Escape Academy

In Escape Academy "we're not fans of red herrings in general"

Coin Crew Games tell us about the difference between IRL and digital escape rooms while also giving a prime puzzle example.

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We were so excited when we visited the Escape Academy in the spring that we've been looking forward to its official opening on July 14 ever since. With that in mind, and as part of SGF's Day of the Devs, we caught up with headmasters and co-founders Wyatt Bushnell & Mike Salyh in the interview below.

"Well, yeah", Wyatt says about the fact of coming up with the idea of a video game based on their IRL escape room expertise as being one of the good things about the pandemic and the lockdown. "Mike and were actually reminiscing about this recently because if we hadn't got hit by the pandemic... Before the pandemic we were solely building arcade games and escape rooms for the real world. Arcades like Dave & Buster's and that sort of thing. So, if the pandemic never hit, we probably wouldn't have ever made a digital title to be released this way, and we've really fallen in love with the industry, so..."


But, when it comes to build such different escaping experiences, what can be easier or harder to recreate comparing both worlds?

"In real world escape rooms there are a couple of game mechanics that we chose to not leverage in being kind of deliberate about that, something we wanted to make sure", Wyatt explains. "As a studio we are not a huge fan of red herrings in general, but that's kind of the mainstay in physical escape rooms. Our interpretation is that people are going to invent their own red herrings, so we don't need to help them. Then, also I think what the nice thing about the digital format is, it let us build that kind of wild variety of threats to the player, let the threat be kind of diegetic in the room with them. One of our rooms you're assembling a tower that's filling up of water, which I am sure you've seen from the Summer Game Fest, but being able to leverage those different kinds of threats, make sure that the player is like: 'Oh, I want to get out of this room' was a really powerful design.

Regarding that deadly touch feeling, this is the key difference according to Mike:

"In a brick and mortar escape room you use your imagination. You're physically there, but you pretend to see the thread. In the video game you pretend to be there, but you really see the thread".

When playtesting the game, both make sure players are sharing notes and coming up with solutions, as that's a good sign of a successful design for a room or a puzzle, considering "it's not done unless we have enough conversation".

"A good escape room, the sum is greater than its parts", adds Wyatt as an example. "One of our levels is an art classroom. Your goal is to tag a specific piece of art in the room. But all the puzzles are solved by looking at pieces of art throughout the room. That to me is my personal favourite room, because you are solving puzzles in an art classroom by looking at portraits within that room".

Play on the full interview for more on game design, the co-op experience or how they tackle the fact of not having a game master in-game. Escape Academy is releasing on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Game Pass. As for the so-fitting-looking VR adaptation, "we can't either confirm or deny (laughs). There's nothing announced yet, but it's something we've considered".

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