In every Society of Curiosities game, we like to include a tangible item that is custom designed. For our first solve the mystery game, Madok’s Lost Treasure, players go on a quest for pirate treasure – and of course we wanted pirate gold!

Each copy of Madok’s Lost Treasure includes a custom designed pirate coin.

Mystery in a Box Design Challenges

Our goal in creating a custom item is to make an eye catching piece that is not only exciting but functional in the play of the game. Because of this, we have to start with basic drafts while beta testing the puzzles, and then move onward with design. Should the puzzle not work, we would have to redesign, so basic is best at this phase as long as it contains all the puzzle components.

Our drafts have humble beginnings. This is the image that the first few beta testers were given. Once we knew the puzzle worked, then we moved on to hiring a professional artist to create the coin.

So Bad It’s Confusing (design anecdote)

When beta testing an escape game or solve the mystery game, draft images need to be decipherable enough so players can recognize them and get the information needed to move forward. As a rule, we try to take as little time as possible in design for the first round of beta testing – since changes are almost certain.

There were some moments with this first image where we had to tell our players what the drawings were (we watch all beta tests so we can jump in when needed). Apparently we draw ugly mermaids – and the figures on either side of the coat of arms were up for a wide array of interpretations. We got unicorn or wizard for the figure to the right of the coat of arms. Since the images weren’t super important, we could get away with bad art to start, but had it been a clue that was needed, we would have photoshopped our draft with better images.

Finding an Artist

Once the draft works in the puzzle design, we move onto finding an artist. Our process consists of posting the job with as many details as we can and reviewing artists portfolios to find the right fit. We hire different artists for each project because our art and artifacts vary so much from game to game.

Once we find our artist, we get what’s possibly the most exciting part – the first draft! It’s like Christmas! Because we make sure to be very specific in our project description, the draft is a great jumping off point with few changes needed. In our case, we wanted the mermaid to look less comic like with more movement.

The first draft we received from our artist.

Refining the Pirate Coin Design

After the first draft, we do the small tweaks. For the coin in our solve the mystery game, we modified the positioning of the mermaid’s arms and her hair. (She was showing a little too much chest for our taste and we wanted it to look wind swept.) We also modified the coloring of the coin.

This drat was the first attempt with color and we thought it had too much contrast.
The mermaid’s hair and arms have been changed. Much better!
We have the mermaid and coat of arms design perfected and are working on tweaking the colors.

When working with color, we loved the Adobe Color tool. It helps us to select color swatches that we like and share it with our artist.

One last tweak for more vibrance in color and we’re done!

Moving to 3D and Casting

Once our art was refined, we moved to our production company and had them 3D model the coin for casting. We made sure to have a few of the edges roughened up to show wear like you would see in an aged artifact.

The 3D rendering of our coin with aged edges.

After the 3D design was modified, we began the casting phase! The company shares a coin to make sure all is good before making thousands! And then we wait…and one magical day, the package arrives – and we have pirate coins for our mystery in a box game! It’s a long but exciting process – and in between all of this we design and test the rest of the game.

Pirate Coin Research

Before designing our coin, we did a ton of research on pirates and coins. One of our family friends is a treasure hunter in Florida (he goes out on boats to hunt), so we visited him and talked treasure hunting and checked our his coin collection. It’s a fascinating lifestyle with a passionate community!

After all the research we decided to make a less aged looking coin for the purpose of the game – but the research was so much fun and informed many of the plot points and locations of our mystery in a box game, Madok’s Lost Treasure.

If you want to see our pirate coin for yourself, check out the solve a mystery game and enjoy!