Photos of Egyptian Escape during Bradley University's Fuse portfolio show in Spring 2017. Courtesy of Poppins Photography, Meredith Messina. Full copyright belongs to Poppins Photography, with personal use granted. These pictures are to aid in the representation of what Egyptian Escape is and are not meant for financial gain.
I was one of the creators of Egyptian Escape as well as the project manager. What is provided above is photographic and video documentation of Egyptian Escape's run throughs at Bradley University in December 2016 and at Fuse in April 2017.
Below is a more in depth description of "the making of".
Egyptian Escape immerses you in an experience like no other where you will work, hands on, solving a variety of puzzles to escape the perils of a booby trapped excavation site before you run out of air.
There are a couple of mechanics that this escape room game focuses on. The first is how each puzzle involves deciphering hieroglyphs to unlock a four-digit code that will then give the players access to more clues. The clue system is important because the players will be “locked” in the room (with the ability to exit at will if they need to) and they must solve each puzzle to obtain a key before the time runs out. The “gods” (people who monitor the progress of the players via webcams and voice chat) will occasionally give hints to the people trapped inside the excavation site if they ask for one or they look like they need one, but the number of allowable hints is limited. There are free hints and hints that deduct time off of the remaining time the players have. If they use too many deductible hints, the players can fail faster.
The range of players varies with each set up due to available space; one place we hosted had a maximum of five players due to size limitations while the other had a maximum of ten. Regardless of the amount of players, the difficulty remains steady.
The inspiration for part of the game came from the idea of the matryoshka doll. The first puzzle in the game is much like one - a box within a box where you place a slab of wood within both boxes. From that, the other puzzles stemmed from the first. Each one includes some type of deciphering and that was largely stemmed from the first puzzle as well. Though the theme is set in Egypt, it could have been set in a different era or place. However, to help each player become immersed due to a widely known familiarity with Egyptian history, the creators decided that the Egyptian theme was the way to go.
The intention of this piece was originally to fulfill a requirement for a class project, but it morphed into something that was more than that. What came out of a spoken prompt turned into a game that over two dozen groups have participated in and have enjoyed. It matters to people because it is something that is different, something that people can work together on and enjoy as a team, much like that of a board game or a multiplayer video game. It is also a physical game, transporting you into a space where you use your hands and your brains at the same time, which caters to an older audience - causing nostalgia of times where there weren’t any video games - to a newer audience - causing excitement for something that is different than just digital games and board games.
For me, Jessica Potter, as one of the creators of the game, this game matters to me because it was created at a moment in my life where I was just starting to learn how to create games. Creating a physical game such as this escape room was a great way to flex my creative muscles and it turned into a success. It gives me great joy to see the players become so immersed in the game and come out of it with a rich experience that they can tell their family and friends about. To me, Egyptian Escape is all about the bonding experience of the players as well as with the hosts. In this day and age, people often forget to connect and have fun with others, from strangers to even family and friends, and this game is a way to provide people with that opportunity.
Statement of Innovation
Egyptian Escape is a physical game where it takes players of all ages and drops them in a different setting where they are encouraged to escape and discover the story behind that foreign place. The game promotes team building between strangers and friends alike as they are challenged to work through the puzzles together, creatively and critically, with varying personalities and background.
The game shines through its custom content, built by students with the aid of professionals. Because of the custom content, it is set apart from all other escape room games because it cannot be replicated completely. In other words, the puzzles aren’t generic and predictable. They think outside the box just enough that it can stump players, but not enough to where it leaves players completely clueless.
However, it isn’t just a physical game. It makes use of technology through web cameras and voice chat to help guide the players through difficult thought processes when they feel stuck. With the idea of the Egyptian gods speaking to the players from the otherworld, the voice chat allows a hint system to be in place while not breaking the suspension of disbelief. Not only does the voice chat allow the “gods” to speak, but the web cams allow the “gods” to monitor the progress of the players to provide them with a hint that better suits their needs.
The combination of physical and digital traits is something that isn’t seen often in games. While it isn’t the first game that has both qualities, there aren’t many games out there that have explored the possibilities of this amalgamation. Together with the custom content, Egyptian Escape becomes a unique experience.
Our team was a journey of one, then two, then thirteen, and then five; an ever shifting motion of people. Here is the story of behind the creators.
It started with one. It began with a prompt for a class project — come up with one puzzle, individually, that we could share with the rest of the class. As the class of thirteen received the prompt, we all began devising our own puzzles, theme and all.
Then it became a team of two. Once we shared our ideas, the reoccurring themes became apparent. Red marker stained the white board with scratches of ideas and we assigned teams to those topics. Some stuck with the themes that they had already expanded upon, some chose new topics that interested them more than their original ideas. One of the creators of Egyptian Escape chose the same theme they had already thought of.
It was there that the two would expand one puzzle into three. Working together, they hatched a plan that might work within the constraints that were given. Once prepared, it would be pitched to a game developer that would pick from the five different escape room ideas. The winner would go on to building the idea into a reality.
The team expanded into thirteen. The class focused on the winning escape room and built it into a reality. The class worked together to create the escape room from paper into the physical game. Each were given tasks from the project manager, whether it be building components of the game or researching items online that could be bought. The game would be launched in two weeks time, hosted at the university itself.
Once the run through at the university was completed, the team was brought down to five. But the journey wasn’t over. It expanded beyond a class project and became a special project that would be hosted at Fuse, a portfolio show for the Interactive Media department of the university. All worked together to make Egyptian Escape a success once again, further tweaking the rules and remaking some components so that it would work even better.
Once made, twice made, thrice made and more. Low funds, a small team, a new challenge. And yet…it was a success despite everything working against it.
Egyptian Escape started from a small flicker of an idea for a small world - a classroom. It grew into scribbles, then sent off to others to review, turned into a paper prototype and reviewed again, then it took on a more permanent shape, finding itself within the statues and chests, papyrus and layered boxes. It was shared dozens and fine-tuned to make each experience memorable.
What happened behind the scenes to make this game a reality? Who funded it, who provided resources, who worked on it to make it what it is today? Those questions will be answered right here, right now.
Egyptian Escape is a Bradley University funded escape room game. It began in a classroom where it was never implemented before, so it was a new idea, a new way of allowing students to expand their creativity in game making for physical games. The budget wasn’t necessarily set, as it was never before done, however, the creators took it upon themselves to come up with a way to make it aesthetically enjoyable while at a low cost. Things were bought through amazon, such as statues, canvas, and papyrus, while others were bought from hardware stores, such as paint, sand, and pipes to create a frame for the canvas.
There are resources, but what was done with them? The students were in charge of creating something out of each resource. Some became pages with hieroglyphs written on them, some became decorative props - all were used to immerse the player. However, some things needed outside help - things such as the frames for the canvas and what is known as the “box puzzle”.
The project manager searched high and low for people who could help build the custom pieces. She sent out several emails, networking to find the perfect people for the job. Two individuals stuck out and they were professionals to boot! Just her luck! One was found within Bradley University’s sculpting department and the other was found close to home. They helped her create the pieces she needed in order to make the puzzles function well and look pleasing.
Through some trial and error, improvisation and luck, Egyptian Escape rose from the flicker of that one inspired idea.