Planning an Escape Room: Concept, Budget and Design

2021.01.06.

Let's jump right into it, and look at the space we have available to us. Let's say it's a room measuring 14 feet by 20 feet. There's an exit/entrance door on each of the longer sides. Then this leads on to a smaller room of 5 feet by 8 feet. This smaller room is an exit out of the building and a door that exits into the larger room. In our experience, customers love a secret room, so this smaller room will be perfect for that purpose. All the rooms are lit with fluorescent lights and all the floors are carpeted. 

Start Planning in the Right Order

An important decision was made at the beginning of the escape room business. And that was to try as much as possible to stick with the rather dated concept of keeping all the rooms analog. By that we mean, that we don't go in for digital products. Everything is mechanically based. Unfortunately, though that was the intention, in reality, it's impossible to stick with it completely. Thinking back, we've never played a room without some sort of electronic or digital involvement. Never the less, we were still determined to keep things as analog as possible. 

Props the Work 

One thing we are very aware of, and that is of props that fail. Nothing will ruin an escape room game faster than the final prop not functioning and leaving the players high and dry. And that's probably the main reason we like to stay away from any fancy gizmos, and try and keep things as mechanical as possible. Customer satisfaction is a number one priority and you'll have a massive fail if the customer can't complete the game thanks to a failing prop. Yes, you might return their entrance money but that's not going to buy back their wasted time and bad experience. So it's super important that all custom locks and puzzles are tested to destruction. Also, it's equally important that we don't focus too much on anything new and complicated, as it may well fail further down the line.

Construction Time

When you're designing your own rooms, then you'll need to take into consideration the time it'll take to install the various locks and bolts. Remember that many of these need to be hidden from prying eyes. Installing old fashioned door locks, trapping bolts, and sliding bolts isn't so difficult. But if you decide on a custom made secret lock, then be prepared to spend money, not just on the lock itself, but also on the cost of time consuming installation. As a general rule, you want as little custom fitting as possible.

Mechanical Solutions First

With many of the clues, puzzles, and locks, don't sweat it if the feature isn't working as planned. It's important that you're able to compromise where necessary. Be prepared to change you mind and don't beat yourself up when you do so. There'll be any number of situations where an initial idea will prove either too useless or too complicated and expensive to implement. That's why we always try and look for mechanical solutions first. One important thing is that if something goes wrong, there's a good chance that we can fix it ourselves. And that saves costs as well as time.

Escaper Room Concept

First things first. You need to be making a list of every single thing you do and that needs to be done. Yes, that's the mother of all lists! Right now we are needing to decide the overall concept of the new game. This will color the props, the challenges, the ambiance and the flow of your game. Then you have to ask yourself, will the game attract players? Right now games featuring zombies and creatures of the dark, along with sci-fi and Space are proving to be very popular genres. Then there's always the tried and trusted route of following other games which are more or less brands, like Harry Potter and Indiana Jones. With these last ones, as with all branded games you'll need to be aware of licensing, or expect a cease and desist letter might be dropping through the letterbox at any time. 

Dare to be Different?

Another question is if you fancy going against the grain? Then you'll have to ask yourself whether the game has been done before? Take a look around your city and see what the prevalent game's themes are. Maybe there are a ton of zombie games already. So, can you make a zombie game and bring something new to the party? The thing is that having a "fringe" room, with it's own wacky game-play might seem cool. But from a business point of view, you have to be careful at alienating all your possible clients. There's a reason why some game themes are eternally popular. Going against the flow might seem edgy, but can really only work if you have other rooms with popular games to balance the books, so to speak. 

Check the Space

Then there's the question of space. How many players can the room accommodate? This isn't just about the number of players. But also whether the number of puzzles and clues are enough to keep players working hard, but not too hard. If there are only two players, maybe the game will become too slow as they struggle with so many clues. Conversely, if a team streams through a game in just half the allotted time, then they'll not be happy bunnies at the end of the session.
 

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