Free to Play Escape Room Game on Youtube

Guest Post – The World’s First Free to Play Puzzle Room on Youtube (I think)

I found a cool and new variation on a DIY escape room on Youtube. I’m lucky enough that the creator agreed to a guest post on his project. Hope you find it as interesting as I do.

I made, what I believe is, the first free-to-play online escape / puzzle room on YouTube. There are a number of puzzle solves and explanations of peoples escape or puzzle rooms before or after the fact, as well as examples of the technology they used to create it. But as I am aware, nothing of the sort that involve active engagement with the puzzles. Here is a reflection on how and why I created this, what tools I used and what things I would recommend for others who choose to make their own as well as how I think this type of activity is useful for people creating their own real-world escape or puzzle rooms.

My Motivation

  • Attending escape rooms
  • Buying a Breakout EDU set
  • Recently attending a more ‘commercial’ escape room
  • My wife and my love for point and click adventure games
  • My experience using flipped learning to create videos for my students
  • The game ‘Her Story’ and ‘The Eyes of Ara’
  • The concepts of gamification being practiced in business and education

Development of the Room

  1. 4-6 hours of development, which occurred the day following attending a ‘commercial’ escape room that set the bar low for immersion. I made use of a beautiful old Dictionary that I have owned for a long time, other books and trinkets from my home and locks from the BreakoutEDU kit.
  2. 2-3 hours of narrative development which involved writing and re-writing the narrative aspects of the story in an attempt to achieve a somewhat genuine voice for the character.
  3. 5-6 hours of filming and editing the footage and uploading the items that people would need to complete the puzzles of the room. Then time taken to set up the Microsoft Forms.
Sample of Game Clues
Sample of Game Clues

Technological Difficulties

  1. Microsoft Forms was shown to be less feature-rich than Google forms and there were issues with either providing the answer to everyone who typed in anything, or not providing answers to anyone, except via email responses.
  2. There were some minor issues with image quality of non-essential pages of information for people to complete the puzzle.
  3. The providing of additional ‘red-herring’ pages of information may have caused solve problems for people.
  4. Audio levels during the narrative elements were incorrectly produced and made it difficult to hear the narrative being presented.

Physical Difficulties

  1. Would it be worth using or excluding the room discovery element of the video, as this is the aspect of video that was most removed from the actual experience of a puzzle room?
  2. The lack of physical interactions means that solving a portion of the puzzle is a lot less rewarding than actually seeing the lock snap open (which could not be included in the video as this would solve the puzzle).
  3. Lighting was something to be reconsidered, as darkness is typically used in puzzle rooms to set up the mood, sense of mystery and for something to be gained by the puzzlers. However, there is also a significant need to make the puzzles clearly visible.
Some Locks from Game
Some Locks from Game

Lessons for Game or Puzzle/Escape Room Developers

  1. This process was amazing for producing instant feedback on the puzzles complexity and failings.
  2. External narrative elements made sense in a physical space, as they could be discarded, or ignored as necessary and they could be clearly delineated from clues to solve puzzles which were all enclosed within locked elements of the room. Including these narrative elements as a side-dish for the video made less intuitive sense.
  3. Having narrative elements sectioned off from the puzzle solve itself was not ideal and may have caused confusion or viewers to tune out of the video.
  4. Adding difficulty through an increasing amount of information built into the puzzles and a removal of clear structuring towards the end of the puzzles was not ideal and as a result puzzle 4 still remains unsolved.


Lessons Learned

  1. Narrative needs to be core not additional
  2. Move to Google Forms rather than Microsoft Forms for improved functionality
  3. Add hint pages to incorrect responses on Google Forms
  4. Provide only core puzzle information and crucial clue documents
  5. Remove background music completely?
  6. Improve the end-game reveal / solution to create more of a pay-off for viewers
  7. Improve image quality of documents needed for puzzles solves

A Glance at the Data Generated (puzzle spoilers)

Question #1 stats

These are the solutions for the first puzzle I created, it shows that it was accepted by 18 people, with only 56% of the puzzlers actually completing it correctly. This could raise the question of what numbers these people were referring to and where they went wrong in a rather straight-forward problem solve. Which suggests that the player base is not very experienced with puzzle thinking.

Question #2 Stats

This is the solutions for the second puzzle which was a lot more involved than the first, you can see that there are far less attempts here, but also that those who persisted through the first puzzle are significantly more adept than the numerous people who failed on the previous puzzle.

Types of Feedback Generated

  • Play and attempt rates.
  • List of incorrect responses (which can be used in a diagnostic manner).
  • Drop off rate for the puzzle (such as that seen above, which suggests that puzzle 1 was too complex, or did not provide sufficient positive re-enforcement to encourage continuing with the puzzle).

Applications

  • Create a similar video using your own puzzle elements and publish it as ‘unlisted’ to test it among friends and family.
  • Create a similar video as a ‘table solve’ to thoroughly stress test the puzzle room you have created.
  • Use this form of video to remove the need for a physical space.
  • Create this using original copies of the puzzle before producing duplicates or more durable versions of prototypes.

Thoughts on Free-to-Play Puzzle Rooms

During my online research for this puzzles creation I watched a great many videos on escape rooms and puzzle development. One of these videos suggested that it was inevitable that puzzle and escape rooms eventually became free-to-play (F2P), though there was no suggestion how this would become a reality. Obviously this online puzzle room is a hollow experience when compared with a real, physical experience. It does however, raise an interesting question about how long it might take until we see our first real-world F2P puzzle room and whether this would be a positive or negative outcome for the puzzle / escape room community.
In summary, this type of video provides possibilities for game designers to thoroughly test their creations, before taking them to market, or before gaining a physical space. This puzzle is as of yet, unsolved, with no one being able to fully complete it, this could be due to the newness of the format, or a failing of my game design. Especially, Puzzle 4 has never been solved, if you are reading this and you are puzzle-savvy, please check into this puzzle and see if you can complete it.

If you are interested in anything further, please email me at: mrkolbersteaching@gmail.com; or look into my other content on Mr Kolber’s Teaching Youtube Channel .

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