Sword Art Online: The Beginning is a Virtual Reality MMO based on the anime

Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer tech demo sponsored by IBM could be the start of something big

Sword Art Online The Beginning is a Virtual Reality MMO based on the anime  Everybody Plays
23rd February, 2016

The internet has a way of making us look a bit daft, it seems. It was only a few weeks ago we published our review of Sword Art Online: Lost Song, a game based on an anime that focuses on a (fictional) virtual reality massive multiplayer online role playing game, and the adventures of those who inhabited it. In our last paragraph, we lamented that the anime seemed perfect to create an actual MMO around, but that budgetary reasons meant we'd probably never see that happen. And now, as per usual, time has proven us completel wrong. But this latest news has blown us away.

It turns out that Bandai Namco and IBM are working on one of the most ambitious gaming projects yet, in Sword Art Online: The Beginning. Set to make the world of Sword Art Online real, this will be a virtual reality MMO - and going one step further, rather than having to sit fiddling with a controller, it's going to use motion controls, for added immersion. While that's not quite the same as the anime series, where the headset detects your movements, it's not far off - and it sounds insane.

Seriously. Check out the trailer below:

Wow, right? While it may be a bit impenetrable, what with all the Japanese writing, Sword Art Online: The Beginning soudns incredibly excited. Virtual reality combined with motion control brings the game as close as possible to the anime series. You'll move your head to look around, and potentially walk on the spot to move. Even more excitingly, the game will be making full use of sponsor IBM's latest computing technology. This includes its "SoftLayer" cloud computing platform (naturally - presumably it'll act as the game's server), and, more interestingly, the "cognitive" system, Watson. This last one is perhaps the most interesting, as Watson is a natural language processor. Used to power in game characters, this could mean you could literally talk to a character, have it understand you, and give you an answer. From questions like "Where's the X dungeon" to "when was Lycra Zebra last online", it'd be a pretty cool step forward, and one huge leap towards creating a world where you're never sure if you're playing alongside real playerse or computer characters.

Needless to say, there's still an awful lot we don't know yet. For starters, it's worth having at least a little bit of skepticism here, as this is just a tech demo at this point, with IBM most likely wanting to show off its technology rather than fund a full MMO game. The whole VR aspect may also be off-putting for some people, as VR really isn't for everyone. Then there's the slightly more terrifying question of how closely the game will follow the anime. In the show, everyone gets locked in and stuck there until they can clear the game. What happens if we all get locked into playing until we clear it too?
If any of you out there are in Tokyo during March, you may want to sign up to be involved in the game's official alpha test. The game's official website is currently open to applicants to alpha test the game, which will involve being body scanned into the game, but apparently will take less than twenty minutes in total - so it's safe to say there'll be no long term play. Entries close on the 4th of March but this event, and being chosen means you could be amongst the first 208 people to road test the game. It's certainly brimming with potential - and we can't wait!
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