For those of us who have been indoctrinated into the world of Sword Art Online, it should have been nothing short of a dream to find out that a major computer company was making an actual virtual reality game based on SAO. But when IBM released footage from their game Sword Art Online: The Beginning, many were less than impressed. (videos below)
“So what am I watching exactly?” IBM is cashing-in on the huge overseas success of Sword Art Online and found a fancy way to show off it’s current technologies. Here’s what the IBM developers had to say on their blog.
Ready for the next VRMMO experience?
To say that Japan’s Sword Art Online (SAO) is popular is an understatement. Created in 2009 from anime novels, it now boasts over 16.7 million light novel copies sold worldwide, along with a television series and three PlayStation games.
Yes, SAO is big in Japan. The plot is set in the year 2022 — with thousands of players logged into a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Game (VRMMO) where what is real and what is fiction is a matter of life and death for the beta and alpha testers of this VR game within a game.
The Sword Art Online players wear a helmet called NerveGear to control the game. After a journey to Aincrad, a floating castle with 100 floors, players encounter a variety of monsters and floor bosses that must be defeated in order to survive.
Starting today, a real-life Sword Art Online: The Beginning, is being played by 208 lucky gamers.
The VRMMO sponsored by IBM, replaced the NerveGear helmets with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets. The event showcases IBM’s SoftLayer cloud technology with the high performing, cognitive computing big data power of Watson to take the video gaming industry into completely new worlds of game play. After a 3D body scan, gamers are transformed into avatars of themselves that live inside the game. No controllers are required as players use their body to make moves.
So what happened? Why did Sword Art Online: The Beginning seemingly turn into a medieval Reboot reboot?
Though the graphics may look a bit crude in these videos, it has to be remembered that the game itself is not intended to be watched on a standard screen. It would be like listening to speakers underwater…it ain’t made for that! SAO: The Beginning takes place in an 3D immersive world combining several technologies so really the only way to experience this footage is with an Oculus Rift with some sort of motion tracking device. (We tried sitting really, really close to our computer monitors and spinning in our chairs.) And despite the lack of realism, the tracking and frame-rate seem to be consistent throughout the clips, which is either a testament to the code that makes the game run, or the computers the game is on.
Even if Sword Art Online: The Beginning isn’t exactly what we imagined, it is a step in the right direction for at-home VR gaming, even if it is a baby step. It wont be long before we hear about the first cases of people being trapped in the game, and a real life hero named “Kirito” who will save us all.
What do you think? Does Sword Art Online: The Beginning look anything like you expected? Leave your comments below.