Room design

Fox in a Box Room Escape is one of the leading brands in real-life room escape games. Our first branch opened in December 2013, and with 28 locations at the start of 2017 we are one of the fastest-growing companies in the business. We take our room design process very seriously and focus on quality, not quantity.

First off, we always start with the story. We establish the backstory of events prior to entering the room, and what the overall goal for the player is. We also decide what the outcome is whether they succeed or fail. Having a strong narrative is an important part of escape room games, and aids immersion. It helps if players understand their role.

Through experience we are now designing our new rooms in 3 acts and adding elements of foreshadowing. This will provide even more engagement in the story for our players.

Once the story is decided, our team of room designers come up with a room layout, and a system of puzzles. The setting of the story is hugely influential in what type of puzzles will be created for it. Some companies will create puzzles first and then add the theme last, which runs the risk of dissonance. For example, if you are on a pirate ship and there are puzzles using touch-screens, it destroys the believability of the situation, and your immersion suffers as a result.

Next I review everything that has been created at this point. I was an escape room enthusiast before founding Fox in a Box, and I really enjoy taking an active role in the design of each and every one of our rooms.

After any revisions, the individual puzzles are drawn by hand, with a description of how they intend to function. Our electricians and carpenters will review these puzzles to make sure they do not foresee any potential issues.

Once everyone is happy with the design of each puzzle it is a made as a 3D graphic model so it can be inspected from all angles. Then it is transformed into a technical drawing.

The carpenters build the puzzles whilst the electricians take care of any necessary wiring and programming, and then they are assembled fully. The puzzles are tested and then included into the prototype room, where it is connected to our custom-built software and hardware. The prototype room is completed with the addition of props and decor to match the theme and story.

Now we can test the rooms in their entirety, record the results and make any changes necessary. Testing the rooms is incredibly important as you have to account for the variety of approaches and logic that players may attempt. What we think is logical is not always the same for the average player and sometimes what we perceive as a difficult puzzle can turn out to be easy during testing.

After all the testing and tweaking is done, the room is officially ready for production and is added to our roster of Fox in a Box rooms. Designing and building a room is a long process; from starting the story of the room until it’s fully ready takes approximately 6 months.

A final element to the rooms are the game masters and their role-playing. For example, in our Prison Break room you are led by an angry prison guard into your cell. This adds another layer of immersion that is often overlooked. Other rooms of ours may have an introduction video that allows for a more vibrant and exciting explanation of the story than just having it told by a staff member.

The Mind Gamers Rooms

Working on the Mind Gamers experience with Red Bull is one of our most exciting projects to date. Fox in a Box is responsible for the production of the rooms and puzzles for the World Finals in Budapest.

Dr. Scott Nicholson and his team designed the semi-final and finals rooms, taking inspiration from quantum computing to create challenges that combine physical and mental elements.

We were approached by Dr. Nicholson and Red Bull to take on this project as we as a company have the experience and resources to be able to manage something of this magnitude. It is an honour to be able to be part of the first Escape Room World Finals. Although as an enthusiast I am somewhat remorseful that I cannot participate as a player myself!

Based on Scott’s concept we worked with him to come up with the total flow for the game and demonstrated how we intended to build each puzzle that was designed.

We then discussed the project with Red Bull TV. One of the main challenges for us was to bring Scott’s vision to life, whilst making sure that the event can be filmed and broadcast around the world. As the finals will be televised live, the experience was revised several times to accommodate the format. This required a different approach to how we normally build puzzles and rooms, and represented a fun new challenge for us.

Our aim has always been to create a final product and experience that is of the best possible quality, one that everyone involved will be proud of and one that will be just as exciting whether as a player or a spectator.

Bob Melkus
CEO, Fox in a Box