Escape Rooms and Gaming – Themes and Development
Hey, look at that. You came back to read more! Or maybe you are just visiting for the first time. If you are new to the blog, you can see the previous version to the right of this article or just dive right in here. In my first post, I covered how I feel the gaming industry and escape rooms are similar, and today I will elaborate a bit on the similarities of developing them.
Having been in the gaming industry for many years, I have a good sense of how games are developed. First off, every game must have a pitch. This isn’t a baseball kind of swinging pitch but a sales pitch as to what the game is trying to accomplish in terms of marketing and sales. I don’t know about you, but I never thought a game about flying birds into objects was a good sell, but it turned out to be phenomenal. The pitch for the game though is what made it possible, if you have a bad pitch your game isn’t going anywhere. So somebody made a great sales pitch to get the game produced.
An escape room is similar in that you need a good opening story. This is your chance to set the theme of the room be and where is it going in terms of development. At this one moment, you have the chance to impress upon the consumers not only what the game is about, but also what they are trying to accomplish. There are tons of murder mysteries, Egyptian themes, and alien/space themed rooms, so if you are doing one of those themes your pitch must be even better than average, because of market saturation.
Once your pitch has been approved, the next step is to conceptualize the idea and make it workable. This part can go through many iterations until you have a design that you think is worthy. Escape Rooms and games go through so many designs in this stage because many ideas that started in the concept phase don’t make it to the floor for a variety of reasons, but great designers keep anything that doesn’t work for future projects.
From the concept phase, our games and rooms lead directly into design. These two phases work closely together with a lot of overlapping ideas. Not only do they overlap, they bounce back and forth as you may be designing this great puzzle that was brought out in concept, but you see the chance to make something else cool so you are forced to kick it back to concept for a design that fits the theme. Games do this was well but some games don’t even start ironing out those issues until they get to prototype.
Now we are talking! We have an actual game or escape room in our hands ready to play! ...Wait, we can’t play it now? Why not?
You see a prototype is there so we can get the final product ready for testing. The prototype for a game may not even be close to a final product. This is similar to the escape industry as many puzzles and props are built outside of the room to see what they can handle before making it into the room. Prototypes are run over to see if they will stand up to the test of time and fun. In both industries, not only must the pieces of the game be enjoyable but it also should provide lasting enjoyment.
Now that your prototype has passed all tests, you are ready to implement the final product. This step has a lot of details as you will be adding graphics, art, sounds, and anything else that needs to be in place for the release. For escape rooms, you will be making the puzzles, adding props, and getting the room ready for testing. I will say even in this stage of both industries there is still some back and forth with design and concept. The game must progress in terms of gameplay lines the same way a room must progress linearly.
For instance, if your game has significant graphical flaws or story issues, the game won’t progress in a way that will make it enjoyable. The same can be said for escape rooms. Not only must they be enjoyable, the stories need to make sense and move the consumer through until they reach the end. In games, this progression can be done in chapters, save points, levels, transitions, and much more. From there the interactions must be tested versus previous versions of the game or system.
Though it may seem a bit easier as escape rooms usually follow a linear or nonlinear path, it turns out testing can be quite tough. Anytime you design a puzzle it will always be based on your perspective. If your mind is more geometry based then your puzzle may seem easy to you, but it turns complex to others who don’t share the same mindset. Then by the time you add props and themed puzzles to the room, you could have a taken a simple puzzle and made it nearly impossible to understand or decode. You must remain mindful of not only puzzles you have used but what other companies have used in their rooms as well.
This gets even more abstract when you use nonlinear progression lines. In the end, you almost always have only one way out so sooner or later those lines converge, but a great room may have 3 or more lines going at one time to captivate more people. This isn’t to say great rooms can’t be linear, in fact there are many rooms that are, but you are open to more possibilities when you use non-linear progression. In the same sense though a nonlinear room may have too much going on and it’s easy to lose the audience. You need to be very careful with puzzles in these types of rooms because of how much is going on at the same time.
Well that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed our next phase in the blog and I would love to hear some feedback on what you think are the important phases of developing a game or room. I will be back next week for some more, but also have a question. Would you like to see a podcast or Vlog of these articles? I have been in talks with some friends but would love feedback before moving forward. So hit the comments and until next time keep solving the puzzles.
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