In Season 4, Episode 11, we chat with Lukas Rauscher of Crime Runners in Austria. His game Going Underground has consistently placed highly on the TERPECA list since it first premiered, and has garnered rave reviews for its sense of adventure and its adaptive difficulty, which creates a fulfilling experience for both new players and experienced enthusiasts.
Lukas is an unapologetically passionate escape room enthusiast and advocate. He freely admits to having little to no moderation when it comes to creating his games because he constantly wants to outdo himself. He is also candid when it comes to struggles with his business.
Lukas was a delight to chat with. His passion for the industry is infectious, and I really appreciated how frank he was about his personal confidence struggles. I loved hearing about his approach to designing escape rooms, especially how he manages adaptive difficulty. This conversation feels like the kind you’d have over a beer after a satisfying day of amazing escape rooms.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- Lukas tells us how they decided on the name “Crime Runners” for his escape room company. [1:59]
- Lukas explains how their first three games are set in the same universe with connected storylines about a corrupt politician. [3:56]
- Lukas talks about his evolution in storytelling from audio and video dialogue to mainly set decoration and environmental storytelling. [6:00]
- Lukas talks about what he did before creating escape rooms and how he got into the industry. [7:01]
- Lukas talks about the rush to open escape rooms in Vienna when he first started. [8:31]
- Lukas talks about his first time traveling to Berlin to play The Room, and how it inspired him to build bigger and better. [9:47]
- Lukas talks about the unsustainability of escape rooms. [10:55]
- Lukas talks about playing Celestial Chain at Time Run and his thoughts on the pipelining in that game. [11:37]
- David mentions that Going Underground manages to appeal to both new players and enthusiasts. [13:28]
- Lukas talks about environmental storytelling in his rooms, and how he makes sure that everyone goes through to the end so they can see the entire story. [14:05]
- Lukas talks about all the different rooms in Going Underground and creating puzzles that fit each scene. [15:16]
- Lukas talks more specifically about how pipelining works in his games. [16:57]
- Lukas talks about some techniques they use to manage enthusiast groups that are moving quickly in the pipeline, including adaptable difficulty for the puzzles and also the ability to add puzzles. [18:49]
- Peih-Gee talks about the time she played a pipelined game where integral pieces of a puzzle were deliberately withheld to slow down her group and how frustrating it was. [20:34]
- Lukas talks about how much it cost to build Going Underground. [21:19]
- Lukas tells us that Going Underground is about 150 sq. meters (or approximately 1600 sq. ft.) [22:44]
- Lukas talks about the impact of having an escape room on the TERPECA list. [23:45]
- Lukas tells us that his goal was to build an escape room that would make it on the TERPECA list, and how emotional he was after the first test games. [24:59]
- David mentions the talk that Lukas gave at ERIC, and he says that it was one of his favorite talks because of how raw and honest it was about struggles with business. [28:54]
- Lukas talks about dealing with crises in his company and the personal growth and lessons learned from it. [29:49]
- Lukas talks about confidence issues as a creator in the escape room industry, and how to stop trying to measure your success against others. [31:34]
- David and Lukas talk about normalizing business struggles, and David admits to his own struggles and mistakes in running virtual RECON (which he expands on in the Patreon bonus episode). [33:30]
- Lukas talks about the roller-coaster of emotions he goes through after building his own games and then playing some of the other top escape rooms in Europe like The Dome. [39:16]
- Peih-Gee talks about how not all escape rooms have to be giant blockbuster games to be good or meaningful. [41:13]
- Lukas talks about his second favorite escape room, The End, at DarkPark in the Netherlands, mentioning their compelling storyline. [41:49]
- Lukas gives some advice and lessons learned from struggles in his business, including admitting that you are in crisis and asking for help. [44:02]
- Lukas talks about some of his favorite games in Vienna, including Subway at First Escape, Dragon Cave 2.0 at Open the Door, and Western Jailbreak at Time Busters. He also mentions Amissa Amina Mea at Moonscape and The Magical Diagon Alley at Escape House Vorchdorf. [47:21]
- Lukas continues with his list of favorite games in Europe, including [50:24]:
- Lukas shares a bonus story about a cranky time when he played The End by DarkPark. [56:08]
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Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Crime Runners:
- Locks & Clocks:
- ERIC (Escape Room Industry Conference)
- Lukas’s favorite escape rooms:
- Austria: Subway at First Escape, Dragon Cave 2.0 at Open the Door, Western Jailbreak at Time Busters, Amissa Amina Mea at Moonscape, and The Magical Diagon Alley at Escape House Vorchdorf.
About Lukas Rauscher
Lukas Rauscher is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Crime Runners. Originally working in Public Relations, he changed his career path after playing his first escape room in 2014. He founded Crime Runners (www.crimerunners.at) in August 2015 together with Stefan Tauchhammer and Steffen Volkmer.
Simultaneously he started to play more and more rooms: At first it was only market research, but it didn’t take very long until the addiction kicked in. Most of his time is spent completely on Crime Runners, but on the minor occasions he actually has a day off, he uses it for playing escape rooms. His room counter says 200 games all over Europe.
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