Designing gameplay for Prisonscape – Character, statistics and progression

In this blog post I’m going to tell a little about the way I want the Prisonscape game mechanics and story to work. I’ve been giving this thing a lot of thought and it’s currently a very organic process – so everything I write here might be something completely different in the final product. I’m a big fan of old JRPG games such as the Final Fantasy series, Earthbound and Chrono Trigger. Last week I borrowed a SNES from my friend and decided to start playing Chrono Trigger again. It’s probably my favorite console RPG together with Final Fantasy 7, and it’s incredible how good the story and the playability in this game are. For example, the fights are based on the age old rock-paper-scissors method where you have to find the right combinations to win the key fights.

Fantasy games have a huge advantage on games without any supernatural elements, since pretty much anything goes. You can give the characters a huge variety of spells, weapons and skills to work with and get away with it. I can’t do this in Prisonscape. I want to keep a certain level of realism inside the prison, so that there’s not a big arsenal of weapons. What I’ve decided to do here is to use player stats instead. For example, the player can use Charisma to intimidate or annoy the opponent or Intelligence to observe the movement and the weak points of enemies. This also allows the player to create different type of characters and not get stuck on parts where the fights are too tough because of low “fighting” (Strength, Agility, Fitness) stats.

Chrono Trigger

In the beginning I thought I would diminish player stats altogether and the player would only have a vague picture of the character’s capabilities. This was because in the earlier stage of the design process the game was planned to be more like a prison simulator. Later on we realized that this game NEEDS to be an adventure/RPG with an interesting story line. The player will have basic stats which are Strength, Agility, Fitness, Mental health, Intelligence and Charisma. AD&D gamers (and I guess almost any RPG fans) are familiar with these stats and I think they work well. Every stat will be important as the game progresses, and these stats can also be trained.

Even though most are self-explanatory, here’s a short description of what these statistics are used for:

Strength – Anything that needs muscles: damage, bending bars, arm wrestling, etc.
Agility – Hitting, dodging hits and anything that requires precise coordination and movement
Fitness – This is used for determining your HP and resistance to diseases such as STDs and infections
Mental health – Determines whether you’re crazy or not. Keep your mental health up with visits, going to group meetings and therapy, etc.
Intelligence – Anything that requires thinking
Charisma – Persuasion and interacting with other inmates and guards. Also helps with trading.

Since there’s so much to tell about the game mechanics of Prisonscape, I will probably write much more often than once a week in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for the next post about Prisonscape!

– Pekka

Introducing Prisonscape

This is the first official blog post and the official announcement of our project called Prisonscape. There are two people currently working on this project: Tuomas, the programmer extraordinaire who has previously worked for the game developer Universomo, and Pekka, who has +10 years of experience, both as a player and a game master, on RPGs such as Cyberpunk 2020 and AD&D.

Prisonscape is an adventure/RPG game in which the main character is sent to jail (and later on to prison) for crimes he actually DID commit. We don’t want to give out the story too much, but initially the character has to stay alive and learn the rules of this harsh place. Inside you have to deal with such things as constant assaults, creating and using weapons, interacting with other prisoners and learning the trade inside the jail. The player can develop his character to be, for example, a strong, tough fighter or an intelligent, charismatic manipulator.

We had the idea for this project in the spring of 2012 and it has been evolving for a while now. The motivation and inspiration for the game came from various sources – incredibly good TV shows Oz and Wire, classic prison movies and many, many books. We also got a lot of inspiration and ideas from old JRPGs. The idea behind the project is to take the best things from those old games and fit them into a modern world and storyline.

How can we put a new spin on this ancient and fantastic genre? Here are a few things:

– An old genre in a new environment: a violent prison with drugs, shanks, gangs and fights.
– A compelling story with tough moral choices
– Replay value through changing events and different character builds

So, where are we currently? We’re now working on the core features (quest, dialog, battle, inventory systems) and the base graphics of the game. We’re also working on the dialog, NPCs and quests (or jobs as we call ’em in this game).

As far as platforms go, we will first release Prisonscape on the PC, Mac and Linux.

If you got interested, here are some ways to stay updated on the progress of Prisonscape:


And of course check this blog for weekly updates.

Best regards,

Tuomas & Pekka