The Perfect Ten: MMO prisons

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|02.09.12

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The Perfect Ten: MMO prisons
Perfect Ten Prisons
Chillin' in the clink. Spending time in stoney lonesome. Thrown into the slammer. Checking in to the big house. Doing (perfect) 10 to life in the hole. Learning the ropes in juvie.

Prison: The only fun thing about it is the slang that people have come up to describe it. And while you may never actually want to spend any time in the crowbar hotel in real life, chances are you've already done so in MMOs. Jails are an ever-popular locale in online gaming, and they almost always deal with an epidemic of escaped -- yet still milling around casually -- prisoners.

So in today's Perfect Ten, we talked to the warden and got you a special glimpse into pixelated pokeys, if only to scare you straight. No more exploits and bots for you, young man or woman!

1. City of Heroes -- The Ziggurat

The poor souls who move into City of Heroes' Brickstown quickly learn the reason why real estate was so cheap: A giant pyramid looms over the neighborhood. "Gee, what's that?" the Joneses ask the grizzled old shopkeep, hoping against hope that he'll tell them it's a quaint tourist attraction or a super-sized IKEA.

"Max-level security prison, eh?" Mr. Jones says slowly as the words turn to ashes in his mouth. "Constant breakouts, eh? Only a little strip of water between us and nuclear-powered heroes, eh? Come along, dear. We're staying at your mother's."

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic -- Belsavis

All I'm saying is that if I had to spend time in one MMO prison, I'm all for a hyperjump to SWTOR's Belsavis. Honestly, it's one of the most beautiful prisons I've ever seen, with majestic glaciers, tropical springs, and fun-loving robot pals to nickname and join on crazy adventures. Plus, where else in the galaxy would you be able to ski in your shorts?

In all seriousness, I find the concept of Belsavis -- a mostly outdoor prison planet -- to be a captivating (har) setting for the game, even though it looks like it's doing a really terrible job keeping murderous inmates in line.

3. World of Warcraft -- The Stockades

The Stockades is the reason I can't take the Alliance in World of Warcraft seriously. I mean, right there in the heart of one of your capital cities is a prison that not only has been in a perpetual state of break-out since 2004 but is only populated by level 25s while nearby guards are triple that. The only explanation I can figure is that the Stockades are actually one of those Stanford experiments, with teams of psychologists hiding in the walls and taking studious notes while the inmates form a new society free from the rule of law.

Arkham Asylum
4. DC Universe Online -- Arkham Asylum

Arkham's always been an epicenter of fan interest in the Batman franchise. Why wouldn't it be? You got a haunted house, a prison, an insane asylum, and dozens of the most notorious criminal super-villains mashed up together in one crazy ball of awesome. It's such a popular place to visit that I hear Starbucks is thinking of setting up a kiosk to cash in on the foot traffic.

Arkham Asylum gets bonus points on my made-up scale for having not only rebellious inmates but guards and head shrinks who are just as prone to corruption and evil intent.

Kingman Prison
5. Fallen Earth -- Kingman Prison

Unlike cute little MMO "jails" characterized by a couple of pseudo-Halloween-themed rooms and a discarded pair of shackles, Kingman Prison feels like the real deal from top to bottom. The walls are dingy, the atmosphere is bleak and oppressive, and to make matters worse, there are piles of dead bodies and ravenous mutants lurking where you least suspect them.

It's such a big and terrifying place that many a group have entered only to vanish completely except for a distant scream or two.

Iron Tower
6. Age of Conan -- The Iron Tower

Is there anything Conan can't do? When not busy with muscle-toning, pillaging, and subjugating of anything in his eyeline, apparently Conan is an architect with a penchant for building jails. Hey, even kings need hobbies, mkay? And instead of burying this eighth wonder of the world underground, Conan decided to make a... statement about virility and personal compensation for weaknesses.

So yes, the worst fate for criminals is to be sent to live in a giant representation of Conan's lil' barbarian. Many have begged for death instead.

Yew Prison
7. Ultima Online -- Yew Prison

I'm always fascinated with just how many prisons have not-so-secret passages at the bottom of them that lead, well, out of the prison. You'd think that if you, Joe Schmoe Adventurer, knows of said passage, then all of the current occupants would have figured out long ago to perform wacky Hogan's Heroes hijinks on the guards. And hey, maybe they do.

What goes on in Yew Prison certainly doesn't stay in Yew Prison, in any case, as a basement passage leads to the lighthouse in the Lost Lands. Make sure you turn left at the T-Mobile stand, not right, or else you'll get lost and have no cell service.

Stronghold Prison
8. Champions Online -- Stronghold Prison

It doesn't speak well for superhero smarts that every comic book MMO seems to feature completely non-functional prisons. Seriously, people, it's just time we voted for capital punishment when it comes to villains with doomsday devices. Rehabilitation only works until the first time he, she, or it gets a shoulder shove from a passing pedestrian, and then it's all death rays and mechano-squids from here until Tuesday.

Stronghold Prison? A more ironic name couldn't have been devised. Might as well just ask the mad scientists and irradiated fishmen to stay in a Hilton on the honor system for all the good our tax dollars did building that place.

Vault of Night 2
9. Dungeons and Dragons Online -- Prison of the Mind (aka The Prisoner)

I think this is probably the most interesting MMO prison I've encountered because it's made not of brick and stone but of mental traps and labyrinthine brain mazes. Both the prison and the prisoner are Mistress Orphne, a poor lady who was poisoned and is now trapped in her own mind. Only by voluntarily going into her lockup to find four missing possessions will players be able to free her from this solitary confinement.

Brought to you by Allstate. Your noggin is in good hands with Allstate.

GM jail
10. Various MMOs -- GM Jail

I'm going to end this list with one MMO prison you honestly never, ever want to see, and that's GM jail. Various MMOs have had, at one time or another, a special location -- usually an empty, inescapable room -- where GMs can yank naughty players for a "time out."

I haven't heard of more modern MMOs sporting GM jails, although EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XI have had them. Rumor is that some players still languish in those walls, their skeletons collecting dust due to their heinous crimes.

Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
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