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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsPrison Tycoon: Under New Management [The Road to Early Access]
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Abydev
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« on: June 21, 2021, 07:31:34 AM »




Hi, we are Abylight!

We are an indie game development studio based in beautiful Barcelona. We’ve been making games for 17 years and still going strong! (stronger than ever in fact!)

After a little more than a year of development, we are on the final sprint to finish our brand new title – Prison Tycoon: Under New Management, with Ziggurat Interactive as publishers. It’s releasing into Early Access on Steam very soon and we are on a mission to polish the game and squish all the bugs!

The game is a creative reboot of the Prison Tycoon franchise: we are putting our own spin on it with wit and a sense of humor. Because we believe in second chances, the focus is on rehabilitation through the funniest therapies ever, like the zero gravity room, or the VR therapy.





THE ROAD TO EARLY ACCESS


We're leveraging this Early Access stage to get closer to our players and share with them part of the development process - We’ll be listening to all criticism and suggestions to make the game the best one ever! Really. Because we want Prison Tycoon: Under New Management to stay relevant for a long time and the feedback from our community will be essential.

With this in mind, we've turned to streaming the game every day on our Twitch channel, playing casually with different members of the team, talking about the development while looking for bugs, live! (And leaving no bug alive! Smiley)

We want to take advantage of the “demo effect”. You know… everything breaks when you want to show it to someone.

We’ll be sharing our progress here too, for anyone who wants to jump in this ride Smiley



SCREENSHOTS








We'll be back tomorrow with the first devlog video!



LINKS


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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2021, 09:12:53 AM »

Might want to think about calling it something else - Prison Tycoon is already very similar product
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Tycoon
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2021, 11:10:18 AM »

Seems like a fun game to play.
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Abydev
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2021, 07:29:35 AM »





Here we go! The road to Early Access!


I don’t have to tell you that the last year and a half has been… weird, to say the least. Though, all things considered, it worked out alright for us! We started development when the pandemic was already here, and we adapted quickly to working from home. In fact, it even allowed us to work with people all over the world more easily, which is great!

That’s not to say we didn’t have to face challenges. There’s people in the studio that still haven't met face to face in the real, physical world… and some departments, like QA, had to jump over some technical hurdles to get things going again.

Sergio Escuder
started with us as an intern and he’s now our QA Manager  (you can see him in the video, along with our Creative Director, Miguel García). He manages a team of four testers, working remotely with the help of Discord and Parsec, a setup that wasn’t on our minds when we started this journey.

In the build shown in the video you’ll already be able to spot a few visual changes, specially in the UI. At this point the game is in constant evolution, with new builds every day, filled with bug fixes and improved stability.

Tycoon games are very complex and when you try to simulate a working prison full of people with needs and emotions: a lot of unexpected behaviours can happen. Some of the prison staff tend to spend a lot of time arguing with the cardboard cut-out at the reception desk, for instance. I guess it’s a very charismatic piece of cardboard Smiley






We try to break the game in any way imaginable, which might involve doing weird things that you normally won’t think of, like mashing the keyboard like a cat or clicking everywhere during a loading screen.

In fact, we had a weird bug (now fixed!) that happened when the player clicked all the mouse buttons at the same time during the loading screen, which resulted in a crash to the desktop.

In this build there are still some bugs related to the construction process: We found that sometimes there are problems when you try to stop a process (like building a room) when the game doesn’t expect it. This can lead to peculiar situations, like doors standing alone in the middle of nowhere.






This bug didn’t happen in previous versions of the game, but sometimes when you fix a thing or add something new, something else breaks.

We spent a while trying to reproduce the error. It’s not enough to report it as we find it, we must understand when and how it happens, in order to fix it.



But catching these bugs is actually a good thing, since it will allow us to fix them. We expect each new build to be more stable than the last.

Some of these bugs were already reported by our QA testers and the dev team is working hard to address them, so let’s see if they get fixed in the next builds!



Stay with us to see the progress! Smiley




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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2021, 07:40:51 AM »




Hi again! Welcome to Day 2 in our Prison Tycoon: Under New Management Devlog.

Today we’re showing off the environment and characters created by our talented art team, with Luly Aguirre as Lead Artist, and also some of the tools that we use.

We love to leave Easter eggs and things for the players to explore, to create a story and give a sense of place. In that way, you are building your prison in a living, breathing world and not just an empty sandbox.




The character creator is the tool we use to create all the characters that will populate the prison (staff, inmates, visitors…) We can pick and choose between different physical features and modify them to make each character unique. It also has a viewport that allows us to see exactly how the character will look while you’re playing the game.

The challenge was to make each feature in such a way that would work in any possible combination, which sadly meant saying goodbye to long hairstyles, among other difficult sacrifices.




Each person in the prison is unique not only in the way they look, but also in their personalities, with different stats and background to make them feel like real, actual human beings.

Because we do love the sound of our own voices, some of our team members got to record their voices to be immortalized in the game as some of the prison staff. Working from home and without access to studio equipment meant that we had to get creative. Some of us had to record our voices under our blankets, or with our head in a closet, to isolate unwanted noise. Just weird things that can happen developing a game…

There is a new tutorial in this build! We also take a closer look into the minds of our inmates, showing off the character detail screen Smiley

There’s also a more detailed look into the prison policies screen, a very important element for players that want complete control of how the prison is run, but also for those who want automation to avoid micromanaging everything.


That’s all for today! See you on the next one!

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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2021, 07:34:24 AM »





Welcome to another video devlog!

We keep playing casually everyday with different members of our team, in a mission to get the game polished for you when it hits Early Access, very soon.

Today we are playing with Orchid, our PR Manager (and some feline guests). We get to show a different environment: the swamp (which may or may not be cursed Who, Me?).


One of the cool features of Prison Tycoon: Under New Management is that there are 5 different environments where we can build our prison. Not only will they look different, but also have interesting gameplay changes and challenges.

Another feature shown in the video: The grant system. A cool way to earn money without having to ask for loans! They are rewards for completing little missions and milestones that will also make your prison better.


In order to better test the game we have a few cheats… or tricks, up our sleeve. We have created secret debug menus that allow us to change a lot of aspects of the game (add money, unlock items, etc.). This is a must, especially in a game like this, with so many items and stats that need to be tested every time in a wide variety of situations.


We had some issues with this build, and the construction menu kept breaking, refusing to show up again. Also, one of our inmates displayed some weird behaviour in his isolation cell. I guess it’s understandable under those conditions, but he kept trying to sit on objects that weren’t meant to be sat on. Definitely a bug!




Let’s see if tomorrow’s build is more stable and has those bugs squished Smiley


See you then!
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« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2021, 07:54:18 AM »

Might want to think about calling it something else - Prison Tycoon is already very similar product
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Tycoon

This is actually a reboot of the series Grin

Ziggurat Interactive owns the IP and trusted us to reimagine the franchise. We wanted to separate the game from previous titles and we are focusing on rehabilitation instead of punishment, giving it a more positive outlook, with wit and humor.

Seems like a fun game to play.

Thank you!  Beer!
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2021, 07:26:39 AM »




Hi again Smiley

Today's build is much more stable and is nice to see how much progress has been made as we approach the Early Access release date.


Environments keep improving and we even have nice shiny puddles of rain (who doesn’t love those?) We have a great team working very hard at this stage to polish the game for release, and it shows. We fixed a lot of the construction bugs, including those that we saw during the first days of this devlog. No more solitary doors, and the building menu isn’t breaking anymore, which is good news.

Still a few character related bugs left. You might have noticed in previous streams that the word “NEW” was floating relentlessly over the prisoners’ heads and refused to go away until you clicked on them. Well… that keeps happening, but not for long.

The prison staff is also too eager to go home in this build… leaving the prison earlier than they should. To make things worse, sometimes therapists don’t show up to work the next day.

This is a game with a lot of stats to keep track of, and changing just one number can bring a lot of unexpected consequences. Also, our art team did a fantastic job creating a lot (and I mean A LOT) of different props and items, but that means that there’s a lot of stuff to test. We must try all the objects under different situations and combinations, to make sure everything works properly.


Along with some new therapy rooms (like the zero gravity room), we show off a really cool feature that we are very proud of: the custom announcement messages. Players will be able to record their voice with the click of a button, and set customized messages that will sound through the prison’s tannoy system!

At this stage we are still balancing the game. Right now, the prison becomes dirty way too fast, but that will be tweaked in the near future and adjusted to be linked to the amount of people present in the prison.


That’s all for today. See you again tomorrow!

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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2021, 07:52:46 AM »





Hi!

Day 5 in our Road to Early Access Devlog.

Today we have new music for the Swamp biome, with a halloween vibe. The music and sounds of the game have been created by Alberto ‘McAlby’ González. He’s one of the co-founders of the studio and has been making music since the 8-bit era. He’s a genius and we are very lucky to have him in the team!


(I think this swamp might be cursed...)

We keep improving the visuals too, and you’ll see better shaders for the cars, giving them a shinier look.

Because this time we compiled the game as a release version, we found some unexpected bugs. We couldn’t pick up any character in the map, so we had to use the previous build for the video session.

Not only we have to stay vigilant to find bugs... prisoners may be planning to escape too! Escape mechanics are implemented in this build, so it is more important than ever to have guards and security measures and to keep the prisoners content.

Previously we had some problems with the lights in our prison… but they are working now! Still some adjustments to be made (we have to increase the area of effect), so stay tuned for the next builds Smiley

Some improvements to the lighting are already visible in the dancing therapy (yes, we have those) and in the VR room, with a nice bluish light interacting with the people in the room.


This room is one of our favourites and is clearly inspired by Star Trek Smiley

The UI has been getting some love from our dev team and the portraits in the hiring menus look much better now. We had a bug related to unwanted transparencies in the faces, but now it’s fixed and also the portraits have better lighting.

Not everything is about catching bugs while we are testing the game. We are still balancing, tweaking and fine tuning a lot of aspects of the game (stats, room sizes, etc.) For instance, our prison should stay clean for a longer time now (still, we are sorry for the mess!)


See you tomorrow!
« Last Edit: June 30, 2021, 03:07:54 AM by Abydev » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2021, 07:50:13 AM »




Hey, welcome to another day in our Road to Early Access.

This time we are building a prison in the beautiful, sunny desert. This will make things a bit more difficult, because water will be more expensive, but on the other hand, prisoners will be less likely to catch a cold. Plus, we get to enjoy the camels and the sand dunes!

We wanted to test a new idea suggested by the design team. We tried to create a building that would act as a buffer of sorts and control the flow of new inmates arriving in the prison. It didn't work because we designed the game to avoid actors getting blocked by objects in the environment. So this concept will need more programming work…

There are some new quality of life improvements in this build. Now the game will pause automatically during the building process, which is something players tend to do manually anyway, to focus on construction without being overwhelmed by other things happening in the simulation.


PSA: Showers are now blue! This will help players to differentiate them from the toilet cubicles, which were a bit too similar. Hopefully prisoners will be able to tell them apart too, to avoid awkward situations.

In a game this big, with so much content, any small change can bring new problems. So, we have to play the game every day and test all the rooms and items with every new build. That's why we have a long list of “test cases”, a guide of stuff we must always check after any update.


The game feels more and more stable each day, but still, a camera bug forced us to start a new game, which was a good excuse to visit the Tundra biome again. Compared to the desert, this snowy map will make food cheaper (the cold preserves it!) but we'll have to keep an eye on our prisoners' health.



This map also adds a new layer of complexity - To keep our inmates from catching a bad cold we have to install a few heaters in our prison. Otherwise the rooms start to freeze and they get covered in frost!

We found another bug that made the rooms appear as closed, even though they were open. Prisoners can still use them, but the heaters wouldn't turn on.

But overall, the game is progressing well  Beer!


Tomorrow will bring even more improvements!
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2021, 03:59:04 AM »




Day 7 in our Road to Early Access Devlog!

Let’s see if everything looks more polished today.

We start with a new quality of life improvement – Now, new inmates arriving to the prison will be assigned automatically to an empty cell (in case there’s one).

Once you have a big prison (and it can get quite big!) there can be a lot of things going on and you can find yourself far away from your prison’s main (and only) entrance. We don’t want players leaving prisoners without cell because they are not aware of new arrivals, so this change makes sense and it will make our life as a warden a bit easier.


Speaking of game design, our team has been discussing rebalancing the prestige system, adding more tiers with fewer unlocks in each one.

The way the prestige system works, is that the player will be unlocking new items as they grow and improve their prison. The building aspect of the game is one of the things we enjoy the most and our art team went nuts creating lots and lots of items for the players to customize their prison however they want. But with so many things unlocking at the same time with each prestige level, we think it’s a bit overwhelming and the new items don’t feel as special as they should.

So, that’s something we’ll be looking at in the future.

The game keeps progressing well, and already looks like it’s polished for Early Access. However, there are still a few bugs to take care of:


This guy is so relaxed that he’s phasing through the wall. This could be fixed adjusting the size of the object block in the map.



Making a tycoon game is a very long journey and that’s why we are going to release it first as an early access. The game is already in a playable state, but we want to keep tweaking and adding features and details to make it even better.

The Early Access is only the beginning of this journey. We plan to be listening closely to our community and your feedback and suggestions may change the course and shape of the final game.


Today’s video features the first prison escape captured on stream! One smart prisoner dug a tunnel in the cafeteria, which had a severe lack of security measures.


Prisoners can attempt to escape or start fights if they are unhappy and the security is low. You’ll need to keep your inmates content, with a clean prison, enough amenities and security (cameras, guards, watchtowers...)




We are very happy with the progress of the game so far. See you tomorrow!
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2021, 07:54:52 AM »




Hi! Day 8 is here!

The game already feels quite stable for an Early Acces release, and today we allowed ourselves to relax for a while and have a bit of fun.

One of our players suggested to throw a party in prison and… sure! Why not?

We mentioned before that Prison Tycoon: Under New Management won’t be like an average prison. This new management believes in rehabilitation and we have some creative ideas on how to achieve it.

Our prison, our rules. Like in any good tycoon game, we have freedom to experiment and run the business the way we think it’s best. So, if we want to party… who’s going to stop us?


Dance rooms are one of the tools in this new management’s repertoire. They are specially useful for rehabilitating hackers. You know… there’s a whole world of activities beyond our computers Smiley

Each inmate will be in prison for a different reason and some therapies will be more effective than others. As a warden, you’ll have to adapt your prison to the prisoners that inhabit it.


There's no good party without a wide variety of snacks and drinks! You’ll want to keep your inmates well fed and happy, otherwise they might try to escape or fight with other prisoners.


And what about videogames? Playing good ol’ arcades like Cursed Castilla or Super Hydorah will surely put anyone on the right path!

All the music and the party lights will require a lot of power. As always, we must make sure that everything is connected to the power grid, and manage our resources well if we want to keep expanding (nothing will stop this party!)


It was a great party, and deserved after a lot of hard work by our dev and QA teams... and the results keep showing every day, with more polished builds. Still things to fix, balance and tweak, but we are getting there! Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2021, 03:55:12 AM »




Day 9 in the Road to Early Access

Today we wanted to test what would happen if we removed all the doors. I know we said that our prison will be a different kind of prison, but it won’t go as far as to have a full open door policy (I think). The point of this experiment  was to see what would happen to the speed and flow of the game.

Doors are… complicated, and ours behaved like doors should, with the full arc of movement and the actors interacting with them with the proper animation. It looked good, but after a while we felt that it was slowing down the pace of the game, and even creating queues in front of some rooms from time to time.

The experiment was good! The game felt faster, with a better flow. We will be turning the doors into sliding doors, like in Star Trek Tongue, in future builds.




We’ve been puting a lot of care and thought into the usability and how the game feels. From the UI, to the flow of the construction process, the music, the sounds, the animations… Our main goal is to make it pleasant for the players and also to make easy for them to understand what’s happening in the game at any moment. Tycoon games can be very dense, so these are very important goals for us and something we keep in mind at all times during development.


One of the things we are noticing during this playing sessions is that we reach high prestige levels too fast. This is something we will have to balance in the future.

Prestige levels reward the players for expanding their prison and keeping it well equiped, unlocking new items and rooms.




Choosing the best candidates for your staff is key to keep a well managed prison. You’ll need to find a balance between efficiency and cost (but also, there’s people that just look cool).

Of course, you can reward your best performing employees with a promotion, which will increase their efficiency (and their salary).









You’ll be able to manage their schedule too, changing how much are they allowed to rest and when, among other things.

Right now we have to balance the speed at which they recover stamina, because they have to spend too much time in the staff room.


That's all for today! Not big bugs to report, just small things to fix and tweak Smiley


bye!
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