Escape Room – Week 2 – Puzzle Pathways and Prototyping

This week, seven of us from the class were able to meet up via Zoom on Friday afternoon to discuss the puzzle pathways and story for our escape room.

We decided to divide the time up into three sections of 30 minutes so that we could address: the story flow, the puzzle types, and the prototyping of puzzles. We spent most of the time on the story flow and puzzle types, and decided to have each classmate take a puzzle type and prototype it.

For the story, we elaborated a bit on what was happening then focused on what our beginning, middle, and end should be. After a bit of discussion, we landed on having there be three students research/lab assistants working for (what turns out to be) an evil professor who is testing and wanting to produce some type of memory pill–with very bad side effect.

The beginning of our story would inform our players of who they are what their motivations might be; this would lead to an investigative period. Their investigations lead them to realizing the professor is engaging in illegal activities, but once they do, they set off a tripwire and are locked inside a room for the professor to “handle” when he gets back (from lunch.) The last part of the escape room involves them solving puzzles to try to escape–with their lives and evidence against their mentor.

Escape Room Preliminary Flow
Escape Room Preliminary Flow

Here are more details on the flow from our group notes:

  1. After partial character briefings, getting to know your character & their motivations better through mini tasks 
    1. Mistrust between three students – final job as the research assistant for the professor 
    2. They are the replacement of the three researchers 
      1. Tasks: memory loss from other research participants, clues for them [prev researchers] – found out by the students 
    3. Be aware of the professor’s wrongdoing 
  2. Investigating / Arguing; ends with all information out in the open (more linear?)
    1. Should come to an conclusion 
    2. Students shut down the machine that builds the medication/item, which notifies the professor to shut down the building 
  3. Shutdown of the building – all characters try to escape the building together (more open?)
  4. Disclosure / Resolution / Escape
    1. Survival of the students
    2. Escape to inform the world
    3. Prevent the professor from keep doing what he’s doing (destroy property, shut down machine, lock in professor)

Here are our notes on the Storyline:

A dorm student who has discovered the evil side of the professor who is conducting illegal research on students through the professor’s notes safekept by student3. 

We have 3 students. Student 1 is the main player, he is curious about finding stuff. Student 2 functions as a bridge who has suspicions on the professor already. Student 3 is blindingly faithful to the professor because of a personal favor given by the professor in the past.

3 students work at different levels in the building. 

In different rooms of the building 

Working for the professor.

In the office, a briefcase of the secret.  – student 2 suspicious of the professor? 

How do these students know each other, what’s the background story

  • They are acquaintances since they work together? 
  • If they work together, why are they on different floors
  • Think of the building 
  • Building has different floors 
  • Since the students have different roles – levels of hierarchy 
  • They are not working closely together, they just know the existence of the students 

In the middle way, they are locked since the professor doesn’t want them to go out since they know the evil side of him.

We envision about 3 or 4 rounds of puzzles. For our first puzzle, we decided on the goals being:

  • Familiarization of the characters
  • Introduction of game mechanics
  • Not hectic or difficult right away


  • Students communicate independently with the professor
  • Each students get a “personalized” message from the professor saying that they are his favorite student
  • Professor accidentally send a message meant for someone else to one of the student “don’t tell anyone”, giving reason for mistrust
  • Puzzles are parallel, each students gets different puzzle
  • Some part has automated messages 
  • First puzzle will be investigative
  • Puzzles related to their majors 
    • Biochem 
    • Psychology 

i.e. Student 1 would be doing a math or searching puzzle, such as sorting through the files for the professor. Professor is disorganized/scatter-brained. This is an opportunity to find truths about the professor.

Student 2 would organize transcripts on who was in the building in the form of a puzzle that reveals that there is a post it as a notification “Don’t forget blah blah… send this to student 1″

Student 3 would have a task involving filling out the form of their major and the grade and gpa for the job for the professor, as the students are applying for the same coveted position.

Tasks for afterward:

  • Find the phone to text the student 1
  • Continue the plot

Each puzzle section would have the participants working on different types of puzzles with the main goal of–at first–getting information on the professor–and finally–getting to the end and escaping.

As far as a prototype goes, I decided to prototype a search puzzle. It involves finding all the capital letters in a document and then doing what the letters spell; in this case, the answer is “SELECT ALL.” Once the player selects all on the web page, it highlights a message that was secretly matching the background of the page.

Here’s an example:

Screen Shot - Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search Page 1 of 2
Screen Shot – Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search Page 1 of 2
Screen Shot - Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search Page 2 of 2
Screen Shot – Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search Page 2 of 2
Screen Shot - Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search - Secret Message Reveal
Screen Shot – Lorem Ipsum CAPS word search – Secret Message Reveal

If you want to try it yourself, check it out here: