It’s hard to put into words how cute the little creatures are in peridot to be. The virtual pets, starring in the next release of pokemon go developer Niantic, seem scientifically designed to make you say “awww”. They have big eyes and colorful bodies, and they really respond when you give them some attention. I’ve only been able to play a small portion of a pre-release version of the game, but I’m already smitten.
I had the chance to try a hands-on demo of peridot with senior producer Ziah Fogel at Summer Game Fest last week in Los Angeles. The game is essentially a cross between pokemon go and Nintendogs, with all the augmented reality and location-based gameplay you’ve come to expect from Niantic, but with a greater focus on taking care of your virtual pet. You only have one peridot at a time (more on that later), and your main goal is simply to keep them happy so that they grow into a well-adjusted adult, who can then reproduce to create even more cuties.
When you first start up the game, you are presented with a baby creature – each peridot is unique – and you have to give it a name. I panicked and called my cute pink buddy ‘NFT’. (See the correct pronunciation here.) From there, there’s a sort of quest system that revolves around your pet’s desires. They may want to be petted or given a certain type of food. My little NFT (again, excuse the name) really wanted to see some flowers, so we walked to a nearby restaurant that had a vase of roses on the hostess’ stand. My peridot saw them via AR and instantly brightened up.
Niantic is quick to point out that there isn’t really an element of punishment here. Your pets may get a little sad, but they never get hurt or (gasping for breath) die. peridot is a game built around positive reinforcement. Making them happy allows them to grow. It is also a game with a great focus on tactile interaction. You pet your little man by rubbing his head (there’s even some nice haptic feedback) and you can play with it by throwing a tennis ball, which will realistically bounce off walls and trees. To look for food and other items, draw a circle on the screen and your pet will dive into it before coming back with everything it’s managed to collect. And depending on the surface it forages on — like sand or water, for example — you’ll get different types of items.
peridot looks like it will be much more conducive to solo, seated play compared to niantic games like pokemon go and Pikmin Bloom† “A lot of this game is about the nurturing side of things,” explains Fogel. “And you can only do that in your house and have a lot of fun playing fetch in your living room.”
But peridot does have real sights (think of the gyms in pokemon go), which come in the form of habitats. You can see these habitats in trees and in buildings – there are bubbles on the ground letting you know a habitat is nearby – and they play an important role, as they allow your virtual pet to breed with another player’s . Peridots can be bred once they reach adulthood (Fogel says this takes one to three days in the current build as peridots go from infant to teen to adult), and the idea is that you can try for specific types of creatures with different traits such as unicorn or yeti. The baby inherits traits from both parents, and you can enhance them by using a matching nest. It sounds a bit complicated, especially if you’re trying something very specific, but I’ll have to spend more time on the final version to get a better sense of it.
One of the more curious features is that since you’re only caring for one peridot at a time, breeding also means parting – though not permanently. “If you’re breeding with your current adult, the way it works, you can follow that up so you can go back and play with it a little more,” Fogel says. I ended up with a cow-spotted baby yeti with the unfortunate name ‘Web3’. (Seriously, I’m sorry.)
peridot also has a photo mode where you can take pictures of your cute pet, which ties in with a scheduled feature: the ability to train your peridot and teach it tricks like sitting or rolling over. There’s no word on when it could be implemented, but Fogel says it’s just one of many intriguing features planned for the game. “Our great feature, which we haven’t built yet, is like a dog park,” she explains. “You don’t have to go into a lobby or anything — you just jump into a park and see a bunch of peridots of people running around. That’s something we’re looking forward to building. We’re really excited about it, but it’s something that’s technical challenging.”
peridot does not have a release date yet, although it is currently in a soft launch in Malaysia. When asked about a wider rollout, Fogel simply said, “Hopefully soon.”