REMOTE ESCAPE ROOM, PART 2: AVATAR & NAVIGATION • Remote Escape Room Information Feature Series
Stay home AND experience escape games across the globe at the same time with remote
PART OF A SERIES, "REMOTE ESCAPE ROOM"
There are understandably many curious questions about remote escape rooms as they are relatively new, especially for the US market. This term hasn't even come into existence until the early part of 2020.
I, too, initially thought it's a simple video transmission of what otherwise would be a normal game play for already existent rooms, but that's only the partial truth, and even an inaccurate description in some sense.
I am also learning along as I go. Join me on this journey by first reading these previously published posts in order:
I covered what to expect and what to prepare prior to game start in Part 1.
You will need smart devices or computers to play remote escape rooms. A virtual conference app like Zoom should be installed for live video & sound.
You will communicate with your "game master", but now more appropriately called your "avatar", over the net, and you will control their action by various commands. What they see is what you see.
In addition, you will likely receive extra assistance or other important info on another screen, or on your "supplementary panel". (More on this later.)
YOUR ONE "LIFE"LINE, SORTA
Your very first remote escape game (how exciting!) will probably consist of first meeting your one human connection, dubbed the "avatar", who will absolutely essential to your game play.
Your avatar would either give you a brief intro, or they could just jump right into character. While the former is more reminiscent of your traditional escape experience, the other jump starts on immersion.
Per my previous post, your avatar-led experience will include a live feed of the room, and everything that's happening in it, in real time. This is achieved by your avatar, who is carrying a camera of sort, strapped onto their body in some form, and broadcasting that feed to you via high speed internet.
It's kinda like this. Except your avatar is a live person, and you can talk to them. (Credit: The Sims/Youtube)
YOU'RE IN CONTROL
Named after its video game inspiration, the avatar represents you in the game. You need to learn how to "control" them efficiently.
Since your "vision" is limited to what the camera points to at any given point in time, verbally communicate clearly and effectively on shifting the perspective. Command lines like "Look directly ahead. Turn to your left, walk closer to the wall, and now look up" may become a second nature.
Be specific, be descriptive, and when appropriate, have teammates talk one at a time to avoid commotion and confusion.
Occasionally, your avatar may facilitate the game narrative and flow by "purposely" walking towards a certain direction, or by searching a designated area for much needed clues. It's a judgement call, but if you get that feel, LET THEM. It could work towards your advantage, time wise.
(I imagine that at some point, other rooms would one day possibly include live footage from multiple angles, but that isn't the convention thus far.)
Our avatar picked up a piece of key item after our verbal request.
REMEMBER YOUR ETIQUETTE
For participants who otherwise rarely interact with your game master during a physical escape game, you're now effectively "forced" to talk to another person. It's a bit of an adjustment, especially for the shy, asocial ones.
Customers, be nice! Be watchful of your tone. Be sure to speak clearly, not too fast, and enunciate. Don't be too commanding, and always be mindful that customer service isn't always easy!
Owners, effective hiring becomes ever so important. Avatars are critical in not just running of the game, but also setting the entire vibe of the session! Make sure to find the right fit for this essential role. Someone who is great with people, multitasks well, and has charisma would be ideal.
THE OTHER COMPONENT
As pointed out earlier, due to the limitation of the often one single camera lens, intrinsically, that is not enough to provide a reasonable and smooth game play to complete the numerous objectives under 60 minutes.
Having only one pair of "eyes" to the physical room is naturally going to cost you time: As opposed to fanning out to cover a broad area among several teammates, and having full 360° rotation of your head, you instead need to use spoken commands and wait for response. That is a shortcoming.
Room designers, who are probably escape room enthusiasts themselves, feel the exact same, and correspondingly offer a reasonable solution: supplementary panel interface on another screen to help you along.
THE SUPPLEMENTAL HELP SCREEN
This "side panel screen" can function as a number of things, from what I've seen and experienced personally so far, it could be:
Example of inventory list (Credit: The Escape Game)
1) Inventory list of items collected thus far, helping you keep track of what clues or props to use next. Objects used could also disappear from this same list for easy bookkeeping.
2) Clarification of sets, props, and other items that are otherwise hard to see through the camera lens. Depending on many variables, for instance, you may not have a crystal clear view of the handwritten notes in the notebook you just found. Your avatar can present a better photo for you.
Extended room view (Credit: The Escape Game)
3) An overview of the room in map form, or in some cases, a 360° rotatable 3D model of the physical room. This is to compensate for the camera's inability to pan to exactly where you want to see, or at a rate that you find satisfactory. (The 3D replica, in particular, is impressive.)
4) Extra dialogues that help fill out the story line with more details.
Note: All aforementioned can be selectively distributed to players via a password protected access portal. You would input passwords found during your quest, or provided by your avatar, to receive related hints, clues, and other useful info as the narrative advances at the correct time.
Obviously, this list is by no means all inclusive, and your miles may vary. Also, this really is better shown or experienced than explained. It all makes good sense when you start playing.
Honestly, this "extra" screen isn't something completely new. Jog your memory, and go back to the last computer or digital escape room you've played--you've always had that inventory side menu bar, right?
This is similar, except with some ingenious creativity and innovation mixed in, this section can evolve into something more integral--something that we're already seeing with certain forward-thinking companies.
Indeed, the line between reality and virtual is being blurred more than ever!
Excellent setup for remote escaping
Double screens, that is.
It is widely recommended, but honestly more realistically required, that you have a minimal of two screens or devices open to fully enjoy a well executed remote adventures. Any other way is a true compromise.
It is best to dedicate one monitor for the Zoom conference, and another for your supplementary info screen. I myself run my PC on two monitors, but you can feel free to mix and match. Your iPad, laptop, and desktop can all combine to create what's the most ideal setup for you.
Placing the devices in proximity of each other is also wise, as this would reduce eye strain from rapid eye movements (not the sleep cycle kind). There's a possibility that you'll move your eyes swiftly across multiple focal points to fully take in, appreciate, and to champion at your remote game.
AVATAR IN A NUTSHELL
And that's how you navigate your game avatar in a remote escape room. In the next few parts, I'll talk about puzzles adjustments and visuals impact on this specific format of escape entertainment.