It can be a good business if you have a few rooms. There's two types of people who get into it: passionate people, and people who buy designs online for a decent revenue. The latter makes more money, but there's some amazing escape rooms that are Disney-parks-level.
Unfortunately, escape rooms work way better in non-cities. Rent is too expensive in big cities, so the rooms suffer. Many of the best rooms are in really random places, since financially it works out better. It's a really interesting space, and I'm starting to see a few big companies form around it. I am curious to see if big companies (with decent but generic games) overtake the smaller passion project ones.
(Money aside, designing and building an escape room is one of the most fun things I've ever done. There was a solid mix of cool tech, puzzle design, prop design, showmanship and more. If you're interested, I can help get started! My email is in my profile)
I’m always curious to find out what new things people are creating, but due to the nature of the game it’s quite hard to find “reviews” of escape rooms and I mostly just talk superficially with others about where they’ve gone and how they liked them.
Some things I've seen that are memorable are the ones that use senses you're not expecting. Ordering jars by smell, for example. Or shooting something with a dart... anything physical like that. I've seen some cool things with projectors, with actors, and more.
Hey at least escape rooms would be better than coding white boards. Probably more of an actual test of a programmers abilities ;)
Really? I've done a dozen and in every single one, you could simply exit back from the door you entered from. The rooms were never truly about "escaping", at least past the lore and story. They are about searching for clues and solving puzzles. I've never been in one where we were explicitly locked inside. Generally you just make your way through and exit out a different door at the end.
Also, swipes like "So you dont trust anyone unless gov tells you to" break the site guidelines. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here.
Basically all of it? Is this some kind of trick question? Economic freedom doesn't cause fire-safety.
China advanced only after having less laws
Yet now, China's lawlessness is a drag on advancing. The cost of low-trust in a modern economy is huge.
> The cost of low-trust in a modern economy is huge.
So you dont trust anyone unless gov tells you to ?
I disagree, and I believe the evidence supports me. Buildings became fire safe AFTER regulation and enforcement in country after country.
It is naturally considered a bad idea to kill your customers.
Yet in China, the milk powder suppliers killed their customers and now nobody trusts the milk. Likewise various other foods and also medicines in China. Instead, people spend a fortune smuggling safe food across borders. This is just one example amongst many. The same story exists in country after country.
So you dont trust anyone unless gov tells you to?
The gov doesn't have to tell me who to trust. I live in a country with strong protection laws. I live in a country where buildings get inspected and dangerous buildings shut down. I live in a country where I can trust the food I buy. There is not a government approved list of safe food shops. The government doesn't have to tell me which milk powder is safe; the government enforces a system in which I can trust, and in doing so create prosperity and safety together. I trust; I don't need a gov approved list, because I can buy food on the assumption that it's all safe by default. If I was living in a low-trust society, where the government was ineffective, that's when I would need a list of known safe sources.
You are arguing from a libertarian ideology. I don't have an ideology; I only have evidence.
> One survey of escape rooms by Scott Nicholson of the Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada found that in 43% of European escape-room players, once locked in, are dependent on staff outside the room. Some venues in eastern Europe even handcuff escapees to the scenery, as part of the challenge.
Currently in Poland authorities starting to look into possible regulations to make escape rooms safer
Edit: Not sure why downvoted, I'm genuinely curious of this person's experience. Is asking not allowed?
A sequence of puzzles which unlock the next step.
Puzzles like the code lock may be numeric, you may find a clue to the code as a sequence of colors, which you have to find the color key for (maybe it is split into parts and hidden around the room).
Sometimes it's as simple as finding a key. e.g. in the pocket of a coat hanging on the wall, or a note inserted into a book on a shelf. (Tearing the room apart to find objects is usually the best strategy!)
Some puzzles get a bit more clever than this but these are usually the foundation elements.
A constraint solving problem where you had a map with a grid and various clues gave you constraints like 'not within 2 squares of a bomb shelter'
A thermal imaging camera so you could detect which one of a set of 'sample containers' was warm and you should use the code printed on it elsewhere.
Combination locks where the combinations were given by giving the element names and you had to enter the atomic number (a table was on the wall)
More detailed description:
I remember being impressed by "Sensor Cell". And some games had one player operating some interface while only the rest of the team could see what was going on, so they had to shout instructions (like the TV show "Knightmare"). I think that's good design.
I'd like to see something like this again, but I don't think it would be commercially viable without a popular license. Bowling and laser tag are both cheaper to build and have more replay value.
We did the one in Islington for a work away day, it was pretty sweet. Just about worked for me and I watched the show back in the 90s ...
One thing that annoyed me was that we were obviously unable to solve the puzzle and the guy kept giving us hints over the comms.
I told him to stop several times (since it wouldn't matter - if we can't solve we'd return another day). Though he must have had instructions to push all customers into a "successful outcome" no matter how poor they do. For that I was furious - though will certainly go and check other companies next time and make it clear that if they do give hints (no matter how bad we do) they won't get paid.
lastly there was news just last week that one of these rooms burned down in Poland. Sounds like a backstory to one of the "The Saw" films:
Also customers come back when themes change for the rooms or the room is redesigned.
That sounds a bit harsh. The escape rooms I have been at all made it clear that the objective is to finish as fast as possible but if you get stuck on things and it seems unlikely you’ll make it on the hour they will give you clues. It’s just part of the deal, you will almost always finish, and “winning” vs losing is a question of how fast you finish.
This doesn’t apply to competitive rooms of cause. Where I actually don’t know how they handle clues as that has never been an issue for my groups in those room.
> That sounds a bit harsh.
He’s negotiating in advance, not punishing them. It’s about making it clear what you want for your money, and allowing the other party to make a choice. This is how negotiations work.
“Hi I’d like a room here but I have a special request: don’t call me ‘sir’. It’s non negotiable; if you do I won’t pay you.”
Either: “ok that’s fine.”
or: “sorry, I’m afraid we can’t do that, sir.”
are ok. But once you’ve accepted, that’s it.
Negotiating. It’s the foundation of trade. I wish it didn’t have such a bad rap.
feel free to address me directly I'm right here. Also you're right I am silly. Silly silly silly a very stupid person. I've got some incredibly silly way of looking at the world. I am the Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov of HN.
If you want to insult me please use my email from the profile and send me a message directly. But don't dress up your insults by talking about me instead of talking directly at me. thanks
EDIT: also you suggest I leave yelp or other online reviews to bully companies. I don't even have a phone. Instead I talk to the person directly whether it's a restaurant or whatever else. Even they piss me off I'd never leave a review. I am not a fucking coward. Please speak for yourself and don't put things in my mouth that I haven't done or suggested.
Sure that’s just negotiation, but in that case I’d argue just as well that the costumer is being unresonable because he has expectations of the experience that simply don’t align with what is being offered. And if the establishment decides not to take your business because of the unusual request, which is wierdly dependent on how things play out I would not hold it against them.
As for not wanting clues, you can just tell them not to provide them and they wont. No need for the weird conditional payment option. You’re taking away a timeslot no matter what and costing them money, if you want to do that you need to pay, wanting special conditions on that payment is “rather harsh”.
So “you can just” clearly isn’t true, at least in that case.
Also, the premise that a customer not wanting clues to a puzzle is unreasonable, or anything like conditioning on a pre-recorded movie, is a pretty questionable — to the point I think it’s just wrong.
Having a puzzle proactively spoiled by staff is nothing like that, at all. Refusing to pay if staff ruin the experience by taking actions you ask them not to is actually standard in service industries.
As for the third.. Is making payment conditional on the service provided, weird? I'm not sure how else you're supposed to negotiate. "Here are my demands, but if you don't meet them I'll pay anyway."
and if this happens we would break from finishing the game immediately and walk out (as it is imho like cheating ourselves (which I wouldn't pay any money for). I'd also make clear that in case we can't finish that it's actually a reason for us to come back.
in any case it would be strong enough worded so that they get it (without sounding threatening)
And the owner can probably add those easier than redesigning the rooms all the time.
Either way, I enjoy them. I do, however, think the business model could be a lot more scalable. Content providers should seek to either use the same space for multiple games, or use the same game across multiple scenarios.
This would be a great use case for current-tech level VR I think. Plop people into a correctly scaled virtual escape room in and bam, you can provide and deploy new content at the rate you can design it (perhaps physical locations not even needed).
Alternatively, build a spaceship, or a dungeon, or something else that can be generalized to different levels in the same basic space.
To anyone in the boston area, or, I suppose, Sweden, check out Boda Borg for what I think is a more entertaining take on them involving physical challenges, really abstract puzzles, and rapid feedback of try-fail-repeat.
The article doesn't talk about it much but there's also a booming support industry that's built up around Escape Rooms. From prop makers, puzzle desingers, suppliers of full turn key rooms.
It's a fascinating industry to work in. Having spoken to every customer on the phone (highly recommended) there's such a range of people starting Escape Rooms from people starting their first ever business to people with lots of experience in related (or less related) areas. The amount of different skills that go into making these things is amazing. Having multiple rooms seems important to growing revenue, since it's the only practical way to get return customers. A lot of people of expanding to multiple locations as well as a way of reusing work.
A cool thing happening right now in the UK is two rooms are openning using licensed IP. There's a Dr Who one which sounds really exciting and one based on the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock show (disclaimer no 2, they're a customer of mine which I'm very excited about)
They're a whole lot of fun to play as well :)
A huge hit for fans of the show (and book) series.
We're at 25K downloads, 4.5 star ratings and it's growing nicely. Groupon sold over 1K mission packs in one week.
Last month, we added user-generated missions, and people use them for education, birthday parties and everything else that needs to be spiced up by a ticking bomb. ;)
Some puzzles are purely observation. The Jurassic Park "hide stuff in the bottom of a Barbasol can" trick is pretty popular, there are safes where they tell you the code is the "boss's wife's birthday", so you have to find the calendar or rolodex or dated happy birthday note in the room.
There was one room I did that swapped the keycaps on a typewriter to make a substitution cipher- type the coded message into the typewriter and the decoded message would come out.
The rooms with higher production quality tend to incorporate more technology into the puzzles. One room I did gave you instructions on a radio (which you got from a previous locked box), if you were tuned to the right station- hinted at from a different clue, with the radio instructions changing as you finished each step. Another room had rigged together a large box with a Kinect or Leap Motion or something similar setup where you had to stick your hand into the box and move it around in the right place to open a magnetic lock, but the screen showing you the correct sequence was in another room that you couldn't see so your teammates had to be in the other room shouting directions at you.
I've done some where you have to physically search for hidden objects in the room, some where you sit down and do puzzles on paper, some where you have to recognize clues that refer to other things in the room, some where you have to figure out specific unexpected actions to take in a particular room or physical situation, and some where there were physical puzzle artifacts scattered around the room and it was quite recognizable what the puzzles were, but not necessarily obvious what to do with them.
So there really isn't just one style. (Also, some rooms give hints proactively, some give hints on request, while others are quite happy for you to lose if the hour runs out and you haven't figured it out yet.)
If you have ever played the Professor Layton video game series, the puzzles often remind me of that - a mix of lateral thinking, observation, basic codes and patterns and careful observation. The whole experience is very much like a real life puzzle video game.
The real challenge with the industry, unlike a lot of others, is the lack of replayability. This makes the industry rather unique and requires more operators to fill a given level of demand in a metro region than other similar options.
But god I hope the industry keeps growing or it'll be back to wine tasting or skeet shooting or all day resort retreats. Ugh.
It's definitely not for everyone, and I'll say, I personally like it better when there's only 1 or 2 others in the room; more than that gets too hectic for me.
There absolutely is. Zero Escape is basically a series of escape room games.
I'm sure there are better example, particularly ones from the entertainment industry booms of the 1920's and 1950's but I just can't think of any off the top of my head.
I could hear the same concerns against that as OP delivered here. And to be fair that's something that is more successful in some places and much less so in others.
Other places, like casinos or top golf or laser tag or Dave and Buster's... I know some people who love them and others it's kind of a one time experience.
Fad to enduring cultural pastime is a wide spectrum, and we tend to maintain lots of options with niche followings.
Every room from every provider is different. While you can only go to one once, a metro area could have 100+ rooms. Quality varies, but the most motivated people could go regularly and not run out.
The tiny number of people who can go through a single room at a time limits scalability/profitability, while also ensuring most people in a local area could still be first-time visitors.
That room was actually 3 rooms as part of the escape. It was built around the idea of a zombie apocalypse. You enter a room, #1, and the lights are off, and you are trying to get into a bunker. Once you get in to the bunker, room #2, you have to find your way out of that room before a toxic gas is released. We had to use a ladder to get to a "vent" to climb through (and shut off lasers in the vent) to room #3, the final room, a science lab.
The quality of the build was very high, and was pretty fun, as it was very much like a movie scenario.