I Expect You to Die has already trapped players in a submarine, forced them to drive a car off a plane, and tasked them with neutralizing a supervirus as part of its virtual reality escape-room action. Today, developer Schell Games released the new First Class level. It’s a free download as long as players own the full game, which is available at a discounted price of $20 (down from $25) for the rest of the month. It can be played on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.
As with previous levels, you play a secret agent — one who’s taking a well-deserved vacation after foiling the plots of the evil corporation Zoraxis. You find yourself on a luxurious train in the mountains of northern India, but of course things don’t remain relaxing for long and you soon find yourself in yet another life-or-death conundrum.
Schell’s design director Shawn Patton says that they’ve always wanted to create a train level, but it didn’t make sense at the time for the core game.
“Then, discussing the new level in April 2017, Matt Mahon, our vice president of engineering, suggested vacation gone wrong and the team liked that angle,” said Patton in an email to GamesBeat. “Then we started talking about the Orient Express and the rest of the idea flowed from there.”
First Class is the first DLC available for I Expect You to Die, which received positive coverage for its mechanics but also criticism for its length. The original game has only four levels, though that didn’t stop it from being a breakout hit and generating over $1 million in revenue. Adding a single level may seem weird for a traditional game, but VR developers need to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to development and what players want in this new medium.
Patton says that they’re open to creating more content for the game aside from First Class.
“I Expect You to Die is a rich IP for us,” said Patton. “We enjoy working on it and certainly would like to expand it. We have some exciting ideas for things other than just levels, but further development on the game really depends on how much continued fan support we receive.”
Creating First Class led to some unique design challenges. At the start, Patton says the Schell tried a few prototypes that had the player on a moving train. However, this resulted in VR motion sickness, so it ended up nixing the idea and deciding to go with a stationary environment instead.
Unlike previous levels, First Class also introduces nonplayable characters for the first time.
“We really wanted to make the world feel more alive, like there were more people in the world than just you,” said Patton. “Having a phone where you could eavesdrop on other conversations felt real, like something a spy would do. The characters you meet in the level grew from that idea. And, we did it all without a character modeler, rigger, or animator!”
Because First Class takes place on a passenger train — with civilians around — that also meant that Schell had to forego some of the elaborate death traps from the other levels.
“This was a problem because we needed to figure out different and exciting ways to kill the player,” said Schell project director John Kolencheryl. “As a result, we had to design the level with more external threats than the traditional ‘room turns against you’ plots we’d used before. This important difference in the new level was not something we realized from the get go, but quickly became obvious as we started designing the level, and ultimately, made it a stronger level.”