eurogamer)

The thorny issues of sexual assault and race in Prison Architect (Eurogamer)

The Eurogamer podcast on Rezzed (We are discussed around 18m)

I Am Indie: Chris Delay From Introversion Software (The Game Jar) (filmed on the show floor)

Prison Architect Preview from the Rezzed show floor (The Game Jar)


All of these article links went up on our Twitter feed first. We are basically using Twitter as our News feed now - more people follow us on Twitter than read the news blog these days. So if you haven't signed up yet, do so now so you get the latest.

@IVSoftware

Big thanks to everyone that came to see us at Rezzed, and big thanks to Eurogamer and RPS for organising such a great show.
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Postby Cooper42 » Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:36 pm

I still love how prison architect gets all the critical eyes for its subject matter, but a simulation of the painful death of untold millions of people is not approached in that manner.

It can't be a simple case that prisons somehow feel more real; for many people - not that long ago - nuclear war and annihilation was far too real a threat. There's something really telling that in the space of a couple of decades we've become so convinced in the fantasy of any possible nuclear exchange, without the weapons having gone anywhere... We've amanged to somehow psychologically and politically cordon off nuclear war as a near-impossibility without any significant material change...

In anycase, whether it's nuclear war or prisons, sometimes the political power of game is simply handing the agency in the situation over to the player. This is actually how games have more power than the TV shows that the Eurogamer article brought up.

When literary of theatrical narrative deal with "issues" you are lead through the issue by an author. You can distance yourself from the narrative meaning you do not like, and align yourself with the narrative meaning you do.

In a game you literally have to get hands on. You have to work through these issues for yourself. That's what I think makes many people cringe; not that difficult issues are being dealt with per se. but that the power to create political and ethical meening out of those issues is in the hands of the player, not handed to them. The concern about the "message" of prison architect misses that games - being interactive - immediately make the power of creating message / meaning a joint project of player and game developer. The concern is dressed up as a worry that PA might no be "sending the right message" whereas what seems to me to be the unspoken fear is that meaning might not be so readily avaiable or clear cut, and that they themselves might have to partake in the making of meaning from a game in how they approach it, think about it and play it.

I've said this before about prison architect when the discussion about "issues" comes up: Simply putting people in the position where they have to think things through for themselves and create meaning for themselves through interaction is so much more politically salient than any pre-given-narrative could ever be.
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Postby Jacq » Fri Jul 13, 2012 6:20 pm

Like many others I followed Subversion for quite a while. Registered here because of something mentioned at the conference. You absolutely need to look up an old game made in 1994 called "The Clue!". Its abandonware these days but deals with almost the same subject as subversion.
It basically works like this: You go to different locations, some real, some made up. You(or your character really) investigate them noting down the time of police patrols, the number of guards, where they walk, valuables and where they are located in the building. Since you only have a limited number of skills you have to hire acomplishes which you meet in a bar. They have unique personalities and skills and a little backstory. You also need to buy tools and a getaway vehicle. Finally you need to plan the heist. Essentially this part of the game is a bit flawed, but the other elements fit right in.
After each heist the story element of the game kicks in to keep things interesting.

Anyway enough about that. Prison achitect certainly looks interesting. Shouldnt prisoners be bored? I thought that was a part of beeing in one. And try to escape also? Anyway I think Will Wright once said: "the goal is not to create a simulation, but an illusion of one". There was an interview somewhere where he mentioned the degree of simulation he´d aimed for in each of his games and what was bad and good about them. About SimEarth he mentioned that anything the player did, was shortly erased due to the nature of the simulation. It was simply absorbed by it. Nothing lasted. Thats worth keeping in mind when designing.
Can´t wait to see where this is going.
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Postby Arowx » Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:55 pm

Just watched you Rezzed presentation online really enjoyed it, nice insight on how to take a tech project without gameplay and make a fun and interesting game.

But if you we're to put gunshot microphones, and heart rate monitors into your security system and you would make the players work for their rewards. Also add sleeping gas/cs gas dispensers, metal detectors and your getting their.

The game then is not so much getting into the vault as obtaining the blueprints/security specs.
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Postby xander » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:35 pm

Arowx wrote:Just watched you Rezzed presentation online really enjoyed it, nice insight on how to take a tech project without gameplay and make a fun and interesting game.

But if you we're to put gunshot microphones, and heart rate monitors into your security system and you would make the players work for their rewards. Also add sleeping gas/cs gas dispensers, metal detectors and your getting their.

The game then is not so much getting into the vault as obtaining the blueprints/security specs.

I think that much of the point of the talk was that Chris had spent a great deal of time building really complicated systems that could be easily defeated by a shortcut (i.e. shooting a guard in the head, cutting the power, &c.). Adding additional systems exacerbates the situation.

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Fixing Subversion

Postby Weatherproof » Sat Jul 14, 2012 3:54 pm

I've loved Introversion since Darwinia on Steam and Chris, I'm sorry for saying this, but no, I don't believe you that the gameplay in Subversion is shit. What you're missing is that you already have the gameplay, you're just not seeing it. The point you made at the Rezzed presentation (where you played through the heist level in Subversion) about spending months on design and AI routines and logic scripting being lost because the player could shoot an enemy in the head, turn off the lasers, and get the diamond, is flawed. Those are all minor balance things. I know you're also worried about players just exploding a hole in the wall and bypassing the security, but that can be tweaked as well. For example, when pausing the game and designating a head shot, you could make it so the weapon is drawn slowly, and the guard can already have his weapon out, not giving the player enough time to kill the guard. You could make the pause menu have a delay of some sort. You could make guards not visible to the player for a longer time or until they are closer (or have them not appear until the green player npc 'sees' them for more than a second).
The prison level in subversion being argument is also not a good one, if you increase the difficulty (more guards, alarms on the door so you can't drill them) then playtesters won't follow the simplest solution and just waltz into the prison. They might try something else instead.
There are so many little changes and tweaks that can be made to balance your game and show off all the underlying AI stuff.
You have the mechanics, you have the art assets, you have the music. All that's left is the easy stuff, tweaking!
And if you still don't feel like it's fun, then have a closed/open alpha or something and let the community design and help you out/give you feedback for the game. Crowd sourcing the tweaking and balance of the game can definitely help subversion out. It's worked for many other indie games in the past.
And I know you haven't completely given up on Subversion (even though that's what you keep saying :P ), I just want to let you know that it's probably better than you think, and just needs some community love! :)
I'm really excited for Prison Architect at well, and can't wait to try it out.
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Postby Lord Ozymandias » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:31 pm

I was going to be annoyed that Subversion got canned for lack of gameplay, but then Chris said:

A: "complex systems" in a sentence and
B: that management style games died too soon.

so now i'm inclined to say that Introversion knows what it is doing.

PS, as i can not resist as much as anybody else to chime in what i wanted to see in Subversion: X-COM Apocalypse meets Uplink
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Postby BGP » Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:44 pm

xander wrote:
Arowx wrote:Just watched you Rezzed presentation online really enjoyed it, nice insight on how to take a tech project without gameplay and make a fun and interesting game.

But if you we're to put gunshot microphones, and heart rate monitors into your security system and you would make the players work for their rewards. Also add sleeping gas/cs gas dispensers, metal detectors and your getting their.

The game then is not so much getting into the vault as obtaining the blueprints/security specs.

I think that much of the point of the talk was that Chris had spent a great deal of time building really complicated systems that could be easily defeated by a shortcut (i.e. shooting a guard in the head, cutting the power, &c.). Adding additional systems exacerbates the situation.

xander



Chris had spent a great deal of time building really complicated systems that could be easily defeated by a shortcut (i.e. shooting a guard in the head, cutting the power, &c.).


And who's fault is that? Who said shooting down guards had to be "Easy"? Would consistently shooting down well armed and well trained guards in real life be considered "easy"? I think not.

Image

Trust the BGP, there is nothing "easy" about any of these games, and in Project IGI you'd be lucky to get center of mass before being shot much less an "easy" shot to the opponent's head.

Image

Introversion wanted to make Subversion a 3D world yet keep it abstract and without the true 3D embodiment. Doesn't work that way. That is like trying to create a verbot to pass a "hard" version of the Turing test by coding a bunch of if..else statements without actually emulating the neurons on a functional level in a bottoms-up emergent approach. Hench why the reversion to a 2D approach with Prison Architect. PA is an arcade version of what Subversion should have or could have or would have been. My guess is PA is going to cater to the lowest common denominator in terms of target audience, the "casual gamer"....and probably come out on a plethora of OS/platforms/marketplace like iphone, ipad, Windows 8 Metro App, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, xbox/ps3/wii, you name it. It will likely be multi-touch optimized and structured to be "tablet/touch"-friendly first and foremost... it will have the app/tablet/mobile/casual market in mind with the traditional desktop PC gamers being a mere afterthought... hence the bedroom programmers have like so many before them (John Carmack, Crytek, etc etc etc) caved to the battle of demands... And from the development standpoint PA is an ROI margins project pure and simple, its about skimming and milking percentages and double-dipping and going after the "low hanging fruit" and getting a (hopefully) "mass appeal" product out there that they hope will "sell" .... and yet a lot of the coding is recycled from Subversion and PA is like a "cop out" in the sense that it doesn't provide the end-gamer anything truly innovative nor revolutionary nor a niche or new game-style or game play... games like this are a dime a dozen.. and I'm more interested in a game that keeps people out of prison rather than in... and seriously... I'm reminded of Microsoft IE's "cut the rope" and PA ... haha... its seems more like an angry bird wannabe or minecraft jealousy than a successor to Defcon.

I do agree with IV that Subversion had to be canned. It was way too ambitious for their development team and they couldn't have made it work anyway.
Last edited by BGP on Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby BGP » Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:24 pm

Jacq wrote: About SimEarth he mentioned that anything the player did, was shortly erased due to the nature of the simulation.


You put the comma in the wrong place.
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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby xander » Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:53 pm

I love the way that people (e.g. Arowx and Weatherproof) who have never interacted with the game think that they know better than someone who has a vested interest in the success of the game, and who has been working on and playing the game for a decade. I cannot presume to know better than Chris whether or not the gameplay is crap, but I am inclined to believe him. The issue seems to be very well laid out in the presentation: one wants to simulate the world as best as possible, and give players all of the tools that they might realistically have access to. This gives them easy shortcuts. Adding more complex systems does not fix the issue, but only exacerbates it. This is true in the real world, as well. I mean, how often are banks robbed in the manner portrayed in a typical heist movie vs how often they are robbed by a couple of masked hooligans with guns? All of the gee-whiz tech is cool, but if it ultimately doesn't get used in the gameplay, what's the point? Why should a programmer devote the time and effort to it?

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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby BGP » Sat Jul 14, 2012 6:53 pm

xander wrote:I love the way that people (e.g. Arowx and Weatherproof) who have never interacted with the game think that they know better than someone who has a vested interest in the success of the game, and who has been working on and playing the game for a decade. I cannot presume to know better than Chris whether or not the gameplay is crap, but I am inclined to believe him. The issue seems to be very well laid out in the presentation: one wants to simulate the world as best as possible, and give players all of the tools that they might realistically have access to. This gives them easy shortcuts. Adding more complex systems does not fix the issue, but only exacerbates it. This is true in the real world, as well. I mean, how often are banks robbed in the manner portrayed in a typical heist movie vs how often they are robbed by a couple of masked hooligans with guns? All of the gee-whiz tech is cool, but if it ultimately doesn't get used in the gameplay, what's the point? Why should a programmer devote the time and effort to it?

xander


I'd pay good money for the defcon source code, but I wouldn't play PA if they gave it out for free and paid me to play it. Maybe PA has 'gameplay' but its not my type of game to begin with.
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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby xander » Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:21 pm

BGP wrote:I'd pay good money for the defcon source code, but I wouldn't play PA if they gave it out for free and paid me to play it. Maybe PA has 'gameplay' but its not my type of game to begin with.

This is a complete non sequitor. My statement was in opposition to several people making the claim that Subversion is/could be a great game. I stated that the designer of the game probably knows more about whether or not it is a good game than a bunch of people who have never played it. This was still in reference to Subversion. You respond by stating that you would pay for the Defcon source code, and that Prison Architect looks like a crap game. This is utterly irrelevant to whether or not Subversion is a good game.

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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby BGP » Sat Jul 14, 2012 7:23 pm

xander wrote:
BGP wrote:I'd pay good money for the defcon source code, but I wouldn't play PA if they gave it out for free and paid me to play it. Maybe PA has 'gameplay' but its not my type of game to begin with.

This is a complete non sequitor. My statement was in opposition to several people making the claim that Subversion is/could be a great game. I stated that the designer of the game probably knows more about whether or not it is a good game than a bunch of people who have never played it. This was still in reference to Subversion. You respond by stating that you would pay for the Defcon source code, and that Prison Architect looks like a crap game. This is utterly irrelevant to whether or not Subversion is a good game.

xander


Do u haz code?
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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby xander » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:53 pm

BGP wrote:Do u haz code?

Asked and answered, BGP. Stop trolling.

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Re: Fixing Subversion

Postby Jordy... » Sat Jul 14, 2012 9:38 pm

xander wrote:
BGP wrote:I'd pay good money for the defcon source code, but I wouldn't play PA if they gave it out for free and paid me to play it. Maybe PA has 'gameplay' but its not my type of game to begin with.

This is a complete non sequitor. My statement was in opposition to several people making the claim that Subversion is/could be a great game. I stated that the designer of the game probably knows more about whether or not it is a good game than a bunch of people who have never played it. This was still in reference to Subversion. You respond by stating that you would pay for the Defcon source code, and that Prison Architect looks like a crap game. This is utterly irrelevant to whether or not Subversion is a good game.

xander


Actually, from that presentation I got that Mark knew earlier then Chris that Subversion was not a good game. And he was relieved when Chris finally came around and thought the same way about it. Also, I've showed my concerns before they canceled it without ever playing it or seeing it real-life and I turned out to be right on my opinion.
At first instance there is logic in your reasoning, but if you think about it, sometimes you are too close to something that you can't see the greater picture, this might be the case here, and then someone from outside can see things more clearly.
Cuz fuck logic

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