Coming soon to Edinburgh: Can You Escape?

Can You Escape? logoThis site has written about Can You Escape? of Edinburgh previously, but it’s a thrill that there is now enough progress and hard fact about the site that it’s possible to write a “Coming soon” article about it.

The site is now taking bookings and is selling its first games from 5th December onwards. (The opening weekend is starting to fill up already.) They offer one sixty-minute game for teams of three to six players; the fee is £55 for teams of three, £60 for teams of four, £70 for teams of five and £75 for teams of six. The theme is pleasingly tongue-in-cheek:

Dr. Herr Kutz has hatched an evil plan to infiltrate the water systems of Edinburgh that will cause the population to go bald. We require agents to enter his home at 16 Barber Street and retrieve the secret formula from his safe as part of Operation Bald Eagle. The man is a genius, so we need a team who can release their inner detective and solve the mystery so we can save the city!

The marketing campaign is a textbook example, well worthy of attention by those uncertain about their marketing, though exact emulation of it might be a tribute too far. The web site is gorgeous; split-flap delays (also known as Solari boards, though the Czech term Pragotron is even jollier still) are always welcome, the site’s Twitter feed has already attracted buzz by running a “guess the site’s location” competition, tempting-looking keys are already being sent to local bloggers and press, who are as intrigued to receive them as you might hope. The scheme of hiding giant keys around the city with prize tickets for VIP week being up for grabs is also going to be great publicity.

This all bodes extremely well, being signs of people who know what they’re doing, they’ve clearly thought about it for a long time and it’s a relief that people who backed the crowdfunding scheme half a year ago will get their promised reward. It’ll be great fun to follow this site’s progress; let’s hope that the game itself matches up to its packaging.

Interview with Daniel Hill, proprietor of Escape

Scottish flag graphicThere are two new red pins, representing exit games set to open soon, in the Exit Games UK map. One is for Escape Rooms of London, which opens on Friday as discussed yesterday. The other relates to this Facebook post with the exciting news that the very popular Escape site of Edinburgh is set to open a second location, this time in Glasgow. Exit Games UK had the pleasure of an interview with Daniel Hill, the man behind the Escape business. The questions asked by Exit Games are tagged with EG and Daniel’s responses with DH below.

  • EG: What’s your background and how did that lead you up to the opening of Escape?
  • DH: One of my friends visited an Exit Game in Europe and mailed me the link. We decided we would visit one when he got back, it turned out there was nothing nearby. I was studying to be a Maths teacher but when we got the idea it certainly seemed a lot more fun and it just snowballed from there!
     
  • EG: How has Edinburgh taken to its first exit game?
  • DH: We’ve had an absolutely superb response. We’ve met so many fantastic people, not just from Edinburgh but from all around the world. It’s really interesting to get perspectives and feedback on how to improve from places such as the States, Norway, Australia etc….
     
  • EG: Your excellent progress is all the more remarkable given that the site has only been open for just over two months. What techniques have worked well for you at getting the word out around Edinburgh?
  • DH: We did a couple of promotional offers initially through sites such as Groupon. In addition to having an article in the local paper and we were pretty active on social media. This helped us get people in and thankfully the feedback has been incredibly positive. Word of mouth and sites such as TripAdvisor have really driven the business.
     
  • EG: What are your favourite sorts of puzzles, regardless of whether they fit into an exit game or not?
  • DH: I really like optical illusions, the idea that there is something right in front of you yet you cannot see it frustrates the life out of me.
     
  • EG: Which puzzles, games and other artworks have influenced you most over the years in your designs?
  • DH: That’s a really hard one to answer as there are so many things that I have played/read/watched over the years. I used to love the books where you would have to make choices as you progressed, the first real “interactive” games I suppose. Then you have games such as Broken Sword all the way up to the apps that are around now. TV shows are an absolute gold mine, I always watch thinking how can I turn that into something I can use.
     
  • EG: Your Edinburgh Evening News article describes you as a game show junkie. Which shows have most inspired you in Escape and of which other shows do you have fond memories?
  • DH: Yeah it’s true I like a game show! From classics such as The Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor and kids shows such as Knightmare. I’ve started watching a couple of series from the 80’s recently that have given me some interesting ideas so I’ll keep them to myself!
     
  • EG: Your site might be one of the most intensively used of them all; few, if any, other sites have as many as nine teams through each room in a single day. What does a typical day for you look like?
  • DH: To be honest at the moment there is no typical day. Switching between working in Edinburgh, setting up Glasgow, writing “The Da Vinci Room”, organising corporate bookings and having potentially 18 bookings a day in our two rooms it is all a bit chaotic. Thankfully we have a great team who are prepared to work a lot of hours as we try and get everything done to the right standard.
     
  • EG: What makes an ideal exit game employee?
  • DH: After having recruited a couple of more members to the team we have primarily been looking for people from a service background with an inquisitive mind. The ability to put the customer at ease very quickly is really important as the majority of the time they are participating in a new experience.
     
  • EG: Do you have any particularly funny stories from the time you’ve been open?
  • DH: There have been several moments that would have made Youtube gold! We had a team of 3 girls who got stuck and decided to dance until they got another clue! A couple who sang the alphabet song to each other to try and break a code, and one team that pretty much lifted the entire carpet in an effort to Escape…they failed!
     
  • EG: August is Festival season in Edinburgh. Do you have anything particular planned for this month?
  • DH: We have extended our hours and been building “The Da Vinci Room” for the last few weeks. I’m really excited by this as we have turned a much bigger room into an old study with some really interesting puzzles. Getting the piano up the stairs better have been worth it!
     
  • EG: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you are planning to open a second location, but situated in Glasgow. What lessons that you have learnt from Edinburgh will you be applying to your Glasgow location?
  • DH: We have gone for a similar format to how we currently operate. The main changes being that we are on the ground floor with windows facing Glasgow city centre and having a bigger site. We have also amended the booking times to make it easier to manage.
     
  • EG: If you could predict the future for exit games, how do you think it would look?
  • DH: I think we are at the tip of an iceberg. Games are going to get more and more ambitious and I imagine there will be a number of sites opening over the next 12-18 months. I’m really excited about seeing what the other sites have got coming up in the future!
     
  • EG: If you could give the readers, exit game players and puzzle fans reading this one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • DH: Take your time and be organised, noone is going to present you a puzzle that cannot be completed in the time limit.

Thanks so much for that, Daniel! Glasgow poses a massive opportunity, with the conurbation holding literally millions of potential players. The very strong reviews that the first Escape site earned speak for themselves; anything that gives so many more Scots the chance to join the fun has got to be a big step in the right direction.

July 2014 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play exit games for less

"Sale" graphicSome exit games offer opening discounts, to help fill their rooms early before the word gets far and wide. Some offer opening discounts organically; others offer discounts through social buying schemes. Here’s a quick run-through of the deals that this site could find that are still valid. (Ground rules: terms and conditions doubtless apply and this site takes no responsibility for deals that fall through for whatever reason. These are not exclusive in any shape or form.) This month, there’s one new, one change and a couple of deletions.

  • Keyhunter of Birmingham have a Groupon deal active. £15 for two players, £19 for three, £24 for four or £29 for six. Codes are activated 48 hours after purchase and are valid for 90 days after purchase.
  • NEW! Escape of Edinburgh have a Groupon deal active. £24 for a team of up to five, restricted to new customers only. Codes are valid for 60 days after purchase.
  • Tick Tock Unlock of Leeds have a Groupon deal active. £22.50 for three players, £30 for four or £35 for five, restricted to new customers only. You must book by e-mail, including a contact phone number. Codes expire 90 days after purchase.
  • Cipher Entertainment of Leicester remain closed in preparation for their second season, but they have a Groupon deal active all the same. Deals are only available for the one-hour version of the game. £19 for four players, £24 for six or £29 for eight. You must book by phone and arrive 10 minutes early. Codes expire 90 days after purchase and exclude public holidays.
  • Ex(c)iting Game of Oxford have a Groupon deal active. £24 for five people or £47 for six to nine people, restricted to new customers only. You must book by phone. Coupons listed as valid until 8pm, so presumably are not valid for the 8pm-10pm game available daily, and expire 90 days after purchase.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington officially open a week today, but already have a Groupon deal active already. £29 for three or four people, £32.50 for five or £36 for six. You must book online. Coupons are valid from 28 June-28 September 2014. There’s also a similar deal at Wowcher, though this charges £29 for up to four, £39 for up to six, is valid until 15 October, and terms and conditions are presumably slightly different.

Those are all the active deals, discounts and coupons this site could find; if you know of others, please send them through – and if your site has a offer not listed above, please don’t take it as a deliberate attempt to disrespect and this site will happily spread the good news. (Alternatively, if you would prefer that this site does not list your coupon, that’s fine too and please get in touch.)

In other news, thanks to everyone who filled in our survey a fortnight ago. There weren’t loads of responses, but the ones supplied were appreciated, especially when people left comments as well. Posts on exit games were most popular, then posts on puzzle hunts, then general-interest articles, then ones on puzzle competitions least popular. Good to know!

Remember that there are some good ways to follow articles posted to the blog: subscribing to the syndicated feed in the reader of your choice is probably easiest, but we also post links to new articles to our Twitter account and our Facebook account.

All the news

Newspaper iconThe site has been a little quieter than usual recently due to a combination of relatively little news and real life. This site never promised to be an every-day-something-new site, though there has been a reasonably long run of daily posts, and longer gaps before this. Contributions from readers would be welcome.

Here’s the news that we do know, though:

  • Escape of Edinburgh have a tremendous write-up in the Edinburgh Evening News, reinforcing the power of connecting with the local media.
  • There has been previous mention of Can You Escape? of Edinburgh. While their Indiegogo didn’t get as far as their goal, it’s very encouraging to see continued signs of progress, not least a new logo. Their Twitter comment of Lots going on behind the scenes at the minute to open in time for the @edinburghfest[…] also sounds extremely positive. This site wishes them well and hopes for more good news before long.
  • There has also been previous mention of A Door In A Wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse. Sadly the run finishes very soon; a recent tweet of theirs says We’re sold out tonight and through the weekend! Tomorrow is your last chance to unravel the murder of Emilio Ninkash, so if you want to act, act quickly.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington are now taking bookings, though the opening date has been pushed back ever so slightly to Wednesday 2nd July. It’s a cute coincidence to see their use of the “one hour of oxygen left” motif also being used in SCRAP America’s seventh pop-up exit game in San Francisco, Escape From The Moon Base. They had 451 teams of six over five days, of which 16 won – not even a 4% success record. Gulp.

That’s all for now; more news as it arrives.

All the news, including the strange case of Brighton

Brighton Escape Room logoA quick couple of news stories:

1) Clue HQ of Warrington have announced an opening date of June 28th, and the theme of their first room, Bunker 38. After being locked in an underground bunker following a radiation leak, it’s now time to leave as you’ve limited oxygen left. Only 60 minutes of breathable air remains – will you escape in time? Sounds good! The site expects to start to take bookings from Monday 9th June.

2) Escape of Edinburgh, after their The Escape Games promotion last weekend, have a different promo on their Facebook page this weekend. Share this post of theirs by midnight on Sunday 8th (and, at a guess, this probably refers to the 23:59 sort of Sunday-to-Monday midnight, not the 00:01 sort of Saturday-to-Sunday midnight) to be in with a chance of winning a free game. Cute gimmick and looks like it’s doing well at getting the word out. Escape are running very active social media campaigns which seem to be getting results.

3) The coming soon page for Live Escape Game of Brighton is older than most of the exit games that have actually made it to business, to the point where it might be considered more mythical than not. However, the case of Brighton Escape Room is almost stranger; an address has been announced and a practically complete web site has been up for weeks, suggesting a May launch.

However, the site’s Twitter has been silent since late March, the “latest news” section is, more or less, a placeholder, and there are links to a Facebook account that hasn’t started. Attempts to contact the site have been unproductive. It’s hard to know what has happened here; it looks like the site has got most of the way to making it, then… stopped. Exit Games UK hopes that everyone involved remain in good health, that nothing worse than an inconvenient financial crisis got in the way, and that the site can make it to real life play some day.

Perhaps Brighton’s just jinxed!

(Right of reply is available to representatives of either site; we’d like nothing better than to have some good news to post about them.)

All the news from the exit games

7segmentsIn some browsers, the up- and down- arrows above will take you from zero to twelve and back…

Here’s a quick round-up of exit game news:

  • Escape in Edinburgh are holding their “The Escape Games” promotion between Friday (er, tomorrow) and Sunday. Teams of 3 or 4 can pay just £30/team (half price!) to try to escape either of the two identically-dressed rooms. The fastest teams win free games plus T-shirts or mouse mats.
  • Whether you win or not, Escape have posted a teaser for their Dark Room set to open soon, with another message suggesting there may be a prison theme.
  • In other “new room” news, Breakout Manchester (who are struggling with their web site right now, but are taking bookings by e-mail) posted a tweet saying that they will open their second room, Virus, from Friday 6th June. Looking forward to catching the bug!
  • Escap3d of Belfast say that “Our Great Challenge is back! If you get through the puzzles with your own work and open the door within the allocated 60 minutes, you can invite a team of friends for free or we pay you back the admission.” Sounds like exactly the right sort of fighting talk aimed towards purists with a no-clue disposition.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington have posted rather a fun teaser video, an early construction photo and job ads. The site says “We’re currently gearing up for opening towards the end of June 2014” so not long to wait now.
  • The site has previously pointed to discussion of exit games on episode 41 of the The Cultures podcast; the topic is discussed again at the start of the new episode 45 as another member of the team tries a game and reports their experiences. I won’t spoil whether they had a good time or not but you can guess!

Coming soon to Edinburgh: Escape

Escape logoDespite recently looking forward to future exit game launches, this one came as a surprise! Two weeks ago, this site reported on the Can You Escape? Indiegogo project to open a room in Edinburgh. That Indiegogo is continuing apace, but one of the dangers of a crowdfunded project is that other projects can beat them to the punch, and Can You Escape? clearly will not be the first exit game to launch in Edinbugh; a site called Escape will beat them to it, by opening on Friday 16th May.

The location is only a few hundred metres from Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street; when Edinburgh’s trams open at the end of the month, the “West End – Princes Street” stop will probably be the closest. The exit game’s web site was launched on Thursday and I would describe the ambiance as elegant. (The lower-case-“e”-as-a-maze logo is particularly smart.) There’s a heavier focus on corporate team building than is the case for several other sites; it’s a distinctive angle to take and may well work out well, particularly in such a business-focused city as Edinburgh. Even the location of the game itself is within the Citibase building.

However, it’s not just a game for businesses; families and groups of friends are as welcome here as they are at every other exit game up and down the land. Edinburgh is a great tourist destination as well and the timing is very good, giving a couple of months to bed down before festival season starts. There are two one-hour games, referred to as “The Light Room” and “The Dark Room”; the pricing is simple, a flat £60 per team of two-to-five, plus a £2 booking fee.

The list of exit games and timeline have been updated; it has also been a delight to change the size of the map so that it stretches further north. This site wishes Escape well and looks forward to having more to report from it soon!

Can You Escape?

"Can You Escape?" logoEdinburgh is a very rich city and an obvious gap in the market for exit games, so I’m delighted but not at all surprised to see this Indiegogo project for Can You Escape?, a proposed exit game for the city. The video is tastefully done and the social media campaign backing the Indiegogo project got off to a vibrant start, all of which are excellent signs. The figures in the business plan section look reasonably convincing and it does look like there has been a great deal of thought put into the project, though the numbers make it very clear that this is an industry where nobody gets rich. (Edinburgh’s definitely got about as good a chance as any, though.)

It’s a “flexible funding” project, so if you make a pledge, you will be charged whether the project reaches the goal or not and the money (minus moderately hefty Indiegogo fees) will reach the people behind the project – and there’s always the possibility that the project won’t make it all the way. (The QuestRoom Indiegogo didn’t get too far, but I hope that they find their way to London before long.) The prices look reasonably comparable to those of exit games around the country, though, so this is really just pre-ordering a ticket. The people responsible are very clear about who they are, so you can get in touch and make your own investigations in order to decide whether to pre-order or not. If you really back their vision, their VIP pass for one play in each new room they design might prove a great investment. Best of luck to Alastair and Lauren and hopefully there will be more to report from them soon.

In other exit game news, I’ve long enjoyed a podcast called The Cultures; it’s not a games podcast as such, but the people behind it have worked (together and separately) on games projects, on and off, for years. The most recent episode (download episode 41) has a lovely ten-minute piece on exit games at the end, comparing experiences at HintHunt in London with those at Claustrophilia in Budapest, and discussing the genre’s UK predecessors. Co-host Andrea Phillips also appears on the most recent episode of the wonderful Snoutcast podcast, discussing her ARG and other transmedia work alongside much of her other involvement with games.