Scenes From Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale

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As much as I want to 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 khổng lồ be the game khổng lồ bởi it. In fact, it isn’t a game 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, và 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 và released as a virtual reality MMO game. In phản hồi threads across the web, these reports sparked waves of rejoice, promises to lớn never leave sầu the virtual world, and even debates about how long the full game would take lớn develop.

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

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I can understvà why people got it wrong. First of all we have sầu the language barrier, which is a highly effective sầu 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 & 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 sầu Japanese speaker.

So what is it then? Sword Art Online: The Beginning is a trăng tròn minute VR kinh doanh chạy thử. It is a neat kinh doanh stunt for both IBM Watson và the Sword Art Online anime/manga/movie. It is not a game or an MMO, or anything that has legs beyond being a promotional vehicle.


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

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Sword Art Online protagonists Kazulớn “Kirito” Kirigaya (left) and 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), and players are shown joining the game on launch day. Many of the players playing on launch day were Beta players, so they know more about the game than new players. This difference between Beta players & 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 someone tampering with their NerveGear headsets, which inhibit their brainwaves while they are inside the game, making them unable to move in the ‘real’ (fictional) world. If someone takes the headset off of them in the ‘real’ world, they die. So they are stuông xã.

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


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This is Dr. Akihiko Kayabố. 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 & the fictional NerveGear VR system.

See, we are mixing the fiction & non-fiction worlds. And 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 game that will be released beyond this kinh doanh event. The experience is not being created by a game 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 kinh doanh experience for Pepyêu thích.

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Agency 1→10 produced this Pepđam mê VR sale experience last year| Photo lớn 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 nhật bản. He confirmed that the sale 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 giải pháp công nghệ.”

“So it is not actually a real game in development, it is just a kinh doanh experience to lớn show off VR, IBM Watson, & Sword Art Online?” I asked. “Exactly,” Kubota told me.


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

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The trăng tròn minute ‘Alpha’ will happen over three days in March. At only đôi mươi 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 lớn 7PM; let’s assume there’s 10 minutes between demos: that’s 360 minutes (6 hours) running the chạy thử each day (1080 minutes total). To fit 208 players inlớn this time frame at trăng tròn minutes each, the most fitting group form size would be four players at a time.

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We’ve sầu actually seen something almost identical before. Baông chồng 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 inlớn the fiction of Sword Art World, not a real VR game being developed for release, or anything cchiến bại to it.