If longtime followers of Oxenfree have considered leaping again into the journey on PC earlier than Oxenfree II’s release next year, they is perhaps shocked to discover some radio transmissions they did not discover the primary time round. And if you happen to’re a type of gamers, don’t be concerned – you are not forgetting some key story beats or realizing you missed some necessary conversations. Five years after its launch, Night School Studio has periodically been updating its acclaimed, authentic choice-driven narrative with a sequence of recent audio teases that immediately tie into the villains of Oxenfree II.
It’s an formidable gambit, however completely befitting of Oxenfree’s paranormal, meta-story. The villains of the upcoming sequel are so highly effective, or messing with forces which might be, that they are actually altering the material of the unique’s world and showing, a minimum of audibly, the place they as soon as weren’t. Night School Studio has dipped into fourth-wall-breaking territory earlier than, however to discover out extra about this thrilling endeavor, I spoke with members of the Night School staff about why they determined to bridge the video games like this, the way it prepares gamers for the sequel, and extra.
Some particulars could also be thought of spoilers for Oxenfree II, so flip again if you don’t need to know any particulars concerning the sequel forward of its launch. Otherwise, watch the brand new video under for extra on Oxenfree’s updates and the way they arrange the villains of Oxenfree II.
What Oxenfree’s Updates Hint at in Oxenfree II
A few updates to the Steam version of Oxenfree have already gone reside, and followers have been piecing collectively what these radio broadcasts is perhaps main towards. And as perceptive followers might have already realized, these broadcasts are providing perception into the world of the sequel’s villains, a collective group often known as Parentage. These broadcasts supply gamers who uncover them a little bit of characterization and background for these characters, whereas additionally exhibiting how important a drive they is perhaps if their actions are reverberating by means of the unique recreation.
It’s a startling strategy, however one which the builders felt was completely pure to the world they’ve created and at the moment are constructing upon.
“The rules of the world, and the rules of the universe, allows things that happen in the future to reverberate into the past, and vice-versa,” Studio Lead Writer Adam Hines informed Gamingskillz.
“We wanted to make sure that we went deeper with it [than other ARGs], and made sure to honor the Night School pillars of really strong characters, really compelling dialogue, and nice and scary as well,” Writer Adam Esquenazi Douglas added.
Screens – Oxenfree 2
In that sense, as Douglas defined, the radio updates being added for gamers to uncover are aimed to really feel like a whole story themselves, with a starting, center, and finish that ought to fulfill those that uncover all of them, whereas additionally providing depth to what’s to come within the sequel. And the staff is extremely conscious of the challenges that include telling such a narrative, in such a peculiar means, particularly in not wanting to spoil the expertise of the sequel, and in producing a narrative on this sequence of transmissions that not all Oxenfree II gamers might expertise.
“We’re always very cautious about spoilers and not wanting to ruin the mystery aspect. That’s such a big chunk of why people play these types of games is being able to really dig in as much as they want,” Hines mentioned. “We landed in a very great place of giving hints of intent, and giving hints that somebody is actually deliberately attempting to push their means into what Alex and her mates unwittingly stumbled into in Oxenfree 1, and obtained caught in and had to take care of. Now, with Oxenfree II, we’re coping with a gaggle that could be very particularly and deliberately attempting to uncover and uncover these items. And, poke at it and see what you are able to do with portals, time, and area.
“Of course it is all going to go horribly unsuitable. So, we get to see hints of that by means of these radio updates,” Hines continued. “This is supplying you with a way of who the quote-unquote unhealthy guys are going to be for Oxenfree II. And, then additionally while you begin to play Oxenfree II, and begin to push up in opposition to these characters and meet them, if you happen to’ve finished the radio replace journey from Oxenfree 1, hopefully that can really feel like you have already got a way of how they obtained to the place they’re.”
“There was by no means a transparent antagonist [in Oxenfree 1],” Studio Director Sean Krankel elaborated. “We’re dropping you into this bizarre thriller island, and you are going to have to unravel it. And, we did not suppose we might try this once more this time, frankly. And, so introducing the antagonists in an fascinating means simply felt like a compelling, cool factor to do as a substitute of getting a trailer simply centered on them. Why not allow you to hear them doing their soiled work within the first recreation?”
That units the desk for gamers exploring these audio logs to have some fascinating perception into Parentage forward of Oxenfree II, however Night School was additionally very cognizant that not each participant who jumps into the sequel might have found and even heard these radio additions. In that sense the staff labored onerous to make one thing rewarding for gamers, each within the act of discovering it and what it entailed, but additionally one thing that, must you miss out on this little bit of worldbuilding, will not hamper a participant’s expertise of the sequel.
Hearing the Future
As these updates are sound-based radio transmissions, they tie into a typical aspect of Oxenfree – its evocative sound design. So a lot of Oxenfree’s mood-setting got here by means of audio, whether or not or not it’s the voice performing, the glitchy sound results of its supernatural-meets-real-world story, or the memorable rating by Composer Andy Rohrmann, aka scntfc. And as Rohrmann explains, these radio updates present additional methods for him to not solely play with what he is finished earlier than, however tie it into Oxenfree’s world in fascinating methods.
“Some [ways the score is integrated] are simply form of enjoyable musical tips. But, there’s additionally concepts of music which may present up within the radio performs is precise [Oxenfree] rating. But we’re utilizing it diegetically on this occasion. So…they break plenty of these ideas of ‘What is the sport,'” Rohrmann defined.
These radio performs, and the connective tissue that then offers the 2 video games, additionally gave Rohrmann a singular alternative to work with the primary recreation’s soundtrack in a means that not solely let the brand new music be in dialogue with that first rating, but additionally communicate to the broader themes at play.
“There’s really time looping, and the way in which these narrative threads are structured, makes it nearly make an excessive amount of sense to return and rework one thing,” he said. “I’m not saying it is much less work, however, it is a fantastic alternative to primarily remix my very own work in related methods.”
Though Rohrmann didn’t, after all, need to spoil what work he could also be doing with this ARG or forward of the sequel that would lead to Oxenfree II clues, he did level to an ARG second previously that offers a sign of what might come.
“I’ll give another instance simply because this can be related sooner or later. We seeded ARG components six months earlier than Oxenfree one got here out, which was a music I mentioned, “Oh, here is a music from this recreation. You can pay attention to it if you would like.’ It had morse coding. People have since realized that the melody was enjoying morse code. They would have been onto one thing six months earlier than the sport got here out, however, clearly no person knew who it was. So, it sat dormant till the week of the sport popping out. Then, individuals thought ‘Oh, that is morse code.’
“Once I found [that people realized this], I might change it as a result of front-facing on band camp, you may’t inform if a file has modified. And, so we obtained to play with this concept of time in the true world; ‘I went there yesterday, after which I downloaded it as we speak, and it is totally different.’
And Rohrmann’s work could also be extra related to Oxenfree than some followers might understand.
“Andy really has been so much of the foundation of the more mind-bendy aspects of the game. In the first one, everything from his actual recording process, which was super analog. He literally broadcast himself, recorded the broadcast, and then put them on a reel and stretched it out and broke it up. All that stuff leads into the design. The tape reels from the first game, dealing with time loops, all that Andy heavily influenced,” Krankel mentioned.
“The foundation [of Oxenfree] is already begging to be messed with, to be meta and strange,” Krankel continued. “Audio and radio broadcasts being the foundation of how you interact with that has meant that Andy has been more than a composer. He is really like a designer on this project and was on the first one as well.”
Is Talking About It Spoiling the ARG?
Night School has a historical past with ARG’s and Oxenfree, the unique of which really concerned real-world locations, however tried their finest to play up the thriller of it. And the humorous factor about ARGs for fictional tales is the place the creators draw the road. To acknowledge an ARG is happening breaks a number of the enjoyable that comes from imagining a narrative bleeding into our world. Then once more, really addressing it helps deliver consciousness, extra curiosity, and, finally, extra probabilities for followers to collaborate and work on piecing every little thing collectively. And, frankly, it is cool when a narrative might be informed in such a singular means like this.
“With the first game, it was important to be secretive about it because the world was being introduced to these characters and this lore. And, we also just didn’t think anybody was looking at us. If anything, they were looking at the game,” Krankel mentioned. “Any ARG components a few years ago, we wanted them under this shroud of secrecy. But, as we’ve moved forward, and as we’re building out this next team, the way that we look at it is there can be multiple touchpoints that tell a singular story.”
“As much effort as goes into the game’s story, is going into this story, and it’s all intended to be one singular piece of work. It just so happens that part of it isn’t in Oxenfree II. Before we cared about being top secret about everything, now we want everybody to know it’s out there, and see it and feel it.”
“We’ve been trying to strike a delicate balance between wanting to give enough that you want to know more. But, not too much that it feels like the apple has gone rotten,” Hines added.
“This is great because now it’s not so much waiting for a puzzle so people can rush to solve it [like in other ARGs]. It’s more a story, and it’s more narrative,” Rohrmann mentioned.
And Night School very knowingly made this interwoven story with the concept that followers would dissect each aspect of it, and hope that course of will probably be as rewarding because it was arising with how to implement it.
“One of the great things about our fan base is that no matter what we put out they will pick it apart to the atoms, just to figure out what we’re going for,” Douglas mentioned. “And, we wrote a lot of this content specifically with them in mind. So, whenever a sentence stops halfway through and you really want that sentence to finish. That’s why we did it. It’s because of you.”
“There are still things out there that we’ve already dropped, that had yet to be discovered,” Rohrmann mentioned. “We’ve already seeded mysteries and things. So, it’s been really fun to take those ideas and integrate them into a game that came out five years ago. I mean, that’s so cool. How often does that happen?”
Oxenfree II is headed to PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch in 2022. Oxenfree’s new updates are at the moment solely out there through the Steam model of the unique recreation.
Jonathon Dornbush is Gamingskillz’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! He’s the proud canine father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.