Dreams of build­ing real-life es­cape game

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY JOSEPH YEH

For those who haven’t no­ticed, real-life room es­cape games (

) have re­cently risen to be­come a popular pas­time among peo­ple who en­joy mys­tery and adventure.

The phys­i­cal adventure sees a group of par­tic­i­pants locked up in a room where they have to use clues they dis­cover to solve a se­ries of puzzles and ul­ti­mately es­cape from the room within a set time limit.

Such games are orig­i­nally based on popular “es­cape the room” video games in which a soli­tary player is locked in­side a room and must ex­plore the sur­round­ings in or­der to es­cape.

They orig­i­nated as video games, but since then peo­ple around the world have been build­ing real-life es­cape games in fixed lo­ca­tions in the United States, Europe and Ja­pan, among other coun­tries, so that peo­ple can en­joy real-life ad­ven­tures in per­son.

So too in Tai­wan. Ad­ven­tures that com­bine el­e­ments from adventure board games and movies have also seen ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity af­ter they were in­tro­duced to the coun­try from nearby Ja­pan sev­eral years ago.

With ris­ing de­mand over the past two to three years, more com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially in the Greater Taipei re­gion, have been build­ing real-life es­cape games in fixed lo­ca­tions in Tai­wan.

There are cur­rently around 50 such fa­cil­i­ties in Taipei and New Taipei alone, prov­ing their pop­u­lar­ity among young­sters.

Join­ing the highly com­pet­i­tive new busi­ness is a group of four young men who only re­cently opened their new gam­ing fa­cil­ity in New Taipei.

Com­pet­ing with other al­ready es­tab­lished real-life es­cape games, the four men in their early 30s pledged to of­fer a one-of-its-kind in­ter­ac­tive adventure ex­pe­ri­ence to cus­tomers.

”We are pre­sent­ing a very dif­fer­ent movie-like ex­pe­ri­ence to play­ers so that they can en­joy 70 min­utes of a unique in­ter­ac­tive adventure they will never for­get,” said Peter Pan ( ), ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the In­fi­nite Com­pany ( ).

Joint Ven­ture with Col­lege

Bud­dies

Speak­ing to The China Post dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view, Pan said he has al­ways been a big fan of adventure theme parks such as Uni­ver­sal Stu­dio.

His love for adventure was also why he chose to ma­jor in mul­ti­me­dia and game science back in his col­lege days, a rel­a­tively new and unique depart­ment that teaches its stu­dents how to de­sign com­puter games.

In­stead of be­com­ing a game designer, Pan, took a job as an in­sur­ance clerk af­ter grad­u­a­tion. He, how­ever, never for­got his dream and pas­sion for mys­tery and adventure.

Pan re­gained his love and pas­sion for adventure and has fallen deeply in love with real-life ex­pe­ri­ences fol­low­ing his first en­counter with real-life room-es­cape games two years ago in Tai­wan, when he joined in play­ing the games with his friends.

As a mul­ti­me­dia and game science ma­jor, how­ever, he found that many of th­ese games on the mar­ket have much room for im­prove­ment.

”My friends and I have found that many of th­ese real-life roomescape games only al­low par­tic­i­pants to sit in a room solv­ing puzzles and rid­dles but lack more so­phis­ti­cated room de­sign,” he noted.

He be­lieved that he could do a bet­ter job if he could work with his col­lege bud­dies to come up with bet­ter spe­cial ef­fects, gad­gets and props to cre­ate a more con­vinc­ing en­vi­ron­ment that would make game par­tic­i­pants be­lieve they were ac­tu­ally living in a movie.

With the money he saved dur­ing his eight years as an in­sur­ance clerk and some money he man­aged to raise from friends, Pan, to­gether with three of his col­lege class­mates, Clive Hung (

), An­gus Ko, ( ) and Gavin Wang ( ), to­gether founded In­fi­nite Com­pany.

Each of his three friends brought a dif­fer­ent ex­per­tise: Hung was re­spon­si­ble for com­ing up with the back­story for their game Wang was re­spon­si­ble for the wood­work and de­sign of the gam­ing space and Ko was the tech­ni­cian in charge of build­ing the gad­gets, props and au­to­ma­tion, as well as the elec­tron­ics of the game.

It took them some time to find a spa­cious 100-ping base­ment in New Taipei’s Xinzhuang Dis­trict to serve as the lo­cale for their game and it took sev­eral months more to fin­ish the de­sign and the con­struc­tion of their real-life es­cape game.

They also came up with the back­story for the game: the story re­volves around a spe­cial op­er­a­tions unit which they named the 7th Squadron ( ).

The story is about Dr. W, a mem­ber of the squadron, who sus­pects that there is a mole in the squadron af­ter one of the squadron mem­bers was killed dur­ing a pre­vi­ous mission.

He left clues in his house so that other squadron mem­bers can find out who the mole is.

The play­ers of the game act as mem­bers of the squadron who are solv­ing a se­ries of puzzles and find­ing clues, to dis­cover the iden­tity of the mole and es­cape the room within 70 min­utes.

Build Unique Gam­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence with Ex­per­tise

To come up with a unique, never-be­fore-seen gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to go with the back­story, Pan and the team built their own de­signs, with par­tic­i­pants hav­ing to solve puzzles in four dif­fer­ent scenes be­fore they can fi­nally es­cape.

Uti­liz­ing their pro­fes­sional train­ing in mul­ti­me­dia and game de­sign, the team set up unique light­ing and props such as elec­tron­ics hid­ing in the walls.

They even built their own sen­sors for mo­tion de­tec­tion, mean­ing cer­tain move­ments in the space are ca­pa­ble of un­lock­ing new el­e­ments of the room.

The unique de­signs have cost them around NT$3 mil­lion, al­most dou­ble their orig­i­nal es­ti­ma­tion.

”We want to cre­ate a world that is full of sur­prise and dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, and we want our cus­tomers to feel that we have put all our heart into the game,” he said.

Their money is well-spent, as since open­ing to the public in March, around 400 to 500 peo­ple have al­ready paid to play the game.

Pan said he has re­ceived mostly fa­vor­able and pos­i­tive re­sponses from th­ese par­tic­i­pants. Only around 30 per­cent of them have suc­cess­fully solved all the puzzles and left the room within 70 min­utes.

“We feel most sat­is­fied when we hear peo­ple play­ing the game say ‘how did they do that?’ ‘How did them come up with th­ese props, they are amaz­ing!’” Pan said.

Look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture, Pan said they are brain­storm­ing a new back­story and if ev­ery­thing goes well, they could open an­other new gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence next year.

His ul­ti­mate dream is to open a Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios-like real-life room-es­cape game theme park in Tai­wan where peo­ple can visit and en­joy a one-stop gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where they can find many dif­fer­ent such games in one big amuse­ment park.

(Top) From left: An­gus Ko, ( ), Gavin Wang ( ), Clive Hung ( ), and Peter Pan ( ) pose for a pho­to­graph in front of the en­trance to their re­al­life room-es­cape game in New Taipei City.

(Above) A view of a room in the “7th Squadron” (

) room-es­cape game.

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