Thursday, June 04, 2009

E3 2009: EyePet Preview

Virtual pets have been tried time and time again. From Tamagotchi to Pokemon, these imaginary creatures have been amusing some and inspiring thoughts of torture in others for over a decade now. Be that as it may, the concept of Eyepet is nothing new, but the way that it is presented is. Using the Eyetoy camera and a paper thin object known as the magic card, Eyepet lets you interact with these furry critters in every way imaginable, offering all new dimensions of functionality to these cute little varmints.

The goal of Eyepet is to bring the virtual pet into your living room and make them just as interactive as an actual pet. You start by aiming your Eyetoy towards a surface, placing the included magic card down within the camera's view and tapping that area to bring your pet to life. The demo that we witnessed had him jaunting forward from the middle of the card and beginning to prance around. The creature looked like an amalgamation of a monkey, dog, and cat, happily running to and fro within the camera's view. The woman sitting behind the table began to wave her arms near the pet, and he reacted to them realistically. When she swiped her hand across the surface, the pet leaped to avoid getting smacked. When she waved her arms over the table, the critter jumped upward attempting to nip at her fingertips while waving his tail incessantly. When she waved her arm over the pet's back, the little guy smiled and purred like any regular household pet would. This level of interactivity is astonishing, and there was plenty more to be revealed.

Placing the magic card on the floor and tapping it brings up the toy menu, which is full of fun activities to entertain both you and your pet. One of these is a bubble machine that sends a ton of bubbles flying in your pets direction when you press the button on top of it. Your pet will be overjoyed at this development, jumping at the bubbles and smiling when one pops. The developer then created a trampoline toy, which has the magic card appearing as a trampoline that your buddy can bounce on. You have to move the card underneath the bouncing pet so that he doesn't land on his rump, which the developer promised would be one of many available toys for both of you to enjoy.

The Eyepet needs nurturing just like any other animal, so you have to pay attention to their face to see how they are feeling. The creatures are very expressive, as it was visibly upset when the developer removed the trampoline from the screen. You can turn the magic card into an X-Ray, which shows you the innards of your critter as you wave it in front of him. This presents you what the creature is feeling, be it happy, sad, hungry, weak, or dirty. We were also shown the customization options, which allows you to change the fur color, fur length, skin pattern, clothing, and almost anything else. This insures that every single pet can be completely unique. I officially call dibs on the turtle costume, as it makes the little dude look totally rad.

There are over 250 outfits and toys available within the game, and they are unlocked by completing various challenges. You will be given new toys every day, giving you reason to check in with your pet as much as possible. If you get tired of the preset toys, it was revealed that you will be able to create new ones in a unique way. Using an ordinary piece of paper, you can draw an object and your creature can bring it to life for you. The example that was shown was an airplane, which was scanned in by holding the paper near the Eyetoy and recreated in-game by the pet. A 3D plane then popped out of the pet's notepad, which he was able to hop on and ride up into the sky. This drawing feature was very impressive, but I am afraid to think of what more deviant minds will create. After flying through the clouds for a bit, a minigame launched that had the pet popping a certain number of balloons within a time limit. This is just one of what the developer promised would be dozens of available minigames to try.

From what I saw, Eyepet looked remarkably impressive, though the limitations of what they showed—like the drawing feature—were not discussed. Eyepet will be launching in October 2009 for Europe, but no US date has yet been determined.


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