Build Your Own Escape Room
Creating your own escape room game at home is a great idea but where do you start? It will take time and a lot of effort but boy is it worth it. Follow the escape party method and you can speed up the process.
Lets get your creative juices flowing!
If this is your first time building your own escape room game, it can be daunting. Don't worry we are here to help.
It would be useful to have a few pointers on where to start, some tips and tricks to help you create an amazing escape room in your own home or for your school or club. You'll love the feeling you get from creating your own story, designing puzzles and clues, building and setting up props and finally, seeing people playing your creation.
We'll take a look at creating a game from scratch but before we do let's go over the basic steps so you understand the effort required.
Here at Escape Party, we break down the creation of a new game into 6 areas:
The Idea - Think about the theme, the objective and goal, and the intended audience. Be creative and note down any ideas
The Story - Create a story from your ideas. Elaborate on your theme and goal to build a story with engaging challenges
The Puzzles - From the challenges in the story design your puzzles. Use both your creative mind and your logical mind to come up with challenging puzzles, games and tasks for the players.
The Testing - I would advise testing the whole game and not just the puzzles. You can loop through these first four stages until you have something you are happy with.
The Build - Once you have the game on paper you'll need to build the final version. There will be props to purchase, items to make and clues to write.
The Finishing Touches - This is where you consider how to turn a good escape room game into a great experience. What else will improve the game? Costumes, decorations, posters, invites and props for added effect.
Ok, let's take a bit of a reality check at this point. Creating an escape room game yourself will take time and hard work, a lot!
You may have played some commercial rooms in the past which is probably where you have got the idea to create your own. Remember they have more resources than you have at your disposal so don’t expect or aim for something of that standard. No one will expect a game of a commercial standard so having lower expectations should not be a problem.
After understanding a little more about what it takes to create your own escape room game at home, are you still excited and eager to get started? If you are, read on to find out more. If not why not take a look at our ready-made escape room games.
Building your own game is not for you? Try an Escape Party game.
Our printable games are ready to play right now!
You can download them instantly and they contain everything you need to play a fun escape room game in your own home.
The Idea: Think of an amazing idea
Before jumping into creating puzzles for your players to solve, you need to think about who you are creating this for. What age group is it targeting and for how many people?
This is essential before you begin as it will affect your theme, story, puzzle complexity and the way the game feels and plays. You could also consider if it is for a particular event or set of people. It could be a children's a party on Halloween or a birthday party.
Next, you need to consider how long your escape room should run for. This will depend on the target audience, the event you're planning and whether this is your first escape room game.
Now you know who you are creating the game for, let's get your creative mind working. Start thinking about a theme and what the objective or goal should be. Take a look at some of our theme examples to give you a start. You can use these, modify them or create your own. Get ideas from the media, games, movies, books, TV, personal interests or interests of your target audience. Make sure it is interesting and fun.
The Story: Create a compelling story
Once you have your idea you can start to pull together the story.
At Escape Party we have a brainstorming session to gather all our ideas together. We'll focus on creating an interesting short story through the game. It should have a short backstory that sets the scene in a few minutes. This could just be what the players are doing immediately before the action unfolds and they find themselves in a predicament where they have to escape. It could be more elaborate but remember to keep it short. There is nothing more tedious than a long story to read out at the start of a game.
You could tell some of the backstory as you run through the game revealing more of the story as the players progress. The game should work towards your chosen objective. Consider the audience and make the objective something relevant to them and that they feel excited and enthusiastic about achieving. Then consider what should happen if the goal is not met. Give your players a reason to keep playing and achieve their goal.
Above all keep the story simple, especially for your first game. Take a look at the Captain Kidd's Treasure game as an example.
You have your start and you have the goal or finish, now you need the middle. Step through the story and create mini-goals to get from your start to the finish. Each one of these goals will become a puzzle. Creative logical thinking is what is required. Try to find ways to activate your creative mind. Using paper and pencils rather than a computer is a proven way to do this. Think about the activity in your mind and imagine what it would be like using all of your senses. Let your mind run wild, you can always pull your ideas back to reality later.
As you go through story ideas consider any challenges that you'll encounter on the way. Try to immerse yourself in the story. Put yourself in the situations you have imagined for the players. What would you see, feel, smell, hear or even taste? Use these feelings to come up with challenges, objects you will encounter either as part of the challenge or just as things to enhance the feeling that this is real. As your creative juices start flowing you will no doubt think up ideas for puzzles. That’s great, capture these for later. For now, focus on the story and the challenges to be faced.
You should now have the pieces you need to pull together a story. You may have a lot more than you need. Write down the story from start to finish as follows:
Still not convinced this is for you,
Try one of our ready-made games.
The Puzzles: A world of puzzles
You have your story, you have your challenges, now let's tackle the nuts and bolts of the game, the puzzles. Let's take a look at some important things to remember about creating the puzzles.
Never forget your target audience. If the game is for 10-year-olds make sure the puzzles reflect the language and complexity appropriate for that age. It should work for the age group, the environment, attention span, and situation.
Always remember that the object of creating the game isn’t to create something so difficult no one can solve it. The object is to create something your players will enjoy.
Keep the puzzles in context with the story and the goal. You could have created a fantastic puzzle but if it doesn't make sense for the story, the players will not be convinced and not understand why they are doing what you have asked them to do.
Visualise the journey
At Escape Party we like to visualize the whole story to help us link everything together and make sure it fits together well. We put it up on a wall using post-its, pictures, and drawings. Starting with a description of the challenges and then adding a picture of the puzzle and objects involved. This helps to picture the journey the players are taking through the escape room and helps to ensure your puzzles are right for the challenges, the story and the overall goal.
Once you have your story on the wall it is easier to step through the challenges and come up with puzzle ideas. You may have multiple ideas to pick from for each challenge. Remember you can always make changes to the story as you design your puzzles to use objects, rooms or ideas that you have. Just make sure the story still fits together well.
A balanced game is a fun game
Remember that everyone has different strengths so create puzzles of different styles and complexities. It's a good idea to include some simple tasks and physical games to make the experience more interesting and fun. Having lots of complex puzzles could push your audience to lose interest quickly. If they have some more simple tasks, these can be worked on while the more complex puzzles are considered.
The Captain Kidd's Treasure game has a fun Treasure hunt activity at the end that gets your guests, physically interacting with each other.
Puzzles in the real world.
Once you have the ideas for the puzzles, consider how they can be created in the real-world and how they are presented to the players. Some puzzles may be real world objects, others could be puzzles on paper. You may need the players to imagine certain things like a rug as an impassable swamp or a door as an airlock. Think about what you will need? Consider if you will need to make, build, buy or borrow things? Will you need pictures, drawings or other creative items that will turn a simple paper puzzle into something with more context for the story.
Create your shopping list
As you work through these questions create a Build - To-Do List. This should have everything you need to do to create your room. Everything you need to buy, make, create and the things you need to do this. Do you need a computer and printer to create posters, pictures, clues? Do you need physical props and where can you obtain them? Do they need modifying to work with your story? How will you set up the room or rooms to play the game? Can you make the rooms more immersive? For example, if the room is a crypt in a graveyard, how can you make the room look like a crypt. You could add cobwebs, pictures of tombstones, candles, bones, whatever you can think of to make the experience more real. Add these to your list.
Instructions, hints and tips
As you do this you may realise some puzzles were a little extravagant and you don’t have the things you need or would cost much more than you wanted. You could make them simpler or try and make do with other props or make the players imagine things.
Consider what instructions the players need for each challenge and how to do that. Also, consider whether you want to give the players clues and if they are part of the game or should be asked for. They could be hidden in the room or given out to the players at the start. The instruction could be given as part of completing a challenge.
Take a look at the Captain Kidd's Treasure Hints and Tips as and example.
The Testing: Final checks before the build
You've created your story from your initial idea, you've devised some cunning challenges targeted at your intended audience, now's the time to start building them, right? You could but you might regret it. Especially if you have created it in isolation with no input from anyone else. Our minds all work in specific ways and what is logical to us may not be logical to others. It's always a good idea to test out your ideas on others before playing the game properly. Consider creating the puzzles using simple props before constructing them properly. Could they be tested on paper or at least talked through to get another opinion? Make any changes and retest it. Don’t underestimate how important this step is.
When testing, it would be beneficial to try to recruit some testers similar to your target audience and ideally ones that haven't been involved in creating the game.
Consider the following things during the testing, puzzle difficulty, fun, time, the flow of the game, the story and how the puzzles fit, clues to aid the players.
The Build: Create the final game
Now's the time to create the puzzles for real. Run through your Build - To-Do list and build, make, buy or borrow all of the things you need. It's up to you how much effort you put into this. You're not creating a professional, commercial escape room so there is no need to spend a fortune or every waking hour creating the puzzles.
The Finishing Touches: Turn your game into an epic
That’s it you're ready for your guests to arrive and start the fun.
But first, consider any finishing touches to make the game extra special. Could you make posters for the walls, props or costumes for the guests? Food and drink to fit the occasion and story.
Think about party invites for your guests and certificates to say they've completed your escape room.
All this adds to the overall fun and experience of the game.