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…….

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?

True Terror on its way to Sheffield!

Now that we have First Contact and The Mysterious Case of Hugh Dunnitt escape rooms here at Cryptology Sheffield we think it is time to bring true terror to West Street.

Cryptology believes that with First Contact escape room ticking the box for choose your own path’ space adventure and The Mysterious Case of Hugh Dunnitt escape room taking you on a murder mystery tour with a difference. It is time that Cryptology Escape Rooms delved into the murky world of truly terrifying HORROR! 

What Kind of Escape Room is it Going to be?

This experience will be more than just a scare-fest – in true escape room tradition, puzzles will be throughout your hour. But will you dare complete them all?

Set in a secret private lab where they test the latest and greatest (most of the time) in neural gadgets. This latest test involves your team and you are here to be a lab rat for a new neural implant. Unfortunately, they need to test this implant to its extremes and that means it will play on your fears. Don’t worry though, they almost never have issues during these tests, in fact 60% of the time it works every time.

Where And When?

This new live escape room experience will be based out of our West Street location in the centre of Sheffield, next to Tescos Extra and up the road from Pizza Express. This will be Cryptology Sheffield’s third immersive escape room experience and we hope to continue the high levels we have achieved so far.

Look out for more updates to follow here; https://cryptologyrooms.co.uk/Sheffield/rooms

Check out some of our videos here; YouTube Channel

The Creation Of Cryptology Escape Rooms

Cryptology Creation

The Beginning

Before the creation of Cryptology Escape Rooms in Nottingham, my career was as a buyer, a job I had for over 8 years. Whilst it was indeed a great job, I felt that I had ticked all the boxes in that career path. I really wanted a change of scene. But with 8 years of one career on your CV, it is difficult for another employer in a different field to take you on! Or take you on at a wage that supports your mortgage and debts!

The last buyer job I had really did not fulfil me, there was no pressure and I was used to having many things on the go at once. One weekend I was visiting I used to live with in his new home town of Bristol. Whilst a weekend of drinking and eating out was great, I felt we should do something extra. I found this weird thing called an “escape room”. Continue reading “The Creation Of Cryptology Escape Rooms”

What’s The Reason For A Cryptology Blog?

Why A Blog?

Hi, I’m Mark, the owner of the UK escape room franchise “Cryptology”, welcome to our blog. I opened Nottingham’s doors in July 2015. Currently there are open branches in Nottingham and in Barnsley, our newest branch in Sheffield is currently in production; it’s all go!

The Trigger Point For A Blog

In June of 2018, an ex-colleague was heading to a LinkedIn networking event just around the corner from Cryptology Nottingham. He suggested we met up for a drink, I didn’t realise that I’d actually be taking part of the event!

After signing up, receiving some Prosecco and access to a cheese board (I was very pleased!), the concept of the meetup was explained. People from all different industries and from Nottingham and the surrounding areas were left to mingle. After a few introductions to other people who jumped in at the deep end to just meet other people, I began describing Nottingham’s latest game that was in production, Dreamscape. The organiser who is from London walked past and said “this sounds interesting” and joined in the conversation. I was explaining some of the concepts and themes within the game, some of the issue we are having in setting them up, and what’s coming up on the horizon.

Linked In And Beyond

I asked about LinkedIn and what marketing examples she could tell me about. She summed everything up with if she is interested what I was explaining, then other people would be too. I had indeed toyed with the idea of a blog about Cryptology. But I really didn’t want it to be a diary, an ego boost, or a sales pitch. But after explaining the creation of Dreamscape to my ex-colleague and a stranger, I did indeed conclude that some of you may be interested in the behind-the-scenes of an escape room franchise.

As it is now 2018, I would want this to be more of a video blog (VLOG), I will encorporate as much video as I can. But with Dreamscape Nottingham, and First Contact Sheffield my time is stretched very thin! Watch this space!

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