Open is a metaverse experience coming from Ready Player One creator’s Readyverse



Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One, has been tinkering with metaverse ideas for a while. And his next big project is Open, an ambitious “triple-A quality metaverse experience.”

Developed by game studio Walker Labs in collaboration with Readyverse Studios, Open aims to set itself apart by offering a multi-genre, multi-IP, and multi-mode battle royale experience designed for PC and current-generation platforms.

Cline talked about Readyverse’s plans at the SXSW event in Austin, Texas. His cofounders at Readyverse Studios — Shara Senderoff, Dan Farah and Aaron McDonald (I interviewed them here) — joined him on stage yesterday to talk about the experience, which seems part game and part immersive metaverse. It will have interoperable games and will be powered by Web3 technology. The talk was pretty well attended and the trailer drew some hoots from the audience.

Open derives its name from the principles that The Readyverse will champion including content interoperability and digital content ownership. It’s also about the kind of openness that Parzival, the hero of Ready Player One and Ready Player 2, espouses in Cline’s books.

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Left to right: Shara Senderoff, Ernest Cline, Dan Farah and Aaron McDonald

“We are incredibly proud to announce Open as our flagship experience in The Readyverse. Joining forces with Walker Labs to create a super-team of seasoned game developers from Epic Games, DICE, Microsoft, PlayStation, Mojang, Remedy, Ubisoft, Lucasfilm, Electronic Arts and more has allowed us to tackle the ambitious genre-defining challenge of building a triple-A, MMO open metaverse experience worthy of iconic IP in a way that has never been done before,” the founders said in a statement.

They showed a teaser of the hero of Ready Player One, Parzival, walking through Aech’s garage, which features a cool flying vehicle, a DeLorean car and an old TV with a vintage game console. It’s just a glimpse into the world of Open, which will feature the world of Ready Player One as well as other content from other metaverse projects and games. McDonald said that Aech’s garage, including the flying vehicle, were built from the ground up. They aren’t leftover assets from the Steven Spielberg film.

Leaning into a story

In both a panel and a chat afterward, Cline said the team is leaning into its strength with a focus on storytelling. That’s good because the company has serious competition for the metaverse from other companies that have also not given up on the metaverse, which many say was overhyped.

For instance, Disney announced recently it was investing in Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, to build an immersive experience with Disney’s intellectual properties, mixing characters of all kinds in a Disney universe that is interoperable with Fortnite. But the depth of storytelling in Fortnite and even some of Disney’s lore isn’t necessarily as deep as what Cline can accomplish with the Ready Player One universe.

In fact, I think something like The Last of Us can trump the storytelling of Fortnite, and therein lies the hope for rivals like Readyverse.

Rather than lecture people, Cline conveyed his argument about the importance of the open internet and the open metaverse as the backbone of his story. It was a message delivered through a narrative.

“I was trying to imagine the coolest possible future version of the internet and video games and conflate it together. And what the future would be like in 30 years. A ton of my experience was with the early days of the Internet, which felt like this new frontier,” Cline said. “It was an egalitarian technology that everyone could use and have access to.”

He added, “And regardless of your personal resources, it created all these possibilities. It was like an escape hatch into a better reality. And so picturing the Oasis, which is the metaverse in Ready Player One, I pictured this kind of scrolling virtual world that was interoperable, that was one platform to rule them all. Where every video game you’ve ever played. And every movie you would ever watched — all existed in this virtual space and it was interoperable.”

And he continued, “You could take a magic sword from Middle Earth into a completely other planet Hyborea devoted to Conan or to a Cyberpunk world and you could have Star Wars and Star Trek planets anchored,” he said. “It was a such a fun idea, and it was the video game that I always wanted.”

The tech behind it

In some ways, the cofounders said the metaverse is already here.

“I think the first thing to understand is the metaverse is already here,” McDonald said. “The world that we live in today is this world that is influenced and contains this digital society. People talk sometimes about the digital economy, or digital society. And the reality is if we took the digital out of our world today, it would probably collapse. You know, we’re so dependent on this technology. In fact, the average human will spend about 25 years of their life looking at the screen. We’re already there.”

But this doesn’t mean that the internet is everything we want it to be, Senderoff said. There are new technologies like blockchain that make it easier to establish someone’s digital identity, and then to take that digital identity and spread it across a bunch of platforms. This enables you to take ownership of your own characters and digital items and use them across different games and experiences, Cline said.

McDonald and Senderoff, the founders of Futureverse, merged 11 different tech companies together to create the tech they needed for the metaverse.

Cline brought up the idea of “surrealestate” in the metaverse.

“If you meet somebody from the other side of the world in the metaverse, you could hand over your house to them to hang out. All those things are just the idea of a free and open space that is not controlled by any one entity,” he said. “And that’s what the characters in the story are fighting for. Our open metaverse is egalitarian and accessible to everyone and not controlled by any one person or entity. And that’s what’s so exciting to me about working with you guys is that we’re after that same goal of not creating a closed metaverse, but one where everyone will be able to connect to it.”

Open is coming from the creator of Ready Player One.
Open is coming from the creator of Ready Player One.

Open’s immersive multiverse will be filled with nostalgia-infused biomes featuring characters and cultural legends across iconic franchises. Among a bunch of globally recognized IP to be announced soon, Open revealed Reebok, DeLorean, Cool Cats and FLUF World in its initial teaser.

The trailer shows Parzival’s winged sneakers and a glimpse into the gameplay and immersive world of Open. The third-person battle royale experience is destined to become the flagship title within The Readyverse, a next-gen immersive and interoperable platform dedicated to exploring metaverse games and experiences. Readyverse is clearly trying to re-create an immersive metaverse experience.

In the Ready Player One novels, Parzival lives in the digital world of 2045, but he’s a 1980s pop culture and vintage video game addict who pursues the ultimate prize created by James Halliday, the creator of the metaverse — called the OASIS — who will give his immense fortune away posthumously to whoever solves the riddle of a digital Easter egg hidden in the OASIS.

Back in 2018, Cline took to the stage at SXSW to talk about Ready Player One with Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki. Roblox created a Ready Player One-like scavenger hunt inside its world of user-generated content. That same year, Steven Spielberg’s film based on the first novel debuted, earning $583 million at the worldwide box office and making Cline’s creation into the thing everyone thought about when they pictured the metaverse (a term created by Neal Stephenson in the 1992 novel Snow Crash).

Allies

While the cofounders talked about Readyverse Studios in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat in January, they have been collaborating for years now. The original Ready Player One book came out in 2011, and Farah was talking to Cline about the storyline even before that.

Cline has a new children’s book coming out, but I figure he has more up his sleeve on that front. It’s interesting that he is working with Farah, who focuses on the cinematic side of things. In fact, they have been working together for 18 years now. Senderoff has a lot of connections in Hollywood as well as tech, and McDonald has focused on tech for 25 years.

“We’re partners in crime in all things. So it’s super fun,” said Senderoff.

“It was predicated by the fact that we believe that … there is no IP that has shaped the global culture and the conversation around the potential of the metaverse more than Ready Player One,” Senderoff said.

Cline said that when he wrote Ready Player One, he set it in 2045 because he thought the metaverse was that far away. But he noted that virtual reality and other technologies advanced so much faster than he expected.

“I can’t believe we’re here in Austin, talking about what we’re talking about,” Cline said.

“I’ve been in a position where I’ve been constantly trying to blend and recreate and redefine how creators and technology work together so that it can be a more symbiotic relationship,” Senderoff said. “Ready Player One is referenced in everything that speaks to the metaverse. It is the quintessential IP that shows the masses what the metaverse the potential could be. We knew that if we w20ere going to do something with our technology, we also had to evolve the relationship with the creator. And when we met Ernie and Dan, it was a match made in heaven because you rarely come across people who actually understand what technology can do.”

Open the game

16 9 OPEN Robo Garage
Aech’s garage from Ready Player One.

Challengers inside the world of Open will embark on game-show styled, multi-round collaborative and competitive game modes, but only one hero can emerge victorious.

They can hone and showcase a vast array of gaming disciplines, where tactical positioning, sly movement, strategic shooting, and driving skills take center stage, as you join forces with worthy allies, plan together for strategic advantages, and engage in intense gameplay sessions, the company said.

From characters to cultural legends, Open integrates globally recognized intellectual properties into its diverse and engaging landscapes. Participants engage in game-show-styled, multi-round collaborative and competitive game modes, competing for victory in an immersive and cool environment.

Interoperability and global intellectual property integration

16 9 OPEN Parzival Shoes
Parzival’s winged shoes — from Reebok.

True to its name, Open champions principles such as asset interoperability, digital ownership, decentralization, and security. Some of that tech will come from Futureverse, the blockchain tech company created by Readyverse cofounders McDonald and Senderoff.

Because of this meeting of the minds around openness — on how the good guys should win in the battle for control of the metaverse — Cline, Farah, McDonald and Senderoff decided to start their rebel alliance.

The game introduces globally recognized IP, including Reebok and DeLorean, with a special Ready Player One biome that pays homage to the novel and film. In this biome, fans can participate in competitive experiences inspired by Ready Player One, featuring branded environments and skins.

The Readyverse is a next-gen immersive and interoperable launcher for discovering metaverse games and experiences integrating Web3 and AIGC technologies. It enables users, developers, and brands to create interconnected experiences.

Walker Labs

Walker Labs is working on Open with Readyverse.
Walker Labs is working on Open with Readyverse.

They are collaborating with Walker Labs, which has experienced developers from major studio. The cofounders aim to redefine the open metaverse experience in a way that has never been done before.

Wajhi Jafri, executive producer at Walker Labs, conveyed the team’s commitment to bringing fan-favorite and original IP to life with the highest fidelity.

“With Open, our team of experienced game developers is passionately committed to bringing fan-favorite and original IP to life at highest fidelity,” said Jafri, in a statement. “As avid fans ourselves of the IP entering Open, especially Ready Player One, which came to define the open metaverse for mainstream consumers, we understand the responsibility we have to satisfy gamers and enthusiasts, who have been dreaming of engaging in this type of world for a long time. In close collaboration with Ernest Cline, we’re busy crafting a memorable lore where players can immerse themselves for years to come.”

Readyverse Studios, in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, recently secured the exclusive rights to bring the Ready Player One franchise to the metaverse. The studio positions itself as a next-gen technology and experience studio, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the metaverse.

Open is currently in development for PC and current-generation platforms, promising a metaverse experience. It is being built with Unreal Engine 5. Among the game developers working on the project is Adam Orth, who has created a number of celebrated games.

Most of the big IP is owned and controlled by major studios, but in this case, Readyverse owns a lot of what it needs to create its own metaverse and then build a hub to attract other IPs into it.

Cline said one of his major wish fulfillment ideas centers around his DeLorean car, which he had always dreamed of having and was able to get because of the success of the novel. He was excited to have Steven Spielberg put Cline’s DeLorean into the movie in 2018, and now he wants it in the metaverse as well.

Senderoff said that a big part of Ready Player One is the hunt for Easter eggs, or secret messages or homages built into games by coders. In the novel, the one who finds the Easter eggs gets untold wealth. But in this case, the players who search for the Easter eggs in the hunts will get rewards and a chance to get rewards and further engaged with the story and the brands.

Cline talked about the novel’s focus on the Easter egg hunt devised by James Halliday, the inventor of the Oasis, the metaverse in the novel.

“And so it was kind of marrying that idea with what if Willy Wonka was a game designer and this golden ticket contest was inside greatest video game ever created. So that’s the that’s the heart of it. And it’s kind of that’s the inspiration behind what we’re doing in Open,” Cline said.

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