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Designing Immersive Experiences in Escape Room Puzzles


Published on

Presented at FITC Toronto 2017
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Adam Clare
Wero Creative

Are your users or players getting stuck and frustrated in your immersive environments? Use design techniques found in escape rooms to learn how to improve how you guide people through built (or virtual) environments. Following a consistent design logic is imperative for your users/players to understand and achieve the goals you have for them. Find out ways to rethink your puzzles as part of a greater system and how to retool them in case they aren’t working how you envisioned. Learn how video game design techniques can be applied to physical rooms, how to troubleshoot design issues, and a template to approach your puzzles in isolation through a holistic lens.


Learn how to design escape room puzzles and how this can impact your design thinking

Target Audience

Designers of any immersive experience from marketing to VR gaming

Five Things Audience Members Will Learn

How escape rooms work
How to think about your players/users in terms of puzzles
Acquire better design tricks from video games
How to guide players through physical design
Why thinking ‘outside the room’ matters

Published in: Design
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Designing Immersive Experiences in Escape Room Puzzles

  1. 1. Designing Immersive Experiences in Escape Room Puzzles Adam Clare Wero Creative
  2. 2. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant • Played escape games, got angry Who is this guy? • Game Designer at Wero Creative • Escape Rooms • Video Games • Professor of Game Design
  3. 3. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant What’s the point?
  4. 4. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Puzzles & Flow!
  5. 5. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant The key takeaway! Consistency in design. Understand the players. Empathy
  6. 6. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Our flow: 1. What’s a puzzle? 2. What’s flow? 3. What can we learn from video games? 4. What makes a better puzzle? 0
  7. 7. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Please think about • The user experience • The player experience • Context • Differences between video and escape games
  8. 8. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant What’s a Puzzle? We need a definition. 1
  9. 9. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant A static and logical challenge which players solve with the assistance of clues.
  10. 10. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant A static and logical challenge which players solve with the assistance of clues.
  11. 11. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant … static … • It doesn’t do anything until the players force it to • Setup before the players enter • It can include dynamic information if it’s programmed to
  12. 12. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant … logical challenge … • Logic is self-referencing • The theme directly relates to the logic of a challenge • Logic is malleable
  13. 13. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant … players solve … • Solving the puzzle MUST be something that can actually be accomplished • If the players cannot solve it then it is NOT a puzzle • How it is solved makes the difference
  14. 14. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant … assistance of clues. • Think abstractly • Clues need to be in the room • They are identifiable as clues • Do not include hints in this thought process
  15. 15. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Which means • Puzzles can almost be anything if they make sense! • They have to be logical for the players based off of what’s in the room (the theme) and the established puzzles (the entire system).
  16. 16. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Flow We need to go with it. 2
  17. 17. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Flow is how you feel!
  18. 18. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Source: Escape the Game
  19. 19. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Source: Escape the Game
  20. 20. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Source: Escape the Game
  21. 21. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant The concept of flow is central to video games.
  22. 22. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant What we can learn from video games Free to play! 3
  23. 23. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Use the flow, Luke
  24. 24. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Modify the approach • Puzzles have an input • Puzzles have an output • Puzzles have relationships • These create the flow of the game Name Input Output Description … Locked box Flag Book Cup filler
  25. 25. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Name Input Output Description … Locked box Players enter. See posters of solid colour with numbers. Lock on box matches colours. Get Flag Book Players match colour order to the lock’s combination. Flag Book Players open flag book. Find postcards around the room Access to vault, find out the Botanist is really an alien Somehow the flag book and postcards reveal a code for the vault. Cup filler Players find cups in the room, find water vessel in the vault Find Alien Writing CLASSIFIED
  26. 26. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Some video game influences - examples
  27. 27. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Have a tutorial level • A way for players to ease in to the game • Simple puzzles at the start of the game • Introduce patterns you want players to pick up • Really good for tourist destinations or corporate training
  28. 28. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Use level design • If you are having problems with flow, think of it as level design • Think of: • Starting position • 😀😱👻$ • Inventory • End goal
  29. 29. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Game direction • If player’s aren’t seeing what you want them to • Change the lighting or audio • Use colours • Use contrast and juxtaposition
  30. 30. Example 1: Too much
  31. 31. Example 2: Concise
  32. 32. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Vista Moments • A chance for players for players to enjoy their success • Let players recollect their thoughts • In video games it’s usually after a boss battle • BIG REWARD
  33. 33. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Three acts (or six, or nine) • Call to action • Deal with it • Big, intense, moment • Victory or failure
  34. 34. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant How to improve puzzles Can’t stop, won’t stop 4
  35. 35. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Always room to improve • What we just covered (use video games) • About reframing your perspective and the player’s • Common problems • I hope this helps!
  36. 36. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Look elsewhere • Read a book! • Travel • Puzzled Pint and similar • Theater • Anywhere really!
  37. 37. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Player’s get distracted • Remember game flow! • Check your story • Find where puzzles overlap • Reorder the puzzles for better flow
  38. 38. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Making connections • Hopefully you will do this for them to some extent • Use more than one source of feedback to establish connection between items • Pace the connection making
  39. 39. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Bottlenecks • These can actually be useful! • Possible solutions: • Bridge puzzles • Reduce player size • More obvious tasks • Red herrings (careful!)
  40. 40. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Not understanding the goal • It’s a call to action! • Make it clear! • Remind them! • Every puzzle should support your narrative! • !!!!!
  41. 41. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Stop thinking your smart! *you’re
  42. 42. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Players don’t know • What you like • Where you grew up, or anything about you. • How you process information or that there is a proper way to process information • They don’t care about you! • What shows (or whatever) are cool and that everyone MUST know it because it’s so popular and that all your friends watched it growing up. • “How could somebody be able to leave their house and not know this? Geez, if they don’t know this obviously popular reference then they shouldn’t be out of their homes playing games. Like, really??? How can they not put this and that logical thing together …”
  43. 43. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Prototype, play test, repeat!
  44. 44. Adam Clare@MrFacePlant Puzzles Systems Flow Video games Puzzle Design 5
  45. 45. Thanks! Wero Creative @MrFacePlant