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!

Mechanics Monday: if you had to invent The Crystal Maze, would you?

A pentakis dodecahedron

A few days ago, this site was delighted to see job adverts for the exciting-looking position of Maze Master at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction opening in London in a double handful of weeks’ time. It might seem a shade strange at first to see them go down the acting recruitment route to fill the positions, but any customer-facing position in either an exit game or any other live entertainment game is definitely a show business position, playing to the audience of (usually) a single team at a time. Don’t forget, Richard O’Brien was (among many other things) an actor before he became so familiar to audiences in this particular role.

The hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of Kickstarter campaign pre-orders are an excellent indication that people are very, very excited about getting the chance to play the game – and, from there, it doesn’t seem too implausible to suggest that there may be many other people who would like to get the chance to do so but might not, for geographic reasons or many other possible causes. The number of other games that have made either explicit reference or implicit allusion to The Crystal Maze when trying to explain their appeal, or just as a familiar point of reference, also goes to reference the strength of the show as a cultural touchpoint at the very least.

It’s public knowledge that one of the distinguishing advantages of the live The Crystal Maze attraction is its authenticity, not least from the work they have done with the rights holders and the people who made the show in the first place. It’s also true that some part of the appeal of the show, to a (presumably reasonably large) part of the audience, was the wonderful and elaborate environment that the show worked so hard to create. It would seem unlikely to implausible that any other site might ever be able to match this; if people want to play the show they loved, they have no other alternative – and are delighted that the live attraction exists as a possibility at all. In case it’s unclear at all, getting to play the live attraction is one of the things that this site is most looking forward to in 2016.

However, it could be possible for a game to describe itself as “like The Crystal Maze but better” and then provide a number of reasons why it makes that remarkable claim. It’s certainly true that The Crystal Maze was designed to be watched rather than to be played by a mass audience. Some of the distinguishing properties of The Crystal Maze are not necessarily conducive to being an ideal experience when played live; the live experience has hinted at some concessions to authenticity for a better live experience and it will be fascinating to see, in time, whether further such concessions will have been made.

For instance, this site tends to believe that nobody really wants to be locked in and to have to, at least nominally, wait to be bought out. Playing a game is more fun than not playing a game, which is why player elimination mechanics have fallen out of fashion in modern game designs. With this in mind, the suggestion that “locked in” players in the live attraction will also be able to rescue themselves by solving additional puzzles rather than by waiting to being bought out – or not – by their team seems like a wise one in terms of the gameplay experience. A friend made a suggestion to the effect of “If you pay £60 to go round The Crystal Maze and end up being locked in on game one then it’s your fault for being so rubbish”, which is fair enough on one level and the roughest of justice on another.

So if you were designing a live experience to be played by the self-selecting near-mass audience, rather than to be watched on TV, what differences would you choose to make from The Crystal Maze as we know it? While it makes sense for there to be a penalty for failing at (at least some) games other than opportunity cost, perhaps there could be other ways to express this penalty other than the “miss a turn” aspect of a lock-in. The whole aspect where only one player could play any particular game and everyone else just had to watch them play and (usually) shout suggestions might also be worth reconsidering; while shouting suggestions is one way to play a game, for many it will be more vicarious and less vicious than might make for the most compelling experience. Lastly, why couldn’t players have a free choice of physical, mental, mystery or skill genres and the ability to play more than one of a particular type in a particular zone if that’s what would make the game the most fun for them?

At this point, it’s tempting to imagine a rather freeform game. Imagine that your team might get to spend (e.g.) 15 minutes in each of four themed zones, gaining para-crystal currency units. In each zone, there are perhaps 25 opportunities to gain currency units, with each one designed to be possible to win by a single player, with teams having complete flexibility to deploy players to opportunities as they see fit – so possibly lots of people playing one-player games, or people advising other people how to play their games, or maybe even two people teaming up on a single game, or so on. Budgeting time and assigning players to challenges would be the major challenge; the only time limit could be the 15 minute limit in each zone. The currency won from each zone would then be used in some endgame to generate an overall score, which might or might not involve analogues of flying tokens and/or geodesic domes. This site is unsure what the intellectual property laws of the land would dictate.

Is this a game you would like to play? Is this a landscape that looks commercial to you?

Coming up on Friday: Geekeasy, Pablo’s Hunt and more Handmade Mysteries

Lady Chastity's Reserve comes to East LondonFriday will be busy! This site talks about exit games most of the time and about puzzle hunts frequently. There’s good reason to talk about something different this Friday: a comedy night. Needless to say, not just any comedy night: one themed around The Crystal Maze. That’s interesting.

Project2 curates Geekeasy ((…)) We populate the bill with emerging and award-winning acts. ((…)) Each month we pick a niche theme and throw some acts at it. Expect musical comedy, stand up, improv, sketch and a Powerpoint competition. This month we’re in The Crystal Maze, with guest comedians, improvisers and musicians competing to win a taxi ride home.

Project2’s background is improv comedy with a sci-fi theme; the The Crystal Maze theme was announced three months ago so people will have had considerable preparation time. It would be easy to “punch down” but the genuine fandom and love for the genres that the group have shown, plus good reviews from an improv player that this site trusts, gives this site hope that more acts than not can stay on the right side of the fine line: irreverent good, impudent goo-ooo-oood, insolent bad. The show starts at 8pm at The Miller pub in Southwark, London, between London Bridge and Borough.

Other exciting things happen on Friday, too. Handmade Mysteries open an East London location at The People’s Park Tavern pub in the part of south-east Hackney best served by the 388 bus from Hackney Wick, Cambridge Heath or Bethnal Green. This is a slight remix of their original Lady Chastity’s Reserve game played in South London; the larger location permits teams of up to six, rather than up to five, and some extra gags along the way. This site just likes saying “My! Brother! Knows Karl Marx! He met him in the bushes at The People’s Park!

If you don’t want to leave your house, there’s still fun to be had: as discussed, the 2015 edition of Pablo’s Armchair Treasure Hunt also starts on Friday, though the teaser poster will already get you started. True, there’s a hidden box to be found somewhere in the south of England, but there’s a mighty bundle of research and thinking to be done before you can even start to work out where it is!

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.

Interview with the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze team

The Aztec Zone of a branch of the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze in JapanWhat’s your favourite game of all time? Any sort of game: board game, video game, card game, puzzle game, physical game, computer game, role-playing game, exit game, all sorts of other genres of game, whatever you like; compare your favourites from each medium against each other and pick a favourite. Too hard? You can narrow it down to four.

My four, in no order: puzzle hunts at large, the live action RPG campaign I played in at university, obscure mid-’80s hybrid board/computer game Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes and The Cyberdrome Crystal Maze. You can probably have a reasonable guess, among other things, that I was born in 1975.

This site has touched on the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze in the past without going into the detail it deserves. It was a physical attraction, based upon the The Crystal Maze TV game show, where teams raced from game to game about the centre, sending team members to play bespoke physical games or computer games where physical games would have been impossible. These were often as puzzling as the mental games on the TV show, or at least emulated the demands of one of the show’s physical games. It worked heart-breakingly well. The photo above is of the Aztec zone at the branch in Kuwana, near Nagoya in Japan.

I wrote a longer piece about the game roughly half my lifetime ago, and will probably still have reason to write about it in another twenty years’ time. It’s the one topic that I’ve always wanted to write about on this blog but always shied away from for fear that I could not do it proper justice.

However, failing that, here’s something rather special instead. Some detective work led me to the e-mail address of one Carl Nicholson, one of the founders of the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze – indeed, the technical side of the outfit. Mr. Nicholson extremely kindly agreed to answer some questions by e-mail; even better still, his partner in Cyberdrome, David Owers, whose focus was the business side, contributed some answers as well, and Carl has even got in touch with other members of staff. Huge thanks to all of them for their time, effort and responses, as well as for being the people behind a sensational game; it’s fascinating to hear more of the story behind the scenes. Continue reading

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!

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.

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.

Starting the fans

A pentakis dodecahedronThat’s not just any old picture of a pentakis dodecahedron inside two concentric circles; it’s a picture with a meaning. It’s a picture that arises from a rumour that, as they say, “escalated quickly”, over about the course of a 250-mile train journey and a dinner. Most of the information comes from work performed by Bother’s Bar‘s proprietor and his friends on Twitter, though grateful thanks to Gareth for also posting a link.

People have found a very interesting-looking web site at www.the-crystal-maze.com suggesting a “live immersive experience”; the @CrystalMazeHQ Twitter account, which started following this site recently, made its first Tweet today and has already attracted considerable interest.

Not much more is known about it yet. An “invitation to invest” document has been found online, with the name Little Lion Entertainment at the top. It’s not clear whether the people involved would prefer the link to this document to be made public, or whether the figures in it are at all current. It does suggest that the people involved have very considerable pedigree, notably on Heist in London last year and Secret Cinema, and also that the people from the show that you would hope to be involved may well be getting involved. There has been no indication of timescale; a very early indication of price might be more like that of Secret Cinema, Punchdrunk or a full-price West End seat (though not a premium seat!) rather than that of an exit game – even the newer, higher-end generation that are starting to come out.

Be very sure that this site will be paying close attention. If you can’t wait to get your hands on a crystal, you can already get your own 3D printed 60-sided die, about an inch and a half high; depending on the material, the cost varies from £15.35 to £145.71.

Birthdays and bonus news

Birthday cake with one candleThis site loves it when exit games post about their birthdays, not least because it provides more definitive dates with which to back-populate the Timeline of exit game openings. Happy first birthday for today to Breakout Manchester, for last Saturday to Escape of Edinburgh, and for last Tuesday to Tick Tock Unlock of Leeds, who have a particuarly fun-looking cake.

You may have seen it already, but a few days ago, Buzzfeed posted an amazing oral history of The Crystal Maze with contributions from Richard O’Brien himself, producer David G. Croft, production designer James Dillon, Medieval zone fortune-teller “Mumsy” actor Sandra Caron and first ever team captain Ken Day. Great work.

Here’s a different sort of entertainment, but nevertheless very interesting: Theme Park University reported on the shelving of a theme park project entitled Evermore in which “Instead of the traditional queueing for rides and shows, through wireless technology, guests would be paged via smart phone or other wireless devices to let them know their adventure was about to begin. (…) Each of Evermore’s experiences was to feature a small group that would live out individual adventures filled with live actors, special effects and even some rides along the way.

While this won’t be coming to fruition right now, it seems to have given birth to a mixed reality attraction (and pretty far along the mixed reality spectrum towards the virtual reality end) called The Void. Its trailer video is impressive. That says nothing, but that along with a first-hand report of playing various prototypes sounds extremely promising. Maybe it’s rather lighter on puzzles than would interest this site, but perhaps future games using the system may have more to offer.

Lastly, this site needs to eat some humble pie. You might have detected a little disbelief, or at least hints of sniffiness, that Inverness might support two exit games. This site has drastically underestimated the might and relevance of Inverness, and is delighted to have learned just how wrong it was.

No less a source than the Office of Network Statistics has revealed this data of travel trends for 2014. Take a look at dataset four – and, specifically, table 4.16 within it. It transpires that the ten UK cities that are the biggest destination for holidays specifically (i.e. excluding family visits, business trips and other reasons for visits) are – in descending order – London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Inverness and Liverpool tied for fifth, and only then followed by Brighton, York, Oxford and Birmingham. Even if all trips to the Scottish Highlands are categorised as Inverness, that’s still immensely different to what this site would have expected. While another table in the series suggests that visitors to Inverness skew relatively old, perhaps it’s more appropriate to consider Inverness in terms of its tourist destination profile than just its raw size. Maybe it’ll be able to sustain three or more exit games, not just two!