10 open questions about The Crystal Maze Live

The Crystal Maze liveThe crowdfunding campaign for the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction has barely 36 hours left to run. Already it has proved extremely successful, raising its original £500,000 goal and then smashing through four stretch goals up to £850,000. Many congratulations to everyone involved! It’s still possible to buy individual tickets through the crowdfunding campaign at £45 each, compared to the announced general admission price of £50 each plus a booking fee. There are still some open questions, though, worth thinking about before you decide if it’s right for you.

1) How many games will you get to play? Each team will get two more per zone than if the campaign hadn’t reached £600,000, apparently, though the facility isn’t putting numbers on it. Exit Games UK – without the benefit of any inside information – looks at the announced playtime of 1 hour 45 and chooses to interpret the graphic as a reasonably literal map. The original show played up to four games per zone; Exit Games UK guesses that there will be six cells per zone and all six will be played by each team, pointing to 24 games per team, or three per player in a full team of eight.

That said, Iain had a rather exciting theory. Suppose some of the games are designed to let two team members play at once. If there are four one-player games and two two-player games per zone, then it would mean every player in a team of eight would get to play in every zone, which would be delightful. This site suspects that the attraction will err on the side of authenticity and stick with one-player games, but would be delighted to be wrong.

If you feel that this isn’t as many games as you’d like to play, it’s always possible to buy all eight tickets and have fewer than eight participants use them, spreading the games less thinly among the team. Theoretically there could even be a single-player team where the player plays every single game, but a lock-in would cause a considerable problem – and a single player may not get so far in The Crystal Dome.

2) Will there be watery games? Exit Games UK would consider it unlikely, taking an initial clue from the decision (which it loves!) to go with the original Industrial Zone rather than the Ocean Zone. On top of everything, it would be a health and safety nightmare; there’s always a drowning risk, and large tanks of standing water have an entirely serious legionella risk as well. The original show appealed to people for many different reasons, including to those who liked to watch people fall into water tanks. Does this mean that people would actually want to play those games, though? If you don’t see a “bring a change of clothing” announcement, expect a dry experience – and when there are so many other strong things that could be done, Exit Games UK would expect the attraction not to try to weakly emulate the genre.

3) How will lock-ins work? With the second stretch goal having been reached, those who get locked in will be taken to a special prison where they might have the chance to earn their escape, without costing the team a crystal, by completing a special challenge. This seems like a decision of practicality over authenticity, which Exit Games UK welcomes. Getting locked in and not being bought out would lead to poor value for money; much as “everybody likes solving puzzles, nobody likes not solving puzzles”, it’s a reasonable approximation that “everybody likes playing games, nobody likes not playing games”. Additionally, splitting teams between zones would be very difficult logistically, not least when there will be different teams circulating around the zones.

4) How soon will you get to play? This site estimates that the crowdfunding campaign has sold tickets to around 2,700 teams: start with the 1,600 “full team at the Maze” tickets that have gone, add 500 for the 125 “four teams head to head” tickets, and so on. Given that the “all day maze access” ticket suggests that there will be 16 teams per day (four sessions, each taking four teams) then this would imply that the facility has been pre-sold out for over 160 days – assuming the location opens seven days a week, that’s a good five months. It seems reasonably plausible that there will be higher demand for Friday-to-Sunday tickets and evening tickets so if your heart is set on one of those then you may have to wait, but midweek afternoon tickets may be more readily available. Exit Games UK wildly (and, again, uninformedly) guesses that games might start at 1:30pm, 4pm, 6:30pm and 9pm… and that the facility might well consider offering 11am games as well.

5) Will there be prizes? This one might not be such an open question, as Exit Games UK recalls (though quite possibly incorrectly!) reading a suggestion that when the four teams meet up against each other at The Crystal Dome, whichever team performs best earns a set of eight crystals. It would not be a surprise to see a monthly leaderboard with the chance for top teams to win activity days in the style of the original show.

6) How will The Crystal Dome work? There’s no reason to believe anything other than authentically – though the actual show used “the magic of television” and got its close-up shots from filming the players on a second attempt where the performance did not matter. In Buzzfeed’s brilliant oral history of the show, the captain of the first episode claims that even then “we realised that if we all lay down we’d stop the airflow and it would be easy” – expect blocking the fans to authentically be prohibited as well.

7) Celebrities? This site decided against getting a ticket to the first night party in the end. Don’t expect Richard O’Brien to show; Richard’s 73 years old, lives on the other side of the world and may not be in the very best of health. (On the other hand, a personal appearance would be a delightful surprise.) On the other hand, there would be a very welcome dash of authenticity if they could get an appearance by the captain of the team from the first Christmas children’s special, one Michael Underwood, who has gone on to have a strong hosting career. He’d be an excellent celebrity guest host if they could book him, not least from his time hosting Jungle Run, a children’s show with more than a little inspiration from The Crystal Maze. Also, just for the crossover kicks: is Hugo (“Treguard”) Myatt still in good health? Other heroes of television of those who grew up with the show, but who may now only be tangentially in the business known as show, spring to mind…

8) How will the spectator experience be? Courtesy of hitting the third and fourth stretch goals, there should apparently be a rather interesting bar area overlooking the field of play, with cameras in the cells to show the progress of the games as they are played. Exit Games UK tends to hold the view that a large part of the appeal of The Crystal Maze is rapidly working out what is demanded of you in the games within the time limit, as well as executing what is required, and that seeing the games in advance (either as a spectator, or because the site has revealed the game’s details) will rather spoil the effect. However, another (probably very much more practical) route to take would be to concentrate on games where knowing what has to be done is easy and actually performing the tasks required is difficult, as spoilers will surely get out by word of mouth if nothing else. Either way, Exit Games UK hopes that the games are really, really good, and that the project gets the very best people in to design them, including those who designed games for the original show.

9) Is there replay value? Will people want to play more than once, or is this something that can only be a one-time experience? This ties in with the extent to which working out what’s required is a part of the challenge. Part of the fun of the experience will be supporting your team-mates, but if you see your friend play a game and go “oh, that looks really fun to play!” then you might well want to come back and do so. It’s possible to go too far, though; it would be inauthentic if an eight played the maze first time, learnt the games, practiced them at home, came back and smashed them all second time around and set an immense high score. You didn’t get second chances on the show, so it would seem awry to get them at the attraction. It may be hard to avoid; it’s practically inevitable that someone will come as a spectator and see the games played through the cameras before they come back as a player themselves. A good – but expensive and probably impractical! – way to do this would be to rotate the games very frequently; a reasonable way to do this would be to replace all the games every year, much as one series of the show had different games to the next.

10) Will it be a long-term hit? Ah, that’s the 64,000-gold-token question. Tickets have already been sold to perhaps twenty thousand or so players, and the show had audience figures in the millions. With the repeats on Challenge? over the years, the show must be familiar to tens of millions of viewers, many of whom will surely want to play. Whether it’s a compelling enough product to convert many potential players into actual players at a regular price of £50 plus booking fee remains to be seen, as well as whether or not £50 per player is actually a price point that makes sense for the organisers in practice as well as in theory. The people behind the enterprise have very convincing track records, though, so they must surely have as good a chance of making it work as any.

Exit Games UK has purchased a “four teams head to head” ticket and will be selling all 32 spaces on to members of the exit games community, both players and staff. A handful of tickets remain; you’ll get the chance to play alongside representatives of Agent November, Archimedes Inspiration, Breakout Manchester, Breakout Liverpool, Enigma Quests, Escape Hour, Escape Live, Escape Quest, The Escape Room and (subject to confirmation) the Escape sites in Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

The date is unknown, to be confirmed once the facility has an opening date and permits people to start booking their prepaid tickets – but the plan is an afternoon on a Monday, for Monday seems to be about as close to a weekend as the industry has. Purely indicatively, the first choice of date would be Monday 30th November, second choice would be Monday 23rd November and third choice would be Monday 7th December. (Anything later gets too close to Christmas and risks disrupting business.)

The remaining spaces are being sold at the cost price of £32.50 (that’s the £1,000 ticket split 32 ways!) so you might well be interested in them simply on the grounds that it’s more cost-effective than any of the other options, but the company should be spectacular as well. If this interests you, please get in touch by e-mail for the payment options. If you’ve got in touch in the past and received payment instructions but not acted on them then you don’t yet have a guaranteed place and need to move quickly. There may well be a waiting list started, in case people who have paid have to drop out and resell their tickets.

To-o-o-o-o-o-o… the Crystal Dome!

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