What is Peridot and why could it be the next Pokemon Go?

Category Artificial Intelligence

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Peridot is Niantic's newest mobile augmented-reality game, inspired by the '90s Tamagotchi phenomenon. Players raise and nurture cartoonish characters known as 'Dots', earning rewards for exploring the environment and taking pictures with their virtual pet. The game offers in-game currency, rewards and many opportunities to explore the real world with your pet Dot. It is Niantic's first original in-house game since 2014's Ingress.

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My pet Orzo was panting, excited to bring me the tennis ball I had thrown a few feet away. Orzo’s eyes were bright and it wagged its tail. "Good job, buddy!" I cooed. Orzo indicated it wanted a belly rub, so I obliged.

Orzo is not a real pet. It is a virtual creature on Peridot, a new mobile augmented-reality game from Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, that’s launching in app stores today. The idea of the game is for players to raise and nurture Dots, the term used for its cadre of cartoonish characters. I got a sneak preview of what it’s like ahead of today’s release.

Peridot is Niantic's first original in-house game since 2014's Ingress

Peridot is heavily inspired by Tamagotchi, the virtual-pet phenomenon of the ’90s. "Peridot is the modern-day spin on the original Tamagotchi," Ziah Fogel, Peridot’s director of product, said at a press preview last Wednesday.

That’s an accurate summary of the game. When you look at your surroundings through the app, you can see your virtual pet running, hiding, and navigating around real-life obstacles. The pets are cute enough, and as someone who wants a pet and loves animals, it gave me similar fuzzy feelings to actually having one. However, I found the game play a little repetitive, and the game drained my phone’s battery unbelievably quickly.

Dots are created using algorithms that combine real, legendary and imaginary creatures

The big question is whether Niantic can re-create the success of its blockbuster game Pokémon Go, which became a cultural phenomenon in 2016 as players chased characters in a frenzy to score rewards. Niantic followed up with games inspired by other franchises like Harry Potter, Catan, and Transformers, but this is its first original in-house game since Ingress, the company’s first AR game in 2014. A lot is riding on it.

Players receive rewards for walking certain distances and exploring their surroundings.

With Peridot, Niantic is veering away from franchises and creating an entirely new world with new characters. All Dots are unique, according to the company, created using in-house algorithms that mash together creatures inspired by the real (for example, cheetahs), the legendary (yeti), and the imaginary (unicorns). Other algorithms affect physical attributes like skin texture and plumage. When Dots mate with each other, an entirely new being "hatches," each combining Dots parents’ algorithmically derived genetic code.

Players can take screenshots, called “Picture-tics”, for rewards.

Fogel said these algorithms ensure that no two Dots will ever be alike: "The number of combinations—2.3 x 1024—surpasses the number of stars in the universe and granules of sand on Earth." .

Like Tamagotchi, the game begins with an egg. I chose a granite one, which cracked open to reveal a round, fluffy silver animal with huge anime eyes. I had just made a grocery list before playing, which was probably why I decided to name my virtual pet Orzo. In my dimly lit office, Orzo ping-ponged off the walls, "foraged" into the carpet to unearth a snack, and then cuddled next to me, cooing after I "petted" it by rubbing its tummy on my iPhone screen.

Currency can be used to give Orzo rewards like health boosts, new colors and textures

While my Dot was "born" in my home, the virtual creatures are not intended to be homebound. Niantic sees Peridot as an outdoor game, just like Pokémon Go. "We want to inspire daily movement," says Fogel.

Peridot does this by rewarding players with prizes for milestone numbers of steps they’ve taken or distances they’ve traveled while using the app. It also suggests local points of interest, like parks where people can take their Dots to hunt for food or trophies.

The game allows users to befriend and – through an algorithm – breed their own Dot creatures

Three screenshot challenges—such as taking a photo of Orzo “surfing” on a laptop or “reading” a book—pose more opportunities to explore the real world. And when I completed one of these challenges, I received in-game currency that I could save up to give Orzo rewards like health boosts, new colors and textures, or a cozy hammock so it wouldn’t feel comfy sleeping on my sofa.

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