You’d Have to Be a Ravenclaw to Make It Through the Hogwarts Escape

Escape rooms have become all the rage in recent years. The number of themes and puzzles escape rooms can have is seemingly infinite as well. But when two Ravenclaws get together with the idea of putting together an escape room for Harry Potter fans, you know it’s going to take some brainpower to get through.

Danique Valstar and Florine Komen decided to build their own version of an online escape room with a Harry Potter theme: the Hogwarts Escape. The two have been friends for over 14 years, and both grew up reading the books and watching the movies. Komen describes how the idea to create an online escape room came to life.

We’ve done a lot of escape rooms together and recently started getting into online escape rooms. I joked around and said to Danique: ‘I wonder if we could create an online escape room’. We laughed about it, but that night, we got started immediately and worked on it for four weeks straight.

 

 

The Hogwarts Escape will keep you both entertained and stumped but in the best way possible. When the game begins, your character is a first-year student who is eager to begin school. You make friends but soon find trouble.

Komen focused on the story line and the “puzzles within that story,” while Valstar, who is a professional web designer, focused on designing the website and the puzzle layout.

So what exactly goes into creating an escape room? Valstar explains it like this:

First of all, it takes a lot of research on online puzzles, and it required quite some brainpower. We struggled with the idea of the website for quite some time before we decided to make our own using HTML and CSS. We did get some help every now and then with the coding. It takes some time to create an online escape room, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

 

 

The hardest part of building the experience was creating the puzzles. After all, what’s an escape room without the challenge or complexity? Komen talks about some of the challenges on their side of things.

The problem with an online escape room is that the whole ‘secret door and hidden compartments’ doesn’t work. However, you don’t want to get repetitive and boring with your puzzles either.

The two worked on the project for a full four weeks, Skyping with each other to work through puzzles, web design, and making everything user-friendly.

 

 

Another thought that has to go into this kind of project is the difficulty. The two explain creating different difficulty levels through the process.

We wanted the escape room to get gradually more difficult throughout playing. We discovered that it was a bit challenging to decide whether a puzzle was too hard to too easy. The Hogwarts Escape might be a little harder for a first-time escaper, which is why we created the hints page within our website. The page will help the player throughout the puzzles by giving them hints or if they really want, the answers.

Komen and Valstar have dabbled with the idea of creating another online escape room with second-year characters and story lines. They also invite MuggleNet fans to send them suggestions!

Until then, enjoy the Hogwarts Escape!

Check out the Hogwarts Escape Instagram page (@thehogwartsescape) for all kinds of info, and follow for a chance to win a handcrafted Harry Potter item in a giveaway.

We’d like to extend a very special thank you to Florine Komen and Danique Valstar for their submission to MuggleNet. If you have something you’d like us to see, send us an email at submissions@staff.mugglenet.com.

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For accuracy, what is your name, and about where are you located (as much as you are comfortable providing)?

Florine Komen: My name is Florine, I am 24 years old and I live near Gouda in The Netherlands. I have always been interested in creating my own stories, which is why I loved writing the story and creating puzzles within that story for [t]he Hogwarts Escape.

Danique Valstar: I’m Danique, and I am also 24 years old. I live in Rotterdam but grew up in the same town as Florine. We’ve been friends for over 14 years. Besides creating the puzzles, I focused on designing them and working on the final website. I loved doing this as it is part of my profession as a (web) designer.

What was your first experience with Harry Potter/when did you start reading the book and watching the movies?

Florine: I remember being at my parents’ friend's house when I was around seven years old and they put on a DVD to entertain me. This DVD was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. After I’d seen it I bugged my parents every week to borrow this movie. I don’t know if at that time I was aware of the franchise, but I do remember being very excited when my local supermarket was selling the first Harry Potter movie. I think this is where I also started reading the books and I haven’t put them down ever since.

Danique: I first watched all the movies when I was younger. I remember watching them on DVD, and when I was a few years older I saw the movies at the cinema. It was only after watching all the movies, that I started reading all the books, as I heard the books were more detailed. I now watch the movies every year and have reread the books multiple times.

What was the idea behind creating a virtual escape room and why specifically Harry Potter?

Florine: We’ve done a lot of escape rooms together and recently started getting into online escape rooms. I joked around and said to Danique, ‘I wonder if we could create an online escape room’. We laughed about it, but that night, we got started immediately and worked on it for four weeks straight. We both grew up with the Harry Potter books and movies, so the choice to center it around this universe was quickly made, and [t]he Hogwarts Escape was born.

What does it take to build a virtual game like this? Do you have any previous experience in creating virtual spaces? Did you have help?

Danique: First of all, it takes a lot of research on online puzzles, and it required quite some brainpower. We struggled with the idea of the website for quite some time before we decided to make our own using HTML and CSS. We did get some help every now and then with the coding. It takes some time to create an online escape room, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

How did you come up with the puzzles for the rooms?

Florine: I think coming up with the puzzles was one of the hardest parts of creating this escape room. The problem with an online escape room is that the whole ‘secret door and hidden compartments’ doesn’t work. However, you don’t want to get repetitive and boring with your puzzles either. It took a lot of research, mind mapping and brainstorming to give each of our 21 puzzles a unique touch.

Danique: After research, it was time to visually shape the puzzles and come up with the design. I created all puzzles using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. It was always rewarding to see the completed puzzle, and it always motivated us to start on the next puzzle.

How long did it take to put everything together (designing/creating puzzles, trying them, revising things)?

It took us about four weeks of non-stop work. This included coming up with the puzzles, designing them, working on the storytelling, and implementing all of this into the website. We Skyped every day for several hours of the past month and it will be very strange to not have this be a part of our daily routine anymore. The last few days have been all about making the website user friendly and correcting the final flaws.

Do you have a favorite puzzle or part of the virtual room?

Florine: I would have to say that my favorite part of the escape room is ‘the midnight duel’. This puzzle was one of the most difficult to create, if not the most difficult. We really wanted this puzzle to feel important to the story. We spent three full days working on this so maybe that’s why it stuck with me so much.

Danique: I also really like that one, because of the hard work that was put into it. However, my favorite one would be the puzzle in the astronomy tower. Here, the students get their first astronomy lesson and study the moons of Jupiter. This one was really fun to design.

When you were creating the escape room, did you want to make it difficult to get through? How did you decide difficulty?

We wanted the escape room to get gradually more difficult throughout playing. We discovered that it was a bit challenging to decide whether a puzzle was too hard or too easy. The Hogwarts Escape might be a little harder for a first-time escaper, which is why we created the hints page within our website. This page will help the player throughout the puzzles by giving them hints or if they really want, the answers.

Do you have plans to create more virtual escape room spaces or anything similar? Maybe in different themes?

We already joked about creating the second year, since this escape room focuses entirely around the first year at Hogwarts. So who knows? We’d love to hear suggestions from the MuggleNet fans!

Did you send the finished product to friends and family to try out?

Yes, we had a few close friends who we would send the finished puzzles to. With their feedback, we altered the puzzles until we were satisfied. Thanks to them some minor issues could be resolved before we went online. We have yet to receive feedback from our families!

Do you know the average time it takes someone to "escape"?

The average escape time is around three hours. This average is based on one player and not a group. People who have played a lot of escape rooms or have a lot of Harry Potter knowledge might solve the puzzles a little faster. It is completely possible to play this escape room without any Harry Potter knowledge, though the player might have to use Google for just a little guidance.

What is your Hogwarts House?

I think it’s very fitting that we are both in Ravenclaw. It takes creativity and a little intelligence to create an online escape room. Though we questioned the sorting hat’s decision just a few times while creating [t]he Hogwarts Escape, as we really struggled with creating some of the puzzles.