Sandbox mode lets the player construct a prison of your own will, with no story elements attached. This mode is accessed by loading up the game, by selling another prison or by going into the menu and selecting the option "Create New Prison." If the latter way is selected, options can be set that will affect the gameplay.
It is recommended to play through the campaigns before starting a prison in sandbox mode, as the campaigns will guide you through various elements of the gameplay.
These are the options available when using the "Create New Prison" option to start a new sandbox game:
- Prison Size: The prison size dropdown menu controls the size of the initial plot of land upon which a new prison is built. A small prison is 100x80 squares, a medium prison is 150x120 squares, and a large prison is 200x160 squares, where each square roughly corresponds to a square meter. This does not directly affect the difficulty of the game, as the initial resources given to the player remain the same, but it does affect your computers performance. (Note that the Accountant is able to research Land Expansion later in the game.)
- Fog of War: If fog of war is selected (indicated by an X in the box) then indoor areas of the prison will be hidden from the player unless revealed by a guard or security camera. Note that until the first prisoner arrives fog of war will not go into effect.
- Plots (Jungle, Snowbound, Desert, Lunar): The starting ground will entirely be covered in the selected plot type.
- Generate X (Forests, Lakes, Buildings): These three options control the way in which the landscape is generated. If the "Generate Forests" option is selected, then clusters of trees will be generated in addition to the individual trees that are placed on the map. Trees must be chopped down by workmen before buildings can be built, but the felled trees can be sold. If the "Generate Lakes" option is select then parts of the map will be covered in water. Construction cannot take place on water, hence this option can be used to increase the difficulty a bit. Finally, if the "Generate Buildings" option is selected then derelict buildings will be placed on the map. These generally consist of a few walls and some concrete pads which can be incorporated into new buildings (or bulldozed).
- Failure Conditions: If this option is selected it will become possible for the player to fail and for game to enter a failure or "game over" state.
- Gangs: Enables gang mechanics such as gang members arriving in intake and existing prisoners being recruited.
- Criminally Insane Prisoners: available with the Psych Ward dlc. enables criminally insane prisoners in intake, and regular prisoners going insane.
- Events: Random incidents, disasters and challenges will occur during your game, providing extra difficulty and unpredictability.
- Weather and Temperature: Enables some additional events and different temperatures during day/night and seasons.
- Staff Needs: If this is enabled, most staff will also have some needs, very similar to the prisoners' needs
- Escape Plans: If this is enabled, strong prisoners can climb over fences, and all prisoners can climb fences and walls with improvised escape ropes made from Prisoner Uniforms
- Unlimited Funds: Spend as much money as you like while building your prison, as opposed to the challenge of not going into debt (having negative money) - a more pure sandbox mode.
- Bureaucracy Researched: The game begins with every bureaucracy option already researched.
- Enable Tools and Cheats: Enables the developer tools in the game. See below for more explanation.
Additionally, you are able to select one of six (ten in Psych Ward) different wardens, some of which have special abilities:
- The Warden: No special abilities.
- The Lobbyist: Halves the likelihood of receiving prisoners who are Violent, Lethal, Volatile, Deadly or Fighters.
- Rita: Halves likelihood of prisoners being Stoical or Fearless. Prisoners are suppressed twice as quickly.
- J. W. Periwinkle: Guard Dogs have a 50% chance of fully uncovering any tunnels they detect.
- The Pacifier: Reduces the overall temperature of your prison, making your inmates less likely to cause trouble.
- Saphara Acknova: Gets a small cut of the re-sale value of each piece of contraband found.
The following are the wardens added by the Psych Ward dlc:
- Hawk Hartman: all guards drop staff keys less often, guards stamina replenishes on intake.
- Dr. Slugworth: Psychiatrist treatments are 20% more positive, chances of recieving Psychopatic prisoners is higher.
- Dr. Hudson: Emergency services work 20% faster and arrive earlier, cost of repairs reduced by 10%.
It is also possible to select 'Warden Mode' to allow you to play as the warden on site. This allows you to walk all around your prison and behave like any other character. This may add a bit of extra challenge for players who like to navigate around their prisons easily and quickly. Selecting 'Permadeath' underneath will result in Game Over whenever your warden is killed.
And you can select whether your prison is for male or female prisoners. There are no mixed prisons. Women behave a little different than men, and have some unique needs, which results e.g. in some additional rooms (Family Cell, Nursery).
Finally, you can select several mutators, which are options that change the game's rules. They might slightly or strongly influence the game's balances. They are divided into several categories:
- Extra Challenge
- These mutators will make your life more difficult in a variety of ways. Sometimes significantly so!
- Lightening The Load
- These mutators make your prison easier to manage or reduce the difficulty in some way
- Changing The Rules
- These mutators change some of the basic rules of the game
- Something... different
- This is the weird stuff. They might not make sense, but they will make life more interesting
Some of the options mentioned above (e.g. gangs, events and weather) can be activated during the game if they had not been selected when starting it.
For this, press Esc, go to the "Extras" menu and then to "Map Settings". Be aware that these options can only be enabled and not disabled once they have been activated. If events, gangs and weather are all activated, there will be no "Map Settings" menu displayed at all.
Tools and Cheats
When selecting the "Enable Tools and Cheats" option (which cannot be disabled anymore), you get access to the developer tools. You won't get any Steam Achievements in this mode, and you won't be able to sell your prison.
- All construction occurs immediately(Note that the materials still arrive and will just sit there)
- A new 'Spawn' toolbar button permits instant creation of any game object for zero cost
- Water can be placed like any other material
- Research in the bureaucracy screen can be sped up by holding down the right mouse button on the item
The Function keys now perform debug services, e.g. open the world properties, which gives access to many world parameters, additional overlays, etc. See Controls for more information.
Starting the game
- If you are not starting the game from the menu, but by selling another prison in the Valuation Report, you will start with the sum received from that sale instead of the $30,000.
- If you are playing with unlimited funds, you will start with $30,000 nonetheless. You will, however, be able to spend as much as you like.
Note that with your initial eight workmen (for $100 per day each) and no other expenses, your daily cashflow will be positive in the beginning due to the $2,000 federal fund that you are receiving every day. Due to the corporate taxes of 30%, you will only receive $840 of the $1,200 that you would expect.
You can build any prison you want now, with no specific objectives. Especially if playing without unlimited funds, you should probably accept some grants, though. Those add some goals to achieve during the construction of your prison, and will pay well.