We’re excited to announce that Oxenfree, the first game from Night School Studio, will be making its console debut on Xbox One via the [email protected] program!
Created by a veteran team of storyteller and game developers, Oxenfree is a “supernatural teen thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift.” The game plays out over one night, as a group of high school students on an annual school trip to a decommissioned military island decide to “miss” the last ferry back and spend the night on the island.
After sneaking down to a forbidden beach to party, things take a creepy and terrifying turn when one of the kids opens up a rift created by the island’s unsettled past. With a fresh art style, and top vocal talent including Erin Yvette (Snow in The Wolf Among Us, Sasha in Tales From the Borderlands) and Gavin Hammon (Kenny in The Walking Dead, Beast in The Wolf Among Us, Tomb Raider), Oxenfree will be very appealing to fans of adventure… and supernatural horror.
We sat down with co-founder Sean Krankel to talk a little more about the studio and Oxenfree, which is releasing in January on Xbox One and Windows 10.
Xbox Wire: We know the basic story behind the game (and so will you if you check out the trailer, above!) but what’s the inspiration behind it — what are you hoping players get out of it?
Sean Krankel: By the end of the game, players will have meaningfully changed the ghostly events of the island and their friends’ lives. We hope players feel like their experience is shaped by their choices and play style, in ways that are new to the genre. Oxenfree is a blend of supernatural horror in the vein of “Poltergeist” or “Super 8,” with the relatable friendships of “Stand by Me” or “Freaks and Geeks.” So by the end of the game, we want you to have been scared, laughed, care deeply about some folks, hate others, and ultimately feel like you’ve uncovered a frightening mystery. We’ve rooted the supernatural elements in a lot of true events, and will reveal more of those aspects closer to release.
When we were starting the company, we knew our focus would be on building playable stories, but the first project being a “supernatural adventure” wasn’t obvious. Really the first idea that stuck was making a game about two people dealing with relatable subjects with insane, larger-than-life events taking place around them. That led us to the horror genre, but we weren’t really drawn to the “gory jump scare” variety; rather, we kept coming back to movies like the original “Poltergeist,” and its treatment of the unknown being kind of playful and full of wonder. Like, the family in that movie has fun with the ghosts for the first half of the movie. That’s when we feel we hit the core idea of Oxenfree: play a coming of age story where you determine how the protagonist comes of age. Then set it all against a ghost story.
Xbox Wire: And it’s set in the Pacific Northwest right? We can confirm, it can get creepy here…
Sean Krankel: Yes, we set the game off the coast of a fictional Pacific Northwest town called Camena, it’s a hybrid Washington/Oregon style town. And the island you visit is a decommissioned military island that was used during WWII.
Xbox Wire: Some people have said it’s supposed to be the same town Goonies is set in? We’re not sure if that’s true or wishful thinking…
Sean Krankel: That is true! Astoria, Oregon. And we have spent a couple of trips up in Astoria for reference photoshoots. But it’s only true that it’s inspired by that town, we are not a “Goonies” crossover.
Xbox Wire: That’s still awesome! So, adventure games seem to be on an upswing these days. Why do you think that is?
Sean Krankel: I’m certainly hoping adventure games are on the upswing! Seriously, it’s exciting – it seems like a reflection of the industry as a whole caring more about good storytelling. It doesn’t matter what genre you are in; if a developer releases an FPS with an extraordinary narrative, it gets recognized. So now players are looking for different genres to tell cool stories in, not just action games and RPGs. Adventure games are fertile ground for great storytelling, and they don’t require mastering a bunch of esoteric mechanics to have a good time.
Xbox Wire: What do you say to someone who’s never played an adventure game to encourage them to try one out?
Sean Krankel: Some of the most exciting, coolest advancements in games and storytelling right now are being made in the adventure genre, and they are dead simple to start playing. If you like movies or serialized TV shows, you’ll find something you love!
Xbox Wire: Right on. Last question, we know it’s technically single-player, but is Oxenfree better played alone, or with a friend?
Sean Krankel: That’s tough. If you play alone, play with headphones on and lights off. Jack up the spooky/misty/island moodiness. But the game is great with a friend sitting next to you! There’s never a moment in Oxenfree where the player isn’t responsible for what Alex says or does, so it’s awesome having a couch co-pilot yelling what you should say or do next. We’ve had our share of office arguments during playthroughs!