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Reach out and touch mouse: Designing Moss' healing mechanic to feel right in VR

"Finally the healing came out of you reaching in and holding Quill," Moss dev Chris Alderson tells Develop. "You could do it in the middle of combat and it just felt right."

Alex Wawro

August 23, 2017

2 Min Read

"[One of our core values is] physical interaction. Not only interacting with the environment and world but also interacting with Quill in interesting ways. That physical interaction also turns into an emotional interaction, as you’re able to heal her and hold her."

- Polyarc cofounder Chris Alderson, speaking to Develop about the studio's upcoming VR game Moss.

Nestled into Sony's presentation at E3 this year was a trailer for a VR game with an interesting premise: rather than control the heroic mouse protagonist of Moss directly, the player floats nearby and "reaches in" (in this case, via the PlayStation VR headset and Move controllers) to move objects, provide healing, and hinder enemies.

Moss is the flagship project of young indie outfit Polyarc Games, and in a recent chat with Develop studio cofounder (and veteran big-budget game dev) Chris Alderson explains that it's an attempt to design a game around the unique strengths and weaknesses of VR hardware.

In the process he offers some interesting perspective on how the studio iterated on the game's healing mechanic: first they tried distributing it through in-game objects meant to be picked up, but the team felt that "broke you out of the experience."

They tried to make it feel more natural by having Moss protagonist Quill eat food to regain health, "but those animations took a while and you couldn't really do that while in combat."

They tried a regeneration system, but that also didn't feel right; Alderson says they hit on the right way to do it when the team thought about how to implement healing in a way that was uniquely suited to VR: touch.

"Finally the healing came out of you reaching in and holding Quill," says Alderson. "It’s great because it fed back into the whole bond with Quill and the player wanting to protect and take care of her, but also you could do it in the middle of combat and it just felt right."

It's a tidy example of how a developer might take a ubiquitous game system or mechanic (in this case, health pickups) and work through how to make it shine in their own work. For more from Alderson on how the studio is developing Moss, check out the full article over on Develop.

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