Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! I know it's been a while since I have posted and I apologize for that. As with many things sometimes life has a way of re-prioritizing how we spend our time. I am happy to say we are starting 2019 off with a review of two, yes, two Augmented Reality titles by The Riddle Factory.
I am excited about the potential of implementing Augmented Reality into Cracked it! Escape Games in the near future. Today we will be reviewing the Augmented Reality Rune Decoder, and The Augmented Reality Puzzle: Perspectives. The owner of Riddle Factory reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to review their new titles and I agreed on condition that my review and opinions are my opinions are uninfluenced by the manufacturer. So let's get to it.
Disclaimer: The titles reviewed below were provided by The Riddle Factory. The opinions expressed in this review are my own and are not influenced by the software producer.
The first title is the Augmented Reality Rune Decoder.
The AR Rune Decoder let’s you encrypt and decode messages in a rune alphabet in a way your players have never experienced before using the the worlds first augmented reality rune decoder.
Each AR-marker has its own rune linked to it that will appear when your players look at the AR-marker through the app, on each AR-marker your players will see a letter, the rune that appears when looking at the marker is the rune equal to the letter on the marker. By giving your players a message encrypted with runes and placing the AR-Markers around your escape room the players will be able to decode it by finding all the markers and translate your message one Augmented rune stone at the time.
The app also supports an AR-marker with multiple rune stones in four lines appearing at once, each line spells out a numbers for a four digit code.
The 3D-rune stones will automatically scale to the size of the AR-makers, so if you want a bigger or smaller version of the decoder stones, all you have to do is print a bigger or smaller AR-makers to customize the stones to your needs.
Installation of the Augmented Reality Rune Decoder was relatively simple. I was provided a download link. Copying it to my cell phone was straightforward. I connected to my cell phone to my computer and copied the file to the files directory on my Android phone. Installation was easy with the only exception of having to authorize unauthorized applications. Following installation an Icon was placed on my home screen and launches like any other application.
I have to say that the AR Rune Decoder works exactly as shown in the promotional video. It responds well to the printed AR-Markers. The Runes can be printed as small as 1 inch X 1 inch and can still be recognized by the AR Rune Decoder. There are AR-Markers included for ever letter in the alphabet except the letter Z which does not have a Rune assigned to it. The developer also includes one additional AR-Marker that is a functional four number combination that could be utilized as a puzzle immediately in your room.
The AR Rune Decoder could be used in a variety of settings including archaeological themes, ancient civilizations, space/alien, modern library/museum, the only real limitation is your imagination.
Overall this is a solid implementation of Augmented Reality and I am excited to see what the future holds for The Riddle Factory as they develop further products. I would recommend this application to someone who does not want to invest a significant amount of time and effort into creating their own augmented reality applications but wants to add augmented reality to their escape room games.
About the AR Rune Decoder
Riddle Factory Catalog link to Augmented Reality Rune Decoder
Delivery Method: Electronic, Approximately 58Mb
Augmented Reality Puzzle: Perspectives
The Perspectives AR riddle by RiddleFactory makes use of the unique qualities of Augmented Reality.
All you need is a phone with our app and a printed version of our AR-marker and you have a new exciting riddle for your escape room.
How it works:
When the AR-marker is within sight of the smartphone camera a 3D-landscape of wooden bricks will appear. At first glance the bricks seems randomly arranged, but as your players investigate the 3D-environment and shift perspectives they will find that the bricks are arranged in such a way that a secret message will appear viewing the landscape from the right angle and perspective.
As with the AR Rune Decoder the installation process for the AR Puzzle: Perspectives was easy and worked exactly as shown in the video above. At first glance I love the idea of a perspective puzzle. I have seen them time and time again in a variety of video game titles including my favorite series, The Room. This is the beginning of what I could see as a greater expansion in Augmented Reality in escape rooms.
The AR Puzzle: Perspectives is in my opinion, just O.K. It does have an initial wow factor but is extremely limited in it's versatility and usefulness. I actually racked my brains trying to think of what type of escape room scenarios that this would be useful in and I couldn't come up with much. The theming is bland and unimpressive. There is only a single solution. There is no adaptability and this in and of itself limits the usefulness of this particular application. Besides the initial wow factor of I am getting to use something similar to what I have seen in The Room series, I was left wanting more.
As an escape room enthusiast I love when bold new technologies are experimented with and incorporated into the theme with some sense of belonging there. When something doesn't fit thematically, or make sense to the narrative I lose my suspension of disbelief. This takes away from my enjoyment of the experience.
As a an escape game designer, when I design a new game, I try to answer Dr. Scott Nicholson's questions posed in his paper, Ask Why: Creating a Better Player Experience Through Environmental Storytelling and Consistency in Escape Room Design. If I were to see this particular puzzle in a given escape room I would ask myself exactly this. Why is this in this game. What does it add to the narrative? What purpose is this serving to drive the action forward. Is this in this game for the sake of something new? With this particular application I would have a tough time answering those questions. I am not totally discounting the effort that it takes to develop something like this. I commend The Riddle Factory for bravely stepping into a new area of Escape Room game design.
About AR Puzzle: Perspectives
Riddle Factory Catalog link to
Delivery Method: Electronic, Approximately 53Mb
I love where the Escape Room industry is heading. Immersive theater, 3-D illusion, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, these are a few examples how far Escape Games have come in a few years. While there is always a place in my heart for a "Gen 1" game, players are getting more accustomed to higher end games with a variety of challenges. These applications are a good example of where the industry is going. The Riddle Factory is thinking ahead of the power curve.
Both of these applications are solid examples of the potential of Augmented Reality. I believe that they are both limited in their versatility and usefullness across a broad spectrum of escape rooms.
Before I state this next part. I understand fully what it takes to create an application such as this. I have personally created three separate applications for my own use and it is a very steep learning curve to learn how to use Unity, and Vueforia and produce applications to be used in wide circulation. Having said that, I believe that these two applications are priced excessively high compared to their versatility. At $99.00 a pop they are quite expensive for what you get. In the case of AR Puzzle: Perspectives you get a single solution that is hard to fit in a very wide variety of escape room scenarios. In the case of AR Rune Decoder you get some additional versatility but still the theming is limited to Rune Stones which can be used in a wider variety of settings.
I do want to commend The Riddle Factory for being one of the first widely available Augmented Reality Live Action Escape Room Puzzle applications available. If this is the beginning I can't wait to see what the future holds.
Brian Vinciguerra is a retired Marine and is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Cracked it! Escape Games in Jacksonville, North Carolina