Escape Room VR – The New Reality (Part 3)

(Last Updated On: December 17, 2019)

In the third part of this comprehensive whitepaper looking at the deployment of VR escape game business, Immersive Out-of-Home entertainment industry specialist and writer Kevin Williams, this section looking at the deployment of VR Escape Gaming into the amusement entertainment sector, and the creation of VR properties that borrow game play style from lessons learned in the Escape Room business.

Escape Room VR Whitepaper – At A Glance

Continuing with the third part of this observation regarding the deployment of VR Escape games into the out-of-home entertainment landscape; and we look at those adding the concept of co-operative problem solving to their game experiences, as well as the drive in new immersive technology. Including the deployment of backpack PC’s to allow freedom of movement, and sensory hardware. As well as how some developers are adding Escape Room theory to their VR experiences.

It is the marriage of the horror and co-operative game elements used in numerous LBE VR projects to drive new development. The horror (haunted house) approach adding a new frisson-of-excitement to the immersive VR experience. Seeing some VR games now adding an escape game element to their design to boost their longevity and interest.

VR Amusement Adventure Narrative

The major Japanese amusement and consumer game developer BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment also operates its own chain of amusement venues Globally. In Japan they invested early in the development of their own unique VR amusement style venue concept – under the Project-i-Can (social entertainment and adventure brand). First launching the VR ZONE sites, and then smaller VR ZONE Portal locations in UK, France and the US.

One of the first VR games to be rolled out by the company for this concept was the experience ‘Hospital Escape Terror’. Two or four players seated navigating their electric-wheelchairs round the wards of a deserted hospital – working as a team, talking over radio to navigate obstructions and solve traps, as test subjects of a bizarre and supernatural experiments. Working to gain their freedom from these horrors, racing the clock. The system packaged as a dedicated enclosure with sfx in the seats to add to the adrenaline-rush.

One of the most successful VR arcade platforms regarding deployed units is that from German developer HOLOGATE, with some 250 units of their ‘HOLOGATE VR’ system found in trampoline parks, family entertainment centers (FEC), amusement venues and bowling centers. The tethered enclosure four player VR platform has become the blueprint for many developers – offering a simple to operate turnkey system. Originally looking at zombie-blaster style VR games, they have built on their co-operative game narrative and added elements of Escape Room game style.

The company also licensing a major Intellectual Property (IP) to create ‘DAS BOOT’. Based on the World War II U-Boat property, four players placed at their respective stations as the crew of a submarine, working as a team to escape attack from Destroyers, and repairing damage, fighting-for-their-lives. In North America the platform is distributed by Creative Works, a company that has an established physical Escape Room building business, adding VR to their product range.

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HOLOGATE VR experience offering additional escape game content with Das Boot! – (Source KWP)

UK-based WePlayVR (a division of AiSolve) have launched their free-roam VR enclosure. Using backpack PC VR hardware, the playing environment includes physical effects such as vibrating floor units, able to freely move within the space. The company has developed several single and multi-player VR games experiences. This includes ‘Clock Tower’ – the player solving puzzles to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the forgotten and mysterious clock tower.

The company has also built ‘We Bare Bear: Food Tuck Rush’ – a multi-player, teamwork-based game, where food needs to be made and delivered in a moving food truck, co-operative fun for children and adults. The game is in partnership with Cartoon Network and is another example of incorporating an IP to the game.

The Belgium developer VEX Solution has created their free-roaming VR enclosure, called the ‘VEX Adventure’ that offers numerous physical effects such as heat, wind, vibration and olfactory, with players wearing backpack PC’s and traversing the virtual environment in groups of up to four.

The company has developed the game ‘Mission Z’ that takes its lead from a zombie-blaster, but as seen with a growing trend of Arena Scale VR experiences builds in an escape game narrative seeing players working as a team to achieve their goal. Along with their newest release ‘Treasure Quest’ that is a family-friendly temple exploration adventure hunting treasure from crypt to crypt in an escape room style. All this and the company allowing other escape games to run on their platform, such as content from Backlight Studios.

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Another group of players about to enter the adventure from VEX Adventure – (Source KWP)

Another UK-based developer, INOWIZE, has been working in the development of location-based VR entertainment, releasing last year their ‘VR Quest Arena’ – a unique multi-player free roam combo attraction. Two versions of the system accommodate either four or six players, wearing PC backpacks (as well as released as a tethered version).

The company along with more traditional zombie-blasters, released their single player experience ‘Grim Helm’. The game has the player exploring an ancient dungeon, evade traps, solving puzzles, with a final face off with a mighty dragon.

Hollow Zone Immersive have been working to create their own interpretation of the backpack PC enclosure VR platform, launching last year ‘The Hollow Zone’. The company debuted with the VR experience ‘Wax House: The Legend of Jack the Ripper’ – offering an escape experience, with mystery solving adventure – the players in groups of up to four, travel back in time to 1888, working as a team to unlock secrets in the Wax House set in Whitechapel.

Along with more familiar shooting experiences, the company will also be launching at the end of the year their second immersive reality escape adventure ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’.

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Exploring the virtual scares of the Wax House in Hollow Zone’s latest experience – (Source KWP)

Another developer offering a new VR Escape Room component to their mix is YDreams Global Interactive Technologies. The company has launched their ‘Arkave VR’, a VR game enclosure. Developer Cruel Byte has developed the three-player VR escape game called ‘The Lost Room’. The players do not use a PC backpack, but the latest wireless PC headset technology. Players attempt to solve the puzzles sharing clues between themselves attempting to be the first to get out in a race against the clock.

The escape adventure has been exclusively ported to the YDreams’ platform, with six arenas installed in the US. In the West, the company’s VR system is represented by Studio 41b – a company with an extensive background in making actual Escape Room’s for the market – adding a VR range to their line-up.

Adding Elements of Escape Room Gaming

Developer VRstudios has used their extensive background in the VR attractions and entertainment scene to create their ‘VRcade Atom’ – a one and two player enclosure running wireless VR systems, built to accommodate a wide variety of LBE venues space restrictions. Player not needing a backpack PC, able to be immersed through a new wireless positional tracking of headset and player movements.

The turnkey system is managed by the ‘VRcade Attraction Management Platform (AMP)’, supply content from its own library and from the SteamVR Arcade store – allowing operators to offer VR Escape Game content though a compact turnkey solution.

2020 looks to be a year of several new developments entering the market from the LBE VR scene, and these new investments all seem to borrow heavily on the escape game narrative.

A newcomer just about to launch into the VR entertainment scene, Entermission is a US company founded with a focus on adding amazing virtual adventures to physical escape rooms. Their first platform is a six-player tethered VR enclosure incorporating sfx and using a special system to track the players hands. The platform is launched with two games, the first being ‘Mad Minds’ – players take on the rolls of detectives search the mysterious mind of a maniac, for clues to solve a kidnapping.

While the other game is ‘Space Heroes’, including a strong team-based element, as the players explore a sabotage space station, shooting lasers and solving puzzles. The company building on interest in VR escape games to drive a new level of innovation.

Another Spanish-based developer is MediaPro Exhibitions (a division of Mediapro group) – coming to the VR field from a long background in creating museums, exhibitions and theme parks. Their skills of offering an audience multisensory experience have been honed, allowing them to create in 2017 a projected labelled “Hyper VR”.

Created for Aigues de Barcelona, the experience employing backpack PC’s and sfx incorporated into their environment called ‘The Zone of Hope’, at the time described as Europe’s first immersive exhibition – located on a 14th Century Historic Building in the center of Barcelona. With a major story narrative that the players explore and shape. The ultimate adventure experience married to an edutainment narrative, with the fate of the planet at stake.

Original developed as a temporary installation, the experiences huge popularity has seen its run extended numerous times – finally coming to an end in fall of this year. The company taking its experience from this success towards new projects based on this approach in Asia, Europe, Middle East and the US.

This is the end of the second to last feature – part four concludes shortly.

References & Further Reading

About The Author

kevin williamsKevin Williams – a leading specialist in the digital Out-of-Home entertainment industry, through his consultancy KWP Limited, specializing in interactive entertainment. Coming from a long career in the theme park, amusement and entertainment software industries, being an ex-Walt Disney Imagineer. Well known for his news service, The Stinger Report that has become a-must-read for those working or investing in the international market. Along with this, he is also a prolific writer with regular columns for the main trade publications in this market, along with presenting numerous conference sessions on the sector and its global impact. He is also the co-author of the only book on this aspect of the market, “The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier” – currently working on the next edition, schedule for publication soon. Kevin can be reached at [email protected].

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