Off Topic: “Sword Art Online”

The cover of the manga of “Sword Art Online”

With all the drama involving MyDDO’s passing, I thought it would be fun to talk about gaming from a different perspective.

I’m been on an anime-watching kick for some time now. One show caught my eye and then my rapt attention.

Pretend it’s about 10 years from now. There’s still PC gaming, but the interfaces have changed.

You might have heard of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming interface, in development today,  that fits over your face, giving you an immersive stereoscopic display.

In this near-future, you can place a helmet on your head, which immerses your consciousness into a 3D environment where you don’t move an avatar–you are the avatar.

This device, the NerveGear, is the heart of virtual multiplayer online gaming, and the premise of the anime adaptation of the manga called “Sword Art Online.”

“SAO” is a hot new game, and one player, who goes by the name of “Kirito” during his participation in the game’s beta test, is one of the first 10,000 players in the newly released game.

The world of Aincrad, the game’s setting, is a massive floating castle-like structure with lands divided into 100 levels. The goal of the game is the beat the floor’s boss and ascend to the next, beating the game at the 100th level.

All seems well for Kirito and a new player he befriends, Klein, when their avatars (and all 9,998 other players) are suddenly transported to the town square on Floor 1. There, the game’s creator appears, larger than life as a skyscraper-sized, faceless, robed spectre, to tell all the players that they cannot log out. They must stay in the game and complete it to leave. Further–if you die in the game, you die for real, as the NerveGear will zap your brain on your failure. Others on the outside can’t remove that helmet, or it will kill you as well.

It’s a perma-death game in more ways than one.

I haven’t read the book series (but I will once I can find it) but the anime adaptation is said to be quite acceptable. Whoever wrote this story had a good knowledge of gaming lore and skill. “SAO” is a world where swordplay is the norm: magic does not exist as an offensive force (although a later story introduces another gaming world where the reverse is true and magic is dominant). There are hints that unarmed fighting is possible, but sadly, I didn’t see any ninjas.

As such, it’s a tough world to fight within.

By the start of episode 2, you learn that over 2,000 of the 10,000 players have died in a single month. A group of players, with Kirito and his sole party member, a girl named Asuna, tackle the first boss.

This was where I laughed my butt off: It was a ginormous kobold boss, complete with lieutenants that were essentially paragon kobold fighters (as seen in “The Shroud” or “Enter the Kobold”)

SAO_E02Kobolds! And those things were kicking the ass out of this raid party of at least thirty players!

But that’s what you and I would expect, right? Kobolds aren’t particularly powerful unless you aren’t.

There’s much in the way of gaming lore and in-jokes, but the drama of watching a player move up the ranks to be what we all dream of being; the one player that saves the day–it’s exciting, humorous and extraordinarily dramatic.

There are two gaming worlds that Kirito and friends visit in the anime storyline–and you’ll wish you could grab a copy of the game and log in yourself.

Well, discussing this show any more would totally spoil it for you. You can watch all the episodes of “Sword Art Online” –free–on the anime web site Crunchyroll, or, if you have Hulu Plus, you can find it there.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. grimorde
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 13:30:42

    I’m currently at episode 8 of this via Crunchyroll. It’s a great series 🙂

    • teachersyn
      Apr 02, 2013 @ 13:48:37

      What’s awesome in the show is the use of gameplay-related terms that make it all the more “real” to actual game players like us. Parties. Raid groups. Guilds. Safe areas. Crafting. The show’s got it all.

  2. John
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 00:41:03

    I just finished this show recently. Not only is the use of terms nice, but so too is the insight that whoever made it has as well. Kirito shows often some tell-tale signs of some serious min-maxing considering the situation.

    I wonder what he’d translate into for DDO. Ranger or Monk seems the most fitting.

    • teachersyn
      Jun 01, 2013 @ 05:12:20

      Playing Monks, I think that Kirito fits the Ranger best, with a LOT of Fighter skills. Others wear heavy armor, but Kirito prefers the light armor style, and can adjust to so many situations, but defers shields. Asuna, in contrast, is more a Paladin in light armor, maybe.

  3. Kavatch2
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 10:19:09

    Hey did they ever implement the marriage ring idea in ddo?

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  5. mernom
    Feb 04, 2014 @ 01:35:37

    You can no longer find the book on ‘legal’ sites (like baka-tsuki),sinse it was lisened.but if you to Tap’s blog I think you can find p d f downloads.(sorry for the spaces,can’t disable auto correct on blogs)
    And the anime soon gets a new season,about a gun MMO this time.
    (Phantom bullet arc)and guess what?kirito still uses a sword…

    • teachersyn
      Feb 04, 2014 @ 07:04:40

      Found an unofficial English translation to enjoy for a bit. Have you enjoyed the New Year’s special OVA? It’s a 2-ish hour recap with new content on Crunchyroll. Looking forward to the GGO arc. TVTropes has spoiled it for me, or I did that to myself. 🙂

      • mernom
        Feb 04, 2014 @ 10:04:14

        I foond the ova mostly a waste,except the last 20 min or so.

        • John B.
          Feb 04, 2014 @ 19:39:55

          Pretty much, the entire point of the OVA was a recap and an introduction into Gun Gale Online. You know, with a little fanservice on the side.

          • teachersyn
            Feb 04, 2014 @ 20:35:41

            “A little?” The beach scene was outright outrageous! 🙂

            • John B.
              Feb 05, 2014 @ 07:51:49

              After watching Kill la Kill, fanservice is definitely relative. 😛 (Great series, by the way. The fanservice is practically unimportant at this point. xD)

    • mernom
      Feb 05, 2014 @ 04:00:19

      What I really looking toward for is the accel world crossover,hope they include it…

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  7. Lightning
    Aug 04, 2014 @ 11:53:58

    Now with SAO’s second season having been released, along with the Single Weapon Fighting line, I’ve figured it’s time I make an Asuna type character. I’m thinking your comment on a Paladin in light armor might work. (Or perhaps heavy armor and a cosmetic kit, since DDO is not SAO and functions differently.)

    • teachersyn
      Aug 04, 2014 @ 12:24:00

      Yep! That design could work, although we know the SAO characters had no magic. But in ALO, I read that Asuna is an Undine and so is more of a Cleric.

      • Lightning
        Aug 04, 2014 @ 12:48:07

        That would be right. She also has something of a rogue / assassin / ninja spy type of character, but tends to prefer her Undine.

        The Paladin type suits her. Quite popular, good with people, certainly suggesting a higher charisma than most people. Besides, most of the spells a paladin takes tend to err towards buffs anyway.

        All this SAO stuff makes me wish that DDO had more combat feats, like cleave, and Whirlwind Attack. Starburst Stream might be a little crazy, but something new would be nice.

        • mernom
          Aug 04, 2014 @ 15:33:50

          OThey said a while back that they going to add lots of new tactical feats,but….maybe hey setteled with the enhacment attacks.

          • Lightning
            Aug 04, 2014 @ 15:53:55

            At the best end, I can see new optional feats being added (like a Divine’s faith feats) where you can take a series of them every so many levels? On the other, they’re going to be crammed into the slots.

            Those new feats were claimed to be for Paladins and Fighters, but unless they do something like the above for that, I don’t see many Paladins taking them. Tossing them into Enhancements might be a little underwhelming, and then they have the new auto granted light based feats (for weapon damage and a sort of Guard effect) for Paladins based on level.

            Now I’m being reminded of Tera Online’s combat system for their Warriors.

            • mernom
              Aug 05, 2014 @ 00:58:07

              It is possible to use spell mechanic to give players a large list of combat attacks,as well as limiting the number of attacks they can prepare to use at a given time.
              Number of attack slots can be half of your BAB, and insted of spell points they can use cooldowns.
              Also it is possible to add extra effects based on your BAB,like +1W dmg every 5 BAB you have.

          • Lightning
            Aug 05, 2014 @ 08:24:29

            So, you’re thinking of something like free spell slots (a la Cleric healing spells, and Druid summons)? Warchanter among other PrEs have something in there that add spells, so perhaps they could toss that into the Paladin and Fighter Trees as well, with different ones based on the PrE (Stalwart Defender and Sacred Defender sharing similarities that way, and all).

            Then again, the new Swashbuckler grants Evasion, so they could just make them feats, but autogranted based on which tier core it is. I doubt they’d go so in depth to make something based on each fighting style for the more melee of the trees, though, such as Kensei and Knight getting an option for ranged, one handed, two handed, two weapon, and sword and board.

            • mernom
              Aug 08, 2014 @ 12:55:28

              more like a seperate spell category,in which you get half your base BAB worth of slots,without seperation to lvls,and a feat slots each lvl (or depending on class BAB proggresion) to take a feat,that adds an attack to your list.
              prehaps the ability to take the same attack up to 3 times,each time it gains extra effects,and skill\feat\class prereqs for the feats.

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