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Headscratchers / Ready Player One

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  • So this is a headscratcher from somebody who enjoyed the book, but found this to be the largest plot hole. How did OASIS get popular as an mmo with a permadeath system in place? I understand the idea of an extremely immersive mmo that has slowly replaced traditional life, but who in their right mind would devote so many hours into an mmo where if you slip up once it's game over, restart from the beginning. Could you imagine if World of Warcraft launched with such a system? Now I understand from a narrative point of view it's important to have a constant threat, but why couldn't a system like in .hack//SIGN work? In that franchise, you need to log out properly to save your level and progress, and if you die, you log back in to your last save, or you revert to a previous save. It just feels like a misunderstanding to why rogues are interesting. It's a small investment, usually a few hours overall, and when you die, you get to experience a new game entirely with a new character and load-out. Generally, it sounds like OASIS is a static environment, so if you die, you just have to slog through the same stuff again, if you even get that far after resetting. And I don't remember reading any proper explanation in-universe to the permadeath.
    • One of the complaints that Art3mis has was that the Lich was always beating her at Joust, and ended up killing her. Either she sinks a lot of money into reobtaining the necessary items, or she is able to store items into either an account or private chatroom rather than the avatar (i.e. only loses inventory items.) This could be similar to a "medium-core" death system where there's a major penalty for dying but you don't lose absolutely everything.
      • First, Art3mis stated that she was nearly killed, not killed every time, and she always stocked up on healing items beforehand. Also, they do lose everything upon actual character death.
      • In addition to the above here, in some modern MMOs, if a fight with an enemy is started and you can get out of the area, the enemy will stop chasing you. A great example are some of the Arkfalls in the video game Defiance. If you find yourself in the middle of it and don't want to participate, you can run or drive out of the area and any enemies that spawned and chasing you will stop following you will stop and turn around. So, combine healing potion and her being able to move fast (considering she has the Chucks with speed and flight), she could try to start the task of trying to beat the Lich King, and when she loses and he begins to try and kill her, she can heal and get the hell out of the Tomb of Horrors faster than most people can.
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    • The way it works as I understand it is you have a lifetime account, but only one avatar/player character at a time. If you die you drop your inventory (provided you were killed in a way that wouldn't also destroy your inventory) but items you own not in your immediate possession remain intact, and items themselves have a certain XP value tied to them (Wade mentions picking up XP from collecting treasure in the Tomb of Horrors). You then create a new Avatar and and start over at level 1, but with your credits intact since they are tied to your OASIS account and not your avatar. From there you could use a teleport booth to return to wherever you died and pick your inventory back up to quickly gain back some of your levels. It's a pain, but not insurmountable.
    • Permadeath + superweapons. While real life technically has the same combination, Oasis makes this situation much more common due to their ease of purchase on a public auction, even capstoned by an artifact that can wipe out an entire sector. How would the economy even handle this form of stress where large sections of property can be rapidly and instantly destroyed in a blink of an eye?
      • Well, I think the WMD situation is actually helped by the fact that OASIS has permadeath. Imagine the frustration you as a player go through if you lose so much as an hour of progress. I've even actually abandoned some games for a while simply because I forgot to save and now I have to play for a few hours to get back to where I started. Now multiply that feeling hundreds or thousands of times over. People get married. It's not even a lifestyle. Players could grow so attached to their characters that dying in the game would almost be like dying in real life. In a world where people could just respawn then people would feel free to unleash everything upon everyone because of little consequences, but introduce permadeath and the massive player investment and you get the same kind of mortal fear that prevents nuclear weapons use in real life. Also, look at the EVE community if you want an idea of how an economy works under the constant specter of destruction. In addition, yes, tons of property can be destroyed at any given moment, but we still have an economy in spite of WMDs in real life; sure, the possibility is terrifying, but they've been around so long and there are so many diplomatic protocols and safeguards in place to prevent the extinction of mankind that we can just go about our lives like normal; nuclear weapons have gone from an Outside-Context Problem for diplomats and military planners to something that's just an accepted part of international politics. Lastly, perhaps some high-level players have established some sort of balance of power to prevent conflict.
  • So you've started with your friend a universal simulation that is now basically the most important thing on the planet, improving the lives of billions. Your friend dies, but before dying he initiates this crazy game where the winner will get everything. An evil megacorp comes up and makes it abundantly clear it intends to win the game and ruin everything forever, and it resorts to all sorts of underhanded tactics including actual MURDER to achieve this goal. You have an immortal avatar so you can wish this entity eliminated and it will instantly vanish from OASIS - but you don't do it, instead only helping from the sidelines. How is this logical in any way? How does it not make Morrow a petty egomaniac more interested in the fun of the game than in doing the right thing? Sure, he eventually helps the main characters and enables them to win the heavily-rigged-against-them game, but doesn't *actively* do anything to prevent all the cheating and patently unethical tactics IOI are employing. How does this satisfy Halliday's request of keeping the game fair?
    • Well, every quest needs a bad guy. Maybe Halliday probably knew long before hand that IOI would attempt to try to take over OASIS by joining in the Hunt and cheat every which way they could to be able to get to the end, which is probably why he didn't establish any rules for the Hunt. Think of it like this: would Lord of the Rings have been as exciting if there were no bad guys impending on the Fellowship's quest to destroy the ring? No, it wouldn't have. Would Left 4 Dead be just as enjoyable if there weren't infected people trying to kill your character and the team you're a part of? No, it wouldn't be. Halliday could have purposefully set this up so that whoever it is that are at the top of the list would have a common enemy to face (much like how any players of D&D would have as well). So, he ended up asking Og to be like a Dungeon Master like he did years ago when they used to play D&D in the basement, making sure those who played fair in the Hunt completed the quest and not to impede on the battle with IOI because they were the Hunt's version of the monsters that the players had to face.
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    • Ogden Morrow and all current and former GSS employees are forbidden from participating or interfering directly in the hunt. The few times he does interfere are not directly related (One: He destroys the Sixers targeting Art3mis and ParZival at his birthday party, and Two: provides them a safe place IRL from where to launch their attack). Even if he did bring complaint against them legally that would be in violation of the terms of the game. Halliday was plenty smart, but for all his genius the book it very clear in stating that he quite often lacked basic common sense, and the terms of the game as it relates to IOI (or more specifically, as it doesn't) is one of those examples.
    • For all we know, Morrow may have been running subtle, untraceable interference on IOI all along. (It does seem interesting that IOI, who are supposed to have the most comprehensive library of Halliday lore, along with the brightest minds money can buy, took so long to find the first two keys.) However, Og's ability to take overt action, despite his in-system powers, are actually pretty limited in practice. Let's say he killed all Sixer avatars and and perma-banned all IOI accounts as punishment for their abuses. IOI would just find some way back into the system, and this time they'd be a lot more stealthy and difficult to trace. At least the way things are now, it's easy to identify IOI's agents and figure out their strategy. The Sixers' greatest weakness is their overconfidence; force them to move into the shadows and they'll be that much tougher to deal with next time. Besides, without ironclad proof of IOI's wrongdoing, any overt action by Og to sabotage them using his sysadmin powers would drag Halliday's whole legacy into a protracted legal mudfight – which would violate Halliday's dream of letting noble competition determine the winner just as much as what the Sixers are trying. Morrow didn't really have many good options.
  • This is certainly going to negatively impact the film adaptation even with Spielberg at the helm, but were all intellectual property laws suddenly abolished? How did OASIS get off the ground without massive legal battles over its content? Surely the Crapsack World's big media companies aren't going to lose creative control over their works without a fight. YouTube barely escaped shutdown by Viacom lawsuits after implementing draconian automated ContentID. How would Disney feel about its brands (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) being treated as if they were public domain in the OASIS?
    • A few things:
      • Wade mentions a few times that for a few key worlds (like Zork, I believe) that they had bought the rights. Given the state of the world, not that surprising. This may happen for other licensed works as well, even if it's not explicitly spelled out.
      • Maybe they are public domain. This is an alternate history, and the only reason Disney still has rights over everything is because they keep having the definition for public domain changed. Given that those corporations will have likely folded by then anyway, they actually would lapse into public domain anyway.
    • They aren't treated as public domain. The book outright states that works like Star Wars, Firefly, etc. were licensed from their owners. Basically OSS paid Disney and other copyright holders to use their works in their game. As the OASIS expanded it became a very good idea to license your works to GSS because it was incredibly profitable.
      • Since the book takes place in the relatively distant future, a lot of "cult classic" works will also be even cheaper to license.
    • One of the worlds mentioned being in the OAISIS is Azeroth. Canonically, it went online in 2012, when World of Warcraft was still very popular. Did they wait until everyone jumped ship to buy out Blizzard? Or maybe you need an active subscription to World of Warcraft to be allowed on that particular planet, making it effectively a port?
      • Considering that the books are set in 2044, and World of Warcraft right now gives a partial version of the game for free, possibly Blizzard, by then, have taken it like a lot of games, and made it 'fully free forever'. However, items still need to be bought and paid for, and likely Blizzard takes a cut for items from sales on Azeroth.
    • My idea is basically that OASIS doesn't need to get the rights because OASIS is so huge and everyone is so absorbed in it that companies actually want to give or even pay OASIS the right of players to meet their characters and explore their worlds as a form of advertising. It's not that ridiculous; just look at what happened to music radio in real life. When radio first started, it was the artists who needed the radio to succeed, but now it's radio that needs the artists to succeed. Also, it's important to remember that not all economic interactions are intuitive; theoretically speaking I should have to pay less (or even get paid for) wearing a branded T-shirt seeing as I'm turning myself into a walking ad, but nonetheless we live in a world where they against that line of economic logic cost more.
      • Alternatively, OASIS seems to work on a free-to-play model wherein the entire game is theoretically free but getting to the coolest stuff the fastest requires money; perhaps OASIS gets to have Star Wars in it if Disney gets a cut of the item transactions. In other words, talk to Han Solo all you want, but you have to pay for an actual lightsaber.
      • I think its easier to understand a lot of these questions just by thinking of the Oasis not as a game itself but the future internet as a whole.
    • In addition to what others have said, the book has an offhand reference to something being out of copyright on account of it being more than forty years old, which implies that copyright terms were drastically (and retroactively) reduced at some point. That may seem incredibly implausible, but then again, in this setting the extremely copyright-hostile Cory Doctorow is the interim head of OASIS, which may have given him enough power to force such a change through.
    • Another possibility is that due to how the state of the world is, some of the companies and individuals that existed that created or previously owned those properties may no longer exist in 2045.
  • This is more of a plea for a quote, but if the OASIS credit is "one of the world’s most stable currencies, valued higher than the dollar, pound, euro, or yen", then how much is Halliday's $240-billion fortune worth in practice?
    • Arguably that doesn't actually matter via Fridge Brilliance as it means that the characters control the BASIS OF THEIR OWN CURRENCY now.
    • Yeah, when Parzival wins it, he mentions how long his oasis credit amount is, so probably a lot of it is in that instead of dollars.
      • But it still raises the question of why the book describes Halliday's wealth in dollars when his own credits are apparently the world's main currency.
  • How on earth did it take everyone so long to solve the second clue? To anyone with any familiarity with interactive fiction at all, the reference to the house and trophies (in the context of classic games) instantly makes the solution obvious. The story sort of handwaves it as Wade not being interested in the topic, but how could IOI's massive team of investigators, pouring over every possible game for clues, possibly miss a reference to one of the most iconic images in one of the most famous games of all time, for six months?
    • Well, because no one took "to learn" from the limerick as being the translation of the Latin word "Ludus", and associated it with the planet of Ludus (plus people in 2045 probably don't learn Latin, or any other languages as often, since it'd be a VERY dead language {and since the OASIS seems to have translator programs, the language barrier doesn't seem to exist, thus many probably don't take foreign languages anymore because they see no need to when computer programs do it automatically for you}. Hell, how many people nowadays, in real life no less, can tell you the Latin word for "to learn"?). And, as Wade mentioned himself, Ludus was considered the most boring of planets in all of the OASIS. So, it makes sense that no one would ever bother to look there. In addition to that, Ludus had been around in the OASIS for a while, so no one had any reason to suspect that Halliday may have included anything on it as a part of the Egg Hunt, and probably assumed he recreated the Tomb of Horrors somewhere else (he could have programmed Ludus years before he even decided himself to include it in the Egg Hunt and then went back to add it in).
      • That was the first clue. The second one was the one with the white house from Zork. Anyone searching a database of info on old games for trophies + house would turn up tons of references to it, since that image is extremely iconic.
      • But the dwelling long since abandoned could be anything, not JUST video game related. Wade went to multiple abandoned dwellings when trying to figure out possible clues, including some in films, with Wade citing the cabin from The Evil Dead, all because they fit that description. The clue was vague enough that it wouldn't have been easy to find, even with the trophies mentioned. It was just as vague as the inscription above the third gate (where even Googling the words forwards or backwards would have pulled up everything except the Schoolhouse Rock lyrics). Even Googling "house, trophies", "abandoned house, trophies" or "dwelling long since abandoned, trophies" in RL dooesn't pull up anything Zork related with the exception of the usage of it in the book. And even Anorak's Almanac may have mentioned hundreds of text based adventures by title, not by descriptions of settings from the interactive fiction. The reason why Wade didn't realize it was Zork was because he played it one time a long time before the start of the story. Art3mis may have figured it out because she may have gotten to that part of the Almanac, started playing Zork and realized the description seemed to fit and she went to Zork in the OASIS on a hunch much like how Wade did with his guesses. As Kevin Flynn best put it in TRON, which applies to all fiction works, "On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy." For readers who read the novel multiple times, it's easy to know it's Zork having read the novel. Can you, fellow troper, honestly say that you knew it was Zork the first time you read it?
  • Why did they reduce the number of RUSH references in the movie? They played such a large role in the book. Yet in the movie, all we see is one poster and one t-shirt featuring RUSH. This especially puzzles me since RUSH plays music very much pertaining to subjects in the book- while most mainstream music is nowhere near as nerdy or eccentric.
    • It may have to do with the fact that Rush is a very niche fanbase. The reason why it's included in the book and to such an extent is due to the fact that Cline is a fan of them (and Ready Player One isn't the only thing he's written that features Rush. In the movie Fanboys, one of the characters is a die-hard fan of Rush to the point where he only listens to Rush in his van). Not many people are familiar with their work, and the only song that Hollywood ever uses repeatedly (especially in regards to video gaming) is "Tom Sawyer" (and sticking to that, the San Deigo Comic-Con teaser trailer for the film features that particular song for a film set in a video game).
  • On a somewhat related note to the "Public Domain" Headscrather, how are first-party titles (i.e. Mario or The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo, Halo for Microsoft, God of War or Ratchet & Clank for Sony, and so on) handled in the OASIS?
    • Probably the same way as everything else: the companies bought into the OASIS platform and adapted their games to fit the virtual environment while keeping the gameplay mechanics the same.
  • If Ogden Morrow is pretty much a physical god inside the OASIS, with powers no other avatar has, and he is at the same time acting as a referee to see the contest remains fair, why didn't he step in and destroy the shield the Sixers put over Castle Anorak the moment they put it up? Parzival eventually finds a way to destroy it, yes, but by that point, the Sixers have had unchallenged access to the castle with no gunter being able to get near for over a week. It's a good thing they didn't figure out how to open the final gate before Parcifal was able to put his plan into motion.
    • Halliday has, basically, asked him to take on the role of a Dungeon Master once again for the Egg Hunt. When you look at it in this context, a Dungeon Master provides some information about the situation but leaves the actions and possible solutions in controls with the players. Og stepping in and bringing down the shield would have crossed the line that Halliday had set for him. When you look at the Egg Hunt as a D&D campaign, and Og as a Dungeon Master, the reason behind why he didn't step in becomes clear: this is a campaign that Halliday has written, Og cannot participate any more than being a Dungeon Master, providing resources that the players can use (both in and outside the OASIS), but cannot intervene.

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