This weekend will mark the first alpha test for IBM’s Sword Art Online: The Beginning Virtual Reality experience for the 208 lucky participants. But for the rest of us, a small preview of what the test contains has been revealed.
A few sneak peak images have been revealed for the forthcoming test, showcasing some of the in game environments and how the players will interact in VR. Players are 3D scanned into the game as player avatars.
The VR systems uses the Oculus Rift DK2 model, branded as the Nerve Gear, with additional sensors in conjunction with a multidirectional treadmill. A Xbox One Kinect is also used to help with tracking player movement.
Over 100,000 people applied for the Alpha test that will take place in Tokyo over the weekend. Only 208 people were selected from the raffle.
The game itself will serve as a prequel to the Sword Art Online game in the series. IBM will be co-developing the experience using their Cognitive Systems, that powers IBM Watson, to produce the game. It will be automated alongside their new cloud technology titled SoftLayer.
Here is the promotional video for the game:
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Haruka Tomatsu will return to voice Kirito and Asuna respectively.
Sword Art Online is a light novel series written by Reki Kawahara, who also is the author of Accel World. The light novel series began in 2009 being published in ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Bunko. To date a total of 16 volumes have been compiled in the series. Since the series’ debut, the series has sold millions of copies, topping the charts in 2012. Additionally in 2012, an anime adaptation was released. The Sword Art Online anime aired in July and was produced by A-1 Pictures, which received a large reception. Since then, the series has appeared on a plethora of media with international merchandise, various manga adaptations of the light novel’s arcs, and video games, the latest being Sword Art Online: Lost Song for the PS4 and Vita. In addition, Kawahara has relaunched the series as Sword Art Online: Progressive, a re-release of the light novels with additional content.
Here is a synopsis of the anime from MAL:
1 year after the SAO incident, Kirito is approached by Seijiro Kikuoka from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Department “VR Division” with a rather peculiar request.
That was an investigation on the “Death Gun” incident that occurred in the gun and steel filled VRMMO called Gun Gale Online (GGO). “Players who are shot by a mysterious avatar with a jet black gun lose their lives even in the real world…” Failing to turn down Kikuoka’s bizarre request, Kirito logs in to GGO even though he is not completely convinced that the virtual world could physically affect the real world.
Kirito wanders in an unfamiliar world in order to gain any clues about the “Death Gun.” Then, a female sniper named Sinon who owns a gigantic “Hecate II” rifle extends Kirito a helping hand. With Sinon’s help, Kirito decides to enter the “Bullet of Bullets,” a large tournament to choose the most powerful gunner within the realm of GGO, in hopes to become the target of the “Death Gun” and make direct contact with the mysterious avatar.
Sword Art Online: The Beginning is currently in production with an Alpha test starting this weekend for 208 lucky fans. IBM will be leading the game’s development and the results will pave way to more unique Virtual Reality experiences.
"Sword Art Online: The Beginning", "Sword Art Online", “Sword Art Online”, images and all associated brands and titles © 2016 Reki Kawahara, A-1 Pictures, IBM, ASCII Media Works and the SAO Project