Being part of the design team for ERChamp this year has been a unique experience- the annual online escape room tournament has been my favorite event to participate in every year, and now that I’m part of the design team, I can’t play along any more.
The tradeoff has been worth it, though. I love designing puzzles and it’s been a thrilling experience to work with an amazing team to generate enough content to keep the world’s best puzzle solvers entertained. Designing puzzles as a group is new to me- it’s really great to be able to bounce a puzzle off of someone else early in the design. I found that most of our ideas improved dramatically between the initial sketch and the final release.
It was also fun watching ERChamp as a spectator this year. Though I wasn’t playing along, it was still extremely entertaining to watch and analyze the progression of different teams through the challenge. My favorite observation was about halfway through the contest when the top six teams were all from different countries. Though that trend didn’t hold until the end, we still have a remarkable mix of nationalites among the leaderboard.
I’ve had to play coy a bit with talking about ERChamp at all. I never mention anything about the challenge at all, since any little detail I share could potentially provide an edge to a participant. Even something small and innocuous, like sharing how I came up with one of the puzzles in the stress test or elimination round, might provide an insight into how I’m designing puzzles for the final. I’ve got a few things I really, really want to talk about, but mum is the word for now. There are other things I still wont be able to talk about even after the finale, like unused puzzle designs and themes, since unused concepts might come back in another form in the future!
Feedback for the first round has been great, and I can’t wait to see how players react to the finale. I really appreciate the opportunity to contribute to one of the coolest puzzle challenges in the world.