The Realities and Timelines of Turn-Key Escape Rooms.
Venturing into the exciting world of escape rooms always brings a pivotal choice: the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) route or the convenience of turn-key solutions offered by a plethora of producers. While DIY escape rooms can be significantly cheaper (our initial two rooms cost us 2-3 times less than our current builds), the demands of the task have amplified over time.
In 2015, our focus wasn't divided amongst ten other rooms needing regular maintenance, service, repairs, and upgrades. Presently, creating a new adventure from scratch can be an arduous project that drains significant time and energy from me and my team. Our expertise lies in engineering - soldering and programming everything under the sun. But when it comes to crafting artistic, durable props, we are out of our element. However, if you're lucky enough to have a multi-skilled team in-house, it could be a different story.
So, for us, the path to follow is simple: adapt a turn-key solution to our specific needs, place an order, and then piece it together at our location. It sounds like a breeze, right? Well, let's plunge into the nitty-gritty details of the timelines.
Layout and Theme Selection: These processes commence concurrently. We identify the desired theme and the corresponding layout. We then evaluate how many modifications are required. Major alterations necessitate permits, architects, and inspections. This phase can consume up to six months in our case, hence the need to initiate it immediately after ordering the room. Consequently, our final inspection typically coincides with the completion of the room.
The selection of puzzles, drafting of the scenario, and discussing details consume around 2-3 weeks. For instance, this process was completed in July '22 for "Luck and Key."
- Construction: Our contractors start by building walls, leaving one side open for easier wiring. This process took 10 days for "Luck and Key," followed by a preliminary inspection. After rectifying minor issues, we were ready for wiring. However, wiring before receiving the puzzles can complicate things, leading to additional work if changes are needed later.
- Delivery: Once the puzzles are ready (in December '22 for our room), we pay the balance and await delivery. It's worth mentioning that we also ordered an extra puzzle for another room and bought a pre-built Pirate Adventure, which affected the delivery time. We received everything in March since sea shipping, though cheaper, takes longer than air transport.
- Wiring: This step involves running extensive wiring between puzzles and the main server. Hiding wires within the walls not only improves aesthetics but also ensures puzzle safety. After placing puzzles in the room to ascertain their precise sizes and positions, we commenced wiring. This step, including modifications and improvements, took a few weeks. Subsequently, the contractor closed the walls, primed them, and installed wallpapers.
- Hardware Testing and Customization: After placing everything back, we began testing puzzles for any weak spots or potential improvements, aided significantly by Indestroom's support. Additionally, we finalized our permits by the end of April.
Playtests, Guide Training, and Adjustments: We launched friends and family tests in May. After two weeks and significant changes, we trained our guides. Real training began with actual customers, offering a 30% discount in exchange for constructive feedback.
After another two weeks, the game was ready for public booking in June.
It took us three months from receiving the delivery to opening "Luck and Key" for bookings and 11 months from placing the order. Is it possible to expedite this timeline? Certainly! It largely depends on your schedule, skills, desired quality, extent of customization, and more. But I hope that this timeline provides a rough idea of what to anticipate when ordering a turn-key escape room.