Moss was one of E3 2017’s surprise hits, telling a story from the perspective of a tiny, adorable mouse using the PlayStation VR headset. Since mice don’t speak, however, the game’s animation director is trying out a unique method to work around it: sign language.
Polyarc Games animation director Richard Lico tweeted a clip of what he’s been working on for Moss, which is out later this year.
“Since she can only squeak, I figured I’d play around with the ways she can communicate with the player,” Lico wrote of the game’s starring rodent, Quill. Quill’s learning some simple sign language gestures to help her speak to players who aren’t fluent in mouse.
Since she can only squeak, I figured I'd play around with ways she can communicate with the player. Also a great perk for our deaf players. pic.twitter.com/BAiPc8CUMO— Richard Lico (@Foofinu) August 3, 2017
An attached GIF shows her adorably signing “Nice to meet you” and her name to viewers. The goal of posting this prototype footage was to gauge people’s responses on the authenticity of the gestures, Lico told Polygon.
“We don’t have anyone that speaks [American Sign Language] in the office, so I really wanted to get an idea of how accurate I managed to get the performance,” Lico said.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, convincing Lico that teaching Quill sign language is the way to go in opening up communication with players. The signing will supplement the pantomiming she already did in the E3 demo.
Lico told Polygon that broader gestures are what the team plans to implement into the full game, as opposed to spelling with her fingers. With Quill’s hands so small, the simpler hand moves are easier to see.
“We plan to avoid lots of exposition and spelling with the hand,” Lico said. “It doesn’t fit with the game design and doesn’t read that well in VR.”
In the full game, Quill’s signs will mostly be limited to “puzzle hints, reactions and emotional responses,” Lico tweeted, so we all stand to learn some simple sign language from the game.
This is a fairly novel way of introducing speech into a game without any. We’ve seen sign language used in place of spoken dialogue or text in another game recently as well: Tacoma, which launched earlier this week on Windows PC and Xbox One. While there’s plenty of voiceover and things to read in Tacoma, lead Amy Ferrier uses finger spelling to input passwords at several points throughout the game.
Lico said that bringing sign language into games speaks to the industry’s growing interest in authenticity.
“Having forms of communication for [Quill] that are based on reality and resonate with a lot of people is just a natural method of going about it,” he said. “I see the industry going in the direction of authenticity and honesty.”
Quill’s sign language fluency is just one more thing to love about her — right next to being able to pet her in-game.