Escape Rooms have become a thing lately and rightly so.
Escape Rooms, for the uninitiated, are rooms designed by crazy people filled with crazy puzzles. You, as the participant, are locked inside a room and in order to escape, you must complete a series of puzzles gaining you and your team access to a means of escape.
Combo & Key is not here to reinvent the wheel, but to expand on a concept and make something that feels grounded in reality with a ton of backstory. Anyone can put a bunch of puzzles in a room, but I like to think that the story behind "why" is just as important.
As an Optician by day and a horror fan (preferably) by night, the plan for the first game will be an optical themed game with a bit of horror elements to keep things exciting.
For the first game we offer, you will first be introduced to our office. It looks operational from the outside, but when you delve into the back rooms, you'll find that there are secrets hiding; waiting for discovery.
Here is my "back of the box" plot for the first game:
Our Optometrist has gone missing. For the past few weeks, we've heard complaints coming from patients saying that they could hear him rambling to himself while performing the exam. His exam room and office are locked, but we need to find a way in. The only clue he left behind was a cryptic letter. Can you help crack the code and find our doctor?
Since the doctor is going to be involved with some of the occult, there will certainly be some similarities to that invented by H.P. Lovecraft, so yes, there will be plenty of Cthulhu vibes to go around!
Before we get into why we're turning to Kickstarter, let me talk about me a bit and why I'm doing this.
I'm just a nerd who loves video games, movies, writing, and making people feel happy.
My first experience with an Escape Room was for my bachelor party as a surprise. I was taken to a building where a guy handed me a waiver, I signed it blindly and we were taken to a room with a bunch of random things in it. To this day, it was still one of the most fun experiences I've had and IMMEDIATELY after completing it, I wanted to do more.
Flash forward a few months and the company I worked for was planning a company event but couldn't think of what to do. I recommended an Escape Room. Everyone was on board because of my unmatched enthusiasm, but I decided that we could save the effort of everyone carpooling across town and just custom make one ourselves.
Over the next few months, me and a colleague worked hard on creating an Escape Room that we can subject our coworkers to. We had a very small budget, but were capable of making an amazing room that took everyone (two groups of 4) about an hour and a half to complete.
The reviews were glowing and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Including myself, even if I was just the moderator, and I even got a little emotional when I seen how much they were actually into the story and puzzles that I lovingly crafted for them for months.
Here! Check out some testimonials!
I have always considered myself more of a creative type that just wants to make things that people can enjoy.
As a writer, the idea of subjecting a group of people to a story crafted from the heart is beyond amazing.
As a gamer who wanted to make games (but can't because I can't begin to understand how coding works), subjecting a group of people to a game that I've handcrafted from next to nothing is beyond rewarding.
As someone who just likes to see people smile rather than grimace throughout the day, allowing people to have fun with stuff that designed to do just that is beyond anything I can describe.
Once I finished with the Escape Room for my coworkers, I knew I wanted to do it again.
However, the means to do so always seemed out-of-reach. Just the cost of renting space seemed like much more of a headache than I was willing to focus on.
Earlier this year, I moved from my last job (the one I did the Escape Room with) to a different, locally owned store. I jokingly mentioned to coworker that I should start an Escape Room in the unused space at one of locations. From there, the idea...exploded. Like some kind of creative parasite, it started to infect every thought.
At that point, I decided to pitch it to the owner, and he seemed to be enthusiastic and gave me the go ahead and I could not be any more excited.
So now that I have the space, that small headache is no longer an issue. The only thing left would be materials. With my last Escape Room, I had a small budget of around $100. With this I was able to make do with what we had.
For instance, a key component to these types of Rooms is the ability to have "red herrings" or diversions to get people's attention away from the path they need to take. This allows the rooms to be filled with props. In the room that we did, we went to the dollar store and grabbed cans of corn, plastic mermaid dolls and foam dice.
...Like I said, we weren't working with much.
With the money we get from this Kickstarter, we can buy props and set dressings that make the room feel like a real, breathing and, most importantly, organic experience. My hope is when you enter the Escape Room, you don't THINK it's an Escape Room.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that we need this room to have natural objects spread throughout the office to give off the impression that there is a lot more to this fake character that we know.
For example, we know this Doctor is going to have a unique backstory completely fabricated by myself. If you were to enter his office and find nothing that creates a sense of character, you're not going to feel any empathy and you won't want to find him. Enter a room with too much stuff and you'll have a sensory overload and you won't know what to do with this knowledge.
Finding the right balance means I need to fill the room with things that would add to this character's tapestry and make it feel that much more organic.
So far, there's nothing extraordinarily expensive that needs to demonstrate this, but there is still plenty that will need to be purchased. Things that I don't have much money to spend myself.
Materials aside, the money will also go toward a few behind-the-scenes things that are necessary to do all this. Things like helping get and maintain a website so you can schedule an event.
To break it down a bit, here's a little list of things that I will eventually need to grab
- Puzzles: Locks, Lockboxes, Chains, etc = ~$200+
- Decorations: Books, Framed "Certificates", Corkboard = ~$200+
- Hardware: Adding locks to doors, etc. = ~$100+
- Website: Site, Domain, Scheduling = ~$200/year.
- Merch: T-Shirts and Letters and Stuff = ~$200
- Coffee: To keep my brain working.
That, with the fees from Kickstarter, I've decided that $1,250 is a fairly modest asking. And, again, with any extra income, there will be much better versions of what we can put into the room.
Also, I want to reiterate that if this takes off in any positive capacity, it will give me a chance to do this on a much larger scale and do multiple versions. This is a dream job for me, so that is certainly something I would personally like to achieve.
I spent some time putting together a list of things that I feel are good rewards, and hopeful you guys will think so too.
I don't have anything extremely huge and mind blowing, but I feel like it's demonstration of how modest my intentions are. I could easily bloat up the goal, but that's not the point.l The point here is to make something fun that anyone can enjoy.
You'll be able to read everything in full detail on the side, obviously, but there's hopefully enough there for everyone.
- Your name written on a file (which will hopefully fill up a whole file cabinet!)
- Handwritten letters sent to you VIA good ol' snail mail.
- Your name in the game in a part of the puzzle.
- Your face in the game somewhere in the room.
- Passes to the game!
- UNLIMITED passes to the game!
- A VERY special dinner made by my wife (a professional chef).
And even the Corporations can get a piece of the action with some passes for a company event or even UNLIMITED events for a few lucky companies!
I have friends from all over the world (not a brag) and I want them to partake in some of the rewards if they can't find their way over to Portland to actually do the Escape Room if they purchased the tiers with event tickets. To accommodate them and non-friends (though you will become my friend if you help back me), I will work with them to make sure they know their contribution didn't go to waste. The accommodation may include sending them shirts or another type of merchandise - we can work something out. *wink wink*
Risks and challenges
The Escape Room itself will indeed go on regardless if this Kickstarter is not successful. That being said, the longevity is what's in question.
If the Kickstarter is successful, you will help out in stabilizing the business from the beginning. With added props and materials to the first few events, people will take it seriously and will want to come back for more - especially when we do different variations later on down the road.
If the Kickstarter is unsuccessful, then I fear that the presentation wouldn't be quite up to snuff and while I know people will still have fun, they might not to return for more and tell their friends. The presentation means a lot more than you might think.
Other than that, a fear is that the game will be too easy or too hard. Since my last attempt lasted 1.5 hours for 4 people, I'm fairly confident that I can work on the balancing of the game to accommodate a few more players each game, as well as making sure the difficulty is in a sweet spot. The difficulty is also very much dependent on how well the props work with one another; which brings us back to being fully funded.
One of the biggest issues, however is the start date. While I want to launch in September, it might be pushed a month in order to make the room THAT much better. It's just all depending on how much extra time I may or may not need.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (25 days)