In case you didn’t know, the new Sword Art Online movie, Ordinal Scale, is currently playing at selected Golden Screen Cinemas outlets. Despite an experience marred by stomach discomforts (which may have caused me to miss out some details) and censorship (curses!), the anime movie still proved to be a fairly entertaining experience, especially with the action scenes.
I’m not here to pass judgement on the movie though, although I will say that fans will get more enjoyment out of it. What’s on my mind is the titular Ordinal Scale. While the earlier two seasons and the light novels they were based on featured Virtual Reality games, Ordinal Scale is an MMORPG that utilizes AR (Augmented Reality) technology. Not as immersive-sounding, for sure, but it still seemed interesting enough that I ended up wondering what cool things we’d be able to experience if such a game existed for real.
While Pokémon GO requires you to look at your phone’s screen, Ordinal Scale utilizes a headset called Augma that displays enemies and even changes the appearance of your surroundings! Imagine KLCC Park transforming into a fiery landscape with cracked surfaces while the peaceful night sky suddenly turned red. While freaky, it still sounds pretty cool.
The Augma is a lot smaller than a VR headset, so walking and running around with it won’t be a hassle. Since it brings the virtual realm into the real one rather than taking you into the former, that means that you’ll be engaging in actual physical activities as you play the game, so you get to combine video game action with real-world exercise. Win-win, right?
While we won’t be able to dodge or teleport the way we do in a typical video game, diving into the action with your natural, physical body sounds pretty thrilling, especially when it comes to getting up close to a massive, intimidating boss monster to land a hit or trying to evade attacks. It’d be good exercise too, and wouldn’t the real sweat and weariness result in a more immersive experience?
Or, you can just play with friends and bring your nonsensical Skype or Discord conversations into the real world. Just don't forget that when you scream for help or laugh hysterically as you unintentionally (or intentionally) leave your friends behind, everyone is there to witness it.
In Ordinal Scale, players’ gear and costumes - including armour - can be seen with the Augma equipped. I can’t remember if its stated in the movie whether Augma replicates a sense of touch in regards to these items, but I suppose it does or combat would be very awkward, while wearing armour that feels like a t-shirt would be too big a disconnect. Not sure about the animal ears, though.
At any rate, even if it doesn’t feel as real as wearing an actual physical costume, there’s still a thrill in being decked out in your chosen in-game armour and gear while in the physical world and seeing your friends do the same. There’s also the whole comparison and showing off thing, which would be a lot more fun in real life than doing so on a screen. And for those who aren’t involved in cosplaying, this might give them a (perhaps vague) taste of it.
As a result of being in the real world, combat will also feel more dynamic and natural. Drawing aggro, raising a shield or aiming a gun will all become influenced by your real-world responsiveness and accuracy. In addition, targeting and prioritizing enemies in tough fights will be more challenging as you couple tactical decisions with physical action.
Of course, there will be downsides as well. Some might get worn out quickly from playing the game, and injuries are likely to occur. Encountering toxic players in real life would really suck, and the physical requirements mean that not everyone can play the game.
The biggest problem would probably be the locations for the boss fights, or the special events involving them at least. In Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale, these happen at night at certain parts of the city. The citizens have probably been notified that gamers would be gathering there so we won’t have to worry about lack of space, but imagine the potential jam while getting there. Actually, we already have enough jams without the game, and having it might make things worse or make getting to the boss’s spawn point a huge hassle. Combine the traveling with the scheduling and people might find it difficult to make it to these events.
The idea of bashing monsters with friends at night while out in the real world still sounds fun though, but I guess that makes the Full-Dive VR is more convenient and safer. Well, safe as long as no one traps gamers inside an MMORPG, initiates a death game and forgets why he did it afterwards.