Marvel at the complexity of puzzle design.
When guests come out of Thinking Outside the Box Escape Rooms, they often ask the question, ‘how did you come up with that?’ The answer seems simple but is also deeply complicated; it includes research, studying teaching strategies, meta-cognitive thinking, mathematics, science, and group dynamics.
Thinking of a puzzle is the easy part, linking it to a story and explaining the reason for its existence is the next hard task. Then implementing it into a variable environment of human interaction in order to complete in time is the trickiest part of Escape Room Puzzle Design. Everyone is different, everyone sees a puzzle in a different way so not only must you think of what you thought about when solving that puzzle yourself but how others will think too.
We plan each room to withstand a group of people, so to make sure it stays together, we design the room to withstand the ultimate team. The Avengers. (Yes, I know it will never happen but go with me on this.)
You must plan puzzles for each of these characters to make sure the room can run smoothly. Here are just a few things that are taken into consideration while designing.
Iron Man – The puzzles need to be hack proof (e.g) very hard to guess the combination because this character will try to hack anything or just try their luck at cracking the lock without solving the puzzle.
HawkEye – Some items/puzzles will need to be hard to find as this character likes to look around and connect the dots.
Hulk – The whole room needs to be robust enough to hold this character, there is no need to force objects but it needs to hold up against wear and tear. Anything that doesn’t need to move- should not move at all.
Thor – Thor comes from another world, so you must create a new one here. It is no good having a desk in a room and calling it the Oval Office, it must be immersive or you will lose the experience. There is actually a science behind engagement, immersion and solving problems but maybe that is a blog for another time.
Black Widow – This character is an agent so can decipher and decode messages, so need to make sure there is something for someone to work out, not just a simple answer like ‘this is the code’.
Captain America – This character likes to lead, so create a room that has many puzzles that multiple people can work on, but not so many it becomes unsolvable. That way, the Captain can organise who is doing what and keep track of what is left to solve.
Is that it?
Not only must you consider the incoming team within the puzzle design process; then comes the interesting part of putting it all together to create a flow around the room. Does it work? Does it have something for everyone to do? Do the puzzles fit the room? Are they even solvable at all?
Many puzzles we have designed have not featured in our games because (even though we love them) they are not thematically fitting, take too long or they don’t create that immersive environment that is required in an Escape Room.
The aim at Thinking Outside the Box Escape Rooms is not to frustrate you in being unable to succeed; the design principle is to build your confidence, to inspire a belief that you can do it, together.