Shuhei Yoshida, head of PlayStation Indies, Sony Interactive Entertainment, introduced PlayStation VR to the world by stating that it will be “the next innovation from PlayStation that” [shape] the future of the games. ”And boy was he right.
For the past five years, PlayStation VR has provided the industry, especially VR developers like us, with an incredible opportunity to create worlds and games that extend entertainment and emotional connection beyond what today’s more traditional gaming technologies offer. VR is the only platform that really immerses players in other worlds and enables them to be part of a narrative experience. You are part of the story. Characters look at, talk to, and respond to each other she. Not only are they present in beautifully rendered worlds, but they can also physically interact with the world that feels intuitive and true. In Moss, for example, players see for themselves that they are interacting with a real world, whether they are pulling a huge, heavy device to solve a puzzle or bumping into hanging vines to rock them back and forth. That is, until they take off their headset.
But it’s not just the physical interaction that makes VR special, it’s also the emotional connections you make with virtual characters. When developing Moss for PlayStation VR, we learned that VR gives players the ability to build deep connections with characters over time through shared experiences. And in doing so, the players believe that this connection is real – because it kind of … is. These connections and the emotions they evoke – excitement, joy, and even heartbreak – are mind-expanding for gamers who didn’t know they could feel so strongly in a digital experience.
Since Moss was released on PlayStation VR in 2018, we’ve continued to experiment, learn, and improve our understanding of VR. In fact, Tyler Walters, senior technical artist, and Richard Lico, animation director, gave a quick look behind the scenes of our work to increase both the thrill of physical interaction and the joy of emotional connection. in moss: book II.
Tyler Walters: Moss has proven that dynamic interactive visuals in VR are very enjoyable and rewarding. With additional team members at Moss: Book II, we found the opportunity to develop many more visual effect systems and shaders that can only be fully experienced in VR. These range from snowflakes falling in the mountains to candle flames that move when the player creates wind with their hands. Each of these systems creates a different mood and sensation, making some of us feel even colder while playing in the game’s snowy levels.
We also added a new player ability that allows players to grow traversable foliage for quill in-game. This includes a tendril bridge that allows Quill to access different sections of the game. Compared to the interactions with Moss devices, we wanted this to feel more fluid and expressive. To bring this to life, as soon as the player initiates a bridge to grow, mossy tendrils turn into a walkable surface on which small white flowers bloom. In the world of Moss, no detail is too small.
Speaking of details, the library and the book by Moss were essential narrative tools that acted as the glue for the story structure. We have adopted this formula for Moss: Book II and improved it. Now players will find carefully hand-painted artwork, audio and visual effects that move and evolve as the story progresses. Some sites even have dynamic content that interacts with the player as they move.
Richard Lico: In Moss, we spent time and effort animating certain pages of the book. They were small snippets to highlight important moments when the characters on the page would be animated like a movie. While this approach was a powerful, visually stunning story tool that helped us tell more story on a single page, we found that when they saw it, gamers didn’t often react. In fact, we couldn’t help the animated pages in the book port Moss to another platform, and no one seemed to notice. Combine that with how much people loved Quill and her reactions to moments in the game, and it became apparent that we needed to improve the book experience, as Tyler said, and shift additional resources to what Quill’s role in the game was makes it so special.
While playing Moss, players often found that Quill was acting autonomously to tell them how she was feeling or what she was thinking. For Book II, we decided to expand this and give it much more robust in-game story moments that fit seamlessly into the gameplay. We still have a lot of stories in the book, but the more intimate emotional spikes will now happen organically in the game when you’re by Quill’s side. In Book II, Quill offers an even wider range of emotional performances for you to experience.
That extra reach required us to change a few things about Moss. We have doubled the size of the animation team from one to two animators. We reconstructed Quill’s face to give her a wider range of expression. And our development team has created new systems to support all of the different ways we need to use these organic in-game benefits. We believe all of this will help deepen players’ bonds with Quill in Book II.
Hearing these changes is not the same as experiencing them in VR, however, and we can’t wait for players to re-enter the world of Moss and see it all in Book II for themselves. We remain excited and eager to take these improvements further and discover new ways for players to experience physical interaction, emotional feedback, and object permanence. We look forward to continuing this work as we envision what is possible for the future.