As we see more escape room companies transitioning to online business models, we as players have been provided with numerous options and have been quite confused with the types and different terminologies. I’ve already covered that in my previous blog so today we are just going to focus on the “Remote Escape Room” category.
*Please note that we have not played all the remote escape rooms that's out there and these are opinions based on what we have seen as a player so far. As we play more of these remote escape rooms perhaps our opinions might change. We might do an updated blog if we see new trends emerge in this market.
What is a Remote Escape Room?
When you book this type of escape room, you’ll need to be connected via Zoom/Google hangout or some sort of live stream app that you can join at your specific booked time and date with a live game master/avatar to start your game. Your game will be in an actual escape room setting but you will be playing at home and you’ll be able to “control” your game by speaking to the game master/avatar telling them what to do in the room. For instance, if you want them to open the book next to the bed, they will go over there and do so. The usual timing for the entire game is normally 60 minutes but do check with the location as they can vary.
Does it feel like a real escape room?
We’ve beta tested a few of these from various companies from all over the world. Overall, the things that we noticed is significantly different from when we are at a physical location playing an escape room are the following:
1. Lost the immersive feel – Because you have to see and hear things clearly on camera, they can not do dim lighting or background sounds and it would also be difficult to create special effects that can be captured at the right moments on camera
2. Games are linear – Since there’s only one game master/avatar you have to solve one puzzle at a time to move on to the next.
3. Games became more simplified with easier and less puzzles – Since there’s only one game master/avatar and they have to show you everything in the room and have to go back and forth, there’s a lot of time spent on just “showing”. You probably will not see too many difficult puzzles as there’s really no time to solve those during the 60 minutes given
4. The “physical sensation” – I was always a fan of opening physical locks and hearing that “unlocking” sound. You still hear it and see it on camera, but it just doesn’t feel the same when you are not physically operating it.
How can remote escape rooms improve on player experience?
Based on what we’ve experienced as players, we have a few suggestions we think could improve our experience that we like to suggest to the escape room locations:
1. Website Description – We still get confused by what game we are booking into as some companies do not write out in detail what is included in the game. We think description should include the following: Does the game have a live avatar? In a physical escape room setting? Language offered in? Pricing structure? Description of the game? How many players? Duration? What do you need for the game (internet, pen/pencil, Zoom, computer)?
2. Know your players – It would be nice for us to get a survey at the time of booking with questions like how many escape rooms have you played before? Have you played any remote escape rooms? Would you like your game master to give you hints? Do you want unlimited hints or no hints? Would you like us to give you time reminders and “push” you a bit when there’s not much time left? This will also help you know what kind of player you are getting and how to inform the game master on how to direct the game. Since players are all different and have their own way of playing the game, this would probably be the best way to “know” them and satisfy their needs during the game.
3. Cameras and angles – We notice some escape rooms are only using one camera which is on the avatar. This shows their point of view only. We recently played one where they also had another camera set up where they are calling that camera a “working station” where if they find a “clue” or anything useful like a “key” they will place it there and you’ll be able to see that camera anytime you want. This was very helpful since as a player we would compile things when we’re in an escape room as well and go back to it so we don’t forget what was gathered. The placement of “clues” there also helped save time for us to tell the game master to keep showing it back and forth to us again and again. This saved time. Also, we noticed that some locations may have details on the painting or places that might have “clues” that we need to find. If it’s small fonts or clues we need to read, it would help if there’s a spotlight or something that helps the player see better. Additionally, take note of your avatar’s height and make sure all the clues and hints are reachable by them and also the camera angle as sometimes it’s hard for them to show it to us if they can not move their camera around.
4. Lighting usage – Since we are not at the physical location and cannot see what has been opened with the pin code we just gave, it would help to add some wrap around lighting to the location that just popped open to give guidance and excitement to the player that they just opened something. We saw this in one of the locations we’ve just played, and they have done their lighting very well. All places that “opened” has green lights wrap around the door or cabinet and once the code opened it, the place lit up.
5. Game master/Avatar Interaction – This is very important part of the player experience and it’s a lot more work for a game master now than when we were at a physical location since for the most part they were mainly giving clues when we needed them and monitoring us from the backend. Now they have to interact with the players throughout the entire game as an avatar and do what they say (sometimes multiple players have different requests). For multiple player game perhaps it’s best to designate a leader and when agreed then that would be the action to take. It can get very confusing for the game master and waste time when everyone is putting in a different input. We felt that the game was a lot more engaging when the avatar was in character as part of the story line and was also into the game as much as we were. It felt more like a team when they also wanted to solve the puzzles quickly. But this also leads back to our first point of knowing your players before the game so you know if you are dealing with players that wants to quickly beat the game or enjoy the game for the entire 60 minutes without cluing.
6. Puzzle design – This becomes tricky with remote escape rooms. We feel like most people booking remote escape rooms right now are enthusiasts who’s played before. They may feel that the puzzles are too linear and easy at some point in comparing to the ones they’ve played before. It’s also difficult for escape room owners to design these at a complex level since there’s only one avatar and only one puzzle can be solved at a time. Beta testing may be the best way for the escape rooms to determine if your puzzles are all easy and if people are getting way too fast and not getting their full 60 minutes worth. Adding in more hidden places or rooms can also be more intriguing for players since remote escape room focus more on visual stimulation.
7. Language – If your game requires any kind of translation to another language from the original, I definitely suggest the escape room location to have a enthusiasts from that country beta test the game to make sure the wording is what its suppose to mean in that country and there were times we were confused by a few symbols which could mean differently in the US than Europe.
8. Pricing - There’s a huge range of pricings currently for these remote escape rooms and as a player it’s hard to determine how to pick a game based on that. The physical escape rooms were a lot easier as most prices are fairly standard in the same range. Currently there are pricing structures as per person, per device, or per group/team. As a player if I chose the per team price and had a great time and went back to another place where they are charging per person and did not get the same kind of experience, then that might result in a negative feedback. We strongly suggest escape room owners who have remote escape rooms to play some others to compare yours and market research to determine where you should set your price standard with the game experience you’ll provide.
Due to the current situation, remote escape room seems to be the closest option we felt to an actual escape room. I would still prefer to go to a physical location and playing the escape room over the remote escape room option when everything returns back to normal. Although it would be interesting to see if this option would last in the industry for international clients since it’ll be a cheaper option for them to try out the rooms without having to travel to there. If there’s anything else anyone can think of to add on to this list, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) us and let us know!
Find a list of Remote Escape Room from all of the world to try HERE!