New Horror Escape Room Dev Blog!
It’s that time again where Next-Gen is getting ready to launch a new escape room in Fresno! We’ve been thinking over this new project for nearly 18 months (thanks Covid) and are so excited to be showing the world what we have been cooking up for so long.
via GIPHY *Actual raw uncut footage of our creative process
So, what is it?
Well, unfortunately we are not quite ready to share those details yet. But this room has been such a top priority for us for so long that we can’t just not talk about it, and if you keep reading you will soon find out why.
Story and atmosphere have always been our core components of what we think about before we even consider the first puzzle of the room. This project is no different from our other rooms in those regards, but a big difference is that now we have nearly two years of escape room building under our belt so we can set out to do more ambitious work!
Taking a look at the local escape room landscape we’ve found that there is a void of horror-themed escape rooms in Fresno. We decided to take on a personal challenge and set out to make the most terrifying room we could. The team at Next-Gen have plans to expand outwards and potentially explore other forms of escape entertainment, and this project will take us a step closer to those goals.
But of course that is all talk about the future, what about this room?
All of our rooms have something of a hook in them, with the intention to have incredibly memorable moments. Our first room, Global National (which is now updated to Bomb Threat), was our first foray weaving storytelling and gameplay together. Clancey’s Lodge let us explore set design with other unexpected gameplay oddities while the game played. King’s Keep was our loving tribute to all the fantasy trophes we grew up with, along with doubling-down on the set to offer the most visually stimulating room we could.
So what’s the hook for the next room?
We have always thought about choice in an escape room. The first room we tried (another story for another day) we entered without knowing exactly what to expect, which is pretty much everyone’s first room is like.
Would it be immersive theater, an on-the-rails interactive movie, or something similar to a video game but in real life? When first entering the room, a soviet missile bunker, and we were introduced to the first few puzzles we were immediately intrigued, yet I was always wondering where a twist or pivot would happen. Essentially we were looking for a point where we could finally make a decision other than “what’s the next puzzle we should try?”
Would we be able to choose to nuke the Central Valley just for the fun of it? Could we instead target Moscow and get a different ending? None of these questions would get answered in a satisfying way, there was only two ending: win and save the day or the big bad Russians win. Of course there is nothing necessarily wrong with having a cut and dry ending like that, it is the industry norm! We don’t typically like following the norms!
This was something of a chip on my shoulder ever since that first room. The possibility of different endings based on the decisions you made during the game seemed like a straightforward way to give rooms more depth (and if you do it right, replayability).
We briefly explored this with Fresno’s first outdoor escape room that we ran in October of 21’. In Escape From The Living Dead players were tasked with finding various supplies they would need to survive the zombie apocalypse all the while the military compound they wake up in is being overrun. Based on the items players salvaged, the Game Master would give an epilogue as to how well they did;
“The gas can you found was able to get your RV out of the city, congrats! Unfortunately, you didn’t find a first aid kit so Jarred over there will die from an infection in about a week, sorry!”
It was a fun way to end the game and wrap everything up in a neat bow. However, their unique “ending” wasn’t really based on choices they made during the game, it was all based on whether or not they were able to complete their goals.
What we’ve wanted to port over from video games is how the choices you make in the game can give you drastically different outcomes or story arcs. Obviously a choice such as “should we try puzzle A or riddle B next?” is a deliberate choice that escape room players make every game, so we didn’t want to lean too hard on this mechanic in relation to what order players solve the game. Instead, we wanted to focus on clear-cut choices that players make, so that when they encounter that choices consequences it makes sense.
A branching story ark is a great way to make an escape room replayable, but that will be for another room at another time. We can talk about it over a house flagon...
Why are we making a “scary” room?
As you may know, Next-Gen already has a spooky room: Clancey’s Lodge. While this room has been a fan-favorite since our reopening in 21’, it has never been the downright scary room. We set out with that game to create a creepy and suspenseful atmosphere that lasts the whole game. More so, we wanted Clancey’s to be still accessible to nearly everyone.
This room is nothing like that.
Does it at least have a name?