5 Questions About Sword Art Online For Those Familiar With the Light Novels

(Before I begin I should mention that I have not seen episode 7 yet, if that makes a difference.)

Wanting to judge an anime on it’s own merits, I normally don’t want to know about the source material for that anime until it’s done airing. And that’s how it normally is with me but the coverage given by bloggers to the anime for Sword Art Online (SAO) and my own thoughts about it leaves me with questions about SAO that I’d like to know.

To answer these questions I realize I can go to the appropriate places; but, call it an irrational desire not to be overly spoiled, I was hoping that some kind gentleman or lady reading this would answer my questions without spoiling the whole show.

Below are the questions I have; I hope they don’t sound snarky or mean because that’s not the intention. I’m trying to establish how I should be watching SAO and with the level of compression that some people are saying that is happening with the anime adaptation I’m thinking some of the context might be getting lost. Does the source material skew more towards a serious, thoughtful examination of what would happen if a group of people were stuck in a game like Sword Art Online or is does it lean more towards being a dumb, fun type series. One is not inherently better then the other; however, knowing the answers to my questions will help put me in the right frame of mind for the SAO anime.

1 – Are there bugs, hacks, or exploits that the players take advantage of or fall victim to while in Sword Art Online?

The lack of such on launch day for a game like this is extremely unrealistic, no matter how insanely smart the creator of the game is.

2 – What is the political structure in Sword Art Online and does it include common services a government is expected to render like a judicial system and a police force?

I’m not saying SAO should devolve into some sort Lord of the Flies scenario but expecting the complete lack of some form of government from arising, especially with how many people are inside the game, after a few months goes by is against human nature.

3 – Does the oldest profession in the real world exist in Sword Art Online?

Maybe something doesn’t get mapped over to inside the game, but, I’m befuddled that the great imbalance between men and women inside Sword Art Online and the extended length of time that’s passing hasn’t affected how members of either gender behave towards the other.

4 – Are we going to see what’s happening in the real world before the players beat the game?

I can make logical guesses as to what’s happening in the real world (like how all the players that are still inside the game have probably been moved to long-term care facilities and are treated like coma patients) but I’d really like it if SAO would show that side of things.

5 – Is Sword Art Online as a game really as simplistic as the anime makes it out to be?

I realize the whole being there is probably really awesome but the game itself seems very regressive in nature because there are MMORPG games that are out right now like WOW or Everquest 2 which offer a much deeper and challenging experience.

I’ll end with a big hearty thank you to anyone and everyone that will help answer these questions for me.


11 thoughts on “5 Questions About Sword Art Online For Those Familiar With the Light Novels”

  1. 1. Yes and no. Hacks were never mentioned in the books, but Klein thought that the lack of a logout was a bug (although bugs are not mentioned to have killed people) and it was mentioned in the books that some of the PKs were done through exploits. It was also said that Argus (developer of SAO) was very careful with its produce, so bugs were unexpected.

    2. There’s no center government, although the largest guild in the game “The Army” acted as a police force (but later became corrupted and bureaucratic). Later, the elite guilds also helped self-police, especially against PK’ers. Governments exist in ALO, though.

    3. Not mentioned specifically, but the function exists, and I think it was mentioned in passing that female player have more… social (not necessarily societal) influence.

    4. No, but if guesses are correct and ALO is going to be the second cour of the anime, you will. Also, it was mentioned that Kayaba Akihiko allowed 2 hours of offline / power cutoff before Nervgear kills the player, so that the government could move people to hospitals and such.

    5. It was mentioned that the Argus wanted the game to be as simple as possible to highlight the full immersion experience. It was also for the same reason that magic was not available. There were no classes, and the only thing you get when you level up were more HP, stat points, and more skill slots (skill slots could be used for combat or non-combat skills). Skills are increase by repetitious usage, and you get more skill functions with skill increase.

    I think one big problem with this novel series was that it was originally a “short” hack and slash novel. A lot of the details were added later, and puts more depth into the original story. And it really shows in the adaptation.


  2. @uhsieh: Thanks a bunch. That’s exactly what I wanted to know.

    I don’t know if episode 7 was just a better episode then the previous ones or I was better able to get into the right frame of mind because you answered my questions but I think episode 7 is my favorite episode so far.


  3. Hrm, a question I can actually answer here, since it’s about something I’ve seen before and not an anime I have yet to watch.

    1. Most of the story elements are about the interaction between players and other players, and player vs environment. So any bug could happen would tend to kill people. Any hack or exploit would be used for personal gain. Hence how beta testers were seen socially. Thus, they may or may not exist, but they weren’t the point. No player could protest a bug and no developer could fix it. That wasn’t the issue or the solution.

    As mentioned before by uhsieh, people did expect bugs on start up. But since the game world itself became a little bit more serious, nobody really gave it much attention. It wasn’t the bugs that were going to kill you. People’s inattention would kill them and Pk guilds would kill you first.

    2. The political structure is mostly run by guilds. They set the taxes and enforces the rules where they have a sphere of control.The Army monopolizes the starting areas, collects taxes, and provides a basic standard of living for the many many people that decided they were going to wait until the front line fighters cleared the game. This eventually devolved into something decadent or corrupt due to story elements later on. Ever Quest 2 and WOW do not have the life simulation elements seen in Asian RPGs. For that you would have ot look at EQ 1, Ultima Online, and Eve Online.

    3. There’s a personal space protection system players have on. They would have to toggle that off for personal contact. But females, given their rarity, are treated much as they would be in any other MMO. They are valuable, yet strange, companions.

    4. Answered by U.

    5. The anime and the story isn’t really about the game itself, as an MMO. It’s about the characters and the choices they make. Looking at it after having read the majority of the SAO light novel stories, I would have to say that they were able to bring out a lot of the critical elements that Needed to be extracted for the ending to make any sense whatsoever. I can sense the build up. The time compression is required and recommended. I mentioned before that people who take too long with the beginning of light novels will crash and burn on the ending. And that has “always” come true.

    You should watch the anime as a serious look at player choice and growth in a virtual world that has become the real world, with real consequences, for them. The disjointedness of the episodes does one thing. It gives you the entire backstory of the main protagonist, so that later on, his choices will make complete sense. In fact, some of his decisions in Episode 7 can be traced back to his previous past as well.

    Of course it could all go down in a train wreck and die in a fire, but the potential still looks good.

    Muv Luv Alternative looks kind of good, but I can’t judge how much stuff has been left out or put in.

    I can get how some of the “context” may be lost. But you should pay close attention to the choices the protagonist and the heroines make in each episode, and why they do so. The actual mechanics of the MMO and the world itself was very interesting in the novel, but I didn’t need that information to enjoy the anime.


  4. For number 3., the option to allow players to access ‘that’ function is hidden by default, and Kirito goes to some lengths to deactivate it so that he can, uh, you know… yeah.

    (I wonder if he secretly knew how to deactivate it from the beginning? Would sure make the girls-sleeping-on-his-bed scenes more colourful.)


  5. Several things I forgot to mention: including SAO being a game within a game. Or in other words, there is the basic game mechanics of a fantasy mmo and then there is the meta game, the game above the game. Then there’s physical life, which exists above and encompassing, but not directly affecting, the game world. In fact, the events in the game world affect the physical world more, thus causing a reverse and counter-intuitive flow that has made the game world itself as important if not more important than the world the players had lived in before they logged on.

    This theme is thus an ultimate expression of the dividing line between friends in a game, real life friends, real life consequences, and game world consequences. By blurring and destroying those lines even, SAO expresses its own views and conundrums that you simply cannot get by playing WOW.

    In WOW, player abilities don’t count for much. So long as you have the stats and equipment and can follow a basic check list of things to do, you can conduct pve raids almost on automatic with a structured group. In a game like SAO, even if you have the stats, if your morale breaks, if your concentration breaks, your game stats become meaningless. Sword Art techniques will not activate when the body shakes too much from fear or is frozen in paralysis. The game is controlled in the same fashion a user controls their own body. If they lack self-discipline, are lacking in courage or adventure, that will manifest in various ways inside the game world.

    SAO is actually one of the reasons I started playing Eve Online. Which is a very different kind of MMO than Lord of the Rings or Wow or even EQ2. It is more of a throw back to those hardcore Japanese mmo rpgs of the past, such as EQ1 and Ultima Online. An image expresses this very well.

    So do videos and propaganda posters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYgpNLEbpYM

    As the main character, Kirito faces an interesting situation in that he is very good at the game mechanics but often times lack meta gaming experience or capabilities. Such basic things as leadership, social awareness and connection skills. Kirito used MMos as an escape from the consequences of reality. Yet ended up in a world where his decisions and actions had the ultimate judge of life and death for 10,000 humans. The early episodes were short stories concerning Kirito’s early adventures, before the onset of the primary story novel. The anime adaptation ended up using the short stories as an introduction of sorts. This helped to set the background of the main character, but until you get to the end of the SAO story, it doesn’t fully manifest itself in terms of import. Meaning, there were a lot of things people did at the end of the story, that made a lot more sense after I read those short stories. Of course the primary story was complete in itself, so I didn’t feel anything was lacking in terms of context but the short background side stories of Aincrad really brought out different perspectives.

    The author of SAO is apparently very interested in the consequences of MMOs on social reality and how meta gaming skills can often trump internal game mechanics.

    In the end, comparing WOW to SAO is like comparing a one dimensional dot on paper and saying it is as deep or as challenging as a hyper volume sphere existing in more than 4 dimensions. When it comes to comparing WOW to Eve Online, it is much like a line on paper compared to a 3d sphere. Much of Eve is actually “played” so to speak without logging on the game. This is the meta game and uses player abilities, intuition, initiative, and internet open data sourcing. In so far as two of them are still games with game like consequences, Eve is much more realistic because it has ruthless competition and freedom. Sword Art Online then takes that even further in a VR MMORPG to say that you have complete freedom, and complete risk as well, with no “game like” buffer, reload, respawn, etc. Make a mistake because something is hard? You’re not getting another try. If you think that is as easy or easier than reloading the same raid after wipe after wipe in World of Warcraft, you should consider just exactly what kind of effects humans acquire when they face the notion of permanent failure vs temporary failure.

    SAO could be the simplest game in human existence, yet it would be infernally difficult, because the risks are enormous and the learning curve is almost vertical due to the fact that mistakes generate no second chances.


  6. The more I see of SAO’s anime episodes, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that they got the battles just right. A lot of the details were faithfully scribed over. I always thought SAO as a light novel, would also make a really good action anime. They seem to be aiming for a conclusion to Volume 1 Aincrad at Episode 13. If they continue for more, they would have to go for Volume 2. I’m not sure if that can be done given the change in venues (world building). They would lose a lot of the game mechanics built up from the first season.

    Episode 2 and Episode 9 were particularly thrilling in terms of the action sequences and how they tied so well together with the written story. While reading the story gave me some details, there was nothing earth shattering in terms of additional information. A lot of subtle “delay effects” from using Sword Skills can even be seen in the animation. What most people thought might be “posing” or “slow motion capture”, would be more accurately termed “delay from attacks or being attacked”.


  7. 1.There are no bugs,hacks but there is only one exploit, Sleep PK where a pker happens upon a sleeping player in a town and then controls their hand to initiate a duel to kill them.
    2.There isn’t an official judicial system or political body however there is the army a huge player guild in the town of beginnings where they try to emulate the real army.
    3. there is no prostitution in SAO that being said the players can fall in love get married and have sex in the game (it doesn’t go into detail of how it would be done aside from unlocking the option that enables it.).
    4.Nope they wont
    5.actually this is probably, a byproduct of them doing the story in chronological order as a few of the anime episodes are actually side stories that never get told in the original book and are in fact treated as separate books. because they did this minor details had to be cut from the anime and also due to the way anime is as a whole genre a few scenes are changed to make it more compatible. an example the rosalia bridge fight is slightly different dialogue is changed the gate crystal (originally corridor) was actually opened and most of them leave peacefully after the fight rosalia taunts kirito like in the anime however in it kirito grabs her by the collar and threatens her to either go by herself or be thrown in and in fact didnt point a sword at her neck, other changes are mostly to the actions done by the characters lizbeths episode has them in just sleeping bags but miss the explanation of what the sleeping bags what they are and the fact they are high priced rare items, there’s a campfire and cooked food that kirito made for the both of them even before they went to sleep. and also totally misses a debate between lisbeth and kirito about how to escape.

    i want to add one thing after all this that i think is worth noting and that is the sword art online anime is based on volume one and the side stories, there are 12 volumes after 1 (aside from the side stories) focus on the aftermath and other problems associated with sao. So i suggest you read the novel i started 4 -5 days ago from posting this and i have been totally hooked on it its more descriptive its slightly slower cause of it though and the volumes all are 120 or higher in pages.
    so you too can love both the anime and the book go here http://www.baka-tsuki.org then go to light novel then sword art online (also theres accel world by the same author of sao) have fun reading it oh and heres a bit of trivia the same artist for the illustrations of sao books abec also did artwork for the anime. 🙂


  8. After watching 13 episodes, I have to give props to A1 for creating a very emotional, touching, rendition of SAO. Even if they can’t adequately render the Second Arc of the story, I’m more than satisfied with the work they have done so far with the light novel original.

    I thought the side stories actually made the main characters’ motivations much clearer. Which is why I said to pay close attention to the motivations behind those events and how it affects the viewpoint of the protagonist. While each episode is a story in itself and can feel like a slice of life, it helps to pain a broader picture of the world for the first Arc’s conclusion. This is useful since one does not benefit from the exposition in the novel, for the anime. Though I found the anime to be very easy to understand and nothing felt off or changed to be consistent with the pattern or episode scheduling.

    Unlike Chrome Shelled Regios, where the balance was off between action, science fiction, and romance, SAO anime feels very well balanced.


  9. Now when new series came out, I can answer most of your statements.

    1. No. There is no bugs.
    2. There is guilds and if guild is strong, what they say is law. This is kind of politics. For example, few members of guild were messing with people in first starter town. They asked for money or something like that until our main hero with his lady kicked theyr as*es ^^
    3. Kirito had sex with his lady Assuna. 🙂 They didnt show actual sex scene because then these series would become hentain, but they implied it pretty well.
    4. As of now, main hero have beaten the game and have come out of it. We can see real world, but I have feeling he will go back for his lady.
    5. Wow is one of the most shallow games ever. Modern games are noob friendly, meaning that only noobs will enjoy them. You cant steal someones equipment, meaning that death doesnt matter. This fact makes game meaningless and shallow all by it own. There is no point in doing anything, since death doesnt matter. Not to mention class system, which means that class x will allways (90%) beat class y. Robots could play this game just as well. In SAO its about skill and equipment and you can loose equipment meaning that game-play is much deeper then your noob wow.


  10. There is a game, almost exactly like Swords Art Online. Here are introductions
    -The more you use a weapon, the more skillful you become with this weapon.(Swords, Maces, Stabbing weapons, Bows/Crossbows, Magic)
    -You can kill other players and loot everything they had on them
    -Steal from other player backpacks
    -Buy a mount or tame a wild one. Ride on them or order to attack other player
    -Become a crafter
    -Buy a house
    -Buy a raft
    -Create or join a guild and fraction
    -Both you and your mount will get hungry, so you need to eat

    This is very short introductions. There are more stuff about this game. “Forensics Evolution” allows you to look on players corpse and tell who killed him and how long ago. Skills like “Tracking” allows you to track down players who ran away from you. There is everything from SAO, like “Cooking” skills and PK (player killers). Only thing I must add, this game is all about game-play. Graphics in this game sucks, but game-play compensates for that. Since you can loot and be looted, game-play becomes very deep. If you hit opponent while he cast a spell, casting will fail. Every spell have different casting time and effect. All this makes very deep game play you will never find in noob friendly games like wow, dc and bulls*its like that.


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