This interview was conducted by Nima Zeighami and J. Keeling
So let’s start with you. Who are you, what do you do, and what was your role in The Nest?
I am the dumbest guy on the team, pretty much, so I have that honor. I’m Hunter Zinkel, I basically had the bright idea of funding this project. The reason I did that is that our Creative Director Ryan and I have been friends since we were 9 years old, along with his twin brother. He came to me, kind of under the guise of checking out the Vive, I took one look at it and said “this is the coolest thing ever”. So I pretty much flew home from that with the intention of us starting a VR company together, and it’s kind of been all uphill…and downhill from there.
So your first experience was so enamoring that it made you go all in?
Yeah absolutely. And I’m also lucky enough to have effectively no motion sickness, so I’d pretty much live in VR if I could.
I’ve always been super into video games, it’s pretty much my favorite thing to do with my time. It’s made me consider getting rid of my girlfriend on several occasions.
What did you do before getting involved with Invrse Studios?
Um, let’s see…most interestingly I was the guitarist for Guttermouth for four years. And I still play in a rock n’ roll band called The Darlings. You’re totally okay to print that anywhere you want haha. But I also work in finance and insurance and real estate. And actually, I specialize in helping veterans with financing. It’s fairly rewarding work, but not as interesting as VR.
When would you say Invrse started?
Pretty much the unofficial start was…hey when did you meet Victor, Ryan?
Ryan Smith: I ran into him at an event two years ago. I ran into him a couple times after that but it was during SeaVR October of last year(2015), and a week later we were working together.
Yeah, and I was actually at SeaVR myself, I came up to Seattle for that and to see Ryan and that’s when I got hooked on this idea and the whole thing happened. It was kind of a neat thing to be at, because right after that, all the conferences got so much bigger right away. It’s been interesting to be able to see it, because I was a little bit too young to be a part of the PC revolution, and I was touring with my band when mobile happened. So VR is something that financially and in terms of my skill set is the perfect opportunity and it all lined up really well.
Editors Note: SeaVR is now the Immerse Summit
What is your favorite thing about Invrse Studios, and how has it changed from your original vision?
My favorite thing so far has been the people. Me and Ryan had an existing relationship, but Victor we didn’t know very well. But he works with us perfectly, personality-wise and skill-wise. We have fun when we hang out, we have fun doing what we do. And we’re all primarily focused on that. Like, we have to remember occasionally that we’re trying to make money. But it’s worked out well enough so far, so at least we get to keep doing what we’re doing. Which is great! But I can’t wait to see what things we can do when we get to the point where we as a team can explore what each of us thinks the medium can do, creatively.
The future looks promising! Was The Nest the first game Invrse worked on?
No, we actually started working on a survival horror title called “The Wake”. It was our take on the zombie genre, but it was different, because it was melee-focused. We got it working pretty well, we may come back to it, we liked a lot of things about that title. One thing we’ve learned was that about half of the people we put into it rip the headset off and run down the hallway screaming. Scaring the shit out of 50% of the market probably isn’t a great idea for a first title. That’s something we like about The Nest, it’s the kind of experience a lot of people want to have in VR. It’s a military shooter but the action isn’t “in your face”. You can have your significant other play this, or a kid, you know. It’s not a visceral murder simulator. It won’t appeal to people who are looking for more violent titles, but it still satisfies that yearn, you know. Especially with this new gun peripheral from VRsenal in the mix. I think this is the first real, lifelike gun peripheral anyone has used in consumer VR, and she’s really badass.
Do you feel like The Nest taps into some base violent desire of being human, and satisfies those needs virtually?
Um, I mean, I don’t know if I’d say we’re going for that. I think it’s a balance between what people really want to do in VR and reality. Yeah like violence isn’t great to promote but we all wanna shoot our friends online with a gun. I mean let’s all be honest. You know like if all our friends had guns who would win? We wanna do that virtually, less bulletwounds, saves on healthcare costs. A skinned knee is the worst you’re gonna get in VR. Once the multiplayer component goes live, we think we’re gonna hit that nerve even better.
You mentioned your guys new partnership with VRsenal. I noticed you guys don’t really push the HTC Vive branding, though I know E3 was an exception to that. But you guys seem to bootstrap events and partnerships yourselves. Can you speak a little bit about your collaboration with other companies, and how open you are to future partnerships?
That’s one of the great things about the early VR development community. Everyone wants more than just their own product being good, but that VR becomes good. So we’re building these playgrounds for people to play in in the future. So everybody we’ve reached out to for anything has been receptive. There’s an open spirit of collaboration, an esprit de corps if you will. Especially with VRsenal. Every since we released The Nest people have been clamoring for more realistic gun controllers. When these guys reached out to us, it was the perfect fit, the timing was awesome. It’s ended up being a really successful move so far.
When did it release?
The VRsenal gun being used with The Nest behind you? Yesterday.
When did The Nest release?
Two days before E3, June 14th.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.