EDIT: Thanks so much for the questions, everyone! We're signing off now, but we'll probably come back later to answer a few more questions. You guys are great!

Hi! We are Sean Krankel and Adam Hines, creators of Oxenfree, and founders of indie game studio Night School.

Oxenfree is a single player game that’s equal parts coming-of-age tale and supernatural thriller. You play as Alex, a bright, rebellious teenaged girl who brings her new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight party on a decommissioned military island. The festivities are framed by a dangerous sneak to a forbidden beach, celebrating with friends and navigating prickly situations with enemies. But the night takes a horrifying turn when you unwittingly open a ghostly rift spawned from the island’s cryptic past. How you deal with these events, your peers, and the ominous creatures you’ve unleashed is up to you.

We just released the game on PS4, as well as new content on PC, Mac, and Xbox One.

There also may or may not be an ARG.

Proof: Here's us with our IGF award for Excellence in Visual Art: http://imgur.com/gPvnL56

Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Comments: 149 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

timeloops32 karma

Firstly, THANK YOU. This game is incredible and it has consumed my life almost entirely.

Secondly, questions.

  • Would a sequel ever be a thing to consider? Or possibly more future add-ons to the current base game/New Game+?

  • I believe you guys mentioned before that you hadn't expected this big a fanbase supporting your game. What kind of crowd were you originally expecting, and how does it feel to see how much you've surpassed that expectation?

  • As an aspiring character design/game artist, are there any pro-tips/friendly words of advice that could help me in achieving that? I really adore Heather's work on the game and she's kinda my idol right now, so, yeah.

  • Will it ever be possible to have full names/birthdays/etc. revealed for all of the characters? Or is it simply something that you never went into depth about?

  • Will you be doing more art contests in the future, such as the "Movie Poster Design" one on Tumblr?

  • If someone were to organize an "Oxenfree-themed" movie night, what are a few movies that would have to be on the list?

  • Will you/have you attended any game-related conventions on the east coast? I'd love to attend one of them some day.

  • Who is Xray?

Okay. That's my whole spiel.

nightschoolstudio22 karma

Thanks much for the kind words! Glad you liked it/at least today still like it.

  • A sequel is definitely a thing we're considering, as are future add-ons. We purposefully made it thinking it would be a nice, little, complete story that has a definite "end" so you're not sitting there thinking, "Oh, OBVIOUSLY they're gonna become Exorcist Ghostbusters now." And I still like that decision. BUT I'll admit it would be nice to see some of these characters and the island again... I'll just end this rambling by saying it's not currently PLANNED, but it's not off the table at all.

  • Speaking solely for myself, I expected about thirty people to like this game, and I knew half of them them by name. I think it's best when making something even partly "creative" to just try and make it for yourself and your "ideal reader," someone who would follow your obsessions and laugh at your jokes. So it's been very rewarding to see people respond to the game as kindly and as passionately as they have been.

  • As someone who is not at all qualified to answer this, let me answer this for you! The game artists I know pretty much uniformly went to art school for illustration, and either used their contacts in school to get a job or applied to studios and just got lucky. It's a HIGHLY competitive field, but my advice for anyone wanting to get into any creative industry is pretty much always the same: apply to places, sure, but spend at least as much time making your own stuff and putting it out there. Someone will notice.

  • The full names thing haunts me to this day. SO MANY TIMES I wanted to have somebody refer to somebody else as Mr. So and So and it killed me that I never just sat down and came up with their last names. ERGH. At this point it feels like bad luck or something to name their after the fact. As for the birthdays... I feel like Alex is born in July for some reason. Maybe October.

  • Yeah, we really dropped the ball on that. We had a whole list of contests and in the chaos of daily operations just let it slip to the wayside. We should get back on that. Thanks for the gentle shove!

  • EASY. Poltergeist, Stand By Me, The Fog, Monster Squad, Something Wicked This Way Comes, ParaNorman and Hocus Pocus. And I guess Goonies.

  • On the East Coast? I was just very kindly invited to the recent KillScreen Festival in Brooklyn last weekend! Other than that, we'll keep an eye out for some others.

  • Haha. XRAY is... actually, it's really hilarious to me who XRAY really is, but it would spoil the fun since the whole ARG thing isn't completely done yet... SORRY! We'll tell everyone someday.

Thanks for the varied questions!

-adam

patriotfan0928 karma

Is. Leave. Possible?

nightschoolstudio22 karma

Yes.

runnerHFX17 karma

I have a few questions myself. Hope that's okay!

  • There appear to be a few references to Greek mythology in the game; were these intentional?

  • Is BxKauTx just a random string of letters, or is it solvable/decodable?

  • Is there any significance to the extra triangles that appear during the opening of the final rift?

nightschoolstudio21 karma

That's not okay at all, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • As a SUPER FAN of Greek Mythology, I am sure any references that slipped in were subconsciously stuck there by my tired brain, as I honestly don't remember any specifically.

  • Originally it was just a random string of letters, and then for one hot minute this was gonna link to the ARG... and THEN we switched up the plan for that so now it's back to being a nonsensical time stamp to show that you've pretty much broken the universe with your meddling radio.

  • Yep, they were put in mostly to indicate that you're going wayyyy deeper than you have up until that moment in the game.

-adam

Lilimira15 karma

Who did the Car in the parking lot belong to?

nightschoolstudio20 karma

Phil Kasberg, local fisherman and fan of The Good Wife. -adam

mavhenans14 karma

Hi Nightschoolers! First of all, let me say that I am in LOVE with Oxenfree and I'm so glad you guys are doing an AMA. Thank you so much for making this incredible game, I'm so glad to be a part of the community and I'm so glad to be playing it.

Second, here are my questions: 1. Why was possessed Nona scrapped from the game? It always seemed slightly odd to me that we were able to see everyone else possessed at one point except for Nona. 2. Are there still things in the game (especially with the NG+) that no one has found yet?

Thank you so much! :) Forgive the formatting.. I still have no idea how to use Reddit.

nightschoolstudio10 karma

1) So... possessed Nona. Poor poor possessed Nona. This very early on was a scene in the game (you'll notice she's the only character who miraculously avoids a real scene-chewing possession... other than yourself, of course), but we came to a crossroads when we thought of the argument between Ren and Jonas in the Comm Tower-- an (arguably) better scene with greater implications -- and we had to pick one. So Nona's day in the spotlight got axed.

2) I honestly don't know! I haven't kept up with what's been found yet as well as I should have... I'm guessing 90% of it has been discovered.

And I also have no idea how to use Reddit. I'm so scared right now. -adam

oxentrash13 karma

Can you confirm or deny if we will ever "see the dog"?

nightschoolstudio16 karma

I can confirm sadly that you will never see the dog...

I actually wanted one in the game until our animator pointed out that with the time we had left, I could either have a dog or I could have the characters move while they talk. I chose the latter. -adam

runnerHFX13 karma

At what stage in game development did you come up with the ARG? (Question from /u/jooker23)

nightschoolstudio15 karma

Near the middle of development. We have always wanted Oxenfree to feel like the events on Edwards Island aren't just affecting the characters that live in the game, but also bleed out into real players' experiences. The same decisions that drove the surreal time loops, VHS glitches, warping audio, etc. drove the ideas behind the ARG.

The anomaly piles were the real catalyst, we thought, "if Alex and friends can tune into stuff and hear from the other side, why can't real people?" and it all just snowballed from there. We are thrilled that fans have gotten so into the crazy series of events, clues, and narrative that have been unfolding.

  • Sean

Kramatus13 karma

Oxenfree is a game that has a ton of effort behind it for sure! You guys all deserve a round of applause for the amount of effort and hard work put into making it. Thank you!

I however, am really curious about one thing. Was there anything that was cut from the game that would have made the game drastically different?

nightschoolstudio12 karma

A couple things...

  1. The radio was originally scoped to be a tape player / recorder that would have had you recording things in one place and playing them back in others. We just couldn't figure out how the hell to make it work from a broader design perspective.

  2. In the VERY early days of development, the cast were all going to have crazy powers, making the tone closer to something like the British teen series "Misfits." - Sean

  3. A flashlight. We briefly played with the idea of a flashlight that would've taken the design in a much more Alan Wake / Luigi's Mansion direction.

majesky12 karma

Hey Guys! As much as I want to ask about the ARG, I'm not going to since the big event is tomorrow. So a couple general questions:

  • What's the strangest/funnies bug/error you've seen while making the game?
  • Any big lessons you learned over the course of making Oxenfree?
  • BxKauTx? What's the deal?

Thanks!

nightschoolstudio12 karma

  • The funniest bug I can remember was at the part when you can "scare" Nona away from you in the Woods, there was a time when she would scramble so furiously and so fast she'd end up leaping off the cliff to her death. We should have just kept it in the game. "You killed Nona."

  • It would have been nice to have a standardized labeling system for our audio files from the start... yeesh.

  • BxkauTx is the name of our NEXT GAME YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. No, it's just craziness. -adam

Pro_Ice11 karma

Hi guys. Thanks for the game, it's been a blast to play through and go back after the 2.0 update. Two questions:

  1. From the initial press, it seemed that the game was way less linear, or maybe more spread out than it turned out. And, obviously, there's been a lot of footage in the trailers that's (to my knowledge) is not in the game. Can you elaborate a bit on how the game shaped throughout development and how some parts got cut.

  2. Can you share some music that inspired you? Maybe the tone of the game, or the characters, or something you've shown to scntfc as your idea of the sound. Or maybe just your favorite tunes. ;]

nightschoolstudio9 karma

  1. As things always end up, you plan to build a rocket ship to Mars and you end driving a Geo to Florida. Time constraints forced us to pare down the UNLIMITED nature of the initial vision ("What if you can just swim back to the mainland? And then it becomes GTA6? Put that up on the board...") into the still quite malleable experience it's become. Play tests also helped shaped the game, as a lot of stuff just went on too long, and you felt it. The game ended up benefiting from the cuts, I feel, as it focused the story and goals.

  2. Sure! For the music, Boards of Canada, John Carpenter's scores, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Trent Reznor's Fincher stuff and a bunch of others. SCNTFC also just injected the soundscape with his own insanity. -adam

patriotfan0910 karma

Love the game, and really looking forward to getting some time to play the New Game + soon.

What inspired the story of Oxenfree?

What made you want to make a game so based around the audio interactions, and was it challenging to pull off?

What is in the future for Night School?

Thanks so much for this incredible game, it's one of my all time favorites.

nightschoolstudio8 karma

Lots of good questions.

The story was inspired by some of our favorite genres that are well represented in film and books, yet underserved in games. The first piece of the puzzle we landed on was the idea of telling a coming of age story in a game, but in a way that wasn't predicated on removing a sword from a rock and slaying hordes of enemies. We love that stuff as much as anyone, yet thought it might be an interesting challenge to let people manipulate a story filled with more relatable moments. We took inspiration from 80s/90s Spielberg work, Stand By Me, Freaks and Geeks, and a few other teen stories and how they weave playful moments and serious scenes together in a way that feels pretty effortless. Then we started to think about how fear and danger can come into Alex's tale, but not in a horror / shocking way. So we landed on the supernatural backdrop to build a narrative more psychological than bloody.

Regarding the audio, we are big music fans / audio junkies, and it helped immensely that we were fortunate enough to collaborate with SCNTFC on the score and sound design. Honestly, if he didn't become part of our team, we probably wouldn't have leaned so heavily into audio. We landed on the radio as a natural extension of our communication system: if you talk to people with word bubbles, how will you talk to spectres? How will they permeate every scene in a way that feels truly creepy? The radio became a nice creative catch all for that, which led to more audio puzzles and interactions throughout the game.

The future of Night School... hmmm. Well we want to keep supporting Oxenfree if the demand is there. We are ideating our next concepts right now, so we don't know exactly yet. But ultimately it will be about interacting with another story in a way that people haven't seen before.

  • Sean

oxentrash10 karma

Why did you choose to make the game with Unity?

nightschoolstudio12 karma

It's affordable, becoming the industry standard, and served the purposes of our first game. Did I mention affordable? - Sean

ChuTotoro969 karma

Marry. Screw. Kill.

Alex, Ren, Clarissa?

nightschoolstudio11 karma

Correct.

Acey8438 karma

How far off did the final version of the characters grew from the original concept for them? Or was it smooth sailing the whole time?

nightschoolstudio11 karma

Weirdly they didn't change that much over the course of development. Clarissa probably changed the most, in that she was a meaner antagonist than she ended up being. Hopefully the final Clarissa has some perspective and opinions that are relatable / logical to everyone.

knives4cash8 karma

First off, what an amazing game. We can't thank you enough for creating such a fresh and memorable IP.

So, here's a few questions:

  1. Was there supposed to be a theme with the dialogue options and colors? Much like how in "Mass Effect" the renegade option is on the bottom and the paragon is on the top, it felt like blue was supposed to be the “nice” response, green the question/neutral, and brown the “rude” response, but it doesn’t feel consistent.

  2. Maggie Adler vs. Triangle Ghosts. If any game needed a prequel, OXENFREE needs one asap. What are the odds of getting it?

nightschoolstudio13 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

So the dialogue bubbles... initially, we wanted to make each bubble be color coded to some sort of emotional spectrum, but quickly realized that our game's dialogue needed to be more dynamic than the usual "good, bad, middle of the road" approach. So we actually veered pretty heavily away from it to make sure that players don't get the feeling that there are "right or wrong" answers to anything. Ideally when you are playing, your dialogue choices simply feel organic to the moment.

The only purpose the color differentiation serves is to look pretty. :)

  • Sean

themaxmaxmax7 karma

What was your writing and branching conversation creation workflow like?

nightschoolstudio7 karma

Sean and I would come up with the basic structure of a scene, then I'd go away and write and write and write in Word 2003 until I had to stop because the scene was due, and then I'd say, "It's okay, I'll have time to fix this later," and then I wouldn't have time because another scene was due the next day.

Our engineer built a unique tool in Unity that allowed me and our designers to quickly copy and paste the dialogue into the game without needing to know how to code, so when you looked at it, it looked like a subway station map of endless nodes linked to one another. And as the script was getting put in, our artist, Heather, would be drawing the location, and a designer would be creating the walkable paths and putting in the trigger boxes for where "events" would take place, like changes in the conversation or ghosts popping out of bushes. It was all very scotch tape and a prayer. -adam

robotpantspants7 karma

Have you seen the crazy jelly toast graffiti art on the wall of the weird building on Vasser? If so, any plans to build dynamic story content around it?

nightschoolstudio10 karma

WHO ARE YOU

Tiny_Dragons7 karma

Which part of the game did you enjoy making the most?

nightschoolstudio10 karma

Personally, I liked writing the ghost moments. It's fun coming up with vague, kinda-sorta decipherable, mostly mood-setting, creepy, cut-up dialogue bits from angry, time-trapped 1940's military folks.

Aside from that, I enjoyed watching Heather's art come in and evolve through production. At first, the early scenes would always be, "Ehhh... is this gonna work?" and then she'd start to iterate, and tweak, and improve, and add effects, and it would slowly become these little beautiful Joseph Cornell boxes or something. It was great to watch happen over time. -adam

Master_Riche7 karma

Hey Nightschool! I love your game, and the ARG has been a blast to watch!

I just want to know, are there any plans for posters, t-shirts, or merch in general outside of the collector's edition?

Thanks!

nightschoolstudio9 karma

As Pro_Ice mentioned, we are partnered with Skybound for merch. (We self published the game btw). We are hoping to get all of the things you've asked for out there ASAP!

If you're going to Comic Con, there will likely be a tease of the first round. ;)

oxentrash7 karma

The community has noticed some of the possession scenes take quotes from older movies. What are some of your favorite old school movies?

nightschoolstudio9 karma

I'm seriously so thrilled someone noticed that. My favorite movies from that time period (late 30's, early 40's) are McCarey's MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, Renoir's GRAND ILLUSION and THE RULES OF THE GAME, Hawks' ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS and HIS GIRL FRIDAY, Disney's PINOCCHIO and DUMBO, Sturges' SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and THE LADY EVE (both the same year, I think, which is insane), Lubitsch's TO BE OR NOT TO BE and Tourneur's CAT PEOPLE.

chchchchchcherrybomb6 karma

Did someone already get the secret/Nona+Jonas Ending?

nightschoolstudio5 karma

We think we heard someone online say they've seen it? Not sure. :) - Sean

KuriGohanAndKamehame6 karma

How much was cut from the final game?

nightschoolstudio6 karma

Not a lot. We used almost every part of the buffalo.

I guess the ending went through a fair amount of changes, was going to be considerably longer, but also messier and less bombastic. - Sean

banditabrave6 karma

is there anything you really wanted to do, but didn't have the opportunity to do (that you can share with us)?

nightschoolstudio9 karma

Sort of. The earliest version of the radio was a walkman / tape player. We thought it'd be cool to let you record sounds, play them back in other areas, and do a bunch of weird analog audio puzzles. We also originally had an Uncharted-style notebook that Alex would draw / write in as the story progressed. We dropped the walkman because it was insane, and we dropped the notebook primarily because we didn't have enough time. - Sean

opossumo6 karma

What ethnicity is each of the characters in oxenfree?

I'm curious because, for me, the art style makes it hard to tell for a lot of them and it's helpful to know when trying to draw fanart in a more realistic style.

nightschoolstudio17 karma

The difficulty in telling what background each character is was definitely intentional! Early in development (way, way early), we even tried making it DOUG-style and have their skin tone be wildly different, with green and blue characters. That was scrapped in about five minutes when it started to look too kiddy or weird.

There's never been a set ethnicity, really, for any of them, and I think we all hope the fan art reflects what the player "saw" when they played. -adam

jooker236 karma

What is your favourite aspect of the game?

nightschoolstudio9 karma

Mmmm. My favorite aspect of the entire game is probably the conversation system and how it works. Since I wrote the damn thing, I mostly grimace along with the characters' prattling ("Why did I write that line?! Whyyyy!"), but I still find myself "tricked" in the game's most fluid moments when it really feels like I'm actually guiding a living, breathing conversation in real-time. Our engineer, Bryant, came up with a really dynamic, easy to use grid system to chart out all the yammering, so thank God for that or else this would have been impossible to make.

And my favorite scene is the ending, I think. - adam

Wommaboop6 karma

But what part of the ending? And which ending?

nightschoolstudio6 karma

To avoid SPOILERS, I'll just say the, uh, the middle part of the ending... when you're in the, uh, darkness... with no one left...

nextplace16 karma

What has been the best thing about going indie?

nightschoolstudio10 karma

No bureaucracy. Creative freedom. Fast communication and decision making. Drinking (responsibly) at work. - Sean

Wommaboop6 karma

Where did you get the audio for the ghosts?

nightschoolstudio7 karma

We wanted the ghost V.O. to be the audio equivalent of a ransom note; cut and pasted from a variety of sources to create an unnerving method of communication. The ghosts are the voices of our entire development team + some of our actors, and then SCNTFC took them, processed them to sound like old broadcasts, chopped and reordered them, and stuck 'em in the game. The idea being that the ghosts only have snippets from news and military broadcasts that they can use to communicate. So if one of us were caught on the other side, we'd sound the same. - Sean

oxentrash5 karma

How comfortable or uncomfortable did you feel while filming a mini documentary series?

nightschoolstudio10 karma

The first day was nerve-wracking, especially because we were trying to finish the game. Our office is like the size of 15 shoe boxes, so having a camera crew and producer there with light rigs and mics was a little cooky. But fortunately everyone at Skybound are super rad and Mike Cruz, who directed it, is almost frighteningly disarming. So by day 2 we were cool with the shoot.

  • Sean

ThePeruvianBear5 karma

What's your fav pop tart?

Goracyi5 karma

Is Clarissa Sea Captain Karren ? Her model looks identical.

nightschoolstudio6 karma

Busted. Clarissa from the future has been sent back to present day to force our kids to party on a beach and warn Sarah Connor. - Sean

tessisdumb5 karma

Will there ever be a sequel/prequel? I saw talk of Maggie/Anna's story being told in a prequel on your twitter, is that going anywhere? What was their exact relationship, were they just friends or secret lovers?? Thank you!

nightschoolstudio9 karma

We legitimately have ideas for sequels, prequels, midquels, and alternaquels. So we can't spill the deets on their relationship just yet. - Sean

Wommaboop5 karma

When did you make the decision to make the Discord such a major part of the ARG? (also, thanks for making such an amazing game.)

nightschoolstudio4 karma

The person who runs Xray decided to do it almost in the moment, and it grew from there. Sorry we can't say who Xray is till next week! - Sean

oxensfree4 karma

Who voiced Alex and Clarissa for the ARG voicemail? (I've been curious for a while now)

nightschoolstudio7 karma

They're voiced by their actors! Erin Yvette (Alex) and Avital Ash (Clarissa). -adam

-ert4 karma

What was your inspiration for the ARG? And how much work went into planning and making it?

nightschoolstudio5 karma

A couple people on our team have been involved with ARGs before; SCNTFC did some cool stuff for Sword & Sworcery, and Sean wrote an ARG for the Focus Features movie "9" a few years ago. Our whole team loves them, if they make sense for a story or group of characters. A non-trivial amount of work went into it, and continues to. Especially from mystery person Xray. :) - Sean

foolinghoudini2 karma

you guys looking for interns?

nightschoolstudio8 karma

not at the moment but grateful you'd want to! - Sean