I have just finished the first season of Sword Art Online (SAO) again… and being an avid gamer myself found it an anime I could easily relate to. SAO is a Japanese anime, with the game Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment having been released for Vita.
The anime is set in the year 2022, when the game Sword Art Online is released which is a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, I know quite a mouthful). It uses the Nerve Gear, a virtual reality helmet which intercepts senses from your brain allowing you to control your in-game avatar as if you were actually controlling your character. On the day of release, 10,000 people logged into SAO and when people eventually tried to logout there was no way of doing so. After this everyone was teleported to the center of the starting area where there was an announcement from Akihiko Kayaba, the developer of SAO, telling people that there was only one way that someone could escape the game. This was by defeating the boss on all 100 floors of the game. Another surprise for the players was that they were told that if they were to die in the game they would also die in the real world.
The series follows Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya (Kirito is his Avatar’s name and voiced by Bryce Papenbrook who was also Eren Yaeger in Attack On Titan), Kirito is one of 1,000 closed beta testers who feels that he has what it take to clear all 100 floors on his own and sets out to finish the game as a solo player.
“The trailer for the English Dubbed version of Sword Art Online”
Will there ever be a true VRMMORPG?
So Team Oculus have teased that they would like to make an MMO which uses the Oculus Rift, this is something that people are offering mixed opinions about, with some people not sure about it and others thing it would be a good idea. When it was first mentioned I was not keen on this idea but, over time it has started to grow on me. One surprising thing was when Brendan Iribe CEO of Oculus VR asked for Sony to solve the motion sickness issues before releasing it.
“We’re really looking forward to this as an industry that takes off… A number of companies will come in, even companies we haven’t heard of yet two or three or five years down the road,”
“At the same time we’re a little worried about some of the bigger companies putting out product that isn’t quite ready. That elephant in the room is disorientation and motion sickness.” – Brandon Iribe
This is really reassuring as it shows that the Oculus Rift is still in good hands. The only way that an MMO using VR will be possible would be once the majority of users can play for long periods of time. Without being able to play for a prolonged period, you would not be able to achieve the amount of leveling required to progress in MMOs.
Who would play a fully immersive VRMMORPG?
I would be lying to say that I wouldn’t at least be a little bit excited about playing an MMO which offered a full immersion (they can keep the pain element) but being able to actually play as the player. That is when I believe gaming with VR will have hit its peak, being able to feel the way that you move, be able to touch in game items and like you would in real life. It would be wrong to even presume that this type of game would not be a time sink, with the feeling that the game is real life you may come to see it as the true world. This means there may even be a need for auto log out features, for when players are logged in for prolonged periods of time.
Entering Aincrad today
For those of you that have not seen the anime Aincrad is the game world in which 10,000 players get trapped, but how many will return?
There is now an Oculus Rift integrated game of Sword Art Online in early stages of development. You can play using the Oculus Rift DK2 on Oculus share. It’s not clear at this stage how far this project will go, but so far you can log in and access your inventory with some background music from the anime.
Would a game where you can’t logout change the Community?
At the moment, MMO communities are very hit and miss. Some are really aggressive and are unsupportive of new players, then there are some that higher level players willingly help out the newer and lower leveled players. The biggest problem with MMOs today is that they try too much to be just an improvement of the last big game, as it is too expensive to throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks, like indie developers do with other genres.
Due to this, none of the recent MMOs have been able to break Blizzard’s grip and the best community members are either still on WoW or, have been burnt out of genre entirely. I feel that for a game like SAO to actually take off it would need a great community because everyone would need to work together to complete floors and progress through the game. Rather than MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic which is more like a single player game with other people running around.
“It must be a bug, it was that was the only place it was in the Beta”
Obviously if there were no option to logout it would force the community out of an unfriendly state, as you would not be able to just leave when things got heated between players. You would still get the people who have no respect for other players, but with it being a lot more personal in the interactions fewer people would be able to keep that mean aggressive state of mind.
VR outside MMOs
The technology is obviously not just restricted to MMOs, you could see games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield quite literally through the eyes of the character. There are rumors that one of the things that Valve are waiting for before they develop Half Life 3 is that they want to have Rift support. I’m not sure how well Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition’s sexual harassment simulator would feel like using VR though.
What do you think? Would put on a NerveGear? What sort of full immersion games would you like to see?