Hands-on: ‘Sprint Vector’s’ Breakthrough Locomotion Could Inspire an Entirely New Genre of VR Games

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“Adrenaline platformer” is the apt descriptor that Survios is using for their newly announced title, Sprint Vector. The core of the game is what the company is calling the Fluid Locomotion System, a synthesis of VR movement techniques seen elsewhere that together add up to a supremely satisfying way to move around VR worlds at high speed without getting dizzy.

Moving players through virtual spaces is presently one of VR’s biggest challenges. Basic first-person locomotion—the foundation upon which a major part of the last two decades of game design has been built—makes many users nauseous when applied to VR. The industry has been researching and uncovering new techniques to move players across large virtual spaces in a ways that are comfortable. Some of the popular methods are putting players in cockpits (largely applicable to vehicle games), blinking/teleporting (where players click where they want to go and instantly appear there), or no virtual locomotion at all (designing the game to not require any virtual movement).

Except for the cockpit method (which doesn’t work thematically with non-vehicle games), few VR locomotion methods discovered so far allow players to move quickly and immersively across large distances.

SEE ALSO
7 Ways to Move Users Around in VR Without Making Them Sick

Enter Sprint Vector’s new approach to VR locomotion which has players literally racing through virtual environments by means of direct interaction with the game world. At first glance it’s the sort of virtual movement that VR veterans would suspect would lead to instant nausea. And while it’s too early to say if it will work for every VR player (as nausea can be triggered differently from one player to the next), my hands-on time with the Fluid Locomotion System in Sprint Vector has astounded me. It didn’t only let me race through virtual space with no nausea, it was also incredibly fun.

So how does it work? At its core, the Fluid Locomotion System works by the player pulling a trigger on their controller and then swinging their arm backward as they release the trigger. This propels the player forward with a bit of momentum. Your other arm does the same thing, and using both in a swinging or running motion gets you into a continuous cycle of propulsion that lets you ‘skate’ through the world. Doing so quickly makes you move even faster. Vibrations in the controllers help you feel how much each swing of your arm is contributing to your momentum, which lets you quickly realize if your form is good or needs adjusting.

And while skating or running in this way is the primary method of movement, it gets seamlessly blended with jumping, flying, climbing, and swerving.

To jump you use another button on the controller to pull and release which gives you a little boost upward, moreso if you time it just right. You can double jump too, by doing the same with the other controller while already in the air.

Once you’re in the air, you can also have brief moments of flight. You control your flight by pointing both hands out in front of you like Superman, aiming your direction based on where you point your hands.

Climbing works by grabbing onto special hand-holds on walls and then using the controller to fling yourself upward.

Then there’s swerving, which uses a variety of inputs from your head and hands to let you quickly juke side to side, which comes in especially handy for dodging obstacles that would otherwise slow you down.

It’s clear why Survios is calling this the Fluid Locomotion System; all of these different forms of movement work together cohesively in Sprint Vector to add up to a thrilling race through the virtual world. As a player you feel deeply in control of how you’re speeding through the level, with your ability to weave each skill together determining how quickly you can complete each the stage.

Another reason the Fluid Locomotion System is compelling is because it keeps you immersed. Up to now, immersion and movement in VR have largely been a tradeoff. Blinking lets players move across large spaces, but over millions of years our brains have evolved a spatial sense that relies partly upon seeing the world move around us to map our surroundings; constant teleportation in VR is an immersion killer because it doesn’t let you map the virtual world in the same way that you do the real world. The Fluid Locomotion System, on the other hand, lets you see the world as you move through it, and asks you to directly interact with it at every move, further reinforcing the realism of the virtual world around you.

SEE ALSO
'Raw Data' Developer Survios Raises $50 Million, Now Top Funded VR Dev Studio

The significance of Sprint Vector and the Fluid Locomotion System should not be underestimated. Doom (1993) didn’t invent the mechanics of the first-person shooter, but it wrapped up the locomotion and control learnings of prior works into a functional and compelling package that inspired widespread adoption of the game itself and an entire genre to come after it. I think Sprint Vector has a good shot at doing the same.

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As for Sprint Vector itself, Survios insists that it’s still very early days for the game, and say they still have lots of improvements and refinements they want to make to the Fluid Locomotion System. So far they aren’t committing the game to any particular VR platforms (though it was demonstrated at GDC on the HTC Vive, so that’s a pretty good bet), and (sadly) aren’t ready to talk about a launch date yet.

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  • Texazzpete

    No comments yet?
    It seems the locomotion purists are only active when it’s a Rift game under discussion.

    • benz145

      Article has only been out a few minutes — why start the discussion with an assumption of fanboyism?

    • Caven

      If you sincerely believe that, you’re definitely not reading enough articles around here.

    • Xron

      This locomotion isn’t what I was waiting for, though even it might be far better than teleporting.

      • Brandon Smith

        I think it’s the idea that the article is highlighting, in terms of locomotion, or than it’s particular integration within this particular game.

  • Me

    While I find this locomotion system very interesting, I’m quite skeptical on the potential of having it used in other games than runners, but I might be wrong.

    • benz145

      Even if it’s just runners, it feels like there’s tons of different gameplay to be explored from the foundation they set. Swinging, overhead climbing, obstacles, combat, weapons, etc. It might involve running, but I think we’ll see more than just ‘racers’ with this system.

      • Xron

        Well, as for me it doesn’t look very promising.
        Looks like a game that was created in a haste when Amd partners asked to make something new for their presentation. Just another Temple Run in 1st person now.

        Though ofc. all kinds of games and movement systems are welcome in Vr. they will find their fans and might help Vr to prosper.

        • Scott Greenwell

          I would agree that this game doesnt look like anything special, I disagree that the motion system isn’t promising. In fact its one of my personal favorites, over “Onward” style movement and “Teleporting”

  • Lucidfer

    Looks nice, but I mainly wonder how it would fare in open-directional world like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

  • J.C.

    Looks like a bit of a workout, if it actually works to negate nausea, that’d be awesome. As others have said, it may be a rather singular case solution for movement.

    Not surprised to see their “air streams” showing up for motion, I think that’s a large part of WHY it negates nausea. In Raw Data, they use the same effect to make dashing around the room not feel even slightly uncomfortable. I don’t know WHY it works, but it most certainly does. You get the benefit of teleporting, with the visual continuity of the environment moving past.

    I wonder if the act of moving your arms around confuses the inner ear just enough that your body then relies on other stimuli to keep track of what’s going on? The only one responding is vision, and once it accepts that you’re “in motion”, assumes that your speed is fairly constant, so flying (which stops the arm motion) isn’t uncomfortable. I’m betting if you hit a wall, it would be. surprised there’s no mention of what a sudden stop feels like, unless the game intentionally doesn’t have a way to stop you dead, only maybe slow you a bit.

  • MrGreen72

    Interesting. It’s a little odd that they couldn’t make it work without having the player press on the triggers though. Same thing for jumping. It’s easy to detect a slight jumping motion instead of a button press.

    • Brandon Smith

      I think there might be some validity in only making a product as athletically taxing as the core game experience requires. Requiring strenuous use of arms is already going to limit the potential audience of the game. Requiring use of legs will only shrink the potential audience further.

      When you have certain sectors of the population pushing to make it a government requirement that all games support accessibility features for both color blindness and deafness, it will be interesting to see how games like this get by with requiring such able bodied individuals.

      But you’re right, it would be neat to have the option.

  • Very very interesting. It’s not a locomotion system for every game, but for some genres it’s surely cool.
    I think that reduced motion sickness is due to:
    – The game is so fast that you increase presence (that reduces sickness);
    – You swing your arms, so you move a bit your head and so the vestibular system is happy with it;
    – There are those lines around when you run… these reduce a bit the FOV, so they reduce the motion sickness.

  • Foreign Devil

    I too wonder if the action lines contribute to less nausea. . the way they move in the direction you are going. ..

  • Hello future Mirror’s Edge VR and Dying Light VR and bionic Commando VR :)

    • Mario Jaron Mitchell

      OMG Bionic Commando VR would be soo sick!

  • wowgivemeabreak

    “Blinking lets players move across large spaces, but over millions of years our brains have evolved a spatial sense that relies partly upon seeing the world move around us to map our surroundings”

    I like that Ben has been alive for millions of years and knows this as fact. Kudos!

    As for the locomotion system, it sounds quite neat and I am guessing part of the reason why it isn’t making people sick is because of the hands being used in a running motion. Maybe Ben can tell me the reasoning why behind that with an evolutionary explanation.

    • kontis

      What Ben said is basically an obvious fact. It even works for films. I recommend watching a low budget film “Victoria”. It’s shot in a single take that creates a very strong feeling of being part of the story and experiencing it together with the characters.

  • Nigerian Wizard

    Looks like Ill get physically tired after 20 minutes. I hope they sell the game with sweat sponge adapters.

  • DougP

    Am I the only one that’s impressed it’s running on laptops?
    Wonder which one.

  • Scott Greenwell

    As someone who gets VR Sick rather easily I am VERY excited to see other developers use this style of Locomotion. There is another company that beat them to the punch though. I can say that the movement method for this title looks an awful lot like the way it is done in ‘the Art of Fight’ by French team ‘Raptor Labs’. If your looking to try this movement style before this game launches, or are a CS:GO fan, i would HIGHLY recommend trying art of fight.

    @yannickkrempp:disqus @HoSpanky:disqus – If it is anything at all like Raptor Lab’s mechanism, then I am certain that it wont cause any kind of motion sickness at all. Why? Because the action of moving the world around using your hands/arms gives your inner-ear wiring the impression that your body remains stationary yet the whole world simply moves around you. It is a really uncanny and extraordinary experience – if you’d like to get a precursor, I highly recommend the Art of Fight. The locomotion system becomes very natural for a FPS style experience and i can see it becoming a mainstay form of VR locomotion.

    After experiencing it I would HIGHLY recommend other developers take this approach for open movement.