Thursday, March 5, 2009

Short: Opera Omnia - Theoretical Engine

As the title suggests, this is a short post. I hope to post more of these, intermittently, in the future.

Opera Omnia is a small indie puzzle game with a genuinely inspired central premise: you play a historian. The central mechanic revolves around developing theories of population migration to support a given set of facts. You do all of this using a "historical model" program where you outline migrations between population centers over time.

For example, you might be given the job of supporting the theory that the population of Philadelphia used to be the same as the population of New York. You would be given the current populations (Philadelphia: 1.4M, New York: 8.2M), and a range that the city populations should be at at the beginning of the time line (say, 20k-40k for each). Your job is to scrub through the timeline and set up "migrations" between the two cities. For this puzzle, you might start a migration in the middle of the timeline from Philly to New York.

The puzzles get much more complicated, adding in famines and seasonal droughts, different ethnic populations within a single population center, etc. The framing story and the point fits the mechanics particularly well. It begins to get into the difference between theory and truth, and how facts can be bent to prove points.

Warning: it has a little bit of a learning curve. Don't let that throw you off. It's worth taking a look at, if only for a great timeline mechanic that I've never seen anywhere else.

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