Seattle studio Polyarc Games announced an open playtest for its next project, a new multiplayer VR game set in the same universe as its award-winning VR adventures Moss and Moss: Book II.
“The playtest is us beginning to introduce some of the things we want to do in the future with the company,” Polyarc CEO Tam Armstrong told GeekWire. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to explore a range of game mechanics for our IP. The playtest is us publicly branching out towards that long-term plan.”
Armstrong and Polyarc have been careful to not say exactly what game is being tested, aside from that it’s a competitive experience for multiple players. While they do have an idea of what they’d like to make next, the plan with the playtest is to get some genuine feedback from fans in advance of an official reveal.
“We’re excited about what we have, but we want to make sure everyone’s excited, too,” Armstrong said. “I can say for sure that it’s a familiar setting, and it’s still within the Moss universe, with characters that people will recognize. …We do have a specific idea we’re trying, with no concrete timeline about when it’ll be done.”
In Polyarc’s Moss games, the player takes the role of the “Reader,” an unnamed person who’s found a magical storybook. This allows them to observe and interact with another world, where they meet Quill, an adventurous young mouse on a journey to rescue her uncle.
Moss: Book II was released last year, originally as a timed exclusive for Sony’s PlayStation VR. It was met with widespread acclaim, including a win for Best VR/AR Game at the 2022 Game Awards, and has since been released on Meta Quest 2, Pico, and PlayStation VR 2.
“We’re very appreciative of the recognition,” Armstrong said. “I’m so proud of the team. I was one of the game directors on the first Moss, but it was a new group of directors for the second. They did an outstanding job and made a better game than the first.”
“We’re very happy that people love Moss,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll want to come back to this world and see some more of it in this new game we’re playtesting.”
Since the release of Book II, Polyarc has expanded from 15 to 45 employees; begun developing multiple IPs and games; and moved into a new office in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s also adopted a new, more hybrid approach to its workspace, with several full-time Polyarc employees working from as far away as the east coast.
According to Armstrong, one of the unexpected benefits of switching from a single-player game like Moss: Book II to a multiplayer release is that it’s encouraged Polyarc, as a studio that’s focused on VR games, to adopt practices that are friendlier to creating a hybrid workplace.
“Once upon a time, in earlier generations of [VR] hardware when it was a little bit cumbersome, it was important to be able to share the headset with people and see what was going on in person,” Armstrong said. “The good fortune of working on a multiplayer game is that it’s forced our hand in making that game possible to work on in a distributed manner, since [its multiplayer modes] will need to be able to work across the country anyway. It was just a coincidence that worked out.”
Interested fans are encouraged to sign up for Polyarc’s playtest, which is being held on the weekend of April 14-16. Participants will need access to a Meta Quest 2 VR headset, and will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
[Errata: Clarified Moss: Book II‘s currently available platforms.]