First, Some Background
As a puzzle junkie, I simply love puzzle hunts. I was introduced to Carnegie Mellon’s hunts while in undergrad, and quickly latched onto the concept (with success, too — my team won several times). I’ve been doing the MIT Mystery Hunt for the past decade or so (no, my team doesn’t win this one). I anxiously await Foggy Brume’s next Puzzle Boat whenever he finds the time to put on a hunt all by himself. I love the Galactic Puzzle Hunts that the Galactic Trendsetters put on. And I keep my eye on the Puzzle Hunt Calendar.
Needless to say for someone like me, I also love escape rooms. Escape rooms are like puzzle hunts, except simpler, smaller, faster, and more physical. They’re typically time-bound (they’re run by businesses after all, which need to get the next set of paying players in), but I’d personally rather them just lock me in until I get out. No cheating for me!
The escape room concept is often credited to Takao Kato, founder of a company called SCRAP in Japan, or Jeff Martin of True Dungeon fame, but they also have obvious ties to escape-the-room style Flash games of yore, and even further back, puzzle-filled adventure games. As of 2019, there are estimated to be over 50k escape rooms worldwide.
So anyway, hopefully the point is made — I love puzzles, and thus, I also love escape rooms. But (and this is quite a sad “but”), I haven’t gone to an escape room in a while. With all the happenings in 2020, it’s been better to stay inside, to myself. Oh how I’ve yearned to escape more rooms.
Alongside the emergence of escape rooms, virtual reality has been ramping up on its adoption S-curve. During that time, the capabilities of the technology have gotten better and better — HTC and Valve have continuously improved on the Vive, while Facebook has done the same for the Oculus. Plus, Sony has Playstation VR, HP has Reverb, Samsung has Gear, and more players keep entering the market. All this (healthy) competition means better graphics, smoother gameplay, and cordless experiences.
The Team & The Opportunity
I’ve been talking about “me” this whole time, but the reality is, I have a group of former-colleagues-turned-friends who are all similarly enthusiastic about puzzles, escape rooms, gaming, and technology. (Also similarly, they haven’t had the opportunity for an escape room fix anytime recently — again, thanks 2020. /s)
Due to these predilections, we’ve been checking out what’s available in the market for VR escape rooms. While there are some great contributions to the space (I’m looking at you, I Expect You To Die), there seems to be a giant hole to fill for people like us, who love the classic escape room experience, and crave more content.
We have found that too many escape room-style games follow the same trite patterns — “scour the place to find the thing” or “locate the numeric code to unlock the safe” or “turn the screwdriver to remove the screw”. I don’t want to play Mechanic: The Game, I want to solve puzzles — puzzles that make sense, puzzles that tell a story, puzzles that require thought… not puzzles that just require time and repetition.
Live escape rooms often achieve much more depth, and in beautiful fashion. We love the charm of how modestly-sized escape rooms present big concepts. We love the feeling of those hand-crafted environments, and we want to provide that same feeling in VR.
We see this as an opportunity to develop what we believe is the logical future of escape room experiences. Of course, it will always be fun to get a group of 4–8 of your closest friends together to escape a room. But in a world where friends move away, schedules are difficult to align, and VR is starting to truly deliver on its promise, we want to bring the experience to everyone’s living room.
And not just an experience mind you — a premier experience. As a group, we have expertise in game development, virtual reality, 3D design, user experience, and yes — puzzles. Our goal is to combine all of this expertise into an escape room that escape room lovers will appreciate and tell all their friends about.
The Game & The Community
The conclusion of the above history lesson and “about us” diatribe is the development of Egression — a virtual reality escape room experience. It’s everything you love about in-person escape rooms, but in your living room. Enter the lobby of a fictional escape room company, sign up for the room you’re most intrigued by, play through thematic storylines, take the time you need to solve the puzzles (no time limits!), and perhaps uncover the meta secrets about the business while you’re at it. And, no cheap horror-based thrills, either — the likelihood of dying in our escape rooms is the same likelihood of dying in a live escape room.
We’ve been working on our game since late last year, and development is well under way. Much of the concepts behind the first room, the Deep Sea Lab, are complete — in fact, we are moving into our supervised playtesting phase within the next few weeks. While we polish that room, we are also working through concepts for the lobby, as well as our (free to play!) demo room experience. And much more will come after that!
If you’re an escape room aficionado like us, feel free to follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be posting (non-spoiler!) screenshots and details as we continue through the game development process. And if you want to become a closer-knit part of the community, join us on Discord to discuss puzzle concepts, request new themes, provide feedback, and just in general, hang out with other puzzle lovers.
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve got!