6 cool mobile technologies for real escape games

Nowadays smartphones play an imperative part in our life. Of 10 people you meet on the road, at least half of them are busy looking at their phones while walking. As smartphone becomes handy, we think of how to make use smartphones to play escape games – real escape games, not thoese escape game app you see on app stores.

When talking about smartphones, people immediately relate to physical puzzles like locks, hidden objects and other complex mechanical puzzles. It sounds kind of weird at first to play real escape games with smartphones, however these following technologies from smartphone will change your mind after reading them:

  1. Barcode & QR code
    These are the simplest and most popular one – players use their phones to scan barcode/QR code to extract information
  2. Image recognition
    This is a much more advance technology than the first one, which allow you to scan any pictures and from doing so revealing secret information to you. Imagine you scan a banner in a public place and it populates a clue. How cool it is!
  3. Augmented Reality (AR)
    We have a post about this before. Needless to say more about this one – Pokemon Go is one of the vivid example if you need one. By scanning a marker, a 3D object will be populated and you can do something with that object: touch it, wipe it, move around the object, etc.
  4. Voice Recognition
    Imagine you yell a spell, then suddenly something happen!
    Siri is one of the well-known technology for this voice recognition. Though it is still not so accurate at the moment, voice recognition is a promising technology for escape game in the near future.
  5. Hand Recognition
    By using your fingers, you can form numbers, shapes, etc. that the phone can detect. If you form a correct pattern, the puzzle will be unlocked. You can make a flying bird with your hands, or anything and let the phone detects it!
  6. Internet of thing – Wifi control
    For example a door is locked by a wifi lock. Only when you solve a puzzle on the phone, then the door will be open by receiving open signal from the phone.

At BuildXcape, we are specialized in escape room design platform on mobile, that help game designers to make and run their escape room games. We are developing the abovementioned 6 features in our platform and hope that they will bring escape room to the next level.

What do you think about these technologies? Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.

 

Augmented Reality and Future of Escape Room

Augmented Reality (AR) in gaming is not a new concept. The success of Pokemon Go, beside the Pokemon theme, is attributed by this technology. Before the game was launched, it had created a buzz about this technology and during its first day of official launch, millions of users downloaded the game because of the curiosity about AR.

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As much as people were hyped about firsthand AR experience in Pokemon Go, it was quickly gone in a few days. As the main action of the game is to catch Pokemons and you need to catch hundreds of them, AR becomes less valuable as it does not contribute much to the game play, if not to drain the battery faster and slower the Pokemon catching process. AR was successfully used as a tech-gimmick to bring people to the app store and download the game, rather than giving a great playing experience.

Same thing is happening in Escape Room industry. People are talking about AR and VR (virtual reality). But the challenge for AR in escape room is that if all it can do is to show a 3D object from a surface, then its application will be limited. Though it looks interesting at first sight when players scan a marker and a 3D object pop up, its “wow” effect will be diminishing during the course of the game if the same thing is repeated in every puzzle. At this juncture, what we think of the best application of AR on escape room is to use it as part of the game decoration and part of the game puzzle, for example:

     1. Stick a few markers on the wall, floor, ceiling, etc. as the decoration: players can see 3D objects when they use AR. This will help enhance the theme of escape room.

     2. A small part of escape room uses AR, instead of the entire game: so that players do not get bored with the AR repetition.

Having said that, AR is a future technology for escape rooms. The mission here is to extend the features of AR beyond merely showing of 3D object. AR should allow players to have real interactions with the AR object, such as use hand to touch, move, lift the AR object from one place to another place. If AR object is a trunk, when players use a real key to open, the system is able to detect the real key and then open the trunk. At BuildXcape, this is what we are developing.

What do you think about AR as the future technology for escape rooms? If you think what AR should have to improve player’s game experience, feel free to share in the comment.

 

8 Simple & Cool Self-made Puzzles for DIY Escape Room at Home

As home escape rooms and DIY escape rooms are more popular nowsaday, we think that it is a good idea to create a list of self-made puzzles for home game designers. These puzzles should be easy and cheap to made, yet they are cool to play with.

  1. Luggage lock
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    You set up a 3 digit code. Hide the luggage somewhere in the house. This can be done in 1 minute.
  2. Unlock pattern of phone’s lock screen
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    Require players to draw something like this to unlock your phone. Use your phone’s home screen to provide players with information upon successful unlock.
    A good thing with phone’s lock screen is that if they do trial and error, it will have penalty.
  3. Invisible ink
    Write it on a mirror or paper. Can only be revealed when player exhales on mirror use steam (boil water) on the paper
  4. Stop working clock
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    Make use of a stop working wall clock in the house (you can simply remove the battery). Use the time as the passcode. Usually players do not notice this until they read the information.
  5. Mailbox key
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    Provide players with a bunch of keys, including the mailbox key. Players need to know that they have to use mailbox key and not other.
  6. TV screen with Chromecast
    This is the one I like. Use Chromecast to cast a background photo (contain secret info) into your TV screen and turn off the screen. Remove the batteries from the remote control.
    During the game, players will obtain the batteries. They will have to figure out what to do with batteries. They will check and find out the remote control is empty and thus know what to do.
  7. Barcodes
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    You can use BuildXcape platform to design games with barcodes. Simple scan a few objects to save the barcodes. Then choose secret information to be kept insde that barcode (text, photos, etc.). Later on during the game players need to scan the correct barcodes to get the secret information.
    The good thing with this puzzle is that you can use many objects in the house to contain secret information. Since they are house’s objects, they are indifferent to others and thus players do not notice (good way for deception)
  8. Jigsaw puzzle
    Buy a cheap jigsaw puzzle and draw something on the back before breaking into piece. Players need to assemble the jigsaw puzzle and then flip over to see what is written on the back

The list is not a comprehensive one, but it makes use of what you have at home. In addition to this blog post, you can also refer to this website for other puzzles that you can design at home as well. You are welcome to contribute your thought via the comment section below.

Popular themes for DIY home escape

As the service provider of DIY escape room platform, we usually receive enquiries on how to make and design one own escape room. Therefore we would like to write a blog post about the themes that DIY escape room designers can use and hopefully by reading this you will have some ideas for your own escape room at home.

We will group themes into each category as follows:

  1. Scary theme: zombie attack, trapped house, ghost house, hell gate
    Players need to escape the house before disaster happens, like zombie attacks or trapped forever.
  2. Detective theme: most popular are murderer and bomb defusal theme
    Players need to investigate to find out who is the murder/criminal of the scene
  3. Find a special object: treasure hunt, lost object, assemble artifact
    A story is revealed to players and they have a mission to search for that particular object.
  4. Festive season theme: Christmas, Easter, New Year
    The most popular escape room of this type is Santa Claus theme: find the lost Santa Claus, Santa Claus’ hidden present, etc.
  5. Kid theme: usually for birthday events or family reunion
    The themes can be Harry Potter, Pokemon, Disney, Star War, DC & Marvel superheroes. You can make use of fairy tales and other popular cartoons
  6. Or no theme:
    You can provide players with certain puzzles (locks, keypads, etc.) and give them a few description. Their job will be to unlock all the puzzles so that they can win the game.

What do you think about this list? Feel free to share your thought in the comment. You can also send us your enquiry here if you have an DIY escape room plan and would like to furnish it with our escape room platform.

Helpful tips for Escape Room Owners

As the provider of BuildXcape escape room platform, which helps escape room designers design and run their own room easier, we are always interested in how escape room owners work to create their rooms. Some will design their own rooms while others will contract with an independent escape room designers for the work. Recently when we visited Cracked it! Escape Games blog, we found one interesting blog post that we would like to share with you and believe that it will be beneficial to you as the escape room owners.

Thanks to Brian’s generosity, the owner of the blog, we are allowed to share a portion of his post here. For the full content, please feel free to read it here.

15 Questions to ask before contracting with an escape room designer:

  1. What is your background and level of expertise in game design?
  2. How long have you been in the Escape Room business?
  3. How many games have you designed?
  4. Do any of your games infringe on ANY Intellectual Property rights?
  5. Has your game been heavily play tested? If What are the stats? What is the average success/failure rate?
  6. What Escape Room companies have you designed games for?
  7. How many copies of your game are in circulation?
  8. Where are your games currently deployed?
  9. What exactly am I getting for my money?
  10. Do you have a redacted sample of a game design package that I could review before deciding to contract with you?
  11. Do you have testimonials from satisfied customers?
  12. Do you have references that I may contact?
  13. Am I purchasing a license for this game or am I purchasing the ownership rights to this game?
  14. What is your cancellation and refund policy?
  15. Do you provide service and support after closing the deal?

We found these questions are very helpful for escape room owners especially the startup rooms owners. The initial investment for escape room business is not a small amount and to get it back quickly, it is imperative to have interesting and attractive rooms from the beginning. Hire a team/designer to design a room for you will definitely add more cost to your investment hence you need to be sure that this move is worth the risk.

If you have other tips to share, please feel free to leave the comment in this post.

 

Potential of in-house escape rooms

In the previous blog post, we mentioned certain challenges that in-house escape room is facing. Even with that, there is a potential in this segment. Able to unlock this could possibly open a new market that is rewarding.

On average, an escape room charges USD 30-35 per customer per room. This is reasonable given how expensive it is for ER owners to invest into technologies to build the room. Moreover, the overhead and employee cost and marketing cost are not to be underestimated – they attribute a big portion into the operating cost of an ER. Hence in general it is difficult for ER to lower their price.

Still, USD 30-35 is expensive and not everyone is willing to pay for that. This is where alternatives like home escape room, group escape room come into the picture. These DIY rooms though cannot be fancy like ER but they are cheaper. The challenges are that not everyone is a good game designer, but this can be overcome as there are DIY home escape package available today:

Heist Escape Party
This is the only DIY home escape package that I found online. Their package are affordable. Setup is not hard. Recommend to try them. The link to their website is here

BuildXcape
This is the platform to help DIY game designers to make their games. The platform comes up with templates and tools. One of the good features about this platform is that they work on barcodes. You can make use of barcodes at home to make your game. It helps save a lot of money. The link to this website is here

Nowescape
This blog shares 101 tips on how to design an escape room at home. It is very interested. By reading this post I can come up with more ideas to design my own home escape games, with low cost and not to consume a lot of time. The link to the post is here

Do you have other websites about home escape game or DIY escape room? Feel free to share in the comment.

Why is not in-house escape room popular yet?

In-house escape rooms, or home escape, is a type of DIY escape rooms that people organize at home for friends and families. Though escape rooms are a new trend recently, it is not yet a favorable entertainment at home. Before going deeper into this, let’s look at common types of entertainment at home:

  • Home movie
  • Tabletop games: board games, card games, etc.
  • Drinking games

The advantage of these entertainment is that they are easy to organize and do not take too much of the host time to prepare. They can be acquired fairly cheap (may not be true for drinking games) and easily get everyone’s agreement to participate. These entertainment do not require a large space to enjoy and more important not a lot of physical activities (important aspect to consider if the entertainment happens after the dinner).

Compares to these entertainment, home escape room has certain disadvantages that make the host to consider more carefully before using this type of entertainment. These disadvantages are:

  1. It is not easy to design an escape room at home
    if you do not have experience in game design. The game may turn out ugly and your guests will easily get bored.
    The other way is to get it from a third party. The challenge with this is that the DIY package may be expensive and still not give your people a good time. Compares to this, buy a board game is a better idea.
  2. It can be costly
    because you will need to decorate your house to turn it into a theme. You also need to spend money to buy certain objects, lockers, etc. to fit into the theme.
  3. It is time consuming
    because you need to play test a few times before you can actually run it with your friends. You also need to spend time to create the themes and puzzles, plan the clues and arrangement of things in the house, etc.
  4. And people may not like it
    very simple: it is because of physical and brain activities. People feel lazy when they have to keep walking around the house to find secret objects and dig around. Other may feel turn off when knowing that they have to solve puzzles.

Even though escape room at home is not a popular thing at this moment, they have some potential. We will cover more about this in the next blog post. If you think there are any other disadvantages of making an escape room at home, feel free to leave your comment below.