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Automating your escape room is complicated, no question about it. Let’s see if we can simplify things a little bit by offering a few tips to get you started.
Dave & Michael Steinman from Missing Pieces Escape Games out Edina, Minnesota, just so happen to be experts when it comes to escape room automation and they’ve been gracious enough to share their top 5 tips with us.
Use Tech You Understand
There are different automation options available, from Arduinos and Raspberry Pis to micro-controllers and PLCs (programmable logic controller). All have pros and cons, but the most important thing is to pick one you can understand and maintain. Ask yourself, if this malfunctions during a busy day, can I get it up and running again? If the answer is no, you will face the prospect of canceling bookings and losing business due to a non-functional prop.
Use Centralized Controllers
When setting up your control room or assembling your automation equipment, make sure you position your controllers near each other whenever possible. You may need to troubleshoot an issue on multiple controllers at the same time, having them located next to each other will allow you to work quickly to resolve the issue. If running all your wiring back to a control room just isn’t possible, be sure that you have a way to at least access and quickly work on any controller located inside your props or set (without exposing it to players).
Use Automation To Make Puzzles Better
We all love dreaming up puzzles that we think would be amazing, using all kinds of technology and gadgetry to achieve a certain effect. While there are certainly cases where technology-driven effects can deliver fantastic “WOW” moments for players, it’s important to make sure your priority is improving your puzzles and gameplay for the customers. Otherwise, you can end up spending a lot of time, money and effort building and maintaining an effect that is a non-essential game element.
Test, test, TEST!
This seems so obvious, but we are always amazed at the responses we get when we ask how often other owners have major props fail in their rooms. Design your puzzles to be durable, to last, and to function every time. When you start to see signs of wear, replace the prop. The same goes for tech-based puzzles, make sure you test them thoroughly and rigorously during beta. Think about if you were a player, you wouldn’t want a prop to fail during your game, even if the game master tells you they have had 10,000 players in the room, and it’s never failed before. Every player experience matters and should be of the highest quality!
Incorporate Sound and Lighting
Many automation options allow you to not just control motion or locking mechanisms, but they can also be used to trigger sound and lighting effects. This allows you to not just open a secret door, but to make a show of it and really immerse players in the experience of discovering a hidden room.
Dave is the Chief Operations Officer and Builder at Missing Pieces Escape Games. I am a retired engineer with 30 years of design, controls, and project experience. My son, Michael and I are responsible for all the technology implementation at Missing Pieces Escape Games.
Michael is the Chief Technology Officer at Missing Pieces Escape Games. I have a degree in Automated Systems and Robotics From Dunwoody College of Technology and, along with my father, I do all of the wiring, programming, and testing of the tech used in our rooms.