When I started working on Solarversia in March of last year, there was one question that kept cropping up whenever I told people the plot. Have you read Ready Player One? I hadn’t, at least not the first couple of times I was asked. I still remember the initial wave of panic I felt when someone told me what RPO was about. “Oh my god! Someone’s already done it, written a book a game played in a virtual world…!” (As if there was only one, rather than an infinite number of stories about such a concept).
Once I’d calmed down I bought the book and devoured it in a few days. It’s a great story, and I’d recommend it to any gamer. But mostly I was relieved at how different it was. It’s set in 2044 rather than 2020. It’s set in a dystopian world, rather than a “normal” world. It’s written in a first, rather than third person perspective. And the author (Ernie Cline) went out of his way to include a lot of 80s trivia, not something Solarversia is really concerned with.
It wasn’t just relief that I felt, however. Ernie had done something else that people hadn’t mentioned; he’d included within the book, an elaborately hidden easter egg (in the media sense of the term, rather than the chocolate sense). And he’d done this for a very good reason: the book itself is about players (called ‘Gunters’) trying to find a virtual Easter Egg that lies concealed within one of thousands of virtual worlds by the OASIS’s creator, the late James Halliday (the OASIS being the name of the virtual world, the equivalent to my Solarversia). In short, he was making the real world reflect the virtual. And that was exactly what I’d had in mind for Solarversia ever since having the vision for a “year long game set in a virtual world’ back in 2010. In my case, it’s not about a easter egg hunt (virtual or otherwise), it’s about making the game for real (so that the real world reflect the virtual). I guess there must be something about creating such stories that leads you to think in this way?
Let’s just say that I became somewhat obsessed with Ernie’s book, studying every aspect of it – not so much the story per se, but rather the story about the story. Because it’s something I’ve always believed to be vital to Solarversia’s success (as blasphemous as it sounds, in some respects the book is nothing more than a promotional vehicle for the real world game). In the course of my study I’ve collected a lot of resources, ones I’ve not seen collected together anywhere else. And I thought that publishing them today, on Easter Monday, two months before I release my own book, would be the appropriate thing to do. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve modestly termed, The Ultimate Collection of Ready Player One Resources – enjoy! (And big thanks to Ernie for leading the way).
These are the best interviews I’ve found with Ernie. I’ve listed them in chronological order, provided a quick description, month and year it took place, and the lengths of the audio recordings / videos. Boing Boing Youtube interview with Mark Frauenfelder. May 2011. 12:45.
KXAN interview. August 2011. 5:56.
Brian from TWiT Game On! channel talks to Ernie about the Ready Player One movie. February 2012. 13:07.
Book and a Latte. June 2012. Blog review, 34 minute audio, transcript provided.
Nerd Approved. July 2012. Details of the DeLorean giveaway including a few pics.
NY Times. August 2012. Where he reveals what his favorite video game is. Hint: it features prominently in the book.
Read Write. March 2015. Earnie talks about the Oculus Rift headset and the future of Virtual Reality.
Check Out The Ultimate Collection of Ready Player One Resources <<< Highlight to Tweet
There’s a lot of stuff out there, across every type of media. It wouldn’t be possible to include everything that’s been created on this one page (it would be way too long), so instead I’ve included pointers to already-existing collections, as well some other stuff that I’ve found most people weren’t aware of. We’ll start with some searches on platforms that aggregate user generated content:
Search Deviant Art for “Ready Player One”
Search Flickr for “Ready Player One”
Search Google Images for “Ready Player One”
Search Tumblr for “Ready Player One”
Search Pinteret for “Ready Player One”
You’ll find a fantastic selection of RPO Covers & Posters on this Pinterest Board. Ever wondered whether Ernie reads any of the fan fiction that’s been written for RPO? Wonder no more. According to this tweet, he does, and even has a favourite piece. Read to the end and you’ll see why, it’s brilliant!
Someone built a VR simulation of the “Stacks” for the Oculus Rift headset:
Someone made a trailer now that Speilberg’s been confirmed as the director for the upcoming film, and it’s pretty good!
The Easter Egg Hunt
As mentioned above, Cline arranged a real world Easter Egg Hunt for the promotion of the book. Instead of inheriting James Halliday’s entire estate (including management and control of the OASIS), which would have been problematic, given that Halliday is a fictional character from the future, Cline promised that the winner would receive a DeLorean (the type of car used in Back To The Future). But what did the real world hunt involve?
Well, the book contained a hidden clue that led to a video game challenge at the first of three Gates (just like in the book). Once the first Gate was ‘solved’, it led to the second Gate (and another video game challenge), and in a similar manner, from there to the third and final Gate, where success meant winning the DeLorean. The Gates rolled out in June, July and August of 2012. The contest was announced on June 5th 2012, here on Ernie’s blog, and here on Boing Boing. Here’s Ernie’s video announcement:
Gate 1) Readers needed to uncover a website URL hidden in the pages of the (physical) book (due to formatting issues it wasn’t present in digital versions). According to this Giant Freakin Robot article, the URL led readers to this page. This ars technica article that provides some information around the creation of the game and also includes this Youtube clip of the game in action:
Gate 2) Cline mentioned in this article on his blog that 931 people had cleared the first Gate (by completing the game and taking a picture of themselves with it’s end screen) and went on to face Gate 2, which was a Facebook game created by game designer Richard Garriott (who was the inspiration for the character James Halliday in the book!) Unfortunately the links to the pictures seem to be broken (his favourite picture of a gunter who had completed the challenge, as well as the images of the leaderboards), so Ernie, if you’re reading this … would love to see them!
The second game was called Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale and involved players building their own DeLoreans. The Facebook link no longer works and I can’t find too much information about it, let me know in the comments if you know anything about it. In the meantime, there’s this tweet:
Gate 3) The only information I could find on this gate came from this G4TV video. It’s definitely worth watching in its entirety. Cline provides an overview of all three challenges, and there’s some footage of Game 2 in action (4:18). Gate 3 was different to the first two (see 4:40). Players were given a choice of 6 video games, and told they needed to set a new world record in one of them to win the DeLorean!
Cline doesn’t mention the games by name, but the video does show their covers at one point (5:12):
I can make five of the games out, here they are, along with links to their Wikipedia articles:
If you know what the one in the bottom left-hand corner is, let me know in the comments…!
UPDATE: Big thanks to ‘Wilder’ who knew what the game was and mentioned it in the comments!
Cline mentions that if nobody was able to set a new world record in any of these six games, his plan was to widen the net to include more games, and keep going until someone managed the task. In the event, the challenge was completed on the 9th August, only 9 days into the challenge, by Craig Queen, who set a new world record in Joust (see Ernie award him his prize from 5:50 onward).
If the prize wasn’t cool enough already, Cline stuck these plates on it:
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) July 11, 2012
Cline’s DeLorean: ECTO-88
In the video where Cline announces the challenge, he mentions that he first thought about giving away his own DeLorean, which he’s named ECTO-88 (because he’s a big Ghostbusters fan). Then he realised he didn’t want to give it away, so bought one off e-Bay to use as the prize. Here’s some stuff I’ve found on his own car, ECTO-88. For a start, he leant it to George RR Martin of Game of Thrones fame for a bit:
The inside of the car:
ECTO-88 is back from the shop and ready to rock. Dig on her new cockpit – and gold EP VII Millennium Falcon dice! pic.twitter.com/EpJ6NL0ZFW
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) August 5, 2014
Tron Guy sitting in it:
The car in Cline’s garage:
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) March 24, 2015
Doing “the Run DMC thing” with the license plate:
Doing “the lego thing” with it:
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) December 18, 2013
Driving around with Hugh Howey, best-selling author of Wool (one of my favourite trilogies!):
And last, but not least, with Wil Wheaton at the Austin Comic Con:
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) October 28, 2012
Trivia and Fun Stuff
The place for stuff that didn’t seem to fit in any of the above sections, a random selection of fun facts and other bits and pieces.
For a start, here’s Ernie and Wil Wheaton Reading the intro to the book, in Seattle Washington, October 2011. If you didn’t already know, Wil Wheaton not only gets a mention in the book, but also reads the audio version that’s available for sale.
Blog post by John Scalzi, the guy who wrote the blurb for the book where Cline talks about the big idea behind the book, all stemming from something that happened when he was 8 years old. Must read!
Ever wanted a comprehensive list of all the references within the book? Here’s an AWESOME Pinterest board that contains pins for every game, video, movie. The board was created by Amy Ratcliffe, the author behind the Nerdist Book Club discussion of the book, part one (of five) here.
Here’s another page that lists of all the references in text format, a list of the movies (showing the covers), an IMDB list of the movies (so that you can check their ratings before you choose which ones to watch).
What about the music from the book? Got you covered! Here’s a blog post from Cline where he provides links to the playlist on Spotify, Grooveshark, Rdio and Youtube.
Were you aware of something called the Atari video game burial? It’s fascinating, go check it out. Well, as per this Wired article, the burial site was excavated in April of 2014. Naturally Cline attended (see the John Scalzi blog post above for why Cline became obsessed with Atari) and ended up writing two lengthy blog posts about the event here and here.
Did you know that Kevin Smith inspired Cline to write Fanboys, his first screenplay?
— Ernie Cline (@erniecline) August 24, 2012
Ready Player One was epic for many, many reasons. You loved it, you’ve read it three times and you’re desperate for more. What to do? Well for a start, you probably want to work your way through this Good Reads list of books About Video Games and Virtual Reality (no prizes for guessing which book is top!)
And if you’re still hungry for more you might want to see what I’m doing with Solarversia. If it takes your fancy, sign up to receive a free copy. Coming in June.