SAO: The Beginning – Prologue

Translator’s Notes:

Sword Art Online: The Beginning is a newly announced VRMMO project developed in collaboration with IBM Japan, utilizing their “Watson” natural language processing computer. This very short “Prologue” story with no credited author accompanies the project announcement site, yet it is relatively safe to assume that Reki Kawahara penned this story.

Translation Credits:

Translation – defan752, CJ

Editing – defan752, DarthMewtwo

“… Hmm. It failed, huh…”

In the dim Argus research laboratory, Kayaba Akihiko, wearing a white shirt, took a sip of his already stone-cold coffee.

The image that was displayed on the large monitor set up deep inside the room disappeared with a putsun. The research lab, which had been relying completely on the monitor as its source of light, was plunged into darkness.

Just a moment ago, that large monitor had been showing the 3D character model that had mounted an AI software that Kayaba had been developing independently.

But Kayaba was not satisfied at all with its completeness. The character, which was supposed to respond and change with its environment, had not surpassed existing artificial intelligence; its actions were clearly not natural enough.

“It seems that this will take a long time to solve.”

In 2016, his research — developing the world’s first fully immersive VRMMO video game, had encountered a bottleneck.

This was because the most advanced AI technologies and latest network load balancing technologies, fundamental elements of fully immersive VR games — had not reached Kayaba’s standards yet.

Taking another sip of his cold coffee, Kayaba leaned back in his armchair and picked up the portable terminal next to him.

Although this was merely to relax, something for a short break…

His hands stopped at a certain article on a technology news website.

“This is…”

The article was about the “Cognitive Computing System”.


The next day, Kayaba visited a researcher.

“Welcome, Kayaba-san. I’m Doi.”

He belonged to the Tokyo Research Laboratory of IBM Corporation in Japan. In his industry, he was a programmer regarded by most as a “genius”, like Kayaba.

Kayaba was then invited to a projection room. Catching sight of the content being played, he couldn’t help but gasp.

Displayed there was a fairy character even more advanced than Kayaba’s technology, holding a smooth and lively conversation with the researchers.

Doi explained to Kayaba:

“Although it’s still in testing stage, this technology is the result of long-term research. I’m very excited to be able to present this to you. You’re the Kayaba-san who was a college freshman just two years ago, yet now is head of the third development team at Argus!”

Kayaba pondered as he watched the screen, then proposed a deal to Doi:

“I’d like to utilize the cognitive system that your company is currently developing, the ‘IBM Watson’, for my goals.”

Doi nodded.

“The fully immersive technology that you are researching has a great path ahead of it. Please, this way.”

Doi opened a door to a room in the deepest part of the laboratory, and beckoned to Kayaba.


Just like that, the two men decided to join forces to proceed with Kayaba’s research.

Problems that required advanced technologies to solve were drastically improved with the Cognitive Computing System — the latest technology that helped people with decision making through natural conversation. At critical moments in the development process, Doi provided revolutionary technical advice that proved immensely useful in advancing research. The future VRMMORPG that Kayaba envisioned was slowly being constructed into reality.

The improvements did not stop there. Their other conundrum that had involved network load balancing technology was also successfully resolved through theories postulated by Doi and others.

Three months had passed since Kayaba and Doi’s first meeting.

And a few months after…

With the «Sword Art Online» prototype finally complete, invites were sent out to players to begin closed testing —