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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with Franch, Creator of the Inside Escape Room

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Have you ever thought that the Ruhm in Inside would be the ideal place to be made into an escape room? All the elements like being locked in and having to find a way out are present in Bo's special, so it only makes sense that someone would combine the two.


Enter Franch's pitch-perfect recreation in the Inside Escape Simulator Edition.



By modifying an existing game, Franch was able to perfectly recreate the Ruhm, and he included SO many details that would warm any Inside fan's heart (hello, my beloved disco ball!).





I first actually saw the gameplay for the escape room due to this playthrough being uploaded on YouTube in December.


When I found out the game isn't VR-only as I had assumed from reading about it on Reddit, I had my husband download it to his Steam account and I played it that night.


After a few more times of exploring every crevice of the escape room, I had so many questions about the mechanics and how everything looked identical to how it appears in the special.



Luckily, Franch was easy to contact, and he was more than willing to explain how he set up the mod, why certain items like the pull-out couch were removed, and what he's working on next.


Here is my interview with Franch, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.


Stand-Up Comedy Historian: Hi, Franch! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about your computer game.


Franch: No problem!


SUCH: Wonderful! First, can you please provide some background about yourself?

 

Franch: Sure. As I said on the back cover of the in-game Getting Better book—I live in Seattle with my partner and cat.


 

SUCH: Thanks for the info! Your cat is adorable. I have two cats as well (and a husband and two kids haha)!



So what compelled you to create your first game? When did you get started, and what software/tools did you use?

 

Franch: I started playing the Escape Simulator game on Steam in early 2022—playing through all of the official rooms with a friend who was actually also the one who introduced me to Inside a few months earlier.


When I discovered Escape Simulator had a Room Editor, I thought that Inside would make a really fun theme for an escape room, and it just clicked with me.


 

SUCH: Yes, the Ruhm really does lend itself to being an escape room. Bo certainly feels trapped in it!



When did you first discover Bo and his works? Are you a longtime fan or a newer one because of Inside?

 

Franch: Inside was my first introduction to Bo, and I was blown away by the creativity, humor, effort, and pathos on display.



As an amateur songwriter and pianist, it resonated with me on that level as well. Along with watching Inside several times, I have also gone back and watched some of his earlier material, but I still need to watch more.


SUCH: That's cool that you're a newer fan. I fell down the rabbit hole in 2019, so I was obsessed before his masterpiece premiered.


If you're looking to watch more of Bo's works, I highly suggest reading my Bo primer that includes everything he's been involved with over the years as an actor, director, producer, and writer.

 

Back to your game. So I was blown AWAY by your attention to detail in this simulator. The Bugles bag, the Twitter cup, Bo's notebook, the perfectly matching WWI shirts, the drone at the end (Amazon Prime Air, of course), and your book cover are all so lovingly recreated/imagined.



I also adore how logical all of the items are—not a single thing is out of place or awkwardly shoved in as an Easter egg.


How did you make everything work so smoothly?

 

Franch: Before I started building my Inside escape room, I took detailed notes to catalog and timestamp every song, prop, and lighting scheme in the video, and then I spent a few weeks brainstorming how to incorporate as many items as possible into virtual escape room puzzles.


I knew I couldn’t include everything, but I was happy with how many items I was able to recreate virtually and then use as puzzle elements.

 

SUCH: I think you nailed all of the major items and songs at least...the only popular ones missing that I can think of are Bezos I and All Eyes On Me. That's pretty damn impressive!


How many times did you watch Inside to capture all of those minute details? 10+ times? Your passion and effort are appreciated—the game is a real love letter to Bo and his fans.


Franch: I think I’ve watched it start to finish about six times.


But using my notes and timestamps, I have gone back to rewatch specific bits for reference more times than I can count. This was easily the largest single project I’ve ever undertaken and a testament to how much I was inspired by Inside and wanted to do this as a tribute of sorts.



I didn’t keep track of my time, but I worked on it almost every day for four months, typically at least eight hours per day and usually 15+ on weekends.


I have estimated that I have spent over 800 hours. Not all of that was in the Room Editor.


There was also a lot of work in an image editor, and I spent about 50 hours to recreate covers of the songs I used too.

 

SUCH: Oh wow...you've really committed a LOT of time to this endeavor. Well, I can tell you that all your hard work paid off!


So speaking of Easter eggs, why did you add the "Jenny (867-5309)" reference for Pattie Burnham's phone number in the game? Was it just a fun joke for the older crowd (I got it immediately since I loved VH1 as a child, especially '80s music), easier to recall, or both?



 

Franch: I didn’t put a lot of thought into this—I needed a phone number for the phone puzzle, and that is the first number that popped into my head. Even though it doesn’t tie back to Bo directly, I thought it would be a fun reference for people who recognize it.


From the Steam comments and watching people stream my room, a lot of people notice it right away and even sing along when they type in the numbers, which is fun.


SUCH: Definitely! I had to explain Tommy Tutone to my son because he didn't get why Mommy was laughing at that specific sequence of numbers haha.

 

Are there any secrets or hidden items people haven't discovered yet?

 

Franch: I don’t think so; I spent so long creating the core experience, that I didn’t spend time adding extra secrets.


There are some fun items on Bo's phone in the game though—in addition to the three functional smartphone apps you need to complete the room, there are two optional apps that are Easter eggs.


One is an iMessage app where I recreated the text exchange from Sexting and that bit of the song.



I also did a stunning 8K resolution meditation app with that bit from That Funny Feeling [Ed. note: It also works with The Future from The Inside Outtakes!]


"I bought an app to help me meditate that didn't work"


Another special item is being able to burn the Aladdin costume [Ed. note: An obvious reference to Bo's shameful past in Problematic].


This is hinted at on the boards in the intro room and in the song lyrics, but otherwise I left that as an optional Easter egg.


"I'm gonna go home and burn it"


Not everyone finds the link to Steam in the toilet or the emergency matches above the toilet, but those are also optional and not really secrets.



I was hoping to add some secret piano melodies that would have been pretty straightforward, but there wasn’t a way to indicate what key signature they should be played in and I didn’t want to have to accommodate every key for each melody, so I left those out.

 

SUCH: Those phone apps are fantastic (I love that you found a way to fit Sexting into the escape room...very clever!).


Different piano melodies would have been fun, but I'm ultimately glad you didn't include that (the part where you have to play the Inside Waltz is definitely the hardest section of the game for me...and I had to do it for my son too haha).


So I found out through trial and error that I can burn the costume and the paper notebook and notepad.



Is there anything else that’s easily flammable in the game?


 The charred remains of the paper items


Franch: I think those are the only flammable items—nice job finding them all!


I had considered making the calendar burnable, but I decided not to because it is needed for a puzzle.



It took me about three days to build the flammable items + animation + logic, and it was one of the last things I did other than the music. I thought about scrapping it since it was optional, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

 

SUCH: I for one am happy you kept it in...burning those things was a fun little secret to find!


So one of my favorite parts of your game is exploring the bathroom (since Bo never goes in there in Inside, but you see glimpses of it at times in the special and in the Outtakes).



How did you come up with the setup for that room?

 

Franch: I created my bathroom before the Outtakes came out, and I couldn’t find any other reference images online, so I had to imagine what might be in there.


Since it was a blank slate, I was also able to use it for several puzzles, particularly WWI.



Originally I thought about putting a staircase in there and adding a basement for additional props and jokes, but vertical movement doesn’t currently exist in the room editor, and I didn’t want to get so far removed from the source material.


Keeping the player in the main room and kitchen was my priority. It’s a bit claustrophobic, but in a good way.

 

SUCH: Yeah, I get your point, but having a secret basement with more puzzles would be so fun to explore!


Speaking of the bathroom, we know from the Outtakes that Bo has a regular door with a doorknob, not a sliding door as he does in the game.


Is there a reason you chose that type of door (movement issues, maybe)?


 

Franch: Prior to the Outtakes I wasn’t sure what kind of door exists in real life, but a sliding pocket door made the most sense to me since that way it wouldn’t block anything. I like to think it is a nice upgrade! Maybe the new owners will convert it some day.


One other thing I noticed in the Outtakes is that the laser box in Comedy actually has four lasers and colors. You don’t get a clear view of it in the original, and so I guessed based on how the lasers looked to me. That is one thing that I would change in hindsight to be more accurate.



SUCH: Ooh, good point! I didn't even pick up on the laser box not matching.

 

How did you figure out the dimensions/placement of items like the keyboard/tripod/projector/etc.? Did you run into any issues?

 

Franch: The hardest dimensions to figure out were the room itself, including the doors, windows, and curved wall separating the main room and kitchen.



I’m sure it isn’t quite right, but I got as close as I could from reference photos. I even tried to match the ceiling can lights as closely as possible even though players never look up! [Ed. note: That is some real commitment to accuracy!]


For the scale of furniture and props, I kept tweaking them until they seemed plausible to me.


Since it is a first-person game, the scale is more noticeable in multiplayer—otherwise you never really know how tall your character is until the end.

 

SUCH: Everything looked pretty accurate to me (the desk should be mirrored though), and I've watched the special more times than I can count lol.



About the Bo figures—can you explain why they are all wearing what appear to be giant hiking boots? I ask because Bo is almost always barefoot or wearing slippers during the special.




Franch: Without importing custom models, there are only a few in-game footwear options and I thought the boots suited the Bo-bots more than the other choices.


I also kind of liked how detailed they were compared to the rest of the amorphous blobs that comprise the other body parts. But, I think barefoot might have been a better choice!


I spent about three days making and animating all of the Bo-bots and I was kind of ready to move on, so unfortunately the feet didn't get a lot of attention.


I experimented with having the Bo-bots blink rapidly to fake translucency and give them more of a ghostlike appearance, but several playtesters found that effect to be distracting, so I left them static and opaque. I'm partial to the ones that play the piano and guitar, but they were all fun to make.



SUCH: "Bo-bots" is such a clever term for them! Haha


I think my favorite is the HTWW one, but they are all fun to watch. And your explanation for the boots makes perfect sense!



So when I first played the escape room with my son, I got motion sickness (he moved the mouse way too fast!). Any suggestions for those with queasy stomachs like me?

 

Franch: Sorry to hear that! Escape Simulator has some settings in the menu to try to reduce motion sickness. Movement speed, field of view, etc.


I haven’t experimented with those, but I know others have found them useful.


SUCH: Thanks for the tips! I found that when I was in control of the game, I had a LOT less trouble with feeling sick to my stomach.

 

Your game mod came out in June, just after the Outtakes were released. Will you update/do a new version with references to that special (I'd love to see Microwave Popcorn, 1985, The Chicken, Five Years, etc.), or was the Inside Escape Room a one-and-done deal?

 

Franch: I feel like I've accomplished what I set out to do so, in my mind, it is a finished project.


There have been some significant updates to the Room Editor since I published my room—you can now add custom lighting and import 3D models.


Those would definitely improve the experience of my room, but I have decided not to do those either since I am rather fond of my workarounds.


For example, I built the guitar out of many little pieces of a poster that had a slight curve to it, and I faked the lighting changes by swapping out the colors of the walls, floor, and ceiling textures.



If I do update my room again, it would be to overhaul the lighting.


My response to the Outtakes was to put together my own behind-the-scenes “Outtakes” video, which you can watch here.

 


If I build more escape rooms, I will likely do something completely unrelated to Bo.


I've also published one other escape room for a 48-hour build-a-thon contest.


I have a few other ideas for rooms, but so far I haven’t been as motivated to put in enough time to complete them, and I have been focused more on writing music and playing some other games.

 

SUCH: Those are some very clever workarounds! I had no idea the guitar was created from other materials.


As I mentioned earlier, I had noticed you didn't reference Bo's biggest single, All Eyes On Me. Was that on purpose, or did it not fit in as neatly as the other songs?


It works either way, but I’d love to see you tackle Bo projecting multiple versions of himself and picking up the camera.

 

Franch: I decided pretty early on that I didn’t want to include any profanity in my room (or covers)—not that I’m opposed to it, but I wanted it to be appropriate for all ages. All Eyes On Me in particular is one that I couldn’t figure out how to use without censoring it excessively.


And this is subjective, but personally I also prefer many of the other songs, and they were easier to visually incorporate.


SUCH: I absolutely understand your reasoning, and I'm grateful you did make it family-friendly so my 6-year-old son could play along.


A selfie of my son and me playing the game (and yes, I was rocking my Socko merch lol)


It is certainly not an easy task to make a profanity-free version of Bo's works, so kudos!

 

The calendar must have required a lot of thought and care (the WWI pics are perfectly chosen for the months). How did you conceive it, and how long did it take to complete?



Franch: I think I spent about five hours on the calendar, between deciding which images to include, organizing them, making textures, and getting all of the page-flipping logic to work.


I decided early on that I wanted all of the images to come from WWI, even though the audio cue goes with 30 and the puzzle clue itself is used with my Welcome to the Internet puzzle.


I’m glad you noticed that I attempted to organize the photos seasonally—I think you’re the first person who has mentioned it.


SUCH: Oh, thank you! I'm always trying to catch things like that.

 

How did you make the items EXACT matches to what’s in the special? I’m thinking particularly about the background projections for the special—the star projector is dead-on accurate (I have the same one in a white case).



Franch: I’m a bit obsessed with detail haha. I had fun trying to track down the actual items that Bo used.


There are several websites and videos online that attempt to do the same, and those were very helpful to me.


I found the actual Dream pillow, projector, and “gobos” online (the light projections) and was able to modify those for the textures.


SUCH: Awesome! I read that one of your walkthrough fun facts about the nebula projector lights is that you had to assemble it from numerous sources:

It took a few weeks to build the various props used in this sequence, and to get the nebula projector effect working. It uses six different ground fogs, six lasers, and several volumetric dusts that are retextured with green dots and set to rotate. The green particle animation glitches briefly when it resets, if you watch it closely enough.

I had no clue so much was involved for that one (very cool) effect!



Did you have trouble locating any desired items?


Franch: Finding the actual cover art for The Blacklist Season 6 took some time.



The lollipop isn’t exactly the same but was the closest I could find.



The oatmeal is a screenshot from Inside, but I manually retextured spheres to look like blueberries and didn’t attempt to match the orientation exactly. Close enough!


 

SUCH: Certainly close enough, and the other matches are great (I didn't even notice the lollipop being slightly different)!


Then there’s the references to the specific lyrics (love Aladdin’s costume components haha).



How did you decide on what to include? Were there any items you wish you could have added but couldn’t due to the mechanics or some other issue?

 

Franch: I knew I wouldn’t be able to include every song or the room would be way too long.


I chose songs based on a combination of my favorites and which ones I had the most ideas about how to turn them into puzzles.


I was able to include a few extra clips of songs by triggering audio when specific props are picked up.


I thought Goodbye would be the perfect song for the end sequence, and it also does a reprise of several earlier songs.



It is the only song I recorded in its entirety, other than the short instrumental theme.


Many players quit out of the room without listening to the whole song (which is fine), but it is a nice Easter egg for anyone who sticks around to hear the full version.


SUCH: Definitely! That's another aspect I wanted to discuss with you—the music.


Great job singing all those songs for the game!


Did you feel like that was a better option than choosing to use instrumental versions only (and to help newbies to Bo catch some of the references)?


Were there any songs that were out of your range/too hard to sing? And what is your favorite cover that you sang in the game?


Franch: Thanks! I was hoping to get permission from Bo’s agent to use the original music and I reached out several times, but I never heard back.


I had the original music plugged in for all of my building + playtesting and there is an unpublished version of that room that still exists, but I was never going to publish without permission. For streaming and DMCA purposes, I always knew I wanted to do a version with covers regardless.


Plus I thought making the covers would be fun, and they really were! I saved them until the end, which was a nice way to finish the project.


I spent about 50 hours listening to Bo's arrangements and recreating the instruments and drums using my digital piano + MIDI, and some drum software (EZ Drummer 2).


They aren’t exactly the same, but it was as close as I could get using my virtual instruments and limited knowledge of Reaper software.


My voice isn’t as good as Bo's either, but I still enjoyed singing the songs and doing a Socko impression.


 

SUCH: Agreed! I thought your songs added some personality to the game (and you definitely did a good Socko lol).


Back to the details. Even small things like Bo’s mirror look perfect.


How did you manage to match so many items to their real-life versions? I’d say the least realistic-looking piece is the avocado (if you hadn’t added a label, I’d have thought it was a green oval lol).

 


Franch: At the time I made this room, it wasn’t possible to incorporate external 3D models.


I could have saved a lot of time by importing models rather than building them from existing in-game props. But, those Frankenstein creations were part of the fun for me.


The mirror texture uses an actual screenshot from Inside, which I then cloned in an image editor and used it to retexture the in-game mirror.



A lot of people misinterpret it as a window instead of a mirror though since there isn’t a reflection, and due to the way I divided it into a 3x3 grid (despite that it would be staring directly into the bathroom closet!).


SUCH: That's a great point that it couldn't be a window! I recognized it immediately as his monologue mirror though (and I am kinda obsessed with reflections in the special and outtakes).


 

There are also two missing items in the room that I picked up on—Bo’s pull-out couch and his shower. It looks like the shower location turned into the clothing rack. Why the removal of his couch completely though? Was there not enough space to maneuver around?


 

Franch: I was sad to leave the couch out, but it isn’t prominently featured in Inside and takes up a ton of room.


I decided I wanted to use that area for the whiteboard hints, along with the other items that eventually show up there.



I don’t think the shower is shown in Inside, and I wanted to use that space for the shirts since it felt like a closet to me.


SUCH: Yeah, that's what I had assumed. I think you used the space wisely though given those limitations!


I love the inclusion of Bo’s measuring tape as well.


Bo's measuring tape in the specials (it's on the floor in the pic from Five Years)


Practical and efficient! How did you come up with these specific inventory items?

 

Franch: After I'd catalogued every prop in the special, I started creating some of the ones I knew I wanted to use in puzzles.


I primarily built the room chronologically though and did the same with the props.


“Bo Knows Tape” is a fairly obscure reference to the Bo Jackson “BO KNOWS” Nike campaign from the 80s.



I originally had plans to use the balloons and pillow, but those ended up only being static props.



Almost everything else in the room is used in some way though.

 

SUCH: Nice! I had a feeling you were referencing Bo Jackson (I certainly remember those Nike ads), so it's awesome that you've confirmed that.


I have really enjoyed watching the videos of gamers trying out your escape room. It’s especially funny having Chris Ramsay commenting to his chat on Twitch WHILE playing the game. “Thanks for the subs” and all that.



Do you find playthroughs like this to be quite meta for Inside (especially since Bo mocks this persona in the video game bit)?



 Franch: It is all quite meta to me, yes. But enjoyable all the same.


Bo’s streamer segment was so spot on to both streaming and video game tropes, that it felt more like a loving homage to me than a full-blown mockery.


Watching people play my room on Twitch has been so fun for me. Sometimes I only catch the VOD, but when possible I like to hop into chat and say hi.


I try to let them determine how much they want to interact with me though, and I don’t offer hints unless asked.


Chris calling out to Franch for help (not branch, YouTube captions!)


I think I’ve seen people in at least fifteen different countries play my room. Plus two furries!


I never burned out while making this, but watching people get to experience it for the first time brings me a lot of joy and reminds me why I was inspired to make it in the first place.


It is especially fun for me when people are familiar with the source material and even sing along.

 

SUCH: I imagine that must be very gratifying...and I was definitely one player singing along the whole time! haha.

 

So here's an odd question that I've been wanting to ask you: Do the code numbers have any specific meaning related to Bo, or are they just random aside from his birthday one?


In the future, I think 24602 would be a fun joke to include (it’s his patient number in Left Brain, Right Brain and is a reference to Jean Valjean's 24601 in Les Miz).


 

Franch: Oh, that’s great! I’m not familiar with that one, but I would have definitely used it in hindsight.


The other numbers are not Bo-related. I chose "7-3-3-4" because that is an old-school way to write "LEET."


The 2-2-2 combination was for my “non-binary” puzzle—one of my only trolls in the room.


Clever puzzle-solvers see my objects with ones and zeroes underneath and assume I expect them to do something with binary, and then I eventually subvert those expectations by simply making you add them up in base 10 to make 2-2-2.


The guitar combo lock code was determined by the actual dimensions of the three props used. And the lock on the dresser was designed to be a pretty easy sequence but hard enough to avoid brute forcing.

 

SUCH: Oh, wow...thanks for explaining all of the codes. I feel so silly now that I didn't pick up on "L33t"—I wrote about that online language when I was in college!


Back to Bo. What's your favorite song by him? Special? Feel free to name more than one.

 

Franch: I think this is the hardest question of them all!


It really depends on my mood, and I’m still mostly familiar with Inside. The ones I come back to the most are That Funny Feeling, Goodbye, Comedy, Welcome to the Internet, FaceTime With My Mom (Tonight), and White Woman’s Instagram. If I had to narrow that down to one or two, I’d have to go with That Funny Feeling and Goodbye.


And I absolutely love the Phoebe Bridgers cover.



The first time I did a successful playthrough of my entire room without encountering bugs and the Goodbye audio triggered, I legit got a lump in my throat.


SUCH: Aw, that's so sweet! That Funny Feeling is my personal favorite, but the whole album is incredible.

 

Have you ever met Bo in person? Seen him perform live?

 

Franch: I have never met Bo or seen him perform live, but I hope to someday!


As far as I know, Bo isn’t even aware of my escape room yet, but I hope he gets a chance to check it out at some point. I think he’d get a kick out of it.


SUCH: Agreed! That's partially why I created this website as a repository of comedy analysis —to provide an easy way for fans (and maybe Bo!) to see all of the inspiration people have taken from his specials.


He's certainly making an impact, and I hope he's enjoying sitting on his couch and watching others work hard on their art, whatever it may be.

 

So tell me one fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know about. Do you have any special hobbies or interests?

 

Franch: I double majored in Physics and Mathematics, and I’m an Actuary!


Piano has always been a hobby of mine though, and I have been playing since age 5. I am in the process of writing more music and figuring out where I’d like my original songs and covers to live online.


Currently I am just sharing my music in Discord with a few friends. And of course, my mom. 😊


Also, Franch is a reference to the German food scientist in Breaking Bad—he is so proud of his “Franch” condiment, but the executive is nonplussed after tasting it (for other reasons) and he’s a bit crestfallen.



SUCH: Those are some great facts. And I was wondering if that was a Breaking Bad reference! I remember that particular character well haha.

 

So what's up next for you? Any future projects in the works? Inside 2, perhaps?


Franch: I am currently in the process of recovering from a pretty major surgery and am not very mobile.


I have been playing some fun base builder and survival games: Raft, Subnautica 1 & 2, and Satisfactory. I also played through Disco Elysium: The Final Cut and loved that.


I’m working on a few new songs, including one about Elon Musk haha. It's actually up on my YouTube channel now and reminds me of Bo and also Ben Folds, whom I'm a huge fan of too.



SUCH: I'm sorry to hear about your surgery, but it sounds like you're recovering well.


And your original song about Elon's stupidity over the years is hysterical. Thanks for sharing it!



I love the asides (they remind me of Comedy), and your work is definitely on par with the Bezos songs! Haha



Thanks again, Franch, for discussing your game with me. This has truly been enlightening, and I wish you the best for your future endeavors in music!


Franch: Thank you!



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