Behind the Scenes: Escape Room Design
As the first blog in a recurring Behind the Scenes series, we’ll be sharing a few secrets about escape room design. Anyone can learn how to design an escape room, you just need some patience and creativity.
There are lots of places where you can buy or print off ready-made escape rooms for the home. If you have the time though, designing an escape room can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
You can impress your friends and family while also producing a fun activity for any birthday parties or family reunions.
At first, escape room design appears to be an overwhelming task. It helps to break the process down into smaller steps. A top-down approach is especially useful.
The top-down approach just means that you start by planning the larger overarching plans for the room. From there, you gradually work on more and more specific parts of the design.
A good theme or story is vital to an escape room’s success. Not only will a good theme get players hyped for the game, but it will help you with the rest of the design process.
Researching your theme will help you come up with ideas for props, and from there it’s not too hard to come up with a puzzle.
When you’re making an escape room at home, your resources may be a bit limited, making a theme harder to show off. In that case, a stronger story-focus can make a big difference. Try to come up with an original story if you can, prison escapes and bank heists have become old news.
Who will be playing your escape room, grandma’s book club or your daughter’s mathlete team? Knowing who will be playing will help you figure out the scope of the game. And yes, mathletes are a real thing.
You’ll have to figure out how long your group can stay motivated and focused and go from there. Once you know how long you want the game to be, it will help you decide how many puzzles you’ll need to design.
Everybody does it differently, but usually you can expect a puzzle to take 3-4 minutes for a team to figure it out. From there, you can expect to need approximately 15 puzzles to fill an hour’s worth of gameplay.
The specifics of puzzle design is usually one of the last steps when we make a room. Of course, your puzzle design choices may naturally lead you to going back and changing parts of the room you thought you already had set in stone. That’s fine though, a lot of escape room design is trial and error!
Popular puzzles include coded messages, pass-code locks, counting tasks and pattern recognition puzzles. It’s important to know what puzzles naturally lend themselves to the theme you’ve chosen. For example, coded messages would make a lot of sense in a military-bunker room, but not as much sense in a magical-pony-mountain themed room.
More trial and error!
Building and testing the room is a whole other process. But it’s important to be patient and remember that trial and error is an important and necessary part of the design process.
You may have to build an entire puzzle before you can test it and realize that it just won’t work. Sometimes a minor tweak will make a puzzle more usable, sometimes you’ll have to completely reinvent the puzzle.
If you follow these steps you’ll have a better idea of how to approach escape room design. You may be surprised by just how fun and satisfying this type of creative work can be! Of course, if you’re more of a player than a designer, you could always play our rooms!