“I Expect You To Die” creator Jesse Schell is so confident in the “slow and steady” growth of virtual reality that his team is hard at work on its next major VR game: a sword-fighting, lightweight dungeon crawler, Schell told Variety.
The news comes as Schell Games announces that escape room VR spy game “I Expect You to Die,” has earned more than $3 million in revenue across PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and HTC Vive since its 2016 release.
“What we are seeing is that the growth of VR is slow and steady,” he said. “It’s giving us a lot of confidence about the future. Maybe it didn’t take off like a rocket like some expected, but my perception is that’s because of technology and price point and we’re seeing technology and price point improve.”
Schell said that he’s found that VR games also seem to have a long tail.
“We are making more money on ‘I Expect You to Die,’ which came out in 2016, in 2018 than we did in 2016. It’s because of the platform growth that is happening.”
Schell believes the sweet spot for the VR platform will be when a headset can deliver a wireless, all-in-one system for $399.
“Then you will have something truly mass market,” he said. He likens the slow but steady growth of VR, along with the tech’s many naysayers, to the same sort of struggles personal computers had in the late 70s.
“I remember in 1978 when we started to see computers come into the home with the Apple II and Atari 800,” he said. “Both were in the $1,000 to $2000 price range which in the 70s was a crazy price point. People said, ‘This will never take off. This is too expensive.’ Three years later the Commodore 64 hit.”
The Commodore 64, which sold for about half the price of Apple and Atari’s machines, went on to become the highest selling single computer of all times.
“It feels like we are in very much the same place with VR,” Schell said. “The adoption is slow and it is expensive.”
He thinks both will change in the coming few years. And so Schell games, which has about 120 employees and is working on six to ten projects, continues to invest heavily in VR development.
The team continues to work on “HistoryMaker VR” a VR title designed for classrooms that allow students to essentially control historical figures like a puppet for presentations.
“We’re testing it in schools right now,” Schell said. “In early 2019 we’ll be applying for a phase two grant to help get it into schools.”
Another team is working on “new development” for “I Expect You to Die,” though Schell declined to say what that will be.
But of the all of the projects he can currently talk about, the biggest one for them is the new sword fighting VR game based on a brand new IP.
“We’ve always felt that sword fighting in VR would be fun,” he said. “This is a game we’re exploring for high-end VR platforms that involves dual-wielding sword fighting as a sort of lightweight dungeon crawler.”
Some of the inspiration for the game, or at least lessons learned in helping to create it, comes from Schell Game’s work on “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges.” The team developed the lightsaber fighting for the AR game. The team also thinks it will allow them to expand the work it started with “I Expect You to Die” on making VR games more comfortable.
“It’s crucial that there is as little motion discomfort as possible,” he said. “We also believe sword fighting is a good candidate for VR because, unlike with run and gun games, running while sword fighting doesn’t really make sense. It’s more about standing your ground and being excellent at swordsmanship.”
The game will use a system that has players “strike powerful poses”
“We want you to feel like a heroic swordsman,” Schell said. “We have game systems that encourage you to make the moves and strike the poses that are going to feel as powerful as possible.”
The game drew inspiration from a lot of places, and the team is not trying to be too slavish to real sword fighting techniques, Schell said.
“We are looking a bit at fencing and stage combat,” he said. “Giving you that feeling of doing and being successful at it.”
The weapons themselves will likely be more western, though Schell said some of the designs lean toward Japanese sword fighting. “We’re looking at swords, daggers, and axes,” he said. “Dual wielding is also something we’re looking quite a bit at.”
The unnamed game, which Schell hopes will release in 2019, will come to multiple VR platforms, though likely not to augmented reality.
“We worked on ‘Jedi Challenges’ which is an AR sword fighting title,” he said. “So we feel good about AR as a platform for this style of gameplay, but then it becomes a question of when are they really ready.”
Schell Games is working with Magic Leap on an unspecified project that uses the Unreal Engine due out later this year, but Schell himself sounds undecided on the potential success of the AR platform for gaming.
“I think the big question with headset based augmented reality is what are they going to use it for?” he said. “It already has industrial, military, surgical uses, but if this is going to be a platform for the consumer market, what are they use cases that will make a big difference?
“Is gaming going to be enough? What is the killer app?”