Opera Omnia

By: Derek Yu

On: March 5th, 2009

Opera Omnia

Following the truly inspired Rara Racer comes Opera Omnia, another experimental game from the prolific Stephen “increpare” Lavelle. Like Rara, this game is hard to describe without ruining some of the interesting parts. All I’ll say is that I’m extremely impressed with how expertly Stephen joined the game’s theme and narrative with its mechanics, which are extremely counterintuitive at first. Once you wrap your head around it, though, you can’t imagine it any other way.

For me, this is an important game – if you’re not immediately taken with it, try giving it some time, because it builds up very deliberately.

TIGdb: Entry for Opera Omnia

  • tehcowboy

    i loved rara, really looking forward to this :D

  • http://www.dyson-game.com Alex May

    Both Stephen Lavelle and Terry Cavanagh are taking video games to really promising places. Their work is really progressive.

  • diaskeaus

    I’ve made my way through level four, and can’t tell how this game is different than fifth grade word problems in math class, with a little luck.

    However, it’s a very intriguing concept, and that being said, it’s wonderful someone took this idea to completion. There should be more entertaining word problem games out there that actually have an interface that is beyond Math Blaster.

    Of course, please correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll continue to pound away at it and attempt to finish it.

    I do like the fancy philosophy, even if I’m blasted to actually know what any of it means. It feels like reading Hegel again in college.

  • Ezuku

    Ack, this game’s pretty difficult. I’m afraid I’m mostly just using trial and error here. Working backwards is just confusing.

  • http://studioeres.com Paul Eres

    This game is great. It seems like increpare is becoming the cactus of (for lack of a better term) non-action oriented clever games.

  • DragonMC

    INTERESTING, to say the least.

    I still don’t quite understand it. :P

  • BlondRobin

    A clever idea, and a clever message, but the control scheme is so incredibly nonintuitive that it’s stiflingly hard to play. The ‘simulator’ also does confusing things, like having certain cities migrated to faster even though there’s no difference in the timetables, etc. I got to level 5-6-ish before the simulator’s controls just became too much of a hassle for me to have any interest in playing further.

  • Hannes

    Looks very exciting, I cannot play it since there’s no PPC version though :(

  • EToaster

    My computer immediately BSoDs whenever I try to launch this game… which is a shame, because it does sound interesting.

  • increpare

    EToaster, if you would be willing to help me test it out, I can try fix the bug. The bad part is that you risk another BSOD. If you would be willing to help me out, then email me at [email protected].

  • http://www.creativecontact.com/galleries/75-FromtheSkullofKonstantinVernikovskiy/view_gallery bobusdoleus

    I beat the game’s 20 levels – and the interface is manageable, eventually, though not without some difficulty. There is an intriguing story that develops… but doesn’t really resolve. Maybe I missed something? Could someone explain the story? The game left me quite confused.

  • http://studioeres.com Paul Eres

    Explaining the story too much would ruin it!

    And I believe the difference in migration speeds has to do with the distance between cities: closer cities seem to migrate faster.

  • Chris

    I also felt kind of lost at the end with respect to the story. I was expecting more.

    I can certainly get some meaning out of it, but I’m not sure it’s what the author intended.

  • GC

    I saw this before, but haven’t played it because SDL fullscreen results in significant overscan on my monitor for some reason.

  • GC

    Actually, since the source is available I might just fix that myself…

  • http://studioeres.com Paul Eres

    I felt that the ending was basically the rationalization of the main character about why his work had no influence on anything, since he unconsciously feared that it did, or feared to reveal to himself that it did. But it’s hard to say. I felt the main character was a mite too passive — he just followed orders and went along with the plan and never raised questions (at least not on the outside — perhaps he was smarter internally and just felt it was safer to say nothing and to follow orders).

  • asquonk

    The problem I had was that in the last mission, where the plot is explained to you, I couldn’t get a clear picture of exactly what happened to the two populations at all.

    The whole game I was just relying on word hints given by the two main characters to solve the levels. I would hear that there was a famine and this happened, so I would just set it up the way I was told, and it would generally work.

    You might say “ah, this is a very intelligent meta effect because you are acting just like the main character.” Yeah, okay. But I didn’t understand anything, even after the last level. This made the game experience very unsatisfying.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Malefact Malefact

    I think it’s appropriate that you should like Opera Omnia, Paul, because the sense of isolation I felt when playing it reminded me pretty vividly of Immortal Defense.

    I think the protagonist was a bit lacking, and the mechanic can be a bit iffy from time to time, but the game really got to me. It probably helps that I I did History at Uni, and remember the feeling of working on research for days at a time without seeing anyone much.

  • Chris

    Spoiler warning!

    The main point I got from the ending was the contrast between the personal experience of the war (in the dialog in the second to last mission) and the dry historical presentation in the last mission. It made the main character seem almost evil (or at least very cold). He reduced everything, even a war he personally lived through, to academic theories.

    It was more understandable when he had a boss demanding it. Ironically, the boss seemed more human to me in the end.

  • asquonk


    Yeah, but what happened to the “oranges”?

    There are three cities. There was an “event” in the first one. Then both groups migrated to the first city, and then there is a “third migration”.

    Can you explain to me how you got from the starting state to 9,000 “oranges”?

    Not just the game mechanics. I mean, what actually happened.

    What is the nature of the “events”? Are they really “events” or is there an alternate explanation? The game doesn’t spell it out.

    Are the “events” man-made? Were they created to start the migrations?

    The populations were equal at the beginning of Mission 20. How is it that there are only 9,000 “oranges” left at the end? Does this have anything to do with the “alternate hypothesis” hinted at during Mission 4?

    The game is just plain vague. It is like Metal Gear Solid 2. It looks cool at first but it’s all vague allusions, like in Mission 4, or when one of the characters speculates about the “true nature” of people.

    The plot is completely subordinated to the game mechanics. It is unfinished. There are flagrant spelling errors, like “homogenious”.

  • increpare

    asquonk, I apologise for my proof-reading oversights. I will fix the one you mentioned at the nearest opportunity, but I should track down a decent source-code spellchecker at some point, I guess.

  • asquonk

    It’s not a big deal, increpare, it is a very intelligent and stylish game.

    I just don’t understand, even after finishing the game, what I was doing!

  • http://www.radiator.debacle.us Campaignjunkie

    Yeah, the English isn’t entirely fluent – but that doesn’t really matter because the meaning is still intact.

    Asquonk, SPOILER: here’s how I interpreted level 20 – there are only 9000 Others left at the end because there was a war. When you had the Blues migrate over and move in, that represented the mobilization of an army – and the resulting Others were put in a refugee camp.

  • TCM


    The game is about manipulation of history for political gain. The blues, as evidenced by your boss, don’t want people to question “why” things are the way they are, just accept the most convenient theory that allows them to repress and discriminate against “The Others”. The main character historian, is convinced he’s creating historical fact, but all he’s doing is writing the bes history to explain reality to people. In the end, this leads to a revolt of “The Others” for many reasons (including stealing their culture, and explaining them away as a race that simply “appeared”, after the blues existed), which gives the blues an excuse to wipe them out and lock them all away (Note how the “famine” in mission 20 only affects the population level of “The Others”). The historian remains convinced he had nothing to do with this, after all, “a mere historian can not have an effect the world”.

    That’s how I see it, at least.

  • http://studioeres.com Paul Eres

    “I think it’s appropriate that you should like Opera Omnia, Paul, because the sense of isolation I felt when playing it reminded me pretty vividly of Immortal Defense.”

    Increpare told me parts of the game are inspired by Immortal Defense, so that’s even more appropriate.

  • Jay

    blue screen of death…… ;(