Preparing for an Onsite Visit

Thanks for considering an onsite visit from Escape Room Techs!  While we always enjoy working remotely with our clients, there’s often no substitute for meeting in person and working through your goals as rapidly as possible.  As we’ve gained experience with onsite visits, we’ve compiled this guide to help us serve you most efficiently and to help you make the most out of your investment in our assistance.

How much does a visit cost?

Surprisingly affordable! Reach out to us at escape@escaperoomtechs.com for a quote, as estimates vary depending on schedule, project and travel distance. In general, though, a single day, our fees for a single prop fix tends to range “about a grand” and a 3-5 day build project is “a few grand”. (Travel expenses are extra and vary based on distance from Seattle and cost of living in your area, but we can give you a relatively concrete estimate when you reach out for a quote).

We strive to keep prices affordable for on-site visits whenever possible because we love meeting our customers and helping build cool things in person.

What is a visit like?

Like gaining an extra member of your team!

When you request an on-site visit, you have our full attention for the duration of our visit.  That means you can ask us to help with any projects you like, as long as we are able to assist, and we will function as an extension of your team.  If we need to pick up a drill or hammer, we’re not afraid to help in any way necessary to get the project complete.

Please keep in mind we are not licensed contractors, so we cannot help with permitted construction tasks or electrical installations subject to inspection/certification requirements.  As such, our contribution will be limited to light construction/fabrication tasks, creative work and low voltage electrical work.

The escape room industry is different than ordinary businesses and is definitely not a “9 to 5” operation – and we totally get that, as we’ve been involved with many builds over the years.  As such, we’re more than willing to arrive early and stay late to help you make the most of our time in town.  We love having fun during a build, and some of our most productive time is sometimes spent on those crazy late night builds! 

We do want to gently convey that we will likely opt-out of any all-nighters you may be tempted to pull – but otherwise, you can expect very full days from us while we’re in town to help out.

How can we better prepare for your visit?

Planning and Construction

We’ll help with anything, but the best and most productive visits happen when the basic construction and propbuilding for your room is complete, so we can focus on the electronic and software tasks needed to finalize your experience.

As such, we recommend:

  • If you have any fabrication tasks to complete that don’t require our involvement, or wire to pull in-wall connecting props to your controllers, we suggest completing those tasks in advance.
  • A prioritized wish list of items to address during our visit will be incredibly helpful to make sure we are able to complete as many of the critical tasks you’ve identified as possible.
  • If we’re helping with an existing prop, please gather any diagrams or documentation that were part of the original construction of that prop for us to use as a resource.  We’ll also need any software, logins or passwords, or configuration files provided by the original propbuilder, if they’re available.
  • If an area we are to work on is difficult to access or enclosed, you can help by opening it up and having access ready to go.

Workspace

We find that having a card table or other workspace set up can be quite helpful, as we often need to set up a workstation for soldering and software work.  Ideally, this card table is one you aren’t too worried about getting damaged by solder bits (Costco/Sam’s Club style plastic folding tables are perfect!), and would be either near a power outlet or supplied with a power strip/extension cord.

Bookings

We also have, through past experience, discovered that visits are much more productive when you are not also juggling customer bookings at the same time.  We can do our best to work around bookings, but we may need to take a game offline for an extended period of time during troubleshooting/debugging, and we can’t always guarantee we can get it running again at a moment’s notice if a booking comes in. 

Even if we are working on a different game from the ones that are available for booking, having customers present can be a distraction for everyone involved and can limit our ability to work on the overall network or server installation if resources are shared across games.

If you’ve already got bookings, no worries – we can work around that.  But we do strongly suggest you consider blocking any remaining bookings during the time we’ll be present, so you can make the most of our assistance.

Tools

We travel with most of the tools of our trade, so you don’t need to worry about providing much!  We do expect that basic construction items will be available onsite if needed, though:

  • Basic hand tools, like Phillips and Flat head screwdrivers
  • Power drill, standard drill bits, and star/Phillips/flat head driver bits as needed to assemble/disassemble props
  • Construction screws and adhesives
  • Extension cords and power strips
  • Portable worklight of some kind if needed

What about booking travel?

Once a visit is approved, we’ll take care of all our travel bookings and invoice you after the visit for travel costs.  Don’t worry – we’re thrifty and experienced travelers who treat your business’s resources as if they were our own, and we only charge pass-through travel costs when visiting.  If we opt for a more expensive hotel or flight for our convenience or comfort, we’ll only bill you for the lowest logical option at the time of booking.

Our travel expenses will be based on:

  • Lowest logical changeable Main Cabin Delta airfare
    (Why Delta?  We have elite status that allows us to check three bags up to 70lbs each, which allows us to bring our full toolboxes with us if necessary. They also have an extensive network of direct flights from our home base of Seattle.)
  • Lowest logical changeable rate at a Marriott or Hilton-affiliated hotel
  • Intermediate rental car with a changeable rate from Avis, Hertz or National
  • Actual cost of meals, not to exceed $75/day (typically much, much less in most cities)
  • Other minor incidental expenses (airport transfer, fuel for rental car, etc.)

You’ll notice that this policy excludes Basic Economy type fares, low cost carriers and pre-pay, non-cancelable rates.  Our experience is that the ability to modify reservations and be rebooked on alternate carriers is critical in this kind of travel – unlike a vacation, site visits often need to be extended or changed as your business needs change, and this type of flexibility ends up being necessary on a surprising number of our trips.  We instituted this policy to protect your investment after experiencing a series of expensive disruptions, and we strongly believe it has been a net cost savings for our clients over the years.

For food, let’s keep it simple. We love working meals, and we find that takeout or frozen meals often work best so we can keep making progress on our project together while we work.  Your suggestions for favorite restaurants to order from are always appreciated!

We always appreciate your insight and advice about your local area, but we are unable to accept your hospitality in the form of private lodging or transport – thanks for understanding.

There is no need to “entertain” us while visiting, and we have no expectations of having any free time during our visit, so don’t worry about any preparations of that nature. If we do happen to finish early, we’d love the opportunity to play any escape rooms you are currently operating, though!

What happens after your visit?

Often, there are tasks left to be performed after one of our visits – perhaps we agree to monitor a prop to make sure an intermittent issue is fixed, or perhaps there’s a software update needed to resolve an issue we encountered.

One of the best resources for this is for us to set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that allows us to access your escape room’s network from our offices in Seattle. This lets us work on your props as if we were onsite, and can be a great productivity boost for wrapping up any loose ends. We can help set this up on request if you’d like this option to be available while we visit.

What’s the ideal visit timing?

For quick fixes to existing rooms, even a single day may be enough depending on the scope of the fix, especially if you are on the US west coast and if flight times permit us to arrive mid-morning and depart late at night.

For larger prop build projects, or for collaborations where we’re planning to tackle several props at once, we recommend several days. A full week including weekends is ideal if your budget permits, but lodging expenses do pile up. 3 days is about the minimum we would recommend for a new room build, as we find the first day tends to be spent getting oriented and discussing a plan of action, and much of the last day is often spent responding to playtest feedback and addressing loose ends from the build.

If your schedule permits, we strongly recommend weekdays instead of weekends if your escape room is already open and operating. We find that productivity is dramatically reduced on Fridays and Saturdays with substantial bookings, and closing out bookings is never ideal from a financial perspective. Starting a visit on Sunday or Monday can often be ideal timing; we can work with you directly to plan a schedule that’s best for your individual situation.

What can you help with we might not have considered?

While we’re usually hired to tackle software and hardware construction issues, we also are deeply experienced puzzle designers. If you’re building a new room, one great way to benefit from this experience is to plan to playtest your new game while we’re in town. An independent perspective on how players are experiencing your story can be immensely valuable, and many of our past clients have remarked that this portion of our engagement has been the most unexpectedly helpful to them. We often end up helping with puzzle elements that have no technical elements at all!

The ideal time to playtest is toward the end of the trip, but not at the very end. On a weeklong build project, Thursday night would be ideal, allowing us to work up to that goal, while leaving Friday to discuss and respond to playtest feedback and make adjustments to the gameplay together in realtime.

We also can often contribute our project management expertise; if you’ve been heads-down on a build for months, an outside perspective can often be helpful to prioritize the remaining work and make final to-do lists. We’re happy to spend part of our first day doing this, and past clients have found the resulting wall of sticky notes to amplify the value of our visits beyond just our technical contributions.

What pandemic measures are you taking? (Last Updated March 2022)

We know that the world is a diverse place, and people have different perspectives on masks, vaccines, and pandemic precautions, especially as local regulations and attitudes continue to shift.  While we respect that your personal approach may differ, we’ve elected to continue taking pandemic precautions as a company for the foreseeable future for a few reasons:

  • One of our close family members works as a hospice nurse, visiting long term care facilities and caring directly for ailing patients.  In respect of their critical role in our community, we are doing everything we can to avoid transmitting COVID-19 to her (and, by extension, her immunocompromised patients and the facilities in which they live).
  • The nature of an onsite visit involves travel through busy international airports, and that involves a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 for us (and potentially transmitting it to you during our visit, which we want to avoid).
  • 2020 and 2021 were incredibly difficult for the escape room community, and many of us nearly lost the opportunity to bring happiness to guests through interactive entertainment for good.  We want to do everything within our power to protect our business and yours to keep that from happening again.

As such, please rest assured that our staff are fully vaccinated and boosted, and we will be wearing N95 grade respirators at all times during your site visit.  We may also elect to eat alone outdoors or in our vehicle, so please don’t be offended if we do so while visiting.

We’d appreciate your help in joining us in this effort by also wearing a surgical or N95 mask during our visits, even if local regulations do not currently require them in your place of business.  We are happy to provide masks upon request at our expense if you like (and will happily nerd out on the pros and cons of various designs, if you’ve had trouble finding one that’s comfortable for you in the past!)

If you are unwilling or unable to wear a mask during our visit, we can offer a great alternative in the form of negative antigen tests completed each 24 hours (which we are also more than happy to provide at our expense).

We will of course also compete an antigen test of our own upon request for your peace of mind – just let us know and we’ll take one immediately before entering your place of business, again at our own expense.

We know this request may be controversial and/or feel like an imposition or overreaction to some, especially in certain parts of the country where transmission may be lower than it is currently in our home of the Seattle area. Since the alternative would be for us to decline all onsite visits, we really appreciate in advance your understanding, courtesy and willingness to help protect both our family and those in our broader community under hospice care. We hope our assistance will be worth any inconvenience caused!

This all sounds great, but I’m a little nervous about the financial commitment and about inviting a stranger to join us on our project. Can you offer any references?

Absolutely! Please e-mail us at escape@escaperoomtechs.com and we’re happy to connect you directly with several owners who have invited us for successful onsite visits in the past. They’re happy to answer questions and to address any concerns you might have.