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I know it’s a fairly new release, but Earnest Cline’s Ready Player One has become one of my all time favorite books.

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The story is set in the near future where Virtual Reality is fully realized as a totally immersive MMO. When the billionaire that created the simulation dies he leave his fortune to the first person that can find the easter egg hidden somewhere inside the game.

The book is a love letter to the 80’s and makes references to everything from Buckaroo Banzi to Max Headroom in such a fantastic way that it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.

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I don’t know what it is about this story but I’ve gone through the audio version about 5 times. (more if you count random sections before bed)

A novel has not captured my imagination like this since Steven King’s Dark Tower series. I’m even listening to the sound track while I type this.

I made fan art of the Author’s face for crying out loud!

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So with this much love of the RPO universe imagine how excited I was when Ernie announced an easter egg hunt in real life!

If you didn’t click the video, the contest is similar to the one in the novel with the prize being a custom Delorean that Ernie bought himself!

Now obviously, I did not win, but I still had tons of fun playing and think it’s worth documenting my attempt to do so.

Three hidden keys open three secret gates
Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits
And those with the skill to survive these straits
Will reach the end where the prize awaits

I felt I had a real chance, so when the first gate opened on June 1st I took it seriously.

The First Gate

The first challenge was based on an Atari game the book’s main character, Wade, created called the stacks.

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The game was straight forward and a lot of fun. With a little bit of trial (and some note taking) I was able to clear it on the first night and submit a picture of me doing so to the offical leader boards.

RPO The Stacks

Unfortunately I didn’t notice the instruction to email the photo and it took a whole week before I realized my error. Because of this my ranking was 207.

But good scores are not the name of the game… at least not yet… and I did well enough to make it to the second gate.

Second Gate Site

The gate was hidden inside Ultimate Collector, a facebook game created by Richard Garriott of Ultima fame and was really cool.

Basically, you created an avatar that went to different yard sales to find cool stuff to resell. when you find the right cool stuff you can assemble the parts to a Delorean time machine.

After I found everything I needed, I turned my Avatar’s yard into a museum for the different parts. Notice the hedges to keep those dirty NPCs away from my car!

wackos jade gate

And yes, the Avatar is a girl based on Gabi, it’s not the first time I’ve done that.

Some players thought UC was a cheap farmville ripoff and cash grab, but I liked it. There were micro transactions for everything, and I was searching a virtual world for obscure pop culture references in order to achieve eternal fame and glory, JUST LIKE IN THE BOOK!

I’ll even admit it made some profit off me. I spent real money and got done in about a day of play.

My friend James (who was a huge help with finding the first gate) took his time and got it done for free, so there was room for every type of play.

The bonus of my quick play though is that I had a much higher standing on the leader board this time at 29.

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Of course the downside to doing a speed run was that I had to wait an entire month before the next gate opened!

The First Gate

And here is where things got REAL!

The final Gate opened at 1am EST on August 1st. Since James and I had to be at our jobs at 7am we arranged to either come in late or not at all so we could focus on the challenge.

The lead-up to the gate’s opening was great fun! A few hundred Gunters (hunters for the egg) had gathered in a chatroom and we were all listening to 80’s music in a virtual Aech’s basement via turntable.fm

Aech's Basement(I didn’t think to get a screenshot that night, but it seems fitting to recreate it as they would in the book)

After about an hour of hanging out it was finally time to find out the final challenge, and it was BRILLIANT! To win you had to have the same skills as Wade and get the World High Score in one of four classic Arcade games.

Robotron:2084
Joust
Black Tiger
Tempest

There was no way I had the skills to do that, but I absolutely loved the idea. Honestly, with so many references to exactly this in the book I should have seen it coming!

Soon after the contest started the rules were changed to allow Atari ports to be used, and Craig Queen proved his metal and got the most Airwolf kickass ride since Airwolf itself.

RPO-winner-home

Now I should admit something. I don’t mind that the rules were changed, but it still bothers me that they were changed without telling anyone.

A few days after the gate opened I went back and read the written rules again to make sure there were not any clues there. Because of this I knew things could and would be added if there was no winner, but I never thought to check out the graphic one and didn’t see that new consoles were added already.

This was the only thing that DIDN’T happen in the books and had I known Atari was on the table I would have at least made a go of it.

Still, I won’t let that ruin the good time I had trying for it. Craig defiantly earned his prize, he got the world high school on the game system TWICE to make sure he won!

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Ernest Cline wrote one of my favorite books and, by far, ran the greatest promotional event of any product ever. It even beat that time you could win a guest roll on Star Trek The Next Generation by eating corn flakes… thank about that for a second!

His next novel has already been announced and Ready Player One was optioned for a film so this should just be the start of a fantastic career.

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and I shall watch his career with great interest.