2020 Can Do One – Cryptology Is Bringing More To Sheffield!

Yep We are Open

First Things First

What has 3 rooms (one coming, very soon) and is still open? Cryptology Sheffield is!

Shallow Focus Photo of White Open Signage
Yep, we are still open!

As per Tier 3 government guidelines and after further clarification from Sheffield City Council, we are able to continue to serve Sheffield with our unique, safe, clean, masked Escape Room experiences.

“What has changed with Cryptology for Tier 3 restrictions?” I hear you say. The answer is simple, nothing. We still accept single household/bubble groups and we still space our bookings out to ensure each room is thoroughly cleaned before the next group arrives. We have all the information on our COVID-19 page.

Close-Up Photo Of Person Cleaning The Table
Cleaning more than a channel 4 hording documentary

I Have Had Enough of 2020, What Are Cryptology Doing?

Although 2020 can, quite frankly, do one. We want to let you know what we have in the pipeline:

Afterlife – Coming to Sheffield in late 2020

Afterlife Movie Poster
Coming late 2020

As a mortal, to enter your afterlife, you must first die. How you die is your choice but all must enter through the void of transcendence. Only the brave will follow the light, crawl out of the grave and go to hell and back. Logical thinking and teamwork is what you need to ensure that when your hour is up your name is found in the Book of Life.

As-Yet-To-Be-Named Scary Room – Coming to Sheffield early/mid-2021

Skull
Nothing to fear, but fear itself!

Tayson Tech are testing their latest invention ‘the Augmentation Chip’. Your team is the first set of human trials and Tayson Tech has to make sure that the human brain can cope with the chips augmented reality…to an acceptable %.

WARNING! You may experience extreme events and feelings.

Disclaimer: Tayson Tech accepts no responsibility for any neuro/psychological/physical damage that may occur during human trials of the Augmentation Chip v.001.

CubAI – Coming to Nottingham in early 2021

Along with this Cryptology Nottingham will be bringing their 5th room after the huge success of Daylight Robbery. This next room is called CubAI and we are trying to push the boundaries of escape rooms again with this one.

CubAI Movie Poster

Cryptology’s Final Thoughts

As you can see even though 2020 has been a douche of a year, we still believe we are strong enough to survive (with your help) and flourish once we get back to some kind of normality.

We want to take this opportunity to wish everyone all the best and if you are stuck for something to do that isn’t a pint with a substantial meal, come along and have a cracking hour of unique live escape room experiences.

Yours Escapingly

Cryptology Family

Cryptology Barcelona Escape Room Tour

The second leg of our European tour, we chose Barcelona. The post of the first leg in Budapest can be found here. This blog post is to talk about the trip, logistics, Mark’s opinion of the games – hopefully spoiler-free, but some nuances of the game which may be better left as a surprise if you are going may play the game. The ratings for the game are in their subtitle, and are out of 7.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

We saw some escape room enthusiasts and some friends recently recommend a trip there. There was also the TERPECA (Top Escape Rooms Project) which had quite a few games in the top 100, and the fact the flight cost £20, it was a no-brainer.

We were led to believe that the Escape Rooms in Barcelona are more about the experience than the time, and now in hindsight I do not recall a single clock in the games we played.

The Escape Room Planning

Unlike Budapest, the escape rooms in Barcelona were quite spread out. I used the TERPECA list to get destinations in the city we could do in the 24 hours we were there. With travel time it made this quite a tricky logistics exercise! I calculated that if we did 5 games in the day, they averaged 13km or 37 minutes apart, with transport! I added extra time for faff and food, and a held my fingers crossed my logistics worked!

InMortal Room: El Diamante De Almas: 10am – 6/7

When I booked this, I didn’t think or clock on to that fact that it was a “scary game”. The game seems to be quite out from “the thick of it” and is a 15 minute walk from the Metro.

We were greeted in the most unique way we have experienced an Escape Room so far! It really sets the scene amazing well for the game.

The game transitions between quite a few rooms/locations, and the puzzles throughout are varied and well-executed. For those a little nervous about a scary game, there’s just the perfect amount of humour in the game to make this an amazing experience.

Looking back on all the games we played in Barcelona, this one carries the most memorable moments, and this is very much down to the GM we had. In character throughout, and a very good debrief at the end where he was just himself. His English was amazing and he is a credit to the industry.

This game set the bar very high for the day, Mark rates this as 6 out of 7.

Inmortal Room

Enigmik: La Cerveceria – 1pm 6/7

We were a team of three, and this game said for a minimum of four. We asked if we could do it via email, and yes we could (although we had to pay for the four). What was pleasing though is that there were parts of the game where you really should have needed 4 players, it’s not just done for profiteering sake.

We opted for a cab because of the 15 min walk to the Metro, this location was 11km / 24min from the previous. This game felt in quite an urban area, and we had time to go to a local café and have a nibble and a drink. The game was around the corner, and our mission was to brew beer!

This game had some great physical moments, and a great technological interface for the brewing part of the game. This was a solid escape room, no ambiguity and with varied tasks. We also had a clue system which was a tablet/phone hung around our next. We were also given an RFID wristband which gave us a specific role in the brewing process, a great touch!

The conclusion of the game had an ice-cold beer rise up as we talked through the game. Another great game which is well-deserved of the 6 out of 7.

Enigmik - La Cerveceria

Escape Barcelona: Tomb Hunter : Akasha’s Legend – 5pm 7/7

The Metro was our choice of transport to get to this game, there was another 15 minute-or-so walk from the stop, to a more residential area over the Besós River. We had some time to kill, so we sat in the February sun by the river.

The mission briefing email stated we needed to have a particular mark (tattoo) on us to be able to enter this game, a great touch. The game started as soon as the door opened, and were led blindfolded to the game. Another GM who was integral to our experience, and her English was good.

This game was something else. The set production, the things that happened, the size of the game… all things which surpassed anything I had ever seen before. I would have loved to have seen the floorplan to this game, because it’s genuinely huge! The finale of this game I thought was superbly done, and made the most memorable experience of the trip for me.

When I booked this game I asked if their Alien game was free for when we could play it, it was unfortunately booked (the Alien was the second rated on the top 100 list from this company). I can see why this got the top Spanish game, and the 6th in the World. The good side of this though, I want to go back and see more from this company. This game easily achieved the 7 out of 7.

Maximum Escape: Ulysses Spaceship game by Maximum Escape – 7:30pm 6/7

Compared to the other games we played, this game felt like a commercialised chain. Not saying this as a positive nor a negative comment, the other 3 games we had played seemed to be from a small and passionate team. These had Whatsapp notifications, flyers everywhere, and a reception that showcased all their games. The location of this game really seemed to be in the thick of it.

The GM greeted us as herself, excellent English, and then went off to get changed to get into character for our mission briefing. She escorted us down into our game and left us to our own devices.

The game had some good video (I can’t recall if we watched a screen or had VR helmets for the intro), tactile puzzles, and parts where the group needs to split to communicate with each other. The clue system you carried around with you, and I found it marvellous! A space game should have some good tech in it, and I think what was used was very well implemented. The game set in some of the latter parts of the game was amazingly well done. Another game very well deserving the 6 out of 7, I would be keen to see more of the games they offer.

Maximum Escape: Ulysses Spaceship

Unreal Escape: La Mina – 10pm 5/7

Not that I knew this when I booked it, but this game was a 10 minute walk from our AirBnB. Another quite residential area of Barcelona, this was the last game of our whole trip.

This game starts of in a small room, and we had trouble (this is not a criticism, the puzzles were well-designed and they do not jump in to help you when they understand their game and know you will get there in the end) getting out of this first bit. It broke out to another medium sized space. After solving a few things here, boom, the game opened up to a truly massive game. It had some good puzzles in here, a nice touch of tech!

I am only giving this 5 out 7, and I still feel 8 months on this is correct. I think the other games were of outstanding quality, and this is not saying this is not. Do not confuse the 5 out of 7 with this not being great, I would recommend this game for anybody and everybody. It feels (only in comparison to what we played) a little dated.

Afterlife is Coming!

Afterlife is coming!

How we became part of the Afterlife

Afterlife is Coming!
Gothic masterpiece is coming to Cryptology Sheffield

As Escape Room owners we love, as much as you do, to go visit other escape rooms. Sometimes we take trips to Europe and other times we go a little closer to home. In a Shipley not too far away we played a game that we thoroughly enjoyed at X-IT. The game was called Afterlife and after laughing, chuckling, and thoroughly enjoying the game we spent time with the owners and chatted with them about all things escape rooms. That we thought was that, until during the lockdown an opportunity arose (sadly, but not too sadly) for us to purchase this game and bring it to Sheffield. Now, I will say that this is not what we normally do. We pride ourselves on creating our own unique experiences that we build and create with our own blood, sweat, and beers. On this occasion, though the game, the seller, the buyer, and the timing all fit and we are excited to put this massive jigsaw puzzle and put a Cryptology stamp on it (Not too much, we loved the original). 

What about ‘TBC Scary Game’?

TBC Scary Game
Scares put back a little

What does this mean for Cryptology’s scary game? Well, in short, this pushes the ‘TBC Scary Game’ back, but not by too much. We are excited that we will hopefully be bringing you 2 escape rooms in quick succession. Afterlife, despite the name, is not a scary game. It is more gothic and atmospheric. ‘TBC Scary Game’ is our chance to make you fear your own thoughts!

When Will it be Ready?

Coming soon
Coming Soon?

Afterlife is coming and we are hoping within the next couple of months to be ready to go. Although it is a massive jigsaw, we still need to fit it to our location and iron out any issues that may arise. We are as anxious as you are to have a new game available.

What is Afterlife all about?

Enter your Afterlife
Enter your Afterlife

As a mortal, to enter your afterlife, you must first die. How you die is your choice but all must enter through the void of transcendence.Only the brave will follow the light, crawl out of the grave and go to hell and back. Logical thinking and teamwork is what you need to ensure that when your hour is up your name is found in the Book of Life. You can read more about Afterlife here

European Escape Room Trip

Escape Trip

Why?

To celebrate the completion of the latest Nottingham room, Daylight Robbery. Cryptology decided to go do an Escape Room trip to some venues that had been recommended in Barcelona and Budapest. As one-third of the escape team was from Yorkshire we decided to choose our next destination from Budapest based on nothing more than price.

Daylight Robbery Movie Poster
Daylight Robbery

Advice and Meat…and Beer

Our number one piece of advice for potential travelers is to not to book your flight in the middle of a major storm, Ciara tried her best to ruin our best-laid plans and we had to delay one of the escape rooms by a couple of days due to late flights. Instead, we arrived in a chilly Budapest in the dead of night and ventured out for some food to fill our souls ready for the next day of escaping or attempting. We discussed over a 52000HUF platter of meat, rice, and chips what the next day would hold and how it would stack up to the rooms we had done in the UK. Between the group, we have over 100 escape rooms under our considerably expanding belts.

A sharing platter of meat
Meattttt

Escape Budapest

We started the day with a walk to the first venue, Mystique Room. They had a large array of rooms to choose from, from which we chose; The Cube, The Time Machine, Alice and The Pharaohs Burial Chamber. In all of the rooms, the set design was fantastic and you felt like each one was its own micro-world. My only bugbear was the use of a walkie talkie in all areas. A walkie talkie does not fit in with the theme of the majority of rooms and let’s be honest they are a pain to understand/listen to and sometimes get forgotten. The standout game from this venue was ‘The Cube‘ a pristine build, with no padlocks and a real feel of the futuristic.

Mystique Escape Room - Cube
Escape Cubed
Mystique Escape Room - Time Machine
Nearly ran out of time

Enigma and Scooters

After we had finished at Mystique we quickly realised that walking the distance to the next venue, Enigma, was not achievable. How could we get all the way across Budapest without the need for running (it has been a while since I last run). Then, like a white a green flash a Lime scooter flew passed. Yep, we were sold, downloading the app and finding the three nearest scooters we spent the next several minutes giggling like little schoolboys as we flew at an entire 22km/h towards our next escape.

Lime Scooters
Take my money!

We arrived just in time and the lovely host ushered us in and we were briefed on what was required. I will say that as a venue this seemed a little run down, but the puzzles were so strong it made up for our initial reservations. A good mix of puzzles that at times made teamwork an absolute necessity. I also got to slide across the floor like a slug and I can proudly say I am quite….sluggish.

Enigmak
Teamwork, makes the dream work!

Back on the scooters to find some food and some beers as we had a little time before the next game that had us excited. Mark had mentioned that this game was something else. We turned up to the venue and I saw a slide, I knew this would be good. The host Dave was an enthusiast and gave an impassioned brief that really set the tone for the rest of the games, oh yeah the games, Santa Muerte and Secret Subway at E-Exit. WOW, what a game I don’t remember a point where our jaws either came off the ground or we weren’t giggling at the thought of what was next. A true masterpiece of tech, story, and theme. I will not say more otherwise….spoilers!

Locked In Escape Rooms

Our final games of the Day were at A-Room and their sister company Locked In and we did House of Escobar and Research Base. House of Escobar was the standout performer and was a room that as a group we clicked with. Strong puzzles, great theming and a thoroughly enjoyable game. After this, we needed refreshment in the shape of a pint glass and painkillers for our backs and feet. We ventured to the Ruin bars to sample the local ale. Although to be fair there were more Brits than locals it seemed and it is one hell of a crowded area.

Food and Drink
Purely medicinal

Making Up for Storm Ciara

The next day we decided to catch up on the missed game on the first night, White Mission and this was one that has been in Budapest for a while and had no backstory. You simply go in and have to get out, as a traditional premise for an escape room as you can get. The game was anything but traditional. Although I seemed to only see a small number of puzzles as I was the only one who had not done a specific puzzle, the game was enjoyable and worthy of the time.

The Blind Exhibition

We also got back on our beloved scooters and headed over to the Buda side to check out the Blind Exhibition. I was confused as to what this would be, but after a slightly awkward start where nobody really knew what was going on (All our faults as we had gone with no idea what was involved), we were given a tiny impression of what a blind person goes through living in a city and what they experience. Our host was great and even got us a drink at the end in a pitch-black bar. I would say this is a must-visit as it is an educational and fascinating experience.

The Blind Exhibition Budapest
The Blind Exhibition

Barcelona Bound

That night we flew to Barcelona, without hiccup this time. Tomorrow would bring a different style of an escape room.

RyanAIr
The flying tin can

To be Continued…….

Stuff that, Christmas is Coming!

With Black Friday on the horizon and Cyber Monday swiftly calculating your bank accounts demise. There is something else that gets my festive juices bubbling, Christmas dinner.

Must have the TV for £0.01 less!

Turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts, stuffing, pigs in blankets, a glass bottle of wine and pulling crackers. The fact you get out your best cutlery, fancy table cloth that makes only one appearance a year and glasses that you need a mortgage if you smash is all part of the most festive part of my Christmas. Even getting butter in the turkey and giblets for the dog is an enjoyable festive experience.

You put what, where?

All this food creation needs a soundtrack and in our household, it is Christmas classics, and the most festive sound known to humankind…the sound of siblings screaming over each others presents. If you are not a fan of festive tunes why not stick on Where Eagles Dare or any film with snow in it as let’s face it, there will probably be no White Christmas.

Some of you may find enjoyment in other parts of Christmas and that is fantastic and we would love to know what is your favourite part of the festive period?

I also have one small request for this Christmas. I’d like (along with an epic meal and family) is no matter our differences in opinions, faith, and views just have a great time with those that you love and be understanding to those you don’t.

OH and visit an escape room! I had to slam it in the post somewhere.

Merry Christmas

A Review from @escapingthecloset

A review from Al and Ash, it's 5 stars.
The fantastic review. Wow!

It’s always tricky to get TripAdvisor reviews but sometimes you get something even better. Al and Ash visited us a couple of weeks ago and wrote a review of Dreamscape. We have the honour of being their first five star review, read their kind words below:

Dreamscape ? today we are in Nottingham. After loving their Sheffield and Barnsley (?) rooms, we decided to pay a visit to @cryptologynottm and were highly looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. Our host, Sam, met us at the door, dressed suitably for a slumber…we were introduced to the game, told to expect a very fast-paced and frantic experience, especially with only two of us to manage the mammoth task of collecting up to 20 dream keys across 5 dream rooms!! The room(s) were incredible – it plays like an escape room fan’s actual dream, with a huge volume of puzzles, all focusing on different strengths, and a great flow between dreams! We spent most of the game working separately to try and tackle the volume of puzzles we were faced with – but we did come together a few times for some particularly tricky bits! We tried to separate according to our strengths, but in hindsight it was probably whoever got to the puzzle first ?.

Continue reading “A Review from @escapingthecloset”

Getting Critical of ‘The Crypt’ (Part 1)

The golden chest fills the frame whilst light hides behind a distant curtain. Candles line the walls dimly glowing and showing the hieroglyphics above

We relocated a year and a half ago allowing us to make new games and more escape rooms. However due to this we closed one of our favourite games, The Crypt. We learnt a lot from designing and running this game for two years so keep reading to take away our most valuable lessons.

Sudden Immersion: Getting everyone involved in a snap
The opening of The Crypt was gripping.
After a ten minute briefing the games master would blindfold the players and line them up immediately creating tension. Any uncertainty of how immersive or exciting the game was washed away and replaced by suspense. Then we handcuffed them.

Continue reading “Getting Critical of ‘The Crypt’ (Part 1)”

Cycle to Work Day with Cryptology

On August 8th it will be ‘Cycle to Work Day’, the premise being whether you are an avid cyclist or haven’t seen your bike in years that you have a go. As with these events you can sign up via social media or use an App on your phone like Strava.

Cycle to Work Day

If you are like me and need some extra motivation there are also several weekly challenges that you can take part in at Love to Ride.

Why I will take part in Cycle to Work Day

Reasons why we need to cycle into work
Reasons for weight gain??

In short, the level of exercise since I have taken on the task of bringing our unique escape experiences to Sheffield has fallen dramatically. At the same time, my “Timber” (Weight, Fattyness, roundness) has increased to an all-time high for me. I am not a complete beginner as a cyclist having previously, some years ago, done London to Paris and Loch to Loch cycling challenges. Unfortunately, all that previous experience and fitness has been replaced with a large amount of trepidation and fear at simply placing my enlarged bum on a bicycle seat.

When I used to cycle into work
Loch to Loch 2012ish

Get rid of the Monkey on your back!

As Team Sky, now Team Ineos would say you need to defeat the ‘Monkey on your back’, that voice that tells you that you cant do it, the hill is too big or you have left it too long to get into cycling or generally keeping fit. Well, let us get rid of that dissenting voice and instead get on ye bike for cycle to work day and enjoy the rush of endorphins as you accomplish something fantastic, work off a couple of those takeaway pounds and save some petrol money for something else….like a new bike 🙂

Building a Team at Cryptology

Build your team

What is Team Building?

Team Building, as the name would imply,  is an activity where colleagues work together to build workplace unity. Companies all over the world use a variety of techniques and strategies to help employees to get to know each other and advance their problem-solving skills, boost creative thinking and unify as a team towards a common goal.

Team

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Last Straw?

However, some of these activities fail to attain these simple goals. I remember I once did a training day where I had to make some sort of structure out of straws. There was nothing wrong with this approach to business team building, but I couldn’t understand how my employer thought that this would be in any way interesting for those of us actually taking part. The majority of thoughts were simply towards the bar at the end the day or the coffee break (love a good biscuit!) where we could all keep in our own groups and question why we were here.

Murder Mystery with your team at Cryptology Sheffield
The Mysterious case of Hugh Dunnitt, Cryptology Sheffield

Cryptology’s solution

We see our escape rooms as part of the solution to this. Your team is placed in a themed immersive environment where you must work together, communicate and use your problem-solving skills to complete the room. You, for want of a better term, BUILD A TEAM! After you have all done the escape rooms, you can use our meeting room facilities to analyze, discuss and absorb what your mind has just gone through.

Meeting facilities at Cryptology Nottingham suitable for up to 20 people
Conference facilities, Cryptology Nottingham

Due to the way we design our rooms, there has to be more than just one over-exuberant employee taking part to solve the puzzles, but there are various difficulty puzzles to ensure that it is an inclusive team event.

Cypherdyne v1.5 an office like no other
Cypherdyne v1.5 Escape Room, Cryptology Nottingham

An event for all!

During Cryptology’s time in South Yorkshire, we have had; football teams, McDonald’s, banks, local businesses, council departments, and one person booked so she could assess her team that she had recently inherited. All of them went in knowing very little and with an air of pessimism that this was just another straw-building event, but on completion, these same people couldn’t believe that they had never done an escape room before and were excited to book again for their next team building event. Most importantly in my eyes is that whether you are successful in escaping or not, you ALL get something out of the experience.

Team Building in Sheffield in First Contact Escape Room
First Contact Live Escape Room Experience, Cryptology Sheffield


Clue System Development

Clue systems are very important in Escape Rooms. Extra clues should not be essential for the game to be completed but there needs to be a way to communicate with players. Cryptology opened its doors in Nottingham in July of 2015. At this point there were less than 70 Escape Rooms in the UK. There was not much in the way of off-the-shelf solutions to clue systems. I had a played a few where the clue system was a computer screen, this was easy to read and understand. A Walkie Talkie can be hard to hear what is being said, and can be left elsewhere in the game. A light-up clue system is difficult to give custom clues.

Computer Screen

I have always dabbled with bits of programming and had recently taught myself PHP, Javascript (with lots of help from jQuery), HTML, and MySQL. After a bit of googling it appears using Reverse AJAX (or Comet) was how to send a message to another computer.

After a few frustrating evenings I finally managed to send a message from one webpage to another. It even worked sending the message from my iPhone to the PC. Bingo! The next challenge was to create a countdown timer that displayed on both the receiving (players’) PC and the sending (gamesmaster’s) PC.

Cryptology's First Clue System
Cryptology’s First Clue System

The first issue I had was the delay between sending the clue and the other PC receiving it. I therefore decided for the countdown to only start when the receiving PC got that instruction, and for it to relay it back to the sending PC. This required both sender and receiver to send messages. The Clue System now starts when the receiving PC gets the instruction, sends it back to the GM’s PC, and receives clues. I downloaded some royalty-free music and sound effects to draw attention to incoming clues.

I had to design a page which had pre-written clues and with the option to send custom hints. Using Twitter’s Get Bootstrap, this helped no-end with the formatting of the page. I also decided that it should not be hard-coded. The clues should be pulled from a database so they can always be added or amended.

Clue System GM Screen
The Clue System’s buttons for the GM to interact

Remove Internet Dependence

The clue system was ready to use! Over the opening month of Cypherdyne, clues were added easily based on common customer actions. One day, the internet went down in the building: no clue system :/. After tethering my phone, I managed to install XAMPP which is where a PC can act as a web server. However, after many hours of trying to get this to work, an even bigger clue delay occurred. This was not the solution!

I concluded that the solution was to have my own server rather than the giant one called the Internet. There was a cashback offer of an HP Micro Server, I purchased an SSD hard drive and installed CentOS to create our own system. There was virtually no delay to the clues, and all devices when taught the IP address to be the DNS could access the clue system. This meant that mobiles, tablets, and PCs could all clue the escape rooms!

Styled Pages

Cryptology Nottingham’s second game based on Ancient Egypt, The Crypt was ready to open. Whilst there were no computers in the times of King Tut, a computer screen really was the best way to send clues into the game. The solution was to style it a little more with Ancient Egyptian images and colours.

The Crypt's Clue System Customer Screen
Cryptology’s second clue system was Ancient Egyptian themed, we could not just have a plain black screen.

Second Location Development

The Crypt’s clue system was a little but more themed than Cypherdyne’s. When Cryptology Nottingham was going to relocate we all wanted to take the clue system to the next level.

The Cypherdyne Escape Room is an interview set in an office. The idea was to disguise the clue system as an email system, and include Microsoft’s Clippy from Microsoft Word. He will be there to taunt groups when simple things are overlooked.

Cypherdyne v1.5's Clue System
Cypherdyne v1.5’s Clue System with an animated Clippy!

For the reincarnation of The Crypt, Rameseize, we wanted an Ancient Egyptian God Of Mildly Useful Hints, Acluebis. He would be full HD video and have subtitled clues, and is much more than just a clue system.

Rameseize's Clue System: Acluebis
Rameseize’s Clue System: Acluebis

Sheffield‘s Clue System

Acluebis is very well received in Nottingham so we wanted to take this a stage further in Sheffield. The first game First Contact is set in the future. We therefore wanted a fully interactive system where the touchscreens interact with the clue system. The clue system will interact with players. Both of these in a totally in-theme way.

It amazes us that simple “yes”, “no”, “well done team” messages were so well received by the general public. We realised we created not a clue system, but a fully interactive guide. We are struggling what to call this as clue system is not correct. What would you call it?