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Q&A for contracting a game designer
(time of reading 13 min)
Brian Vinciguerra put together a beautiful piece, explaining the questions, your game designer should be able to answer before you honor him/her with a contract. That's our take on these questions – explaining why A+ Props fits all the mentioned criterias.
1. What is your background and level of expertise in game design?
4 years of board game design experience for "Hobby World" (top-selling board game publisher in Russia and Eastern Europe). 2 years of escape room design experience – both creating game designs and supervising construction/ installation process. As long as we are also building escape room ourselves we know which ideas can be integrated in escape rooms and how to make it possible without overspending.

We also use consulting of long-time gamedev (computer and mobile game development) designers on special occasions
This question is to gauge the level of competence that your game designer or design company has and if they can meet your specific requirements. A strong background in game design theory, puzzle design, scenery design, lighting, prop selection, and a host of other things can be revealed when asking this question
2. How long have you been in the Escape Room business?
Almost 3 years. We created our first room design in May 2015 for a small escape room in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Since that we've creating and constructing escape rooms in Prague and Moscow, writing and supervising escape room scenarios for customers in United States, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Pakistan and others.
Some game designers have never owned an escape room business but are still very good game designers. The real question is how long have you been designing escape room games, puzzles, and scenarios. Only you can determine what length of time will make you feel comfortable. The industry in the U.S. is very young having only about 3 1/2 years of development time. The bulk of game designers in the U.S. will have 1 or 2 years or less of experience designing and selling games.
3. How many games have you designed?
38 different scenarios so far. We always love to create new ones, especially if its pushing us out of the comfort zone. Strange venues, extra-small or extra-large rooms, challenge rooms, no-setup rooms – the weirder the original request is, the more it carries with it.
Scenario development and game design are like any other skill. Hopefully, they get better as time progresses. Is this the designers first game design or tenth? How comfortable are you with being potentially a test case for a new game designer?
4. Do any of your games infringe on ANY Intellectual Property rights?
We are strictly avoiding any copyright infringement. Though we are not against "flirting" with popular themes (like one well-known young magician with a scar on his forehead) as long as it's not breaking anyone's copyright. The customer has final say at any points of game design that may bother him/her – if anything makes you uncomfortable about potential copyright infringement – we will fix it. For free.
Big media is fiercely protective of its intellectual property. There are horror stories of little mom and pop businesses receiving cease and desist letters or being sued by the mouse with ears, or the jumping lamp. When it comes to games that infringe on a protected property you are opening yourself up to a world of litigation. Is it really worth it to have the kid with the lightning bolt on his forehead in your game? If the game you are thinking of buying is infringing IP I would strongly encourage you to find a new game designer. I am not a copyright attorney, but I wouldn't risk my name, my business, or reputation playing too close to this flame, I don't want to get burned.
5. Has your game been heavily play tested? If so, what are the stats? What is the average success/failure rate?
We are providing both proven (already installed and heavily playtested) and completely new game designs – feel free to ask for any numbers. We are also open to creating an escape room design for your specific request – with any necessary further adjustment during the playtesting phase.
Don't you want a proven and tested game. An Escape Room owner that is selling you their retired game should be able to easily tell you what the stats are for that room. This will give you some idea of difficulty of the game. What the popularity of the game was. What you can expect for your money.
6. What Escape Room companies have you designed games for?
Lostrooms.cz in Prague, Czech Republic, I-quest in Moscow, Russian Federation, The Greatest Escape Games in Colorado and others at both sides of Atlantic. We do not sell the same game design within a country (within a state for USA and Canada), so exclusive rights are guaranteed not just for 100-200 mile radius, but for much wider territory
This is important because you don't want to replicate a game that is already being played in your market. Many designers will not sell a game to more than one location within a certain radius of each other. Some however, won't care. Again do yourself due diligence and research your competition and know the games that they currently have in play. You don't want to be flagged as an unoriginal copycat business.
7. How many copies of your game are in circulation?
Depends on a game, but usually not more than 2-3 worldwide
You want to know how saturated the market is with a particular game. There is a national chain that has over 20 locations across the country. Their locations all have the same games that they rotate. This is a great business model for the franchisor, not so great for the franchisee because If I did one of their rooms in another city, I am not visiting that franchise in a different city.
8. Where are your games currently deployed?
Prague, Moscow, Colorado, Pakistan.
Again, considering market saturation. Is this game available elsewhere in your neck of the woods or are you granted geographic exclusivity?
9. What exactly am I getting for my money?
The escape room game design itself includes:
  • storyline
  • floor plan
  • props checklist
  • furniture checklist
  • setup instructions
  • concept art pictures and/or real life photos of functioning escape room
  • continuous support during escape room installation and playtesting phase
Are you getting construction plans, electrical schematics, build diagrams for puzzles, walkthroughs, checklists etc. Are there add-ons or hidden costs? Do you have to pay for graphics and artwork for promotion? Are tech puzzles provided ready to play or do you have to build them and program them yourself? What is the technical difficulty of the design?
10. Do you have a redacted sample of a game design package that I could review before deciding to contract with you?
Sure, you can download from a front page of our website
This can help you make an informed purchasing decision. If they provide a high quality sample package, you can rest a bit easier because their deliverable will probably be as good or better quality
11. Do you have testimonials from satisfied customers?
Sure, don't hesitate to ask for them – we are proving them upon request.
There is nothing better than a satisfied customer to help ease concerns. A good reputable designer will have a page on their website with testimonials or be able to provide them when asked.
12. Do you have references that I may contact?
Sure, don't hesitate to ask for them – we are proving them upon request.
Ask for references from prior customers then call those customers and ask them what they thought of the process of working with the designer. If the designer won't provide references you might want to reconsider
13. Am I purchasing a license for this game or am I purchasing the ownership rights to this game?
Basically it's a license (limited to 1 per state). If you want a game design to be created solely for your business with ownership rights – it's also possible and negotiable
There is a huge difference between a license and ownership rights. Most games you purchase are going to be a license granting you limited authority to use the game for the purposes of your escape room business. In most cases the license is not transferable. Read your contract carefully and ensure you understand the End User License Agreement. On the other hand, you may have contracted the designer to create a game just for you. You will probably pay a premium price if the designer is going to relenquish ownership rights to you since they may be giving up a far greater source of revenue than a one off job for you. Again, ensure that you read your contract and understand fully your rights as the game owner. Does the author retain reproduction rights? Consult an attorney if there is any question as to the contents of your purchase contract.
14. What is your cancellation and refund policy?
Cancellation and refund are possible before receiving an actual product. If the game is created for you – before receiving a first draft of game design
Upon delivery of products more than likely the designer will have a no refund policy due to the need to protect their intellectual property and the fact that you have a copy of that IP. Identify ahead of time before you sign the contract under exactly what circumstances (missed delivery dates, product does not meet agreed to expectations or specifications, etc.) you can cancel and get a refund of any monies paid.
15. Do you provide service and support after closing the deal?
Sure. The game design is not something set in stone – in fact it is the continuous process that requires game designers attention long after the deal is closed. We always stay in touch during escape room construction, playtesting and operation – sometimes certain circumstances may cause escape room owner to want slightly changes in game design after half a year of operating. And it's ok – we are always willing to provide the assistance to make and keep the game as great as possible.
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