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Chosker

How to escape a prison cell?

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Hey everyone

 

the game I'm currently working on is about escaping a prison, in a low-fantasy medieval-like universe.

 

here's how it looks so far (the HUD is a placeholder, the level's is a WIP and the character still needs a proper prisoner-like hair)

eprison-150x150.jpg

 

if I'm able to complete all the features I want without cutting anything it'll offer one-handed swordfighting, fist fighting, an oblivion/skyrim-like inventory system, a randomly generated dungeon (the prison itself), a stealth factor and suitable AI. As bonus it might also offer an online scoreboard with a ranking based on time to escape, number of guards killed (both for killing much, and for killing little), etc.

 

anyway to make things a little more interesting, lately I've been toying with the idea of including the usually overlooked but apreciated feature of allowing the player to solve a problem in multiple ways.

However the game is still down to escaping a prison, which you can do by force (easier to get killed since there's no health regen) or using stealth (though, get caught and you'll have a horde of guards upon you).

There's also the option of maybe freeing a few prisoners out of their cells (the player character is a POW, so it's not like you'd be freeing criminal scum), and once freed they would pretty much follow you everywhere and help with fighting guards - though coding an AI for friendly followers usually ends up as something clumsy, specially having a stealth factor.

 

And finally, maybe the option of escaping your prison cell in multiple ways, but the problem is how.

My initial idea is that after some time of scratching the walls for loose rocks in the cement, he's able to tear a couple off and eventually build two lockpicks out of grinding them. Of course if you start the game with the lockpicks already at hand there's no need for a different way to escape the cell. If on the other hand I were to include different options that are not too obvious would force the player to think, but then needing a grinding mini-game is just silly, saying he instantly got two lockpicks after scratching the walls sounds silly too, and a black screen with the text 'some days later' just sounds too easy and uninvolving.

I don't want the whole 'escaping' to seem like something very easy to do, after all the jailors are not idiots.

 

so besides my initial idea (which might just be silly itself!), I've thought about the typical 'fake you're super ill, wait for the guard to open the cell and ambush him', but this one seems very instant in nature while choosing to grind stones to build lockpicks seems like a longer-term plan, so it doesn't seem to me that they can fit together as 'decisions'

 

I'm looking for some input here. what other ways can you guys come up to for escaping a prison cell?

and in general, ideas to allow different choices would be good too. and better if they don't require too much extra dev effort smile.png

Edited by Chosker

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One idea I can think of while looking at your screenshot is to allow the prisoner, or player in this case, to blow out the flames of the torches on the wall to darken the room. Once that's done, the player should hide in one of the two corners on either side of the cell so that when a guard walks by and notices the dark cell, he is not able to see the player in the corner to the left/right of the cell door. Upon the clumsy guard opening the door to see what's going on, the player then has the option to attack the guard and make his escape.

 

This would be my best idea of getting out of a cell in midevil times without spending months planning the escape.

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Hm, I think that freeing "criminal scum" would provide much diversity to the game and make the relation in the group of prisoners more tense.

 

What if someone turns on you? Tries to murder you or another prisoner? Is secretly a guard that wants to sabotage your escape? And so on. That way freeing other prisoners won't be always an instant win. It could go well or it could go wrong.

 

As for the escape. I'd say something along the lines of what jay_s said. Maybe someone checks on you every day. The prisoner finds a loose rock in the walls. So when the guy gets inside the cell the prisoner knows him out with the rock (or kills him gruesomely and gets a "What I am doing!?" moment).

 

The guy who checks on the prisoner should be some lackey with maybe a torch and nothing else of value on him, not a guard, otherwise the prisoner could grab their equipment.

 

The prisoner has to move out of the cell fast because the guards will be looking for the guy that got knocked out/killed. So you have your motive to get the player going.

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Perhaps the prisoner could discover a way to communicate with the prisoner in the next cell and through cooperation they could devise an escape plan.  Maybe there is one item in each cell that if used together could allow escape.  For added fun, have communication available on either side but have one npc be "good" and would help the player escape, and the other be "bad" and would leave the player in the dust as soon as he was out himself.  If so leave some subtle hints as to the possibility of nefarious intent.

 

Something else to consider... having multiple ways available to escape the cell makes it possible to fail an attempt in some way.  Like with the above scenario, maybe you give over your half of the escape item to the bad guy and he just screws out of there.  Well that attempt just failed... that shouldn't be game over.  Choosing badly cost you time, but there are other methods available to you.

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Seduce the insane female prisoner in the neighbour cell by taunting her with a cockroach you found crawling on the floor. When she comes to the door( read: bars) segregating your cells and starts screaming, bang her head to the bars and take her hairpin to lockpick the cell door. Unfortunately, the doors are kinda sealed and you can't open them no matter what. Although you can pick the lock to the neighbour cell where you find... (do continue smile.png )

Edited by Mercurialol

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some great input here!

 

ok let me set some extra bases:

as I said, anything that doesn't require too much extra dev effort is more likely to be of use. actively talking with other prisoners would require me to code a dialogue system which I definately don't have time for. for 'other prisoners' to work they'd just act as they would (and maybe emit voice sounds)

 

that said, here we go

 

How about seducing a guard?

Seduce the insane female prisoner in the neighbour cell by taunting her with a cockroach you found crawling on the floor. When she comes to the door( read: bars) segregating your cells and starts screaming, bang her head to the bars and take her hairpin to lockpick the cell door. [...]

well the prisoner is a male and the guards are males. I can't spend extra time to make a female character, female clothes, and female versions of the armors that are/willbe in the game.

plus, using sex to get out of a prison? there can't be a more used cliche smile.png

 

 

How about digging your way out?

Or the classical saw in cake which gets used on the metal bars of the window?

Or the McGyver method of making some kind of explosive device, hiding somewhere and boom?

Or the method from that film where Shawn Connery makes a lasso out of bedlinen to reach that lever to open a whole cell row in alcatraz?

Or the climb on other prisoner to reach high window method from Maniac Mansion?

Or the classical scratch weak part of wall with a spoon method till you get to hidden passage behind the cell?

Or the classical grab little metal piece to use it as lookpick later method?

Or the have huge muscles and just rip apart your handcuffs and attack the guard Rambo method?

Or the let Zak wait till the dumb-o-nator sucked out all his knowledge and the aliens let him free cause he forgot everything method?unsure.png

you have no visitors, explosives don't even exist, and you're not handcuffed but there's a door instead. and you're stripped of everything (no metal pieces available - yet the idea of fabricating a lockpick is what I already have)

the cell has no levers (it's a medieval cell - works with a key). and it doesn't have hidden passages or windows either, it's a prison that's deep underground.

I know it might sound like I'm forcing things here and reducing the options, but for me a lack of common sense breaks immersion. and who'd ever build an underground prison with a secret passage / vent pipeline / etc?

the emperor passageway in Oblivion? too much of a coincidence if you ask me. oh and you're then set free as you almost prevented the murder of the emperor who dreamed of you, and they don't even consider why you were in prison in the first place. yeah, no.

 

 

 

 

One idea I can think of while looking at your screenshot is to allow the prisoner, or player in this case, to blow out the flames of the torches on the wall to darken the room. Once that's done, the player should hide in one of the two corners on either side of the cell so that when a guard walks by and notices the dark cell, he is not able to see the player in the corner to the left/right of the cell door. Upon the clumsy guard opening the door to see what's going on, the player then has the option to attack the guard and make his escape.

 

This would be my best idea of getting out of a cell in midevil times without spending months planning the escape.

this sounds similar to my 'i feel sick, come look at me' idea, though this one is much better!

 

 

Hm, I think that freeing "criminal scum" would provide much diversity to the game and make the relation in the group of prisoners more tense.

 

What if someone turns on you? Tries to murder you or another prisoner? Is secretly a guard that wants to sabotage your escape? And so on. That way freeing other prisoners won't be always an instant win. It could go well or it could go wrong.

 

As for the escape. I'd say something along the lines of what jay_s said. Maybe someone checks on you every day. The prisoner finds a loose rock in the walls. So when the guy gets inside the cell the prisoner knows him out with the rock (or kills him gruesomely and gets a "What I am doing!?" moment).

 

The guy who checks on the prisoner should be some lackey with maybe a torch and nothing else of value on him, not a guard, otherwise the prisoner could grab their equipment.

 

The prisoner has to move out of the cell fast because the guards will be looking for the guy that got knocked out/killed. So you have your motive to get the player going.

untrustworthy prisoners, that's quite interesting. i'll keep it in mind and if coding a decent friendly AI doesn't prove too much of a hassle I'll put it in.

 

well the thing about long-term plans is it conflicts with the pace of the game. I didn't explain this thoroughly at first, but the game is really more of an action game and most of it should take place when you're already out of your cell.

also part of the idea is that when you kill any guard you're able to loot him and use his equipment, you'll now be armed with a sword and wear some armor (this is already implemented in the game) - so killing a guard instead of a lackey is no problem.

a "what am I doing?" moment wouldn't fit though, the prisoner is a soldier made POW and you're expected to kill lots of guards on your way out anyway.

 

 

Perhaps the prisoner could discover a way to communicate with the prisoner in the next cell and through cooperation they could devise an escape plan.  Maybe there is one item in each cell that if used together could allow escape.  For added fun, have communication available on either side but have one npc be "good" and would help the player escape, and the other be "bad" and would leave the player in the dust as soon as he was out himself.  If so leave some subtle hints as to the possibility of nefarious intent.

 

Something else to consider... having multiple ways available to escape the cell makes it possible to fail an attempt in some way.  Like with the above scenario, maybe you give over your half of the escape item to the bad guy and he just screws out of there.  Well that attempt just failed... that shouldn't be game over.  Choosing badly cost you time, but there are other methods available to you.

both interesting ideas.

I might be able to get away with "prisoner co-op" without coding a dialogue system. the problem is really devising the "escape plan" which is the big point in this thread after all. remember the escape plan is really just how to escape the prison cell and not the whole prison (you were taken in blindfolded, which explains why you have no notion of the prison at all - something needed because the prison is randomly generated)

and if you're left out in your cell and eventually escape, it might be interesting to find the guy and take revenge or even find him already dead.

to make it more interesting and add replay value I could just make it one co-op prisoner, and the scenario of him helping you or screwing you would change randomly when a new game starts.

 

also having the possibility of failing in your attempt sounds great! and for added fun I could code it in such a way that every time you start a new game the options as to which ones will fail will be shuffled!

 

 

 

ok I'm adding some of your suggestions and some new of my own. 

 

you start in your prison cell and you can do one of the following:

- "use" a spot in the wall to take a couple of loose rocks, the screen goes black for a second and now you have a lockpick and can open the cell door (sounds too easy!)

- blow the torch to call the attention of the guard/lackey/physician so he enters the cell to check in on you (ok but how do you blow it off?)

- use help from the neighbor prisoner, who after escaping can either help you back or leave you to rot (ok but how does he actually open the prison cell?)

- take a hay stick off your haystack bed, set it on fire bringing it near the torch and throw it back to the haystack to call the attention of the guard/lackey/physician so he enters the cell to check in on you

- just wait some game time for the guard/lackey/physician to enter the cell to check in on you

 

half of these options can be used for a successful escape and the other half will fail, which will be shuffled randomly by the game code when the game starts.

 

for any of the options above you can either do one of the following two options:

- carve/take a loose rock out of the wall and use as weapon (gotta make it in some way that it doesn't conflict with the 'loose rocks lockpick' option)

- just use your fists to fight

 

after that the next situation happens as one of the following two options:

- if you walk cautiously you see the guard sleeping and you can easily kill him (neck-breaking cutscene!)
- else he just hears you, sees you and tries to stop/kill you

 

and then all of the following:

- you can loot the first guard you kill and use his equipment - though wearing his armor and boots will make you make more noise, bad idea if you're going stealth

- you can decide to free some prisoners (up to 3) from that group of cells, which you now have the keys for. you can free an annoying idiot that will make the game overall harder, a useful partner, or a bastard that will try to turn you in in hopes of making terms with justice - you can choose which one to free but you will of course not know who is who - or you can free them all and break havoc

- try find a way out, either by force or by stealth

 

 

I'm still afraid the difference between the short-term and long-term nature of some of the escaping plans just feels weird

otherwise, keep em coming!

Edited by Chosker

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For this the best thing to to is watch films and TV shows and try to get some inspiration. There are lots of films and TV shows on breaking out of prison. Either find a way someone does it and use it or edit it and make it your own.

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The first objective you need to determine is this.

 

Is the only way out of the cell through the gate/door?

If it is not then what other aspects are you going to make available...for example a small open sewer pipe used for toiletries, or the ability to bend bars or carve holes through the rock.

 

The simplest form of escape has always been through the door -- it is an obvious hole in an otherwise sealed environment.

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The second objective you need to determine is how much you are able to interact with the environment outside of your cell i.e. can you reach outside the bars, can you throw things very far outside of your celll.

 

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The third objective you need to determine is what assets do I have at hand this can include bedding i.e. sheets to be torn to make ropes or lassoos, your own clothes for that matter, what type of bedding do you have, what type of lighting do you have is it a flame as in you have the tool for fire, is it electicity i.e. you can electrify the door at the right moment. What types of insects are in the cell...for example if you pull all the legs off one side of a cockroach they will always hugh the wall on the legless side and can drag a thread behind them i.e. you now have a physical contact with the guy next door. Are the sewer pipes open in which case can you talk to others through the pipes. this particular list is limited only to how well you can utilise the elements within your environment.

 

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The fourth objective is determing the guards patterns and what procedures they do in sudden events. For example the guy in the cell next door dies...what happens...can you recreate it yourself and take advantage or will you lassoo the guard as he/she walks past drag them to the bars and in reach of you. This can include talking to them which might elicit further information that can aid you such as the fact that a second guard waits outside the door.

 

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Achieve the above objectives and you can make a plan that will work....unless of course you just suck at making plans :P

 

 

 

Hope this helps :)

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