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Abbess Otilia's Life and Death

by Arno von Borries (as A.B.) profile


(based on 14 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

In English, on parchment, written in 13th century textualis. Quarto, 14 leaves, in double columns, with rubrication and miniatures. Marginalia in several hands of the 14th and 17th century.

Game Details


29th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)


1. Fixed a couple of typos.
2. Managed to track down a bug that prevented Otilia from making the musician steward at the end under any circumstances. This is now possible, given the right conditions, as originally intended.
Reported by AvB | History | Edit | Delete
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Editorial Reviews

The writing did a good job of capturing a “medieval feel”, or maybe there’s just a lot of words that I don’t know. Within the text there’s a lot of interspersed Latin that translate after clicking. The game seems to mostly have a friendly gauntlet structure, with quick re-joining and no real branching.
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McT's Interactive Fiction Reviews

I love the colors, the covers, the fact that there is integrated imagery. The font, with its large illuminated capitals looks wonderful on the page. The fact that there’s music. But it’s a case, I think, of the author’s desire to produce a beautiful artifact overcoming a common sense approach to creating a usable game.
But as a game? It actually works very well, font aside. We are, effectively, guiding the career of the titular nun, and can make choices as she goes through her life – these choices, presented at each stage as binary options, do have an effect on the later sections of the game. In particular, the ending is a reflection on the choices we’ve made throughout.
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The work’s charming central conceit of being a medieval document is emphasized throughout, with period-appropriate illustrations, font choices, vocabulary, and even a song included in the game. Playing the game really does feel like reading a recovering medieval document, complete with snide commentary in the marginalia. It’s a choice-based game with about ten decision points, and the choices I made did feel like they mattered. The conclusion of the game, for example, summarizes the choices you made and both how they influenced the world and how they affected other characters’ impressions of the abbess. It’s a nice touch that brings together the story as a coherent narrative rather than an indepedent series of choices.
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Kirjallinen suunnistaja

Abbess Otilia's Life and Death on melko kompakti ja sellaisena kevyt ja hauskakin, vaikka sinänsä asetelma ja aiheet ovat vakavia. Kirjoittajan loppusanoissa mainitaan inspiraation lähteenä lukuisia todellisia arkistoja, ja voinee olettaa, että tarina antaa jopa realistisen kuvan keskiaikaisen abbedissan osasta. Luostarin arki ei ole yksinomaan pyhää, vaan se on taloudellisesti sidoksissa alueeseen, jolla se sijaitsee, ja samalla maan omistajiin. Kulkutaudit vievät monia nuoria ihmisiä ennen aikojaan hautaan. Kirkolliset juhlapyhät rytmittävät vuotta, ja musiikki ilahduttaa nunnankin elämää.
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The Breakfast Review
The story of Otilia's tenure as abbess of a mediaeval nunnery is gorgeously presented as an illuminated manuscript. The text is slightly harder to read, but not badly so; it merely slows one down slightly and gives the story a bit more heft. Oddities in the language might be intentional, and the general tone of the writing does feel very suitably archaic without becoming difficult to parse. Each chapter, choices and all, occupies a two-page spread of the "book", which makes for a very neat and tidy impression. The notes in the margin were a nice touch. Top marks for presentation and format, I think.
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These Heterogenous Tasks

I really admire what this was trying to do. I think it made some bad design decisions along the way, but on the other hand, this a concept that’s inherently very demanding of several different skills. I think it’s laudable to try difficult things, and what’s here represents a really substantial effort; alas, it falls short of what it’s trying to accomplish. So this is a 5, I think.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Write the life story of a medieval nun, December 11, 2018

The first thing you notice when you start Abbess Otilia's Life and Death is the stunningly beautiful first few screens - the cover and beginning pages of a book from the middle ages. This art design is consistent throughout the game, and it makes you feel like you're writing out a medieval manuscript while selecting the choices that define the story of Abbess Otilia's life. The comparison with last year's third-place IFComp game Harmonia is obvious, right down to the marginalia. In Abbess Otilia, though, the marginalia is illegible. Clicking it makes it readable.

The game uses a medieval-style font (the final page of the game tells you exactly the name of it). At first I thought the font was visually appealing. Then, after a while, I thought, "This is actually kind of hard to read." Then I got used to reading it and went back to appreciating its aesthetic.

I played through two times to see how the game changes with different choices. What I found is that the same basic choices were given to me in both playthroughs, with some subchoices changing. In a couple of places I think the game kept track of some choices and my success at attempting later actions depended on earlier choices that I had made. But this was only in two places; overall I found the gameplay to be fairly linear.

At the very end the book you're writing summarizes and comments on the abbess's life. While playing I tried to choose actions that would represent my worldview (within the constraints of the game), and the book's summary successfully reflected this. For my second playthrough, I tried to choose the opposite sorts of actions, and I ended up with appropriately different commentary on how the abbess's life had gone. So, while, the gameplay is fairly linear, all of your choices do end up affecting more than just the text while you're reading: In aggregate, they create the summary of the abbess's life. It's kind of like how I imagine it would be to hear a short eulogy given at your funeral by someone who knows you well.

An aesthetically-pleasing and satisfying experience.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gorgeously illustrated medieval-looking cybertext game about an abbess, November 15, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This game is lavish, with a medieval-looking font and scattered illustrations and capitals.

Presented like a book, interactivity is done by either turning the page or by selecting between binary choices.

There are quite a few paths in this game that you can take, and I found it overall impressive. My 3 stars is because I didn't feel an emotional involvement in the game, being put more at a distance by the elaborate presentation. I also didn't feel an inclination to play again, due to the energy required in poring through the text.

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Abbess Otilia's Life and Death on IFDB


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For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Innovation of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Innovation in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest...

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Use of Multimedia for 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Use of Multimedia in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to...

This is version 8 of this page, edited by Doug Orleans on 17 November 2018 at 4:36pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page