Moss: Book II Interview - How Polyarc Built Upon the Original's Foundations

VR fans have waited patiently for Moss: Book II. Placing us inside a storybook setting, Moss arrived several years ago, defining VR platformers alongside Astro Bot and Ven. Utilising a third-person perspective, you don’t play as the protagonist directly, but a Spirit Reader assisting Quill, the young mouse trying to save her uncle.

Helping her navigate environments, solve puzzles and defeat enemies, it became one of VR's most charming experiences. With Book II nearly here, Polyarc offered a brief preview. Naturally, the core experience remains but we've got original puzzles to solve, a castle to explore, new enemies, and more.

Hoping to learn more about Book II, we sat down with Joshua Stiksma, principal engineer and design director at Polyarc. Here, he was kind enough to tell us more about what we can expect.

A Longer Journey

I started off by asking how reception to Moss shaped Book II's development. Stiksma tells me Polyarc's "really proud with the reception of the game but there are a few areas we really wanted to improve on," advising that "the most common source of feedback was that people wanted more." So, the team began asking themselves how they can make Book II longer, keeping players engaged in this world.

Part of this involved opening up exploration, which Stiksma described as being "more non-linear, so players can go off the beaten path a little bit more." Book II lets you return to previous areas, using new tools to unlock different paths, but this story won't change depending on your exploration. It's still "mostly linear" and I'm told the main story is several hours longer.

Thinking of the story, I then queried whether Book II contains a more definitive ending than the original game, as Book I left several plot points unresolved. Stiksma advised they sought to address this but confirmed Polyarc "has a lot of stories to tell in this world, so I don't think we want to close the book fully." As such, while they're providing avenues for continued storytelling, he's confident players will feel like there's more of an ending.

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Quill's New Horizons

Given the original's open ending, the natural question was whether they'd always planned Book II. Stiksma confirmed Polyarc didn't go straight to the sequel, saying they wanted to get more people playing after the positive reception. But, they only had a small team, so they focused on porting to other platforms like Steam, Oculus Store, and Meta Quest. Once the Twilight Garden DLC was released, Book II entered development.

I'm then told pre-production took around 6-12 months and afterwards, Moss: Book II took over two years to develop for PSVR. During the preview, Polyarc couldn't confirm whether it'll come to other platforms yet, so I asked if the smaller team is why. Stiksma confirmed that, telling me "it's too hard to say and for now, our big focus - and we always say this - we just really want to be able to have a singular focus on the platform."

With that in mind, I then asked whether Polyarc's been interested in PSVR2, given Sony's recent reveals. Stiksma confirmed they can't say too much about it but explained the team's "really excited" and PSVR2 seems like "a really amazing platform and piece of hardware that they're developing."

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Platforming With Presence

Moving ahead, I questioned if there's anything he's particularly proud of about Book II. Telling me "a lot," Stiksma singled out the story being told, saying "we're bringing the player on a journey that we think will stick with them," calling it an emotional journey between us and Quill.

Saying other games have done similar things, he believes there are things you can only do in VR thanks to your direct presence, making Moss more impactful. Calling these moments "very powerful," I then asked what Stiksma believes makes Moss's premise fits VR so well, compared to flat gaming.

He replied, saying the idea of "I'm in this world, I am a character" speaks more strongly through VR thanks to that presence, that it creates an immersion that can't be replicated with a standard joystick and TV. Continuing on, Stiksma says that "when you inject a character that hits you with some strong emotions, that feels so much more powerful and impactful."

We'd like to thank Polyarc for speaking with us about Moss: Book II, which launches on March 31, 2022 exclusively for PlayStation 4 via PSVR. We'll keep you informed with further VR gaming developments as they happen.

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