On Game Quality
by Kozan Soykal
With our third game coming to the beta-test stage, I finally find myself with some spare time. That resulted in me getting shanghaied to populate our blogs area. This will probably be our blog post, so I think some introductions would be nice first.
So there are escape rooms which are part of a franchise. You pay the franchise money, they come and set up a room for you and you get to run it. There are escape rooms which are built by financing from some wealthy investors. You go and convince people on Shark Tank or some other program and you get a bunch of cash to start.
We are none of those. We are a group of families who liked running escape rooms together, and thought we could do better than the ones we played at. No franchise, no investors. We pooled our investment ourselves and this is our first and currently, only location. We design and build our own games. It takes forever… but the results have made all of us proud so far.
Why do I emphasize this? Because at the time we were designing our first game, the market was dominated by one large, and three smaller franchises. Only one of the smaller companies, PanIQ, ran good games. The rest of the companies ran subpar games, to put it kindly, and relied on marketing and decor to sell.
We did not like this approach then. Now that we are actually in the same business, we hate it. When you dress up a poor game with layers of advertising, you create a “meh” experience at best. A first time player living through such an experience is likely to think the “escape room thing” is a hype. That is the utmost form of disrespect you can show a player, in my opinion.
So quality is the discussion point for this blog post. We actually had a nice list of other things to write about, like what to do during a game, or why escape rooms are so nice for your team builders. However, the first post will be an introductory one. It should explain our values, and philosophy. We value the quality of our games, and our establishment. We love it when our players cry out in surprise when they meet something they did not expect. We cheer when somebody opens a box and obtains the next clue. We feel our proudest when a team that exits a game immediately books and plays our other game on the spot. We want everybody involved in our place to have fun.
This is easy to write about now – we have two games running. Our sales show we will be around for a while. It was not as easy when we were starting a year ago. When the top dog in your field runs bad games at a central location and relies on massive marketing, the natural instinct is to emulate what they do – spend your resources on location and marketing, rather than the game.
We spent two months discussing these variables and finally realized we had to build the best games we could, and everything else had to come second. Some game rooms open in a month. We took three for our first game. There had to be a certain number of complete surprises. All puzzles had to be original. We had to come up with puzzles which had to be solved by senses other than vision or hearing… and, well, I’ll stop – I don’t want to give any spoilers.
And thankfully, our approach did not fail us. A big chunk of our first room players came and played the second room. We have followers now, asking when the third room will be open. When you design and run game rooms, there is no greater joy than your players pressuring you to open up your next gig.
We will keep at it. It’s fun for us. We are delighted to see it’s also fun for you. Thank you for reading.
Game Design Team Member
Dare to Escape AZ