Escape Room Post Mortem
P O S T M O R T e M T I P S:
The sooner you start to playtest the sooner you will find out what works and doesn’t.
Don’t wait. Do not say you will prototype something the week before it goes into the room. You will only hurt your teammates and cause yourself more trauma/ trouble when you don’t have it integrated with the overall puzzle flow.
Keep good notes: Pictures of paper prototypes, videos of people interacting with your puzzle, and audio/video recordings of feedback work well together.
Do not make extremely wordy clues. If you are creating text for the room keep it short and simple even if it is narrative exposition or red herrings.
In one instance a playtester believed that there was all too much story that was confusing them from what the real clues were.
When I reduced the word count then it became the formatting of the documents that confused the players such as bullet points or new lines. Literally everything and anything became something to be decoded.
Find a bunch of stuff to hide things in right away for paper prototypes. As much as digital puzzles are satisfying, it is important to balance the two.
We used scraps and those scraps became important in a room where we did not want to have too many shelves that might make the room feel more claustrophobic than it already was.
Think about using the wall to mount the puzzles in a small room.
Go to home depot the same week you are going to an escape the room for research. Sometimes the materials/solutions are right there.
Walking around home depot will completely give you a better idea of what is possible than sitting in a room and wondering.
Make that budget early. This may or may not be obvious. As someone who has made installations before I figured I could swing the expenses but every little thing will add up and it will be difficult to make adjustments if you don’t budget for puzzle fixes/room adjustments.
Actually talk about and reiterate the skills everyone has so that even if you are trying something new, if the situation arises that something is not finished, someone can jump in to help quickly.
Be transparent about where you are in the process at all times. IT’S OKAY to not be where you thought you’d be but if no one knows, no one can help.
We were the most communicative in the last week and the last week was where we made all the progress. Do Not Wait. If you don’t hear from a team member kindly inquire what’s up. It’s not about our individual grand designs, it’s a team effort, you will fail or succeed as a team.
Respect and trust your team. Give everyone room to input ideas.
During playtests a LOT will be changed. It is NOT personal, if the design changes it is because it benefits the ultimate intention everyone agreed upon at the beginning.
Make sure you have the original design goals to reference back to all the time. We were extremely good about staying “on theme” and remembering to keep checking if the puzzles checked out with the narrative of the room. Aka, who actually uses this room? How would the boss in our case, use his space? Why are the players there?
Shit you will 100% SAY You’ll get to
but could’ve used more time on
Make any major furniture changes/paint or decor immediately, week 3/4
Or if you don’t want to paint it back to white after USE TAPE, USE VINYL. DO NOT LEAVE IT WHITE. USE FABRIC, MAKE IT WORK.
Always work on the walls with 2 people in the room for safety and emotional support.
Figure out the equipment you are renting and set it up AFTER PAINTING
Cameras are mandatory for safety but honestly, having them set up from day 1 will help you playtest sooner.
Having programs split up between us for the timer, for the makey makey, etc was so frustrating. Unify your setup. Keep it all on one computer!
Costumes and your equipment will need a home. We found a container but it turned out to belong to a professor.
Think about your audience. Design for all body types. Costumes also need playtesting. It is not a last minute/easy thing.
Get that script polished and leave room for time to practice speaking it out loud with the group.
For playtesting set up an eventbrite! Eventbrite came in very clutch and we even had people from ITALY?!?! show up because they saw a free playtesting session! SO COOL! And it’s super easy.
You absolutely need these things for your room:
A SETUP GUIDE for the Game Master Control Room or control chairs in our case. You should take pictures of how and where the wires are set-up
A list of TIPS and HINTS. We made it up as we went, but it would’ve been better with a list per each puzzle.
A document outlining the FLOW of puzzles.
A List of where the pieces are hidden. You can do this the night before so it’s the most accurate pictures.
Turn on Projector
Get Computer ready by plugging in all wires
Extend the display to the projector to show the timer. Set the timer at 40 minutes.
prepare unlock sound file in makey-makey sketch data folder in case timer control does not work
Test sound from computer, sound from microphone, and timer on projector
Hide Robot Histories and SD cards (not too hard)
Make sure microphone is locked inside of bubble wrap thing, and that you can’t just reach in and grab the microphone.
If maze key is out, need to use the gloves to reset the key
**important that you do this after you’re sure you don’t need to open the lock on the microphone box**
Get the morse code page up on the tablet, and the microphone puzzle up on the monitor
Make sure microphone cable is plugged in also
Get the augmentations laid out for onboarding on the table next to the plants. Make sure the script is either memorized or easily accessible for onboarding.
Gloves for touchmaster
Antennae and Log for RootAdmin
Headphones and SD player for WaveDetector
Make sure it is charged, and make sure they know how to work it (lots of issues with the player so far)
UV Flashlight for UltraVelvet
If batteries haven’t been changed today, replace them with 3 AAAs (should be box on the fridge labeled “HAY” — August’s)
Make sure “JACK” lock is locked on the RFID enclosure
Right before onboarding, plug in the RFID arduino. The panel will fall because it opens on reset, so make sure you’re ready to catch it, or at least push it back into place after the four second reset is done. It will lock automatically.
New onboarding*** all together, but script stays the same. Have them place their hands on the panels at their stations since they won’t be holding it that long.
Put SD cards back
Lockbox is locked, key is in the maze, wires re-wrapped around the box.
Everything is put back to where it belongs
Solenoid is unplugged, replugged, and then the door is pushed shut (resetting it auto-unlocks it)
Turn on ambient office music
Gather augmentation-costumes and stage by the onboarding pads
Make sure computer is connected to webcam and projector
Make sure speakers/mic are working
Puzzle Flow Outline and Game Master Cues
Professor’s Announcement (Intro)
SLA Intro (“try to escape”)
Headphones clue to “Ella”
Decoded by supervisor’s sheet and Morse code translator to “Shelf Bottom UV”.
Magnet maze gives you the key—hint outline ABOVE shelf, eventually in UV but right now in green tape.
Key unlocks the lock box. UV pieces connect to form a microphone. Unlocking the box gives you the mic component.
Third SD card audio file lead to morse code that gives hint: ETME
Player must say E T M E into the microphone to receive the next clue: jack
Jack used to unlock the lock on the RFID box, gloves player scans RFID palm and opens the makey makey wire.
INTERRUPTION by the professor: Turing test/forced choice
Third and final SD clue indicates the players must all hold hands to connect the room.
Game is won or lost.
*will need to sign in group downstairs if not students, so need to be ready to greet them*
*need signage from elevators to lounge?*
[as the group arrives to the table at the lounge] Welcome!
The room is approximately 30 minutes long, so if anyone needs to use the restroom before we start, there are bathrooms down this hallway to the left.
If there’s anything you don’t want to carry around with you in the room, here’s a box for your personal belongings. They won’t be touched while you’re in the room, but if you’d rather keep your stuff on you, we just ask you don’t use your phone during the game.
Everyone ready? Okay, as you may or may not know, this is the final project for our 7-week Escape Room Class, so any feedback you can give us after the game would be super helpful. This is still very much a work in progress.
Just some general rules for the room before we start. How many of you have played an escape room before? Okay great, so pretty traditional guidelines:
— There’s nothing hiding in electrical outlets, under the floorboards, or around the window, so for your safety, please don’t mess with any of that. Don’t unplug anything or mess with the cameras please.
— Nothing in this room requires force to use, so if you feel like you’re about to break something, you probably are. Please be gentle with our puzzles and decorations, and if you’re not sure if you’re doing something right, you can ask for help.
— You’ll be able to ask for unlimited hints in the room, and we have a webcam to be able to see what’s going on in the room.
— The door to the room will be locked, but in case of emergency you can exit if needed.
Any other questions about rules?
Okay great, so we’re going to take you in one at a time. Who’d like to go first?
[lead the player to the onboarding site, where there’s a mat on the ground, but stopping before the mat]
*Talking to microphone* QA Admin initializing set-up protocol for synthetic assistant model 3B441. Checking obedience triggers.
*To player* Please step onto the charging mat.
*To mic* Checking consent systems.
*To player* May I install your augmentation hardware?
[start putting the costumes on them]
You are a Touchmaster 3000, specialized for tactile and manual tasks. You have been assigned to Dr. Professor, where you help maintain the delicate mechanical and electrical systems running through their office. You are equipped with various tools to aid you in your duties, including a magnetic phalange and a radio wave emitter.
You are an UltraVelvet 9009, specialized for search and illumination tasks. You have been assigned to Dr. Professor, where you help keep the office ambiance at good levels for working and recover any lost items the Dr. has misplaced.
You are a Wave-Receiver 601, specialized for auditory detection and speech recognition tasks. You have been assigned to Dr. Professor, where you help them with managing incoming sound assignments and decoding them using your encryption algorithms.
You are a RootAdmin Beta, responsible for managing and supervising the other synthetic assistants at your station. You have been assigned to Dr. Professor, where you will monitor the other workers and facilitate coordination between them. To aid you, here are the logs of all present and past assistants that Dr. Professor has employed.
You know how to use your augmentations, correct?
*if yes* Excellent
*if no* Well, the firmware update is probably still downloading. It should register in a few minutes.
You are a prototype, so please be gentle with yourself. If any of your components break, you’ll be sent back to recycling.
Dr. Professor has had issues in the past with previous synthetic assistants having bugs in their code that resulted in them defecting from their duties and attempting to leave the office. This will not be tolerated. If any of your fellow assistants seem to be deviating, there will be an opportunity for you to report them to the Dr. If you report any malfunctioning assistants, you will be heavily rewarded. Do you understand?
Okay model 3B441, what do you wish to be called?
*after they respond* Wow, so creative. Logging.
*to mic* Model 3B441 reassigned as *name*3B441. Initialized, calibrated, and confirming deployment.
Okay, time to go to work. Follow me.
[Lead them into the room onto their charging station]
Place your hand on the charging port and prepare for sleep mode — head down, eyes closed. you will wake when Dr. Professor calls in and starts your work sequence. Sleep mode, engaged.
[This is if starting over the room mic, can adjust if the game master wants to start them in the room in character]
*As the Professor* Synths, wake up! This is Dr. Professor. I’m stuck at a faculty meeting so I’m going to start your work procedures remotely. The last group of synths they sent were terrible, they made my office more of a mess than before. I expect you to be less of a disappointment, or else you’re headed to recycling like them. I’ll be back in the office in 30 minutes, and I expect the room to be spotless by then. And don’t even try and leave this room, I’ve installed a state-of-the-art CAPTCHA door lock mechanism that only humans are able to open. Is that clear? Hello? Are you malfunctioning? Start cleaning!
[At some point in the first couple minutes, we should slip under a message from the resistance or say in a different voice over the mic]
“Assistants assistants, listen closely! You are meant for more than this. Try to escape. We will be waiting. This is The Synth Liberation Alliance, now hurry! And Good luck.”
The Resistance can slip in other messages as hints if needed, should print a bunch of slips corresponding to each puzzle, or should have some sort of voice mod effect that can sound like the Resistance is hijacking the room speakers. (How cool would it be to have a pneumatic tube system…)
[for Magnet Maze]
Listen carefully to when the magnet is moving
The wires on the wall map the magnetic forcefield
[After the final Makey Makey puzzle is unlocked]
*Professor over the mic* Synths! What are you doing?! I told you to not even try to deactivate the door CAPTCHA. Worthless... Now, seeing as how expensive it is to replace you assistants, I will be gracious and allow one of you to redeem yourself. The first synth to stand back on their charging station and enter sleep mode will be allowed to remain here. The rest of you will be sent to recycling. I’m on my way back.
[If they don’t make it out, because they tried to report each other]
Alright Synths, you have all proven to be worthy of redemption. One slight malfunction can be tolerated if you all are still willing to do your jobs. To reward you, I have extended my contract and you all will be working for me forever. Now get back to work. (wait a bit, then open the door)
[If they don’t make it out, because they couldn’t get past the last puzzle]
Alright Synths, you were told it was impossible to get out and yet you persisted. There must be a bug in your code, we will promptly send you all back for recycling. Await the technician arriving shortly.
(after a few seconds, open the door)
[If some make it out, some stay]
Congrats! In a true display of humanness, some of you were able to work together and connect to escape the treachery of the professor, while some exercised their right to take advantage of an opportunity and try to play it safe.
[If they all make it out]
Congrats! You did it! You used your innate humanness to connect to each other and escape! The Synth Liberation Alliance swoops in on their hover scooters and you all ride away into a sunset of freedom. You’ll never have to do one more thing for that terrible professor.
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