In Season Four of Reality Escape Pod, we’re going global! Each episode we’ll be interviewing escape room creators from a different country, and there’s no better place to start with than Athens, Greece, home to Paradox Project. Paradox Project’s escape rooms are some of the most highly regarded games in the world, with two of their rooms ranked in the top twenty best escape rooms according to TERPECA. These games also have the distinction of being some of the longest escape rooms in the world, with The Bookstore clocking in at 200 minutes. That’s a whopping three hours and 20 minutes.
While chatting with Dimitris Varelas, one of the creators of Paradox Project, it became clear that the driving force behind their games is a deep love of escape rooms and a devotion to creating the best possible player experience. He’s willing to run his games for you at all hours of the day, and has invited any visiting escape room enthusiasts to consult with him when planning their trip to Athens.
Hearing Dimitris talk about their design process, we could see how much care they put into their games. From their willingness to put the player experience first, to crafting custom sets in huge locations, Paradox Project is a shining example of how to craft incredible escape rooms that cater to escape room enthusiasts.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season: Morty App, World Escape Room Championship (ER Champ), and Buzzshot. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.
Morty is a free app for discovering, planning, tracking, and reviewing your escape rooms and other immersive social outings.
Special Badge for REPOD listeners:
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World Escape Room Championship (ER Champ)
ER Champ is a global competition for escape room players.
- Held virtually this year
- Free Entry
- Elimination round on November 5, 2022
- Each member of the winning team will receive a Nintendo Switch Lite
Buzzshot is ‘Customer Satisfaction Software’ for your escape room business. Streamline your marketing and grow your escape room business with pregame and postgame features including robust waiver management, branded team photos, and integrated review management.
Special Discount for REPOD listeners:
Use our link when booking a demo for 20% off your first three months.
Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Dimitris talks about his first time playing escape rooms and how it inspired him to design his own game. [3:21]
- Dimitris talks about how he was inspired to create games with better puzzle flow and narrative than what games offered at the time. [4:26]
- David talks about the distinct regional “flavor” of the Athens escape rooms, most notably, the incredible lengths of these games, with the longest one clocking in at 200 minutes. [6:10]
- Dimitris talks about why he makes such long games, including his own desire for longer game play, and wanting to create cinematic, realistic situations. [7:14]
- David notes that it’s not just a long game on paper. He says that his team of experienced players took almost the entire available time to get through the game. [9:12]
- Dimitris says that a benefit of having a longer game is that there is the luxury of time for teams to catch up if they fall behind. [11:46]
- Dimitris walks us through his design method when creating a 3 hour long escape room, which includes writing a story with characters and back stories, even if these details don’t end up in the final escape room game. [12:48]
- Dimitris talks about designing the flow of the game from room to room, deciding whether to split the team, and how many rooms to make available to the team at any given time. [13:43]
- Dimitris discusses the pros and cons of linear vs non-linear gameplay. [14:19]
- Dimitris continues discussing his design method, including set decor and fitting puzzles to the available space. [17:06]
- Dimitris tells us why he designed intermissions into his games. [21:12]
- Dimitris talks about the cold start at his escape rooms, where no one greets the players as they arrive and information is given via emails and a letter when they arrive. [23:31]
- We discuss how the intermissions work, including bathroom breaks and refreshments. [24:56]
- Peih-Gee asks about any memorable experiences involving the escape room’s bathroom. [27:12]
- David discusses his hypothesis about why the Paradox Project games resonate with so many escape room fans. [28:18]
- Dimitris shares the advice he gives to other aspiring escape room designers. [29:53]
- David talks about the reviewer philosophy at Room Escape Artist. [31:18]
- Peih-Gee talks about how many of the best escape rooms are reflections of the creator and gives as examples Ministry of Peculiarities when they were guests on the Spoiler’s Club, and CU Adventures from Season 1 of REPOD. [31:49]
- Dimitris talks about the horror games for which Athens is known, and adds that nowadays Athens has much more variety in terms of theming. [33:15]
- Dimitris talks about a horror escape room without puzzles, and Peih-Gee asks whether that’s considered an escape room or a haunt. [33:34]
- David talks about the three modes at The Sanatorium by Lockhill: day mode, which is all puzzles and no scares, night mode, which is all scares and few puzzles, and midnight mode, which is all the puzzles and all the scares. [36:48]
- Dimitris talks about haunts in Greece, or rather, the lack of haunts. [38:00]
- Dimitris talks about how he considers the term “escape room” to be outdated. [38:48]
- Peih-Gee talks about some of the struggles of trying to rename or reclassify escape room terminology. [40:34]
- Dimitris talks about some of the challenges associated with designing games for more than one language. [41:01]
- Dimitris talks about The Mansion and The Bookstore, and how they’re so realistic looking that people come and try to buy books. [44:52]
- Dimitris discusses the creator community and some of his favorite escape rooms in Greece, including Lockhill, El Exorcista from No Exit, Escapepolis, Escape the Car from Lockbusters. [46:56]
- Dimitris talks about how players can play his escape rooms 24/7, and why he decided to make his games available at any time of the day. [51:55]
- Dimitris encourages escape room enthusiasts visiting Greece to contact him for tips and advice about booking games. [54:13]
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- REA Field Report: Greek Escape Rooms
- Athens, Greece: Escape Room Recommendations
- Spoiler’s Club: Walkthroughs and behind the scenes with creators.
- Paradox Project Website
- Paradox Project Instagram
- Paradox Project Facebook
- Lockhill Escape room
- No Exit Escape room
- Escapepolis Escape room
- Escape the Car from Lockbusters.
About Dimitris Varelas
Dimitris V loves games (boardgames, role playing games, video games), art, cinema, urban culture, traveling & food tasting.
Along with best friends Giannis, Mihalis, Konstantinos, and Dimitris K, he decided to create a different escape game experience in 2014: Paradox Project. In September of 2015 The Mansion opened its gates in Kallithea, Athens: a 3-hour experience taking place in a whole 120m² house. The game focuses on puzzles, story, immersion, out of the box thinking, and twists. The sequel The Bookstore followed in the summer of 2018: 200 minutes long and a more complex experience story-wise, introducing various new ideas. It was rated the #2 escape room in the world at the TERPECAs in 2020 & and #10 in 2021. The third project in Athens opened in the summer of 2020 and is a completely different story. The Music Academy is 180+ minutes long and takes place in a real music school, with a darker story and again focusing on unique puzzles & riddles.
In the summer of 2021 the island version of The Mansion opened in the beautiful island of Paros. It’s a 2 hour adventure for the Paros visitors.
All are looking forward for the next steps of this Paradox Project adventure!
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