Alternate Reality Game
|Creator||Night School Studio|
|Discovered||January 15, 2016|
|Completed||June 11, 2016|
Oxenfree is an adventure game that was released on January 15th, 2016, developed by Night School Studio. The player controls Alex, a high-school girl, as she explores an abandoned island with her 4 friends. The game included an ARG, which concluded on June 11th, 2016, with the discovery of a geocache hidden on a real-world island.
As Alex, the protagonist, progresses through the game, she must tune her portable radio into different frequencies to unlock doors and hear hints. The game contains collectibles in the form of anomalies. To uncover an anomaly, Alex must stand in front of a location that is marked by a stack of rocks, and, by trial and error, tune her radio into a particular frequency. Once this is accomplished, the anomaly is revealed, and a short audio clip plays.
The OXENFREE ARG began with the discovery of a phone number by arranging the call-signs given in 10 of the 12 anomalies within OXENFREE in alphabetical order, resulting in this order:
89.9 Able 9 (A9) 91.5 Baker 1 (B1) 94.6 Charlie 6 (C6) 97.9 Dog 9 (D9) 99.9 Easy 3 (E3) 101.1 Fox 6 (F6) 103.5 George 3 (G3) 104.7 How 7 (H7) 106.7 Item 3 (I3) 102.3 Jig 3 (J3)
This resulted in the phone number "(916)-936-3733" or "91-OXENFREE". Initially, when called, the number would redirect you to an answering machine that played the track "Beacon Beach" from the OXENFREE OST. The song's beat is centered around a message encoded in Morse code that spelt "MAGGIE" repeatedly.
On January 28, those people that had phoned the number received a text message from it, comprised of Morse code:
--. --- --- -.. / .-- --- .-. -.- / -.. .-.. / -... -... / .-.. .. ... - . -. / -.-. .-.. --- ... . GOOD WORK DL BB LISTEN CLOSE
"DL BB" was determined to be an instruction: "Download Beacon Beach" (Beacon Beach being a song from Oxenfree's soundtrack). In the Bandcamp version of Beacon Beach, players found Morse code that translated to:
SEARCH TWITTER 4 NUM SEARCH TWITTER 4
Searching Twitter for 9169363733 (the phone number) brought them to @xray9169363733. This Twitter account reported on calls made to the phone number, including the date of the call, the time of the call (in PST), the city and state from which the call was made, and a transcript of any message left after the tone of the number's answering machine. If no message was left, the transcript would read "No transcript available." However, the account deleted some tweets sporadically, leading to concern among the community - what if a critically important tweet got deleted?
On February 11th, scntfc, the composer of the Oxenfree OST, tweeted the following:
again, reminding gently... beacon beach from the oxenfree soundtrack is a free DL. https://t.co/UUTX4NXZvh
When players downloaded Beacon Beach from Bandcamp again, the Morse code had changed. This version of the song has different Morse code in the left and right channels of the song:
Left: DELETES NOT NEEDED PLEASE STAND BY SOS Right: SOS KANALOA SOS KANALOA SOS KANALOA SOS
This was a nudge from scntfc, saying that the Tweets that were being deleted were not needed to solve the ARG.
Clues and Developments
Following the discovery of the Twitter account, many clues and puzzles were relayed via the account that consisted mainly of encryption techniques such as Morse, Octal, Binary, Anagrams, Cryptograms, and Alphanumeric Substitutions.
In addition, calls made to the previously mentioned phone number were logged, and some were posted as transcripts on the Twitter account. Furthermore, the Twitter would, at times, make a Tweet containing a date, timestamp (either 9:00 PM, 4:00 AM, or 7:00 AM), location (either Beacon Beach/Bay or Camena, OR), and a message. When categorized by timestamp, it was discovered that these Tweets were clues related to the progression of the ARG as well as the underlying story.
- 9PM Tweets were translations of Washington State ferries.
- 4AM Tweets were names of Washington State batteries.
- 7AM/"Camena" Tweets were revealed to be interactions between Alex and the ghosts (with the ghosts trying to lure players to the "island"/final location and Alex trying to stop them).
A full spreadsheet of all Tweets and their translations can be found here.
Over the course of the ARG, several "rules" were pieced together from certain "sessions" of code-relaying from Xray's Twitter to result in the following:
Rule: Share your work. Progress comes from cooperation.
Rule: All comms via 9169363733 or xray. No other phones.
Rule: Ignore deletes.
Rule: You will know when it is time to go.
Rule: Ignore time/date.
The Voicemail Greeting
As mentioned before, the phone number associated with the ARG initially would present the player with a recording of "Beacon Beach" from the OXENFREE OST. As the ARG progressed, however, this recording changed multiple times. A playlist containing recordings of all voicemail greetings can be found here.
- March 25th: The voicemail greeting was changed three times. These three recordings consisted of the Swedish Rhapsody number station, a recording of an unclear voice with the track "Lost" from the OXENFREE OST in the background, and an excerpt from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Address.
- March 27th: The voicemail had changed to a message from Alex, asking for "a connection to emergency services".
"Hey, people who are hopefully listening to this, that maybe includes another version of me. I need a connection to emergency services befo--"
- March 28th: The voicemail had changed to Alex calling for Clarissa.
"Hey, Clarissa, are- are you still in the base? We’re in the comm room, I- I think…"
- April 1st: The voicemail had changed to what was assumed to be Clarissa speaking, however after the release of New Game+, it was revealed to be Alex. It should be noted that shortly after she finishes talking, you can hear what seems to be a very faint "Help me."
"Um… Alex? Can you… Can you hear me?"
- April 9th: The voicemail had changed back to Alex speaking with Lost playing in the background.
"Hey, uhh, Jonas, or just- just anyone listening. We’re trapped in--"
- May 7th: The voicemail changed to Alex giving herself a warning. This is the final and current voicemail greeting associated with the ARG phone number.
"Alex, this is... Alex. Listen, don't come to Edwards Island. Whatever you do, just don't come here. Stay home. Stay safe."
All recordings containing dialogue from Alex were discovered to be taken from New Game+, a game expansion released on May 31st.
Xray's Discord Interactions
On May 7th, Xray posted a screenshot on Twitter of an "xray9169363733" in the Discord server's user list a while after several users had acknowledged Xray's appearance in the server. Later on, Xray continued to interact with the users from time to time in order to relay information about the object retrieval.
Secret Alternate PS4 Trailer
On May 7th, YouTuber Jesse Cox made a Reddit post linking a YouTube video describing a mysterious email that he had received from Night School Studio. When Jesse opened the email, all that was inside was a Google document titled "xray9169363733". The document contained what seemed like the PS4 trailer. However, at the end of the trailer, on the screen announcing the release date, several letters were highlighted in red, including the surrounding elements of a URL ("www." and ".com"): I, A, S, A, S, D, R, D, E, W, N, D.
When rearranged, the letters spelt: WWW.EDWARDSISLAND.COM
The website contains an audio clip embedded in the page composed of WW2-era radio frequencies, Morse code, and the magnetophone theme (plays during time loops). The Morse code in the audio clip spells out "DONT LISTEN TO ALEX TELL XRAY IT IS TIME TO GO" when played in reverse. This message is a response to the voicemail greeting updated the same day from Alex telling herself not to go to Edwards Island. In addition to the audio, the page consists of only an image of a note supposedly written by Alex. Several pieces of the note are censored. When the page element is inspected, the alt text for the image reads "108 101 97 118 101 32 112 111 115 115 105 98 108 101", which translates to "LEAVE POSSIBLE" using ASCII numbers-to-text conversion (Translation Tip: If using an online converter, be sure to add a "0" before each two-digit value (Ex: "97" would become "097", translating to the letter "A")).
Several of the encrypted messages presented by Xray throughout the ARG had omitted the following list of letters: D, I, E, L, N, I, A, I, W, R, M, R, S.
When rearranged, the phrase "MILNER IS WARD" was the result. This was the final solution leading to the final stage of the ARG that involved retrieving the "object". When this phrase was Tweeted at Xray in response to the final encrypted message, Xray retweeted it, "solving" the virtual part ARG. This solution entailed that OXENFREE's Fort Milner was the equivalent of Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island, WA, the final location of the object. In addition, after numerous Tweets had been deleted, the two ferries that were left were Tacoma ("snowy mountain") and Wenatchee ("river flowing from canyon"), and the batteries that were left were Battery Thornburgh, Battery Vinton, and Battery Mitchell, which are all connected to Fort Ward.
Object Retrieval Instructions
From 8:13 to 8:22 PM PST, following a Tweet reading "Good work, everyone.", the Twitter began giving directions in relation to the retrieval of the object.
- At 8:15 PM PST:
It is (almost) time to go. Select a date and gather your party.
- At 8:20 PM PST:
The snowy mountain and the river flowing from canyon will take you to Thornburgh-Vinton-Mitchel.
- At 8:21 PM PST:
But Fort Ward is only the general area, and there is nothing to find yet.
- At 8:22 PM PST:
The exact location of will only be revealed on the date of travel, and only to the traveling party.
- And finally, at 8:22 PM PST:
But there will also be something for everyone who took part, whether you go or not.
After the members of the Discord server selected June 11th as the final date for the object retrieval and assembled a team of people to embark on the excursion, the date was confirmed by Xray on the Twitter account.
On June 11th the team headed for Bainbridge Island, WA, and, with the help of clues given via www.edwardsisland.com, was led to Battery Thornburgh. At the battery they uncovered the "object", which was a WWII-esque gas casualty first aid kit that contained a music box and two strips of music, which were "Lost" and "The Beach, 7AM" from the OXENFREE OST. After the object was found, a video was posted by SCNTFC on Jun 11, 2016, giving a demonstration of the music box. A video of the unveiling of the object was also published by CptDamien on Jun 11, 2016.
In addition to this, 16 letters were found with the object that were written from Alex to several recipients. A document containing pictures and transcripts of the letters can be found here.
The final step of the ARG was deciding who the final holder of the object would be. After a group vote, it was decided that the object would be sent to Alex (AKA "Void Mom"/"timeloops"), the creator of the Discord server, for her contributions and influence during the course of the ARG. The object was shipped to her within the next couple days following the retrieval and resides with her to this day.
A short video detailing the expedition to Bainbridge Island was published by Koots on June 27, 2016.
A full-length documentary detailing the events of the ARG was published by CptDamien on August 1, 2016.