In Ready Player One, author Ernest Cline imagines an all-encompassing virtual reality that has swallowed all media, videogame, and recorded human knowledge into a unified computational framework, known as the OASIS : the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation.
I was more or less raised by the OASIS’s interactive educational programs, which any kid could access for free. I spent a big chunk of my childhood hanging out in a virtual-reality simulation of Sesame Street, singing songs with friendly Muppets and playing interactive games that taught me how to walk, talk, add, subtract, read, write, and share. Once I’d mastered those skills, it didn’t take me long to discover that the OASIS was also the world’s biggest public library, where even a penniless kid like me had access to every book ever written, every song ever recorded, and every movie, television show, videogame, and piece of artwork ever created. The collected knowledge, art, and amusements of all human civilization were there, waiting for me. But gaining access to all of that information turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. Because that was when I found out the truth.
going to school in the Oasis / Virtual Travel
here in the OASIS, the classrooms were like holodecks. Teachers could take their students on a virtual field trip every day, without ever leaving the school grounds. During our World History lesson that morning, Mr. Avenovich loaded up a stand-alone simulation so that our class could witness the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by archaeologists in Egypt in AD 1922. (The day before, we’d visited the same spot in 1334 BC and had seen Tutankhamen’s empire in all its glory.) In my next class, Biology, we traveled through a human heart and watched it pumping from the inside, just like in that old movie Fantastic Voyage. In Art class we toured the Louvre while all of our avatars wore silly berets. In my Astronomy class we visited each of Jupiter’s moons. We stood on the volcanic surface of Io while our teacher explained how the moon had originally formed. As our teacher spoke to us, Jupiter loomed behind her, filling half the sky, its Great Red Spot churning slowly just over her left shoulder.
the revenue model:
Logging into the OASIS was free, but traveling around inside it wasn’t.
…long-distance travel wasn’t cheap. Spacecraft that could travel at light speed were rare, and they required fuel to operate. Charging people for virtual fuel to power their virtual spaceships was one of the ways Gregarious Simulation Systems generated revenue, since accessing the OASIS was free.
But GSS’s primary source of income came from teleportation fares. Teleportation was the fastest way to travel, but it was also the most expensive.
Any business that wanted to set up shop inside the OASIS had to rent or purchase virtual real estate from GSS. (a la Second Life)
In addition to the billions of dollars that GSS raked in selling land that didn’t actually exist, they made a killing selling virtual objects and vehicles. The OASIS became such an integral part of people’s day-to-day social lives that users were more than willing to shell out real money to buy accessories for their avatars: clothing, furniture, houses, flying cars, magic swords and machine guns. These items were nothing but ones and zeros stored on the OASIS servers, but they were also status symbols. Most items only cost a few credits, but since they cost nothing for GSS to manufacture, it was all profit. Even in the throes of an ongoing economic recession, the OASIS allowed Americans to continue engaging in their favorite pastime: shopping.
(page 48-49, 59)
GSS had also licensed preexisting virtual worlds from their competitors, so content that had already been created for games like Everquest and World of Warcraft was ported over to the OASIS, and copies of Norrath and Azeroth were added to the growing catalog of OASIS planets. Other virtual worlds soon followed suit, from the Metaverse to the Matrix. The Firefly universe was anchored in a sector adjacent to the Star Wars galaxy, with a detailed re-creation of the Star Trek universe in the sector adjacent to that. Users could now teleport back and forth between their favorite fictional worlds. Middle Earth. Vulcan. Pern. Arrakis. Magrathea. Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld. Worlds upon worlds.
on zones and laws : tech vs. magic
Each zone had a unique combination of rules and parameters. Magic would function in some zones and not in others. The same was true of technology. If you flew your technology-based starship into a zone where technology didn’t function, your engines would fail the moment you crossed the zone border . Then you’d have to hire some silly gray-bearded sorcerer with a spell-powered space barge to tow your ass back into a technology zone. Dual zones permitted the use of both magic and technology, and null zones didn’t allow either.
on origins of the OASIS:
in December 2012, Gregarious Games rebranded itself as Gregarious Simulation Systems, and under this new banner they launched their flagship product, the only product GSS would ever release: the OASIS— the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. The OASIS would ultimately change the way people around the world lived, worked, and communicated. It would transform entertainment, social networking, and even global politics. Even though it was initially marketed as a new kind of massively multiplayer online game, the OASIS quickly evolved into a new way of life.
Halliday and Morrow referred to the OASIS as an “open-source reality,” a malleable online universe that anyone could access and co-create.
In the OASIS, you could create your own private planet, build a virtual mansion on it, furnish and decorate it however you liked, and invite a few thousand friends over for a party. And those friends could be in a dozen different time zones, spread all over the globe.
2D MMO vs. VR Universe
In the days before the OASIS… MMO players could only see these online environments through a small two-dimensional window — their desktop computer monitor — and they could only interact with it by using keyboards, mice, and other crude input devices.
The keys to the OASIS were the two new pieces of interface hardware that GSS had created, both of which were required to access the simulation: the OASIS visor and haptic gloves.
Working together, the visor and the gloves made entering the OASIS an immersive, tactile and real experience unlike anything else available, and once people got a taste of it, there was no going back.
Finally, A Genuine Utopia
The OASIS was what people had been dreaming of for decades. The “virtual reality” they had been promised for so long was finally here, and it was even better than they’d imagined. The OASIS was an online utopia, a holodeck for the home.
On purpose-specific Rigs:
…they played using elaborate sports-capable haptic rigs that required them to actually do all of their own running, jumping, kicking, tackling, and so on.
On anonymity and stealth
When I reached the red borderline that marked the edge of the school grounds, I glanced around to make sure no one was watching me, then stepped across the line. As I did, the WADE3 nametag floating above my head changed to read PARZIVAL. Now that I was off school grounds, I could use my avatar name once again. I could also turn off my nametag completely , which was what I did now, because I wanted to travel incognito.
all of the above are my personally curated excerpts from
Ready Player One, a most excellent novel by Ernest Cline.
originally published August 2011 by Crown Publishing Group.
There are plenty more books that can help orient you to the VR multiverse.