Well, it’s been a while!
Yes, I finished reading the Puzzlecraft book, and it was helpful for conceptualizing the kinds of puzzles that I want to put into this game.
I also decided on the number of puzzles: three multi-step puzzles. At first, I was looking at five or more, but I realized that I am hoping for each puzzle to take 5-10 minutes to solve and for a total playtime of 30 minutes, so that meant thinking about how much I could realistically expect players to do. Each individual step won’t take so long, but figuring out the clues and what they have to do will hopefully take enough time to be satisfying without being frustrating.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the puzzles, so I won’t write about them here, but there are three distinct ones and I’m decently happy with the “hybrid” aspects, which was something I struggled with before. The question I found myself asking was “why does this need any digital components” or, alternatively “why does this need physical components?”, but designing some aspects of the puzzles settled that for me.
One current challenge includes finding the right suitcase (but Enric has offered to show me a few that he has been collecting! Yay!), although I may make one myself out of wood because of the high degree of customizeability that would give me.
Another challenge, though I think I’ve nearly solved it (maybe!) is the narrative framing of the game. What’s the point and what are these puzzles about thematically? I want them to make sense. I think this is a game about “Opening Up” with a friend/to a friend/getting a friend to open up. Maybe. More on this as it develops.
So, I’m almost ready to start building prototypes. I’ve ordered some materials, including some locks, and a tiny touch screen, the new Raspberry Pi 4, some other stuff… It would unfortunately spoil some of the puzzles if I told you more about the materials, I think.
More as it comes!
Last week, I managed to break through and figure out what I want to do for my third and final dissertation project! It’s a suitcase game where you have to unlock a variety of small boxes, encounter messages from previous players, and leave messages of your own about particular themes/prompts/topics.
Now that I’ve come up with my concept for my last project, I am researching whether something like this has existed before. There are definitely “escape rooms in a box”, but these are largely cardboard boxes with items that you then take OUT of the box and use to solve the puzzle. The box itself seems to matter very little — and I think that’s an affordance that could use more exploration.
What makes this challenging as a constraint is that there isn’t going to be a lot of physical space or surface area to work with. But I think that as long as I colour-code things and clearly signpost the connection between the clues and the boxes, it’ll be fine.
So today is a day for researching. I’m immersing myself in escape room literature, looking at Escape Room boxes, guides and philosophies about designing escape rooms and types of puzzles. It’s fun! It’s exciting — and that matters a lot when you’ve been feeling burnt out. The fact that something feels right and good is nice.
Recently, a peer of mine (Scott DeJong) who saw my design sketch about the new project recommended looking into Scott Nicholson’s work with Escape Room boxes in classrooms, and I’m now noticing that his work also comes up from Escape Room designers, which is neat! Scott came to my queering game controls panel at CGSA a few years ago and his insights were really interesting.
There’s a lot of puzzle advice out there, both generally and specifically for Escape Rooms, and I am definitely already breaking the rules because I am using such a constrained space, so I will have to play up other aspects like colour-coding (for example) to clearly signpost what goes with what.
I’m about to go down some rabbit holes… See you later!
After last week’s playtesting, I spent this week working on this trailer for TRACES! I am so excited to be able to share it with you!
Photos forthcoming once I get the chance to edit them!
I learned so much this week — got a better handle on Lightworks, learned how to do some basic colour correction in Resolve…
Soon, I’ll have to move on for now from TRACES to my final dissertation project. I have been trying to think a bit about what I’ll be making, but so far, it’s still wide-open!
Happy watching! I still have to figure out how to add subtitles on Vimeo — I’ll be working on it! It’s important to me to have the video be as accessible as I can make it. I just have to manage my bandwidth right now.