Since we quietly opened our doors in September, we’ve gotten feedback from customers and fans that it isn’t exactly clear how our room endings work. So! We’d like to fix this. We’ll take a look at a sample escape room and see how we might write and design the room’s endings to fit the SideQuests philosophy.
At SideQuests, we’ve always said that endings matter. In fact, we even wrote a blog post about exactly that! (Also accompanied by a post about beginnings, if that’s more your type of thing.) And we want to make sure that when you come to play one of our rooms, you get the full SideQuests experience: you and your team are the stars of the story, and your story has a beginning, a middle, and, perhaps most importantly, an end. This means that whether you succeed at your quest, fail, or have a partial success, something will happen to close out your story.
Thematically, I sometimes think of it like an epilogue. Or like the end of one of those movies where the screen fades to black, and some text explains what happens to the characters in the future after the end of the movie: Jill went on to become a world-renowned scientist and cure bad breath, Jack enjoyed a couple more years in the limelight and faded into obscurity, and so on. What happens after the main story is over?
Mechanically, the way we handle endings is that every room has two or more goals that you’re trying to accomplish. (Being an escape room, these goals are, of course, completed by solving certain thematically-appropriate puzzles.) Depending on which of the goals you complete, you will gain a different ending or epilogue when you exit the room or when time runs out. Of course, the more goals you complete, the better the ending will be!
To illustrate, let’s build on the sample space station story from the original Endings Matter post. If you haven’t read that post, here’s the scenario: you and your team of specialists were hired to go up to a space station orbiting Earth and disable the power reactor before it explodes and sets off a chain of events that will eventually destroy civilization. As your team enters the space station, a meteorite destroys the shuttle you flew up on, stranding you on the doomed station.
Right away, this gives you two goals: your original mission of disabling the reactor and saving the world (the main quest, if you will), and a new goal of finding a way to get off the space station and back to Earth before you run out of oxygen (the side quest). This leads to four possible endings, depending on which goals you complete:
- Don’t disable the reactor, don’t escape the space station
- This ending would likely see your team perishing when the space station explodes. This would be followed by the end of the world in the near future. Very bad ending!
- Don’t disable the reactor, but do manage to escape on an escape pod
- Gasp! Abandoning your mission? This ending would likely have Mission Control berating you on the way down. The world will still end in the near future, but at least you get to spend the remaining months with your loved ones… Okay, this is getting dark. Onto better endings!
- Disable the reactor, but don’t escape the space station
- The world is saved! You and your team are hailed as heroes… posthumously. Sadly, you ran out of oxygen and perished. Still, it’s cool to have national holidays named after you all around the world…
- Disable the reactor, and escape
- You ride back down to earth in the escape pod, and Mission Control congratulates you on the way down. Once you land, you’re treated to a hero’s welcome, ticker-tape parade and all, holidays and monuments and all manner of public buildings are named after you, and so on. You’ve saved the world and lived to tell the tale!
Anyway! We hope this helps to illustrate the SideQuests philosophy in designing room endings. To recap: you have multiple goals tied to the story the room is telling (and your team is starring in), and your experience will have a different ending, or epilogue, depending on which of the goals you complete!
(Wait, did this just imply that Expedition is opening soon? Hmm… stay tuned!)
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