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Designing a balanced real-life escape room

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Hi, everyone!

We are planning to create an unusual real-life escape room. It features 15 rooms and 6 teams playing simultaniously in competitive mode: 3 teams VS 3 teams.

I have created some ordinary real-life escape rooms, but this is something new to me. It feels more similar to video games. I have layed out rooms, designed mechanics, plot, some puzzles, but when I start to actually write down the sequence of interactions it is such a mess! I get frustrated keeping track of who does what and where and for how long.

I really need a good advise about how to cope with all that complexity. Is there a smart way to plan everything out? Charts? Tables?

 

 

 

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Modules, I think, are the best design tool. You're essentially designing an open world game, which means you can't really track all the different possibilities of what order players will go in. They have the freedom to jump from one puzzle to another. What you set up, essentially, are gates, both for seeing a puzzle, and for having the necessary keys to puzzles.

Say when they first walk into the room they see a safe, well, obviously they know they'll open it, but the combination to that safe could be in a calendar in a drawer, on the other side of a door that only opens if they can find some hidden keys, that themselves may not be accessible yet, unless you decide. So you decide what the gates are, and what is accessible at a given level.

The more I think about it, the more I think diagramming like a Zelda dungeon would work best, but the rooms would be mostly theoretical. Once they unlock a given clue, they are now in a new room, which contains additional clues to open up additional rooms once they beat the challenge in that room.

But you can't track the sequence because the number of different things they can do in a room is too large.

 

When you say competition, do you just mean fastest to complete? Like having two teams in identical or similar rooms?

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If your issue is just keeping things organized, you could use a modified dependency chart. They handle huge puzzles really well, people have even built out the puzzle flow of entire games using them.

http://grumpygamer.com/puzzle_dependency_charts

 

I like to use yEd to build mine. Kind of an old tool, but its free and handles graphs nicely. 

https://www.yworks.com/products/yed

Edited by Archduke

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Archduke, thank you for links! I think buling a dependency chart would help a lot.

Hypester, thank you for pointing out Zelda dungeons. I'll look into it.

In our case all locations are functionally divided into 2 parts: bank rooms and laboratory rooms of a powerful corporation. 3 teams are trying to perform a heist at night, they ruin security systems and rush towards 3 different vaults. Other 3 teams are scientists on a night shift in 3 different laboratories (rooms). As the electricity is also down, scientists notice that something wrong is going on. Now they must try to call the police and do not let robbers leave the building before its arrival. And that is how the competition is built: scientist gradually turn on security systems, so the robbers can't leave the building easily. Robbers have laser guns and sometimes scientists have to search bank rooms in order to solve their puzzles. I want robbers to be a threat for scientists, but I don't want robbers to shoot them all easily and immediately. That's also the place where it gets complicated for me...*sighs* 

For now what we managed to do is create a table, stating what part of what puzzle is in which room. At least that showed us which rooms are boring and empty. I think your advice would help me to assemble everything in a more smart way, though I still expect hard time with managing 6 teams. 

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Hi everyone!

I must thank you again for your good advice! It is indeed much easier to build puzzles backwards - from end to their beggining. One just needs to insert more and more obstacles to local and general goals. We are also bulding maps with "keys" like for Zelda dungeons. Additionally we make a team table (attached) - it helps us to see what team has an unbalanced amount of actions, or just doing same stuff on and on.

On 17.06.2017 at 8:21 AM, the3rdItalianPlumber said:

I'm sure you have probably already thought of it, but just in case you haven't, a tabletop prototype seems like it might be helpful.

I thought of this a little bit. Is there any good advice on how to do this?

table.pdf

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Tabletop prototypes are simple enough.  Get some paperboard, scissors, tape and glue, some measuring sticks both to keep proportions right and for straight edges, and a mix of pencils and colored pens.

There are plenty of other little things to help with design, sticky notes, several kinds of clips (including paperclips, binder clips, wire clips and alligator clips of various sizes and colors), assorted dice and spinners, note cards, highlighters, and other office supplies, but these aren't essential for what you describe.

Measure the important things to scale, and start sketching, marking, cutting, folding, and fastening.

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