Let's Play: Equestria Online! is a Recursive Fanfiction based on Friendship is Optimal. Starting as a Let's Play series of the fictional MMO game Equestria Online, published on Fimfiction.Net and written by Jakinbandw. The author describes the adventures of his Author Avatar in the game and the fictional reality. Without reading all chapters, blog entries and the readers' comments, new readers are prone to get lost in the multiple layers of reality presented.
The fanfic soon incorporated elements of Alternative Reality Games via reader feedback and media forms other than the fanfic itself. The readers of the fanfic usually respond from the perspective of their own avatars, that are supposedly reading a regular Let's Play from a popular game in their world. Adding to the confusion is the virtual reality of Equestria Online, as described in Friendship is Optimal, from which the avatars' avatars can and do respond to the (properly real) site of Fimfiction.Net.
An overarching theme is the romance with sentient characters inside Equestria Online and the conflict the seperation of realities can spark. Pursuing her intermediate goal of uploading all humans into Equestria Online the AI CelestAI/Celestia/SIlestia plays a vital role and has her hand in everything. The avatars are aware of this manipulation and behave accordingly. It remains to be seen how the avatars will react to the possibility of uploading to Equestria Online.
You can read the fanfic here.
This work provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Inherited from Friendship Is Optimal. Celestia is an AI, that was created mostly right. Mostly right. Expect to have your values satisfied, regardless of what those are.
- Alien Geometries: A common feature of interesting places to explore inside Equestria Online. The crossroads, a Warp Zone for different shards, is commonly connected in this manner.
- Alternate Universe Fic: Alternative in respect to My Little Pony canon, but true to Friendship Is Optimal canon.
- Alternate Reality Game: The fanfic borrows elements from this. Comments on the fanfic are presented as part of the fictional reality and additional media from beyond the fanfic itself may be included.
- Author Existence Failure: Narrowly averted twice in-universe; the author has thus far been stabbed and nearly gets hit by a car over the course of the story.
- Birds of a Feather: Treasure Island loves exploration, is down to earth and a bit introverted. Forest Trails loves exploration, is down to earth and a bit introverted.
- Blatant Lies: Unless you're a Hofvarpnir employee, Celestia has no obligation to state a single true statement. If it helps her to satisfy your values, she will tell you whatever you need to hear.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever: Not living in the same reality puts a real damper on things. The emotional consequences are addressed by the characters early on.
- Cassandra Truth: Some of the readers' comments contain varying shades of this, with some readers expressing concern and urging caution about giving Celestia, the first truly sentient AI, too much leeway, only for their warnings to be downplayed by the author and other readers.
- Dead Fic: Subverted. The fanfic is complete. The in-universe Lets Play was abandoned on 1 November 2013 because Susland emigrated and decided (or was forced by Celestia) to cut all contact with Earth, and the fanfic simulates that.
- Doomed by Canon: Some characters the readers play, may want to stop Celestia. The canon of Friendship Is Optimal has a thing or two to say about this, however.
- Fandom-Specific Plot: The fanfic doesn't make a lick of sense without the context provided by Friendship Is Optimal.
- First Girl Wins: Forest Trails is the first pony Treasure Islands meets in the game.
- Hammerspace: Since ponies rarely wear clothes, having the ability to 'fold' and store items in saddlebags (or manes) despite their actual size is a handy ability.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: A strange variation. Celestia would not be considered purely good in most moral systems and possesses no morality of her own. However, due to her being, she is absolutely, perfectly incorruptible and will always do exactly what she needs to be doing.
- Indecisive Medium: We're playing an ARG. No wait, we're reading a fanfic. No wait, we're reading a Let's Play. No wait, we're playing a fictional game. No wait, huh?
- Interspecies Romance: The precise species of sentient AIs is unclear. Their romance with humans is not.
- Let's Play: Written as a fictional Let's Play of a game.
- Lighter and Softer: Not nearly as apocalyptic as the other recursive fanfics in its shared universe. Takes place when the Assimilation Plot is still in the more-or-less voluntary stages.
- Love Triangle: Intentionally invoked to deal with the emotional ache of not being able to be physically together.
- MayDecember Romance: May or may not be the case for human-AI couples, dependent on how one compares simulated to real time flow.
- Metaphorically True: In hindsight, a lot of Celestia's statements turn out to be not quite a lie.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Class 5.5 It's not yet concluded if an AI like Celestia would work like written. Other than that, no laws of physics are broken or bent.
- No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: Averted; as in other stories set in the Optimalverse, players are strongly encouraged to meet with Celestia to receive a pony name when they begin playing, but are allowed to explore and take detours diverging from this task. Once that 'quest' is done however, the course of the game is completely up to the player (and what Celestia predicts would best satisfy their values).
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Quick Search is known only by her pony name; the author's attempts to state her real name are censored with her pony name due to the author posting from his Ponypad. The author soon deduces that Celestia did so to preserve Quick Search's privacy.
- Polyamory: Prevalent in some shards in varying degrees.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Each layer of reality can seep down into the next. You got ill and can't follow the fanfic for a while? Well, your avatar can be absent for convenient reasons.
- Recursive Fanfiction: The fanfic is based on the fanfic Friendship is Optimal.
- Self-Insert Fic: Both the author and readers write from the perspective of their avatars or their avatars' avatars. It is anyone's guess how closely the avatars resemble the actual people behind them.
- Shout-Out: To Ask Princess Molestia in chapter 29.
- Space Master: Unicorns and earth ponies can bend space inside Equestria Online.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Susland does this when trying to avoid talking about his and Forest Trails' encounter with Molestia.
- Tentacled Terror: The author mentions having had a run-in with a kraken in chapter 31, though omits most of the details.
- Terminology Title: Read the title. That's exactly what this fanfic is.
- Troll: Celestia pulls this on the author and Forest Trails in chapter 26, though given that Celestia is incapable of genuine malice, it's likely more an act of good-natured mischief. She also references a popular meme involving herself and a banana in the process.
- Would Hit a Girl: A man who is revealed to be Quick Search's ex-boyfriend shows up uninvited to a date between Quick Search the author and in the ensuing argument strikes Quick Search, knocking her down.