Moss Book II, Meta Quest 2, and using WebXR for collaboration, science & 3D art.

Plus a little bit about the WebXR based Self Aware Networks Institute that I am building. Plus NeRF Neural Radiance Fields, 3D Aframe Tiles Component, and Video games for Therapy & Emotional healing.

Article by Micah Blumberg, read about what I’m up to at VRMA.io

I recently put my Quest 2 VR headset back on to try “Moss Book II”. In this article I will share my first impressions of playing Moss Book II, a little bit about what I do, and some details about the amazing VR headset you may have heard about called “The Meta Quest 2”

It’s been a while since I have used Meta Quest 2. Once again I really am enjoying the just the basic experience of Virtual Reality in general.

I haven’t been in Virtual Reality for a long time because I’ve been writing my book about next generation neural networks, human brain function, physics, biology, and other topics.

I’ve also been busy creating my new science institute that is dedicated to these same topics I just mentioned.

Side Bar: The Self Aware Networks Institute for Neurophysics, Artificial Neurology, and Bio-Synthetic Interfacing & connected websites will be built with WebXR & Metaverse related technologies such as Aframe, Exokit Web, React Three Fiber, this means that people can collaborate with Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality technologies on the web to learn, teach, share, create, and build the future together. That is a key part of why the Institute exists.

Moss Book II & Meta Quest 2

I’m enjoying the Meta Quest 2 VR headset, with it’s wireless, virtual reality, 3D immersive experience with Moss Book II

The Quest 2 is a device that has excellent sound, great graphics, and the potential to bring you experiences that have an emotional impact that you can feel in a visceral way that takes you beyond television, radio, and mobile phones.

Moss Book II is a software title that you can purchase inside the Meta Quest 2 store.

I downloaded the software, I started the program, and I quickly found myself immersed in the fantasy kingdom of Moss Book II where the mouse named Quill lives.

A big difference between the beginning of Moss Book I & Moss Book II is that the immediate narrative shifts towards emphasizing the relationship between the reader (the player, you) and the mouse named Quill (she).

I’m immersed in the fantasy kingdom that Quill lives in but I am asked by the story to imagine that I am someone important in this world, someone important to this mouse, this mouse is my friend and I am Quill’s friend.

The fact that narrative is now more tightly tying together the relationship between Quill and the Reader (you) brings my focus, interest, attention, and engagement into the story.

I feel like I am here in this Virtual Reality, and that I matter.

Whereas I think when I was playing the first game in the beginning, it was more of a third person relationship, and I was more likely to skip sections of the story in the book section to get back into the VR Gameplay.

It was sort of like this is a mouse that I’m controlling and now I feel because of the narrative because of the story that this is more of my virtual mouse friend that I’m helping, and Quill needs my help, I need to look out for my friend the mouse Quill and help her on her adventures. I find myself enjoying this fantasy.

I’m enjoying this kind of interaction more, compared to other games, because of these attempts to engage me as a person.

So my first impressions of Moss Book II are very good.

They mirror the conversation I had with the developer of Moss Book II during GDC, the Game Developer Conference. Although that conversation was about the Playstation VR 2 version of Moss Book II it applies to the Meta Quest 2 version of Moss Book II as well.

In that conversation linked here:

A team member from the Moss Book II team explained that the emphasis was more on the relationship between the reader and the mouse, and the new things you can do in the environment to help Quill on her journey.

My intuition is that the Developers of Moss Book II asked themselves

“How can we improve on what we did great with the first Moss Book Virtual Reality game? How can we take storytelling immersion to the next level? How can we make this even more fun for players who decide to purchase our game? After all, Virtual Reality is great for telling immersive stories, so how can we make our story even more immersive for the player, let’s call them the reader.”

This is what I imagine the developers asked themselves, because that kind of careful analysis seems to be reflected in what they created for the sequel to their amazing game.

What I loved about the first game, a game that I still love, is the amazingly beautiful immersive environment.

In the sequel these environments are even more breathtaking & surreal.

When I was growing up, I was very much interested in fantasy books & movies, The Sword in the Stone, Treasure Island, Narnia, the Dragonlance Chronicles, the Hobbit, and now in Virtual Reality with Moss Book II I get to be in the kind of Fantasy World I used to read about as a kid, and I just love it, I love it.

This software application, for the Meta Quest 2 costs around $40 US. The 128GB Meta Quest 2 costs $399 as of September 2022. For me the value proposition is there. This experience lowers my stress levels, and it increases my happiness levels.

The price, $40 dollars for software, that you can share with your whole family, is cheaper than bringing your whole family to the movie theater for 2 hours, and this game lasts for many hours.

If you play for about half an hour a day, like I do, it might take you weeks & months to finish the game. It does matter how quickly you can figure out the puzzles & how quickly you can learn to overcome the combat challenges presented in the game.

So for the price of a couple of movie tickets you can take your mind off the stresses of daily life for a little while.

It gives you a little bit of freedom & relief from the daily worries of the real world.

I think in general Virtual Reality has a lot of untapped potential value for providing some therapeutic relief to people who are going through difficult times.

If we are honest with ourselves we can acknowledge that this is a difficult time for basically everybody in humanity, right?

With the sequel to Moss there is definitely a graphical upgrade, not a huge difference from the graphics of the first game, but better, with more details, bigger environments, the best 3D designers, artists, musicians, sound effects people, voice actors, and story tellers were brought together to make these games. The Moss Book series of VR games is a first rate experience on par with AAA video games, and top rated film entertainment.

Both games, the first and second Moss Book games are very beautiful in my opinion. So if you liked the first game get the second, and if you buy the second game first & like it get the first.

I feel like with the second game the environments & the colors just pop a little bit more. I’m more impressed with the second game.

If you have never tried either game, I would describe it as being inside a tiny castle, or outside in a forest, with a mouse friend that you control with a game controller, by moving a thumb stick, and pressing a button to jump.

I guess it’s vaguely like Super Mario 64. I don’t know if you have tried that. Or Lucky’s Tale which is another 3D VR platform game.

You will have to help Quill jump between platforms, and you will have to pull on blocks to create platforms for Quill to cross, you will sometimes have to open doors, draw vines, or draw paths between places so that Quill, with your thumbstick & jump button can cross over to the next area.

When Quill encounters opponents, like little crab monsters, you will have to press a button to launch a sword attack, and you will have to learn to dodge attacks, and as the reader you will frequently need to heal your mouse friend, by placing your hand over the mouse and holding down a button.

It takes a bit of time to heal Quill, so you have to think strategically about moving Quill to a safe spot first, so you can heal Quill without Quill being attacked by an opponent while you are healing Quill.

With Moss Book II you have a 3D fantasy world scene you feel immersed in, and you have a mouse friend you need to guide & protect. You are effectively an invisible giant using your hands, arms, and fingers on the controllers to jump, swing swords, equip armor, heal, solve puzzles, fight opponents, open doors, draw vines & paths, move blocks, it’s fun, and there is always something new & interesting to do.

For example, in one room I encountered a puzzle that required me to move a block to a place where Quill could jump on the block, and then I had to move the block with Quill on it, to another place where Quill could jump off it.

Another puzzle required me to draw a vine between one location & another, and then after I moved Quill to the next location I had to redraw the vine and move one of Quills crab opponents across that path to sit on a circle pad, to open a door, and then I had to redraw the path so that Quill could access the path that led to the door that was now open. I might be describing the sequence of this puzzle incorrectly, but it was something like that.

I had to look around a lot, to figure out what to do, and it required some experimentation, some critical thinking about the 3D features of the environment, and I had to lean around and look at stuff, and figure stuff out, before I solved the puzzle and then moved on to the next area.

You’re basically like solving logistics challenges, moving the mouse from point A to point B. The mouse has a complicated terrain combined with the challenge of small battles.

The mouse, with your help, has to engage in a sort of trial by combat to proceed to the next area. The reward is getting to see another beautiful area. There are also emotional rewards such as a high five from Quill, and occasionally there are appreciative comments from the game’s interesting cast of characters that include the Giant Frog (or Toad) from the first game, and other mouse friends.

The game does require some significant hand to eye coordination. There is some quantity of button mashing that needs to happen in the combat sections of the game.

The developer of Moss Book II had said that the environments would be bigger, and that you would be able to have multiple perspectives in these environments, I found this to be true.

In the first hour I’ve already been changing perspectives in rooms that are larger than the previous game.

When I contemplate the beautiful environments of Moss Book II & Virtual Reality in the abstract I think also about what we might accomplish with WebXR, with the 3D Aframe Tiles Component and NeRF Neural Radiance Fields

We can bring in amazing 3D volumetric representations of real places into WebXR with the combination of Aframe 3D tiles & NeRF Neural Radiance Fields.

At one point while navigating a Castle in Moss Book II I encountered a reward that was a new suit of armor. It was so cool to see a 3D menu open up, that I could reach into, select the new armor, and then place the armor on to my mouse friend. Quill was so excited about the new armor. Which was an emotional reward for doing something beautiful. I love it. I love this game.

Okay, so I just got a new suit of armor for the mouse. Then I find this shiny green hallway into a bright outdoor realm that has lots of green plants, it’s a Sprite Kingdom.

The entrance to the Sprite Kingdom was this shiny reflective emerald portal, a visually interesting entrance, that by itself is worth talking about, in the same way talking about the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a visually interesting landmark that you can visit.

It’s like yeah you can travel to Paris, and I don’t know how much that will cost you, but you can also visit amazingly beautiful places inside this game. I don’t know of very many places in the real world that are as interesting visually as the shiny green entrance to the Sprite world inside Moss Book II. That was really impressive.

I mean this game is like a little vacation. It’s better than a movie especially if you are someone who has stress like myself. I have PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, which means fast movements & louds sounds cause my heart rate to increase a lot.

I’m also very sensitive because I am on the autistic spectrum. So for me, to sit in a chair, and enjoy the quiet, calm, beautiful, luxury environments of Moss Book II feels actually like a vacation from my normal surroundings, from my real life.

Those virtual reality environments in the green areas outside the castle feel like a nice & safe park.

Unlike a real park, in a big city, such as in San Francisco, this park feels really safe.

The game is like having my own private park.

Interestingly I do actually feel a very small amount of trauma when Quill the mouse dies, such as when the mouse falls off a cliff into the abyss, that’s a tiny amount of trauma.

Overall the scheme or plan of the game is very peaceful. It’s very soothing. I don’t want the mouse to ever die, but it’s okay because the Quill just comes back to life right away, with the game level reset.

I think this game does have therapeutic value, and there is actually work being done so that medical professionals can prescribe certain Virtual Reality experiences for their medicinal or therapeutic value.

See this story about the work of Dr. Adam Gazzaley to learn more about the ongoing effort to make it possible for Medical Professionals to prescribe video games for therapy.

So I think some people will want to play this game for this purpose. The theme of the game is already soft, kind, gentle, and emotionally rewarding. It’s already wonderful. It’s already a lovely experience.

It’s not meant for therapy or PTSD treatment but in theory, with a few small modifications, it could be adapted for that purpose.

On the whole I am appreciative of this experience.

Sometimes I feel a little lost in the game. Asking myself “Okay what do I do now?”

I’m in this artificial forest, which direction do I go, where is the next puzzle piece that lets me get to the next area?

So sometimes I’m just sitting, leaning, looking, and thinking, along these lines, what do I do next?

When you play this game, I imagine that you too will be puzzling around and studying the 3D geometry of the environment looking for ledges, looking for walkways. Looking for puzzle pieces, looking for the path, basically, to the next to the next area.

Sometimes you just have to go backwards to the previous area that you were at last, and you might realize that now you can do things in those previous areas that you could not do before.

Now you can find new paths to new areas from the previous areas.

I mentioned that you have to strategically heal Quill during battles, moving Quill to a semi safe location because healing takes time. There was one battle area that was out of reach from where I was sitting in my chair. Quill was underneath an alcove at some distance from me. In addition the lighting underneath the alcove was different so when I leaned forward to reach Quill to offer healing I wasn’t sure if I was healing Quill successfully or not so I kept trying. What happened next surprised me.

It turns out that if you try to heal the mouse when the mouse is already fully healed, it looks like (and the controller vibrates while you do this, you are petting the mouse, at least from the expression on the mouse’s features in the game. Your hand in the game is just a colorful spherical orb. So you do not see a hand animation that looks like you are petting the mouse, but Quill’s expressions both during and after make it seem like you had a kind & gentle physical interaction with the mouse that the mouse appreciated. It looks like you were petting the virtual mouse.

I was astonished and happy about that. What a cool game mechanic, not only do I have a virtual friend in this game, but this mouse friend can be interacted with physically, you can pet your mouse friend Quill. It’s funny but it’s also emotionally rewarding. As I said, I love this game, this VR experience.

When I took my hand away, I mean when I took my orb away, the mouse’s ears kind of flopped over, like someone was just scratching her head. It’s so cool.

You have a pet mouse, virtually, and you have a relationship with this pet mouse.

That just changes the game for me, creating a next level personalized experience.

A little bit later, I solved another puzzle, I got to another area, and Quill gave me a high five.

I mean the mouse held up its little hand, and I reached over, because it looked like a setup for high five. So I gave the high five, and the mouse responded with a high five animation, plus the sound of hands clapping in the air. A smacking sound. I’m pretty sure there were high fives in the first Moss Book game also, it’s just been a while since I’ve been in VR.

Between the petting, the high fives, the verbal rewards, the beautiful graphics & music, this is a wonderful game experience. It feels wholesome, clean, friendly, appropriate for all ages, like an innocent hug, or a gentle vacation to a safe place.

So this 3D video game is just a lovely experience.

At one point in the game I reached a certain place that required me to grow a bridge between two points, and draw vines for Quill to climb.

I mentioned this earlier in the article already.

Stepping back from the experience of Moss Book II. Virtual Reality provides ample opportunities for stress relief for people who are suffering, it is not like every game is going to have medicinal value, there are of course games that can add to your daily stress total, and some people will enjoy those games. I’m thinking of the horror games like Resident Evil 4 VR or the Walking Dead Saints & Sinners on Meta Quest. I’ve had fun playing those games also, but to be real, those games can give you nightmares.

With Virtual Reality your experiences can be deeper, more immersive, more visceral emotionally. Creating feelings that leave a lasting impact on your psyche, and your heart. When I play Moss Book II I feel better on an emotional level, for that purpose I can say that I believe the game is more than worth the purchase price.

I like to be in this world where I have a fun mouse friend I can pet. It’s a world where I can grow vines, draw bridges, solve puzzles, admire breathtaking environments, and get emotional rewards from the game’s characters. I like it. I love it!

I’m looking forward to spending more time with Moss Book II.

Thanks for reading.

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