Tag Archive: virtual reality


Following the initial excitement that VR brought to the gaming world a couple of years ago, the peripheral gaming technology has hit a bit of a lull in recent months. While new and inventive software continues to be made for the headsets on the market, many still have that “tech demo” feel, leaving gamers waiting for fully fleshed out experiences that will bring the immersion potential of games to an entirely new level. So, admittedly, it had been some time since I had used my PS VR headset, and after dusting it off, I began playing one of the more anticipated titles for the hardware since its launch. Moss falls into some traps and gameplay difficulties we’ve seen from other early VR games, but it also pulls the player into the story in such an effective way that it’s easily become my favorite non-shooter game for any VR headset.

In a sense, you play as two characters in Moss. One is Quill, our mouse heroine who emerges from the titular magical holloway of Moss on a quest to save her uncle from an ancient evil; the other is known as “The Reader”. Represented by a masked being who is briefly seen as a direct representation of the player in watery reflections and whatnot, The Reader must guide Quill while turning the pages of a storybook not yet written. As those pages turn, Quill’s adventure continues, and The Reader literally creates her story in the magical tome.

It’s a little detail that goes a long way towards your immersion as an onlooker and overseer in Quill’s world. The fact that your bond is talked about as legendary, and that you and Quill have become “Twofold”—where a Reader and a Hero have bonded to move as one—resonated with me, helping suck me into Moss. Quill even turns to you and cheers you on when you influence her world in positive ways, sometimes even demanding a high-five from your ethereal presence in her world when you complete major story beats. Each section of Moss, otherwise just another room in any other puzzle-driven game, thus feels like you’re actually turning pages as each chapter progresses, the sound of flicking paper each time the screen fades to black further enhancing the fantasy.

This relationship extends to Moss’s gameplay as well. Not only can players peer around the world—looking for some of the game’s limited collectibles or for a hidden path past an obstacle, using your unique vantage point to guide Quill where she must go—but you can “reach in” with your energy and move boxes, pull levers, or even control any of the three kinds of enemies that will try to impede the path ahead. Sometimes, I’d just grab the last enemy so Quill could effortlessly hack away with her sword. You also heal Quill by picking her up and petting her. By using the bumpers to grab, and the control stick to move Quill, you can even have multiple parts of the world moving at once—which will be necessary for some late game puzzles—to help bypass or expedite your progress.

Of course, as novel a mechanic as this can be, there are also times where you’ll be focusing more on the controls themselves instead of the puzzle or the story, as balancing several moving pieces can be difficult. There are also some larger set pieces that are harder to manipulate with the DualShock controller, as you attempt to spin or pull them with larger movements that it seems are harder to detect. It’s also easy to get pulled out of virtual reality when, if you’re like me, you get up to start looking more closely at an occasionally complex scenario, or more likely trying to better line up a couple of the game’s more difficult jumps, only for your headset to remind you that you’re out of the play area. It’s in those instances where you remember the limitations of the hardware and slink back into the chair.

Those moments are few and far between, however, because for the most part, Moss is a very limited and linear puzzle-game. There are very few instances where your objectives differ from defeating every enemy in the room or making it from the left side of the screen to the right. Sure, there are those aforementioned moving pieces I talked about earlier, but many times all I wanted to do was have Quill enter one of the many locked doors along a corridor that are obviously only there for show instead of focusing solely on the task at hand.

Moss hints at a much, much larger world with other fantastical creatures that come out of the woodwork, including fairy-like creatures called Starlings, nymph-like warriors hiding in the Mire, or the villainous serpent Sarrfogg. The landscape is littered with human-sized armor and weapons, hinting at a society long since forgotten, relics whose origins are barely touched upon in the opening cinematic and never again. I fell in love with Moss, but I wanted to know so much more about it by the time the game came to a much too abrupt and quick finish.

And this is where VR might have hurt Moss the most. The entire game only took about three hours to complete, which is about average for a VR game, but is very short comparing to games as a whole. Even with its budget price tag, and the promise of “future adventures” (this was only “Book 1” of Moss), I was left feeling unsatisfied. The game tries to play it off at the end that you came a long way on your journey, but as a veteran gamer—especially in the puzzle and adventure genres—I felt like I was just getting warmed up when the credits started to populate the last pages of my book.

Moss is a beautiful effort in VR. It’s an immersive world that finds a way to fit the player in seamlessly while not dominating the world they inhabit. It may be a bit short and simple, but its sweet story more than makes up for that. Moss isn’t reason enough alone to go out and get a PS VR headset if you’ve been on the fence, but if you already took the plunge and you’ve been looking for a high-quality VR game that’s fun for gamers of all ages, look no further than Moss.

Publisher: Polyarc • Developer: Polyarc • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 02.27.18
8.0
The wonderful relationship between a brave little mouse and the player character will ring as a bright spot in early VR development. Although the adventure is short-lived, and those looking for a challenge will be left wanting, Moss still serves as a great excuse to dust off your PS VR headsets if you haven’t done so in a while.
The Good A touching story and beautiful world that’s easy to get wrapped up in.
The Bad Linear and short, there’s so much more of the world of Moss I wanted to see.
The Ugly I learned the hard way that Quill couldn’t swim.
Moss is a PS4 exclusive that requires PS VR to play. Review code was provided by Polyarc for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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I can see for miles and miles and miles…

While plenty of news came out of GDC this year, the topic on everyone’s mind was virtual reality. With both Oculus and Sony making VR-headset announcements within a 12-hour span, the race is on to see which one can first transport players to another world. Luckily, I was able to wrap both peripherals around my head this week, and I’m ready to decide who has the early lead.

 

Round 1Demos

The Oculus DevKit 2 showed off the Epic-developed “Couch Knights.” To start out, you plant your butt in a chair in both real life and the virtual world (such a stretch of my imagination). You then control a medieval-garbed, toddler-sized avatar and hop around a virtual living room, trying to kill a similar-looking puppet controlled by a second player.

Sony gave us a pair of demos. The first was Sony London’s “The Deep,” an underwater-diving simulator with minimal controls that goes horribly wrong when a great white shark mistakes your cage for dinner. The second, “The Castle,” sees players use the PS Move to wield medieval swords and a crossbow against some targets and practice dummies…and then eventually being swallowed whole by a dragon.

 

WinnerMorpheus

While I’ve seen some really impressive demos from Oculus in the past, I was a little shocked that they didn’t bring out some bigger guns to show off the new specs for DevKit 2. Sony, meanwhile, tried their best with their demos to highlight everything we’d need to know about their headset and give us a range of experiences.

Round 2Controls

As with most of their demos in the past, Oculus continued to use a wired Xbox 360 controller with the DevKit 2. Sony, on the other hand, used a PS4 controller for “The Deep” and a PS Move for “The Castle.”

 

WinnerOculus

“The Deep” and “The Castle” had significant syncing issues with their respective controllers that resulted in some haphazard playtime, which Sony blamed on Bluetooth interference around the Moscone Center. When the controls worked, it felt great. When they didn’t—about half the time—it left me frustrated and eager to take the headset off as quickly as possible. My least-favorite instance? The crossbow arrows in “The Castle” would sail off into the sky at cartoonishly ridiculous angles, even when I was aiming straight down the sights. It seems that Sony has too many moving parts right now with all those light sensors, so until they work out the bugs, Oculus wins by default with the old reliable wired controller, which worked perfectly.

Round 3Graphics/Image Quality

Both DevKit 2 and Morpheus display in 1080p and have a 90-to-100-degree vision range (depending on whether you wear glasses or not). High framerate and low latency are critical in getting the best picture across, and Sony and Oculus’ numbers mirror each other there as well.

 

WinnerMorpheus

On paper, the headsets should be producing similar visuals. Due to Sony’s years of experience with displays, however, everything on Morpheus was just a little clearer and crisper—and it was noticeable enough to edge out the DevKit 2.

Round 4Atmosphere/Immersions

This is a big one. Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida spent several minutes preaching about the importance of immersion during Tuesday’s Project Morpheus reveal, and it’s been one of Oculus’ defining pillars from the start.

 

WinnerBoth

A bit of a cop-out, I know. Each had issues that put them on the same level to me, even if they were different problems. Oculus’ older demos, and its new one, “Couch Knights,” never made me feel like I was in a different world. I always felt like I was just playing another game. DevKit 2 produced an extremely realistic illusion, however, and the headset fully pick up all my motions thanks to its new camera and sensors as I turned my head to peek behind a couch or end table.

Sony made me forget about being in a game—but only for a little while. Holding the PS4 controller with both hands helped “The Deep” pick up my full range of body motions. Due to the nature of the experience, however, I was holding the controller with two hands and moving around, but the game would only move one hand, instantly bringing me back to the real world.

“The Castle”, meanwhile, ran into problems with space. The demo made it so I had to step backward or forward a lot for the sensors to pick me up (before they completely lost sync). I stepped too far back once, though, and ran right into a wall (nothing like bruising your back to break the immersion). So, one demo started immersive but then lost it due to its controls and limitations, and the other never really tried. It’s a tie right now for negative reasons, but I’m fairly confident than with more time, both can nail this element properly.

Round 5Comfort

Oculus has added a plastic layer over its main components to protect your hands from the sensors, and it only has one cable before it splits into HDMI and USB plugs. The same cloth and adjustable straps from previous models remain when adjusting it to your head. Project Morpheus features a rubber seal that cushions the headset against your orbital bones, and it also has an adjustable front piece and straps as you place it over your head.

 

WinnerOculus

While I liked the way Sony’s rubber cushion felt against my face, and the adjustable visor was great for getting my sight lines right where I needed them to be, it also feels much heavier than the Oculus and has so many cables coming from it that you’ll be hard pressed not to trip over the rat’s nest sprouting from your head. The DevKit 2 is lighter and easier to put on as long as you remember to put your eyes in the lenses first and then pull the straps over year head, like a pair of swimming goggles. And you won’t be worried about tripping over a bunch of wires, either.

Round 6Side Effects

Reports of nausea after using the DevKit 1 were somewhat common among first-time users, but with the lack of motion blur in DevKit 2 thanks to HD graphics, higher resolution, and lower latency, Oculus hopes to lessen or even eliminate this effect. Sony had warnings plastered all over their demo booth explaining that their headset could induce similar nausea-like symptoms to those seen in DevKit 1.

 

WinnerBoth

This was a much easier tie to call, since neither headset left me with any feelings of nausea, dizziness, or anything else we’d been warned about. I was one of the people first affected by DevKit 1, and after my longest VR session yet with DevKit 2, I can report both no motion blur and no feelings of sickness. Sony’s headset also left me feeling completely fine.

Overall WinnerTie

I know. In a world where we’re constantly looking for definitives, a tie is a hard pill to swallow. The fact of the matter is, though, that after trying both headsets, I see them being in a virtual dead heat. If Shuhei Yoshida is to be believed, Sony’s been working on something like this just as long as Oculus, but they’ve just waited longer to show it, so it makes some sense that the two are so close in many ways. You could argue that Oculus is ahead, because even after they’ve poached talent from studios like id and Valve, they still don’t have nearly as many resources as Sony. On the other hand, Sony hasn’t had the community feedback like Oculus to help with their iterations.

If what I’ve found at GDC 2014 holds true and continues throughout the development of these devices, the decision will have to come down to much simpler things: retail price, accessibility, uses besides games, and whether you’re a PC person or a PS4 one. So, as much as I hate to say it, we still need to take a “wait and see” approach to this VR thing.