Disclosure: all 3 people who were in my test group knew at least SOME of what I was working on, since 2 of them were coworkers and one was my boyfriend and all 3 had either heard me talking about some of the puzzles or knew something about what I had been working on, so they did have a bit of an unfair advantage going into the room.
It took me about an hour to set up the room as far as I did. If you remember from my last Escape Room post, I had 10 props in the room that contained actual clues or puzzles, and the rest were red herrings. Before entering the room the participants were read the scenario and told the rules of the room:
1. Their 30 minutes of time would start when I closed the door.
2. They were not to force locks under any circumstance, or try to remove the bungee chords off of any locked item without opening the lock first.
3. They were not to throw any items on the floor, or at each other.
4. They could, and in fact were expected to, talk to each other and work together, but could not ask me any questions about anything in the room.
5. Their first clue was written on the white board, and would point them in the correct direction once solved.
Two things I SHOULD have told them was that cell phones, or writing utensils were not allowed in the room! At one point there was a fairly simple math problem (basic arithmetic) that needed to be solved, but because time was running out and tension in the room was high, one of the testers became flustered and wanted to use his phone's calculator. I was actually surprised he did not try to Google some of the other clues! Cheater! Haha!
The other issue came when one of the testers who for some reason had a pencil in his pocket tried to use it to write something on one of the puzzles. I reminded him that on the day of, the scenario would have to be re-set 4 times and I would rather not have to have 4 version of each puzzle ready. Also, the puzzle solution was simple, 4-letter word, so they really didn't need to write anything down, but I think the pressure of solving it had become too much for coherent thinking.
I will definitely enforce these 2 rules during the "real" program date.
Overall, I think the run-through was both a good idea, and a success. The testers major feedback was that there was not enough "stuff" in the room. They all thought it was almost too easy to find items that held clues because there just weren't that many things in the room period, so most of them would by default have clues. I am already working on more red herrings and bringing in more weird stuff from home to use.
Because of their feedback, I also decided to completely change the end-game puzzle. and re-evaluate one of the puzzles, which involved invisible ink that just totally failed to "activate." They had a great suggestion for a replacement, so I will be trading out the invisible ink for something else.
The best part of the whole thing, other than watching the testers have fun, was watching how easily they freaked themselves out and how often they saw clues in things that had nothing to do whatsoever with the game. At one point, for example, they found a piece of paper that just happened to have a small hole of it, that was there of its own accord. They cumulatively decided this HAD to have something to do with the game, and wasted at least 5 minutes holding this hole up to everything in the room hoping a secret message would be revealed. They also thought the conference call system, which is just part of the room and could not be removed was part of the game, though in that case I explained it was not before they wasted too much time.
My biggest issue? Keeping myself from laughing hysterically at every single thing they did, and trying to keep a poker face when they would ask me questions they KNEW they were not supposed to be asking.
More on my Escape Room adventures to come! For now, here are some pictures!