Image courtesy of Polyarc

How Moss: Book II improves upon its predecessor in nearly every way

When Polyarc's Moss came out in 2018, it was heavily praised as an innovative VR puzzle-platformer. With its sequel, Moss: Book II, the Seattle-based studio has upped the ante even more, leaving review sites like TheSixthAxis exclaiming, "Moss: Book II expands and improves on its predecessor in every way. Whether it's the emotional attachment you develop with [protagonist] Quill, the surprising twists the story goes through, or the inventiveness of the combat and puzzles, Moss: Book II is creative in a way that delights at every turn."

One of the key reasons Moss: Book II works is that it builds on what came before, adding a more fleshed out world and a wider array of environments that take players everywhere from a snowy mountaintop to the depths of a fiery inferno. "We wanted to take players where they wanted to be," Polyarc Artist Mike Jensen stated.

Polyarc Designer Doug Burton added,  "We want it to be a world you can relax, have fun, and feel challenged without ever feeling like you needed to take the headset off to take a break or deal with things getting to be a bit too much."
Image courtesy of Polyarc
According to Senior Gameplay Engineer Colin Armstrong, the team was also aiming to create a VR game that took advantage of the medium's strengths, "Our goal with VR wasn't just to create just a thing that replicated what you could see if you played on Steam on your PC on a flat monitor. It was to take this technology that really puts you in that world and use that in a way you couldn't get anywhere else." What distinguishes the game in this arena is that Moss: Book II is essentially a single-player co-op game, where you play as and assist mouse hero Quill.

The game also introduces new mechanics, like giving its minuscule hero the ability to climb, a decision that adds a new verticality to the series.
Elaborating on how Unreal Engine was integral to the development experience, Jensen stated, "Blueprints were the key to everything. They're used all throughout the project. What’s great about them is an artist like me can go in, use a Blueprint, and understand what's going on. I think that speaks to how well that system is implemented." Burton then explained how the visual-scripting system helped the studio experiment with creating the game's bosses, "Everything kind of just comes together, and you can watch it all play out like a little orchestra."

Armstrong added, "Unreal State Machines have made it possible to control all of those things in a way that is intuitive across disciplines. Maybe our animators or our artist are less familiar with that kind of structure, and being able to visualize it in a way that is intuitive as Unreal makes it possible for me to collaborate with the animators and bring our shared vision to life."

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