Jay Cormier is a board game designer, the author of the Fail Faster journal, and one of the organizers of the Pitch Project. We talked about building virtual escape rooms, the Pitch Project, and more.

Watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omly_dgIue4

Recorded 25 September 2020 in the Virtual Playtesting Discord server.


00:30 – Introduction
02:04 – How did you get started making escape rooms?
06:39 – Is there a market for these games, or are they custom-made?
07:44 – I am working on a sort of escape the city game, instead of escaping a room, where you do puzzles with a storyline fitting the specific city while going through the city for about 2 hours. Do you have any things to keep in mind when making such “escape room” or similar people / organizations that already do something like this?
14:00 – What was it like working with the Scooby Doo IP?
16:06 – What sort of tech is used in the virtual escape room?
19:14 – What’s the upper limit of players you can get into a virtual escape room?
21:20 – What do you wish you knew when you started making escape rooms?
23:40 – How do you playtest virtual escape rooms?
24:31 – Have you had to dumb down puzzles for the public?
Switching gears to the Pitch Project…
26:05 – What is the Pitch Project?
28:46 – How many sell sheets have you received so far?
31:00 – What platform will the pitch be on?
31:47 – How did you pitch publishers for this event?
34:04 – After the Pitch Project, what is coming up for Jay Cormier in 2021?
35:57 – As many people adjust their pitch to the publisher they pitch to, any tips how to do this well?
37:18 – Are ‘simpler’ games likely to score better than more complex strategy games given a third of the scoring is based on how well the game mechanics have been communicated?
39:34 – Looking back at your design journey, what do you wish you knew about getting better connected to the industry?

My takeaways

  • Never be afraid to embrace tech to accomplish your game’s core goal.
  • I’m reminded that limitations can be arbitrary (like Twitter’s character limit) or real (like trying to hit a certain MSRP or component count).
  • When things go from physical to virtual, a lot of things and assumptions have to change.
  • Layer / scaffold puzzles – the first puzzle is easy to solve, then you ramp it up. Teach the mechanics in the first puzzle, like a tutorial.
  • One puzzle / system can be easy in isolation. Adding in more puzzles and systems add more complexity. Add grouping to avoid confusion or creating accidental red herrings.
  • Puzzles, like games, are always easier to you, the designer. Things have to make sense, but also have that ‘A-HA’ moment.
  • Connections and a friendly, professional personality always help.