The story of the creation of the escape room “Apocalypse”. Alicante, Spain.

Vladimir Kalugin
11 min readAug 27, 2018

I received an application on my site from Spain. The customer wanted a high-tech escape game styled as “Laboratory of the Future”.

After discussing general scenario, we started work. At the time of the construction beginning, the client had built and plastered the walls.

The room at the moment of the construction beginning

To create the scenery, we required a large number of electronic and mechanical parts.

It is impossible to buy such things in the store, so Enrique (the customer) and I spent almost a week on all kinds of city landfills. In order to find the most suitable things, we had to bury ourselves, like worms, in the very center of the garbage mountain.

A room full of garbage for the scenery

The result was a room full of garbage.

We were very lucky as far as the owner of the premises left us several kitchen units.

Kitchen machines

These units were used to create a central decoration “reactor” (combined fryer and a giant saucepan, which exact purpose I don’t know) and riddles with lasers (an ice tank).

Base frame made of timber

The first stage of the central decoration frame construction of timber.

Headprojector integrated into the central decoration

At the landfill, we found a head projector made in Germany which perfectly fit the central decoration.

On the left is photo in the process. On the right is a ready-made version. Everything is made of garbage.

Some scenery was made of wood, which we found on the street.

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It’s amazing how much furniture people throw away. Besides, wood in Europe is expensive, and this way we get it for free. The main, and probably the only drawback is that all wood is either lacquered or covered with plastic protection. That’s why painting is extremely time-consuming. It is necessary not only to treat the surface with sandpaper and alcohol, but also use a special paint with increased durability (multifunctional for all surfaces — glass, metal, plastic, etc.)

Upholstery of the decoration with a soft protective film

The most laborious operation in this decoration was the creation of a soft protective coating inside the furniture. Coverage is necessary so that players can’t damage the cylinder, which they move inside this box.

On the left is the frame of the future cell. On the right is a worker who is hollowing out the floor in search of an underground lake.

An interesting story is connected to this mystery. When it was almost ready and assembled, a pipe burst right under it, under the floor. And one day, the water began to rise from the cracks in the floor, forming small lakes

It was necessary to move the scenery into another room, so that the builders could open the floor and see what happened there. Underneath a small underground lake formed.

But the problem was quickly solved and we were able to continue our work.

Ice tank, converted into a laser puzzle.

Inside this tank all that you can see — these decorative electronics boards — are installed only for entourage. Apart from them, there is a smoke machine inside. The tank here serves as a protection for the smoke machine from the players.

Laser riddle.

This puzzle required a lot of energy to implement. I made several serious mistakes, which increased the period of its production for almost 1 week.

I calculated the concentration of smoke incorrectly and created a closed system where smoke was pumped from the tank through the pipe into the container on the left. The container on the left was closed with a transparent sheet of acrylic and the smoke was stored inside without dissipating (the smoke in this puzzle is needed to visualize the lasers).

But the concentration of smoke was too large and the laser could not penetrate a dense fog.

First, I thought that the problem was in lasers and decided to replace them with more powerful ones. But it didn’t help. Enrique proposed a solution: remove the transparent acrylic plate so that the smoke could dissipate throughout the room.

This solution turned out to be the best and the lasers became perfectly visible.

A view of the scenery with the lights off.

The giant saucepan turns into the final puzzle.

On the left is the inner frame of the reactor. On the right is a puzzle.

This is the reverse side of the puzzle with the cage. Its creation also involved a problem situation. First, I used ultrasonic sensors ‘Ultrasonic sensor module’.

On the test run, the sensor worked perfectly. But after a couple of days the sensor recalibrated and began to trigger falsely. At first, I thought that this was my mistake, caused by the lag of the control controller due to some internal error. I put an extra watch dog for a freelance reboot, but it didn’t help.

It turned out that false triggering was caused by temperature and air humidity.

At night, when the temperature decreased, the sensor lost its calibration and began to give incorrect data, which led to malfunctions.

This brought a lot of problems to the customer and me, as it had to be changed to an optical infrared sensor of industrial type. This greaty improved the reliability of the puzzle, because it no longer had a controller — only a sensor and a time relay.

Complexity testing.

Testing the puzzle with lasers to understand the complexity.

In this project, a huge amount of work was done by the customers of the project — Enrique and Leah.

Enrique during the cameras installation.

They took an active part in repairing and creating puzzles, as well as adapting ready-made ones.

As far as I understood, the Spanish mentality in escape rooms is characterized by the desire of players to solve more complex riddles.

In Russian escape rooms visual logic is used more, search puzzles and analogy riddles. In Spain, a large number of digital and symbolic puzzles are used, which are based on combinatorics and other decision models.

The original drawing of the puzzle and its physical equivalent.
The final version of the game.

For example, this riddle, “The System with Gas,” was invented by Leah and Enrique and became the most difficult (and perhaps the most beautiful) riddle in the whole room.

The type of electronics in the process and the finished version (a riddle with a patch panel)

Some puzzles were invented and implemented in the process of work only because we accidentally found in suitable things in the landfill that ideally suited the puzzle.

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The perfect escape room. Practical guidance.

This puzzle for opening a door used to be a switching panel for telephony (as far as I understood). Using a serial connection, I made a riddle with jumper. The logic for this puzzle was invented by customer Leah.

Slots for fuses.
On the left is a photo of the control panel for this puzzle. On the right is testing the puzzle.

At first glance, the control board seems complicated, but in fact the connection is extremely simple. It seems complicated because of the large number of lasers.

The project took 3 months instead of planned 1.5. That’s why the test games were played in great hurry.

Photo of the test team.

During the test games, some we found out the issues with the magnetic caches (players unscrewed the nuts and thus opened the caches). And there were some electronic failures due to the fault of the three-position switch of poor quality.

Photo of the first room.

The results of this project are ambiguous, because on one hand the escape turned out to be very beautiful and technological. A lot of glowing lights attract the attention of the players. Beeps and unfamiliar sounds of working units. Smoke. Lasers. Twisting mechanisms and interesting visual effects.

Riddle with the decoding of sound paper.

But at the same time I greatly underestimated the amount of work. Almost all the riddles required a lot of time for processing materials or adapting the components for the puzzle.

All these issues made it difficult to create the project and the customer received less profit.

Now I understand that projects of this type differ dramatically in the amount of time that is required for creation. In comparison, for example, to the project “Room 1408”, which required only integration of sensors into furniture and a small number of riddles had to be made.

As a result, the escape room 1408 was completed in less than a month.

And the room “Apocalypse” required 3 months of work.

Despite the experience and a large number of escape rooms that had been built, in this project I made a mistake in the modeling for project creation.

This project taught me a lot. I realized that I overestimated my strength and underestimated the complexity of making this level of decorations. Now I have made changes in the evaluation of budgets and terms of projects.

The last weeks of the project were very tense. The escape consists of 3 rooms. The first room, where players get in first, was the last to build. It was completed in just 4 days from just painted walls to ready-to-work puzzles.

We finished all the work the day before the test games.

I received invaluable support, help and understanding from customers who reacted with great understanding to all my mistakes.

There is no project, which creation would pass without errors. The fact that we make mistakes means only that we are doing something new. This is an indicator that we are in unknown territory. This is an indicator that we are growing and learning.

Panoramic photo of the escape room:

If you are planning to open a cool escape room and are looking for a reliable performer, welcome to my website:

There you will find a lot of useful information on the construction of escape rooms: guides, check lists, business plans. Welcome to it will be interesting!

Thank you for your attention, have a great day!



Vladimir Kalugin

All service for Escape room — creator, engineer, scenario writer, designer). See more: