Did you know that there’s an entire platformer hidden beneath your desktop? Alright, it isn’t there right now. But if you go ahead and download Simon Milfred’s game Omni there will be. It brings a delightful twist to the windows that we use to peer into software and the internet on our PCs.
The idea is to guide a monk named Omni across the 2D environments inside your computer to rid it of a virus (no, not a real virus). But the only way you can see Omni is through a small window on your desktop that he’s keeping open by magic. As you don’t have a full screen to work with, in order to see where you’re moving Omni you’ll need to grab the window with your cursor and physically move it around to reveal more of this cloaked world.
Having this limited view to move around as well as Omni himself can make even the simplest of jumps a challenge. You can make the window bigger by pressing the ‘Maximize’ button (just as you would on a real window) but as it’s fueled by Omni’s magic so it will steadily run out and shrink. You can see how much mana that Omni has left by how much of the word “MANABAR” written in blue in the top left of the window remains.
There are other little tricks that re-purpose the functions of the windows we’re so used to staring into. Press the ‘Minimize’ button and Omni will turn into a flying ball for five seconds. This is used to get to out-of-reach areas. Pressing the ‘Close’ button doesn’t close the game as you’d think but I’ll leave what it actually does as something for you to discover (you’ll want a full mana bar when you do).
What’s great about Omni is that it recaptures the magic that the invention of ‘windows’ had back in the 1980s. People went from the black screens of DOS to staring at the first graphical interface design for PCs that made sense and felt intuitive. It’s trifle to point it out now, but calling them windows alluded to the idea that these 2D squares allowed us to peer into a separate virtual world.
Anyway, Milfred made Omni for the 16th gm(48), which is a 48-hour game jam held quarterly in which every participant uses the game development tool GameMaker. The theme of the one Milfred participated in was “Environment as a Weapon.” Omni is perhaps not the most fitting use of that theme but it’s certainly the most experimental and unexpected result.