BuildXcape Platform for Outdoor Escape Games

In the past 2 months we have been busy working with one of the escape rooms in Singapore to run an outdoor escape event. The event, named The Guardians, was organized in Sentosa, an island resort in Singapore, for 3 consecutive weeks. With BuildXcape platform as the core, one of the interesting parts of the event is that the game session is played on mobile web application and monitored remotely, thus to the favor of our customer, they only need to put game masters and one station at the starting location and for the rest of the locations they do not have to do so.

The event was covered by Strait Times, the Singapore most popular newspaper. Escaped SG blog, one of the main Singapore blogs that review escape games in Singapore, also had an blog post about the event here

To play the game, each team need one account with email as user id and a password. Every member needs to log in with that account on BuildXcape website from his/her mobile to join the game session of his/her team.  By using one account, it allows all phones to be synced together so if any team member does something on his/her mobile, it will be instantly updated (real-time) on other member’s phone.

Below are some features of the game with our platform:

1. Introductory screen: After logging in, this is the first screen they will see. They need to scan a barcode, which will be provided by the game master.

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2. Countdown: Once the barcode is accepted, the system will run a countdown of 30-60 seconds. The purpose of the countdown is to give the team a little bit of time to prepare before the game actually started.

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3. Game session: each puzzle consists of:
a. A storyline: represented by 1-2 pictures/video/text (like the below dragon that is saying) to enhance the theme of the game. Sometime there are hints hidden in the storyline. Players need to study the storyline carefully.
b. A puzzle: represented by 1 photo/text. Players cannot solve the puzzle solely based on that photo. They need to observe around, as there are things at the location which combine with this photo/text will enable them to figure out the answer.
c. A space to submit answer and a hint button. Hint will only be available after a certain time.
d. Clock: at the top to the right, in black circule, to show the time left. There is time penalty for wrong attempts multiple time. During penalty time players cannot try any answers.
e. There is time bonus if players manage to solve the puzzle

4. Inventory: another intersting part of this platform. As you manage to solve a certain puzzles, you will be able to collect some items. These items will be used to solve other puzzles later on.

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5. Map: an imperative feature of our platform. It would be a huge let down if there was no GPS Map for an outdoor escape game, especially when it was run on mobiles. In addition to telling the team where they are, an interesting part of the map is that it will prompt the players (location trigger) when they approach a checkpoint.

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See the blue dot? It shows your location

It is a pity that we were unable to use other cool features for this project due to the tight timeline, such as Image Recognition (to populate some clue when you scan an image), Voice Recognition, and even Augmented Reality. Having said that, we hope that we can add them into the coming projects. Stay tuned for our next blog post about it!

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.