Step 1: How much space is needed?
Before you begin to set up the escape room, you need to know its dimensions. You need to know exactly what kind of setting your escape room will have before you start building anything.
The room needs to be large enough to fit in all props and still provide enough space for players to move around freely, depending as well on the size of the group. Sometimes it is advisable to use more than one room to prolong the game and raise the difficulty level, as well as adding excitement to the game.
Step 2: Setting
To create an exciting and memorable experience for your customers, picking a historically and/or geographically interesting setting is key. Apart from that, you can work with interesting props, colors, lighting techniques, or other special effects to enhance the experience.
Step 3: Theme
There are virtually no limitations when it comes to picking a theme for your escape room.
Of course, popular themes like horror, mystery, and adventure are the most attractive, but there is always room for creativity and individuality, and it’s important to put some personal elements into the creative process as well, to make your establishment stand out from the masses. Of course, a classical escape theme is always nice, but adding a little twist here and there will make sure your customers don’t get bored.
Step 4: Finding premises
Before you can begin to set up your escape room, you are going to need suitable accommodation. Make sure you know exactly how much space you need for the escape rooms themselves, keeping in mind that you need additional space for washroom facilities, storage, and a reception area for the visitors.
Possibly, you should also have a separate room for the gamemasters to monitor and run the games.
Another important factor is of course location. Pick an area where you can be sure your visitors will be able to find you without any difficulties, preferably not too far from public transportation. Another thing to consider is whether you want to provide parking for your customers. This is going to require a higher budget but will prevent unnecessary delays, as customers do not need to search for a parking space in the area.
Step 5: Duration of the game
Generally speaking, one hour is the ideal time for an escape game. It allows for simpler guidelines and facilitates organization. Other variations can be suitable for certain escape rooms, but this is by far the most popular format.
Naturally, the entire game has to be designed in a way that is is possible for the players to finish it within the set time limit. This needs to be tested thoroughly before you can create the exact storyline of the game. The number of riddles that need to be solved in the set time limit has to be determined, as well as the number of clues that help facilitate the solving process. Once all of these factors have been coordinated, you can start writing the story.
Step 6: The story
When the players enter the room, they receive a short introduction, which tells them what the story behind the escape room is. This is important not only to clarify the mission but also to set the right mood and atmosphere for the game in order to ensure an immersive experience.
While the base of the story should always be consistent, each gamemaster should be allowed to tell it in their own words, in order to allow for a more natural delivery.
The story can determine how players move through the game, in which order they approach the riddles and how their thought process evolves during the game.
For instance, if your objective is to escape from a prison cell, you immediately start thinking about finding keys and other means of escape. No matter which theme, the story needs to be logical, so that the players have no difficulties. All props, riddles, and clues have to relate to the story.
Once the players start the game, the story needs to work on its own. Gamemasters can occasionally intervene by giving hints or suggestions, but ultimately, the players are left to their one devices and it should be possible for them to finish all the riddles by themselves.
This means that the story has to be easy to follow. Writing the story down step by step is important, not just to support the gamemasters but also to make sure you maintain an overview and it doesn’t get too complicated.
Step 7: The storyline
A story, no matter how long or short, requires structure. There are helpful devices that can support you during this process. For instance, creating a flowchart to illustrate the detailed process of the game will help giving a logical order to your storyline. Line up what exactly the players need to do to finish their mission.
- Which puzzle needs to be solved to achieve which goal in the game?
- How many parts or stations will the game have?
- How many puzzles for each part of the game?
- In which order do the puzzles need to be solved?
Mapping out the entire process of the game will help determine how exactly the game needs to be structured to meet all requirements and to come to a logical conclusion.
To give the game even more direction, you can separate the riddles into different challenges.
Depending on the size of the room, the duration of the game, and the number of players, there can be several challenges that will need to be mastered before the ultimate mission can be fulfilled.
For instance, if the theme of the game is a zombie apocalypse, the challenges could be to find ‘patient zero’ (the first person to be infected), determine what the cure for the virus is, and find the place where it is hidden. That way, the players have a series of small victories within the game, which will keep them motivated and even more focussed on the goal.
The puzzles and riddles can then be created to fit these challenges so that the players know in which order to solve them. For additional support, different challenges could have differently colored riddles and hints.
Bevor an escape room can be built, several important factors need to be considered.
A lot of planning and preparation is required and creativity and logical thinking are essential to ensure a perfect experience.