Encryptomania Blog

2024 Train count down

14th May

Finally we are reaching out for our last couple of train test teams! 

Last weekend was overcome by winter ailments. So part of the work had to be pushed out.  It feels like a huge milestone to get to this point.

We are aware that several good hammerings give us the full picture of how stable the little beastie – no, I mean lovely and quite amazing electronic (I couldn’t invent them) components will be.  The last changes are in place and we will do our last checks of sound levels.  After feeling like we were wading through treacle, it is once more exciting stuff!

This serial port is being retired….

We consider a couple of aspects for how puzzles behave if their coms drop out.  Our first switch over in the blue room is all about keeping the puzzle running in its own happy wee world while it tries to reconnect in the background.

For the train room we have a puzzle that this makes no real sense for, so we omit that part and would manage any incidents with a friendly pop in to let people move along.  

The understanding is that they will reconnect, but on the game hosting side experience has been teaching us to be prepared for anything and make sure the game can progress.  It’s brilliant life training no doubt! However, we don’t want to be pushing buttons behind the scenes, we would much rather focus on the need for prompts (or not) and psychological engagement. 

On the psychological side, there seem to be runs of habits.  Several weeks ago our robe puzzle backings were converted to being Velcro attached instead of being sewn on so we can wash robes.  The graphics do not handle creasing or washing well at all.   Initially games progressed as per usual until one team 4 or 5 games ago thought to detach them to work with them more easily.  From then on it seems every other team is doing the same thing.  Interesting to observe – we may need to request it not happen though, as it does extend the reset time.  We will monitor it.

It highlights one of the many design and briefing juggles. How will people engage with a room? How clear have we been about what is the game, and what is not? Have we got any ambivalent features?



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Encryptomania Blog history

Have you ever thought, “I could do that”?

An idle thought born from the buzz of experiencing a first escape room started this madness.

Curiosity about what escape rooms were prompted us to book a room in Christchurch several years ago. It was a different kind of social activity that seemed interesting for our range of ages (from 15 to 80yrs), as we celebrated a birthday.  It was exciting, perplexing and new, and we were hooked.

Apparently, so hooked that puzzle ideas began to grow.  How hard could it be for creative people with stories to tell to make an escape room?

In September 2022 the idea to start a vanity project that would culminate in a Little River escape room was shared with a couple of local friends. And so began the start of the Little River Escape Rooms partnership.          


Escape Rooms are Demanding Beasties…

Sheer naivete is a wonderful thing, but don’t even contemplate doing this unless you have a solid team around you that you respect and trust. Make sure you enjoy escape rooms a lot because this is problem solving on steroids.  As much as solving escape rooms is generally a team sport, so is producing them.  We believe that a great bunch of people lead to great things.   Just as important as the hard graft to juggle daily life and deadlines, coming together to talk and laugh and ponder, and remind each other to take a break, is all part of it.

For us to open in just over a year, the project has had to evolve and dedicate some full time resource from the team in recent months. This wasn’t planned, but seems the right thing to do.  It is no small feat to juggle full-time work commitments, and hats off to other people doing the same.  And so you find us currently beavering away, working to create experiences for people to enjoy.


Who are we?

We are Matt, Bianca, Bizz and Erich.  We are parents and Little River community members. We are IT workers, design, construction and craft people.  We are also known to have help from our respective willing family members or friends (thanks guys!)


What are we making? 

Fun playful puzzles that hopefully will delight and surprise people who book the rooms when we launch.

Every escape room offering seems to have its own flavour.  For Little River Encryptomania Escape Rooms, story is important.  Our goal is to offer two rooms that are as enjoyable to play and be in as they are to solve. 

The puzzles are designed to include 6 players, but can be enjoyed by as few as two because we want to cater for couples and smaller groups visiting the area. No spoilers yet though….



The January Countdown….

Labour Weekend is upon us and our pre-launch marketing sign has gone out to grow awareness of our pending offering in the Canterbury region. 

Check in to see our progress as we move closer to unlocking Encryptomania….


Update November 20th

Whoever said, ‘expect the unexpected’ and ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ knew what they were talking about.  Life certainly has its curve balls and we are working our way through them. Suffice to say, our progress is balanced against new challenges as they present.

What does this mean for the rooms? It means the moment that people first step into a room and have a go is pushed out into January. But we think the wait will be worth it.

Meanwhile, here’s a shout out to all the recyclers among us who also enjoy fixing, repurposing, and using scrap building materials, furniture, and fabrics.  Sometimes we need a flat piece of board or a straight piece of timber, but when we can, we have been lucky enough to have offcuts from our local builder and friend.  Not all of us are gifted with the ability to cut in a straight line, so from a puzzle construction perspective, the warp in the odd piece of timber has worked perfectly for the aesthetic of our more rustic old-time pieces. I believe parts of more than one house feature in the rooms.

Our rooms are handmade, crafted experiences, planned to be stimulating and enjoyable to be in. Their current nicknames (not actual titles) are ‘the blue room’ and ‘the train’.  As the puzzles build up – having claddings and finishings finalised – it is starting to get quite exciting. Almost as exciting as finding the surface of the kitchen table for the first time in two weeks!

Update December 9th….

There is no rest for the wicked as painting continues.  The reception area paint job and design has cracked on,  and the blue room is about ready for fitting larger puzzle pieces.  Once that happens it will be time to contact testers to firm-up dates for our first rounds of testing – and practice our player briefings. 

Another shout out is due for the wonderful generosity of three friends, M, N and S. You know who you are!  M has been a construction buddy helping work collaboratively on a substantial piece. N & S gave up a precious escape room booking in town to come and help with prep and paint work in the rooms. Kids have spared the time to drive out from town while juggling flat moving and new summer jobs to help out. My mum and brother joined me for a painting day. (Yes, we are those paint splattered people seen in the village.)  We have absolutely needed help and it is humbling when so many people step up.

On the puzzle front, a growing number of props and furniture are being finished off. Electronics are being soldered and set in. Circuits are being tested and coding is being constructed. Fingers crossed – tools will move out of living spaces in time for Xmas.

The big revelation for this month is that there is nothing quite so exciting as hearing your own maglock circuit clicking on and off. The journey from the inception of a puzzle idea well over a year ago, through to jig-sawing, gluing, painting, screwing, wiring and rounds of testing, to the first time it all comes together, makes for big goofy grins.

Next weekend we look forward to a working bee on the train room. 

Update December 29th

We hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to 2024!

After a brief pause to observe the holiday, it is back into it before New Years crashes in on the work party.  We have been figuring out how we wanted to shape a false ceiling, planning approaches for attaching fabrics to walls, and of course painting, painting, painting!


On the electronics side of things, coding is nearing completion to make way for integration.  What does that mean for players and hosts? It means that we will be able to capture start and stop times and run our sound files and light changes automatically.  It has also been a sobering time hearing of the realities of what running escape rooms can involve in terms of wear and tear and maintenance.  Of course, we anticipate that our guests will be wonderfully behaved and appreciate the pre-play briefings are something we all have to go through.

So with one eye on our timeline and the other on a paint mix, sound files, wardrobe (you bet ya!) we are going for it to make the most of this time – as some of us are on annual leave (…?).  Next stop floor laying and installations in room 1.


Update January 8th

The pressure is mounting now.  Installations for our “blue room” have been in progress for the last week after the floor tiles were laid. 

While we enjoy a good combination lock and padlock, we also enjoy indulging in a bit of electronic feedback.  So it’s crunch time for having our components work in unison through a hub.  For all you techies out there, that means Arduinos and Node Red for us.  Cables have been run and we are retesting each puzzle again now that they have been transported and installed.  We are resigned to the fact that we may have to take things off the walls again as we work through the process. 

With one eye on installation progress, it is time to set up testing groups for evaluating time and the flow of the room. Not to mention that the hints make sense!  The rooms will be self service on this front. Yes, game play must be monitored for insurance’s sake and health and safety, but no, we do not plan to be inspecting player progress and nudging people along. 

We are booking our testers, and after feedback tweaks we will look to open bookings. That means a nail biting 2-3 weeks.  Looks like we will squeak in at the end of January folks, all going well.

Our second room is 2-3 weeks behind the first one.  Trim installations should be nearing completion so we can move on to our major claddings this week. It is coming into shape and feels like a lovely space.  Hopefully we will successfully apply learnings from the first room as we finish off the second and gain time.

Update January 21st

Testing, testing – 1,2,3 groups so far for ‘The Novice’ AKA the blue room.  Testing turns out to be quite a nerve wracking experience the first time around.  Notes were taken, discussions were had, debriefings were held, reflections gleaned, and tweaking began.

Prior to the first test was a relentless week and a half. Installations and electronics issues for newbies threw us – like a magnetic cupboard latch solenoid interfering with components nearby, getting the voltage right, sorting out programming to turn it off enough that so it doesn’t overheat or melt glue.  Fun, fun, fun. And interference from the light switch. I mean, we hope for light bulb moments during sessions, but not for light bulbs to literally solve puzzles….

We had an inkling it might be a medium to hard room when we did our first room full run the night before our first test group – it felt comprehensive.

The rich feedback from our first lovely test group led to a raft of stick-on tweaks for our second group a few hours later.  Some extra clues just didn’t quite land. 

Next came a big refinement of one puzzle and removal of another to bring times down.  Our third test group was today, (stick-on labels replaced with proper graphics).  This was a strict one-hour job.  Teams are still buzzing and enjoying the room itself and the variety, but we are still hitting the 9/10 for hardness.  It’s one further round of tweaks.  We have a small test group Tuesday but are hoping our other experienced team can give the changes from today a solid go.  Then we will commit to a difficulty rating.

A huge thank you to the three teams to date. You guys are wonderful.

So, while ‘The Novice’ sounds simple, don’t be mislead, that is the theme and not the rating!  Bookings should be opening up toward the end of the week.  Exciting times!


Update  January 31st

‘The Novice’ has gone live.  We have opened up the wider Encryptmania.nz site and made our bookings page, FAQ etc live.

We have added supplementary cues and clues to the room to soften the difficulty level somewhat. Overall, we are pretty happy that we can switch it up to the harder 9-10 out of 10 rating for people who feel primed and that they have excellent powers of observation and ability to link pieces of information in an escape room environment. 

It seems from watching and reflecting on test sessions that teams that fan out and scope, but also come together and share info, play and explore do best.  Getting stuck in an approach that seems to be going nowhere is usually because external ideas are being applied to information at hand.  We work along the principles that everything in the room counts.  

It was cool seeing some novel approaches to engaging with puzzle components and working out the solutions.  While not everyone will make it to ‘Acolyte’, based on testing, the hour will be engaging, and time will fly nonetheless.  We are happy the room is relatively autonomous, and the ultimate outcome is in your hands and at your discretion.  We have applied feedback from all test groups and again, thank you everyone for your time and input!  

Our second room AKA the train, is moving along (not literally).  It has been a juggle working back and forth between the two. Construction is nearing completion – final design decisions are being applied, the idea is coming to fruition, and the first puzzle pieces are being installed. Having said that, despite this feeling relatively low-tech, it feels higher tech than The Novice – even if we grasped the work overhead fully this time last year, we would still have done it this way. It seems the only way to bridge the gap between the traditional adventure-based gaming/novels and escape rooms. Coding is a team effort – where would we be without git hub and local servers to work in parallel?  

So come along and check out our awesome reception desk!  Bizz is happy to help set up bookings for anyone wanting a hand – if you catch her in her design and curtain making shop in the front of the building.

Update  February 12th

What a month!  Yes, yes, we are only halfway through…but it feels like a month already. 

The Novice is starting to build up some stats.  It was with a heavy heart (after the joy of watching 2 of the Code Breakers teams complete the room) that the decision to break one puzzle into two was made.  This lets us better cater for less experienced teams.

Essentially it boils down to feedback.  We like the tech to be low key – supportive of the experience, but not the feature.  Non tech puzzles rely heavily on knowing you have the code right via a padlock of some sort.  So we reintroduced our 5th lock to provide feedback sooner, and make problem solving an incorrect code easier.  It sounds like more work, but based on our last player group, it did the trick. 

We have also identified that some stock standard prompts – not hints, will be useful to be able to manually insert into the room if a team is going down a frustrating rabbit hole.  Those are a WIP, but should complement hints and mean we don’t have to enter the room as much.  At the end of the day, the game host will have to figure out how the team is feeling overall.  Sometimes players want to ask a question, sometimes they just need a nudge.

So after bumping up the rating to 9/10, back it goes to 8/10 – although it is probably actually a managed 7.  We still have one ace up our sleeves if people request a harder room.  No one has requested this yet… 

The train room has been playing second cousin to working through issues of cable length, baud rates and finding more reliable sound file applications for The Novice.  There have been a fair few late nights.  Running ‘The Novice’ takes close attention to ensure the game runs its course.  We look forward to being able to relax a bit more!

That said, its back to the train room electronic installations… All going well, the word can go out to testers by the end of the week.


Update February 24th

If Feb 12th felt like a month, today it feels like a year!

We have enjoyed analysing our game hosting engagements with groups and setting up a series of prompts we can inject into rooms to complement the written hints we offer.  It seems to do the trick, but we are also juggling how much to offer – this is game hosting real time. Not the autonomous rooms we planned, but life is about adaptation and flexibility.  This whole psychology thing is a completely new aspect we were not expecting.  Some people want to be left entirely to themselves. Our partnership spans both ends of the scale, and we think this will strengthen our games as we debate the full spectrum of experience. 

We find ourselves wanting teams to have their best chance at reaching the second chamber and having the satisfaction of figuring out how a puzzle works.  We also want to try to avoid people feeling frustrated if they are inadvertently going down a rabbit hole.

Sometimes people just need space to work through their ideas.  The judgement call on that is unique each time.  Today we realised that this is a choice that we need to make as game hosts.  Generally, if people are busy and engaged and trying different things, the rule seems, leave them be.  But if time is a ticking, we need to make our own call, irrespective of their pre-game stance.  Interesting learning curves – better to be disgruntled by a hint foisted upon you than to grind to an impasse?   

So what will Platform 4267 bring?  Yes, that is the name of the second ‘train’ room.  Amid the electronic storms we have weathered in ‘The Novice’ we are making headway.  The Novice will go on hiatus while we finish off Platform 4267. There are just not enough hours in the day now we on the technical pre-test stretch.  The last realisation that our door was too heavy for our maglock meant Bizz had a moment to shine with a brilliant alternative idea which has been implemented. (No spoilers).   

Family has continued to be a strong theme with our young people stepping up to help with the joys of tracing some frustrating interactions between Arduino code and Node Red.  We think we are slowly winning on that front.  Persistence and much googling is key – and all hints and answers are most certainly welcome!!


Update February 29th

It’s that unicorn of a day!  Happy birthday to everyone who ages one year in every four!!

It feels like maybe the universe is being a little kind to us by giving us an extra day in the year to work with.  Yesterday was the first time in a week or more that we had those golden moments of playtime during testing.  The ones when we remember what it was all about and how much fun they can be.

We have been relocating relays from arduinos and working on isolation of power cables from USB ones. A wishlist for shielded cabling is in existence and will be a future upgrade no doubt.  Meanwhile coding delays, tin foil, and physical space where we can is the order of the day.

On the puzzle front, we are feeling wiser on the cueing of players and have actioned tweaks pre-test. We want players to find their way through observation, exploration and tools at their disposal.  A narrator has joined this room.  This tool has gone from a very light weight intro and drama building device in The Novice, to an integral part of the story.  We want them to make sense, and to give us the ability to inject nudges while letting players still figure it out.  I am growing quite fond of these characters.  Thank you AWS for providing the raw materials for us to adapt!!

Update March 7th

It doesn’t seem fair that components fail.  But this is the world of escape rooms.  It was satisfying to swap out a reed switch, but when it comes to whole nanos – that is quite annoying.  

We had had our first two train room tests  –  with technical hitches solved from number one and number two mostly working a dream it seemed. But oh, the third test at the end of the day 2 was another story.  Bizz and I were in fits of laughter when our train horn wouldn’t stop blasting out.  Our poor team in the room didn’t know what was going on.  I managed to shut it down, but it meant shutting the gametime down.  So that code has been attended to.

We are officially pragmatic on the failure front.  After a maglock relay went down and caused an on-the-spot nightmare, we wired in a second parallel relay to switch the lock if one fails.  Seems to be functioning okay. Time will tell, and of course we will need to inspect the relays periodically to check one hasn’t stopped working. But anything for a stress-free booking! 

We are still battling our cupboard catch.  The relay has been relocated further away, but a changing the usb cable type is not doable for a week or so and will require some scratchy beard thinking moments.  Bit of a problem when none of us have a beard…

So now its back to testing central.

We have a big competitive booking tomorrow. That has been an interesting challenge, to appraise the two sets of puzzles and figure out a system to make a scoring system fair between rooms.  This is not a standard offering btw.  The train room is looking like a cruisy 6/10 in terms of difficulty.  There are only really two puzzles to make you work a bit more.  The rest really is about having fun, kicking back and looking at the scenery if that is all you feel like doing.  This is a room that we all kind of want to be in, to sit and work on bits and pieces.  We hope everyone else enjoys it too.  We will take our time officially opening it, we want to know we can feel relaxed about the electronics side of things.

Update March 14th

Another week has sailed by. It’s been an interesting week – and with the unexpected bonus of meeting another set of escape room professionals – this time from -Escape Rooms Christchurch.  It was great to have a chat about experiences to date and hear their words of hard-won experience and wisdom surrounding the path that lies ahead.

We were concerned The Novice was a hard ask for a 2-person team, but they conquered it and took 3rd place on the leader board!  What a wonderful feat!

It’s testing time again this weekend for the train room.  After last week’s inclusion of it in a competition event, it is time to pull it back and implement a series of robustness changes.  It is always a guessing game as to how people will engage with objects, so it is great to have gained this understanding.

 We have some physical relocations to put into place before then – so it’s going to be another busy couple of days. For the techies out there, there are some serial port ideas to test out for our puzzle devices– after noticing a lot of strife comes after sharing ports for code updates.  It will be interesting to see if there is any merit in the observation.     That and a nano is being swapped out for an ESP after much humming and hahhing and soldering inspection….

The train room will be given the full time it needs as it has a much heavier reliance on centralised puzzle information.  As they say, it takes as long as it takes.


March 24th

Time to blog!  Sitting waiting for a serial port to drop out – what else do you do? They really are beasties. Before a game in the morning, while working on a maintenance dashboard upgrade, everything tested wonderfully. All green – nice!  And then of course a game begins, and a puzzle stops talking to our main computer.  Very annoying. Not a showstopper, but oh so annoying. It undermines our auto collection of game stats. Yes, we take note of times, game end points and team strengths, but being an analyst, it’s lovely to have data….

 So of course, this serial port is refusing to drop out after the game. When you want something to misbehave, it just won’t. It’s time to sit and wait, to emulate the pre-game environment, and reflect on the experience of game hosting.

We had the joy of seeing top place for The Novice being taken out by a team of 3 today. The fastest time is now at 40 minutes and 54 seconds with no hints or answers. Although the two hardest puzzles were softened and broken down a month ago, it remains challenging for fast groups, which is reassuring.

Prompts have become a routine feature for making the room accessible for all players.  We have built a comprehensive list of audio cues so we are able to spot people in danger of heading off along down a long fruitless frustrating path. To date, no team has been entirely immune from going down rabbit holes.  With a simple audio prompt, people can pause and redirect their attentions.

If things are beyond our pre-made list, it is time to enter the room as a game host. From the perspective of running a game, it is really satisfying to ask how things are going, and when people announce they are stuck, give them a question.  Nine times out of ten, they have already processed the information to solve the puzzle.  Seeing a light bulb moment strike them is a wonderful sight.  The win is theirs – they have figured it out!

On the flip side, it has been interesting to see how rapidly experienced players learn to self-correct and pay attention to the clues. It’s like a zen master class in stress control and complete avoidance of getting flustered. Observation is key, and this is balanced against their desire for speed.

And finally, we are gearing up for another couple of test rounds for the train. We have one stubborn puzzle throwing a bit of a tiz to deal with. Nothing like a test deadline to spur on a creative solution to a tough problem!

Update 1st April

Happy fool’s day – if it means stumbling into life’s happy accidents!

We are still waiting for a magic “3 in a row”. That means no hitches – at all. We got close with 2, but our third run for the day was a telling off for thinking it was that easy.  Although it was kind of easy dealing with it. That is nice, experiencing the shift in our confidence for managing the running of it.  If we get an ultimate failure, we now have a puzzle ace up our sleeves that still lets people figure out the code, but bypasses the tech.  Maybe that is how the very first escape rooms worked – game hosts may have been more like quiz masters?   

Next steps are to follow through with images for web-based tourism links. That has taken longer to sort out than expected. We are still hoping to get a quick reel done with the help of some of the amazing talent out there.  If it is meant to happen, it will. And we will be getting some print media out there in the next couple of weeks for accommodation guest information.  As we have found out, people do look at printed media. Thankyou Akaroa Mail!

On the electronics front we may investigate liberally sprinkling more resistors where there is a relay nearby. This is a case of not relying on the built-in resistors on the arduinos/nanos for pull-up pins.  We certainly see a consistent pattern of relay interference as we test the train room.  Some of the testing gets a bit tricky, especially with pattern-based puzzles. There are a few variables to cross off: instructions, users, coms & logic.  And there is that old chestnut – things refuse to fail when you want them to.


12th April

It is that time of year when the garden is throwing the last autumnal crops of fruit at us.  Stewed fruit is in the freezer, thanks to no longer bothering with peach or apple skin removal!  Very freeing and a healthy time saver.

Along with dedicated time for stewing, we have put out the call for interested parties to request our small flyers for people staying out on the peninsula.  A quick photo shoot was had with the help of my brother and nieces to assemble “people” images to send to Pockets of Awesome, and we are now on Trip Advisor as well as Morty App and our local go to, LittleRiver.org.nz.  The Akaroa Mail article has been a source for 3 bookings so far, which is great to see.  It might not sound like a lot to readers, but we have relatively low numbers as we build up.  

Happily, for now we can keep on top of cleaning and repair work.  Some damage has been surprising to all involved! But is seems par for the course and an occasional side effect of enthusiasm. 

It was exciting to get an ethernet shield delivered. Now it’s R&D time for adjusting the code to use MQTT with network cables.  Then ‘The Novice’ will be the test bed for managing larger distances between puzzles and a game server.  Once we are happy with this, the plan is to convert 3 puzzles in the train from USB serial port to MQTT as well.  THEN we will open up bookings.

Another train room test was had today, this time with a small group of 2. We have run it with 4-6 people to date, checking off the order of approach, spacing, level of involvement and accessibility of puzzles.  As we have come to find, every time a room is run, there is something unique in each group’s approach. Consistencies arise, but there seems to be plenty of diversity in human dynamics and styles of thinking.  Delight and enthusiasm are a real pleasure to see.  It makes it all worthwhile. 

For now, it’s time to print another couple of tweaks, list technical tests to double check and enjoy the evening now that the floors are wet mopped, and ‘The Novice’ is set for Saturday’s bookings.


22nd April

It’s hard to believe we will be heading into May soon.  Yikes.  Bookings were building nicely until last week when we seem to have hit a slow patch. It has worked out well as a “one night” planned swap out from serial port to MQTT turned into a solid “2 nights plus one and a half days”!  It did lead to building a “restart” button on our dashboard to allow us to save a partial game, do a full reboot and restore the status.

Why would we want to do this? Because we hit a new bug – first time in over 3 months of testing and playing games. Our sound software got into a pickle and played a track on repeat. Never happened before. The thought struck – is this what the game hosts meant when they said sometimes things went haywire and you were stuck because you didn’t want to wipe out games to sort a glitch? 

Step one was to set a phone timer running to take over the game duration and press STOP.

But the sound loop kept on playing!!  Our players continued unaware of our mental gymnastics. The puzzles work as contained units and players didn’t seem to question the repeating sound as they raced to complete the room.

Options were – restart the service, but this would risk losing our UV light.  The second option was a game reset. This is a bit messy, and still the loop stubbornly refused to stop.

It was time to find the backup UV torch (we like lots of backups) and consider the drastic measure of a full reboot.  While fetching the torch, the idea to simply override the volume control occurred.  And so turn down the volume we did.  So simple, and so effective…. Until we turned it back up for the end sounds, and yes, that loop was still playing!!!  So, log reviews, code reviews and a restart button followed.

And how did the team go you ask?  That mother-daughter combo were a determined pair.  We haven’t seen strategic well-placed use of the hint cupboard for a while. They seemed to know when to work to solve the puzzles and when it was timely to get some help.  To be fair, they are clocking up experience – which it takes to make those calls when there are 2 of you in a difficult room!  They came in with a minute to spare. Nice.


29th April

Okay, it is Monday, a quiet day that is often a good day to get town jobs done.  But as it stands, the sun is shining yet again – (what an Autumn!) and so washing is out on the line, the slow cooker is on, and it is time to get back to Node Red coding for the train. This week’s augmentation is a sound queue – we have a lot of them and decided in the long run it will head off any issues and help people to hear everything they need.

Train updates are taking 3 prongs: electronic communications (MQTT change as tested in The Novice – so far so good), coding updates in Node Red and test reviews.  Hopefully the brunt of the sound queuing will be done in time for testing tonight ready for a code merge. Better get cracking.

On the weekend we spoke prematurely about the puzzles being settled, having realised there is one locked cupboard that test teams often develop “player blindness” to. Strategies are being mulled over, to preserve the puzzles, but improve the hit rate.

Variations of “player blindness” seems a typical experience from what we see. Escape Rooms have an uncanny ability of creating tunnel vision typically associated with stress. We hope it is a good stress – but nevertheless, our philosophy seems to be “don’t let teams fall foul of rabbit holing”.  This has several purposes:

  1. It saves frustration – you hate it, we hate to see people frustrated, so let’s avoid it.
  2. It saves precious game time for productive problem solving and real competition.
  3. It gives teams the best chance of finishing a room. We don’t promise you will, that is in your hands.

On the subject of finishing rooms, some teams really want to finish, and they know this ahead of time. Newer players may not realise how much it means to them. We try to furnish people with the means to make their own decisions, but the built-in suggestion to use hints is often turned down. To highlight the impending end, we have added 5 and 2-minute warnings. This way people can go crazy with answers if they truly want to access the end point.   We hope this preserves the competitive element, respects team choice and doesn’t rob people of the chance of a “good fail”.  If we weren’t comfortable with failure, The Novice would not exist after all (see our Facebook reels being released weekly).  But not everyone sees experience as a teacher, so we like to quickly show players the remaining puzzles to satisfy their curiosity, time permitting.

On the time permitting front, we do have puzzles that need to be dismantled to avoid magnets impacting reed switches. Our room resets are quite long apparently, but our rooms are also very tactile, including the hints, so it seems a reasonable consequence of a hands-on game.  They were designed for the play after all, not the reset. Maybe this is a mistake, time will tell.

The Novice family group A hands on room!


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What were we talking about?
Winter workshop
Proof of concept
Field research
Sorry kids, I stole your room….
Puzzles everywhere
It’s a bit of work…
Programming nightmares

Train carriage work continues

Hatch in progress

Testing testing
And so the nights were spent
All help welcome!
How many are we making?
Cat supervisor
I get it…
I think this might work
Oh cool, it looks like the stone henge
Late night dash
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