Moss developers break down PS VR2 porting process: “It’s a serious effort”

With the launch of Sony’s PS VR2 just days away, many have been wondering why a multitude of games aren’t making the leap forward on the company’s first virtual reality headset. Dexerto spoke to Polyarc, the team behind Moss & Moss: Book II, to shed some light on the extensive porting process and what goes into remastering existing titles for the new hardware.

February 22 marks a step forward for consumer VR headsets as Sony’s second iteration in space hits store shelves. With 4K resolution (2000 x 2040 per eye), eye-tracking, foveated rendering and new haptic controllers, all signs point to this being a sizeable upgrade over the original 2016 headset.

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To make a splash right from the start, more than 30 games are locked for day one, with the Horizon series even making its way into VR thanks to Call of the Mountain.

Despite the improved hardware and solid starting lineup, however, one piece of news caused a stir in the run-up: the PS VR2 will not support the original PS VR games out of the box. We can point to a number of factors responsible for this, namely the rig’s technological advances, but in short it means that all existing games require a more complicated port that could take months of dedicated effort.

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To dive into this porting process and get insights from those boarding on the ground floor, we spoke to Polyarc Publishing Director Lincoln Davis and Lead Artist on Moss: Book 2 Coolie Calihan about all things PS VR2. From the moment they first got their hands on the hardware to how their iconic puzzles mesh with the upgraded gear, here’s how it all went.


PSVR2 headsetSony

Transferring existing games to PS VR2 requires a significant effort.

The first rumble of Sony’s new VR unit

Like many in the world, the Polyarc team first heard about Sony’s second VR headset when the rest of the world found out about it. Nothing stood in the way of exclusive early access or test options. Instead, like the general public, they followed, watching various patents expire online in 2021 and pondering the potential of this new machine.

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“Things are very closed at Sony,” Davis said. “We first heard about (PS VR2) when things leaked, when the patents were filed and they leaked as well.” The studio behind Moss has already been hard at work bringing the next chapter to life while still doing this Original to port to new hardware. Random timing meant they were in a prime position to capitalize on both chapters when Sony made things official.

“We were already thinking about what it would look like even before we started talking about PS VR2. We created content for the platforms that were either announced or had agreements with us. So we developed for Quest 2, which was a big deal. Then based on the rumors we heard, we expected things that Sony would come out with.”

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When Sony finally lifted the curtain on its new hardware in 2022, the developers really were able to “figure things out” and “tweak the experience” they had already been working on.

“We shipped Book 2 in March 2022, then we started receiving information on what the new PS VR2 features would be,” added Calihan.

How PS VR2 pushes the limits

Aside from the more expected technical leaps in terms of resolution, frame rate and the like, PS VR2 enters the market with a few unique tricks up its sleeve. From foveated rendering, a technique that improves graphical fidelity only to the area you’re looking at, to headset haptics and vibration built into the hardware itself to provide a new layer of feedback, there’s a lot for developers to do here consider what they would do. t somewhere else.

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All of these new bells and whistles were “exciting” for the team at Polyarc, but a few stood out as they worked to bring the Moss series to market.

“I think we all understood the headset’s adaptive triggers and rumble, we knew these would be really important feedback channels for the player to delve deeper into the game,” Calihan said.

“Things like taking damage and your headset rumble, grabbing objects in the world and feeling the trigger resist your finger pull. There are little pots to grab and grab and break into. It’s just super satisfying to have the trigger resist and then crunch. I think we knew we were going to put those features on top of what was already there.”

In some cases like the one above, it didn’t take long for the team to get these new features working properly and everyone agreed it was a positive improvement. But in other situations things needed a little more tweaking to get right, and even after extensive testing, a unanimous decision still couldn’t be made.

“Once we realized how strong the headset rumble was, we spent a lot of time making sure it felt good and didn’t take you out of the experience. When we first started playing around with the headset, people had quite conflicting opinions about it. Some people said “I just want to turn it off, I don’t want to turn it on at all.” Then others like me said, ‘Yeah, let’s apply it!’”

Luckily for those who might fall into the former camp, Dexerto has been able to confirm with Polyarc that headset rumble can be turned off entirely via PS VR2’s system settings.

Moss Book 2 gameplaypoly arc

Not every new PS VR2 feature will click for every single player.

Much like the headset rumble example, as Polyarc soon realized, certain PS VR2 abilities simply cannot be forced into an existing game without extensive testing and thought. Another such feature is eye-tracking, a new advancement that the developers tried in a variety of ways before deciding on the right fit.

“We had some ideas for eye tracking that were pretty cool, but they ended up not being as impactful as we thought,” continued Calihan. In an example the team tested, Polyarc attempted to make various puzzle elements glow when the player wasn’t looking at them after a set amount of time. A means of guiding the user to the solution without holding the hand all the time. Though even that more subtle hint didn’t quite fit the Moss experience.

“That sometimes took away the puzzles, the joy of discovery, figuring out what you can and can’t do in a space. So we called that back.”

Bringing existing games to PS VR2 is a ‘serious effort’

Creating a new VR project from scratch for specific hardware is one thing. But retooling that project for a new device is a whole different matter. As Polyarc argued, bringing its titles to PS VR2 cannot even be called a mere “port”. Rather, it is something “more” overall.

“It’s definitely a lot harder than just downloading and installing an update,” Calihan joked. “We had a whole team working on it. It’s more than a port because we’re building these new features. The engine had to be upgraded and that is quite an important task for the engineering team.”

Moss Book 2 gameplaypoly arc

The Moss games have never looked better thanks to PS VR2 enhancements.

“When we roll out these new systems and plug them in, things can break, so there’s a lot of testing involved. And every time you make something completely new, the rumble of the headset is a completely new feature for us, the way the game interacts with this system, we had to build tools around it to make it easier for the designers, iterate and test it. They pick the headset up and down all the time, trying different settings and different vibration profiles.”

When all is said and done, it’s a far more complicated process than many mainstream fans might like to believe. Considering the improvements in Sony’s new rig, it’s a far cry from copying code and making it work with just a few simple tweaks. Many elements of the original games have to be rewired from the ground up, while completely new elements have to be implemented in a way that doesn’t spoil the experience.

It’s a tricky balancing act, and that’s why bringing existing titles to PS VR2 is a “serious effort,” Calihan said. “It’s an effort that takes multiple developers over a period of many months to produce.”

As a result, we’re seeing many PS VR2 launch titles again charging players for new versions of the game or premium upgrades. Because of this extensive development process, free upgrades don’t seem like an option for most upcoming launches, Calihan suggested.

“At the end of the day, we’re still a small studio. It is not a sustainable practice that we can give an update on this. It would only hurt our business if we chose to go this route. As much as I don’t want anyone to pay twice for the same experience, I’m comfortable asking people to pay twice for Moss just because it’s an upgrade from previous versions.

“Even Moss 1, it still looks like Moss 1, the players aren’t going to be in completely new environments or anything. But the frame rate is higher, the resolution is much higher, and that alone, you can see Quill and Quill’s movements with a fidelity we’ve never seen before except on super high-end PCs. So that’s pretty exciting to have a consumer product that’s high-end.”

PS VR2 has an “exciting” future ahead of it

With the launch lineup imminent and only a few titles lingering over the coming months, little else is known about the future of PS VR2. What games are currently in the works for release after 2023? How will Sony continue to support its new hardware? Which developers are using their talents in fresh VR projects? Will Half-Life: Alyx find its way? Much is still being kept under wraps.

It’s a fascinating place to be in, and one where Polyarc is excited about what’s to come, not just from their own developers, but from contemporaries in the world.

“We’re a multi-project studio,” Calihan said, teasing that “some of the ideas we’ve been working on would work really well with PS VR2 and those features.

“The bar for fidelity is so high and Sony, the way they work with developers is great. So I look forward to seeing other big developers enter the VR space.”

As for what we’ll see next from their Seattle studio, Polyarc remained locked. But fans can get hands-on with their first PS VR2 titles and get a glimpse of the future when Moss and Moss: Book II arrives in time for launch on February 22nd.

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