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Warning Spoiler Alert: This article or section contains details about plotlines not covered in the anime. Do not proceed unless you wish to be spoiled.
Kazuto choosing a Spriggan as his avatar

Kirito selecting the race for his avatar in ALfheim Online

An Avatar (仮想体(アバター), Abatā?, lit. "virtual body") in the world of games is the graphical representation of the player that takes a three-dimensional form in games or virtual worlds. Depending on the game, the avatar may either be fully customisable, partially customisable or have a fixed appearance.

In the Sword Art Online Universe, the FullDive system allows the players to completely immerse themselves in the game and take full control of the movement of their avatars with their thoughts via using a VR console. It also allows the player to experience the virtual world by having the VR console replicate the input of the senses experienced by the avatar via inducing the respective electric signals within the player's brain.

In most VR games, the gender of the character is strictly fixed to match the player's real gender, because the long-term use of an avatar of the opposite gender results in adverse effects.[1]

SensesEdit

TasteEdit

Eating in virtual realities, like Sword Art Online, does not simulate the feeling of biting into food.[2] Instead, such virtual realities use a «Taste Reproduction Engine» that Argus and an affiliated environment programming designer had made together.[2] This system sends preprogrammed sensations of "eating" various foods and could make the user feel as if they were actually eating something in real life by sending fake signals to the part of the brain which registers heat, taste, and smell to trick it.[2] The system was originally designed for people on diets or those who needed to restrict the amount of food they ate[2], as eating in the virtual world produces a false impression of being full which does not immediately disappear after the player logs out, thus it is not recommended to eat too much in the virtual world, especially before actual meal time in the real world[3].

Even though virtual realities have alcoholic beverages, the player's body does not ingest even a drop of it, thus, in most of them, the players cannot get drunk by drinking such beverages[4], although players may feel a little light in the head if they consume too much of it in one drink[5]. In Project Alicization, however, drinking alcoholic beverages produces the effects of being drunk, despite the user's body not ingesting any of the drunken alcohol.[4]

Emotion DepictionEdit

Sword Art Online had an astonishing system of recreating players' emotions on their virtual avatars, but had a tendency to exaggerate for effect. It took very little time for sadness to manifest as tears and anger was represented by a reddened face and a bulging vein on the forehead.[6]

CustomisationEdit

In the beta test period of Sword Art Online, all players were allowed to freely customise their avatars: players were able to choose the height and build, facial features and even choose the gender for their avatars. The chosen height of the character did however affect the gameplay of the players, as choosing an avatar with a different height than the player's real body affected the player's sense of distance and thus hindered their movements.

After the announcement of the death game, all player avatars were changed to match the real life appearance of the players based on information about the appearance of their real bodies received from the NerveGear. Although players could no longer change neither the height, nor the build, nor the facial features of their avatars, the game still allowed the players to customise their hair style, hair colour and eye colour.[7] The player's hair colour can be changed with the use of hair dyes that can either be bought from the shops on higher floors or via rare monster drops.[8]

In both ALfheim Online and Gun Gale Online, the player's appearance is generated randomly upon the creation of an account, though in ALfheim Online the chosen appearance slightly depends on the chosen fairy race, as each race possesses certain defining features, for example, most Undine characters have blue hair, while all Cait Sith have cat ears instead of pointy elf ears. Although the appearance of a player's character in ALfheim Online is randomly generated, players have the choice of paying an additional fee if they wish to reconstruct their characters[3] or use in-game barber shops to change their hairstyles[9], while avatars imported from Sword Art Online retain most of their original features, aside from slight changes, like a change of hair colour and getting elf or cat ears.

Damage and PainEdit

In most virtual reality games, the damage an avatar receives is portrayed in the damaged area emitting a red light. Any game based on «The Seed» comes with a «Pain Absorber» feature that nullifies or uses misleads to erase the pain signals that would be generated upon their avatar being injured[10], though intense negative feedback, like magical explosions, may still have unwanted influence on the player's body in the form of headaches or dizziness that last for several hours [11].

Although the feature can be adjusted, it cannot be turned off entirely.[10] The only exception known so far is ALfheim Online, which is based on a copy of the Sword Art Online servers, as Kirito was able to disable it completely using Heathcliff's admin credentials during his battle with Oberon.[12]

In ALfheim Online, the Pain Absorber has 10 levels, with level 10 being full pain absorption and level 0 disabling the effects of the absorber entirely. If the Pain Absorber is set to level 3 or below, the pain affects the player's real body as well.[12]

Although Project Alicization also makes use of The Seed, its Pain Absorber is inactive. As it is a realistic simulation of life, all injuries the avatar suffers produces a realistic sensation of pain. Kirito has even commented that the pain felt in this virtual reality could even be greater than the pain felt in reality, as the brain would normally secrete chemicals that would decrease the pain, or the person would end up in a coma as a defensive mechanism.[13] Additionally, the avatars in this world may bleed upon being injured and even die if the injuries are not treated on time.

DeathEdit

In Sword Art Online and Gun Gale Online, the death of every avatar in the game, both player and non-player, is portrayed by the avatar shattering into infinite polygons. The destroyed avatar is then either deleted entirely, as in the case of the official service of Sword Art Online, or recreated at a re-spawn point, like the Room of Resurrection, after some time with the player receiving a death penalty, which may include loss of experience and even a chance of losing items the player had in his or her inventory, in the beta version of Sword Art Online and Gun Gale Online.

In ALfheim Online, the death of a non-player character's avatar is still portrayed as the avatar shattering into polygons, however the avatar of a deceased player instead becomes a ball of flame, called a Remain Light, the colour of the flame depending on the player's fairy race. The Remain Light feature allows the player to remain at the location of their death for a fixed period of time so that they could be revived on the spot with revival magic or revival items if the player's allies manage to use the spells or items on time. Whether or not the player is revived, the player will still receive a death penalty. The Remain Light form also allows the players to temporarily observe the battlefield before being revived or re-spawning.

In Project Alicization, when a human unit dies, white arrows of light rain down on the deceased and start shaving off the contents of the person's head, portraying the deletion of their Fluctlight from the server. Even if the avatar is revived, the deleted fragments can not be restored, thus in the best case scenario, the person suffers memory loss after being revived, while in the worse case scenario, if important fragments were deleted before the revival art was cast, the person no longer returns even if their Life is restored.

TriviaEdit

  • In the web version, it was mentioned that avatars in the SAO official service would not account for the growth of the player's real body, thus the avatar's parameters like height would be fixed at the value gathered during the NerveGear's scan when players first logged in to SAO.[14]

ReferencesEdit

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