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’?
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?
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That night we flew to Barcelona, without hiccup this time. Tomorrow would bring a different style of an escape room.
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.
Turkey, roast potatoes, sprouts, stuffing, pigs in blankets, a glassbottle 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.
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.
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 ?.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Being in the industry of Escape Rooms for over four years now. I have heard many theories as to where it all began. Exit Games, or Escape Rooms were words I first heard in 2014 whilst looking for “Things To Do In Bristol”. This lead me to find my first escape room! From this moment, it has been my life for the nearly half a decade.
Where Did It All Begin?
For a European-centric answer to this question, it is Hungary. In 2012 Attila Gyurkovics wanted to bring the exciting parts of computer games into a live experience. Their answer was to create a game where they must escape from a physical room. The first escape rooms that opened in the UK tended to be operated and built by Hungarians.
There were escape games available to play in Hong Kong as early as 2006! The Japan Times reported that Takao Kato of Scrap Publishing used his passion of Manga comics to think up ideas for escape games. By 2008 there were a plethora of escape rooms all over Asia .
When Did The UK Get Escape Rooms?
Back to Europe and in 2012 they were beginning to pop up everywhere, the UK’s first appearing in London. Cryptology opened its doors on the 3rd of July 2015, the third in Nottingham in less than 9 months.
At the time of writing this article (05/07/2019) there are 1444 bookable games (1329/1078 if you don’t count duplicate games at one/multiple sites). They are spread across 340 companies with 497 venues. This stat is taken from the very well-ran UK Escape Room directory Exit Games.
What Is Next For Escape Rooms?
This is a highly subjective question, but I can answer it in terms of Cryptology. With 6 companies in Nottingham alone offering Escape Rooms, Nottingham‘s focus is to give all players of all abilities as close to a full hour as possible. Cryptology Sheffield is mixing up the clue system . In fact, the term clue system is not really correct, it is more of a Narrator. More details of this will be in a blog post soon!
Dreamscape was an idea that was born before Cryptology Nottingham’s relocation back in February 2018. It was a critical factor in deciding what the next venue should look like to be able to house the new escape games.
A Developing Market
Even in 2019 the vast majority of customers that come through our doors are first-time escapers. When Cryptology Nottingham opened in 2015 a good 98% had never done an escape room before, and were just looking for something new and exciting to do. Today, the majority of people have heard about them or know somebody who has done an escape room.