Part One: 13 Questions to Answer Before You Begin
Are you preparing an important date for an important person, are you having a party that lacks a little more content, or do you simply want to organize an evening of playing with friends and family? If you love to play and - even better - if you enjoy solving logic puzzles, there is no reason not to make an escape room in your directing and realization.
Before we get started with your new phenomenal home-made game, it’s a good time to let you know that you can make literally any game this way. Escape room, according to the original idea, is characterized by a moment of "escape", but the very escape or release from a space, from someone or something is not the essence of this game. All the fun is in solving puzzles and tasks, and as in solving and making such games, the sky is no longer the limit. Simply put, you can make a game where your sweetheart, brother / sister or whoever you want to harass a little will have to get out of the bathroom if they solve a series of complex math problems that you have hidden all over the room, but you can also make a very fun game for a whole society where no one really has to eventually unlock some doors.
There are a few universal steps you can follow, whether you’re preparing a game for 2 people in your living room or a game for 100 players at a conference. Here are some questions you should answer before you start devising the first puzzle:
1. Who are you making an escape room game for?
Determining the target group is the most important job of the idea phase, no matter what you prepare / do for someone. You probably wouldn’t invite a loved one to dinner and prepare a dish for her that you know for sure she doesn’t like or is allergic to any of the ingredients. So, I guess you wouldn’t launch a very specific product in a market where there is no current, and no chance of future need for your product. Then don’t make an escape room cluttered with motifs from classic novels to your friends that you know are absolutely not interested in literature and have spent most of their lives watching movies and reading comics.
Determine how old your players are, what their formal and non-formal education is, what their hobbies and interests are, what they are good at and what they are not doing well, whether they prefer to brainstorm or be active… Observe them individually and write them down everything (interesting and special) that comes to mind about them - the more things you have on that list, the less motives you will have to come up with for your game.
2. For what purpose?
Why are you doing all this? Be completely open and honest with yourself. At the risk of acting as advice for a more successful life, we will still write to you: the clearer you set the goal, the closer you will be to achieving it. 😊
Do you want to impress your friends or just some of them? Do you want to torture someone and drive him crazy later as a friend because he is not very smart and resourceful? Is your goal to bring together work colleagues and strengthen teamwork? Maybe you have kids you want to show in a fun way how they can think outside the box? Or do you just want to have fun with dinner, alcohol and lots of laughter? In that case, you will certainly not make a game full of complex logic puzzles in which each task will require maximum silence, concentration and dedication.
Each of your goals is legitimate and achievable. Just keep that in mind throughout the entire game-making process.
3. What will be the central theme of your game?
Think about your players: what will be close and fun for them. Try to choose a topic that touches each of the participants or at least most of them. If you are preparing a game for co-workers, you can choose a topic that is related to the activity and daily work you do. If the game is for a college society, choose a subject or case / motive from life that is in line with your future profession. Completely personalize the game if you make it for someone's birthday, anniversary and the like.
If it seems as if all the players are very different and have no common ground, think about the reason that brings them together - at least some detail from work, school, life must connect them.
4. Does the game have and should it have a story?
It doesn't have to mean that the game will be bad if there is no story that follows it. There are a lot of games that do not follow any special scenario, in which we do not meet any characters and do not learn any exciting outcome in the end, and yet they are very fun.
And yet… The story gives a special spice, draws players deeper into the game, because of it they forget the world outside the game…
If you’ve figured out what the theme of your game will be, you’re already ready for a little storytelling. And of course you don't have to be a published writer to make a good story. Design a problem, time and place, add characters to it, some of which can work on solving, some on further complicating the problem, add character piquancy, incidental challenges and, of course, the way the whole mess can unravel. And that's it for you!
5. What is the goal of your game?
The goal of your game should definitely be about the unfolding of your story, if the story exists. If it doesn’t exist, it’s good to be in line with the theme. If you don't really have inspiration, there can always be some "escape" - some way out of something, going through some door.
It is important that the goal (as well as the individual puzzles) be achievable in the given time: complex enough for the players to have fun around it, not so complex as to get tired. It’s good to have a clear goal all the time, but it’s better when it’s not available until the intended end of the game. For example, it doesn’t make much sense for the game to aim to get out through a locked door, for which the key is hidden in a pot next to the door all the time, while players on the other hand have 20 unrelated puzzles set to solve. It's a good idea for the company, but in such a situation you have to be ready for someone to overturn your flowerpot in the first minute of the game and for the party to be over very quickly. You should control the pace of the game. This is quite possible, and that is precisely by "putting together" riddles, which we will talk about in more detail when it comes to making riddles.
6. What puzzles and tasks do you want?
Review the list where you listed and described your players and think about them a little more intensely again. Are they mathematicians, or do they prefer word games, or are they good at both fields? Are they visual types or do they not hate to read longer written instructions? Are they attracted to a complex challenge or will they leave something as soon as they see that it is "difficult" for them? Do they like dynamics or do they like brainstorming in peace? Do you want them to move around the space all the time or would you like a more static game? Are you planning puzzles for which you only need paper and pencil or are you ready to invest a little more effort and money to make a mechanical or electronic puzzle?
7. How many people will participate in the game?
The number itself will not change the essence of your game, but it can greatly affect the concept and realization. In addition to the spatial capacities you need to think about, the number of people is especially important for the number, complexity and character of the puzzles. A completely linear game (in which one puzzle opens the possibility of solving the next and you can't progress if you don't solve the tasks according to the established order) for a group of ten people will only irritate the team and make some members give up, because ten people can't physically get together about one basic task.
8. Where will you organize the game?
It is important because your players need to stand in that space and be able to breathe in it. It shouldn’t be overly comfortable for them, it might not even need to be comfortable and cozy for them, but it needs to be safe, and the game will be a lot more fun if they don’t faint due to lack of air. On the other hand, it is equally important what kind of space is in question. The more you can relate it to the theme and the story, the easier and deeper the players will get into the story and the more fun and beautiful it will be for them.
9. At what time will you organize the game and how long will the game last?
There is no right and healthy time to play. Every moment of the day is the right time to play. It’s just a matter of when that game suits you and your players. The duration of the game, on the other hand, is not just a matter of your random choice. Think about how much concentration players can keep, how long it takes to solve puzzles, every few minutes you can have a celebratory moment when a team solves a task. Leave enough time for the introduction, in which you will explain the rules of the game, prepare the team, answer their questions if there are any. Also, leave enough time to summarize the impressions. You certainly want to hear them retell all the craziest moments of the game, and it’s important for you to tell them what they didn’t like, especially if you plan to get into making the game again.
10. What capacities and resources do you have?
First, of course, you need to determine the space. When choosing a space, consider that there is a possibility that you will have to occupy it before the game (depending on the complexity of your scenery and game, maybe quite a lot before the game). If you have been making Dracula's castle since your living room, be prepared to live in Dracula's castle for a while. If you rent a space that you will edit for the game, count on renting it for some time after the game, because you will have to remove everything you have entered in it.
Think about other necessities for scenography and play. If you want to lock something, you will need keys, locks, most often padlocks. Plan that purchase a little earlier if you don’t already have them, because such things are sold all around you until you need them. The list for searching in the basement or attic, for renting or buying things you need to play can be endless. It all depends on the topic, your wishes and possibilities. Every hit detail will contribute to a better atmosphere, but don't forget that the most fun potential of your game is in your puzzles and story. If you make the most of the resource of imagination, players will ignore some omissions. Otherwise, even theatrical scenography and costumes cannot cover the lack of ideas, meaningless tasks and stupid riddles. Yes. There are also stupid puzzles. We all make them sometimes. 🙂
11. How much money are you willing to spend for the preparation and realization of the game?
The better your brain works and the more imagination you have, the better your game will be and the less money you will spend. And we haven't told you anything new with this. You may be able to make a home game for 0 KM, and a little investment will certainly improve the ambience. Be sure to consider that you will have to pay for some things if you do not have them, and you want to have them in your game. You may find one padlock with the code of the lowest quality in the ads for 5 KM, and you could pay around 30 KM for the most common padlock with a key in the store. If you want to use these things multiple times and be at least 99% sure it will work every time, more serious investments await you. If you are skilled and have some specific mechanical, electrical or IT knowledge, and especially if you have an equipped workshop, you may be able to make an impressive interactive puzzle without much investment.
12. How much time do you have to prepare the game?
You have started to think about your game, ideas are just coming, you are already bursting with adrenaline and you can't wait to start… And you will start as soon as you get home sometime tonight. You’ve arrived at midnight and you’ll barely be able to wash up before bed - just work now to make an escape room. You didn’t arrive tomorrow because you were at work all day again. The day after tomorrow was easy at work, but drinking after work turned into an all-afternoon and all-night party. Never mind, you will be making a game for the weekend. The weekend came, on Saturday a friend called you to help him move, on Sunday they called you to shake plums / on the grill / to show your nephew some math tasks / to go to the airport for your aunt… to work the devil-know- anything but on his entertainment project. When you finally sat down to plan how to make an escape room, all the ideas came out, and you, of course, once you thought about it, you didn't write anything down because - you didn't have time.
The time you will need for the escape room depends on your ideas, wishes and desires, on your free time in life and on how fast you are in which job. Some puzzles will take you 5 minutes to complete, some you will need at least all day. You will have to "test" some on the people around you (of course, not on what they will play the game), so you will lose some time on that as well. Most tasks will require you to "make" them, to print something, cut it out, paste it, decorate it. And it may take a little tweaking.
13. Can you do it all yourself?
We have reached realization. Do you have the time, skills and knowledge to do the whole job yourself? There is no right answer - just be honest and open with yourself. 😊 Don’t hesitate to seek help wherever you can get it or more honestly: abuse all your loved ones to help you create your phenomenal game!
And klickER is on phone call (email, message) from you if you still need professional help or advice. 😊
You want to do commercial escape room? And in that case we are here for you. 😉