Why Did We Custom Build an Online Escape Game Platform?
Hello dear readers!
Today we’re going to talk a bit about our new digital escape games, and why we’ve built them the way we have.
When the pandemic first hit, a number of escape room companies quickly segued into a form of remote gameplay wherein one of their game runners would go into a standard escape room, with a zoom client and a camera strapped to their head. In a setup like this the game runner serves as your host for the entire experience. You can only see what they’re currently looking at, and you need to tell them specifically where to go, what to look at, and how to move things/use things throughout the room.
We tested a number of games of this nature that other escape room companies were offering, and we just didn’t feel like it was the best experience. We found having to instruct another person on what we wanted them to do every step of the way to be strange, particularly since we’re all fully aware that this person knows every single answer and where everything in the room is. That can sometimes lead to an air of “did we really solve this, or are they just putting it together to be nice and get us past this portion?” while playing, which is never a fun feeling. One of the best parts of an escape room is the concrete knowledge that you are, in fact, a super-genius. Having those moments diluted weakens the experience. Furthermore, this style of gameplay removes the tactile nature of escape rooms. You don’t even so much as click around, you’re basically watching a video feed and calling out requests or instructions for an hour.
Not optimal. Some of these systems have interesting additions, like “inventory” wherein every document you “find” in the room has a scanned copy that you are then given access to so you can better examine the various things you find. But you’re still just looking at PDFs while someone streams an escape room to you.
So, we decided that wasn’t for us. We needed to do something different. That’s where “Project Blackfeather” comes in. That’s our internal name for the game engine that powers our online escape rooms.
Blackfeather allows us to create escape room experiences that function a bit like another puzzle property you may be familiar with, Myst. Players are fully in control of this experience every step of the way, and the games are built from the ground up to be played online. We can create 3D environments for players to navigate, interactive puzzles that require players to drag and drop elements around their screen, and a whole gamut of interactive elements that allow each puzzle to have a unique feel. Also, unlike a remote escape room with a physical game runner, our Blackfeather powered games can be paused and resumed at any time, as many times as the players desire. Your progress is always saved, and there’s no time limit. Take as long as you need to see everything and beat the game!
The screenshots above demonstrate just two of the dozens of puzzles included in our upcoming digital escape room – Mothership Over Manhattan. For context, the digital display in the 2nd image is interactive and changes based on player input. We’re not just building static image puzzles here – we’re basically delving into video game development.
Which isn’t too far outside of the purview of escape game builders, but at the same time, it is a massive shift. We’re transitioning from a business that only serves one locality to one that can theoretically serve anyone in the world, at any time. Since we don’t need to operate these virtual escape rooms in any direct way, time zones don’t matter, and working hours don’t matter. This is new, and weird for us! We’re not sure if this technically puts us in competition with some of the bigger game publishing houses like EA or Activision, but we’re pretty sure it doesn’t. We’re much smaller than them, and also, we actually make good quality puzzle games. (Yes, that was corporate shade being thrown). Not that they really make puzzle games to begin with… it’s a bit of a niche.
We’re extremely happy with what Blackfeather is allowing us to create for you, and the feedback we’ve had from all our players so far has been tremendous. Turns out, people really want to feel 100% in control of their experience, which we think is only reasonable.
If you’ve played and enjoyed (or not enjoyed – we want to know why!) any of our online games, please send us an email at email@example.com, or drop us a review on Google, TripAdvisor or any of the other numerous review sites we appear on. We’re a really tiny company, and we read (and respond to) every email we get, and we’re always looking for feedback, new ideas, or just praise.
We really like praise. Tell us we did a good job. Okay? Okay. You’re our favorite. Don’t tell the others.
We’ve got a lot more exciting plans for our Blackfeather games in the future, and we’re hoping to release a new digital escape room experience every other month, as long as we can keep coming up with new and original ideas, we’ll keep making games. And we’ve got tons of original ideas. It’s just a matter of finding the original ideas that are also good ideas, that’s where things can be tricky.
So, until the next post – stay healthy, stay safe, and check out Mothership Over Manhattan, coming February 13th!
All the best,