Escape the No.4
Escape the No.4 is an immersive escape room experience set up in a physical space using AR as clues. The original story is about a creepy mental hospital which has ulterior secret that no one knows. The players will discover the secrets as they are making the escape.
Creator, Game Designer, Script Writer
ITP Spring Show, April 2017
We've seen way too many interactive arts where audiences wave their arms in front of a giant screen, trying to find out "what does this do" and walk away with an answer "oh, okay, cool!" within less than 1 minute. This happens even for many best among the best pieces.
It's painful for the creators as we're not here to showing off technology or visuals, we want our audience to EXPERIENCE our works. But apparently, a giant screen is not as inviting or immersive enough as we expected it to be.
This leads to my design challenge:
1. Putting on the wristband
As the first step being admitted to the mental hospital, the player(patient) would be asked to put on a tyvek wristband(which can only be cut off) Since we only had a small space with no physical walls or door, the final clue would be finding the tool to cut off the wristband.
2. Registration form
Then the doctor will hand the player a registration form listing all the mental disorders, and invite him/her into the escape room, which is the doctor's office.
3. Handing over the 'device'
When the player is seated, the doctor would welcome him/her to the mental hospital, and hand over a google cardboard, ask the patient to 'check the registration form with this special device to make sure everything is right'. When the player look at that form with google cardboard, he/she will see the first AR clue.
4. Finding clues
After introducing the 'device', the doctor will leave the space and say 'I will be back with you in 5 minutes '. The timer counts down, and the player has to find all the physical and AR clues in limited time to make the escape.
4. Make the escape
Finally, the player will find the tool to cut the tyvek wristband which declares the victory of the game.
The experience is made up of four elements: production design, performance, storytelling, gameplay. Each part played an important role to make the experience immersive and integrated.
To create a mysterious and creepy atmosphere, we set the production design of 'Then She Fell' as a reference, did visual research on illegal mental hospitals of the last century, and went to a very fun local vintage store called 'mother of junk' to find the right props.
To make the experience immersive and seamless, my partner and I performed as doctors, implemented all the instructions, prop reset, and troubleshooting into our performance. We successfully brought the players into the plots and avoid interruptions by answering questions as creators.
Once we are in the room, there is no 'creator' or 'player', there is only doctors and patients. Any questions about this piece, such as 'how do I find clues' would only be taken as crazy stuff said by a psychopath, and the doctor would only answer: 'I don't know what you're talking about, but we will fix you'.
Storytelling in Process
The original story is set in an illegal mental hospital which is not a real hospital, just a conspiracy who charges people to torture their enemy as psychopaths. The players are the victims who are sent here but have no idea what is going on, they can only get closer to the truth as they finding clues and solving puzzles.
I designed this character called Mr.X who died from the torture here years ago but left clues to help the players figure out what is going on and help them escape.
The story told by the notes and journals left by Mr.X serve as the connection between reality and AR. Everything player see from Google cardboard are simply 'illusions', for example, Mr.X thought he lost his mind as he saw a penguin on the wall, this is a clue for the player to double-check the photo with an AR animated
The clues are physical ones and AR clues. They are under a glass of water, on a chart that needs to be filled following instruction, inside a locker and pieces of puzzles hidden in different places.
Puzzles need to be completed to serve as an image target to trigger the AR effect.