The Unauthorized Prexcyt Quest Starter Guide

It’s dangerous to go it alone, take this advice:

The Cryptex Hunt, known more formally as Prexcyt Quest, is in full swing and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

I’ve also been fielding a lot of questions from readers about puzzle hunts in general and Prexcyt Quest’s oddities.

Here are my puzzle hunt & Prexcyt Quest tips to help you get started. Once you get going, this game is a lot of fun!

A hand holding a large cryptex with the colors inverted.

 

Mild Spoiler Warning

Also, the Prexcyt Quest crew has no idea that I wrote this. While we interviewed them before the hunt began, this guide is not official by any stretch of the imagination. There may also be some mild early-game spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

General Puzzle Hunt Puzzle Structure

Puzzle hunts are fundamentally different from escape rooms in that they are a lot more challenging and typically a lot less tangible. If you’re a seasoned escape room player, you’ll find puzzle hunts a whole lot harder. They are a different beast and there is no guarantee that they will be your cup of caffeine. That being said, I encourage you to try them out.

One thing to remember about puzzle hunts is that the puzzles frequently follow a similar structure:

  1. Figure out WTF it is – The puzzles don’t always declare what they are.
  2. Solve something – Solve whatever you’ve been presented with.
  3. Extract a solution – Take whatever you solved and push it a step further to pull an answer out of it.

You Meta Save Your Work

You’re also going to want to document your solutions because puzzle hunts typically have meta puzzles that conglomerate your past solutions into a new puzzle. These are typically viewed as the puzzle equivalent of a boss battle in a video game.

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to save all of your work in a puzzle hunt. You never know when you might need to reference something you solved earlier.

General Puzzle Hunt Tools

There are a few tools that I’d encourage you to keep handy while attempting a puzzle hunt.

Code Sheet

The free monthly international puzzle gathering Puzzled Pint has a basic code sheet that they provide at all events. This thing is pretty useful because it lists a number of common puzzle hunt encodings.

Apps

The code sheet is far from exhaustive. These free apps offer a lot more detail and decoding functionality:

iOS – Puzzle Sidekick

Android – Puzzlehunt Assistant

Google Sheets

Google spreadsheets are a puzzle hunter’s best friend. Use sheets to collaboratively puzzle with friends/ teammates… and use them to keep a record of all of your work and solutions.

The puzzle hunter’s toolkit can get pretty crazy at higher levels, but this is a solid place to start.

Now on to Prexcyt Quest specific advice:

Getting Started with Prexcyt Quest

To get started, simply visit CryptexHunt.com and click the button in the middle of the page to watch the intro video.

There are two pre-game puzzles that help you earn access to new materials and the digital game world.

Getting in the Prexcyt Quest MUD

With the exception of the first two puzzles, Prexcyt Quest exists in a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon). MUDs date back to the 1970s. They are a text-based way for multiple players to interact with a game environment.

The black & white MUD display.
Behold the MUD

While they aesthetically don’t look like anything at all, MUD-based games like Colossal Cave Adventure are some of the most important early forerunners of escape rooms.

The Prexcyt Quest MUD takes a little getting used to, but it’s a really cool interface for a puzzle adventure.

Basic Commands

One of the documents that you’ll receive is a 15-page MUD guide. Don’t panic. This really isn’t that hard, especially once you try it out. I’ve been puzzling for hours and basically only used the following commands:

  • Movement – all you have to do is type, north, south, east, or west to traverse the world
  • Inspecting – to look at an item described in the game all you need to do is type, look name of thing you want to see (eg. look sign)
  • Reading –  to read a book type, read chapter# bookname (eg. read 1 guidebook)
  • Opening a Cryptex – all puzzles lead to a cryptex and to open one, type unlock cryptex solution (eg. unlock cryptex star)

That’s it. The MUD is painless.

If you happen to need another command, just reference the manual.

No Grinding Necessary

When you first enter the MUD, you’ll be hit with a whole bunch of Dungeons & Dragons-y stuff: character stats, classes, MUD training, combat. This stuff is fun, but not important because you’re not in this game world to slay a beholder; you’re here to solve puzzles.

While you’re free to explore the RPG aspects of the MUD, I haven’t done any of it, and I have been assured that my character being level 1 will have no impact on my ability to puzzle through to the end of the game. If I fail, that is on me the human, not me the video game character.

The MUD is Noisy

So… one of the first things you’ll notice when you boot up the MUD is that there’s a lot of text scrolling. It’s not quite “reading the Matrix” but in a busy room, it might be close.

What is this?! Everything that every other player or non-player character does in the same space as you appears as an action in the MUD. This can get a bit annoying.

A mixture of four different approaches can help fix this for you:

  • Go to a less busy space – Some areas in the game have a lot going on. If you can exit to a quiet place, do so. Channel your inner introvert.
  • Turn on quiet mode – By simply typing quiet into the MUD you’ll turn off all chat channels. The MUD will still display actions, but eliminating one source of noise helps.
  • Copy & paste – I copy & paste all important game text into a separate text file. I like doing this so that I can read at my own pace and easily reread things without having to traverse or interact with the game environment.
  • Turn on the Freezepane – In the top left corner of the MUD is a series of buttons. The second one from the left opens up a duplicate MUD display that you control entirely by scrolling. It’s a gift from Mil, Nor, & Lum.

Screenshot: Toggle a freezepane

Hint Buying

You may buy hints from the hint market. I’d encourage you, however, to team up with other players, collaborate and piece the puzzles together. Thus far, everything is absolutely solvable… even if some of the puzzles are tricky.

That being said, hints are an option should you get stuck.

The First Puzzle

Your first puzzle can be found northwest of the starting tavern in the Temple of Mil.

Playing to Win?

There are lots of prizes on the line and simply completing the puzzles will enter you in for a drawing.

The cryptex that goes to the champion at the end of this is legitimately gorgeous, but here’s the thing: if you’re reading this post to learn about puzzle hunt basics, you ain’t winning. It’s cool. I’m not winning either. There are some monstrously talented puzzle hunters in this competition and they’re going to duke it out for that top prize.

Don’t play for the prizes; play for the puzzles. This is a really nifty, innovative, and challenging game. Enjoy it.

Some of these puzzles I’m making quick work of. Some of them are humbling the crap out of me. Honestly, I prefer the ones where I have to struggle to learn a thing or three.

Puzzle hard.

Don’t Forget the NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig

*Update: Due to the threat of apocalyptic weather, we’ve postponed this event 1 week. It will now be held on 3/14. All other details remain the same.

As we write this blog, we continue to meet new people who love escape rooms and other types of puzzle adventures and entertainment.

Our hope with this event is to help our most avid escape room players find fellow teammates.

We are looking forward to hosting our first NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig!

Many hands raising glasses of liquor.

When

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 March 14 2018

7pm – 10pm

Where

Shades of Green Pub (125 East 15th Street, New York, NY between Irving Place and Third Avenue)

Last week we had to change the venue, unexpectedly, as our original venue permanently closed its doors. Luckily, Shades of Green Pub is happy to host us instead!

We encourage all escape room fans in NYC to come, hang out, and purchase your own food/ drink there.

RSVP

Please RSVP so that we can provide a headcount to the venue.

RSVP on Facebook or via email (roomescapeartist@gmail.com)

FAQ

For more information, read the FAQ.

If you’re looking to meet potential escape room teammates, give/ get escape room recommendations, or just talk about these games, we hope you’ll join us and many of our friends on March 7th. We look forward to seeing/meeting you there!

Interview with Justin Nevins about the upcoming Prexcyt Quest (a Cryptex Puzzle Hunt)

We are pleased to announce the Cryptex Hunt.

Cryptex Hunt is a puzzle hunt created by many distinguished members of the escape room player community and presented by Justin Nevins, the creator of the Cryptex Security Box, the hands-down winner of our Cryptex Review Extravaganza.

We recently connected with Justin to learn more about this event and how to get in on all the fun.

REA: What is the name of the puzzle hunt?

Justin: Prexcyt Quest, The Lure of the Dragon.

Prexcyt Quest Cryptex hunt promo image, looks like the cover to an old RPG campaign book.

When will the puzzle hunt take place?

February 24 – 25, 2018: This is the warm-up weekend, where you can learn the hunt format through qualifying puzzles to get an idea of what to expect.

February 26 – March 2, 2018: The Daily Challenges will be released Monday through Friday.

Saturday March 3, 2018: Final Challenge (think “boss monster fight”) begins. It will last as long as it takes for someone to complete the challenge and win.  However, you must complete all of the Daily Challenges before you can start on the Final Challenge.

You can continue to play the hunt as long as you want. This way people who find out about it late can still be a part of the fun. We hope to keep it up and running maybe as long as a year or until we release another one!

Does it cost anything to play?

No, it is entirely free. We encourage as many people as possible to play and enjoy it. All time, efforts and costs have been donated in order to keep it free to anyone who wants to play.

What is the structure of the puzzle hunt?

Errol Elumir of Room Escape Divas fame designed a unique structure that none of us had ever seen for a puzzle hunt… and I won’t divulge anything else. It’s puzzles wrapped in a Cryptex, inside an RPG!

In terms of timing, the qualifying puzzles will be released on Saturday, February 24. You will find a number of qualifying puzzles to solve throughout that weekend. Once you complete the qualifying puzzles, you will be able to play the five daily puzzles, released from February 26 – March 2. The daily puzzles will be released at 8:00 pm Eastern each day.

Once you solve the fifth and final daily puzzle, released on March 2, you will have access to the Finale Puzzle Challenge when it is released at noon Eastern Saturday, March 3rd.

The first person or team to complete the Finale Puzzle Challenge will be declared the winner!

Do you recommend playing as an individual or a team?

We encourage small groups to play together for the camaraderie, but this hunt can be done as a solo event as well. A small group will help insure a wide variety of skills and still allow everyone to participate in each puzzle. Think D&D party size with players having different skills and talents.

You will register as one “player” and will not be able to split up to work on different puzzles in parallel. Teams will not have a major advantage over solo players.

Please note that there will be only one prize available per challenge. If you work as a team and win a prize, you will have to decide who receives the prize.

What are the prizes?

Everything is more fun with prizes and there are some nice ones for this puzzle hunt!

Grand Prize – The first person/ team to complete Prexcyt Quest will win a custom Nevins Line Cryptex Security Box, handcrafted by me from real stone and brass with 23k gold inlay (estimated value $3,500). This box has been specifically designed for this puzzle hunt and will be thematically appropriate.

2nd Prize – This will be determined by a random drawing of all people/ teams who complete Prexcyt Quest within a certain period of time. They will win a standard line Cryptex Security Box replica of the Grand Prize. This box will be made with polycarbonate and brass instead of real stone (estimated value $650).

Locked cryptex beside a $10 bill for size reference, it's a few inches longer and a little wider.

Daily Prize Winners – We plan on having daily prizes for the first person/ team to solve each of the daily puzzle challenges. (Note that each person/ team can only win one daily prize.)

How did the idea for this hunt come about?

A friend asked me if there was a “Cryptex Day” holiday to which I replied “Sure… it’s March 1st!” This was the day I created the first Cryptex back in 2004.  It became a running joke that I had declared March 1st “International Cryptex Day,” (Hey, if you are going to make up a holiday, think big. Why limit it to just “National Cryptex Day?”)

Then Errol said, “You should make a puzzle hunt for International Cryptex Day!” When I agreed that that would be awesome, he said “I’LL DO IT!!!” He gathered a group of really talented people and convinced them to volunteer their time. Together, I think we’ve all created a pretty cool and unique puzzle hunt!

Who is the team behind Prexcyt Quest?

Errol Elumir, Darren Miller, and Dan Egnor are the primary hunt creators and puzzle designers. David Lewis provided technical assistance. I provided Cryptex wrangling/ training and Cryptex technical consulting, as well as design and creation of the prizes.

Several other people contributed to this hunt as game testers, creatives, and consultants including Tyler Goen, Kari Maaren, Julie Nevins, Debbie Ridpath-Ohi, Mags Storey, Lizette Tanner, Alex Wai, Manda Whitney, Margaux Yiu, Michael Yuan, and Ruby Yuan. To them we owe huge thanks!

Why did you decide to create this hunt?

I wanted to give back to all the really awesome escape room owners and enthusiasts, puzzle hunters, and fans of the Cryptex. This industry and community has been so great to work with and I’ve personally had so much fun playing escape rooms and puzzle hunts. I wanted to be a part of developing something fun for you!

Who would this puzzle hunt be good for?

We think it will appeal to anyone who likes to solve puzzles.

If you enjoy escape rooms puzzles, but you’ve never tried a puzzle hunt, this will be accessible. It will be challenging, but since the puzzles are released at 24-hour intervals, you can spend a lot of time working through these puzzles without feeling behind.

Experienced puzzle hunters will likely solve the daily puzzles more quickly, but that will not diminish the fun of the puzzles.

How do I start playing?

Keep your eye on cryptexhunt.com.  We will reveal information there as the start date approaches.

Will there be future Cryptex hunts?

I certainly hope so! I’d love to make this an annual event, but it will really depend on how well this one is received and if people are willing to donate their time to help create more of these in the future (so we can keep it free). It’s been a real joy to work with the development team, testers, designers, coders, writers, artists etc. Everyone has been super generous with their time and efforts to make something I think will be really cool and fun to play!

Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Trials of Bahamut [Review]

Moogles and cactuars and tonberries, oh my!

Location: New York, NY

Date played: October 20, 2017

Team size: 6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $38 per ticket early, $41 per ticket regular, $46 per ticket at the door if available

Story & setting

Based on the events of the video game Final Fantasy XIV, the primal dragon Bahamut, long thought dead, was reviving. We needed to gather the tools and knowhow to assemble a battle plan that would defeat this almighty beast. Failure would mean the end of the world.

In-game: The faux stone cavern set walls. There are ropes to guide lines and a sign that reads "Cactuar Cavern."

Trials of Bahamut was a mass escape event put on by Real Escape Games by SCRAP, the creators of many other large-scale events that we’ve reviewed such as a Legend of Zelda game. In typical SCRAP fashion, Trials of Bahamut took place in a sparsely decorated event space. The center of room was full of tables, one for each team of 6. Around the perimeter of the room, various sets represented different locations, each guarded by characters, played by actors.

Puzzles

As is typical at SCRAP mass events, much of the puzzling took place as a team around our table with pencils and paper.

As Trials of Bahamut progressed, there were opportunities to solve puzzles with the characters along the perimeter. These were more interesting and dynamic puzzles that also granted more compelling rewards.

Standouts

Each player was assigned a character class (thief, paladin, bard, ranger, black mage, white mage). Each character came with individual powers that only they could execute at specific points throughout the game. Some of these powers were the keys to individual paper puzzles; others required creatively interacting with actors. The roles kept everyone involved throughout the event and added an intriguing dynamic to the gameplay.

Post-game photo features our team holding up the signs of the character classes that each person played.

Trials of Bahamut was the most interactive SCRAP event that we’ve played (running around a stadium notwithstanding). In the past we’ve spent almost all of our time around a table, solving puzzles that could just as easily have appeared in a puzzle book. That was not the case in SCRAP’s Final Fantasy game.

Trials of Bahamut was more approachable than the previous SCRAP events that we’ve attended. Don’t get me wrong: most of the teams lost, but more than a few won or almost won.

In-game: The initial table setup. There's a book sealed shut with a padlock, a Moogle doll, and an assortment of paper puzzle components.
That Moogle was so damn adorable. He was also the team MVP.

The final puzzle sequence was smart. Our most common criticism of SCRAP events has been painfully obtuse final puzzles. While this challenging last puzzle sequence still required us to think exactly like the puzzle designer, at Trials of Bahamut, since we had been paying close attention, the steps were clear and deducible without logic leaps. This was a huge improvement on previous SCRAP mass event finales.

Most of our teammates had little or no experience with Final Fantasy and we still found Trials of Bahamut enjoyable.

There was a hilarious and morbid moment that anyone who has ever played a Final Fantasy game could appreciate.

Some of the actors really went for it.

The stuffed Moogle on our team was freaking adorable. You should get one. 

Shortcomings

Trials of Bahamut suffered from long lines to meet with characters. Luckily our team got out to a quick lead and never relinquished it, so we didn’t wait on too many lines, but these really backed up. This is a common event problem. With linear progression, individual characters become bottlenecks.

Some of the character classes assigned to us were more interesting and essential than others.

While Trials of Bahamut was less paper-puzzley than previous SCRAP events, it still relied heavily on them… and some of them were pretty silly.

Trials of Bahamut began and ended with a lengthy, cringeworthy video.

SCRAP hires most of their actors and staff in each city that the game visits. We played the first instance of Trials of Bahamut in NYC and at each juncture our team was the first to approach the actors with solutions. Far too often our correct answers were rejected because the staff wasn’t quite up to speed. A little more training would go a long way.

The ending was anticlimactic. We had prepared to battle a dragon… but we only needed to submit a dragon-fighting battle plan. The conclusion had all of the drama of turning in a pop quiz.

Should I play Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Trials of Bahamut?

I’m really glad that I went to play Trials of Bahamut. This experience has given me hope that SCRAP is evolving their events, that they aren’t a one-trick pony, and that they can do something different with this rarely-explored escape game format.

I was ready to write off SCRAP’s events. Bluntly, I didn’t want to attend Trials of Bahamut. I’ve played Final Fantasy III and X, but I can’t claim that I’m a fan of the series. We attended because a friend bought the tickets, planned the evening, and invited us.

Trials of Bahamut was an engaging, intriguing, and entertaining event. We left excited that we had conquered a fair and interesting challenge. SCRAP’s escape events still have plenty of room to grow, but the next time they bring one to New York City, I will not drag my feet on booking a ticket.

We would recommend Real Escape Games by SCRAP’s Trials of Bahamut, but New York City was the final stop on its tour. If it ever experiences a revival, you should check it out.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

 

ClueKeeper, that puzzle hunt app [Review]

ClueKeeper is an iOS & Android app for building and playing puzzle hunts.

ClueKeeper logo

ClueKeeper is best known as the interface for the annual international puzzle hunt, DASH (Different Area, Same Hunt) since its 6th event in 2014. It is also used by companies such as Shinteki, Palantir, and about 30-40 others to host public and private puzzle events.

Escape room puzzle hunts

Over the past few years a few escape room companies have begun using ClueKeeper as a way to create outdoor walking puzzle hunts.

2015 Golden Lock-in winner Locurio has a ClueKeeper-based puzzle hunt in Seattle. So do San Francisco’s incredibly popular Palace Games and Jersey City’s Puzzle Out, among a few other escape room companies all over the world.

A wide-area puzzle game is a fantastic idea, especially for escape room companies in walking cities in temperate climates. They are fun, engaging, and don’t require an elaborate set build; your beautiful city is the set.

Standouts

ClueKeeper can facilitate a wide variety of puzzles and it works well at scale. The largest annual puzzle hunt in the world has relied on it for years… so they are clearly doing something right.

ClueKeeper can be used to create wide-area location-specific puzzle games that require walking about or location-non-specific games that can be played within the confines of a player’s own home.

Games can be created within the app. It was designed for testing and rapid iteration by incredibly talented puzzlers.

A puzzle hunt creator can build a game within ClueKeeper and then sell/distribute that game through the ClueKeeper puzzle hunt store.

ClueKeeper’s augmented reality capabilities are pretty damn cool. Gnome Invasion is a free tech demo of ClueKeeper’s augmented reality functionality available for download in-app. (Note that if you do not have access to the items that it is looking for, the app will respond to photographs.)

ClueKeeper essentially administers itself. Once the team has started a well-designed puzzle hunt, there isn’t much – if any – gamemaster support required.

The ClueKeeper team has produced a lot of documentation to help you get started and is available to provide support.

Shortcomings

When you’re using ClueKeeper, you’re using ClueKeeper. The app cannot be re-skinned or themed in any way. If you’re striving for a deeply immersive experience, you’ll have to achieve this through the environments, game flow, and storytelling. The app will not visually change.

ClueKeeper’s GPS interpretation is subject to both physics and the limitations of an individual phone’s technology. If you’re in a bunker of a building or you’re experiencing some variance, it might have a hard time placing your exact position, which could cause problems with location-specific puzzles.

Should I use ClueKeeper?

If you love puzzles, you should absolutely download ClueKeeper. Try out some of the puzzle hunts that can be played in your own home. If there’s a location-based one near you, give it a shot. Your mileage will vary from hunt to hunt.

If you’re an escape room owner with a facility in a walkable area, you should try out a few puzzle hunts and see if this is the kind of thing that would appeal to you and your clientele. We love puzzle hunts and welcome the opportunity to play creative games on the platform.

If you’re going to create a puzzle hunt on ClueKeeper, I encourage you to be creative. Make sure that no two puzzles feel the same. Edit your writing down. Make use of as much of the functionality of the app as possible.

If you want to hire someone to professionally produce a puzzle hunt for you, the folks from ClueKeeper can make recommendations.

Download it on iOS & Android, or read a bit more on ClueKeeper.com.

Major Updates to the REA Event – Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017 … Register Today!

Come experience the best of New York City’s escape rooms and interactive entertainment with Room Escape Artist this November!

About Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017

Join us November 3-4, 2017 for a tailored tour through many of New York City’s best escape rooms.

Escape Immerse Explore NYC 2017 logo

Major Updates

Thank you to our pre-sale supporters!

Based on feedback from pre-salers and other interested participants, we’ve slimmed down the event to focus on escape rooms and slashed the price in half.

What’s different?

  • We’ve cut the final day’s big event, Accomplice
  • We’ve added an additional escape room to everyone’s agenda
  • Only VIP ticket holders will have tour guides
  • The unlimited metrocard is no longer included

The Accomplice event and tour guides effectively accounted for nearly half of the ticket price.

We seriously want to host that Accomplice show, but we’re going to have to do it as a standalone sometime in the future.

Sign up today for this escape room exclusive: REA plans your day at the best escape rooms in New York City.

Lisa and David along the Hudson River, New York City in the background.
We would like to welcome you to New York City!

Escape Rooms

As part of the event, you will visit at least five escape rooms from some of the best escape room companies* in New York City including:

*Not every tour track will visit every company.

What else is included?

First Person Xperience’s RED in Long Island City is a 75-minute psychological thriller where guests are immersed in an apocalyptic story, interact with real actors and special effects, and work together to complete an objective. RED is a live action experience where your actions and decisions matter, because in this show, YOU control how the story ends!

Escape Entertainment in Herald Square will be our hosts for a morning of breakfast, networking, and escape games.

Lisa and David will be giving a talk by players for players. Lisa and David have been featured speakers at Transworld’s Escape Room Shows in Chicago in 2016 and Niagara Falls in 2017 and at Up The Game in The Netherlands in 2017. This presentation will be exclusively available to event participants.

Packages

Escape, Immerse, Explore  – $399

This includes RED, networking breakfast at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk… and a booked agenda of at least 5 escape rooms.

VIP Escape, Immerse, Explore – $549

This includes RED, networking breakfast at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk… and a guided tour of at least five escape rooms led by Lisa or David.

Particulars

The event begins on Friday, November 3rd at 5pm. The Friday evening event is in Long Island City, Queens, a short subway ride from Times Square (NOT on Long Island). Note that booking times on Friday evening will vary. You will have the opportunity to request an earlier or later booking time.

The event will wrap up on Saturday evening after a busy day of escape rooms.

Attendees will receive exclusive discount coupons to book their own escape rooms while they are in town.

Also Included

After you purchase your tickets, you’ll receive additional information about:

  • tour customization survey
  • discounted accommodations
  • travel and parking recommendations
  • discounted rates for booking additional escape rooms

FAQ

Are you guys selling out?

Between legal, insurance, food and the cost of sending people to all of the games… this is not an overwhelmingly profitable endeavor. If we were looking to sell out, we’d do something unethical like consult, or design games… and review them on our own site.

We’re hosting this event because we want to bring this community to New York City and share a few of the games we love with you.

Why New York City?

We live here. This city has outstanding escape rooms. We want to show them off!

Why November?

It’s not winter. It’s not summer. And the escape room conferences were back in May.

Why these particular companies?

We selected them because they showcase some of the best in escape rooms and immersive games.

How will we get from game to game?

Walking, subway, or taxi/uber/lyft. Your tour agenda will recommend how to get around.

Can I choose my teammates?

The escape room tours will be groups of 4 or 6. You may select a buddy or put together a full group.

I don’t have a team. Will that be a problem?

Not at all. We’ll put you in a group with other escape room enthusiasts from far and wide.

I’ve played most of the games from these companies. Can I still participate?

Contact us. There might be an opportunity. We’ll try to make it work.

Will I get to choose which escape rooms I play?

No, but you’ll fill out a survey and based on that we’ll put you into games that we think you’ll love. You’ll find out your escape room agenda far enough in advance that you can book additional games for yourself during the rest of your time in New York City.

I’m an escape room owner/employee and/or immersive experience designer. Can I participate?

Yes!

I have nothing to do with the escape room industry. I just want to play all the games! Can I participate?

Yes!

What should I do about airfare and hotels?

Your ticket does not cover travel or lodging. However, we will send you recommended hotel accommodations and information about travel to NYC after you purchase a ticket.

Are meals included in the ticket price?

The ticket includes brunch at Escape Entertainment on Saturday. Saturday’s escape room tour will have a meal break where you can purchase food.

I can’t make it that weekend. Will you run this again?

If it goes well, we’ll consider running it again in New York or elsewhere.

Can I buy a ticket for someone under 18?

Unfortunately, no.

How long have you been planning this?

A very long time. We’re pretty sure we’ve got something great here.

Can I sponsor this event?

Contact us about sponsorship opportunities. We are not accepting escape room companies as sponsors.

What if I have other questions?

Contact us.

We look forward to seeing you in New York this November!

 

Presale Signup! REA Exclusive Event – Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017

This announcement is now out of date. This has all of the updates.

*****

This has been in the works for a really, really long time… and it’s finally happening!

Come experience the best of New York City’s escape rooms and interactive entertainment with Room Escape Artist this November!

If you don’t need to hear any more… sign up for the presale.

About Escape, Immerse, Explore: NYC 2017

Join us November 3-5, 2017 for this first of its kind high-end escape room and immersive experience tour.

Escape Immerse Explore NYC 2017 logo

During our weekend-long event, we will be taking participants on a largely personalized journey through some of New York City’s most interesting escape rooms and immersive games. 

Escape Rooms

As part of the event, you will visit at least four escape rooms from some of the best escape room companies* in New York City including, but not limited to:

Your escape room tour will be led by an experienced escape room player who knows how to get around New York City.

We worry about the logistics of this city and you escape the rooms!

*Not every tour will visit every company.

Group Events

First Person Xperience’s RED in Long Island City is a 75-minute psychological thriller where guests are immersed in an apocalyptic story, interact with real actors and special effects, and work together to complete an objective. RED is a live action experience where your actions and decisions matter, because in this show, YOU control how the story ends!

Escape Entertainment in Herald Square will be our hosts for a morning of breakfast, networking, and escape games.

Lisa and David will be giving a talk by players for players. Lisa and David have been featured speakers at Transworld’s Escape Room Shows in Chicago in 2016 and Niagara Falls in 2017 and at Up The Game in The Netherlands in 2017. This presentation will be exclusively available to event participants.

In Accomplice’s The Cabinet of Curiosities, only available for large group bookings, guests enter a mythical establishment like no other, with an upscale carnivalesque steampunk atmosphere and inventive games and puzzles, led by a colorful crew of misfits called the Curiosities. In this immersive party, you are also invited to participate in a hunt to uncover a secret moonshine recipe, sure to make your morning all the more extraordinary. That is, of course, if you succeed!

Packages

Escape, Immerse, Explore  – $829

This includes RED, Networking at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk, a guided
tour with at least four escape rooms, and The Cabinet of Curiosities.

VIP Escape, Immerse, Explore – $999

This includes RED, Networking at Escape Entertainment, Lisa and David’s talk, a tour
with at least four escape rooms led by Lisa or David, and The Cabinet of Curiosities.

With this ticket, you will have either Lisa or David as your tour guide. (Only 12 available!)

Particulars

The event begins on Friday, November 3rd at 5pm. The Friday evening event is in Long Island City, Queens, a short subway ride from Times Square (NOT on Long Island). Note that booking times on Friday evening will vary. You are welcome to request an earlier or later booking time.

The event will wrap up at 1pm on Sunday, November 5th. At the conclusion of the event, you will be near Times Square.

Presale

By signing up for the presale, we will send you a PayPal invoice to purchase your tickets before they are sold to the public. I’m in!

After purchasing tickets

After purchasing tickets, you’ll receive the link to a short survey about your experience with New York’s escape rooms. You’ll also receive additional information about:

  • Recommended accommodations
  • Traveling to New York City
  • Discount codes for additional escape rooms with some of the participating companies for the week before and after the tour

FAQ

Why New York City?

We live here. This city has outstanding escape rooms. We want to show them off!

Why November?

It’s not winter. It’s not summer. And the escape room conferences were back in May.

Why these particular companies?

We selected them because they showcase some of the best in escape rooms and immersive games.

How will we get from game to game?

It will be a combination of walking and subway. Because New York. So you need to be relatively mobile to participate. You don’t need to know anything about New York. You’ll have a guide.

Can I choose my teammates?

The escape room tours will be groups of 4 or 6. You may select a buddy or put together a full group.

I don’t have a team. Will that be a problem?

Not at all. We’ll put you in a group with other escape room enthusiasts from far and wide.

I’ve played most of the games from these companies. Can I still participate?

Contact us. There might be an opportunity. We’ll try to make it work.

Will I get to choose which escape rooms I play?

No, but you’ll fill out a survey and based on that we’ll put you into games that we think will work well for you. You’ll find out your tour schedule far enough in advance that you can book additional games for yourself before or after the weekend.

I’m an escape room owner/employee and/or immersive experience designer. Can I participate?

Yes!

I have nothing to do with the escape room industry. I just want to play all the games! Can I participate?

Yes!

What should I do about airfare and hotels?

Your ticket does not cover travel or lodging. However, we will send you recommended hotel accommodations and information about travel to NYC after you purchase a ticket.

Are meals included in the ticket price?

The ticket includes brunch at Escape Entertainment on Saturday and brunch as part of The Cabinet of Curiosities on Sunday. Saturday’s escape room tour will have a meal break where you can purchase food.

I can’t make it that weekend. Will you run this again?

If it goes well, we’ll consider running it again in New York or elsewhere.

Why can’t I purchase tickets right now?

We are hammering out a few final details. If you sign up for presale, you’ll get to purchase your tickets very soon.

Can I buy a ticket for someone under 18?

Contact us.

How many tickets are available?

There are 50 tickets available. They will go to the first 50 people who either sign up for presale or purchase them when ticketing opens.

That’s an expensive ticket…

We know. It includes 4 escape rooms, 2 immersive games, 2 meals, an unlimited metro card, a tour guide, a talk, and a mystery… and we’re taking care of all the logistics. Plus, New York is expensive. You know, it’s a pretty good deal!

How long have you been planning this?

A very long time. We’re pretty sure we’ve got something great here.

Can I sponsor this event?

Contact us about sponsorship opportunities.

What if I have other questions?

Contact us.

We look forward to seeing you in New York this November!

Sign up for presale now!

Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce [Post Game Reaction]

On May 5th, our team played The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce by Real Escape Games (aka SCRAP) in New York City.

We previously published a review of this game from its time in Los Angeles, California. Our friend and regular teammate Sarah Willson did such an amazing job of guest reviewing it that most of our readers didn’t realize that someone else wrote it.

Looking back at her review, we completely agree with her assessment and will not write an additional review. I’ll add that of the various mass escape events that we’ve played by SCRAP, The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce was the most fun and cohesive.

Mainstream reception

Unlike most escape games, The Legend of Zelda: Defenders of the Triforce received a lot of media attention. This came in the form of pre-game hype, followed by a lot of mixed and disappointed post game reports:

Kotaku: The Zelda Escape Room Is A Little Disappointing (And Not Really An Escape Room)

The Verge: We played a real-life Zelda adventure and Ganondorf won

Engadget: Playing Zelda in real life is a lot like doing grade-school homework

Zelda has withstood the test of time, sticking around for 30 years. It has transcended generations. A number of its installments are some of the finest video games ever created. Since Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises in history, this disappointment was inevitable for a number of reasons that I’m going to explore.

Misconceptions

SCRAP doesn’t highlight the fact that their mass escape events bear little resemblance to modern escape rooms in North America (especially the high end). Upon further probing, however, they are quick to point out that their mass events are not “escape rooms.” They call them “escape games.” Ironically, this is the same sort of hair-splitting that makes their mass escape events so frustrating.

Image from Zelda II of Link speaking with another character who has stated,

Painting by Squarepainter

As an escape room player and reviewer who simply wants more people to become aware of all of the magnificent escape rooms out there, this drives me up the wall.

Given Zelda’s popularity, this event was an incredible opportunity to introduce more mainstream players to modern escape rooms… but this event didn’t do that.

My very first escape room review was of a SCRAP mass event, Escape From the Werewolf Village, in mid-2014. I left that game legitimately worried that first-time escape game players would think that a SCRAP escape event was indicative of the larger industry (which at the time was admittedly tiny and underdeveloped). I feel the exact same way about Defenders of the Triforce.

It was a fun mass escape event, more fun than any of the other SCRAP events that we’ve played. It was fun when considered as a short puzzle hunt. However, it was neither a good representation of modern North American escape rooms nor an exceptional Zelda game.

Culture gap

SCRAP was founded in Japan in 2007. They were also the first escape room company in the United States when they opened in San Francisco in 2012.

At Up The Game 2017, Yu-lin Chiu, writer of ASIA.EscapeGames, spoke about the escape room markets in East Asia. She explained how escape room design in Japan differs profoundly from other countries in Asia, as well as from Europe and the United States.

Japanese escape rooms are primarily paper-based events with minimal set design or story. They are more similar to short puzzle hunts than what we in the United States commonly think of as escape rooms.

This has confirmed for us what we have long believed to be a fundamental expectations gap between the games that SCRAP brings to the United States and the general market trends within the American escape room scene.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Possibly the biggest difference between Sarah’s playthrough of Defenders of the Triforce and mine was the release of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch… the game that Defenders of the Triforce was essentially advertising on its North American tour.

In February, Sarah played SCRAP’s Defenders of the Triforce in anticipation of the release of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. 

By the time we played Defenders of the Triforce in May, I had been playing Breath of the Wild for 6 weeks or so, sneaking it in between work and running Room Escape Artist. I am loving this game and taking my time to milk it for everything that it is worth. Going into Defenders of the Triforce I had been immersed in one of the Zelda franchise’s most magnificent specimens. This greatly elevated my expectations and set Defenders of the Triforce up for failure.

I’m glad that Sarah wrote the review without having just played Breath of the Wild. She could more easily separate SCRAP’s escape event from the video game expectations.

Actual Zelda room escape

I wish that Defenders of the Triforce were not a mass escape event, but a full blown, large-budget escape room. The material lends itself to an incredible escape room and I can think of a number of escape room companies that could build mind-blowing experiences with the concept.

SCRAP put on a fun mini-puzzle hunt. They leveled up their storytelling and set design. They made the puzzling generally more accessible. They navigated logistics well. Defenders of the Triforce was a huge step forward in meshing Japanese-style escape room events with North American preferences. 

That said, SCRAP is simply not equipped to fully realize the potential of this franchise for a North American audience, especially in the mass escape format.

Defenders of the Triforce paled in comparison to the best permanent escape rooms in the cities that it visited; most of them cost less than the $40-50 per ticket price of this game.

For now, Zelda escape rooms will go dormant for some time. I hope that one day the concept is resurrected and able to become the immersive real-life puzzle adventure through Hyrule that escape room lovers know that it can be. That it should be.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale).

Eric’s Puzzle Party 17 and Team EMBU

This past weekend, Lisa and I had the honor of attending Eric’s Puzzle Party (EPP) 17 in Auburn, Alabama. This annual puzzle hunt event hosted by Eric Harshbarger was an 11-hour team-based puzzling competition.

In total, there were 28 puzzles. To complete the hunt, we had to find clues hidden all over Auburn.

The puzzles were considerably more involved and challenging than what you’d find in an escape room.

I’m incredibly proud to report that our team walked away from competition with a victory.

Image of an eagle biting the EPP 17 Trophy.
WAR EMBU!

A few of our favorite puzzles

This EPP was held on April 1 and all of the puzzles were themed on pranks and bad jokes.

The 21 puzzles that made up the main game are all available on Eric’s website. Lisa and I supported the solving of quite a few of these, but the bulk of them were deciphered by our teammates. This being our first major in-person puzzle hunt, we needed some time to find our place on our team.

My favorite of the original 21 puzzles (which it seems many disliked) was the sphere assembly puzzle, “Having a Ball.” (Unfortunately it’s one of the few that you cannot play from home.)

Having a Ball sphere assembled.

Having a Ball

I adore mechanical puzzles and this 3D printed sphere was a great challenge. One of the highlights of the day was when I went to have the puzzle “graded” by Eric. I decided in that moment to take it apart and quickly reassemble it for a higher value victory. I sat down in a big chair in the coffee shop that he used as his base. I was deeply focused, trying to not completely wreck my sphere while improving upon it. A young woman sat down next to me and started interrogating me about what I was working on, why I was working on it, and if she could play. I did my best to be kind and answer her questions… but I desperately wanted her to leave me and my focus alone. Fortunately, everything worked out and I got the thing back together at a higher value.

Finding the Toy box 

After solving the 21 main puzzles, we worked on the metapuzzle (a puzzle that was built from little bits of information pulled from the puzzles of the main game). This culminated in us searching a wooded park for a toy box filled with the second set of puzzles (for those who could find it).

Searching for this box felt like looking for a hidden immunity idol in Survivor. We were wandering down a trail looking for “three oak trees.” Running through the woods in the middle of a day of heavy puzzling was good fun. Plus we had a silly mishap on our end while working with our incredibly talented rival for first place, the ImPEACHables. They got to witness our only major stumble of the day, which is too difficult to explain if you weren’t there. Fortunately it didn’t set us back more than about 15 minutes.

The Toy box puzzles

These were our favorite puzzles of the day. They are not available on Eric’s website. With his permission, however, I am posting two of them. They are, in my opinion, magnificent.

All that I will say is that if you solve them, you will know that you succeeded. If you solve them, reach out. I’d happily fill you in on the context.

Puzzle 1

Puzzle 2

Team EMBU (with a silent b)

Rex Miller, one of our earliest readers, assembled team EMBU. Rex brought us onto an incredible team of puzzle hunters, including Rich and Jonathan from the world famous ClueKeeper platform.

Team EMBU puzzling at EPP 17.

In addition to being a fun and brilliant bunch, under Rex’s leadership our team was highly organized and staggeringly efficient. After the dust settled, we learned that we jumped out to an early lead solving 7 of the initial 21 puzzles before any other team had completed any of them.

Early on, Lisa and I were a little intimidated by the experience and insane speed of our teammates. We were simply trying to make ourselves useful. After we both had a few solves under our belts, we captured the majority of the clues hidden around Auburn, and had become truly functional teammates.

There were a couple dozen clues hidden around Auburn. Our group worked hard to gather them all, which took some doing, considering that none of us were from Auburn. In fact, more than half of our team hadn’t even set foot in Alabama prior to this puzzle hunt.

We knew in the moment that we were doing well, but we truly didn’t realize just how great we had done until the scores came in at the end.

EPP 17 score graph shows EMBU decisively in the lead throughout the entire competiton.

I’m not just saying that because we decisively won. We truly weren’t sure. We even prepared for the incredibly unlikely tiebreaker challenge.

That said… I think that Rex knew we had won.

Last thoughts

This was the first and last time that Team EMBU will compete at EPP. We won’t be able to remain a team based on the rules for team structure at EPP.

Team EMBU victory photo in the Auburn University Student Center. The team is gathered around the war eagle holding trophies.

Puzzling with this particular group of people was a joy. It was intense. It was fun. And it was hilarious.

Wrecking puzzles and escape rooms across Alabama and Georgia with this crew was one of the most delightful experiences that I have had in my puzzling career and I am going to treasure the memory of this weekend. Yes, there is an escape room company in Auburn; get excited for the forthcoming reviews.

I had heard a lot of great things about Eric’s Puzzle Party prior to attending. Someone had described it to me as “the best kept secret in puzzling.” Based on what I saw, I think it’s true. EPP offered a high quality and exceptionally fair puzzle hunt. Eric’s care and attention to detail were on display from the opening moments of the hunt through to his closing, detailed walkthrough at the end of the day.

This puzzle hunt was one cohesive vision. That was truly impressive.

Thank you to Eric and all of the people who helped him organize this event.

Thank you to our teammates.

Thank you Rex. We wouldn’t have even heard of EPP without you. We’re thrilled that you asked us to be a part of your team.

I hope that we can return next year with a new team.

One last time:

WAR EMBU!

Club Drosselmeyer, Behind the Scenes with Kellian Adams

We attended night one of Club Drosselmeyer, Boston’s two-night World War II-themed mass-puzzling, swing-dancing, and immersive performance event, and had a swell time.

The event was so massive, detailed, and incredible that we asked its creator, Kellian Adams, to talk about the intricacies of show.

We were most surprised to learn about how the show changed on night two.

In-game image of a the ornate Club Drosselmeyer stage witha swing band and a floor full of people dancing.

How did you develop the concept for Club Drosselmeyer?

I had always wanted to build an interactive game-based theater piece. I was at a ballet showcase when it occurred to me that The Nutcracker might be the perfect piece to experiment with because

  • It’s modular.
  • Interesting characters move around.
  • The basic storyline connects but isn’t too tight.
  • It’s a well-known story.
  • It lends itself to some great music and visuals.
  • It would have to be performed around the holidays.

The holiday connection was key for an experimental piece because people have more tolerance for playing along with magic and the unexpected during the holidays (as well as spending money on tickets and getting dressed up!).

What were your inspirations?

When I decided that The Nutcracker would be the base for the show, I pulled from a lot of my favorite movies. Casablanca was the main one: I had always wondered what it would be like to be a patron of Rick’s Cafe Americain, where there are all sorts of intrigues happening around you, but you might not be aware of any of them. I designed my main character, Drosselmeyer, as the club owner, which tied directly to Rick, especially where he had his perch up above everyone.

Each character has a fairly involved backstory. For example, mother Ginger – aka Ginger Lamarr – was Hedy Lamarr. Phylo Farnesworth is the inventor of the television and I took his dance team from the movie College Swing. Fritz was modeled after this fabulously devious playboy named Washington Porter Jr. Rhett the Rat was modeled after “King” Solomon, a Boston mob boss in the 30’s. You can see all of our character inspirations on Pinterest.

How much autonomy did each of the performers have?

The performers had a lot of autonomy in developing their characters and the storyline. I built out the structure of the story and they filled in the blanks.

Alice, Clara, and Phylo, for example, delved into radar and so that became a major part of the storyline, which hadn’t been part of my original vision. Also, many of the performers wanted to address the ethical question of whether we should use artificial intelligence, so we did.

The hat idea was from the actor who played the character Beta. One of my favorite parts of the whole show was him wearing a lampshade. He came up with the idea of handing out “research notes” folded into hats. They were detailed enough that many players tried to crack the codes and solve the notes, except there was nothing there!

What were your other favorite moments?

I loved seeing the looks on people’s faces when they came in on Sunday night. I don’t think they had any idea what they had signed up for, but then they walked in and the space looked beautiful: the band was playing, everybody was dressed up, and it was magical. It was so wonderful to watch everyone transition into “Dross mode!”

My other favorite moment happened during a dress rehearsal. A few people came up to me (as the character Kit) and said “WE KNOW WHO THE NUTCRACKER IS!!” Then they pointed at Beta, who at that moment was wearing a lampshade on his head and jumping up and down on the dance floor. In character I asked “that guy?” They looked at me, kind of dumbstruck and followed up with a defensive “well—he’s just a prototype…” and it was this amazing, hilarious moment where they were explaining to me the story that I wrote, and making excuses for it.

I also LOVED the waltz scene. It was a wonderful, magical moment to see everyone spinning in the snow!

Which aspects of the piece were most successful?

I was really proud that the whole “different levels of engagement” thing worked. I genuinely felt like there was something for everybody to do.

I took a lot of different activities that I love, but that can be really intimidating for other people, and arranged them in a way that I think was less intimidating than they expected. I’ve heard the usual comments to these activities SO MANY times…

  • Puzzles… “I’m not smart enough.”
  • Talking to characters… “I’m shy, that’s so awkward.”
  • Getting dressed vintage… “I don’t have anything fancy.”
  • Swing music… “I can’t dance.”

I think when they all appeared together there was at least one aspect of the show that almost everyone could engage with at some level. If none of them were even mildly appealing, you could still just sit in a beautiful time-travel club, watch the floor shows, listen to the incredible, original music of a really good swing band, drink martinis, and hang out with your friends.

What were the biggest challenges to bringing this piece to the stage?

The uncertainty of it was really hard for the cast members.

I deliberately chose my dancer friends rather than auditioning actors because I knew I didn’t want Club Drosselmeyer to be a traditional theater piece, and I didn’t want lots of professional theater people on board telling me I was doing everything wrong (because I was absolutely doing everything wrong). Also with friends, I was hoping they’d be better with the uncertainty of building something nobody had ever seen before when there wasn’t any proof that this method would work. (Nobody I knew of had done it, so I didn’t have much to point to.)

I also didn’t start with a written script, since there were a lot of moving parts. I sort of twisted myself (and my story) in knots trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas and keep them feeling good about their characters. We ended up with some serious story holes as a result. Next time I would write the whole thing out and hand it to them as a finished “script” and go from there. I would also hold auditions for some of the roles.

Pre-show image of the tables set and the band warming up. The room looks beautiful and elegant.

Were there any notable differences in player behavior between night one and night two?

There was a MASSIVE difference in the players between night one and night two.

Night one was a Sunday. At 7:00 everyone was at the door, dressed to impress and ready to play. I met people at the door in character as Kit Hollingsworth so I felt the definite buzz of electricity as everybody came in.

Night two was a Friday. At 7:00 I was at the door and … crickets. People arrived slowly, harried and distracted, and a lot of them weren’t dressed as nicely as they had been on Sunday. Many had been stuck in traffic and were grabbing really quick dinners. In general, they had a harder time transitioning into the right mood.

People also drank a lot more on Friday than they had on Sunday, probably because they didn’t have to go to work the next day.

How did you change the event from night one to night two?

First, we added line management. We added an extra person to “interview” people in the Drosselmeyer line and make sure they wanted to actually be there.

Second, we asked the performers to soften their characters and be more forthcoming with information, even if their character would “never” do that. There was this line between pretending, where you try to get as close to your character’s authentic response as possible, and performing, where you acknowledge there’s more to it. We had to remind ourselves that it was theater and our goals were for people to learn the story and have fun.

And finally, we didn’t change the ending, but the audience did.

We experienced the cheery ending on night one (because we chose it). Can you talk about the ending on night two and the reaction to it?

The teams were looking for blueprints, in order to bring these to one of the characters and trigger the ending of the show. On night two, the winning team decided to hand the blueprints over to the bad guy.

We actually had two groups get to the blueprints at the same time, but the group that wanted to give the blueprints to Drosselmeyer (the good guy) had one number in their combination wrong, so the other team got them instead and gave them to Rhett (the bad guy).

When other teams realized what was happening, a lot of them tried really hard to keep the bad ending from occurring. They tried to negotiate with the winning team. Then another team tried to negotiate directly with Rhett to get the papers back. Afterward, the actor who played Rhett told me after that he was really concerned they were going to physically restrain him and take the papers back.

The bad ending was really dark. When Rhett walked out, we pulled up the house lights and played Springtime For Hitler over the loudspeaker. No curtain call. Just awkward house lights and silence.

I wanted to create something where people felt that they had agency. I also didn’t want to theater-coat any of it and make the bad ending fun or cheerful or pithy. Choosing to give technology to Nazis is bad and I think we should let it be bad. I got many emails and asides from people telling me they thought it was an unkind ending, but it was 2016 and I didn’t really feel like giving people a happy ending if they didn’t choose it. Some people were upset and said that because they hadn’t chosen the ending – it had been chosen for them – they shouldn’t have had to suffer through it, but things don’t really work that way. Others said that they weren’t even part of the puzzling – they were just drinking and hanging out and then this terrible thing happened, to which I was thinking: EXACTLY. I wrote a lot about this in a blog post.

I don’t think I would do it like that again, but I’m glad that we did it once. That’s where theater and games diverge, right? I never could have done that with a show.

What surprised you most about how the event played out?

We were surprised how crowded the space was and how long people had to wait in line to speak with key characters. We expected some amount of waiting but not to the extent that it happened, so we got that under control the second night.

We were also surprised that people found it hard to engage with the story. They were confused and didn’t quite know what to do. We had three characters whose job it was to pull people in and we had a full “instructions” sheet, but it wasn’t enough. Next time I want to have a “briefing room” where – out of character – we help the audience figure out how to engage.

I was also surprised that people were so upset about the “bad ending” the second night. I did build a ton of story and nuance in there; it was a pretty dark commentary on 1939 and 2016. On the night of, people just looked confused, like it was a mistake. The people who chose the bad ending literally said “wheee! We’re glad he’s dead! Being bad is fun!” Everyone else was just like “oh well.” Later on they expressed that they were upset and even outraged. I wasn’t expecting the “slow burn” on that ending.  

In-show: The bad ending two characters have been shot and a reporter is photographing them.

How did you manage to put on so much spectacle with tickets as affordable as they were?

It’s hard to overstate how helpful it was working with Oberon and the American Repertory Theater. The pricing for the space was really reasonable and they helped with EVERYTHING from staging to lights to sound. This was a risk for them because they didn’t entirely understand what we were doing. I got this wonderful email from them afterwards where they said “we took a crazy risk and it paid out in spades!!” I’m saving that email forever! A bunch of people in the Oberon staff said it was one of the coolest, most unique, and beautiful shows they’d seen in that space.

Also, I design everything based on my resources. We had a lot of dancers and musicians and friends to abuse. Just about everybody worked for us under cost. Hooray for friends!!

Do you have any advice for creating this type of piece that you’d like to share with our readers?

Stay infinitely flexible. Give good people what they need to build good things and just keep your eye on the ball. I’m just so proud of how my team made this crazy idea into something special.

Use your resources. Club Drosselmeyer worked because I had a swing band, singers, dancers, and people who knew how to dress like it was 1939. If I’d had to find these people or have other people create this environment, it would have been much more difficult.

What was it like seeing the entire piece come together?

AMAZING!!!! Day of, I looked at the set and the band and the dancers working on things and I was like “this is exactly what was in my head… and now it exists.” It was a surreal experience. It was both totally natural because it had been hanging out in my head for such a long time and totally unnatural because I’m aware that imaginary things don’t usually exist in real life.

Should we expect a sequel?

ABSOLUTELY!! The story will have to be completely different. I think there will be some new acts and new characters. I think it will have to be 1940… and that brings a whole new set of challenges. Germany just marched into France so we’ve got the French Underground and there are spies everywhere!

Club Drosselmeyer - Cast photo on the stage

What’s next for the team behind Club Drosselmeyer?

We’re buzzing along with our Edventure Builder games and we just released updates to a game we built with the Boston Children’s Museum at lxbgame.com.

I’m most excited about a modular escape room for middle schoolers that I’m brainstorming with the Teacher’s Education Resource Center… I don’t want to say too much about it other than that I really really hope it happens.

We’re also building something for this summer likely called the “society for historical inaccuracies.” It will be an interactive mystery tour around Boston, helping people stay abreast of all the things that never happened in Boston fictional history. I’d like to say we’re making history. Up.