Escape Room Design with Craig Bednar - The Raccoopod Episode 6

The Raccoopod Podcast

Transcript

On this episode of the Raccoopod we break down escape room design.  What are some unique design considerations and how the design process works for designing an escape room

Zach Bearinger:

Welcome to the Raccoopod. On today’s episode, we’re talking with Craig Bednar about escape room design. Escape Rooms have a bunch of really interesting constraints. And we’ll be talking with Craig, as he goes through how to design an entire escape room, as well as what those specific constraints are. Let’s hop right into the episode. Hello, Craig, thanks for joining us. Why don’t you give yourself a little introduction to our audience?

Craig Bednar:

Sure. So my name is Craig Bednar. I’ve been involved in game design and other kinds of design for a few years now. I think I’ve been trying to design board games since I started playing them. But yeah, when I moved to Vancouver, five years ago, I ended up getting a job working in Escape Room, partly because I was already into board game design, part of a paranormal podcast called wrestling with the paranormal. I think it’s a little bit about myself.

ZB:

Cool. So you’re here to talk about, you know, designing escape rooms, and kind of everything that goes into that. And, yeah, so first, let’s start if people don’t know what an escape room is, what are they? And why do people do them?

CB:

So escape room, I mean, there’s a few different kinds, I think the most general kind is, there’s a little bit of a story. So some kind of theme to hold it together, like a zombie apocalypse, or there’s a virus in a lab or something like that. And then it’ll usually be a series of rooms, and you will be progressing through a series of puzzles. And then a puzzle could be like a word puzzle or math puzzle or something you have to find puzzles usually end up giving you a code to open a box. And then inside the box, there would be new items and new puzzles and things that you need to collect. And they need to like, you know, gain more information and move forward, eventually, you’re going to get through a door into another room. Finally, you’ll either achieve victory, which would be escaping the room itself, maybe there’s a final door, you have to get through and escape. And then when or you just solve some kind of final puzzle, maybe you had to defuse a bomb, or you had to, you know, make create a cure to a virus, something like that, which would then achieve your victory. Usually, their time to actually I think every escape room I ever seen has been timed, players would pay for one game session. And if the time runs out, they would lose. I think every game I also played included hints or clues. So you could call the employees either on a walkie talkie to the escape room. Where I worked we would actually have an intercom on the wall, and we would come into the room and give you the clue. And then that would help you move the game forward. But those clues will be limited. So there’s a bit of a game there thinking like, you know, when do I use my clues? Is this puzzle really stumping us? Should we save them for the end for when the puzzles are going to get harder? lots to think about when you’re doing an escape room, and also like something to do in the group, usually like two to six, three to 10 people in a group.

ZB:

If I remember correctly, a lot of them, they’ll have a leaderboard of the best times and you can’t get on the leaderboard if you use clues. Right?

CB:

That’s yeah, that’s true. So there’s a couple ways of doing it, there were points. And if you use the clue, it would lose you a certain amount of points. So to get a leaderboard, you need to have a really good time. And if you didn’t lose any clues, it would be even better because you’d get even more points. Or yeah, like you said, if you use clues at all, you just pull it up from the leaderboard, the leaderboard has gone through the game with no clues. And that kind of gives like, you know, people are competitive and it kind of gives you something to shoot for. And you kind of make you feel like you’re part of a community as well. Like, you know, your community’s playing this game in your city and it’s like, Oh, give me these guys.

ZB:

You’ve kind of cool someone set up a cross like leaderboard across all the different board games, not board game escape room places.

CB:

Yeah, we were actually going with an idea. It would be independent of where we were working. But we’re thinking of an internet kind of database, almost like there’s one for bicyclists, and it’s routes that you can bicycle, and it would show you how long the average person took. But then people would also post like, Oh, I did this row in this amount of time. And it was like a database online. And we were looking at that book that’d be interesting to implement, either nationally, or even internationally. It was like, Oh, this escape room database, right? We never really got it off the ground. Yeah.

ZB:

All right. We got a little talk about escape rooms and reminiscing about being in person with our friends and exploring these. So a lot of people use Escape Rooms as a team building exercise. What do you think makes them effective at that?

CB:

Yeah, so I worked for years, and I got to see a lot of companies come in. I think it’s really effective because when you’re in a high pressure situation, and it’s a game so it’s not like you know, it’s not very dire, but you know, there’s an applied pressure with the timer. I think it really shows people how to make decisions on the fly. Often what we would see in a room is people all of a sudden chunking the tasks like hey, you should search around the room while I look at this puzzle. For, you know, we even saw teams and this was pretty high level quickly deciding at the beginning of like, okay, who’s gonna be the leader? Okay, you’re the leader. That way if there is any dispute that person just has say in like which way to go? Because sometimes people would argue about something that’s almost arbitrary and waste time doing that, right? Like, we all know, democracy takes a lot of time. So like, what different voting systems work, if you just pick a leader to start doing it, if anything comes down to meeting decision making, then it’s just you, and now faster then. And those kind of dynamics, those kind of group dynamics really helped build people’s like team skills, right? Like it really can get people into the mode of understanding what it is to be a leader like to take on a leadership role and other people’s tasks or also to like, just be someone who’s gonna follow somebody else’s decisions right, then, which is really important at the workspace. So I think that’s part of why they get touted as team building exercises.

ZB:

I also feel like there’s an element of trust building as well. Because while you might want to micromanage everything in the escape room, one person probably can’t finish an escape room by themselves within an hour, they need to rely on their teammates and whoever’s participating with them to be able to finish through all the puzzles, right?

CB:

Absolutely. And like I mentioned before, like chunking time is a really high level, like we saw teams who would just they’re like, famous in the city of just destroying games, that they would just oh, we beat all the games at this establishment, we beat all the games here, reviewed all the games here and like, you know, and then they come over here, and when you watch them on the camera, and if you listen at the door, that you can really hear them, like making decisions like okay, we’re only gonna spend five minutes on this puzzle. And if you don’t get it, we’re gonna call for him, like, you know, they make those predetermined decisions to like, really move them forward, because they know like, we can only spend so much time doing so many things. Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting that people would spend time getting good at something like escape rooms, right? Like, they’re like to gain skills and like, figure it out. But I also saw certain types of institutions being really good at games. And sometimes it was surprising. Like, we had a team that were basketball players, and they’re all on the same basketball team. They were amazing. They were so good. And I think it’s because their team dynamics were already established on the court. Right? So they already practiced together, they already kind of flew.

ZB:

Yeah, they had a pre-existing, like constant cooperation, because it’s different than going with your coworkers where yeah, you work with them, but you’re not necessarily interacting second, a second.

CB:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

ZB:

Like, it’s like, Oh, we have a meeting once a week. And that’s how we’re coworkers. We’ll work through things then. So let’s start getting into the design aspect. You know, how do you design a room? Do you start with a theme or story? Do you start with some puzzles? What constraints? Do you always have to keep in mind when designing these? That’s a lot of questions. Let’s just go with how you go about designing one? Right? So start?

CB:

Yeah, I think the first thing I say is, you’re never designing, you know, vacuum. And what I mean by that is you’re constrained by your physical space, that’s probably the first constraint that you really need to take into account, I was given the lead design on a room, I already knew, like, these are the three rooms that this escape room can take place in, these are the dimensions of the room, you know, these are where the plugins are like plugs like all those things, like the physical reality of where you’re gonna situate this game, you know, these are the doors that I have to work with, because we can’t afford to, like completely change the doors, right? That’s probably number one. 

Number two is probably player count is actually super important for the business of the escape room, because you’re fitting the game with other games. I mean, unless you’re running a saber that only has a single game, but I was working in place, we had six different themes going at once. First of all, you want to pick a game that maybe is catering to player counts that the other games aren’t catering to. So I was making it like I wanted two players to still be able to do the game, because we do have a lot of two player teams coming in. But we wanted a room that also satisfied at least six players. So then you’re working on a two to six range. And actually player count makes a big difference in design, because you’re thinking about if there’s too many puzzles, it might be just impossible for two people to do it on their own. And you don’t want to sell something to two people and kind of lying to them like oh, yeah, this is possible for you to do and like, you know, it would just actually be impossible. That being said, if you have six players, you want to have enough puzzles, so that each person feels like it’s something so then you’re working in that range, and it’s like, okay, I got to make enough puzzles to do this, but not too many to do that. 

And then yeah, the theme was a big one. Like we would think about a theme. It couldn’t be too close to a theme we already had running at the establishment because we don’t want games that are too similar. You want a theme that is going to attract people that is kind of like in the zeitgeist a little bit. Like you know, like people go oh, yeah, that’s a funny adventure. I can get into the theme. Right? Like that makes sense to me. I did an alien abduction game, you know, an alien spaceship like that’s something that people can like and see in popular fiction. Yeah, movies, they can imagine that it’s a theme that people can roll with right and buy into.

ZB:

Yeah, it was a different theme because I had had the pleasure of doing it before COVID. It was super cool. Theming and different from many of the other ones that I’ve done. I found that especially when I started you know, doing some escape rooms and stuff. A lot of them were like Oh, it’s the torture chamber like they were very violence or like bloody themes, you know, I mean, it was like escape the murderers basement and that kind of stuff. And then I’ve really enjoyed ones that don’t go that route. We did one where we were doing a great Train Heist, so we had to move cabin to cabin along the train, solving puzzles and getting different pieces of loot. It was really cool because it also had a bunch of optional puzzles that were just for more loot.

CB:

Yeah, I like that’s a that’s a neat twist on like the general concept but yeah as to like addressing like why or someone you see they’re just kind of bloody or like and where I worked to, like they have they have like an asylum and they have like a catch a murderer and one right. I think that it’s it’s that the murder and blood and that kind of thing is sensational. And like sensationalism does sell and it does attract people. So I think that these establishments, maybe they just end up moving towards a common denominator, which is well, this is what people are interested in. I mean, it’s the same thing of like, why is most TV procedural dramas about catching murderers? Right? It’s like, well, because of that sensation.

ZB:

So let’s get us back on track. How do you design a puzzle? Cuz I’ve designed some games and some gamification system? Right? I haven’t designed a lot of puzzles. So how is that different? You know, how do you start? How do you tweak the difficulty?

CB:

Right? So we often work backwards, I designed kind of knowing like, Okay, I have this box here. And I needed to open the box. There’s only so many different types of locks that can get in the box. It’s either a letter lock, or a number lock. Or like, there’s lots where you can like a push pattern.

ZB:

Yeah, the directional one. Yeah, or directional? Yeah, exactly.

CB:

So when, if you’re working on a lot of our puzzles, we’re just unlocking a lock. So a lot of times, you’re like, Okay, what kind of information goes into the block? Say it’s a directional lock? Now, I have to think about a puzzle that is somehow based on directions, and how can I do that? That’s kind of the starting point is like, what is the goal? What is the end goal of the puzzle? And you work backwards from that, where you’re kind of like back reverse engineering? Like, okay, the answer, like, let’s just say the answer is like, up, up, down, right? You know, how can I convey information to people where it’s not too easy, but it’s still possible to find that information, and often be inspired by other puzzles? I’ve already, I’d already seen, but I thought, Oh, would you do a new twist on this, right? You know, like, just an example, like a common directional puzzle was like putting things on the four different walls, like often you’re in a room that has four walls, you get some players away to figure out which was North, and then you do information on the different walls. And that’s the different directions they have to pull. But I went to another establishment and saw that they had kind of used that, but they put it on the ceiling instead. So that had like, also made people have to look up and look for different edges of the ceiling. Right? So that’s like a twist on that, like, Oh, you did the four wall thing, but you brought it up to the ceiling. So you added this, like a twist to it. And then I mean, you also want to stay in theme, if you can. I’ve definitely ran through escape rooms that had a theme, but every puzzle just felt like it could have been in any game. Like, oh, yeah, you have this math puzzle that could have gone into any game. It doesn’t have anything to do with your theme. But then I’ve also played games where it’s like, oh, the puzzle actually had a theme, like made sense in the world of the room.

ZB:

But remember correctly from yours. It was completely language agnostic. So there was no English on the inside. And I think you had your own alien symbols. For numbers.

CB:

Yes. Right. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And that was, that was like, that was kind of the conceit. Like the challenge we had given ourselves right at the start of like, okay, I want to do an alien spaceship. And to create an aspect of realism. Let’s have no English on the ship, right. And we toyed around with different lengths, well, maybe the aliens do those anyway, because they’ve been visiting us so long, or whatever, which is like stuff you see in science fiction. But we were really like, attracted to like, what if it just didn’t have enough English? And also, the other thing, too, is like, we have a lot of tourists. And we have a lot of players whose English isn’t their first language anyway, or they’re not even that strong in English. So this is like a room that’s like, even better to like, advertise or cater to them? Because it’s like, oh, yeah, everybody’s on the same footing here. Like, nobody knows the same language, right? So it kind of flattened the playing field. And that was really attractive to us, but also a huge design challenge, like a massive design challenge.

ZB:

Oh, yeah, I can imagine it was also really fun in it, because you had that added level of design. Alright, so these are symbols I’m used to seeing at all, they’re not letters. There’s not like, oh, 1, 2, 3 it’s just different tick marks on each one. And so you had to decipher it. And it was useful to have a team because we knew from previous puzzles, what certain numbers were for sure. And so we could be like, is it this shape? Yeah, it’s that shape. Okay, and then we will work through things. 

CB:

yeah, there’s, there’s like, there was a deep world building in there that players wouldn’t even see. But the species we had, like, if we’re talking about their numbering system, the species we hadn’t imagined. I mean, they look greys like the Grey Alien, right? If you looked at the model we build like we built this big grey alien in there. We bought these alien clothes. go online. And they had three fingers like they were just two big fingers and opposable thumbs. So something that I thought in my head, I was like, okay, humans have like a base 10. And we tend, and we have 10 fingers. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, or if that’s part of our numbering system, I don’t actually know. But what we were thinking is like, what if their numbering system is like a base three, spaced on threes, because they have three in six fingers. So it’s like a base three and six, basically. So there was like a symbol for one. And then the two checks were basically two. But then they had a new symbol for three, which I think was just a triangle, and then another symbol for six, which was like an empty triangle or something like that. And it was just like, Yeah, let’s go with that like space, just like three, six languages. And then a lot of things in the room. We went with, we bought a lot of things that were hexagons because there’s six, a hexagon is six, right? Yeah,

But a lot of hexes we made hexes, like part of the ship design, because we figured like, okay, they’re basics. And they’re, like, just obsessed with hexagon shapes. Right? Yeah. And yeah, we just had a lot of that, like, carry through to the game. And I think like, even if you don’t notice this, it’s one of those things that like, you just feel like the universe makes sense, even if you don’t know why. But there was a lot of attention to detail put into those worldling things.

ZB:

Yeah, it was super cool. So for some of the puzzles that aren’t necessarily get this clue, like I had one, we had to physically move something around, and we had to find different sticks to go in the different holes to be able to maneuver. I think it was a wine bottle through this whole contraption. So when you design a physical component like that, how do you develop that? Do you start with like a cardboard mock up? Or have you done something like that?

CB:

Yeah. So I mean, we call those dexterity puzzles, or like, just physical puzzles, like we have just have to use your body. It’s not just your brain, which I think is good, because it gives like a like a variety to this game is not just for intelligent people, or people who are good at problem solving or logic. It’s also like, oh, people who are really dexterous or like good with their hands can also feel like they’ve done something.

ZB:

Yeah, it plays to everyone’s strengths and gives them all a moment to shine.

CB:

Yeah. As for building like real objects, like in the room I designed mostly, we use pre-existing toys, and we’d like to reshape them and everything. We make anything from scratch, we make anything from scratch, I have made things so so what we developed was, well actually, for that group, the spaceship, we did use a lot of paper mache in the escape room. And we developed ways of shaping it and hardening it cardboard was used a lot, for sure. Sometimes, Styrofoam packing from things we would use and then just make it harder for paper mache. But I like, I mean, we were constantly searching for weird looking objects, like at garage sales, or the flea market or online Craigslist toy stores. I went to the teacher’s store a few times to just see things they have for nursery and kindergarten nipples, things like that. 

This is just like you’re basically starting to look at the world in a different way where it’s like what’s an interesting object people might be able to use for a puzzle. And like, you know what your example with the stakes in the wine bottle is like somebody just seeing one bowl and thinking like, oh, this could be difficult to get through this passage, right? Like, this is a fun thing to make people do. And yeah, I think that the inspiration can just come from seeing a real world object and thinking like, hey, this could be any puzzle. But just having that mindset of like, how could I use this amount. I mean, often, we were like, when we were working and just kind of into design mode.

 Like my boss would just come he used to come with, he’d have a little cart full of things from the flea market and be like, check out the stuff I’ve got, like, Can you do anything with this, and he just gave me some weird mechanism or something like with this weird clock, or this box was weird. You want to try to do a puzzle with this. And they just like to give us stuff to look at. And like sometimes I would just put something on the work desk in the back. And it would just be there. Like, I just put it there. And I’d look at it like, well, I’m eating lunch and stuff and like, how can I use this? You know, and and just be like thinking about objects and like how human beings could be utilizing them.

ZB:

Nice. Yeah, that’s super cool to hear. Because the physical ones always interest me because I’m like, okay, I can kind of understand, you know, you have letters, directions, or words. And you can start backwards from there. But like, how do you tweak the difficulty of those, and you just get inspired by real world things. And then you let basically the objects speak to you for what kind of puzzle they want to be.

CB:

Yeah, there is a challenge, though, in dexterity puzzles, and we didn’t really do a lot of them. Partly because we’re so busy. The problem is that you also have to think that every single thing you put in the escape room, it might potentially be something that you need all of your employees to be able to help people do. And kind of fast like when people try to do something for a long time and they haven’t been able to do it they call you for and they don’t want you to come in and take like 10 minutes to you know, do the wind blow for a thing or whatever. So your employees have to be well practiced in being able to do that. Like I’ve seen games like that. And I’ve even called for hints at other escape rooms. And what you want ideally is you want the Game Master to come in like swagger and be like, Oh, you guys are having trouble doing this. Let me do it for you and they just do it in two seconds. Like you want them to make it look like it’s easier than it actually is. So they got to be trained and like practiced in doing that. And that can be difficult because I mean, you’re, you’re hiring new people, you’re throwing them in rooms to get hints, like those things just like the bigger picture. Those puzzles can prove to be challenging for skaters for various reasons.

ZB:

So that’s an interesting aspect that people might not consider being tricky to design for and planned for. Are there any other ones in designing an escape room that people might not consider that like, oh, that’s super important, but it is super important to pay attention to and consider throughout the design process?

CB:

Yeah. So I think here, like we get into issues of accessibility and design, right? Puzzles need to be accessible to the broader public, like one of the major ones, I think, and also we tried to strike straight away from this as well . You don’t want to rely on cultural references. Cultural references are very dangerous. Like, we might think that, Oh, if I create some kind of riddle about Alice in Wonderland, like everybody will know that answer, you know, like, who was Alice in Wonderland chasing it, it turns out to be the White Rabbit. But you gotta figure like people who are coming into your escape room may never read Alice Wonderland, they don’t actually know anything about it. And that kind of cultural reference is just going to completely be lost on them. 

So that’s just that’s like an accessibility issue, right. Like other people from other cultures come and play or skate for new tourists and people coming from all over, they seriously, they just might not know certain things. And then there’s like, physical accessibility to like, you know, I’ve done I’ve also done some physical things like where you have to move something heavy, or you have to, like, manipulate something through something. And the thing is, is like, there’s lots of people going through your room, what and what we would hope, like, when we do design is like, Okay, hopefully somebody in their group is able to do this, this physically challenging thing to do. But the thing is, is that you can’t plan for every group, what if you get a group of, you know, older, like older players like that just aren’t able to do this thing. Right. And that can sometimes frustrate them and even make them feel like they’re being excluded from an activity that other people can do. Right? So we would try to be very careful about that. And just like, we want our games to be welcoming to everybody, like all audiences, right?

ZB:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. Accessibility is always something that can so easily be overlooked, but is super important to consider and maintain throughout your design. So how much testing do you do for escape rooms? And how do you figure out how to tweak something like probably have several groups go through getting average time? And let’s say it’s 15 minutes short? What do you do, then? How do you increase it or decrease it?

CB:

Yeah. So I mean, yeah, I’ll talk about the testing in designing that before games writing first. Because we do like, we kind of did, what video games do where it’s like, new design. And for a while your games are kind of in beta, because the first few groups that go through, like, there’s things that you didn’t see when you were designing that get revealed to you, so then you have to do changes after the game was even released, which is fine. I think even people who are used to playing escape rooms, they kind of knew what to like, we even had groups who wouldn’t come into play the room right away, they wouldn’t wait like six months, because they knew if you wait six months, this game is going to be at its best. If you go the date opens, you kind of get a hit on all the glitches. But yeah, that aside, like just doing the original design, like me, in my place I worked I really liked and I don’t know, other receivers really work this way. 

But all of us were invited to just create puzzles if we wanted to. And you know, someone would come up with a puzzle to get a call, I want to test this on you, they test it on one employee, and then you know, we test the boss would come in and be tested on him. And then you know, like, all the employees, we would just test the puzzle with and see if they could figure out we tie in each other so you could get it done faster. See the end? You know, the boss had a lot of experience, he kind of give us a lot of guidance lines and be like, Oh, wow, like, this is a good puzzle. But it’s really hard to give the hint for this puzzle. You know, maybe you make it so that it’s easier to give a hint for this or for this just this puzzles way too hard, like nobody’s gonna get this. And yeah, there’s the extreme things are easy to see like the extreme like, oh, this was way too hard. Nobody will ever get this, or this is super easy. 

Like, you know, I had puzzles that I tested all the employees and like everybody could get it in like 30 seconds. And then you just know, like, it’s barely worth printing and implementing this puzzle. If it only takes 30 seconds to do. It’s so easy. It might make players just feel like all of the points, you know, if you can’t have positive values, so yeah, and then once a game is running, like we have cameras in our room. So we watch people do puzzles, which is a really interesting thing, like watching people interact with something that you built and just seeing like, Oh, what are they doing that’s unexpected, like, oh, they actually aren’t flipping this thing upside down. 

You know, like, I had a puzzle where it’s like, all you had to do was you had an object and all you had to do was put it upside down and put it into this hole. And it was amazing how so many people just never thought of doing it that they wouldn’t dry. You know, where some people would get an object and they immediately try to stick it in every single workplace they can, right. But some people just get more because it was a pyramid, two pyramids, we, in our minds, we just put them up, right, we think of them as being upright. But it’s like, yeah, all you had to do was put it upside down in this thing. And like, that’s it. So to change that, I think we ran that room and, and then it wasn’t any interesting what to do here. And so many people were not getting it and calling wasting a hint on that, you know, so easy. What we did eventually was, we painted a design on these pillars where you were putting this pyramid and one of them you put upright, which was really easy, and everybody got that. So we put a little upright arrow on that one kind of design with a little arrow kind of weird, even just it was more of a triangle up. And then on the other one, we put a triangle down. And even that simple, just graphic, you know, design, which some people didn’t even see. But for the people who would see it and be like, oh, wait a minute, this arrow going down. So maybe we put it upside down. And that’s the kind of simple tweaking you can do with just like, just paint something somewhere something.

ZB:

Yeah, I do remember going to some escape rooms. And they would have little notes on a bunch of things that this is not a puzzle. Yeah, just have an interesting decoration that’s there. It’s just not part of the puzzle. And apparently a lot of people probably previously had spent a lot of time trying to figure out what are these letters on this empty cup? We don’t know what they are. That’s just supposed to be something pretty to look at.

CB:

I spent a lot of my time working, removing stickers from things painting over or blacking out, like just the manufacturing label on any item because we don’t want the player to think like, oh, this says serial number 1000235. Like maybe that’s part of the puzzle. So our answer was like, we would just try to remove those things like either removing stickers or painting over them even had a Dremel, and I would like to ramble off, like embossed serial numbers, I would just Dremel them off and like make the aim smooth. And like that. Like we would go to that level of just like yeah, we don’t want people to be confused on red herrings. So we’re just gonna get rid of all these numbers. But yeah, I’ve seen other escape rooms, I think, yeah, one of the more popular establishments in Vancouver would put hazard tape on things that were part of the game. Like it was kind of, they would show you in your room. They’d be like, oh, yeah, and anything with this tape is off limits. And that was an interesting thing to do. Right? Because it was consistent. And people were going to older rooms and all that. Yeah. Anytime you see that tape that that item is just not playing a game, that part of the wall just isn’t interesting, kind of imagined that?

ZB:

Yeah. So you’ve talked a little bit about all the other games that you’ve played? Because I assumed I would design a bunch of them and design good ones. You did a lot of play testing? Is there anything about those that you’d like to share any cool design insights that you got from some of them?

CB:

Like other rooms that I played at other places?

ZB:

Yeah, or players playing your own games? And until that moment of inspiration, or?

CB:

Yeah, so I kept a journal while I was working, like an escape room Journal of every escape room I played, I would always write down like, you know, what inspired me how I, if I felt they use the theme, or they didn’t use the theme that Well, I really liked, like, I was really impressed by Some games where everything would come together at the end. And just kind of have a good final moment. But another thing about escape rooms, which is, you know, similar to other game design is like, you want to design these moments where like people can have a moment somewhere in the game. So like one game was a vampire hunting game, and you’re hunting Dracula, and you’re collecting these like weapons and items that you need to fight Dracula at the end. And you’re carrying this thing around with you being like, oh, we need this and I need to put it in the Vampire hunting kit, and you’re carrying this kit around with you. And at the end, in the last room. Every item you had collected, like holy water and garlic and all these things. They were each used in a puzzle. And it was like all came together at the end to defeat this villain. And I was like, Oh, that’s really cool. Like, I like that brought the whole game live. 

It also had an interesting theme, you know that it made sense to carry these objects like you feel like you’re a vampire hunter in training like finding these things and figuring out how to use them to kill the vampire. I remember being really impressed with that other one. I mean, I played one recently. I don’t want to spoil games that are still running right now. But I played a time travel one that the way they did the time travel was genius. Like I was a wow. And like they they made it because they it was only a two room escape room. But they really made you feel like you were jumping into different time zones with only those two rooms and it was just Yeah, it was really well dining like, like, even somewhat subtle, I would say or like low budget kind of but like oh man, I actually felt like we were time travelers and this didn’t cost them a lot of money. So I thought that was cool. Cool.

ZB:

Is there anything else about designing Escape Rooms you’d like to talk about?

CB:

It was like, Team design, if that makes sense that we would design on a team. And almost necessary like I don’t know, I guess one person could just design escape rooms on their own. But I feel like the way that you want an escape room to cater to different players as they’re coming in, you almost want different elements to come in from different designers, right? Like, you know, some people on our team were really good at designing like dexterity puzzles or things where you move things around. And some people were really good with that, like we had somebody on our, that was in our staff for a while, who’s really good with math books is really good with math and like, which also helped too, by the way, with like, measurements and dimensions and like figuring out, how build, like certain props in certain like, big room pieces. We also have a lot of things to do like, I don’t know, if people realize how expensive building rooms can be. Because if you need to hire carpenters do things or if you need to hire electricians to do things like that’s super expensive .It’s not actually that lucrative a business because you can only charge so much only so many people come in, it’s more busy on the weekends and evenings, obviously, you only have a limited time to actually sell your product. It’s a tough business. 

A lot of the design work we did was like, just our own sales, like we did a lot of our own carpentry, I did a lot of my own, like, you know, amateur wiring and everything and soldering and stuff like that. And it’s really like, it’s a lot of work. And a lot of it has done more of the love of design and just wanting people to enjoy these games than it is really to make money because it’s all a reminds me of the board game industry in that sense where it’s like it’s more being done by people who love the industry and just love the games themselves. And it’s not necessarily some of that lucrative business where people are just trying to cash it in, because there’s other ways to make money.

ZB:

For any viewers who would be interested in checking out your escape room if it’s still running, because I think you had mentioned it had shutting down for the pandemic

CB:

Yeah so I was working for Locked Canada, Unfortunately because of the pandemic our management had decided to shut down. This was also due to the lease being up so they shut down the games. There is a chance that Locked Canada will open in the future somewhere in the future, probably the pandemic. I know that some escape rooms are still open and powered through. Obviously there was a large period of time where you couldn’t do an escape room at all. Now it’s a little more acceptable. I was still working at the start of the pandemic and we had decided that this isn’t safe anymore. At first we were wiping everything down and spacing out our games. Wiping down every single surface wasn’t manageable. 

For the escape rooms that powered that must have been a lot of work. We were going through so much Disinfectant, and the amount of material to clean all of the rooms. If people are looking to reconnect with friends after this pandemic. If you feel safe I would recommend that you go try one.

ZB:

Yeah, follow the regulations.

CB: 

Yeah depending on regulations and whatever’s happening in your city. If you can go and escape rooms are open, I’d encourage you to check one out. It’s an awesome hobby.

ZB:

Absolutely, talking about them has got me jonesing to do one.

At the start of the episode you had mentioned that you were on a different podcast. Would you like to tell our viewers a little about it and where they can find it?

CB:

Yeah so, it’s not design related. I’m on a podcast called wrestling with the paranormal. Each week tackle a paranormal topic, talk about it, give our opinions on it. Talk about it, what we think is really happening. Some of our theories are really out there. We aren’t always scientific as it’s more for fun. The Channel is actually F’N Wrestling on youtube. Aaron also does a weekly wrestling podcast, so if you are into wrestling check it out. He also sells sheets on prowrestlingtees.com. He’s starting a little podcast empire and I’m glad to be a part of that. It’s been interesting researching the different topics and seeing what people are claiming has happened. Yeah, have always been interested in the paranormal.

ZB:

Thanks for joining us today

CB:

It’s been a pleasure

ZB:

Thanks for listening! If you’re interested in learning more about our app development services or how gamification can help your organisation, feel free to book an exploratory call today and meet the pack at Raccoopack.Media! Also share this podcast with your friends and follow us on social media @Raccoopack Media

 

Wrestling with the Paranormal Podcast: https://youtu.be/SSooDzRRAxE




 

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