Sword art online


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As much as I want lớn get swept away into a VR MMO based on Sword Art Online with the rest of you, the recently announced Sword Art Online: The Beginning (involving IBM’s Watson) is not going to be the game to vì it. In fact, it isn’t a trò chơi at all.

It’s been widely reported <1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6> that the recently announced Sword Art Online: The Beginning is an actual virtual reality MMO game that’s in development, sponsored by IBM Watson, and that 208 lucky people selected khổng lồ participate in an event in Tokyo in March will see a glimpse of the game’s “Alpha”. The narrative reported by most outlets is that this is an honest lớn goodness in-development title that will be created and released as a virtual reality MMO game. In comment threads across the web, these reports sparked waves of rejoice, promises khổng lồ never leave the virtual world, & even debates about how long the full trò chơi would take lớn develop.

This is wrong & I’m terribly sorry lớn be the one that has lớn dash your hopes & dreams.

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I can understand why people got it wrong. First of all we have the language barrier, which is a highly effective filter of nuance (which is very important to this story). Second, the entire notion of the Sword Art Online: The Beginning is a purposeful intermingling of the fictional universe of Sword Art Online và our real world. Without the context of the show itself & an understanding of virtual reality, it would be easy to misunderstand, even if you were a native Japanese speaker.

So what is it then? Sword Art Online: The Beginning is a 20 minute VR marketing demo. It is a neat kinh doanh stunt for both IBM Watson and the Sword Art Online anime/manga/movie. It is not a trò chơi or an MMO, or anything that has legs beyond being a promotional vehicle.

How bởi I know? Ugh… this is going lớn get really meta. Lớn try to lớn make this easier for all of us, I’m going to use Sword Art Online to refer lớn the real life media property (anime/manga), và Sword Art World lớn talk about the fictional virtual reality trò chơi that exists within the Sword Art Online universe. Here we go.

Sword Art Online protagonists Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya (left) và Asuna Yūki

In Sword Art Online, people in the year 2022 use a VR system called NerveGear to lớn access Sword Art World. Within the story’s narrative, Sword Art World has just exited Beta (this is important), và players are shown joining the trò chơi on launch day. Many of the players playing on launch day were Beta players, so they know more about the trò chơi than new players. This difference between Beta players và new players becomes an important point of conflict in the plot.

While playing Sword Art World on launch day, the players get trapped inside due to lớn someone tampering with their NerveGear headsets, which inhibit their brainwaves while they are inside the game, making them unable lớn move in the ‘real’ (fictional) world. If someone takes the headset off of them in the ‘real’ world, they die. So they are stuck.

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What most of the truyền thông misunderstood when reporting news of Sword Art Online: The Beginning was that the ‘Alpha’ that is referenced is not an ‘Alpha’ in the game design sense. It is an ‘Alpha’ in the fictional sense—it is (according to the sale narrative) the prequel lớn the fictional ‘Beta’ of Sword Art World (the version of the game that precedes players getting stuck in the game).

This is Dr. Akihiko Kayaba. Notice that he is not a real human.

We can see more evidence of this in other parts of the promotional material. It is said that a certain Dr. Akihiko Kayaba has met with an IBM Researcher who, through Watson, has made the ‘Alpha’ possible. Dr. Kayaba, however is not a real person, he is a character in Sword Art Online who, inside the show, creates Sword Art World and the fictional NerveGear VR system.

See, we are mixing the fiction và non-fiction worlds. Và it’s all in good fun, but so terribly easy to misunderstand without the context of the show, especially when there’s a language barrier involved.

Outside of these fiction/non-fiction interminglings, there’s more evidence that this isn’t a real MMO or even a trò chơi that will be released beyond this kinh doanh event. The experience is not being created by a trò chơi design studio, but instead it’s being developed by an independent creative agency (with the very confusing name of 1→10), which has previously created a VR marketing experience for Pepsi.

Agency 1→10 produced this Pepsi VR kinh doanh experience last year| Photo courtesy Reddit user zeroyon04

To confirm all of this (after all, I am working from translations myself), I spoke with Shun Kubota, Editor in Chief of Mogura VR, the leading virtual reality publication in Japan. He confirmed that the marketing concept behind Sword Art Online: The Beginning is to show “what it would be lượt thích when the cognitive computing IBM is developing is used in future gaming technology.”

“So it is not actually a real game in development, it is just a sale experience khổng lồ show off VR, IBM Watson, và Sword Art Online?” I asked. “Exactly,” Kubota told me.

So what are those 208 people going to see when they see the “Alpha’? They’re seeing a finished (not ‘alpha’) ~20 minute kinh doanh experience (timing per the FAQ) that will involve Watson in some way (likely for NPC interaction). Players will be scanned khổng lồ have their avatars in the experience & there may be some multiplayer happening but it will be something lượt thích four players at a time, far short of the scope of a real MMO.

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The đôi mươi minute ‘Alpha’ will happen over three days in March. At only trăng tròn minutes long, if all 208 players experienced it at once (as you would suspect from a real MMO), there would be no need for three days. The official site specifies that each daily session will run from 11AM to 7PM; let’s assume there’s 10 minutes between demos: that’s 360 minutes (6 hours) running the test each day (1080 minutes total). Khổng lồ fit 208 players into this time frame at đôi mươi minutes each, the most fitting group size would be four players at a time.

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We’ve actually seen something almost identical before. Back at Anime Expo 2014 Oculus showed a Sword Art Online VR experience at their booth. But then, just as now, it was a short, fun VR experience which gave players a scripted glimpse into the fiction of Sword Art World, not a real VR trò chơi being developed for release, or anything close to lớn it.