This was initially something I wrote a long time ago. I’m feeling particularly lazy today, so I’ve just copy and paste it here.
There’s a popular TV show and comic out currently called the Walking Dead. You may have heard of it! There’s also an accompanying videogame that’s likewise super popular made by Telltale Games. The game, strangely enough, is essentially a “Important choice simulator”. It plays almost like a movie, but the player makes decisions at critical moments in the game. Your choices in the game matters, and one player’s end game scenario can be very different from anothers. You might find yourself ending the game in a completely different area, with different people having died or lived. At the end of each chapter, they also show statistics, which is an idea I’m very fond of! For example, it might say “You and 20% of players decided to side with Bob. You and 76% of players shot John”
It is rather ambitious to try and flesh out a whole storyline in an hour, but I think having multiple endings and giving stats (“You are part of the 43% that escaped but doomed the planet”) is something people would enjoy. If you wanted, you could also give some sort of prize for reaching the more difficult or “perfect” endings.
I’m a big fan of this idea. I like story intertwined with gameplay. I’ll give a barebones (but still lengthy) outline
Story-Driven Laboratory Scenario
Public story/lore: The players are given very little knowledge going in. They would put on lab coats and blindfolds and be escorted into the game room. The only information they are given is that they have woken up inside a laboratory with no memory of who they are or how they got there. You don’t give any further instructions, including not telling the players they have to escape. Cue sirens and an announcement that the facility’s self destruct has 60 minutes remaining.
Actual story/lore: So this part is the actual story to the game. How much of it players access learn is dependent on how much they discover. Some of this will sound cliche, but I think it’s cool to draw on fiction tropes.
All the players are scientists. One player is in fact the head scientist, who has a daughter with deteriorating health. In an effort to save her, he and his team were working on a serum with regenerative properties. They made plenty of progress, but the daughter has passed away before he could finish the work. Stricken with grief, the head scientist continued his work. Unbeknownst to the other scientists, he had set out to make a serum that would bring his wife back from the dead! During their work, one of the scientists inadvertently create a virus (Whether you want this to be a zombie virus or just a regular virus is really a stylistic choice). The first symptom of being a carrier is amnesia, and it ultimately leads to death (or zombie-ism, if you’re a fan of zombies).
Escape – There would be ‘narrative clues’ in the game that the players are infected. For example, memory loss is one of the symptoms of the virus. If players play the game as a regular escape game, they will be informed that they did survive, but that they are carriers of the virus. The scientists actually quarantined themselves and turned on the self destruct when they realized they were infected when they realized the possible rammifications for the world (that’s why they are locked into the laboratory). Without a cure, their escape actually means that they have infected the world. It’s a bittersweet apocalyptic ending.
Ending B1 and B2:
No Escape – Based on their progress in the game, you would be able to see whether their lack of escape is a choice or not. If they have made it to the final Escape step and solved the answer, and chose not to escape, then players must have realized they were infected and decided to sacrifice themselves in a noble manner. Ending B2 is when teams lose just because they couldn’t beat the puzzles to escape the room. I wouldn’t design the base ‘Escape’ puzzles to be particularly difficult, because I think having teams just lose isn’t very interesting.
Ending C: Escape with the Cure – A good ending. You and your team lives, the world is safe. Players have discovered the linear branch of ‘Cure’ puzzles that is seperate and distinct from the ‘Escape’ puzzles. From a customer service standpoint, if they reach Ending A very quickly, I would definitely let them know they have infected the world, but that there’s still a chance for them to find a cure before the facility explodes.
Ending D: Perfect Ending – You and your team escapes and you have found the cure. You also found the ‘Perfect Cure’ branch of puzzles that will allow you to revive the daughter. Getting the Perfect Ending would be designed to be difficult. The very possibility that the can save his daughter should be hidden well enough that players wouldn’t even know that it was possible unless they were specifically looking for the possibility.
Post Game: So in ascending order of how good endings are, it’s B2, A, B1, C, D. The game would be designed such that it will always use up all of the 60 minutes given. When the game ends, whatever scenario is achieved, you (as staff) will reveal the next one up in the chain. So if they spend the whole 60 minutes escaping in Ending A, you reveal B1 (that they were infected and should have stayed in the game). If they stay to die in nobley in the B1 scenario, you reveal C (that they could have cured themselves). I would also show them a pie chart of the scenarios. It might show that 40% of players reach Ending A, 23% reached Ending C, etc.
Anyhow, there you have it! Some people I talked with thought this would be impossible to make, but I went to rather great lengths to think of ways that it would be possible. I think giving players agency to make choices really sells the narrative of the game. The post-game pie chart is more of a marketing aspect, where you want people to be talking about what they could have missed, and what could have happened in other scenarios – It’s not an attempt to get re-play value out of the room.