Prison Architect exclusive interview – 60FPS, full trophy list and user-created maps on PS4

Prison Architect received rave reviews on its STEAM release last year, and this new enhanced version for PlayStation 4 brings with it more than a few upgrades.

The top-down 2D construction and management sim launches this Spring and sees players being both the architect and the governor of a prison facility where they must keep inmates in check, and smoothly deal with the day-to-day operations or risk losing control.

PlayStation Universe hooked up with Double Eleven, who have teamed up with Introversion Software to bring its addictive simulation to the PlayStation audience.

So, not a ton of people on PS4 know about Prison Architect since it was largely a mega PC hit. Can you tell us a little about the game?

We see Prison Architect: PS4 Edition (PA) as a lock-em-up, where you control and manage the fate of your inmates. How you go about doing that is entirely down to the prison you build and how you choose to run it.
You can design and build a prison which promotes social order and a peaceful coexistence amongst inmates, offering rehabilitation and plenty of free time or create a supermax that disregards human rights and imposes strict punishment with armed guards patrolling every corridor. The game allows you to see the impact of your designs on the lives of your inmates. What’s unique about PA is that unlike other sim / builder games, even when all of your prisoners’ needs are met, ultimately it’s still a prison and no one really wants to be there.

prison architect map

Fresh fish arriving

You’ll start your journey by playing through the Prison Stories (campaign mode). Here you’ll learn the ropes and later you’ll be getting called up to deal with emergencies at increasingly larger prisons. Players will learn how to cope with blazing infernos, prison wide riots, demolition and construction.

The game also features World of Wardens, where players can share their creations online, and Warden mode, allowing players to take immediate control of a pre-built prison, made by our designers and the very best of fan creations.

What are the main differences between the console version and the PC version? Is there any exclusive PS4 content?

The additional extras and improvements from PC to console are pretty substantial! The biggest, most obvious difference is the game’s brand-new UI, HUD and menu system, which is designed to complement a user-friendly experience for the console gamer, as well as host some of our new game modes and player difficulty options.

There’s currently no planned exclusive content for PS4, however Prison Architect will be the first game from Double Eleven that will use our new DoubleID service allowing players to create, rate share prisons with World of Wardens. That matters because we plan to give additional content to players who register and start to get involved with the community.

On PS4 the game will run at 60fps and will also have a full Trophy list, including a Platinum. In terms of features, no area of the game has gone without a bit of Double 11 TLC, with new ways to take on prison construction, deal with emergencies and receive help from the staff characters that work in your prison.

prison architect workshop

In the workshop

Talk to me about the controllers on PS4; a PC game like this uses an incredibly huge array of on-screen icons and major use of the mouse – how did Double 11 insure a smooth transition for players on the PS4?

We know there’s a certain immediacy people expect from picking up a controller and as a gamer, when playing an unfamiliar game you generally start with what you know from most games and build on that understanding as you progress. For Prison Architect, we had to design a new control system for the game and then teach that to the players in a way that feels intuitive.

Our new control system was based around providing access to a new, heavily streamlined menu system that had to work for all the things you could do in the game. As you’ve mentioned, the PC game is a heavily mouse driven experience, so one of the biggest challenges was maintaining that immediate feel of being able to build, buy, do whatever you want quickly, but with a lightweight and attractive HUD which retains as much screen space as possible. In addition to a completely new interface, we spent months making hundreds of optimisations to the user experience so that there is far less information and options being presented at any one time. What does get presented to the player is more contextual to what they want to do and overall we believe that the entire game has become incredibly quick to navigate.

You’re not the developers of the original game, how did you end up working on this game to bring it to consoles?

We’ve been big fans of PA for a long time so believe it or not we pitched our own concept for a console edition of PA to Introversion (the original developers). Needless to say, it went down pretty well and that earned us the ability to publish and develop our editions for consoles. That’s pretty much how we roll as a company, if we see something we like and it’s a good fit for our studio (or partners), we go after it!

Talk to me about the World of Wardens mode – how is that beneficial to PS4 players?

World of Wardens (WoW) mode is a way to showcase and share any of your created prisons, both with friends and the Prison Architect community around the world. PA is just as much a creative game as it is about management, so it’s a key feature we really wanted to get in. We know how popular prison sharing has been on PC and wanted to open that up to the console audience. Now we’re really looking forward to seeing the amazing prison designs from the PS4 community. Providing players with WoW, a way to share and showcase those creations, will only empower more players to let their imaginations run wild.

On PS4 I feel WoW will appeal to many different styles of player, for different reasons. Some may simply want to show off their awesome designs and gain community popularity as credible architects, newcomers may want some inspiration or enjoy downloading a pre-built working prison and jumping straight in. Any downloaded WoW prisons can of course be changed and expanded to make them your own.

Custom-built prison

In terms of a feature set the WoW area in-game will allow players to manage their own shared prisons, rate each other’s and also search for a specific prison name or player creator.

Interview continues overleaf…


How have you found working with the PS4? What have been the major challenges with porting a game to PS4? 

So we’ve been developing on PS4 for sometime now, and we’ve been PlayStation developers for much longer. We’re very much a technical team with experience working literally right on the metal of PS Vita, PS3 and of course PS4! Prison Architect is a tremendously power hungry game, don’t let the graphics fool you; there are many systems running in the game that create the all the emergent behaviour you see from your inmates. When you start taking on hundreds of prisoners, that all scales up as all the prisoners have an awareness of one another and their environment. If you were playing on PC this is where your high power gaming rig is going to come in real handy. With the PS4 we were able to immediately benefit from all the raw power of the CPU and GPU (and the PS4’s super fast RAM) when we went to optimise our engine and the game’s AI code. The benefit is that all this work is noticeable to players as we’re near 60fps, even in the busiest of prisons.

There aren’t a lot of builder-type games on PS4 – what was behind the decision to bring this game over?

At its core, PA is a construction and management game but equally it’s about players using their imagination and creativity to explore the themes of incarceration, crime and punishment. We hope it will appeal to people with those base interests, which in my mind sits above genres.

Our decision to bring the game to console really began with that understanding. If the game was a very successful PC game about managing villagers in a forest, that probably would have been the end of the journey 🙂 Those broad themes exist in popular culture and it’s our hope that it’s enough to get people at least looking past the obvious fact that it does not look like the FPS, third person shooter or sports game that they may be accustomed to.

prison architect cells

Prisoners taken to the cells

With the game being culturally relevant, the real decider was to see if we could come up with an intuitive and immediate control scheme. While there were a number of changes and additions we wanted to make to the game this is key. When we pitched our edition of PA to Introversion (the original developer) it included our designs on how a controller could work and ever since we’ve had people working on it.

It only takes one game to break open a genre and attract the interest of both players and then developers. For builder games on PS4 we’re hoping it’s Prison Architect.

You guys are pretty well known for bringing over PS4 games from PC, we loved Goat Simulator for example. What other projects have you done we might not know about, and are you working on publishing anything original in the coming year?

Kind of you to ask! Our very first project was Little Big Planet for PS Vita in collaboration with Tarsier. We’ve also created our own edition of the simultaneous turn-based PC hit Frozen Synapse, called Frozen Synapse Prime for PS Vita / PS3. We also co-developed Nom Nom Galaxy with Q-Games and created PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate for PS4 and PS Vita. On the surface, Prison Architect included, these games don’t have much in common with each other but the actual common denominator is us! We go out and look for titles we’d like to work on and think we could do a good job of. In that vein we are working on our own concept, but not putting any pressure on when it needs to be out and we certainly have more to announce this year on the publishing front!

What’s the DLC plan like for Prison Architect on the PS4? Will it follow the same content we’re seeing on the PC? What about the Escape Mode – that has done really well on the PC version, will it be coming to PS4?

The original PC version of PA had over 35 updates, 5 years of development and regular community feedback to make it what it is today. We’ve benefitted from all of that learning and have used it as the basis of our own edition of PA for PS4. Although the core systems are mainly the same, we’ve made hundreds of changes both big and small to our game. In that way we see them as different games, in other words Prison Architect: PS4 Edition is going to take its own path.

We will continue to support the game with updates right for the game based on the community. In that way, not necessarily everything that goes into the PC edition will make it into ours. Escape Mode is a really cool feature that’s in development with Introversion and it’s certainly something we’re considering but no fixed plans just yet.

Example prison layout

What’s your favorite game on PlayStation 4 right now?

It’s a close call between Unravel and This War of Mine: The Little Ones at the moment. I think Unravel just edges in as my favourite right now. It looks amazing, it’s a really cool idea and I enjoy the relaxing feel it has about it, along with the real sense of journey. I can see that the game has been a real labour of love from the folks at ColdWood.

In some ways it reminds me a little of the Prince of Persia games. The use of yarn unravelling behind you wherever you go allows the player to climb back up out of trouble but in a way that feels natural and ingenious, without having to rewind time. It’s completely immersive.

If you were stuck on an island with one PlayStation game for the rest of eternity, what would it be?

Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, Street Fighter 5! As of writing this I’m eagerly awaiting picking up my preordered copy.

Street Fighter 4 is possibly my favourite game of all time, and I think it’s incredible to see how Street Fighter is evolving the eSports and fighting game community scene. I can only see SF5 continuing that trend and turning pro players into celebrities. I’ve personally sank over 2,000 hours into Street Fighter 4 in the 6+ years since its release, and I’m a fairly decent Dhalsim player. I’ll never be as good as some of the tournament pros I idolize, but I used to be ranked pretty high. I can’t wait to body some of my Double Eleven colleagues with the new, reimagined and bearded Dhalsim in SF5 ;-).