Prologue To History: Opera Omnia

By Kieron Gillen on March 20th, 2009 at 9:02 pm.

RPS is increasingly beardy again.
I’ve been meaning to play this seriously for a few weeks now, and it looks as if it’s never going to happen with my current work and gaming schedule. So I think it best I draw your attention to it, if it hasn’t been already, and sit back. I can’t remember if Robert Yang pointed me at Opera Omnia over at IndieGames first, or whether it was Jim – either way, it’s the sort of experimental, novel game which really isn’t like anything else I can think of. It’s a puzzle game based around you playing a historian, trying to create theories which would explain how a situation come to pass. You make simulation models explaining migration patterns, and is based around reversing the usual ways of thinking. As in, how could this have come to pass? Honestly, it’s very abstract, very strange and certainly worth playing and thinking about. Get it from here.

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28 Comments »

  1. Hyoscine says:

    Glad I played it, but not for me.

  2. Dinger says:

    Prologue indeed. More like archaeology or one of those other fields subalternate to history.
    Could be fun, I guess. I kinda like the drudgery, myself.

  3. Flint says:

    Manics b-side reference. Respect.

  4. Dave Gates says:

    Kieron is a renound Manics fan, I believe he lists The Holy Bible as one of his favourite albums. But then, anyone worth their salt does.

  5. Flint says:

    But Holy Bible isn’t even in my top 3 Manics album despite me being a gigantic fan, let alone in my favourite albums ever list :(.

    (it’s #4 in the MSP list, and Lifeblood can be found on that all-time list though. Yes I am weird like that)

  6. Campaignjunkie says:

    Wait a sec, I’m Robert Yang! I AM NOW FAMOUS

    … But yeah. Great game, especially with the last level. The interface seems really counter-intuitive and doesn’t exactly help with understanding the concept, but after you get over that hurdle it’s pretty enjoyable, fabricating history and all that. One useful way of thinking about it: “famines ‘increase’ population.”

  7. dadioflex says:

    My name’s Holly Bible and I’m feeling pretty manic…

  8. apnea says:

    Theorizing galore :

    I think this game is a great way to impart the functioning of ideology in its self-justifying process. The politician/boss gives you conclusions; you – perennial task-receiving player that you are – work out the ‘thesis’ to get there. In the abstract, it’s the intellectual model for creation sciences, bell-curve studies, Randism, autism-vaccine scare, climate change denialism, etc.

    That your character believes himself to be a historian is just the game being cynical. You’re merely a means for specific politics of marginalization and ‘other’-ness from higher up the food-chain to find relative academic validation (in this case, though a very biased historical practice) ; you’re only a step above the very program you’re using, as it were.

    It’s also a brilliant illustration of your role in most games, even the putatively ‘non-linear’; you work out the practical means to fulfill an imparted (not chosen) set of objectives.

  9. dadioflex says:

    What differentiates old good games and good old games can often be the interface. This proves it.

    “It automates so much of the drudgery that used to plague your profession.”

    Sanctimonious piffle.

    Imagine a time when TV was actually an option for smart people.

  10. roBurky says:

    That’s really good. Although I got fairly stuck on episode 18.

  11. Kester says:

    It’s a nice idea, but I felt like they didn’t really explain what was going on in the model enough for me to be able to figure out a solution rather than just tinkering until it worked. Like do populations grow during migration or just move from one city to t’other until finished?

    And yes, level 18 can sod right off. Not only is it based on exploiting rounding errors, but I completed the conditions and it still didn’t acknowledge it, at which point I gave up.

  12. Lacero says:

    That’s a great game.

    (Although, I edited the lua file to get past level 18 :O)

  13. apnea says:

    Cheating for lvl 18 is pretty much what you’re expected to do, no matter how you do it (in-game or not). You’re expected to historically prove a religious argument, which is beyond the purview of your program.

    Again, I think it’s rather clever.

  14. Mort says:

    The style of the interface gives it a very dark feel and the setting almost disguises the fact that it´s a puzzle game. I actually found myself thinking in terms of populations and migrations, wich was surprising: I thought it would be easier to separate those concepts from the puzzle, but it was definetly easier to think in those terms. Took quitting the game in anger a few times to get past the first famine level and understanding what it was about, but it was worth it.

    And I agree with Kester, some info about the underlying model controlling how population grows and shrinks would make it a lot more playable and reduce the “trial and error” factor.

  15. Dave Gates says:

    @flint
    Lifeblood? Really? Good grief ;-)

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dave: I liked Lifeblood far more than any post Everything Must Go actually. While keeping the manic’s inherent ludicrousness, it seemed a lot less shrill. It was grown up in a really sad way, which appealed somewhat.

    (Though admittedly, it was the last one I paid any serious attention to)

    Flint: The Holy Bible is a singular artistic achievement in music history. There’s never been anything quite like it.

    Fave manics album, in order:
    Holy Bible
    Generation terrorists
    Everything Must Go
    Gold Against the Soul*
    Lifeblood
    Know Your Enemy
    This is my truth…

    Didn’t listen to “Tigers” at all.

    *Though in the form of La Tristesse does hold one of their absolute best single tracks of all time. Probably the best Wire lyric too.

    KG

  17. Ecko says:

    Completely unrelated, but I just noticed the Spotify playlist link, and decided to have a brilliant thought.

    Could we not have a collaborative playlist for all RPSer’s to pitch in on?

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    The playlist was originally collaborative, but – er – we didn’t like most of the music that was being put on it. The idea of the RPS playlist was that it was RPS-ish music, not just music we dug (There’s certainly stuff we love we wouldn’t put on it). And someone kept on deleting some songs Alec and I wanted on it. Pah!

    That said, creating an RPS READER COLLABORATIVE PLAYLIST and then linking it on the forum would be a splendid thing to do. Do it, Ecko!

    KG

  19. Ecko says:

    Ah, the great democratic experiment failed then? Q.Q

    Righto, I have my first task for this sunny saturday then! Time for a miserable failure!

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    More that it’s difficult to keep an aesthetic core when it’s a free for all. When someone was putting half-albums of Muse records on, it was clear it had gone awry.

    KG

  21. Ecko says:

    Done, done and done. I will vigilantly watch for the first addition of new blood to the playlist!

    EDIT: Oo, I didn’t know that if I logged in, I could edit my posts, wonderful.

    And yes, I appreciate that, the vision can get somewhat diluted, as I’ve found trying to make a playlist with some of my friends.

  22. apnea says:

    While we’re all off-topic, pray tell Sir Gillen, why would you sign your blog comments twice?

    Or is that some in-character onomatopoeic gastric condition?

    ‘kg !’ (?)

  23. Deadend says:

    There is a message in there. I am not sure exactly what it is, but I think it has something to do with working backwards from a solution taints the methods. Or something. I beat the game at 3am after cheating lv 18 as I figured out HOW to do it, I just really didn’t want to take the time to get it exactly right.

  24. roBurky says:

    Is level 18 just broken in the current version?

  25. unique_identifier says:

    @deadend: I agree with your feeling about the message of the game. what the player’s doing is essentially in complete disagreement with scientific method: we’ve decided on the conclusions a priori, and then we construct the theory to “prove” the “truth” of our conclusions. The developer writes a little bit about the inspiration of the game in the tigsource forum thread, that’s interesting too…

    re: level 18

    i suspect the purpose of this level might be to emphasise limitations of the simulation model, and make the player question what they’re doing in their “historian” role, if they haven’t done so already.

    the implementation seems to be a little broken unfortunately. I too worked out the general idea for completing level 18, but couldn’t be bothered fiddling with the simulation given the rather clumsy interface, so i just edited the level victory conditions in levels/level18.lua

    [ i think there's an issue with the disconnect between the game's internal population counts (floating point) and the ones presented to the user (rounded to nearest integer, i guess). In level 18 I ended up with zero Other population in every city, but 2 net Other population... the victory conditions should be based on the values presented to the user, not the values that are invisible and hidden inside the simulation. ]

  26. Flint says:

    Kieron:

    I’d go like this:
    Lifeblood (which is prolly my favourite album of all time as well, or at least one of them)
    This Is My Truth
    Know Your Enemy
    The Holy Bible
    Everything Must Go
    Gold Against the Soul
    Generation Terrorists
    Send Away the Tigers

    Yes yes I know I’m weird.

  27. Azazel says:

    Oh I have to!

    The Holy Bible
    Everything Must Go
    Generation Terrorists
    Lifeblood
    Gold Against The Soul
    Send Away The Tigers
    This is my Truth…
    Know Your Enemy

    I am excited for Journal For Plague Lovers.

    Actually, one of my favourite songs by the Manics in the post THB era is a b-side called Picturesque. It was tremendous, and I can’t find it anywhere. /sad face

  28. kennycrown says:

    The style of the interface gives it a very dark feel and the setting almost disguises the fact that it´s a puzzle game. I actually found myself thinking in terms of populations and migrations, wich was surprising: I thought it would be easier to separate those concepts from the puzzle, but it was definetly easier to think in those terms. Took quitting the game in anger a few times to get past the first famine level and understanding what it was about, but it was worth it.