After prowling the hall at Edinburgh Interactive 2009, all other games swiftly melted from my mind when I looked up at the stage and saw a strange creature bouncing happily on a trampoline.  It was an EyePet.  Like a moth to a flame, I was immediately drawn in, curious as to what it actually was and in truth, I was half expecting a cute gimmick of a game with the shelf life of a chocolate éclair.  I was wrong and for once, I am actually pleased to admit it.


EyePet is a new virtual pet game for the Playstation 3, offering a true next-gen pet experience which the whole family can enjoy.  Developed by SCEE London Studio for a release this October, I was lucky enough to get some face time with producer and EyePet extraordinaire, Nicolas Doucet who explained the concept and took me through the many features.  While the mere mention of the phrases ‘casual’ or ‘pet game’ may have more seasoned gamers screaming for the hills and the comfort of their Lancer, there is more here than first meets the eye.

Utilising the Playstation Eye camera and an innovative new control device called a ‘Magic Pad’, your new pet comes to life before you, allowing you to feed, clean, play with, and customise him to your heart’s content.  Interaction is very much the name of the game and you are encouraged to fuss over and tease your pet, utilising either the range of toys provided or drawing new ones which come to life, spawning a variety of amusing reactions and mini games.

The pet itself is the most important part of the game and so the look and feel had to be just right.  While it appears kitten-esque in its movement, with an almost simian look to its face, it is purely a fantasy pet.  According to Nicolas, “Realistic and believable are two different things”, and while they wanted to avoid the creature looking too real (and therefore veered away from the traditional puppy or kitten template) the team took great pains to create a fantasy creature which was still ultimately believable.


At the start of the game you begin with an egg which serves as a tutorial of sorts to allow the player to acclimatise to the controls.  The moment in which your EyePet finally hatches was very much a labour of love for Nicolas and his team who wanted “… a real Bambi moment.”  The emotional scene is closely guarded and wasn’t on show at the event in order to preserve the surprise and the emotional connection that the team want the player to forge with their newborn pet.


As is often the case with such games, regular tasks such as care and feeding can become tedious, causing people to lose interest.  To avoid the ‘chore bore’ syndrome, tasks such as feeding have been turned into a mini game and benefit from a more open structure.  For example, your pet can be fed from a bowl or you can shower his treats over him, making him jump and play for them.

Nicolas was keen to reinforce the idea that “We are not making a sim, we are making a pet game.”  So the player will thankfully find no stat managing or dry chores here as the last thing that the developers wanted was the player getting bogged down.  With a game such as this, it has to be easy so that anyone, regardless of age can embrace the gameplay without getting tripped up with any complexities.

Realtime progress works in a similar way to that other time swallowing game, Animal Crossing… if you don’t switch your PS3 on for a few days or opt to neglect your pet, then there will be consequences.  No death, don’t panic – Sony have wisely avoided the risk of devastated youngsters writing tear soaked letters after they get back from their holiday at Nan’s to find a fly ridden pet corpse.  So instead, you will be met with a sulky, hungry, grubby pet whom you will need to coax back to happiness with many noms and some attention.

When it comes to your pet’s health, rather than dull stats and the usual meters and gauges, you simply hold up the Magic Pad and scan your pet, producing an X-ray which shows his health and needs.  It was a great touch and strengthens the appreciation of the effort that the developers have made to enliven usually tedious tasks and interfaces.


The game’s control is half the fun with EyePet and most of the time, simply involves the Playstation Eye camera and the ‘Magic Pad’.  This special pad (which somewhat resembles a beer mat) calibrates itself to your floor and is the key to your whole EyePet experience.  While menus can be accessed via the controller if you wish,  the idea is to manipulate the virtual menu using your hands to swipe through the options.  While in reality you are groping at thin air, on screen, your hands are deftly manipulating the menu system in a very space-age manner. 


For Nicolas though, the controls were more about considering their audience. “We had to think like someone who has never touched a game… we had to step back and completely rethink everything” – meaning simple but comprehensive controls were the order of the day.

Other games and toys include bowling where your pet amusingly becomes the ball which you have to line up and release, a game of snap, and a treadmill among other things.  I only got to play around with the trampoline and the bowling but they were entertaining enough, especially with the little squeaks and actions.


While the level of interaction with the Magic Pad and camera are impressive, the game goes a stage further – thanks to the mic, the pet also reacts to sound, so when he is dozing, he can be woken up by loud noises.  Sound can also be used to control him – clapping your hands for example can make him jump – something which has been neatly incorporated into the treadmill toy to get him to leap hurdles.

Where other games allow you to choose your breed of cat or dog, the benefit of a fantasy pet is that customisation comes very much barging to the fore, with EyePet laying on a raft of options.  The player can airbrush colours directly onto their pet and choose the fur length and the pleasant colour palette will satisfy even the most wild tastes.


The clothing options are legion – everything from cowboy costumes to space suits are present, giving players a fantastic chance to really go to town and make their pet individual.  Clothing and gear can be unlocked by playing the game and Nicolas intimated that more would be available at a later date via the Playstation store at prices which reflect the young target audience.


Customisation doesn’t stop at your pet though – several of the toys can be made your own.  Simply hold up a photo or image to the camera and scan it in and the picture will appear on the target.  I was told that it is possible to make a ball pond of balls with your own choice of image on… so for the depraved, you can have a ball pond full of orbs bearing the likeness of David Beckham, your backside (same difference perhaps), or a picture of your favourite game character or logo.  No doubt this feature will be used to great effect as people fill up ball ponds with pictures of their bare arse, boobs, or anything else they can whip out in front of the camera, but for big kids everywhere, I suspect that this will be half the fun.

One feature that caught my attention were the dreams.  Emotional moments in your pet’s life are recorded as 5 or 6 second clips and saved as memories, so that when he finally drifts off to sleep, he dreams these events and you get to see them being played back.  The record facility has other uses and you can opt to record a short video of your pet which can be uploaded and shared, meaning that those amusing, weird, or poignant moments can form a record of his life.

The versatile little creature can also be taught to sing by humming a tune into the mic, whereupon he will sing the melody back to you.  Unfortunately, due to the noise in the hall, I wasn’t able to see this demoed, but it is one of the features that I am very keen to play with and I can guarantee that my pet to be, Loki, will be warbling House of the Rising Sun before the discarded packaging has had time to settle beneath the coffee table on Christmas Day.

One of the most innovative features by far though, was the sketchbook.  By drawing a toy such as a plane or boat either whole or in its component parts and scanning it, the pet will take out his crayon and pad and copy your creation.  The pieces pop out, become 3d, and slot together to form something he can play with.


The design of the vehicle toys is entirely up to you, so if you don’t want propellers on your plane or only want three wheels on your car, it’s your call – the developers were keen to make it so that there is no ‘wrong way’ of creating anything – the player isn’t here to be punished.  Due to the creative nature of this element, like the scanning of pictures to customise items, uploaded user created clips will be moderated, presumably to prevent the plethora of flying cocks which will no doubt be created within hours of the game hitting the shelves.


The beauty of EyePet though, wasn’t necessarily its impressive and charming features, but rather the little things, the minutiae which made it a pleasure to both watch and play.  Details such as the pet’s hair moving when being blow dried, his spiky matted hair when he needs washing, and the way the screen ‘steams up’ when you finally get him under the shower.   I couldn’t fail to be intrigued and touched by the EyePet, nor could I fail to respect the attention to detail which has gone into bringing this next gen virtual pet to life while keeping it fun.

What at first glance may seem like a shallow but cute game actually has more depth than one would credit it with and Sony have gone great guns to make it absorbing and entertaining without ever being a chore.  With the option to download extra bits at a later date and perhaps even expand online, this game has potential to be a lasting slice of fun rather than an Autumn or Christmas time filler.  The ability to interact with a friend’s pet online would be a huge seller which will be missed but we will perhaps just have to wait; until then though, there is more than enough to get stuck into.


Younger players will fall in love and become absorbed almost instantly, older players will secretly have a go when the kids are in bed, and folk like me will buy it anyway and not give a damn about getting ‘funny looks’.  This game is a hit waiting to happen, so if you are a parent or long suffering partner, kiss goodbye to your TV for the foreseeable future because come 23rd October, your precious flat screen will be the sole domain of an EyePet.

Many thanks to producer Nicolas Doucet for spending so much time sharing my delight, enthusing, and answering questions and to Chris McCann, Sony tech expert, for getting us some on stage time.







10 responses to “EyePet”

  1. Snozzeltoff avatar

    I love the idea of this but the creatures they created are pure evil, they look like they spawn from hell, it’s creepy!

    Other than that it’s an exciting concept, but not enough to buy a PS3 for 😉

  2. arc14716 avatar

    OK, that is the cutest thing ever. I will admit that.

    Too bad it’s for the PS3.

  3. MarkuzR avatar

    That little dood blew me away no end when I saw him. The interaction was fascinating for me as a programmer, down to the way the character actually had a CHOICE as to how it would respond to whatever you were doing. In terms of split second realtime rendering, there’s nothing like it at the moment.

    … and that logo… damn I wish I’d come up with that one 🙁

    Great piece :))

  4. lordstar avatar

    it looks cool but why only the monkey dog? There was a program like this which is avaliable to buy now which is where you have this little pocket idol girl and you clothe her and give her gifts and such . . . ok maybe only in JP but I think i would enjoy that better. This technology has been around for a while now. I am just surprised no ones decided to jump on this until now really. but still. . . Only a monkey dog?

  5. lordstar avatar

    ok quick search I found the link.


    its called ARIS which is a Augmented Reality toy. the frame rates a bit dire on this video but this is one of the first ones ive seen them run as smooth as silk. Thing is I dont see why they cant do more than just the monkey/dog . WHERES MY BANANA CAT

  6. MrCuddleswick avatar

    “you can have a ball pond full of orbs bearing the likeness of David Beckham”


    Informative and interesting – and I agree on your market analysis, this perhaps has the potential to own the damn world. In reality it will probably just be a moderate success, but world-ownage remains a possiblity.

  7. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    The little creature looks so cute, those big eyes and the happy smiley face, awwwwww.

    Although, it s something I will only experience at a friends house rather than get myself.

    I’m sure you will have great fun with this thou, but don’t you already have a pet… or eight. 😀

  8. Lorna avatar

    …yes but this won’t flood the floor the way Hyde does!

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