We regularly answer questions that readers submit through our contact from. We’re trying something new and turning the answer into a post:
From Sarah W.
“I’ve been wondering this for a while: How often do you run into puzzles that can no longer be solved if you move certain items from their original state? This happened to me once, and I’ve been paranoid about it ever since, even though I don’t think I’ve run into that problem again. Do you think my paranoia is warranted??”
Order preservation paranoia
Sarah, I am all too familiar with that paranoia.
A couple years ago, puzzles that required players to preserve the order of objects were reasonably common.
If you were to rearrange the books on a shelf, pull out the drawers in a cabinet, or mix up some tarot cards, you could totally screw up your game.
In my case, this led me to stop other players from rearranging things, painstakingly memorize the order of objects, and on occasion, photograph objects with my phone in case I needed to recall the order of something particularly complex.
This behavior wasn’t fun for me and it wasn’t fun for my teammates.
Fortunately, order preservation puzzles have fallen out of fashion.
Order preservation puzzles suck for players
If players have to worry about maintaining the order of everything they find, it greatly diminishes their fun.
Whether you’re the person riding your team to keep things orderly, or the person being scolded for mucking up the order, no one is having fun.
Escape rooms are supposed to be about adventure and fun, not anal retentive organization.
Fortunately, escape room designers have figured this out.
Order preservation puzzles suck for escape room operators
Order preservation puzzles increase the burden of resetting a room.
Operators can’t just put books back on the shelf or lay the tarot cards on the table. If order matters, they need to get it right. If they don’t, they screw up the game for their players.
Let it go
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an order preservation puzzle without fail-safes.
Now these puzzles come permanently mounted in the right order or include a mechanism for determining order. Either way, the puzzle is always solvable.
At this point, if I encounter an order preservation puzzle, I’ll just burn a hint to get the order. I’m not going to let the threat of an order preservation puzzle get in the way of enjoying the game.