BBC Sherlock Escape Room: 19 Questions with Time Run’s Nick Moran

I loved Time Run. I enjoyed Sherlock. Earlier this week, we were finally able to announce that these two incredible worlds are about to collide in Sherlock: The Game is Now.

I asked Nick Moran, Creative Director at Time Run, more about this collaboration. It sounds to me like a trip to London will be in order. Read on and decide for yourself.

1. Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your new project.

Nick Moran: Sherlock: The Game is Now is our next project, which has just been publicly announced this week. It’s a collaboration between the Time Run team (Josh Ford, Director, Sheena Patel, Producer and myself) and Hartswood Films, the creators of Sherlock. It’s a live game, set in the world of the TV series. This is not a pop-up, or a small-scale temporary event; this is a proper, full-scale escape room experience. We’re excited!

A silhouette of Sherlock Holmes flanked by profiles of John Watson & Mycroft Holmes. A yellow spray painted overlays the image.

2. How did this come about?

Incredibly organically. Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, and Mark Gatiss came and played Time Run. Conversations started… and it just seemed to make sense. I wish I could say it was some grand orchestrated plan, but honestly, it was just a project we were all excited by. Naturally they love puzzles and mysteries – and have created a show bathed in them. Our business is puzzles and mysteries. It was a natural fit.

3. What was it like working with writers Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss? You can be brutally honest. There is no way that they read Room Escape Artist.

Steven and Mark are great! Obviously, you hear stories about all sorts of projects and collaborations, but honestly, Hartswood Films is an absolute dream to work with. They’re fun and unbelievably clever. They understand we love and respect the show, and that we’re trying to create an experience that exemplifies everything that’s great about the show, but in a live environment. To that end, they’re up for anything. They’re open-minded, generous, and enthusiastic about the available possibilities. It’s been such a satisfying creative process. They really got into the mindset of this alien format. They’re cinematic thinkers – and yet suddenly they were working on something entirely new – and they were totally game, no pun intended.

So, hopefully we’ve come together to make something really cool.

4. Is this ‘alien format’ a traditional escape room? Or more akin to Celestial Chain? Or something else?

This definitely plays more like a traditional escape room than Celestial Chain.

In-game: a large and mysterious metal vessel. It could be a submarine or a space ship.
Celestial Chain

5. Without spoilers, what can people expect from Sherlock: The Game is Now?

So, when you arrive, you go to W- Oh… without spoilers. This is difficult.

You are at the centre of your own episode of Sherlock. You’ll get to step into the shoes of Mr Holmes and be the protagonist in your own adventure. You’ll experience amazing gameplay, beautiful environments (both familiar and unfamiliar) and journey through a world that doesn’t break from the moment you enter until the moment you leave. And (spoiler alert) – you’ll have a whole lot of fun, or at least, we damn well hope so!

The living room of Sherlock's cluttered London flat. The wall is graffitied, "THE GAME IS NOW."

6. Is this set in an existing Sherlock episode? Or is it inspired by an existing Sherlock Holmes story?

It’s an all-new adventure in the world of the show. It’s not set in an existing episode. Telling you any more… well, obviously, that’d be telling.

7. Do people need to have seen the show or read the books to enjoy the experience?

If you haven’t seen the show, it’ll be a great experience, but if you have seen the show, you’ll get a lot more from it. The show has dedicated fans worldwide and we want to respect them and the legacy of the show that they love. So, to answer your question succinctly: no, not at all. But it sure helps to have seen it, otherwise you’ll miss some of the fun details, references, and Easter eggs!

8. Since Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, and Mycroft are all characters in this game… who are we, the players, in this experience?

Naturally, you are… you. Once you have signed up, you are willing recruits of the Network. What’s the network? Well, it’s Mycroft Holmes’ web of recruits that seep out under the skein of the world.

Now, as the trailer says – and Mycroft says it better than I do – many of these particular agents suffered rather unfortunate ends. Sadly it’s time to turn to the public, as numbers are low (and the great unwashed are quite expendable). He doesn’t find this a particularly savoury thought, as you can imagine.

9. Many escape room players are over Holmes. They’ve played so many Holmes-themed escape rooms at this point. What are you doing to make this experience really capture the world of Holmes and set it apart?

Well, Sherlock and the works of Conan Doyle are as different as any adaptation can be! The show is the product of two writers who were utterly enamoured with the source material and set out to create their own, unique universe. The usual escape room fare is just slap-on-a-deerstalker-and-hope-for-the-best.

In Sherlock: The Game is Now you step into the world of high-octane, fast-talking, high-functioning sociopath, Sherlock Holmes and his sneering, supercilious brother, a world dripping with humour, pathos, action, and adventure. This game will be so much more than some loose, Sherlock theming: a battered pseudo-Victorian study, assembled from bric-a-brac, as you see in some poor escape games. Here, you are at the centre of an amazing adventure, in not just *a* Sherlock Universe but *the* Sherlock Universe. The show has become a cultural totem in and of itself. It stepped out of the shadow of Conan Doyle the moment it was born. It’s that world in which you play, which is markedly different from the typical escape room fare.

10. You have such a well-defined mythos of your own at Time Run. Is this connected in any way to the Time Run verse?

Haha, sadly no. Babbage and Luna are off gallivanting through time and space, alone. Although, as we’ve poured ourselves into the game, if bits of us didn’t seep in there somehow, I would be shocked.

Time Run’s lobby.

11. Will people experience the same level of world-building that we’ve come to expect from Time Run?

100% yes. Time Run very much had our game design ethos: a world that never breaks, from beginning to end. A world that makes sense. Games with logic, internally and externally. We try to maintain this ruleset across what we do because it’s our design ideology. It’s all about losing yourself inside a experience, one that just happens to be a game. It just wouldn’t be a Time Run game otherwise.

Lance of Longinus

12. Compared to the high level of detail you had in your original two games, how does this measure up?

Experiences live and die in the detail. Naturally, the same team is behind all of our games, so we sure hope it will measure up. However, these are, naturally, real world environments. There can’t be the same flights of fancy that Time Travel allows. It’ll feel similar in detail, but different in emphasis.

Before we close, let’s expand on a few of the details from the announcement:

13. When do tickets go on sale? When does it open? How long will this run?

We’re currently selling tickets from October 2018 through January 2019 and will open more dates further down the line.

14. Where will this experience be located? (And please let the answer be Baker Street.)

Oh, it’s a top-secret location. Or at least, mildly secret. Well, alright, it’s just a bit secret. But we won’t tell you where yet. That’ll spoil the fun.

15. Your facility will be 17,000 square feet. That’s is huge! How is that space being used?

There are five copies of Sherlock: The Game Is Now. There are also elements we can’t reveal just yet. Let’s just say it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end…

16. Your official announcement mentioned plans for a worldwide roll out over the next 5 years. Can you give me any hints on timing or location? Can I put in a request for New York?

I can’t answer, sorry.

17. What does a ticket cost? Private group booking? Minimum/ maximum group size?

Tickets cost £54 (~$72) per person. You have to book as a group of 4-6 players. And yes, all private group bookings.

18. £54 is a considerably higher ticket price than escape room players are accustomed to. What do you say to someone who’s looking to choose between playing two escape rooms at the more typical price or visiting Sherlock: The Game Is Now?

This isn’t for me a question of “or;” it’s a question of “why.”

When you want to create an experience based upon an existing show – and a premium one, at that – there’s a choice. Do you treat the programme with respect, or not? Do you invest in making it full of beautiful environments, and experiential touch points? Do you ensure that there’s enough staff so that every group has the best possible experience – a ratio over and above that of pretty much any escape game?

I’ve not been to any of the previous brand tie-in events, but I’ve heard tales of experiences that did not do justice to the shows or films concerned. That saddens me. When we say it’s a 90-minute adventure, we’re not lying; you’ll be in the world from the moment you arrive. The entrance will surprise and amuse. There’ll be actor-led elements. We’ve included AV content from the cast of the show. The lovely sets – some small, intimate and detailed, others straight from the series – are created primarily as a gift for the audience. There’s other elements we haven’t revealed, too.

I would say to an enthusiast: trust us. We’re enthusiasts, too, all of us. We are determined to do justice to this show and this experience. If you don’t find my answer convincing, I understand, but it’s the truth. Enthusiasts are smart people. They get that doing this kind of thing well isn’t easy. When you factor in everything – from the A/V elements from the cast of Sherlock to the large-scale production – you’ll understand. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

19. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: Time Run closed in April. Are there plans for a new Time Run facility in the cards?

Oh, Time Run is just sleeping – and nothing sleeps forever, does it?

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