From the moment you walk into an escape room, you’re transported into a new world, ready to experience something entirely new. The immersive, exciting feel of these games is all thanks to the innovation and creativity of the people behind the scenes, who use technology, creative puzzles, and special effects to bring these rooms to life.
We sat down with the scriptwriters and engineers who design 60out’s intricate escape rooms to see the behind-the-scenes of how they turn their ideas into immersive adventures that take us into worlds of action and mystery.
If you’ve ever been to an escape room, you’ll know that every room has its own theme. Whether it brings you onto a sinking ship, a jungle adventure, or an alien spaceship, these games are designed to thrust you into a new reality with brand-new experiences for you and your friends.
Themes typically come from pop culture, though the creators often take ideas from universes they want to see themselves in.
“I ask myself, what story do I want to be in? What kind of adventure do I wish I could be a part of?” says 60out’s scriptwriter, Pavel Z., who helps come up with the ideas that will eventually turn into escape rooms. “We want players to feel like detectives or bank robbers. We want them to feel like they’re part of a mystery”.
One of the biggest challenges the designers face is fitting all of their ideas into a single room. Unlike major theme parks that can use outside environments to give visitors a larger-than-life experience, 60out operates with limited space. “We have one room where we’re trying to make players feel like miniature versions of themselves, and in doing so we have to make all of our set pieces giants. So we face the challenge of bringing a big world into a small room”.
Once the scriptwriters have developed an outline of their game, they send it over to Trey S. the creative art engineer who gets to turn the idea into a physical reality. It’s here that the designers’ visions come to life.
The sets and props are primarily built shop, a 21,000-square-foot workshop based in South Carolina. The sets are constructed from raw materials, finalized into the end product, and then shipped out to LA to be installed in 60out’s game rooms.
“There’s as much engineering as there is design”, says Trey. “The engineers have the difficult task of taking a complex puzzle idea and turning it into something that can be handled repeatedly and freely by players”.
Sets have to be durable, functional, and robust, all while being able to run smoothly. The engineers have to fully understand what the scriptwriters are looking for, and sometimes the designs are a little outside the scope of what’s possible. “There’s constant collaboration. Sometimes we have to design around their plans or redesign and compromise. But our goal is never to divert from what the game designers want. We have to make our services meet their needs”.
Building an escape room in full can take as long as ten months to as little as six weeks.
“It all depends on the design”, says Trey. “Sometimes we have to build something from scratch. We have to give players something they’ve never seen before, so we have to build something that’s never been built before”.
In some cases, a room will have an overly complex design and need much more time to build.
“One of our game rooms began its production in 2019 and is just now being built”, says scriptwriter Pavel.
When all the sets are shipped out to 60out and installed in their rooms, it’s time to bring it all together!
On top of the intricate set designs and prop work, each escape room is fitted with lighting and sound effects that create the immersion players love. It’s the little details that really help a player relate to the story and feel a sense of mystery, action, and urgency.
Once the games are installed, players and designers get to test them.
“We can tell pretty quickly if something isn’t working”, says Pavel. “When that happens, we quickly redesign and build around the problem”.
As thorough and intricate as the design process is, engineers and scriptwriters ultimately don’t know how players will interact with the sets until they’re placed in the environment.
Trey explains, “Sometimes people surprise you. Sometimes what you thought would be a simple puzzle ends up being the hardest thing, and sometimes what you thought would be difficult ends up being really simple for people”.
Each room goes through an evolution of modifications to improve the gameplay. The story and the set are the most challenging aspects while modifying the puzzles can happen fairly quickly during the testing period. Once the game is running smoothly, it’s ready for its players!
Ready to play? Come play the games yourself at 60out and see the payoff of all this hard work!