Halliday's Easter Egg Hunt is the central plot of the Ready Player One universe.
It was the last game created by James Halliday before he died in an attempt to find an heir for his vast fortune and pass ownership of the OASIS simulation to someone worthy. The Hunt was also a way for Halliday to encourage the entire world to share his passion for the culture of the 1980's era.
In order to find the Easter Egg, people would need to find three keys and open three gates scattered throughout the OASIS. After opening the three gates, one would be tested for their worthiness through unspecified rites and trials. Should someone pass all challenges presented to them, they would be granted administrative powers over the entire OASIS simulation and the contents of James Halliday's multi-billion dollar fortune.
Individuals that spent every free moment of their lives searching for the egg were known as "egg hunters", but this was quickly truncated to the nickname gunters.
Clues to Continue the Quest
Throughout the Easter Egg Hunt, Halliday left several clues to gunters to aid in their journey to finding the Easter Egg. Although two clues, the Original Poem and The Limerick, were publicly accessible, other clues and poems could not be found (nor would they be relevant) unless an OASIS user satisfies a relevant precondition to unlock the next clue. For example, The Quatrain was hidden to the world until Parzival opened the First Gate. Although the Quatrain became widely known to the world, it would not be relevant to anyone who had not acquired the Copper Key and opened the First Gate.
In order to motivate people to embark upon his Hunt, Halliday defined, albeit vaguely, the ultimatum and goals of his hunt. In Anorak's Invitation, James Halliday says the following:
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
Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits, And those with the skill to survive these straits refers to the two initial tests required before reaching The End: beating James Halliday's high score in Tempest and completing the Flicksync of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Will reach The End where the prize awaits After completing all the tests put before them, an avatar will reach The End, where The Egg awaits.
The Limerick is a second poem meant to aid gunters in their quest. In Anorak's Almanac, many letters throughout Halliday's journal entries had nearly invisible notches made near them. Although seemingly random, it was found that isolating all the letters with notches in them and placing them in chronological order would reveal a hidden message.
The Copper Key awaits explorers
In a tomb filled with horrors
But you have much to learn
If you hope to earn
A place among the high scorers
But you have much to learn if you hope to earn a place among the high scorers states that in order to enter the module, you must have "much to learn". It is implied that this refers to students located on Ludus, where the Tomb of Horrors was located, indicating that James Halliday wanted a young adult to be the first to attain the Copper Key; users who did not study on Ludus funneled into the Tomb of Horrors after Parzival, Art3mis and Aech, all of whom were students at various OASIS Public Schools, locate the Tomb of Horrors and gain the Copper Key.
When an OASIS user acquires the Copper Key, they are presented with a single line of text.
What you seek lies hidden in the trash on the deepest level of Daggorath.
This line references the TRS-80, which was commonly known as the 'Trash-80'. the first computer owned by James Halliday. A replica of the computer could be found on Middletown, a reconstruction of Halliday's home town. Daggorath is a reference to Dungeons of Daggorath, a video game found in the shoebox next to the TRS-80. By plugging the game into the console and completing its story mode, the First Gate would open.
Following the completion of the First Gate, an OASIS user would be presented with another poem in order to guide them to the Jade Key. It is referred to as "The Quatrain" by Parzival, due to it having four lines of text and an alternate-line rhyme scheme.
The captain conceals the Jade Key
in a dwelling long neglected
But you can only blow the whistle
once the trophies are all collected
The captain conceals the Jade Key indicates that the Jade Key is hidden in a box of Captain Crunch cereal; this location of the box is revealed in the next line.
in a dwelling long neglected references Zork, which is described as taking place in a long neglected house.
But you can only blow the whistle once the trophies are all collected Inside the setting of Zork, the white house, there is a box of Cap'n Crunch cereal. The box mentions a free whistle included. However, they can only blow the infamous phone phreaking Cap'n Crunch whistle, which turns into the Jade Key, once the trophies of the Zork Quest are all collected.
Origami Unicorn and Test Quote
Continue your quest by taking the test.
Both the wrapper and line of text are references to the Blade Runner franchise; the quote likens to the test administered by a Voight-Kampff machine, and the wrapper mimics a scene similar to the final scene of the original Blade Runner movie, where the wrapper is folded into an origami unicorn. By saying "unicorn", the wrapper will fold into this very shape on its own.
After completing the Second Gate, the user is presented with a single five-pointed red star. The star is present on the cover art of Rush's 2112 album; by travelling to Syrinx, a user could attain the Crystal Key necessary to open the last and final gate. The Crystal Key is found by locating the guitar used to inspire the protagonist of the eponymous song, and returning it to the priest's altar.
Hidden 2112: Discovery Message
Upon discovering the guitar in the waterfall cave, an avatar can play the entirety of 2112: Discovery to unlock a hidden message that becomes necessary to unlocking the Third Gate. A user can acquire the Crystal Key without revealing this message, but will be unable to open the Third Gate without the knowledge revealed by the message.
The first was ringed in red metal
The second, in green stone
The third is clearest crystal
And cannot be unlocked alone
The first through third lines refer to the Copper, Jade, and Crystal Key respectively by their appearance when viewed in the overworld. The final line reveals that the Third Gate cannot be unlocked alone, inferring that multiple copies of the Crystal Key are necessary to unlock the Third Gate.
"The location of the Third Gate is indicated by a single letter "A" on the Crystal Key; the letter A is identical to Anorak's logo and is most often associated with Anorak. The logo means that the Third Gate is located at Castle Anorak on Chthonia. Only avatars who have the Crystal Key in their inventories will be allowed to enter Castle Anorak, but they will not be able to open the Third Gate without two other unique versions of the Crystal Key."