Designing escape rooms is trickier than most people realize. The last thing you want to do as a designer is to develop an escapist concept that crowds easily solve. Each room must provide excitement, entertainment and a real-life style experience that people will not forget. This is true whether you seek to create such a room for a one-time event or as part of your escape room business. Below, we explore some of the tips Arcadia Adventures Escape Rooms provides for escape room design.
Conceptualize Your Setting and Theme First
You cannot just put people into a room and throw a bunch of confusing puzzles at them. Quality escape room challenges tie to a central story and theme. The environment, itself, pulls participants into the scenario as if they are experiencing the plot in real life. It is important for your narrative to draw escapists in, engage their imaginations and put them in the shoes of associated characters. Set the vibe for complete immersion.
Remember that your game’s primary objective is deeply intertwined in the escape storyline and its components. Do you want the players to search for something that is lost? Are they decoding or trying to uncover a secret? Is there a villain to stop in the limited timeframe? Whatever the theme of your escape room backstory, it should create a cohesive vibe in the gameplay.
Decide What Actions Your Players Must Use to Find Clues
After choosing your theme and framing a backstory, start working on props and clues. Every prop should either have a purpose in the escape or create the ambience of the story. You can incorporate letters, numbers, clocks, maps, books and images into the problem-solving. To develop these clues and actions needed to uncover them, look into your everyday life for inspiration. You can also use Pinterest, movies and online research for ideas.
You must also decide whether the clues must be found by your players or whether these insights come as they progress through your maze of events or actions. You can incorporate padlocks, combination locks, trap doors and treasure chests to contain clues, for example.
Wherever your clues are to be found, you must provide some sort of breadcrumbs to your participants. Make the key components easily identifiable within the game. Use colors to draw their eyes in specific directions, such as by tying a red ribbon on clues. You also need to provide some hints before the clock starts counting down. You can also give your participants the option of asking for a set number of hints throughout their journey. For each hint, consider a penalty, such as losing one or two minutes from the time clock.
Design the Game’s Flow and Each Puzzle
Most escape room designers use floor plans and flow charts to maintain clarity on the game’s processes. This helps you get a bird’s eye view of your escape room for puzzle design and clue decision-making. It is your choice, whether you provide only one pathway to escape or have multiple paths your participants can take for success. Whether your game is linear or forked like this, you need to provide plenty of puzzles and roadblocks to elevate your players’ experience.
Puzzle types can include:
- Hidden object searches
- Audio clues
- Math problems
- Word puzzles
- Invisible ink and black lights
- Sequences or counting
- Code deciphering
- Image translation
- Using tools in unique ways
- Ropes or knots
Test Your Room to Find Problems
When your escape room is finished, engage some test groups to give it a try. Act as a silent observer throughout the process to find issues in the design during the dry run. After completion, ask the participants for their feedback and what changes they would make. Make changes in the room to address any needs. Then, prepare for your escape room to go live!