Breaking Boundaries: An Interview with Hunter Kitagawa of ‘Sprint Vector’

Sprint Vector’s Hunter Kitagawa hopes to break boundaries and shatter stigmas.

Written by Drew Dixon / Published on March 17, 2017

We recently chatted with Survios’ Hunter Kitagawa about their ground breaking VR game Sprint Vector. We discussed how they’ve overcome the challenges of active VR and how their game shatters some of the most common stigmas about gaming and virtual reality. Finally we discuss the ground breaking possibilities of VR the opportunities games provide for self discovery.

Tell me a little bit about Sprint Vector. What makes it unique?

Sprint Vector is a racing game. It’s still very very early for us, but it’s an adrenaline platformer. This means that it’s a platformer in essence, but we call it an “adrenaline platformer” because the core of the game is to get your adrenaline rush going, to get your heart pumping, and get you moving. Really the experience we want is for people to feel like they’re on a roller coaster. Or that they are a roller coaster, and that they’re running through this virtual course at a million miles an hour.

"Sometimes I feel like I’m more me when I’m not me. When I’m allowed to embody something else more of me comes out."
For a long time locomotion has been a problem in VR. A lot of people have said, “You can’t make people go fast—otherwise they’ll just get sick.” That’s been a general rule of thumb. And we just didn’t believe that. What we have done is we’ve tried to tackle the locomotion problem and that’s what you see in Sprint Vector. We allow people to go very, very fast without any motion sickness. And so that’s the core tech of this game. We call it the “fluid locomotion system”. The first part is making the locomotion controls very intuitive and seamless and very comfortable. And the other part is something we call “intended motion.” This is actually the harder part. We have to create systems that try to understand what people intend to do with their bodies, because what we found very early on is that people were trying to go straight, for example—they were trying to do something with their body, like they would think they were moving their arms in a certain fashion that would make them do so. But they would be a little bit off, because everyone moves their body differently. Because you’re wearing this headset and you can’t physically see your own body you don’t know exactly what you’re doing with it. So we created systems that predict what the user intends to do and that’s what makes it so seamless and comfortable.

If you had to narrow it down to one thing you hope a player gets from their experience with Sprint Vector, what would it be?

A love for VR. This is a game I think a lot of people can jump into easily for the first time and really get that experiential feeling that you just can’t get in any other medium. You can’t get it on a traditional console or PC, this is something that taps into your vestibular system and makes you feel that adrenaline rush—that feeling of when you’re on a roller coaster and you go on that drop, you’re gonna feel that a little bit. There’s also some really nice reward feedback systems in here because it’s a racing game—you can get top times, you can beat yourself… even though it’s very early we’ve found its very easy to learn but difficult to master. So it has that skill curve, it has that ability for you to get very, very good if you practice. And so we want this to be a game where people get very competitive, where they get very, very good and we start to see people who essentially are pros at the game.

Like an eSport, eventually?

Yeah, exactly!

I found my arms were getting a little bit tired when I played. Is that something that motivates your studio? Do you have a desire to help people do something physical with the way that they game?

Our development philosophy for VR has always been “active VR”. We’re not as interested in the experiences where you’re sitting down and just looking around. We want people to stand up and move because for us that is a key component to immersion. It’s immersing not just your mind but your entire body. So do we want people to stand up and move around and use their physical space and use their physical bodies and really get into it. The goal was never to make people lose weight or get fit—we just wanted people to stand up and use their bodies. If getting fit and exercising a bit is a byproduct of that, then that’s great.

Fighting against that gamer stigma that we’re all sedentary and lazy.

Yeah. There’s a lot of stigma for gamers, right? And there’s some stigmas for VR. The stigma for gamers is that we’re lazy and fat and we’re couch potatoes, and then the stigma for VR is that it’s isolating and anti-social. This game speaks directly to both of those stigmas. It says A, this is a game that’s gonna get you off your ass, and get you moving, and probably sweating a bit, and B, this is a game that’s highly social and highly competitive. It’s not only fun for the people playing, but what you’re gonna see later when there’s a crowd around, is that this game is extremely fun to watch. Especially when two people are going head-to-head and getting very competitive, it gets loud. It gets really rowdy.

Last question I like to ask game developers: why do you make games? What gets you up in the morning to make games?

This is the dream, man. VR is going to be really important for a lot of people. For people like us, who make it. We make the games we want to play, and for us what it means is you can be anything you want. You can do anything you want. There’s limitations to reality, and there’s limitations to just being human. Through this technology, through gaming, we can break those boundaries. We can break down what’s possible, and we can create any experience we want to have. Sometimes I feel like I’m more me when I’m not me. When I’m allowed to embody something else more of me comes out.

You unpack things that maybe you didn’t know were there?

Yeah. There are a lot of people who are introverted like me but when we’re embodying another character like Link, or whoever, we feel more comfortable to come out and be more outgoing. I think VR and the games that we create will do the same thing.

About the Author:

Drew Dixon is editor-in-chief of Game Church. He also edits for Christ and Pop Culture and writes about videogames for Paste Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Bit Creature, and Think Christian.