Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin are the creators behind one of Kickstarter’s latest trending projects: Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment.
They were kind enough to give MisplacedPixels an exclusive interview, and share a few words about their upcoming project! Here’s what they had to say.
How would you describe Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment to someone that hasn’t heard of it before?
Our game is a 60-90 minute cooperative game in which a team of 2-6 players solve puzzles, crack codes, and find hidden objects in order to escape from a mad scientist’s plot to turn them all into werewolves. If you’ve never done an escape room, they are a new form of live gaming sweeping the world where a group of 4-12 people gets locked in a room and has to solve a series of puzzles and find hidden objects in order to open a series of locks and ultimately get the final code or key that will allow them to escape out of the room. We’ve taken all the fun of this popular concept and crammed it into a box for at home play.
Where did the idea first come from, and how did you decide to develop it into a game?
We are, obviously, completely obsessed with escape rooms. But we are also avid at-home gamers. Juliana hosts a smallish bi-weekly game night and then every few months also does a big werewolf party (which was the inspiration for our story in this game). Escape rooms can get very expensive, so we wanted to host an at-home version to save us all some money. Plus, most escape rooms run on a pretty tight schedule, so once you have solved the puzzles (or not), you need to leave immediately so another group can come in. We wanted to make a whole evening of it so that we could play the game and then have lots of time after to pick over the puzzles and talk about who did what and how. We were shocked when we weren’t able to find an at home escape room, and decided we had to make one ourselves!
What were your biggest inspirations when developing it?
Our biggest inspiration has really been all of the excellent escape rooms we have had the pleasure to experience. At the very beginning of this process, we sat down and made a list of all the different things we have loved in escape rooms (different types of puzzles, atmosphere, storyline, etc.), and also a list of what we hated (bottlenecks, red herrings, etc.). We were committed to having our game reflect the very best aspects of escape rooms.
What has been the biggest issue the project has faced so far?
Internally, our biggest challenge has been making the game as physical as it is. We really didn’t want this to just be pen and paper puzzles. We wanted to do our best to replicate the physicality of brick and mortar escape rooms. It took a lot of trial and error, but we are really pleased with the amount of physical puzzles we were able to fit in the box.
Externally, our biggest challenge has been getting people to view this as an experience, like a night out at an escape room, rather than a typical at home game. Our game is way cheaper than a brick and mortar escape room, but it is still on the high end for a tabletop game, and that is precisely because of all the physical components and the complicated way they are put together. We have overcome this issue in two ways: First, our game includes a party planner with suggestions for decorations and themed snacks and drinks. This will really set the evening apart from a typical game night and make it a memorable experience. Secondly, we have created a refill pack with the consumable items, pdfs of the puzzles, instructions on reassembling the box, and a game master script for the host. That way, once you have played the game yourself, you can still host it for other friends and watch them struggle through while you act as the all-knowing scientist who is in charge of several elements of the game for them. Having watched tons of groups in play testing, we can assure you this is a very fun role:)
You seem to have had a very intense reaction from fans and pledges, surpassing your goal on Kickstarter early on – How do you think the game been received so far.
We have been absolutely blown away by the support of both the gaming and the escape room communities. Prior to launch we reached out to some of the biggest board game and escape room reviewers and asked them to take a look at our game. Many of them very graciously agreed and ended up loving our game. We think that really helped to give our project legitimacy since we are first time creators. And many of them continue to advocate on behalf of our game. Thanks to a post from Joel Eddy of Drive Thru Reviews (who normally doesn’t do Kickstarter projects) we were the number two board game on Reddit the day that we launched! And thanks to David Spira from Room Escape Artist, we will be featured in Newsweek later this week!
One of the most beautiful things about Kickstarter is the chance to actually see and interact with all of your customers. We have sent personal thank you notes to every single backer and love hearing what everyone has to say about the game.
You have close to 2000 backers – was this something you expected when starting your campaign?
No!! We knew we had a great idea. We knew we had made a game that our playtesters loved. But it’s a crowded marketplace with a lot of good content and it can be hard to get noticed. That’s why we are so thrilled for all the support and so grateful for every single backer.
What has the design process been like and how long do you think it will take to develop the game in full?
The design process has been crazy! It was really important to us that all the puzzles interact with one another. You have to get the correct answers on puzzles in order to move on and use those answers other places. So we had a massive map with note cards that spelled out how everything would work together and what connected to what. Then, as we started playtesting, we had to make tons of changes in order to get the game to a place where it is consistently enjoyable and constantly challenging but not impossible. But, of course, every small change would ricochet through many other puzzles. We’ve made well over a hundred changes since we started and are really proud of the game we have now.
How would you describe the graphics and overall look of the game?
We have an amazing artist, Gage Ullman who designed a really cool comic book style box for our prototype. Through playtesting, however, we’ve decided to go in a more minimalist direction, so Gage is redesigning the box and all the paper components in the game for a sleek and cohesive design that will still invoke the mystery of the Escape Room In A Box experience.
Do you think youtube will have an impact on the success of the game?
Our game is unique because of it’s consumable nature. So people will not actually be able to show a play through on their youtube channel without spoiling the game for all their viewers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t discuss their experience in general terms. Our fabulous reviewers have all managed to give a great idea of gameplay without specifically speaking about the puzzles themselves. And the nature of our game means that people are eager to discuss their experience playing because no two people play the same way. So we hope that a lot of vloggers will film a summary of their experiences after the game. And we are thrilled that we unlocked a stretch goal which will allow us to have a forum and a leader board so that the community of people who HAS played can all discuss their experiences together online.
What is your favourite thing about this game so far? – What has been your favourite thing to work on?
Our favorite thing is watching groups of people have that “Aha!” moment when they solve a particularly tricky puzzle. The satisfaction and joy it brings to them has been so gratifying. As for our favorite thing to work on… we can’t tell you without revealing spoilers:)
What are your hopes for the series?
We just unlocked our final 100k stretch goal and announced the next game in the series: Escape Room In A Box: The Magician’s Spell Book. There were lots of puzzles that we weren’t able to cram into this game, so we are so excited to have received this response and to be able to continue crafting games in the series. We certainly want to make more games like this one, as well as some variations. We’d like to do a “light” version that would be 15-20 minutes and for 2-3 people. We’ll be able to do that at a lower price point so that will be an excellent “gateway game” for people who are curious about what the series is like. And we also want to make some games that are easier and targeted for children – wouldn’t an Escape Room In A Box make an awesome birthday party activity?