Who cracked The Crystal Maze?

It’s been a good couple of days. After the unconference on Monday, another plan came together after a long, long time. Last June, this site proposed a get-together for the exit game industry at the then-planned live The Crystal Maze attraction. A thousand pounds was duly plunked down and all 32 places were resold to exit game owners, staff and enthusiasts. Many months later, all 32 people turned up and formed four teams of eight to travel the four zones. (Special apologies to Escape Hour who had to cancel due to flu, but at least their tickets were resold and nobody missed out.)

Tuesday saw some unexpected weather in the morning – at least one thunderclap, some sleet and possibly some hail – but this didn’t stop people getting to the venue in good time. Each team of eight has its own mazemaster that marshals them; the teams circulate about the zones so that each zone is played by each team in turn, the four teams coming together for the Crystal Dome finale. The mazemasters do not attempt to be authentic replications of Richard O’Brien or Ed Tudor-Pole, but they’re very much in a spirit that fits the tone of the enterprise.

Each team member can expect to play two games over the trip around the Maze, but a fast team can fit more than four games per zone in. Some games are original, some are faithful to the show… possibly to a fault, but in any case there has been considerable thought put in to ensure that the whole team are engaged and feel like they’re getting their money’s worth even when they aren’t the ones who have the chance to get their hands on a crystal… or to get locked in. The winning team managed to play a total 19 games over the course of their trip around the Maze, winning a total of 15 of them. The record is apparently bringing 18 crystals to the Dome, so 15 is probably very good.

I took photos of the four teams at the start. I took ten photos in all and not one of them was good enough to use here. Fortunately there are official photos taken at the end and posted to Facebook (hence the day’s delay in making the post…) so here goes:

Team Breakout at The Crystal Maze Team Breakout: 192 tokens (15 crystals)
Breakout Manchester
Breakout Liverpool
Agent November
James Curtis
Jason Cook
Nick Gates
Green Dreams at The Crystal Maze Green Dreams: 170 tokens (13 crystals)
Escape (Edinburgh/Glasgow/Newcastle)
Dan Egnor
Wei-Hwa Huang
Gareth Moore
Orange Team at The Crystal Maze Orange Team: 163 tokens (11 crystals)
Escape Live (Birmingham/Essex)
The Escape Room
Blue Team at The Crystal Maze Blue Team: 124 tokens (11 crystals)
Escape Quest
Enigma Quests
Archimedes Inspiration
Larger versions available in the official site’s album
(Presumably their copyright)

The faces during and after the Crystal Dome were covered in smiles, which is a fine recommendation from a picky audience. I didn’t play; my own game is in six weeks’ time and I’m looking forward to it more than ever. If you want to know more – ideally, if you’ve already played, or if you just don’t mind spoilers – then take a look at Nick Gates’ detailed write-up of his experience. Recommended!

It was fun (and somewhat like a certain part of Back to Reality from Red Dwarf) to stay and chat long enough to see the next set of four teams go through. Some of the mazemasters there sang and danced along to the music while the teams grabbed tokens in the Dome, which was cute, though surely rather more practiced and less improvised than they’d have liked it to appear. Top score in the next game was 150, which wouldn’t have got even third place in this game, which reinforces how well you all did.

Maybe I didn’t get to play myself, but while the teams were travelling the zones, my time was far from wasted. More of that soon, perhaps!

Meetings of minds near and far

"Up The Game" adApril 2016 is set to be an extremely interesting month. The banner above is an advert for Up The Game, a conference focused not just on exit games but also other real-life games, which will take place in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, on Saturday 18th April 2016. “ As one of the fastest growing entertainment trends since the rise of cinema, real life gaming has taken the world by storm. ((…)) Where traditional games are a bit of a niche, real life gaming attracts a wide range of customers and people who exit a great escape room do so with shining eyes and a budding addiction- ‘where can I play more?’ But it doesn’t stop here, new games keep adding even more crazy ideas, more technology and more compelling interaction to the experience. We love to see all those new ideas as the better our games are, the more people will become excited about real life gaming.

That’s not April’s only attraction, though. Back in June, this site proposed that the UK industry meet up at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction. We have a date – Tuesday, 26th April 2016 – and an afternoon timeslot. (We don’t have a location, other than King’s Cross, London; this site’s uninformed guess is “somewhere within the Granary Square complex”.) There’s no guarantee who’ll turn up, but tickets have been bought by representatives of Escape Hour, Enigma Quests, Escape Quest, Archimedes Inspiration, Agent November, the The Escape Room chain, Breakout Manchester/Liverpool, Escape Live (both Birmingham and the forthcoming Southend branch) and the Escape chain, as well as by five fans with no business connection. 31 tickets have been paid for in total with a 32nd still available, plus potential resales from people who can’t make the event in the end. That 32nd ticket is available at cost price – £32.50 – which is rather cheaper than the £50 or £60, plus booking fee, you’ll pay for a ticket today. If the company appeals, as well as the price, then please get in touch by e-mail. ((ETA:)) Someone has called dibs on the 32nd ticket but if you’re still interested in going, I’m operating a waiting list in case there are resales.

Why wait until April, though? On Wednesday, 13th January 2016, there will be an exit game unconference in Leeds at a central venue to be announced. This has been discussed previously and the discussion of the counterpart unconference in Canada sounds intriguing. Be sure to grab yourself a ticket today.

Why wait as many as five and a half weeks, though? This Tuesday is Puzzled Pint day, and the December theme is Mad Men – though, as ever, no knowledge of the subject is required. The location puzzle has been posted; solve it to find out where the event will take place. My partner and I will be helping to run the London East location; being December, we’ve had to guarantee a high minimum spend so that they don’t pass us over for another Christmas party, so we really hope to see you there on Tuesday night!

Good news for the end of November

"Good News for a change!" - adapted from Rick Warden, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

Adapted from an image by Rick Warden, released under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence,
originally created using a Flickr Commons non-copyrighted archival photo

Never enough good news stories. Never, ever enough of them.

  • Congratulations to Sofija and Artur who recently became engaged at Locked In Edinburgh; the story even made it onto STV! If you’re in the UK, you can enjoy the couple’s moment by watching a later part of this episode of The Fountainbridge Show within the next 30 days – and aired on St. Andrew’s Day, no less! This is the ninth UK exit game proposal of which this site is aware; this is the point at which these stories will continue to be joyously celebrated, but perhaps no longer counted.
  • On the subject of TV, Nick Gates of Bother’s Bar passes on a suggestion that Race to Escape is due to be broadcast in the UK, on our version of the Discovery channel, available on Sky and Virgin. A few months ago this site discussed covert ways to watch the show but this will be much more convenient, as well as – ahem – legal. This site considers it a varied, imaginative and entertaining show, though criticisms that it requires (and thus risks encouraging) horrible behaviour from exit game players do have a point.
  • Still on the subject of TV, though here it’s TV inspiring live games rather than the other way around, the live The Crystal Maze attraction is whirring into life with Indiegogo backers being able to select their tickets today and sales surely being opened up to the rest of the world very soon. With so many booking options sold during the campaign and literally thousands of people booking tickets, the booking process appears to have been a little bumpy in patches, but only a little and largely quickly resolved.
  • It’s been a bumper year for Rubik’s cube speed-solving records. Back in May, Collin Burns clocked a 5.25 second solve of a standard 3x3x3 cube to break a World Record that had lasted two years; on 21st November, Keaton Ellis improved on this with a 5.09 second solve, a new World Record. Unfortunately Keaton may go down in history alongside legendarily transient record-holder Olga Rukavishnikova, for his landmark achievement was overshadowed only about an hour or so later when Lucas Etter clocked a 4.904 to break the five-second barrier. Far better to have been the fastest that the world has ever known, even if only briefly, than never to have held the crown at all.
  • On the subject of records and prizes, Escape Manor in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, have announced on their Facebook that they’re holding an exit game design contest with a buxom prize pool of six thousand Canadian dollars; five finalists will be selected to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. “The top 3 contestants will be awarded a cash prize and a chance to help have their room developed at one of the Escape Manor locations!” This site contacted Escape Manor for comment, which has not yet been returned, as to whether entrants have to be Canadian and whether it might be possible for a finalist to pitch by videoconference should travelling to pitch in person be uneconomic. At the very last, perhaps it’s a model for design contests in the future.
  • A less geographically constrained, less competitive endeavour is the forthcoming Breakout EDU game jam on 9th-10th January 2016. Breakout EDU is a standard collection of equipment intended to help people create classroom games with something of the exit game nature to them – though normally breaking into a box, rather than breaking through a locked exit door. The standardisation of the platform means that if you design a game, anyone around the world will be able to play it; there aren’t many games available in this way yet, but this event will hopefully get people creating – and then using the created games. While the tools may be relatively frequently found, there’s no limit to the puzzles and ingenuity that might surround them; you can create games for four- and six- year olds, or anywhere up the scale to being for adults. Get designing games wherever you like, but the focus on one weekend will inspire physical events at which many people with a common goal can get together to get creating. Exciting times, and – again – perhaps a model for another part of the future!

The Crystal Maze live attraction delayed until 2016

The Crystal Maze liveHappily this is not a three-month game, let alone a three-minute game; the team behind the stunningly successful The Crystal Maze live attraction crowdfunding campaign have announced the following:

Thanks to the incredible response from you, our Pledgers, all expectations have been raised and it is imperative that we deliver a Maze even greater than we ever imagined.

In order to do this, we have had to find a bigger, better venue for the Maze. This has slightly changed our timeline and the Maze will now open in early 2016.

This has the consequence that this site’s plans for an industry-wide meeting in late 2015 must be rescheduled for 2016. More news as soon as it becomes available, and fingers crossed that the extra time spent on the project can result in something truly spectacular, living up to the immense potential.

10 open questions about The Crystal Maze Live

The Crystal Maze liveThe crowdfunding campaign for the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction has barely 36 hours left to run. Already it has proved extremely successful, raising its original £500,000 goal and then smashing through four stretch goals up to £850,000. Many congratulations to everyone involved! It’s still possible to buy individual tickets through the crowdfunding campaign at £45 each, compared to the announced general admission price of £50 each plus a booking fee. There are still some open questions, though, worth thinking about before you decide if it’s right for you.

1) How many games will you get to play? Each team will get two more per zone than if the campaign hadn’t reached £600,000, apparently, though the facility isn’t putting numbers on it. Exit Games UK – without the benefit of any inside information – looks at the announced playtime of 1 hour 45 and chooses to interpret the graphic as a reasonably literal map. The original show played up to four games per zone; Exit Games UK guesses that there will be six cells per zone and all six will be played by each team, pointing to 24 games per team, or three per player in a full team of eight.

That said, Iain had a rather exciting theory. Suppose some of the games are designed to let two team members play at once. If there are four one-player games and two two-player games per zone, then it would mean every player in a team of eight would get to play in every zone, which would be delightful. This site suspects that the attraction will err on the side of authenticity and stick with one-player games, but would be delighted to be wrong.

If you feel that this isn’t as many games as you’d like to play, it’s always possible to buy all eight tickets and have fewer than eight participants use them, spreading the games less thinly among the team. Theoretically there could even be a single-player team where the player plays every single game, but a lock-in would cause a considerable problem – and a single player may not get so far in The Crystal Dome.

2) Will there be watery games? Exit Games UK would consider it unlikely, taking an initial clue from the decision (which it loves!) to go with the original Industrial Zone rather than the Ocean Zone. On top of everything, it would be a health and safety nightmare; there’s always a drowning risk, and large tanks of standing water have an entirely serious legionella risk as well. The original show appealed to people for many different reasons, including to those who liked to watch people fall into water tanks. Does this mean that people would actually want to play those games, though? If you don’t see a “bring a change of clothing” announcement, expect a dry experience – and when there are so many other strong things that could be done, Exit Games UK would expect the attraction not to try to weakly emulate the genre.

3) How will lock-ins work? With the second stretch goal having been reached, those who get locked in will be taken to a special prison where they might have the chance to earn their escape, without costing the team a crystal, by completing a special challenge. This seems like a decision of practicality over authenticity, which Exit Games UK welcomes. Getting locked in and not being bought out would lead to poor value for money; much as “everybody likes solving puzzles, nobody likes not solving puzzles”, it’s a reasonable approximation that “everybody likes playing games, nobody likes not playing games”. Additionally, splitting teams between zones would be very difficult logistically, not least when there will be different teams circulating around the zones.

4) How soon will you get to play? This site estimates that the crowdfunding campaign has sold tickets to around 2,700 teams: start with the 1,600 “full team at the Maze” tickets that have gone, add 500 for the 125 “four teams head to head” tickets, and so on. Given that the “all day maze access” ticket suggests that there will be 16 teams per day (four sessions, each taking four teams) then this would imply that the facility has been pre-sold out for over 160 days – assuming the location opens seven days a week, that’s a good five months. It seems reasonably plausible that there will be higher demand for Friday-to-Sunday tickets and evening tickets so if your heart is set on one of those then you may have to wait, but midweek afternoon tickets may be more readily available. Exit Games UK wildly (and, again, uninformedly) guesses that games might start at 1:30pm, 4pm, 6:30pm and 9pm… and that the facility might well consider offering 11am games as well.

5) Will there be prizes? This one might not be such an open question, as Exit Games UK recalls (though quite possibly incorrectly!) reading a suggestion that when the four teams meet up against each other at The Crystal Dome, whichever team performs best earns a set of eight crystals. It would not be a surprise to see a monthly leaderboard with the chance for top teams to win activity days in the style of the original show.

6) How will The Crystal Dome work? There’s no reason to believe anything other than authentically – though the actual show used “the magic of television” and got its close-up shots from filming the players on a second attempt where the performance did not matter. In Buzzfeed’s brilliant oral history of the show, the captain of the first episode claims that even then “we realised that if we all lay down we’d stop the airflow and it would be easy” – expect blocking the fans to authentically be prohibited as well.

7) Celebrities? This site decided against getting a ticket to the first night party in the end. Don’t expect Richard O’Brien to show; Richard’s 73 years old, lives on the other side of the world and may not be in the very best of health. (On the other hand, a personal appearance would be a delightful surprise.) On the other hand, there would be a very welcome dash of authenticity if they could get an appearance by the captain of the team from the first Christmas children’s special, one Michael Underwood, who has gone on to have a strong hosting career. He’d be an excellent celebrity guest host if they could book him, not least from his time hosting Jungle Run, a children’s show with more than a little inspiration from The Crystal Maze. Also, just for the crossover kicks: is Hugo (“Treguard”) Myatt still in good health? Other heroes of television of those who grew up with the show, but who may now only be tangentially in the business known as show, spring to mind…

8) How will the spectator experience be? Courtesy of hitting the third and fourth stretch goals, there should apparently be a rather interesting bar area overlooking the field of play, with cameras in the cells to show the progress of the games as they are played. Exit Games UK tends to hold the view that a large part of the appeal of The Crystal Maze is rapidly working out what is demanded of you in the games within the time limit, as well as executing what is required, and that seeing the games in advance (either as a spectator, or because the site has revealed the game’s details) will rather spoil the effect. However, another (probably very much more practical) route to take would be to concentrate on games where knowing what has to be done is easy and actually performing the tasks required is difficult, as spoilers will surely get out by word of mouth if nothing else. Either way, Exit Games UK hopes that the games are really, really good, and that the project gets the very best people in to design them, including those who designed games for the original show.

9) Is there replay value? Will people want to play more than once, or is this something that can only be a one-time experience? This ties in with the extent to which working out what’s required is a part of the challenge. Part of the fun of the experience will be supporting your team-mates, but if you see your friend play a game and go “oh, that looks really fun to play!” then you might well want to come back and do so. It’s possible to go too far, though; it would be inauthentic if an eight played the maze first time, learnt the games, practiced them at home, came back and smashed them all second time around and set an immense high score. You didn’t get second chances on the show, so it would seem awry to get them at the attraction. It may be hard to avoid; it’s practically inevitable that someone will come as a spectator and see the games played through the cameras before they come back as a player themselves. A good – but expensive and probably impractical! – way to do this would be to rotate the games very frequently; a reasonable way to do this would be to replace all the games every year, much as one series of the show had different games to the next.

10) Will it be a long-term hit? Ah, that’s the 64,000-gold-token question. Tickets have already been sold to perhaps twenty thousand or so players, and the show had audience figures in the millions. With the repeats on Challenge? over the years, the show must be familiar to tens of millions of viewers, many of whom will surely want to play. Whether it’s a compelling enough product to convert many potential players into actual players at a regular price of £50 plus booking fee remains to be seen, as well as whether or not £50 per player is actually a price point that makes sense for the organisers in practice as well as in theory. The people behind the enterprise have very convincing track records, though, so they must surely have as good a chance of making it work as any.

Exit Games UK has purchased a “four teams head to head” ticket and will be selling all 32 spaces on to members of the exit games community, both players and staff. A handful of tickets remain; you’ll get the chance to play alongside representatives of Agent November, Archimedes Inspiration, Breakout Manchester, Breakout Liverpool, Enigma Quests, Escape Hour, Escape Live, Escape Quest, The Escape Room and (subject to confirmation) the Escape sites in Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

The date is unknown, to be confirmed once the facility has an opening date and permits people to start booking their prepaid tickets – but the plan is an afternoon on a Monday, for Monday seems to be about as close to a weekend as the industry has. Purely indicatively, the first choice of date would be Monday 30th November, second choice would be Monday 23rd November and third choice would be Monday 7th December. (Anything later gets too close to Christmas and risks disrupting business.)

The remaining spaces are being sold at the cost price of £32.50 (that’s the £1,000 ticket split 32 ways!) so you might well be interested in them simply on the grounds that it’s more cost-effective than any of the other options, but the company should be spectacular as well. If this interests you, please get in touch by e-mail for the payment options. If you’ve got in touch in the past and received payment instructions but not acted on them then you don’t yet have a guaranteed place and need to move quickly. There may well be a waiting list started, in case people who have paid have to drop out and resell their tickets.

To-o-o-o-o-o-o… the Crystal Dome!

Around the world: Getting together

Hands around the worldIt’s definitely possible to draw parallels between the development of the exit game hobbies in different countries around the world. People start exit games, there become enough of them to inspire people to want to talk about them, eventually players and operators think about meeting up. Doubtless there will be other parallels still that develop in different places independently over time as well.

1) “National character” is lazy shorthand for prejudice, but it’s a compliment – and an amusing one – that the first country sufficiently organised to run an Escape Games convention is Germany. The line-up looks exciting, though more likely to be of interest to site owners than anybody else – but when you get enough people interested in the genre in the same place at the same time, magic will happen pretty organically. There’s a reduced price for bloggers; if there’s anyone out there who wants to represent Exit Games UK who isn’t working the night shift on September 4th and either speaks German or just doesn’t mind requiring people to translate for them all day, please get in touch.

2) Talking of bloggers, that’s not quite how it works in Canada. Some of the exit game bloggers of the Greater Toronto area, and their talented theatrical friends, will be putting on three sittings of a one-night 100-player stadium-style exit game. In your Night at the Speakeasy (a Prohibition-era illegal drinking den), explore the rooms, solve puzzles, interact with the actors, don’t get whacked by da wise guys and find the exit on September 19th in the Canadian Caper. This is horribly impressive, they’re going to have such fun, they have such accomplished track records that this site firmly hopes that the event is as huge a hit as it deserves to be.

3) Talking of bloggers and stadium-style games, EscapeGame.Paris announced that The Real Escape Game came, and are coming, to France; three of the four sessions of the SCRAP-derived mass-participation event have happened already, the fourth is set to follow soon. Given that Real Escape Game have brought their games to France and also to Spain, this site is very positive about the chance of it coming to the UK at some point as well.

4) So what does the UK have? Well, the UK will have The Crystal Maze, and this site is organising an industry meetup there. 14 tickets have gone, 18 tickets remain. If you’ve vaguely expressed interest in the past – even if just as a comment to a post – then please convert it into actual interest now; you should have received details by e-mail about how to send money and guarantee your place, but please get in touch if you haven’t.

5) However, all of these rely not just on being in certain countries, but also on being in certain cities within those countries. If you’re not in the right city, you can get together remotely this weekend by taking part in the seventh (“Swiss”) round of the World Puzzle Federation’s Grand Prix puzzle competition; 90 minutes to score points by solving 23 puzzles of seven different types. The download the Instruction Booklet page will let you find if this contest is the right one for you.

The Crystal Maze has funded! Meet you there?

The Crystal Maze liveJust over a week ago, this site reported on the start of the crowdfunding campaign for a proposed The Crystal Maze Live experience. In about a week, it reached its £500,000 funding target, and has released some stretch goals. Exciting times!

This site also proposed an industry-wide meeting there. There’s been quite a bit of interest, but there’s plenty of room for more, and the project is at the stage where it needs to go from “yes, I’m interested” to “yes, I’m willing to take the risk and plunk down money for it” – bearing in mind that, as with all crowdfunding projects, the project might not happen, or it might happen late, or the meeting might happen at a point where you can’t attend, or so on, and refunds may not be available.

So far, there has been interest expressed by 22 representatives from exit games and 6 exit game players. Sites that have expressed an interest in attending include: Escape (Edinburgh, etc.), Clue Finders, Escape Hour, Breakout (Manchester, etc.), Escape Quest, Agent November, Escape Live, Locked In Games, Can You Escape, Tick Tock Unlock and The Escape Room. These names are still at the “expressed an interest” stage rather than the “definitely will be there” stage, so there’s no guarantee that they will turn up.

Given that some attendees will have a very long way to travel for the event, I don’t think it’s worth holding it unless there are 32 confirmed attendees – plus having 32 attendees will mean that we could book out the whole of the maze for a couple of hours, and the cost of booking 32 spaces is rather lower, per player, than the cost of booking fewer spaces.

There’s a difference between people who have expressed an interest and people who have confirmed their booking. If this can get up to – say – forty or so people expressing an interest, I’ll confirm that the event is happening and then actually guarantee spaces for the first 32 people to pay for their spots. If it’s a struggle to get past 28 “possible”s, then there isn’t the interest. Please tell your friends and tell other site owners!

Some questions have been asked:

Why meet at The Crystal Maze rather than at an existing exit game?

1) So many site operators have posted excitedly that they want to play it, whether the meeting happens or not.
2) It’s not an exit game as such, making it neutral territory in a sense, but it’s something likely to be of interest to exit game companies and players.
3) At least one of the people behind The Crystal Maze also is involved with the Time Run exit game, so the hosts are likely to be interested as well.

When would it happen?

Hard to say. The site hopes to open in October. Already the Indiegogo campaign has sold tickets for approximately 1,600 teams, which will fill the maze for something like a hundred days. It is unclear when people will start picking their dates. It would seem likely that more people would want to play in the evening than during the day, and it would seem likely that more people would want to play at weekends than on weekdays.

It has been suggested that Monday would be a good day to aim for, as it’s traditionally relatively quiet for exit games – and it might be wise to aim for Monday afternoon, so that people might continue to meet afterwards (and possibly visit exit games or other London attractions, who knows?) I would hope that it would be possible to get a Monday afternoon spot at some point this year.

I would welcome people’s input and suggestions in this regard.

Where would it happen?

The location has not yet been published, other than a suggestion of “central London”.

How much would it cost?

If we can get 32 people playing, it would be £32.50 per player, plus your travel expenses.

What happens next?

Please confirm if you would definitely be ready to send money through, and – if so – for how many places. There could be no guarantee that sending money through will result in anything; sometimes crowdfunding campaigns take the money and run, though there’s no evidence of that in this case. There could also be no refunds if the only date that we can get is a date that you couldn’t make, though you could privately resell your spot to someone else.

News round-up

News round-up1) Exciting news from Can You Escape? of Edinburgh; they’ll be launching their first outdoor game in time for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “…we need agents to defeat the evil Nick Knock, after a disastrous appearance at the Fringe last year that saw him heckled off stage, he is back to seek his revenge and ensure no one else gets the limelight. How you may ask? Well Mr Knock has planted an Electro Magnetic Pulse device somewhere in Edinburgh which will cut the power to the city and prevent all future performances. #WTFringe?” The location originally planned to open in time for last year’s Edinburgh Fringe; hopefully the Fringe will boost all four thriving locations in the city.

2) Also delighted to see Time Run of London Tweet that Jonathan Ross, no less, played their game recently. The lad Ross is known as a board gamer and a video gamer (remember his references to Sonic the Hedgehog on They Think It’s All Over years ago? …Just this site?) so it’s logical that he’d be interested in playing live action games as well. Looking forward, hopefully, to a photo being posted. Best celeb spot yet… unless you know otherwise?

3) This site started to discuss a potential industry meetup at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze Live attraction in a recent post, and perhaps there’s the interest. So far, nine sites and six individual players have expressed interest. This is probably only worth doing if we can get to 32 definite takers, not just people who have expressed an interest, so there is more room. All welcome. If you’re interested in starting your own room and want to pick lots of brains at once then this would be a particularly good opportunity.

4) Bother’s Bar are tracking the crowdfunding for The Crystal Maze Live and recently had an amusing twist on a poll about whether it would meet its £500,000 funding target or not. Poll responses were 79% yes and 21% no. It’s already reached about 75% of the target, courtesy of very strong days two, three and four, and – perhaps due to the sums involved? – has been a slightly slower burner of a crowdfunding campaign than most. £500,000 is a target, not a limit; how far can they go? Will there be stretch goals?

5) In more general puzzle news, some links that this site enjoyed:

  • this BBC report upon a marriage proposal hidden within The Times cryptic crossword;
  • the latest monthly Puzzlebomb (.pdf) features a mashup of the two most recent mainstream maths puzzle sensations – Cheryl’s birthday and Hannah’s sweets – and offers quite a challenge; and
  • a review of DASH 7 as it was played in Denver, from a team with a fantastic name that this site called out at the time.

6) Great to see another blogger still from the greater Toronto area, now making six; when an area gets up to forty-plus-to-sixtyish different sites, perhaps six blogs is about right. When there are so many reviewers out there, perhaps the logical next step would be a review aggregator – a sort of metacritic for exit games? TripAdvisor performs this to some extent, but a review aggregator which compares opinions of not just many players but of many players all of whom have broad experiences in the field would be a powerful tool – and one, perhaps, that need not be restricted to one area.

Get-together at The Crystal Maze?

The Crystal Maze liveThe crowdfunding campaign for the proposed The Crystal Maze Live experience started at midnight. It uses the “flexible funding” model, so donations are collected whether the goal is reached or not. As ever, crowdfunding is inherently risky and there’s no guarantee that the project will reach fruition, let alone be on time. You will have to judge the credibility of the people behind it for yourself; you can imply this site’s opinion by the considerable quantity of jumping up and down going on here. (The Buzzfeed article yesterday is making all the right noises, too.)

The project has a nominal £500,000 goal; the first 20 minutes of the campaign saw half of the 750 “early bird” reduced-price tickets sold, and the rest went within about another twenty. There are a number of enticing options available in the campaign, generally rather more attractive than the proposed full price of £50 per player, plus booking fee. Even once the early bird tickets sold out, the campaign has been continuing to make very strong progress. Crowdfunding campaigns generally seem to need to make a large chunk of their running on the first day and this one has got off to the sort of start that you might hope for it.

The game will be played by teams that start with size eight, not six; four teams will compete at once, one per zone, then the teams will rotate from zone to zone afterwards. As the whole introduction-video-four-zones-and-the-dome experience is expected to take around an hour and 45 minutes, you might care to speculate for yourself how many games each player might be likely to get to play for the money – though watching others play and shouting advice is very much part of the experience.

There are a range of price points available. £25 gets you the chance to be a tester – which sounds great, and potentially gets you a lot of game for your money, but with 500 such tickets on sale, it might be less intimate than you hope. Regular tickets sold in the campaign are £45, or £85 for two. Better values are available if you can get together en masse: £300 for a team of eight (£37.50/player) or £1,000 for a full booking with four teams of eight (£32.50/player).

That’s a very interesting option. Would there be the interest in trying to get a big party of exit game proprietors and players together, with the excuse of a trip around The Crystal Maze at its focus? This is just a call for interest at this point (trying to work out a date might be tricky) rather than a binding commitment – but if enough people go “yes, this is something I want to do, and the right company in which to do it” then perhaps it should be made to happen.

The news spirals out of control

news-spiralMany news stories that have been left untamed for far too long because of DASHmania:

  • This site has never seen quite so many different exit games, up and down the country, excited about the same thing as they have been about the forthcoming The Crystal Maze Live. Look for the crowdfunding campaign to start this weekend, with all the usual caveats about crowdfunding campaigns. This site became even more encouraged when a friend pointed out that @deanjrodgers, key within the critically acclaimed Time Run, will be producing the project.
  • Rather less far away, and also the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign, Enigma Escape of London has announced an opening date of 18th July and a handsome 25% discount if you book by midnight on 17th August. Well worth considering!
  • Some other sites in London are all flourishing: Agent November announced its largest corporate booking yet, with groups enjoying all three of its games in a single day, Mystery Cube has seen its hundredth group play and Mystery Squad has launched a second case, The Ghost of Lord Holland; this isn’t aimed at the usual sizes of groups but is, instead, aimed at groups of 20 to 40 who all want to play together.
  • In Edinburgh, Dr. Knox’s Enigma has three local competitors and all three have been extremely complimentary on Twitter about it; additionally, the game has earned coverage from STV.
  • Also in Edinburgh, an exciting-sounding special offer promotion has been announced between Escape and the local branch of the Hard Rock Cafe; £32/person (except Saturdays) gets you both entrance to one of Escape’s three games and a meal from the Hard Rock Cafe’s Gold Menu. Sounds like two parts of a very good night!