The Magic of Animation in Moss: How Polyarc Brought Quill to Life

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The Magic of Animation in Moss: How Polyarc Brought Quill to Life

Animation director Rick Lico details the ideas that led to one of virtual reality's most endearing characters.

Hello PlayStation gamers! My name is Rick Lico, Animation Director for Polyarc. I’m here to talk with you all about Quill, the protagonist of Moss. Let me kick this off by asking you a question, dear reader. If you had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring your own character to life in your own game, who would that character be? Would your character be a bold hero? A physical representation of societal tropes? A disco assassin wearing fish tank platform shoes tearing up Studio 54?

Our answer to this question is Quill, a confident, secure, self-reliant, impetuous young mouse. We’re eternally grateful to our fans for their overwhelming support of her. In fact, I’ve never seen people have such a stark, emotional reaction to a character that I’ve worked on before. Numerous reviews for Moss often mention how real Quill feels. People are genuinely building an emotional bond with her. But what is it about Quill that inspires this reaction?

Part of her appeal comes from the fact that she’s inside of virtual reality. For those of you who have used a VR headset, you know what a powerful experience it can be. A well-crafted world in VR with realistic character performances can really immerse players. And to make Quill feel real, we focused on what makes VR unique and natural. Things like giving her the ability to make eye contact. This mutual acknowledgement really helps players build a relationship with the character. Not only does this show that she’s aware of your presence, but it also implies she has a soul.

Providing the player with more natural gestures, such as waving, can also be very powerful. When you see your friend from across the room, and you want their attention, what do you do? You certainly don’t press the X button. So, we wanted our players to be able to wave to Quill and have her respond in kind. This helps to elevate her beyond a simple gameplay avatar.

But the most meaningful form of communication between people is touch. It’s an act of intimacy on many levels which can evoke powerful emotions. Therefore, we’ve provided our players the opportunity to reach into the world to pet Quill and give her a high five. Actions such as these demonstrate how deeply Quill trusts the player. She’s allowing herself to be vulnerable and inviting the player to feel how she feels. It’s not just a gameplay mechanic, it’s an emotional bond.

But beyond VR, defining Quill as a believable character was just as important. I wanted to avoid a performance full of overt, outlandish, cartoony exaggerations. Instead, I wanted Quill to deliver a performance ripe with honesty and nuance. The best way to do this was to have Quill directly communicate with the player through realistic gestures and sign language. By doing this, we could not only imply a history and an elevated level of intelligence, but also support an often-overlooked group of gamers.

Quill’s identity also needed to carry over to gameplay actions. Not only should she obey player intent, instantly respond to button inputs, and feel fluid when performing actions, but she needed to do so in a way that was uniquely “Quill,” carrying her personality through all her actions.

So, that’s our character. I ask you again, dear reader: who would yours be? We here at Polyarc would love to read your responses in the comments below.

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7 Author Replies

  • Really loved Moss, it’s up there with RE7 as my favorite VR game. Can’t wait for the continuation of her journey.

  • Hey all! If anyone has any questions, or just want to stop by to say hi, I’ll be hanging out here while I’m animating. Hope to hear from you.

    • Justin Massongill

      Hi Rick! Hope you’re having a good day and animation is going well. ^_^

    • Justin, yeah man! Thanks to you and the rest of the PS crew for having me here today. Can’t wait to show you what I’m working on. :)

  • Hey Rick! Moss is boss. What a special experience that adventure was. I recommend it to all VR owners I come into contact with. What do I have to do in order to secure a Quill figurine? I’m not a collector by any means, but that little statue speaks to me.

    • Thanks! We’re glad to hear you’re enjoying the game! We often give out Quill figures for events, or even the occasional contest from our twitter page. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll have a mass-produced figure we can sell.


    Rick, since the last trophy says that this is Moss Book 1, I can only imagine that there will be DLC or …?

    (and looking forward to a reply to four24twenty as well)


    • Yup! Like any small, indy startup, we have a bigger plan we’d like to accomplish. We’re hoping that, thanks to our amazing fans, things will go well so we can see this plan through to completion. Fingers crossed.

  • CallnMrMojoRisin

    I know that Sony has to justify people’s purchase of PSVR so they make games like this arbitrarily require it, but is there any chance of a non-VR version of this game ever coming out? I tried PSVR and it was fun and all, but made me too dizzy.

    • It’s hard to say what the future may hold for Polyarc, and the world of Moss. But at the moment, the studio is focused on VR. As an independent developer, we’re very excited about VR, the added interactive opportunities it creates, and the future potential of the medium. We chose VR due to this personal excitement.

    • Also, understand that negative physical reactions like dizziness, motion sickness, ect. are not long term effects of the PSVR hardware. Those reactions are just based on your brain not being used to the experience at first. If you owned a headset, these reactions would subside if you just stopped playing when you felt them and came back another time. .

  • Bravo Polyarc pour cet excellent Moss pour le PSVR, hâte de voir arriver le livre deux.

    • Merci! Nous sommes heureux d’apprendre que vous appréciez le jeu. Nous travaillons dur sur le livre 2 maintenant!

  • Please tell me book 2 isn’t going to take 3 years.

  • @Rick Lico, the Reddit community is going gaga over the developing news of Book 2. Any chance of stopping in to say “hi” and maybe drop a juicy nugget of information?

  • Moss is the only reason I’ve been saving up for VR. I’ve been wanting to share in Quill’s adventure since being introduced to her in 2017. You’ve created a special and beautiful thing!

  • As to your question about characters, ironically enough she’s named Quill – but very un-Mousy XD

  • From the first reveal at E3, to my first demo with Quill, and now having played about half of the game, Moss is my favorite VR title yet. Its such a breath of fresh air for Polyarc to think outside of the box and give us a compelling VR experience that isn’t a FPS. Quill put a huge smile on my face the first time she thanked me for reviving her after a fight. The little details help Moss stand out and I can’t wait to finish her journey.

  • Moss is awesome!

  • I gave 5 stars to Moss, it is a powerful experience. The only thing I missed was the presence of more languages. I hope there will be a DLC with spanish (even only subtittles!); not a big work, i suppose, and essential for the immersion in the story. Anyway, recommended to all VR owners. Waiting for Book 2!

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