UPDATE #2 9TH MARCH: Introversion's chief game maker Chris Delay has told Eurogamer he was "astonished" it took the community so long to find 3D mode, because it had been in the game since version 1.0 arrived in October. He thought it would be discovered in days, he said.
3D mode was an experimental visualisation being worked on in alpha but never reached a high enough standard to be properly included, though it was never quite excluded either.
It's not meant to replace the top-down 2D view, he said, which he believes works much better anyway, but now that 3D mode has been found it may be improved a bit.
Here's what he said:
Hey Rob! We are astonished it took this long for the secret to be found! 3D mode has been present in the public version of PA since v1.0, so that's October 2015 - almost six months. We actually believed it would be discovered in days initially.
I believe the very first person to discover it and actually post something public was Rico on the Steam forums. But the video that made the feature widely known about was definitely by TheLogicalLowdown (below) which came a couple of days later.
We first worked on 3D mode during the alpha, as an experimental visualisation. It was basically a massive engine hack that gave a fascinating alternative view on your prison - literally looking at it from a new angle. We never managed to bring it up to a decent quality sufficient to actually say, 'This is now an official feature,' but we did think it was very cool, hence hiding it as an Easter egg for people to discover.
Why let such an awesome, albeit completely unfinished feature, go to waste? Seeing people's reactions on YouTube totally makes it worth it - people just can't believe it's real.
As for possible futures for PA: we see this as a fascinating and experimental feature that gives a nice visualisation of your prison, but we don't see it replacing the main game view. The standard of 3D rendering is obviously pretty basic, and we'd have to invest a great deal of time to bring it up to scratch, and I actually think PA plays better on a 2D grid anyway. That said, we will probably do some improvements to 3D mode now that it's been discovered."
UPDATE 8TH MARCH 10AM GMT : Five months it's apparently taken the community to discover 3D mode! That's according to Prison Architect developer Gary Chambers, who replied to our Tweet about this story, this morning.
ORIGINAL STORY 8TH MARCH 9.30AM GMT: One budding builder has made a startling discovery in Prison Architect and found a hidden 3D mode in the game. It, as you might expect, turns the top-down world 3D, allowing you to zoom right down into the corridors as if you were standing next to the, um, hovering, triangular guards.
The option-box you check to turn 3D view on is nearly invisible. It's in the Extras menu pushed up against the bottom left corner, totally out of alignment with the rest of the options on the page. A faded grey outline frames the box but blends with other grey marks and is only really noticeable when hovering over it, which darkens the outline slightly and suggests you can interact with it - which of course you can.
3D view takes a while to load, perhaps understandably for larger prisons, so give it a minute. When it does, you're free to play from your new perspective, although not everything is correctly modelled for the view. Beds and pool tables remain 2D images, for example, and shower heads, although 3D, are fixed to the floor.
What does it all mean? Is this a sign of things to come, or remnant development code hidden as an Easter egg? I've asked developer Introversion for a bit of clarification and will let you know if I get any.