In this third post on the Escape Room Project, I am explaining the process of connecting the puzzles and working on the game set up for a holistic player experience. Please read Escape Room W1 and W2 posts first, before starting to read this one.
Since all the puzzles of our game were designed by a different member of the team, they needed to be arranged so that one puzzle can input the output of another puzzle, leading the players to find the result (formula) and finish the game.
In addition to connecting the puzzles, we also needed to pace the game by deliberately locking up some of the puzzles or puzzle keys, so that the players wouldn’t have access until the right point of the game. We also needed to do this to make sure, the players solve every puzzle before they reach to the formula.
At the end of the second week and at the beginning of the third week of the project, we discussed in which order to connect the puzzles to each other (which puzzles comes first/after), and how to modify them to have a nice flow that makes sense to the players. Since we set up the room on Wednesday and started running the rooms on Thursday we did not really have the opportunity to test the flow. Running the room was also testing it, for us. We discussed which objects to lock inside the box or the suitcase, since we only had 2 physically locked spaces. Most of the game objects needed to be out loose in the room.
After some consideration we came up with a flow, but there were plenty of different objects inside the room. The main idea (hope) was that the players would depend on the computer system for getting some clues which would lead them to the relevant materials to solve the puzzle that they were working on. There were going to be office papers inside the room which would highlight certain words. The game host was going to prepare the players before entering the room, and hint them that they needed to write “Wake Up” to the computer system. After they writing "Wake Up” and getting some feedback (turning on the lights in the dark room and starting the soundtrack), they would know that they could interact with the computer, and hopefully type in the highlighted words they find on the office papers. We relied on this assumption (“players will type in the correct words to the computer”) to keep the game flowing.
Probably, one of the biggest lessons we learned from the project was that you could never make assumptions on how people would behave (interact with your puzzles). When we ran the room, some of the players either tried to type in “everything”, the results, the names of the objects in the room etc., or they discarded the computer system entirely. It was also interesting to see that the players wouldn’t approach the puzzles as we expected them to. For example, we had 2 chemistry themes puzzles and we didn’t consider the possibility that the players could get confused and wouldn’t know to separate the component of these two puzzles from each other and handle them as one big puzzle instead of two separate.
In the first version, the computer system was giving out hints for puzzles, if the players typed in the exact word, and it would say “No meaning”, “Does not make sense” etc. if the players typed in anything other than these keywords. The hints given out were like riddles or short poems. The players were supposed pull out some of the important words/sentences from the writings. The writings were a bit vague and they had noise (not every word/sentence led to something about a puzzle).
While running the room, we observed that the players drew certain unrelated meanings from the riddles that we did not intent to. Again, we underestimated players mind. The players could interpret the riddles in their own way, and since we were too immersed in making the game we hadn’t seen that coming.
The structure of the game we started running the room was:
Game host (Will) prepares the players, tells them about the situation (story) and tells them that they are going in the mind of the scientists, the computer is his consciousness and the players are to “wake it up”. Game host guides the players in to the dark room, and closes to door.
On the computer desk :
- Desk top computer with an open software
- Office papers with highlighted keywords written on them
- Bottles with scents and name tags
- Periodic table
- Dr. Finkle ID card - Noise / Serves the theme
- A Newton's Cradle toy - Noise / No function
- Glasses - Noise / No function
On the wall:
- Cosmic calendar with mandala months and moon phases
On the large lit shelves:
- A fan - Noise / No function
- Zen garden
Under the sand:
- 2 black tokens with images (a mandala and a full moon)
*Need the “molecular" office document to solve
- Paper keys for periodic table
- 6 of the 12 CDs (months written on the cases)
*Need exact dates to solve
- Small-size blackboard and chalk for calculations
- A picture frame with an artwork - Noise / No function
- Periodic table
*Need paper keys and colour palette key to solve
*The right paper key is the output of molecular puzzle.
- Color palette key for periodic table
- Box with the pipe image
* To open, need to discover the screw inside the pipe
- Digital scale
*Need to weigh the actual keys for digits
- A hint (Wife and mint have a connection.)
Small shelfs at the two opposite side of the room:
- CD player and headphones stuck on each shelf (2 CD players and 2 headphones)
- 2 dinosaurs - Noise / No function
- Suitcase with 2 3-digit padlocks
* To open, need to solve 4 puzzles:
1st padlock: open the box with pipe, find keys and weight them on the scale
2nd padlock: solve molecular puzzle, use the right key and colour palette on the periodic table
- More office papers with highlighted keywords
- Women photos with names and dates
- 6 of the 12 CDs
Inside the jacket’s pocket:
- A glasses case
Inside the case:
- Actual keys attached to a fish scales keyring
- A hint (The keys are for the suitcase.)
If the players are able to solve all the puzzles they are going to have 2 dates at hand. If the two of the players listen to the tracks corresponding to these dates at the same time, and the third player search for the file on the computer as they listen and repeat what they hear in a synchronised manner, the third player will reach to the file of the formula. If they type in the formula on the computer system the players will win the game.
Since there are two computer screens we are able to see what the players type in the computer, so that we can respond by opening lights in “Wake up” and at the end of the game when they type in the formula. Even thought we were not able to respond manually to any other stuff they type in, we could observe from the screen and monitor their progress.
We can also watch and record the players through the small camera placed at the ceiling of the room. We are not able to here them as we record, but the recorded videos has sound so we are able to watch the footage afterwards with sound.
As I have stated before there is no communication or feedback mechanism between us (game hosts) and the players. We rely on the computer hint system.