EXITUS: escape-room-in-an-app

Update at 08:00 on 08 February 2021:

Sadly, Sealed Book Project have made the decision to cancel their project. You can read more about this in this Kickstarter update, and I wish their family all the best.

Original post at 06:00 on 08 February 2021:

I’ve had the pleasure of completing several experiences which aren’t strictly video games over the past few months. There have been treasure hunts around towns, jigsaw puzzles with hidden clues and online murder-mysteries.

The most recent were Post Mortem Los Angeles: Death in La-La Land which was gifted to us by Kevin from The Lawful Geek, a choose-your-own-adventure about a murder which made us feel as though we were dropped straight into our own noir thriller. Next up was the more ‘budget-friendly’ The Mysterious Museum version of Exit The Game, an escape-room-in-a-box we’d purchased a couple of years ago but only got around to playing during a power-cut one evening.

I’ve really enjoyed experiences like this since taking part in my first escape room in 2019 and am always on the lookout for more. Fortunately, there have been a few Kickstarter campaigns to scratch that itch. I backed Key Enigma’s project for Hack Forward last February when I heard it had been ‘so carefully designed that it may be impossible to distinguish reality from fiction’ and, after receiving an email from the company at the end of last month, pledged my support to another campaign they recommended.

Natalie and George created one of the first European escape rooms their native city of Lucerne, Switzerland back in 2014. Four years later they felt the need for a new project and the Sealed Book Project was born in early 2018. Readers are faced with mysteries and puzzles that must be solved to progress the thriller narrative in what they’re calling ‘challenge book games’, and the experience is complete with visuals, sound effects and music to ‘intensify the overall effect’.

The first two games are already available from the App Store and Google Play and are completely free. PRAELUDIUM’s story starts with an announcement by a representative of both the Church and Science that he has created something considered impossible; where is this artefact all these years later and has it ever been used? The tale continues and gets even more complicated in CODEX, when Zoé and Marc set out on a journey that takes some unpredictable turns and lifts the curtain on a few secrets.

Sealed Book Project’s Kickstarter campaign is for the third challenge book game in the series. Not much is given away about EXITUS’ narrative on the project page but we’re told that it begins in Switzerland before readers are sent all the way over to the other side of the planet, to a place ‘veiled in mysticism, legend, mystery and buried secrets’. It sounds as if it can be played as a standalone experience however so there’s no need to have completed PRAELUDIM and CODEX first.

So how does it work? The EXITUS app on your mobile device reveals the story and, when the main characters are faced with a riddle, it’s there for you to solve in the accompanying physical book. You’ll also need to occasionally use the ‘artefacts’ that come with the game to reach a solution. Once you have your answer, you can enter it into the app to discover whether you’re correct and continue your journey; and there’s an additional Riddle Only mode for those who are all about puzzles rather than narrative.

The creators say that some of the challenges will require the same specific solving strategies that you’d use when completing a real-life escape room. Players will need to apply not only analytical thinking, attention to detail and ingenuity, but also certain physical actions. Don’t worry if you get stuck though: an in-game hint system will give you three progressively more informative clues before revealing the full answer so there’s no need to feel frustrated or reach for a walkthrough.

I decided to back this campaign despite never having heard of the Sealed Book Project or their first two challenge book games because of my love for puzzles and escape rooms. EXITUS is estimated to be ready in November 2021 so there’s plenty of time for me to try PRAEDULUM and CODEX before it arrives. We’ve got a lot of streams coming up for #DaysForDonations for GameBlast21 so if we can manage to hook up our tablet to our software, you might see them on Twitch soon.

At the time of writing this post, over 180 backers had pledged more than 80% of the £11,033 target so there’s every chance that the campaign will be successful by the deadline of 17 February 2021. Check out the Kickstarter page if you’d like to get involved and give the Sealed Book Project a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the project’s progress.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020 invitation

Christmas may be less than two weeks away but before that: it’s time for the latest blog party here at Later Levels. There’s no better way to celebrate this time of year as well as meet some new blogging friends and read their awesome posts.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written this year and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Show us your festive spirit: a blog party is nothing without good music and video games. Tell us which favourite festive tune you’ve brought with you, and the video game you’ll be playing this holiday season.

🎉   Mingle: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 GMT on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

Have fun – and excuse me while I grab some more ice for the drinks and turn the music up louder!

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


Blogging awards: breaking the chain

Blogging awards usually involve sharing guidance for other bloggers. This is the case for one I was nominated for recently: the rules stated I’d need to give Later Levels’ origin story along with five pieces of advice before nominating five to 12 other bloggers to take a turn.

I was totally stumped and had no idea what to write. Drafting a response post to a separate award nomination just the week before meant I was all out of new advice and I’d already explained how the blog came to life in previous posts. Hoping it might give me some inspiration, I decided to stop staring at the blank screen on my laptop and instead figure out where this current award had originally come from because it wasn’t one I’d ever heard of in my seven years of blogging.

blogging, laptop, hands, keyboard

Tracing back through the chain didn’t take long at all because it had only been in existence for several weeks. In their originating post, the author explained how the award had been created to build links within the community and collate a pool of useful tips that everybody here could benefit from. I struggled to see how it was different from the other honours doing the rounds though; its rules sounded awfully like several other existing awards and I wasn’t sure what this new one added.

I then noticed that the creator had given their own guidance for new bloggers and had mentioned search engine optimisation (SEO) in one of their tips. Anyone who’s ever read a website or book about the subject will be familiar with the practice of improving your search rankings by getting a link back to your blog on as many good sites as possible. A blogging award where nominees are required to give up to 12 nominees of their own along with a link to this original post seemed very convenient right about now.

I realise just how cynical I sound. My negativity is in part brought on by what we’ve experienced over the past eight months because the ever-present risk of COVID-19 has done a wonderful job of sucking the motivation out of me. Combine this with recently looking at how blogging had changed over the years and the disappointing realisation that it’s far less community-orientated than it used to be, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this award had an almost chain-letter smell about it.

I realise that such recognitions are meant to be a sincere way of celebrating our blogging efforts and I really am honoured each time Later Levels is included. But let’s be honest with ourselves: it’s time to finally admit that they’re a pain in the butt. As mentioned above, it can be difficult to give advice you haven’t already shared, provide different answers to questions you’ve been asked several times or tell your origin story in words you haven’t used before.

blog, award, awesome, epic, trophies

There’s also the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult to nominate someone who hasn’t already been recognised because we all have friends in the same blogging circles. And once you’ve finally managed to choose your people, it’s impossible not to put them under any pressure to accept an award no matter how much you try. Nominees usually feel obliged to publish a witty response post because they don’t want to be considered ungrateful, unfriendly, or unwilling to get involved.

I’m not sure I’m ready to do what others have done and put a badge up on the site declaring that it’s an award-free zone though. The truth is that it’s always nice to be recognised – everyone likes to receive a compliment occasionally and hear that their content is appreciated. I’ve also found that the more creative questions asked as part of some awards make for great writing prompts, like this one about explaining horror game storylines to children in a way that doesn’t scare them.

I just think that there’s got to be a better way of showing your admiration for your blogger-friends than giving them the Blogger Appreciation, Blogger Recognition, Liebster, Mystery Blogger, One Lovely Blog, Real Neat Blog, Sunshine Blogger, Unique Blogger, Versatile Blogger or any of the other awards out there. (I took up almost half a paragraph there just listing those I could remember off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are hundreds more out there.)

The best thing you can do to show your appreciation for someone’s content is to share it. If there’s a post you particularly enjoyed, don’t keep it to yourself: leave a comment to further the conversation and share the link with others. Write a post about the same subject if you’re feeling inspired to do so and get in touch with the author directly if you’d like to talk to them about it. There’s no need to wait until the next round of blog awards to give a deserving blogger a pat on the back for their hard work.

make kindness the norm, World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day is coming up again on Friday and drafting this post has given me an idea for a celebration: a way to give a shout-out to the bloggers we admire and the posts we’ve enjoyed. It’s just a small thing considering everything else going on in the world right now, but maybe a little bit of positivity may be just the thing we need to give ourselves a boost in time for the weekend. Check back later this week to find out what I’ve got planned and how you can get involved.

And I promise: you won’t need to give your origin story, several pieces of advice or nominate 20 bloggers.

Gamers’ blog party: autumn 2020 invitation

Before we get wrapped up in cosy blankets, it’s time for the latest blog party here at Later Levels. There’s no better way to celebrate the start of the week as well as meet some new blogging friends and read their awesome posts.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Show off your costume: Halloween may be a little way off yet but who doesn’t love dressing up? That’s why we’re going with a fancy-dress theme for this party. Tell which video game character you’ve come dressed as and why.

🎉   Mingle: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 BST on Tuesday, 15 September 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

Have fun – and excuse me while I grab some more ice for the drinks and turn the music up louder!

Gamers’ blog party: summer 2020 invitation

The lockdown may have meant we’ve had isolate ourselves over the past few months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t socialise. Put on your best frock and dancing shoes, grab your laptop and join in with the latest blog party here at Later Levels.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Get the conversation going: tell us what you’ve learnt during lockdown. Whether it’s a new hobby, an interesting fact or love for a gaming genre you never thought you’d enjoy, we want to hear about it.

🎉   Be sociable: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 BST on Tuesday, 16 June 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

We beat the record number of posts shared in a single event at last summer’s blog party, hitting 36 articles and 348 comments. Can we beat it yet again? Have fun – and excuse me while I top up everyone’s drinks and turn the music up louder!

The Great Blog Crawl 2020: drinks menu

Update at 10:10 BST on Monday, 22 June 2020:

The Great Blog Crawl 2020 is back! From Friday, 26 June 2020, we’ll be visiting the questions for anyone who didn’t catch them the first time around before heading to the virtual pub from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 18 July 2020. Check out this post over on Ace Asunder for more information.

Update at 15:45 BST on Wednesday, 03 June 2020:

It’s with heavy hearts that we’ve taken the decision to postpone The Great Blog Crawl 2020 virtual pub today. For further details, please see this tweet.

Original post at 06:00 BST on Saturday, 30 May 2020:

Attention, future patrons of The Great Blog Crawl’s virtual pub! We’re pleased to announce the hiring of our official bartender for the evening: the awesome Quietschisto from RNG. He’s just as good at making drinks as he is at writing blog posts.

He’ll be presenting a crash-course in cocktail-making during the event from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 06 June 2020. If you’ve ever wanted to turn your kitchen into a bar and create some radiant refreshments (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), here’s your chance. Check out his shopping list and join us at our virtual pub on Twitch where we’ll be playing games, sharing Quietschisto’s tutorial videos for anyone who’d like to mix along with him, and revealing the winners of The Great Blog Crawl 2020 quiz.

The Great Blog Crawl, logo, title, writing, beer

There’s still time to join in if you’re not already taking part. Simply download your answer sheet, follow @GreatBlogCrawl on Twitter or Facebook for the questions and visit the 50 blogs mentioned to find the information you need to solve them. Please don’t share your answers though as this will spoil the fun for everybody! Further details and deadlines can be found in this post, check out Solarayo’s article over on Ace Asunder too, and you can always get in touch with us if there’s anything else you need.

An important note: this event has been designed to bring the community together during the lockdown period and celebrate the amazing blogs around us. It’s in no way intended to put pressure on anyone to drink and if alcohol isn’t your thing, then we fully respect and support you. Quietschisto will even be including two non-alcoholic beverages in his tutorials so we’ve got you covered. Absolutely everyone is welcome to participate in The Great Blog Crawl quiz and we hope you have a fabulous time.

Good luck to all our contestants! We’ll be waiting for you at the bar next weekend.

Like The Great Blog Crawl artwork? Check out Heather Agoncillo on Instagram.