Capitol Hill game studio releases world of Moss

Action-adventure puzzle game blends console, VR gaming

Capitol Hill game studio releases world of Moss

Capitol Hill game studio releases world of Moss

While there are plenty of developers erecting new buildings in the neighborhood, Capitol Hill’s Polyarc created an entire world. 

The game studio was founded three years ago by Bungie alums Tam Armstrong, Danny Bulla and Chris Alderson.

During their time at Bungie, they’d had the chance to cross the street in Bellevue and meet with friends at Valve to check out what had been very early virtual reality technology.

“It was pretty terrible,” Armstrong said, “and pretty compelling at the same time for what VR could be.”

Alderson said they’d joked about how they could make their own games, but it didn’t get serious until the trio split with Bungie after the launch of Destiny.

After doing some freelance work, the three friends started meeting up at the 15th Avenue Starbucks to come up with their great idea.

They knew they were facing a new medium in VR, and that they wanted their game to center on adventure, Alderson said. They thought about toy characters or aliens, but settled on rodents in that now-defunct coffee house. They formed Polyarc, opened their first studio in Belltown — the game studio moved to Capitol Hill in winter 2017 — and got to work.

Moss is a single-player action-adventure puzzle game for PlayStation VR that takes place in the world of Moss. The game unfolds through storybook readings that transition into a blend of classic console gaming and VR assistance from “The Reader,” the player who has a giant’s perspective on the game’s true hero, an inquisitive mouse named Quill.

“We wanted you to feel like someone was reading to you a fairy tale,” Armstrong said of the game’s narrator, who also does all of the characters’ voices. “It’s like you’re mom reading to you before you go to bed.”

Through magic and lineage, Quill is gifted a weapon needed to fend off evil, and is aided in her quest by The Reader. The Reader not only controls Quill’s movements, but also assists her by solving puzzles that require environmental interactions — pulling out stones for Quill to jump on, moving statues, etc. The Reader also helps Quill in battles.

The VR game market has a lot of concept and minigames, Armstrong said, but Polyarc wanted to do something different, and that meant a full-length game.

“That was the gamble, so that’s why we committed to doing what we did,” he said.

And that was to create a large world with a good story and strong characters. Being fresh off Destiny, the Polyarc founders were primed for world creation, Bulla said.

He said they’re excited about how Moss bridges console and VR gaming. Rather than controlling the direction and camera with the PlayStation’s dual sticks, a player’s head becomes the camera.

“Moving your head and looking at things, no one has to teach you that,” Armstrong said.

There were a lot of things the Polyarc team was focused on making possible with Moss, Armstrong said, but it was the emotional connection with the characters that came later. Every time they added some new layer, like a heartbeat for Quill, it was cool, Armstrong said, but it was the positive connections players were communicating back to the studio about the little hero that reinforced their desire to go deeper.

Moss is now available for purchase from the PlayStation Store, and the Polyarc founders say they’ve left the story open for more adventures.

“The big part of this is just watching what happens next,” Armstrong said about the game’s pending reception from players. “If they indicate they want more Moss, we’ll definitely do that.”