Designing an Escape Room: The Idea
Everything starts with a small idea (or in the case of a Snuggie, someone accidentally putting a bathrobe on backwards) and the Escape Rooms here at Lock Chicago are no different. It all starts off with the most granular element of the puzzle, and the rest develops as you realize what you can accomplish with that mechanic. Take a look at our Sunburn room, for example. The underlying mechanic for the room is "light" and interesting ways to play around with it, especially redirection (if anyone here has seen The Mummy you know what I'm talking about). Every puzzle that exists in that room involves that mechanic.
An Expert Opinion
For those of you who follow this sort of thing, Johnathan Blow is releasing The Witness on January 26th, a puzzle game for computers and consoles. Johnathan Blow is considered one of the greatest video game puzzle makers around, and in this interview he states that the 600+ puzzles that exist to be solved in the game all have, on their most granular level, the same mechanic running through them: connecting two dots with a line.
Connecting the Dots
That's right, the some 100 hours of playtime it would take to fully beat his upcoming game are spent essentially just connecting dots, but once you see the screenshots and videos of the game you can immediately tell that it's a gross over-simplification. The important thing to take away from this is that the entire concept, and the project he and his team have spent close to 10 years now working on, started with an idea as small as connecting two dots with a single line. All great ideas stem from a granular foundation, and that concept has been generalized into the term we know today as "theme". What is the theme of your Escape Room, and how will you abstract it?
Tackling a project can be daunting when you look at it as a whole. When building a house, don't think of the house--think of the foundation you have to lay first, then the wood skeleton, then the insulation, then the exterior, then the interior, and then the finishing touches. Designing (and not to mention building) an Escape Room is done the same way, and that's how we do it at Lock Chicago. If you're looking to get some help starting a room, or are just curious to learn more, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give you all of the advice we can.