Eccky 1.0 (2005-2007)
In the first version of Eccky, two users create a virtual baby, and raise him/her with the goal of making the child as happy and satisfied as possible. A user must consists of a questionnaire that user parents must fill in with information regarding their personal characteristics, child-rearing attitudes, favorites, etc. Once registration and the "DNA" test have been completed, a user may invite another person to make an Eccky. Upon accepting the invitation, the second user also registers on the Eccky website, and completes his/her own "DNA" test. Both parents then choose both a masculine and feminine name for their future Eccky. Thereafter Eccky is born, with characteristics determined by the combination of both user parents' DNA profiles. Eccky's sex is randomly determined, as is Eccky’s name (which is chosen randomly between the four possible names chosen by the user parents).
Over a six-day period from Eccky’s birth, Eccky grows and ages three years for every one day of gameplay. Thus, in six days, Eccky develops from a cooing baby into an eighteen-year-old young adult with its own character. Every Eccky is unique at birth, and the way in which the user parents raise their Eccky further individualizes Eccky’s demeanor and characteristics. On the sixth day, or upon turning 18, Eccky leaves the house to venture off into the wide world, and the game ends.
Eccky played principally via the Eccky website and MSN Messenger, though also via mobile phone. Upon Eccky’s birth, Eccky is automatically added as a contact to the MSN contact lists of both parents. This allows user parents to talk to their virtual child. Running on an AIML chat engine, Eccky is able to speak from the moment following birth, both in response to user parents addressing Eccky and by initiating conversation him/herself. Eccky will initiate conversation either randomly or to express any particularly pressing need he/she may have (i.e. being extremely hungry, having to go to the bathroom, being very sick, feeling neglected, etc.) Eccky’s vocabulary is initially limited to newborn babble. Then, as with a real child, Eccky’s command of vocabulary grows with each day of gameplay, to a final capability of being able to respond with over 60,000 unique answers on more than 4,000 diverse subjects. Since June 2007, Eccky also features an in-game chat functionality.
Eccky and user parents can also exchange text messages via mobile phone. Exchange of text messages requires that the user parent have a mobile phone, and that the user parent purchase a mobile phone for Eccky within the game environment. This feature involves some extra costs to the user parent, specifically the cost of sending text messages, and can be turned on and off at the user parent’s discretion.
Most games are intended to be played with user parents playing against their Eccky and vice versa. Others are played in cooperation with Eccky. Of note are the racing games, some of which allow users to create their own tracks and race on them with Eccky. Though most games are free to play, some games require additional credits to play.
Eccky’s physical and emotional states are subject to continual change, determined by 180 dynamic variables, and are influenced by the interaction with and treatment by user parents, both via the virtual world and via the chat. The levels of these physical and emotional states are continually assessed and are made visible to user parents via meters that gauge happiness, hunger, toilet needs, popularity, who Eccky’s favorite parent is, etc. For example, if Eccky is not sufficiently fed, users will see this in Eccky’s hunger meter. In worst case scenarios, an Eccky can be neglected, physical and emotionally, to the point of needing to be sent to the hospital. During this time, gameplay continues and user parents may chat with Eccky, but may not interact with Eccky in the virtual world. Further, Eccky’s physical and emotional states are reflected in the chat element, as Eccky will either comment, unsolicited, on how he/she is doing physically and emotionally, or respond to a user parent in such a way as to make his/her physical and emotional state known.
It is also possible to send Eccky away for a period, either to live in other accommodations such as in a hotel, on vacation, or to stay with a babysitter. A babysitter may be anyone with an MSN Messenger account. Sending Eccky to a hotel or on vacation does involve additional costs (sending Eccky to a babysitter does not), and as with Eccky staying in the hospital, user parents may continue to speak with Eccky via chat but cannot interact with Eccky in the virtual world setting during this time. A user parent can retrieve their Eccky at any time during a stay away from home. Eccky was closed down in 2007 and until it was launched in a new format in 2009.
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