GX Wrap Up
What an eventful last few weeks we’ve had. The Enigma Room team has been busily running around making preparations for our first mini escape room and it was a great experience!
But let’s take a few steps back and tell you all how it came to be. In December last year we heard murmurs of a new gaming convention trying to make its way to Sydney, we did a little digging and found that this convention was GX Australia (previously (GaymerX). The convention looked fun and its message of diversity and inclusiveness really appealed to us. So on a whim one night, while Matt, Piyush and I were chatting over Skype we backed them on Kickstarter and got ourselves a booth.
The only problem was, there was nothing to put in that booth!
So we workshopped a few theme ideas with our GEMs where we got some great ideas and some… not so great ones. The theme that we settled on was a robot apocalypse taking place at Christmas (more on this later), a theme that sounds like something out of a Shane Black movie generator, but it worked for us, so on with the puzzle design!
We had a few cool mechanics sitting around that we really wanted to use, but there were several issues that needed to be taken in to account that heavily influenced what kind of puzzles that we put in
- Time: How long should a mini escape room be? Five minutes is too short, typically people spend about two minutes getting their bearings in a room, searching all the hiding spots, etc. That leaves only three minutes to solve a puzzle, which is only enough for one puzzle, which isn’t much fun. Twenty minutes would be good, but we wouldn’t really get many people through the room and since the game is only going to be around for the weekend, we want as many people to experience it as possible. So we settled on a ten minute room.
- Tech: This is a tricky one, we’ve got a list of cool ideas that we have the ability to implement, but since this was our first convention we weren’t sure what to expect about the space and the venue. Even things as simple as, “Where’s the power plug going to be? How many power outlets are there? How noisy will the convention be?” etc. We won’t say how much tech we put in there, but we made a compromise that made the room fun and impressive, whilst making the puzzles reliable and easy to set up.
- People: This sort of relates to the point about time, what kind of people will be playing the game? Will they be hard core escape room fanatics, meaning that we have to make the game hard enough to challenge them? Or will they be like my mum and have to be explained constantly what an escape room is? We took the approach that the players would big enough gamers that they all would have played some form of puzzle game before, be it a point and click adventure game, an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) or an actual escape game. So we made the game lean towards the more challenging side.
With these factors in mind, we started to develop a few puzzles that we could put into the room. The initial theme was a robot apocalypse inspired by the recent warnings by multiple tech luminaries on the dangers of AI. So the puzzles eventually took shape around the concept of “What can’t a robot do?”. Of course with some specific limitations around the space we had to let go of a few ideas, but the puzzles that eventually made the cut tried to generally revolve around this idea.
So why Christmas? Well one of the puzzles that we conceived involved the use of jokes – terrible dad-esque groan-and-slap-your-forehead-once-you-hear-it jokes. Where could they be situated in a robot apocalypse setting? After scratching our heads the answer that we came up with was that the jokes were inside a Christmas cracker. After debating the merits of creating a LOT of single use Christmas crackers, we decided to proceed with this implementation, and a huge shoutout has to goto one of our GEMs Derek who handcrafted each of the crackers by himself. So now we were committed to Christmas crackers, it meant that it was time to also commit to not just any robot apocalypse story, but a Christmas robot apocalypse story. Of course.
The rest of the build took us around two weeks as we gathered all the materials together and began cutting, drilling, soldering and clicking in Illustrator. The week before the convention was our test week and we had a few groups join us in our top secret puzzle development facility (the staff break room at the back of The Enigma Room). The reaction to our design was good, people enjoyed the story and the challenge provided by the puzzles. The puzzles were tweaked slightly to make them perfect, but it was still running a little too long so we made the decision to increase the length of the game to fifteen minutes rather than alter the game as we were pretty happy with how it all flowed.
All that was left was to set the mood. Cue a montage of me spending hours in front of the computer trawling Gumtree. At least the Christmas theming made things a little easier!
Come Friday we were psyched and ready to deploy our mini masterpiece entitled, “Y0u B3tt3r W4tch 0ut!”. We knew that bumping in an escape room in approximately four hours would be difficult, but we didn’t know just how difficult it would be, especially considering that we weren’t the most organised bunch. We exhausted all of our available time on the Friday and ended up having to come in extra early (I’m talking, “it’s still dark outside” early) on the Saturday morning. But we made it.
Piyush knocked up some awesome decorations, flyers and swag (MAZE PENS!) and Derek set up his patented “Ghettobooth” to take photos of the curious convention attendees and our booth was looking pretty great.
Reaction to the booth and the game was excellent, people had fun playing and the success rate was around 65%, which is pretty much where we wanted it. The best thing was that we introduced a significant number of people to escape rooms who had either never heard of them before or had never played one before. The mini room gave them a taste of what was out there and hopefully bred a new bunch of escape room fanatics.
Our GEMs had a great time as well, making new friends, checking out the exhibitors and buying precision machined dice. Overall it was a fantastic experience and we have to thank GX Australia for putting on such a cool event.
The question now is, where to next? We have this new mini escape room that has only been played by a handful of people. We could set it up at other conventions or events, but we’re not sure where. If you have suggestions of where we should go next let us know in the comments!