Kevin’s Final Reflection

Describe your planning process

Our initial blueprint of our room was simple to map out, but difficult to execute. Our rudimentary idea of the escape room was something comprehensive. To elaborate, most escape rooms feature clues that lead to another clue when solved. To these rooms, escaping the room was a step-by-step endeavor, and the direction of progression was very limited. While that was one way to make an escape room, we decided to take a more unconventional approach. We designed our room to be multifaceted and comprehensive, where every puzzle is available to be attempted from the start, and each one will unlock a puzzle piece that will all come together in the end, allowing the player to escape. It seemed definitely possible on paper, but we needed to devote a lot of our time into making the idea into reality.

Detail your clues and what they mean to do

We had prepared 4 clues in total, 3 of them providing access to puzzle pieces that must be assembled for our final puzzle. The puzzle pieces were prisms and mirrors, with each of the three puzzles unlocking one of them. In our final puzzle, the player needed to place the prisms and mirrors according to a diagram marked on the table, then shine a laser beam through them. The laser would reflect and refract off the prisms and mirrors, and point to the right key that would lead the way out. The right key was hooked up to a wall, hidden among 20 other decoy keys, with the player not knowing which of the 21 keys was the one that let them escape. The will have to collect all of the prisms and mirrors, set them up and use the laser to locate the answer. Of course, there have been many people who would just try one by one, making it troublesome for us to keep everything in order. Our final lock was something to note as well, as it was made by ourselves. The structure of the door made it very tricky for us to install locks, but we managed to create a clever mechanism using tape, rope and the lock.

Our first puzzle that would unlock one of three final items took a motif from the poker card soldiers from the Queen of heart’s garden. The player had to arrange the cards on a table, and once properly coordinated, the markings on individual cards will come together to spell a password. The password unlocked a box that leads to a mirror. The instructions on what way to configure the cards were provided in slips of paper scattered around the room. Although the players did not have a hard time finding these slips of hints, they did have quite the trouble putting them together and interpreting what they meant.

Our next puzzle was inspired by domino toys. A grid of dominos was provided on a table, and a keynote animation was projected in the opposite walls. The keen player would notice that some squares were blank on the domino grid and that the keynote projection would reveal a grid of numbers of a brief moment. The point was to notice the blank spaces on the domino grid, and the number chart on the keynote at the same time, and realize that the two were directly correlated. Players had to match the corresponding numbers on the grid to the blank spaces to get the password and unlock a mirror. This might have been moderately frustrating, as not many people would think to examine at the keynote, and even if they did, the number chart only showed itself for 8 seconds every half a minute or so.

Our last puzzle was about the Queen of Heart’s croquet field. Players had to arrange croquet hoops according to a diagram on the floor, along with a paper tube sustained on paper cups. Pieces of cellophane were stuck through the hoops, and unidentifiable markings were written on the cellophane. The markings might have seemed indecipherable at first, but once the hoops and the tube are arranged on the floor, the player would most definitely see a connection. To unlock a prism, the player needs to look through the tube, and it will reveal a password which is spelled when all of the cellophane is parallel and overlapped and is precisely distanced. One notable feature of this puzzle was that we incorporated 3D printing in the physical building of it. To enable the croquet hoop to stand balanced, we need to make stands. We used a program called tinkered to digitally create a layout for the stand and printed it out.

Describe the challenges that you faced.

As expected, we faced a plethora of problems during the process. One of them was acquiring materials. Many of our materials were quite tricky to acquire, such as small keys, croquet hoops or laser pointers. Most of the crucial materials were gathered at the last minute, quite frankly. Another challenge was the Art section of STEAM. When we were too focused on making puzzles, we let art slip completely from our minds. However, we managed to put in quite the clutch effort into our aesthetics, and we turned out to look quite great.

Kevin’s Steam Reflection

Our class has recently started gathering ideas for our final escape room. To come to this stage, we spent the first half of the semester on understanding the fundamentals of escape rooms, and get a general idea on what our escape rooms should work like. We visited Mr. X to introduce ourselves to the world of escape rooms, and tried making a digital escape rooms as well. Digital escape rooms were escape rooms played on the internet, and not on a physical medium.

We had to use the ideas gathered in Mr. X to create a series of puzzles and codes the could be solved on our MacBooks. I customized my blog in to function as a maze of links, with many different widgets leading to external pages of clues. I also took the “digital” theme literally, and created a story in which the computer is being hacked. Then, we had to translate our digital breakout rooms into physical alternatives. This was a challenge, as the locks and clues we established through google docs and links were not possible anymore. I substituted the google docks with actual, physical locks, and used my cell phone lock screen as well.

What I felt was the most frustrating was my inability to control the difficulty. As I was the ones who were making the puzzles, it was difficult for me to actually estimate the complexity of the escape room. The person who tried out my digital room seemed to wander, and didn’t act like I expected. It was then I learnt that escape rooms weren’t such a simple matter.

I’m still retaining the same goal as the beginning of the year: Create a escape room that is interactive, not static. The one thing I noticed in Mr. X was the inactivity of.. Everything. The entire process was fully automated, and the players did not interact with anything. They found for clues, and cracked the code. The experience was that one dimensional. What I want is lore, a story that will engage players in a game that is something more than an arbitrary clutter of locks and hidden codes.