What’s the Move?
by Alisa Wang, Carina Ly, Nadin Tamer, Rickenson Robert
What’s the Move? is an escape room in a box where the objective is to find out information about a party on your college campus by searching for clues in a dorm room setting. Through solving puzzles, players will find out what the theme of the party is, where the party is, who’s going to the party, and the transportation the players will use to get home. The game has a mix of analog and digital puzzles. We aimed for the tone of our game to be lighthearted, funny, and exciting.
Synopsis: It’s been a jam-packed week and you’ve been on the grind with a lot of work. In need of a deep de-stress, you want to attend your college campus’s biggest party. However, once you turn in all your work on Friday, you clock out and sleep for too long. Before you know it, it’s Saturday evening and your roommate has already headed out to party without you! Your roommate left behind some clues in your room and it’s up to you to find out more information about the party before the party starts!
iMessage Puzzle: https://youtube.com/shorts/QT7QrYMPGU0?feature=share
Social Media Puzzle: https://expo.dev/@nadout/wtm
- Download the Expo Go app from the Google Play store / App Store
- Android: Scan the QR code at the link above and open our app in Expo Go
- iOS: Log into Expo Go using the information below, then scan the QR code at the link above and open our app in Expo Go
- username: pebbleapp
- password: pebble123!
Initial Decisions of Formal Elements & Values
What’s the Move? can be played with 1-4 players, although more players will likely mean that the clues will get solved much faster. All players co-operate with each other to beat the game (i.e. solve the escape room by solving all the puzzles). Our target audience is primarily college students due to the content of the game, but the game could be played by anyone 12 and older.
The objective is to solve all of the puzzles in the game in order to get wristbands to attend the party. By solving the puzzles, players will find out information about the party such as the theme of the party, the location of the party, the people attending the party, and the transportation for getting home.
The player wins the game when they solve all of the puzzles and access the wristbands within the time limit of 30 minutes. They lose if they fail to solve the puzzles within the time limit.
The player is presented with four puzzles, each addressing a different component of the game. Players will interact with the puzzles in order to solve them. If they are successful, they will find all of the information in order to unlock the lockbox and win the game.
Players must only use the resources available to them within the game in order to solve the puzzles. The time constraint also acts as a boundary.
There is conflict in this game which arises from the lack of information the players have at the beginning of the game and the need to find that information.
The pieces of knowledge that the player gains from solving the puzzles act as resources to unlock the final lockbox. The limited time also acts as a resource.
Type of Fun
The main type of fun in this game is discovery. As the player interacts with the puzzles, they are able to discover new pieces of information which contribute to creating a narrative and completing the game.
Testing & Iteration History
For our first playtest, we had our MVP, which was two puzzles that answered two of the main questions of our theme: what the theme of the party is and where the party is. The two puzzles consisted of a double-sided jigsaw puzzle—one side pieced together was a theme Pinterest mood board. The other side was a Wingdings key connected to a Wingdings email that had to be translated out. During this playtest, we had two female playtesters and noticed that they tried to piece together the mood board first. While they did understand the general gist of the mood, they were not sure what exact answer the game was looking for. This inspired us to create a list of possible answers so that players could more easily match the mood board to an actual theme.
In regards to the second puzzle, which was a cryptic email message, they had trouble flipping over their already-solved puzzle to access the Wingdings key. As a result, in our final prototype, we printed out the double-sided puzzle on thicker paper to make it easier for players to flip back and forth between the two sides. Additionally, during this puzzle, players spent over 20 minutes deciphering the email. During this, the players felt frustrated because it was taking too long and by the time they solved every letter, they felt that the last parts of the message were unnecessary because the location of the party was revealed much earlier in the email—they kept deciphering it because they thought there was more information. As a result, we shortened the message to contain only the important information so that it would not take players that long to decipher. Besides these points, players really enjoyed the lighthearted theme and objective of the game; these comments encouraged us to continue with this idea and ideate more puzzles.
Final Playtest Video: https://youtu.be/sD0hW0Bpp2g
During this playtest, we had two male playtesters. From the get-go, we observed that the players immediately reached for the jigsaw puzzle. They didn’t flip over or really read the instructions. The players started by solving the side with wingdings. They realized that the pictures may have something to do with the puzzle, so they started flipping the puzzle around. The players were solving the puzzles together instead of splitting up. We noticed that we should provide pen and paper next time, especially for the email puzzle. One person deciphered the puzzle while the other person wrote down the letters. They solved the email puzzle faster than expected, inferring a lot of words correctly.
We also observed that the players reached for the lock immediately and thought that the jigsaw was the final password. The players solved the maze puzzle very quickly. In future iterations, we should leave the phones unlocked indefinitely since the players didn’t know it was part of the escape room. Players were also trying to cross-match puzzles, for example with the four tabs in the app to the four things on the lock. We also noticed that players could guess the answer to the lock using brute force, so we could add something to de-incentivize that. The players realized halfway through that the game had four puzzles, especially since the puzzles are double-sided.
Furthermore, we noticed that the names of the theme for our party were too close. For example, the players were confused about the difference between the 1970s and the 1960s since not everyone is familiar with the nuances in decades’ fashion. To change this, we could make the categories more obviously different. Instead of decades, we could use themes such as high fashion or pirates. Players were also getting confused with search results and secret phrase heading, so we could find a way to make it more obvious to see what people are posting. We changed the Social media app by making the profile pictures of each of the people correspond to letters that solve the puzzle. The players were also somewhat unsure that they reached the end of the puzzle when they unlocked the box, so we decided to write a note indicating that they won the game. Finally, after this playtest, we thought of the idea of adding a more refined hint system where players could flip over cards with hints when they thought it would be helpful.
Carina: During the final playtest session, I was the notetaker for our own game: What’s The Move? My role consisted of observing players during the playtest and noting any interesting actions/decisions they made during the game. During this playtest, we confirmed some mechanics of our game, such as the target audience (college students) and player requirements (1-4 players), based on the pace of the game and completion time. The players appropriately followed the expected procedure by doing the puzzles in our predicted order (see Row 2 of the concept map). When talking to the playtesters, they mentioned how the lighthearted theme and backstory made this game a “discovery” fun. The strategies the playtesters implemented were interesting, as the two players went through each puzzle together instead of dividing the puzzles up. Finally, we felt that the resources could have been better distributed, as we did not have a cohesive hint system at the time, which caused the playtesters to ask us for hints. Because of this final playtest session, we decided to implement hint cards corresponding to the harder puzzles for our final project.
Nadin: I was a moderator for our game during the final playtest session. This meant I was responsible for giving initial instructions to our playtesters (although our goal was for our game to be self-contained so I didn’t have to say much) and providing hints if they got too stuck. It was really interesting to observe playtesters interact with our game, especially since I wasn’t there for the first playtest! We saw that the game took about as long as we were aiming (our playtesters took 38 minutes and we were aiming for 45 minutes). We also thought it was interesting that they approached the puzzles together, rather than splitting them up. Some parts of the game seemed too convoluted / not obvious enough without additional hints, so we decided to add hint cards to our final iteration. Finally, players also commented that having the same mechanic / trick twice was a bit disappointing, so we changed the social media puzzle to use images for the letters instead of just the first letter of the username (we also hoped that this would make the puzzle a bit easier).
Alisa: Secrets of Stanford: I play-tested a game called Secrets of Stanford. This was an escape room game with the theme of solving the mystery of how Jane Stanford was killed through solving puzzles involving documents in a box. Six different documents were a part of the puzzle as well as eight different book covers. There was also a sheet of paper that acted as the “instructions” for suggesting that we needed to find six letters as well as a reference sheet for a family tree. I thought that the story and the theme for this game were conveyed very well. The documents were coffee-stained, black and white, and partially burnt, adding to the theme of history/old artifacts. I also liked how the team incorporated sound effects to help convey the mood. I also liked how the game incorporated actual facts and documents from the Stanford family. A suggestion to improve the game was to make some of the documents clearer regarding where they fell in the order of the timeline. The chronology of some of the documents was clear (for example, when the deaths of Leland Stanford and Jane Stanford happened), while it was less clear for other documents (such as the trip to Egypt and the Museum collection). I also liked how the book covers had themes that corresponded to each of the documents. The fact that there were eight book covers and 6 documents made it harder to associate the two different parts of the puzzle. Another suggestion is to make the purpose of the bolded words on the instruction sheet clearer, especially since there were also six documents, and the words weren’t associated with the documents. I also suggested making it more clear which pieces of paper should be used to solve the document puzzle, and which were there to act as guides. For example, the family tree was useful for helping to solve the puzzles, but it wasn’t immediately clear that it was something separate. One solution could be to place the family tree somewhere else, such as on a wall. There was also the suggestion of using a player-directed hint system, where players could flip over cards to receive hints when they felt they needed them. Overall, this was a fun game to play, and it felt satisfying to solve the puzzles.
Rick: During the final playtest I was a tester for a game called Secrets of Stanford. The goal was to find clues in relation to the death of Jane Stanford by solving different challenges. Me and my partner were tasked with sifting through old documents and photos made to smell like coffee to uncover more about her mysterious death. There was a clue card with six slots for a secret passcode that allowed us to advance to the next level. Overall I thought it was a very fun game to play. The elements that needed tweaking were not egregious and did not significantly take away from the game experience. One such element was the inadvertent time pressure that I was made to experience. At some point the moderator asked me and my partner if we needed a hint, which made me think that we were overthinking the game. To avoid unintentionally placing this pressure on players I suggested giving the player a couple of handwritten hints face down at the beginning of the game. I told them that doing so would eliminate unneeded pressure and give the user more power.