Fix my Prison Architect!

Some of us may be familiar with the joys (and pitfalls) of playing alpha/beta games and with the popularity of Steam's Greenlight program ( there is a lot of fun and choice to be had for the casual gamer. One little gem in particular I have found engrossing is Prison Architect by Introversion Software. This top down simcity-esque time vampire has come a long way since it was first offered on steam. The only real gripe is this game bogs down even on the most serious of gaming rigs.

This little slice of penal simulation will have you designing a prison from top to bottom, hiring and assigning staff to offices or patrols, managing everything down to the quality of variety of meals you provide for your prison population, even running a shakedown to find tunnels and contraband our little criminals have stowed away. So what could be more fun? A game that doesn't turn into a slide show of lag after a few hours of building would be a nice start.

The devs are working hard on fixing the problem but aint' nobody got time for that! It all boils down to too many processes. Too many jobs queued and too many objects in game being interacted with at the same time. So I have some tips to help keep down the "lag" and maximize your gaming fun! The game is still in Alpha, but that's no reason not to enjoy this special little sandbox in the meantime. If you have already played and built yourself into a 56k slideshow or simply want to give it a try here are some tips to get the most out of the experience:

  1. Don't expect this game to be fully functional. We need to set our expectations low on this one for now. There are some limitations to how the game handles memory. Four quad core CPUs and 16GB of ram isn't going to do you any good (for now). This limitation is on the radar of the devs but lately we have seen a lot of content added rather than performance enhancements. Rather than fight this limitation, we must embrace it or face electronic prison purgatory.
  2. Plan for a compact prison. This quickest way to sedate your game into unplayable levels is to build too big. Yes you can buy adjacent plots and you can start with a large prison plot and have huge swaths of land but if you actually want to play your prison and not just get an single frame every two or three seconds we need to plan small. Keep it inside the confines of a single large plot or a small plot that's only been expanded 2 times.
  3. Maximize your staff. Nothing like seeing 6 guards all sitting around the yard comparing night sticks when there is a riot about to kick off in your showers. Build out your bureaucracy so you can set deployments early. Small circular deployment routes with a single guard assigned can cover a big area and keep prisoners suppressed. Deploying guards to "areas" is much less effecent and more likely to have multiple guards hanging out with their pepper spray out.
  4. Get rid of bottlenecks. Nothing pisses off a prisoner or slows down the game engine like trying to cram 200 hungry felons thru a single door way (if you are properly using metal detectors) when it's chow time. Keep the prisoner access paths double wide and funnel your prisoners down with walls when going between buildings and outside. The large prison door is there for a reason.
  5. Be patience with building. Want to add a new wing? Got 25 workers sitting around ready to raise a cantina? Not so fast. Build small, keep your "To Do" list down, and leave the internal decoration for after you have the walls and doors up. Many of the bugs I find end up being because the walls have not been completed before adding a prison door. Keeping projects to smaller steps and limiting how many jobs you have in your queue will ensure you can continue to enjoy the game while your prison is built.

Ultimately it will be up to the Devs to clean up the performance issues but with a little patience and some planning you can have a large prison you can actually enjoy.