Theme a Little Theme
With our imminent launch, I thought it’d be a good time to have a closer look at our two games, “Dr Disaster” and “In Memoriam”. As lead game designer, I’ll be providing a few insights into some of the design decisions we made along the way. In this first part I’ll discuss the themes for our games, and in part two I’ll delve into the way we designed our puzzles.
We aren’t the first people to open up an escape venue; in fact we’re not even close. But after playing in a lot of escape rooms around the world, we’ve identified a lot of recurring themes. Office environments are super popular (probably because they’re so easy to set up!), as are horror themes (it’s also easy to throw around red paint/tomato sauce!). Crime scenes of varying descriptions also feature prominently with a lot of murders and thefts happening all over the place.
So we’ve tried to do something a little bit different. Not to say that office/horror/crime rooms are lacklustre – we enjoy playing them, and there are some very very good ones out there. But we’re trying to shake things up a bit, and theming is one area that we wanted to focus on.
With so many other venues taking a serious and hardline approach to storytelling, we thought it’d be refreshing to take a tried and tested trope and inject our own brand of laughs. The 3 of us met doing university comedy shows together, so this was a bit of a no brainer. “Dr Disaster” takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the spy/supervillain theme, with less “Bond” and more “Austin Powers.” We’ve added comedic elements into the way we’ve decorated and dressed the room, and the puzzles have also been designed with this attitude to bring an element of surprise and maybe even encourage players to poke fun at each other. If you want to try a room which doesn’t take itself too seriously then this is the one I’d recommend.
On the other end of the spectrum, “In Memoriam” has a much more serious theme. Without giving away too many spoilers, the idea behind this room is that you are being thrust into the life of an unknown woman with the view to saving her. The puzzles and aesthetics are designed to let you explore her memories and walk through the key events in her life that you must interact with to discover the clues. My sincere hope is that rather than having a narrative handed to you, you as a player will discover the narrative on your own as it’s interwoven into the game. The further you progress the more you’ll discover about this woman and how she’s lived. And for those squeamish types, don’t worry, there’s no horror themes involved at all.
I've put up a few stills from our video briefings for both games above. Big thanks to Jeeves Verma, Mel Saxton and Janice Tan for appearing in front of camera; and amazing cinematographer Dan Christie and his crew for helping to shoot it all.
The last point that I’ll make about theming is that we’re all big fans of nerd and pop culture (well at least I am, I’ll let the others confess themselves). We’ve referenced a few influential movies and video games under each of our game descriptions, and I’ve tried to sneak in as many pop culture references and Easter eggs into our games as possible. So far I’ve got Lord of the Rings, X-Men, Batman, Zelda, Mario, a few Bond references, and even Breaking Bad to name a few. When you can come and play see if you can find them all :)
That’s all on themes for now. Stay tuned for a post on puzzle design sometime in the not too distant future!