A work-in-progress filled with prisoners, fires, electric drills, shivs…and love.

If Kickstarter has taught us anything, it’s that people are more than willing to preemptively support projects they believe in.  We’ve recently learned a similar lesson from Prison Architect, Introversion Software’s newest undertaking.  Along with the fact that gamers really, really want to build and run a prison full of cute but deadly sprites.  Like, now, please.

Prison Architect was first announced in October 2011, and marked the end of Introversion’s focus on their “digital dreamscape” game, Darwinia.  After a year of subtle hints and few concrete details about Prison Architect‘s status, the public alpha opened on September 26th, with a Kickstarter-inspired, tiered buy-in system.  After only 72 hours, the game had already made over $100,000, with close to 2,700 people signed up and contributing.

That’s a pretty hefty sum for an unfinished, alpha version of a game that currently has no set release date.  But Introversion’s track record speaks for itself, with games like Uplink, DEFCON, and Multiwinia under their belts.  And I’m sure the brilliantly honest, funny, and direct alpha video earned them a significant chunk of new fans.

Developer Chris Delay explains in the video: “As an alpha customer, there are some things you need to be aware of.  This game is not finished.  For example, if you decide that you want to help this poor guard [who's being beaten to death by a group of prisoners with knives and night sticks], you can’t.  Because we haven’t written that bit yet.  It’s an alpha.  You’ll also enjoy exclusive access to game-breaking bugs, such as: prisoners remain in the canteen eating their lunch despite the fact the room is on fire; prisoners take their lunch to the shower blocks, get undressed, and eat naked; …prisoners heads replaced by random sprites from sprite bank (this happens a lot more often than you might imagine).

Prison Architect

Strangely, yes, I do want access to that.  This method of building a game is also admirable; it’s obvious Introversion wants to make the best game possible for its players, and is taking the alpha stage seriously as they incorporate changes and fixes suggested by their alpha testers.  (Although not too seriously…”Look at these guys eating!”)   

Prison Architect does not have a scheduled release date yet, and Delay admits in the video, “And since this is Introversion Software that we’re talking about, we’re likely to be in alpha for quite some time.”   But all alpha users will also receive a copy of the finished game, as well as exclusive bonuses dependent on the tier you choose.  You can join in and start playing immediately over at prison-architect.com (that’s prison HYPHEN architect…dot com).