User Interface

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The user interface is what the player uses to directly control the game. The player can interact with most elements on the user interface by left clicking on a menu button with the mouse. However, not all elements are clickable and will instead provide useful information to the player during gameplay. In Prison Architect, the user interface comprises a menu with several options and settings, a horizontal bottom bar that contains the many elements the player can use in the game, a horizontal top bar that contains useful information for the player, a clock for time, a sticky note that lists objectives on the upper-left corner of the screen, and other UI elements that will be mentioned in this article.


In Alpha 18, the user interface can be scaled by the player using the PLUS and MINUS keys on the keyboard. Scaling affects both horizontal bars, the sticky note, the clock, and most in-game text. Scaling will not go forever as there is a limit to how large or small the UI elements can get. This is useful to players running the game with a low resolution because they can now lower the size of the UI to fit their screens.

Main Menu

Main menu.png

The main menu is what controls the game by allowing the player to:

  • Change the graphical and audio settings for the game.
  • Enable or disable modifications.
  • View the current update news.
  • Record and stop a time lapse video.
  • Share their prison on the Steam Workshop.
  • Save and load previous games.
  • Quit the game.

Top Info Bar

The top info bar contains useful information that the player can use to quickly gauge the overall status of their prison. The image below was taken during Alpha 18, and has been modified for use on this article.

Top info bar.png

1. Danger Meter

For more information, see Danger.

The danger meter serves the player by alerting them whenever prisoners are angry or upset about the way things are being handled in the prison. It will accumulate exclamation points as more prisoners become angry, and in most cases a Riot will occur if the meter gets filled. Hovering the mouse over the danger meter will show the player all of the positive and negative events affecting the prisoners. For example, having your prisoners well-fed will result in a positive event and will decrease your danger levels. However, having Riot Guards in your prison will result in a negative event and will increase your danger levels. Prisoners who are suppressed will also appear here as a neutral event.

2. Day Counter

The day counter is just that, a day counter. For every 24 in-game hours that pass, or once the clock hits 12:00AM, a new day will be counted.

3. Balance

The balance shows the player how much money they can immediately spend in-game. Money is spent on hiring Staff members, constructing Materials, placing Foundations, ordering Objects to be placed, and more. Money is primarily earned through the federal grant that is given to you everyday based on how many Prisoners you have in your prison, and their risk level. However, money can also be earned through Grants, prisoners working in the Workshop, and more.

Clicking on it opens the Grants Report Menu.

4. Income / Debt

This serves the player by showing them how financially stable their prison is. If the numbers are green, then you are in the positives and will receive that amount of money on the start of the next day. However, if they are red then you will lose the amount it displays from your balance. Keep in mind, without an Accountant you will not be allowed to enter the negatives and won't be able to purchase anything.

Clicking on it opens the Finance Report Menu.

5. Available / Total Guards

This counter shows the player how many Guards they have available, and how many guards they have in total. Guards become unavailable primarily when they are on Patrols or stationed in a room. However, guards can also go unavailable when they are escorting prisoners to their Cells, are in the middle of searching a prisoner for Contraband, or are unconscious.

Clicking on it opens the Staff Report Menu.

6. Total Prisoners / Maximum Capacity

This counter shows the player how many Prisoners they are currently responsible for, and how many prisoners can be safely held within the prison. If these numbers go red, then that means you have exceeded the safe capacity and should start building more Cells to hold more prisoners. However, the player can continue to receive prisoners even after the safe capacity is reached.

Clicking on it opens the Prisoners Report Menu.

7. Installed / Monitored CCTV Cameras

This counter shows the player how many CCTV cameras they have installed, and how many are being monitored by a Guard. The maximum number of cameras that can be monitored is increased by installing more CCTV Monitors and stationing a guard to watch them. If these numbers go red, then that means you need to station a guard within the CCTV monitor's grid, or you need more CCTV monitors.

Bottom Menu Bar

The bottom menu bar contains buttons that the player can interact with by left clicking with the mouse. Most of these buttons open up smaller menus with other items that can be used to directly influence gameplay. The image below was taken during Alpha 18, and has been modified for use on this article.

Bottom menu bar.png

1. Menu Buttons

Some of these buttons will be unavailable at the start of a new prison and may require you to research them first.


For more information, see Foundation.

Clicking on this opens a small menu which contains a tool for building foundations, and a tool for removing foundations. Foundations are essential for Rooms that require to be indoors. This is the only way to create a structure with a roof.


For more information, see Material.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains the various placeable materials that the player can use which include walls and floor tiles. Not all materials found in the game will be included in this menu, like Water.


For more information, see Room.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains the various room types that the player can designate throughout their prison.


For more information, see Object.

Clicking on this opens a large menu which contains the various placeable objects that the player can use to furnish their prison with. Not all objects found in the game will be included in this menu, like those seen in the Deathrow campaign. Many objects found in this menu will only appear to the player when they are zoomed into an appropriate room that has an object requirement. To force all of the objects to show, the player must click on the + icon located on the bottom-right corner of the objects menu.


For more information, see Staff.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains all hireable staff members that can work in your prison. Both administrators and personnel will be shown here with the exception of the Teacher.


For more information, see Utilities.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains both electrical and plumbing items which can be used to provide power and water to your prison. This will also switch the player's view into the utilities view which shows all installed wiring and piping.


For more information, see Bureaucracy.

Clicking on this will switch the player's view into the upgrade tree view. Through here, the player is able to research new rooms, staff, objects, and other functions for their prison. This requires you to hire a Warden before it can be used.


For more information, see Deployment and Sector.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains tools that allow the player to station and set the patrols for Guards, Armed Guards, and Dog Handlers. Secondly, the menu contains the different sector security levels that the player can set for different rooms and facilities. Thirdly, the menu allows the player to set the amount of available jobs that a room has. For example, if the player wants to make ten available jobs in the Workshop then they must click on the "Jobs" button from within this menu, and click on the workshop ten times. Keep in mind, that the workshop must be large enough to accommodate ten jobs. Finally, this will also switch the player's view into the deployment view which shows all current patrol paths and stationed guards. This requires you to research deployment before it can be used.


For more information, see Contraband.

Clicking on this opens a menu which contains tools that allow the player to determine which rooms are most prone to contraband being stolen. This will also switch the player's view into the contraband overlay view which shows the player all possible locations where contraband can be stolen, and the paths of each piece of stolen and found contraband. This requires you to research contraband before it can be used.


For more information, see Emergency.

Clicking on this opens a small menu which contains the emergency units that can be called by the player during emergency events. It includes the Riot Guards, the Firemen, and the Paramedics.


Clicking on this sets the player into cloning mode which gives them the ability to right-click and drag a small 6x6 area of their prison to copy. Once done, the player can left-click a new area to paste whatever they cloned. The copy stays in memory until something else is cloned, which allows for quickly building multiple cells at a time. The cloning tool will copy Objects, Materials, and Rooms. This requires you to research clone before it can be used.


For more information, see Planning.

Clicking on this opens a small menu which contains tools that allow the player to set transparent walls, paths, and blocks that help with planning a new prison.

2. Emergency Action Buttons

Emergency actions are controlled by the player and can be toggled on or off at any time.

Weapons Free

For more information, see Weapons Free.

Causes all Armed Guards to immediately equip their shotguns. This also commands the armed guards to only use the shotgun and not their tazers, or fists.


For more information, see Shakedown.

Causes an immediate search for Contraband to occur in every Cell that is occupied by a Prisoner, including the Holding Cell. All available Guards will be told to perform the searches.


For more information, see Lockdown.

Causes all doors currently installed in your prison to immediately close and lock. No one other than Guards are allowed to pass through, but the player must manually move them in order to open the doors.


For more information, see Bangup.

Forces all willing prisoners to return to their Cell and stay there until the player turns off the bangup. Unwilling prisoners will face your prison security.

3. Reports Button

For more information, see Reports.

The reports button opens up another part of the user interface that contains even more detailed information about your prison, and the prisoners within it's walls. Such information includes your financial status, how many prisoners you have in each security level, the current progress of your Programs, the Needs of your prisoners, and more.

The Clock


The clock is the next essential part of the user interface because it directly tells you what time of day you're at, and what is currently scheduled to happen on the Regime. The clock's speed can also be adjusted by the player to stop, go at normal speed, two times the normal speed, or three times the normal speed. The clock's speed will also be adjusted depending on the starting size of the prison. Starting a prison on the small map size results in a faster clock, while the large map size results in a slower clock.

If the player clicks on the scheduled regime event, it will open the Regime Report Menu.

To-do List

Todo list update.png
For more information, see Todo list.

The to-do list is also essential in that it keeps track of nearly everything that goes on in your prison. The to-do list will always display the CEO's letter on the top whenever you start a new prison, or load an existing prison. It will also display the following pieces of information during normal gameplay:

  • Any Grants that you have started, and the objectives required to complete the grant. This will also show how much money will be awarded upon completion.
  • An incident report that tells the player how many prisoners are in Solitary confinement, and are awaiting solitary confinement.
  • The details for your next prisoner intake. This will show how much time is left until your next prisoners arrive, and what security level they will be.
  • A list of prisoners that are due for release soon. Each prisoner will display, in hours, how much time they have left. Only prisoners who have a few hours left will be shown here.
  • How many visitor groups are currently on site. It displays the time visitation begins and ends.
  • Any exhausted staff members that need rest, or are already resting in a Staff Room.
  • How many prisoners are hungry and how many are fed. Hungry prisoners will display as red bars, while fed prisoners display as green bars. Meals will display how much food has been made.

Entity Options

Entity options.png

The entity options is the final most important part of the user interface as it allows players to directly interact with the Objects and Staff members that are in their prison, among other things. This interface only appears to the player when an entity is clicked on, and if the entity can be changed by the player. The two most common options that players can choose from is to dismantle, dump, or sack the entity.

  • Dismantle only applies to objects and it calls for a nearby Workman to remove and store the object in the Storage room.
  • Dump only applies to objects and it calls for a nearby workman to instantly trash the object.
  • Sack only applies to staff members, and it instantly fires them from your prison.
  • SwitchOn and SwitchOff only applies to electrical objects, Power Switches, Power Stations, Capacitors, and Pipe Valves. It prevents power or water from flowing into the targeted object.