Proof: https://youtu.be/GvcLnfKg9xs

I work for funhaven, an entertainment facility in Canada: http://www.funhaven.com

You can find me on Twitter @pixelpatch

Edit: doors cannot be locked in our facility and we have intense fire regulations to follow. You are safer in an escape room in North America than in your own home (where fire is concerned)

edit: saw and escape are not my favorite movies but they have some original ideas!

Comments: 1300 • Responses: 96  • Date: 

thomasg10101537 karma

How long does it take to completely reset a room after it’s been run through by a group? I’d imagine every single detail would take forever.

pixelpatch1924 karma

Surprisingly quick! We build our rooms so that the items end up out in the open.

Average reset time between 5 and 10 minutes!

Dissociatve1231 karma

How do you get out once you're done?

pixelpatch1105 karma

Rooms are regularly left unlocked, our rooms have a "goal" so they either need to find a piece of information and tell their host or find an item and run out the door with it (like a big diamond from a vault)

TsubasaKinomoto1013 karma

What's your opinion on escape rooms with multiple rooms/sections? For example do you prioritize it/think it helps add to the fun of the escape room?

pixelpatch1064 karma

Single rooms are good if they have "stations" and overlap of puzzles and locations those puzzles can be solved in.

However, often companies will have entire rooms (in multi room escapes) dedicated to 1 or 2 puzzles. This seems like a waste of space unless the puzzle is particularly complex or involved.

CarterLawler686 karma

What's the largest amount of damage someone has done to one of your rooms because they thought they were pursuing a clue, but in actuality, they were disassembling the room itself?

pixelpatch778 karma

I have had a team jam a length of chain into a glass jar.

We had to shatter the jar.

manticor225557 karma

Are you usually able to easily escape the escape rooms that you didn't design?

InsOmNomNomnia438 karma

I’m not the OP, but I’ve built 8 rooms now, played close to 30 built by other people, and have about a 75% personal escape rate.

It differs from person to person though. Another couple I know that owns their establishment and builds their own rooms are absolutely abysmal at actually escaping.

manticor225115 karma

No worries that you’re not OP, I appreciate the response either way as I was genuinely curious how designers fare at this sort of thing. Interesting that some would be so bad at it.

pixelpatch167 karma

I agree! By building I have gotten better at puzzles but I still get stumped!

DangerousPuhson502 karma

What's the "process" for designing and implementing the puzzles?

pixelpatch648 karma

Most of the time our companies will give us a theme and some key props or ideas:

"Hey can you guys have the players shoot a target as one of the clues?"

Then using the tech we have available we build a basic puzzle flow for the room and start buying and building!

Paddyd19441 karma

Have you ever locked yourself in?

pixelpatch890 karma

Yup, we had to build a kill switch into one of our rooms after I was discovered 40 minutes later locked in a mock toolshed.

Thankfully this was during playtesting.

Hendrik4L338 karma

have you heard about the incident in Poland where an escape room burned down and the players died? what are the options to avoid this

pixelpatch207 karma

Take a look at our other replies, but know that North America has stringent fire safety protocols (fire resistant building, escape routes, no locked doors, etc) that would stop that from happening

SMD130264 karma

Do you implement red herrings into all of your rooms or do some companies specifically request you put / dont put them in?

pixelpatch508 karma

We've found people do not like red herrings so we try our best not to put them in.

However when we design the visual look of the room people often end up making their own red herrings!

St1ng48219 karma

I'm going to five guys, want anything?

pixelpatch224 karma

A truck ton of fries please

coolpapa2282319 karma

So, a small fry from Five Guys, got it.

pixelpatch118 karma

Perfect

sixstringhook139 karma

How often do you hear of someone getting frustrated with the room/your puzzles and they just start breaking stuff?

pixelpatch227 karma

Usually after 7-15 minutes of not solving a clue, 8p% of teas move from "solving" to "frustrated searching"

We try to give them clues before that point

iwouldrun500miles135 karma

What's the sneakiest clue or hiding spot for something you've come up with?

pixelpatch229 karma

Plain sight.

There was a clue that is fully visible the whole time but players have no clue what it is until they make it into the last room.

In our room it was colored rocks just SPILLED in the room. Everyone forgets about it.

tehmlem123 karma

So failure for you would be a really pleasant room people like to hang out in?

pixelpatch153 karma

Yes and no! We want the rooms to be visually beautiful, but we also want a sense of urgency that pushes them to the next clue!

EntikEngel118 karma

How do you decide what puzzles go into these?

Do you have people who "playtest" it, making sure it's not too difficult or too easy, and to make sure it works at all?

What resources do you have to make these?

Are there safety/fire regulations you have to follow? If so what?

Are there often used tricks or puzzles?

How do you come up with the ideas to put these together? I'd imagine it's multiple people.

Do you go place to place building these? Or do you build them for one business?

Do you build them with different levels of difficulty? Since there are groups that try to beat escape rooms as quick as possible.

Sorry if I asked too many questions, but this is a great AMA.

pixelpatch210 karma

  1. We like to use puzzles that are original and require multiple players, usually based on what we didnt like from rooms we've played!

  2. We have a team of about 50 play testers and they are fantastic!

  3. We have access to a warehouse space, building materials and a wood shop, anything we dont have we have a budget we can dip into!

  4. Every room needs a clear means of exit, fire extinguishers nearby, The ceilings need to allow water in and smoke out of (mesh) and we get reviewed every few months.

  5. Ciphers are used in most rooms (this symbol = this number) but they are themed differently enough to allow for a new encounter.

  6. We are a team of 2 building for 1 business

7 We try to have hard and easy games and usually tweak them during testing. People LOVE tough games

Thanks!

shadowndacorner38 karma

You say you have a team of playtesters - do you keep them around consistently and run them through every test? Seems slightly problematic coming from a game dev perspective to always use the same people. First, in the case of escape rooms, they'll probably get better and better at rooms in general, so might not be representative of the experience of newer players. Secondly, if you keep using the same people, you might get results that are skewed positively as they grow to like the team working on the rooms (free games and all that), not to mention that they feel like they're part of the team. Those are just the two that immediately come to mind.

Anyway, you might already have a system to work these things out, or you might have found that it's not a huge issue for escape rooms. Regardless, good luck with your work!

pixelpatch30 karma

We usually have some standard players and then a bunch of random people we bring in through public posting and casting calls!

puppysiouxp113 karma

My gf runs a Native American non-profit and we want to make an escape room that we use our native language with. How hard should we make it and any tips?

pixelpatch143 karma

I would recommend making puzzles that require very little language (symbols and ciphers) and a lot of physical puzzles so that you can build it to be accessible without needing to translate a lot of your work.

That sounds like a super cool room!

K_Uger_Industries75 karma

As someone who has done many different rooms around the world, can you designers cut it out with the Morse code puzzles if you're located on a busy street? Last time I spent 20 minutes with my ear pressed to the speaker because I couldn't hear over the sound of cars.

Other than that, keep up the good work.

pixelpatch113 karma

We have 1 audio puzzle in our rooms.

I do not like audio puzzles.

Thank you and I agree with you so much.

madmaxjr5758 karma

How is an escape room design tested? I assume you have to identify puzzles/challenges that may be too complicated for the average player or devise some kind of difficulty scale to let people know what they're up against.

pixelpatch72 karma

We have a testing group of about 70 players and we tweak games upon release to achieve a 20% or higher success rate!

Usually we keep track of puzzle that players regularly ask for hints on or puzzles that take more than 10 minutes.

SoSimpleAnswer57 karma

How long does it typically take to design an escape room, and how much does it cost from design to completion?

pixelpatch83 karma

2-4 months, 4000 - 35000 but theres no upper limit on time and money, you can make a million dollar room easily.

InappropriateTA51 karma

What resources would you recommend for someone that is trying to design puzzles?

Do you just come up with things from movies/books/games/DnD like you mentioned below? Are there communities or guides that I could join/read to come up with my own puzzles?

pixelpatch51 karma

I would join the Facebook groups like Escape Prop Design and board game designer guilds, they are an incredibly talented community!!

Chonks51 karma

What is the worst way someone has brute forced their way out of a puzzle?

pixelpatch116 karma

They punched a piece of drywall.

It was not fun repairing.

JMCrown46 karma

Without giving too much away, is there a puzzle you've created that you're especially proud of or that you feel is unique (other companies do not do)?

I did one room where you had these wires (crashed space ship) but you come to find out they each have a tiny live feed camera. You had to snake them down to certain holes to get the puzzle solution. Have only seen that in one room so far.

pixelpatch74 karma

I ended up building a puzzle that is the "planning a heist over blueprints" found in a lot of heist movies.

Players are actively moving goons and vehicles over maps and blueprints to find a solution.

I am super proud of it.

BaldingMonk44 karma

Has anyone...you know...never made it out?

pixelpatch60 karma

Haha no, thankfully everyone... makes it out.... but we have teams that fail to complete all the puzzles in the allotted time.

randyjackson6939 karma

Have you seen the escape room episode on the most recent season of It’s Always Sunny?

pixelpatch22 karma

No! I should watch it!

isobane37 karma

So I went to one of these places a few months ago and I'll admit, it was fun, but it left me wondering. Places like this, as in entertainment venues, should have a bit of replayability. It seems like once you do the two puzzles there are (or were at the business I went to) then you're out of options and there's no reason to go back.

Where is the breakeven point between having a room and having its novelty wear off? Like, how often do escape rooms get changed over thematically?

pixelpatch30 karma

They get changed every 2 years but I'm working on developing parallel puzzle rooms that can be played twice. We shall see how that goes!

EhThirstyPenguin31 karma

Do you ever think to yourself, this is the one they are going to ask for assist / fail on?

pixelpatch32 karma

Oh yeah, and sometimes I'm wrong... but not often ;)

ButterKnifeScar31 karma

How did you find yourself in this kind of work?

pixelpatch56 karma

There was a job posting in my town, I had worked for a year in the escape industry and I designed board games on the side and the two worked together well during my interview!

ButterKnifeScar11 karma

That's so cool! What board game?

pixelpatch20 karma

Shallows, it's a version of card wars that we developed tied into some graphic design I was working on at the time.

Google: Whailz and you should find it

SingleMalter30 karma

I love escape rooms and am thrilled with how well they’ve taken off in the last 5 years. That said, do you think it’s a sustainable model? Are we hitting peak escape room?

I live in a midsized US city and I know that there are four different escape room buildings within 4 miles of my office, and at least 2 more within a 20 minute drive (though I think there is overlapping ownership with the downtown ones). Are you worried that we’re approaching a bubble at all?

pixelpatch38 karma

The bubble will burst in the next 2 years. I think escape rooms are here to stay, but they will not be always full and companies will need to really step up their game a d be original in order to stay afloat.

Annapurna__21 karma

Did you ever play the Viridian room?

pixelpatch19 karma

No, do you have a link for it? Sounds interesting!

uke_traveler17 karma

How often to you normally use a room for before you replace it with a new one? Would you ever cycle old rooms back in? Do you miss previous rooms and wish you could bring them back?

pixelpatch14 karma

Hmmm I would say each room has a 1-4 year shelf life, depending on how much people like it!

BGNkiller16 karma

Have you ever implemented an easter egg in one of your escape rooms, of which you know that it will probably never be found by the participants?

pixelpatch33 karma

We regularly hide anime references in our rooms, but most of the time we build to speficiation.

GoldFynch13 karma

This is such a cool job. How did you get started in this career?

pixelpatch24 karma

Job posting!

I have background in construction and board game design and graphic design.

Kogie1312 karma

Do you have to have emergency exits inside escape rooms? If so, where are they usually located?

pixelpatch17 karma

The doors are never locked and there are 2 means of egress out of all of our rooms

uke_traveler12 karma

Who designs the electronic parts of the puzzles you use? Do you use micro processors like arduinos?

pixelpatch22 karma

We use ardionos and PLCs called "booboxes" that allow us to program in basic response patterns.

They are amazing.

inthefirsthour12 karma

Have you ever built ine so well you couldn't escape?

pixelpatch26 karma

Yup, we had to take one insanely tough puzzle out that I could not solve even with several hints.

DaBigDaddyFish11 karma

How has the movie that recently came out affected business?

pixelpatch21 karma

Surprisingly no, we've seen very little change in traffic after the release!

bartnet8 karma

I work in/study theater and I am VERY interested in thinking of escape rooms as interactive art. My question is, on the spectrum of game<--->art, where do escape rooms lie, right in the middle? Wayyy closer to game?

pixelpatch12 karma

very much in the middle! If your game does not have good art, if it's not telling a story, then people will often not care.

why?

Because it's an experience that requires you to be involved, like art!

jp_books8 karma

What's the trick to getting out of the one in Barrio Chapinero in Bogota? I want to bring a girl I'm interested in but I don't want to make a complete ass out of myself and get stuck.

pixelpatch19 karma

Practice! Do at least 5-6 rooms before you try that one and don't worry, losing is half the fun!

surfvvax7 karma

What is an escape room?

pixelpatch12 karma

A puzzle room where you try to solve clues and escape.

NeverTellMeTheOdds697 karma

You spend your days building rooms designed for escaping, but did you ever think the real escape is from yourself?

I love escape rooms btw very cool

pixelpatch10 karma

Plot twist: Waldo finds himself

delpee7 karma

Have you ever had ideas for rooms that you didn’t implement because they woulf have been too scary/dangerous/otherwise insane? What were they?

pixelpatch18 karma

Yes! We cant use glass in any of our rooms and I would of added a lot more crawl spaces but our rooms had to be fully accessible!

muricanviking5 karma

How many secret doors do you have in your home?

pixelpatch28 karma

If I told you... they wouldn't be secret.

Slap-Happy274 karma

Ever seen Cube²: Hypercube? Any progress you're aware of on the manipulation of spacetime or matter / subject duplication for a similarly designed escape room?

pixelpatch3 karma

You should look up Imaginarium!

azsheepdog4 karma

I would love to incorperate this kind of stuff into my house. Is there a resource for designs that can be followed to add things around the house?

pixelpatch7 karma

Yeah! We use frightprops.com it's amazing how much the haunted house industry has allowed us to create high tech puzzles and I am putting a whole bunch of it into my new home!

Blanketfish3 karma

Are Escape room owners generally friendly with other Escape room owners in their city and help each other out or are they rivals?

pixelpatch5 karma

I know 1 company that tends towards rivalry, but most are friendly.

We kind if tend to do our own thing!

dancopPL3 karma

Last month 5 teenage girls died from smoke inhalation in escape room fire in Poland. The person supervising the escape room was cut out from the room and could not open the door. Do you implement any emergency release switches accessible from inside of the room? Any escape routes if main door is blocked by fire?

pixelpatch2 karma

Our rooms are aays unlocked and there are over 6 different escape routes from our location!

Uncoollozer2 karma

Do you use word play in your games?

First and only time trying an escape room I got hung up on a clue that was basically "CAT" + "DONKEY" + "TROPHY" + "YEAR" and a bunch of news articles. Apparently the combination was the year of the CAT-ASS-TROPHY (catastrophe). Still a little salty about it.

pixelpatch2 karma

That sounds like a horribly built puzzle. I mean I understand, but it seems like they tricked you out of a win.

BalusBubalis2 karma

No smash room at your facility? Awww.

A friend of mine had a catastrophically shitty day last year, so we took him to a place that had a Smash room where you could crank your own music. He went through most of a crate of dinnerware and a Strapping Young Lad album, then had a big hug and cry surrounded by supportive friends.

Consider adding one. They're not just fun, they're affordable therapy.

pixelpatch3 karma

I have been waiting to build a smash room for 4 years, I'll let you know.

ErrrorWayz2 karma

Have you ever locked yourself in your flat and then just sat and pondered the delicious irony?

pixelpatch5 karma

Yup! During playtest I hadn't wired the emergency release and I just sat there and thought...

...crap.

Fine_on_the_outside2 karma

So how's your D&D campaign going?

pixelpatch2 karma

Great! Everyone is excited to go challenge a strange underground power source next week!

steelcity_2 karma

Hey! Thanks for doing this AMA, here's actual questions instead of repeating the fire incident question a ton. They don't actually lock you in there, people. I've done somewhere in the realm of 20 rooms at this point. I love it.

  1. Do you think creativity in a room is a symptom of drive, budget or both? Like rooms with complex/unique puzzles vs. "oh I found a key, it goes over here."

  2. Do you like playing rooms yourself even though it's your job to make them?

  3. Piggybacking on the last question, what's your favorite room/puzzle that you DIDN'T design? And what about one that you did?

pixelpatch5 karma

  1. 100%, we have had to find creative solutions to ALL of those problems. We hate key and lock

  2. I love playing them when they are original or have a neat twist!

  3. We played a room that was FULLY automated (including reset) I was blown away (5 wits) and I can never design something that amazing but that is the peak of what I've played.

I designed a haloween room that I am super proud of and I am excited for our current spy themed room!

Maazell2 karma

Do You install more security and fire protection installations since a couple of girls died in an escape room in Poland due to a fire ?

pixelpatch2 karma

We have really good fire regulations that were rechecked when the incident occurred.

All good!

ZT0K2 karma

Do you have paid actors that participate in the escape room to make it seem more realistic? If not would you consider?

I bring this up because one of the escape rooms I've been to, they had a mafia theme to it where if the players ran out of time the mob boss would show up and there would be a bunch of fake gunshot noises, as if they were caught and paid for it.

pixelpatch3 karma

I've participated in good actor rooms and bad actor rooms, so I think so long as the puzzles are good you don't really need the actors, but if its dont well then it's better than no actors!

Aspalar2 karma

Why are escape rooms so expensive? $30 per person for an hour or less just seems so expensive. İt doesn't even seem like operating costs are that high.

pixelpatch4 karma

Operating isnt expensive but building a room can range from 5k - 40k, and people always want more rooms.

20$ for a movie is our business equivalent, but not everyone sees it that way!

slothhands2 karma

What did you do for a job before you started designing escape rooms?

pixelpatch3 karma

I hosted escape rooms and did graphic design!

shoangore2 karma

What do you think about the red herrings of distractions? For example, we did a diamond heist where you press a button in a room, and red flashing lights turn on, and 3 green lasers turn on, flashing off of mirrors that can be adjusted. But NONE of it has anything to do with the actual process - to proceed, you just take a flashing light and turn it to a fan in the corner to reveal text on the fan blades as it spins. This wasted almost five minutes of our time as we were adjusting the laser beams... only to call in for a hint and be told that they were useless.

Also, I thought it was rather unsafe to have green lasers (likely 5mW) to be firing off a series of mirrors in a dark room without any eye protection... but I seemed to be the only person concerned. (I do work a lot with lasers more often than others, so eye safety is a higher priority to me)

pixelpatch3 karma

We despise red herrings. But we have visual elements in our room to make it pretty that teams will often confuse as red herrings!

strangelove6662 karma

Hi. Did you hear about recent tragedy in Poland where 5 teenagers lost their lifes in escape room fire? They couldn't get out, and fire brigade had to use heavy equipment to get in. Do you have some way for people inside to get out immediately?

pixelpatch4 karma

Yup! In North America we can only lock the doors if there is an emergency key next to it. However our location is even safer since we just don't lock the doors.

People barely notice and it's a lot safer!

pixelpatch3 karma

We were really struck by the tragedy, a very clear case of an owner not taking care of his guests.

varsil2 karma

Where do you source your locks?

My peeve for escape rooms is crappy locks that end up failing to open even with the correct solution because they have loose tolerances/etc.

pixelpatch2 karma

We try to use security companies, but often sw just buy them online and replace them, we've had pretty good luck so far!

Jessie_Lightyear2 karma

Do you script out the clues and such as part of building the room or is that the responsibility of the company? Also, I often find that the story of an escape room is lacking, any suggestions for improving that in the future so that stories and puzzles blend better?

pixelpatch4 karma

People are working every year to create more immersive story for rooms (like we try to do here) but unless you have a huge budget it is hard to have a clear narrative and clever puzzles due to the need to use certain puzzles and the reduced amount of text a fast paced escape requires.

9942122 karma

I'll be soon be going to escape rooms for team building for a project I'm part of. Do you have any tips for a first timer?

JMCrown11 karma

COMMUNICATE!! If you find something (a lock, a key, an obvious clue) yell out so everyone knows. I've done about 30 escape rooms and it's frustrating when people don't communicate.

pixelpatch5 karma

PRECISELY

Th3GingerHitman2 karma

What is the most difficult part of doing this?

pixelpatch3 karma

Having a constant flow of creativity to solve a problem.

Also needing components that are easy to work with but difficult to break, it's tough.

ahraysee1 karma

I'm interested in making an escape room contest for my friends. I'm envisioning two rooms, and having two groups compete to get out of their room first.

The obvious problem is that this my house and the two rooms will clearly be different, though of course I can make the puzzles be identical. But, things hidden in a drawer would be two different pieces of furniture, etc.

If the flow is in general the same, do you think it could still be a fair contest? Or does having two different layouts affect the gameplay a lot?

pixelpatch1 karma

The puzzles (not the layout) tend to determine the difficulty.

So long as teams have similar puzzles (them how fast a friend can do each) you should be good!

sweekley341 karma

Do you build sets for the Saw movies as well?

pixelpatch1 karma

Nope!

Dezinator981 karma

Have you seen the new Escape Room movie? How did you feel about the puzzles included in it?

pixelpatch2 karma

They had some great originality, definitely helped me think of a few puzzles!

KnowsTheLaw1 karma

Have you ever smoked marijuana?

pixelpatch1 karma

Nope!

WhiskeyDickens1 karma

Did you change to unlocked rooms after the fire in Europe? Or did you always design the rooms as unlocked?

pixelpatch2 karma

They have always been designed as unlocked:)

Telenerd1 karma

Is Saw your favorite movie?

pixelpatch3 karma

Nope, cant stand gore and I think Saw has done a disservice to escape rooms by making them seem frightening instead of clever and adventurous.

legalstep1 karma

Why are they called escape rooms if you aren't supposed to leave them?

pixelpatch1 karma

The end goal is to escape with an item, the title is more of an overarching theme than an accurate description of all rooms.

Adventure rooms are closer to the point, but escape rooms draw more business

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

pixelpatch2 karma

Make the puzzles in paper first and gave people try them out.

If they arent having fun, remake it!

DoctorShakeyHands1 karma

Are you Jigsaw?

pixelpatch3 karma

I cannot answer that question.

Beannjo1 karma

Is it a good paying job?

pixelpatch2 karma

It's not bad! I make enough to live comfortably but it's definitely fast paced work!

A_Feathered_Raptor1 karma

What are your inspirations for puzzles and themes?

pixelpatch7 karma

Movies, books, games, you name it! I also love dungeons and dragons puzzles for their originality!

I design board games in my spare time and the two overlap super well!

2204bee1 karma

Hi i know some escape rooms are horror based so like are there any jumpscares or is it just a creepy atmosphere?

pixelpatch1 karma

We only have 1 creepy room, the rest are actually very relaxed and highly designed visually.

We find players enjoy a good looking room better than a scary room.

MasonNowa1 karma

What's the one theme you haven't gotten to build yet you'd be most interested in?

Maybe one you couldn't pull off without an insane budget or liability?

pixelpatch2 karma

We have wanted to build a moving elevator and a rocking pirate ship for years!! We have a lot of logistic steps to go through before we get there, but one day!!

AnyOneImportant1 karma

What is your budget for building an escape room from scratch? Say for example, if I'm a company and I'm gonna give you the money to do it, how much would it cost me?

pixelpatch2 karma

between 4000 and 35 000 depending on what you're looking for!