‘Moss: Book 2’ design director Josh Stiksma talks a bigger, less linear sequel

Beyond the upcoming sequel, Polyarc is "extremely excited to continue telling stories in the world of 'Moss'"

Josh Stiksma, principle engineer and design director at Polyarc, has sat down with NME to discuss the studio’s upcoming VR game, Moss: Book 2.

Now that Polyarc has confirmed that Moss: Book 2 is set to launch on March 31, the team has been able to share a bit more on what it’s been working on.

In a preview of the game viewed by members of the press, the game was revealed to be a fair bit less linear than its predecessor, and – in Metroidvania fashion – some areas will require items gained later in the game to access.

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On the decision to open up the world of Moss a bit more, Stiksma shared that “this was a big goal for us. We know that the world in Moss One was very much “I can go to this chapter, play this chapter,” and that’s it. One of the things that we started exploring early, when we were developing Moss: Book 2 in pre-production, was “are there ways that we can explore the world more?””

Moss: Book 2. Credit: Polyarc.
Moss: Book 2. Credit: Polyarc.

Stiksma added that the team wanted to land on a less linear playstyle that was “compatible with the way that we want to tell our story, and also compatible with the diorama setting that we want for all of the other rooms throughout the world. We did a tiny bit of that in Moss: Book One which got us excited about it. In Moss: Book 2 we’re doing a lot more.”

According to Stiksma, for players that will involve “returning to areas that you’ve been to before but now things are different, or the plot has advanced so [you] can now branch out and access more. Players will discover…that castle that you’ve been working towards in Moss: Book One ends up being a bit like a hub that you can spoke out [to] these different areas throughout the game.”

“We want it to be compelling. So we want to give players a reason to want to do that exploration and want to do that backtracking and engage with the nonlinear elements,” explained Stiksma, who added that older The Legend Of Zelda and Metroid games were a big inspiration for him.

Discussing the game’s story, Stiksma said Polyarc has worked on a “powerful, meaningful story” for Moss: Book 2. Laughing, he added that landing on the right narrative “took [Polyarc] a long time,” and there was “a lot of time iterating and trying to figure out how these beats of the story are going to land the right way”.

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Moss: Book 2. Credit: Polyarc.
Moss: Book 2. Credit: Polyarc.

Within the game itself, players can expect “quite a lot of environments” to explore.

“We want to have a lot of variation, and then some unexpected variation. From the art side, we want to keep things surprising to players with some very cool environments that are just amazing to be in. We’re really excited for players to jump in and experience those new areas that we haven’t shown yet,” teased Stiksma.

Developing a game for VR has its own challenges, and Polyarc was “mindful” of issues like queasiness and comfort early on in development. “There’s a lot of potential ways to get sick in virtual reality, and we have to be on guard for that,” said Stiksma, who added “we aren’t creating a barrier to VR by having players potentially feel sick or queasy”.

On what else Polyarc has improved upon from the first game, Stiksma said the studio wanted the sequel “to have more interaction with Quill, which I’m excited to see how people react to.”

“We wanted to have more varied types of interactions as you go through the game, and then one of the things we really wanted to do is try to tell a bit more of the story in the world versus just strictly in the book. I don’t know how we pulled it off but there’s quite a lot of in-game cinematic experiences that I think are just really powerful when you’re seeing it in the game.”

Finally, we asked Stiksma if Moss: Book 2 would mark the end of Quill’s tale. Though he couldn’t say too much, he revealed that Polyarc is “extremely excited to continue telling stories in the world of Moss.”

“For us, as long as people keep wanting to play the games, we’re excited to keep making them.”

Moss: Book 2 launches for PS4 and PS5 on March 31. 

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