3 Design Techniques for Accommodating Expert Players [Design Tips]

Audrey from the wonderful Curious Escape Rooms in Fitchburg, MA wrote in asking:

“What would you say is the difference between a beginner’s game and one for an experienced escape room enthusiast?”

Design Options

There are a few different ways to tackle escape game design for experienced players:

  • Challenge – Make the puzzles more difficult.
  • Intrigue – Make the experience unique, interesting, and unusual.
  • Bonus Content – Incorporate additional game elements outside of the standard win condition.

Through deliberate use of any of these techniques, an escape room can be created specifically for only enthusiasts, or can be enjoyed by both newer players and enthusiasts alike.

Stylized image of a stuffed dinosaur gnawing on a padlock that said says "Bonus"
Bonus Content Dino devours puzzles

1: Challenge

Build more challenging puzzles.

In a challenging room escape, the puzzles are harder or more numerous, but the clue structure and thread of game play remain intact.

Many companies mistake challenge for lack of clue structure. When you leave out the connective tissue of the experience rather than creating more advanced puzzles, the room escape becomes more challenging, but also more frustrating.

The Great Houdini Escape Room by Palace Games in San Francisco is appropriately challenging. Note that there is so much jam packed into this escape room that they allow players to take extra time to complete the entire experience.

2: Intrigue

Design something unique, and unlike anything your players have seen in an escape room before.

This exciting new design can be something that lasts the entire game or elevates a single moment.

Whereas intrigue will be lost on someone who hasn’t played very many room escapes, because everything will be new, an experienced player will recognize the genius in the creation and appreciate it.

That said, room escapes with intrigue are frequently great for newbies as well as experts. Everyone will have fun.

Lab Rats by 15 Locks in Austin is intriguing throughout, from set construction to game mechanics.

Maze of Hakaina by Komnata Quest in New York has at least one intriguing and memorable moment that will shock newcomers and enthusiasts alike.

The added bonus of intrigue is that is helps to induce word-of-mouth marketing. When there’s something special about a game, players will talk about it and encourage their friends to go see it.

3: Bonus Content

Give your experienced players more to uncover and accomplish.

Add bonus puzzles that offer something to the players in addition to escaping or completing the room escape’s main objective. This can be a side quest along with the main objective, or the completion of the main objective can trigger new objectives. Speedy solvers will have the opportunity to do more.

As long as failure to complete or even uncover a bonus doesn’t diminish the experience, room escapes with bonuses can be great for players of all skill levels.

Krampus by Countdown & The Virus by Get the F Out in Los Angeles include bonuses for those who complete the main objective with time remaining.

Deliberate Audience Design

Challenge, Intrigue, and Bonus Content are three ways to deliberately design for experienced players. Incorporated thoughtfully, these techniques can court experienced players without alienating newer players. Know your target audience; design and market your room escapes accordingly.

2 thoughts on “3 Design Techniques for Accommodating Expert Players [Design Tips]

  1. Great ideas! We’ve been working on launching a “side quest” in both of our games. Fast players can tackle it during their game and players who want to experience the room a second time can bring new friends and play the second quest. We’re really looking forward to launching it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! I’d encourage you to make sure that it is clearly marked and push players to tackle it last, so people don’t wander down a rabbit hole and lose while pursuing bonus content.

      Like

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