Earlier this month, Midnight Society announced their formation as a new AAA game studio founded by Robert Bowling as studio head, Quinn DelHoyo as creative director, and Dr Disrespect as “6’8″ visionary”. Part of the studio’s promise in the press release was to “[include] communities and influencers much earlier in the development process”. That process has started surprisingly soon, as Midnight Society has already launched a teaser alternate reality game for their first game, playing out across their website and Discord server. Curiously, the core of that experience is a text adventure facsimile of a first-person-shooter game, coded to play out through Discord private messages.

Trail to the Text Adventure: Glitched Tweets and Virtual Consoles
On January 1st, the Midnight Society’s Twitter account posted a system error message directing players to MidnightSociety.com/Access, with the login credentials “VSM” briefly shown in a glitched GIF accompanying the tweet. At the time, logging in with those credentials would open up a virtual console and start to download a series of files, before the console crashes and reboots to try again. Every night so far, the console manages to advance a little bit closer to loading “Midnight Protocol”, adding more and more modules like security footage from a facility’s sectors and mission logs.

The Midnight Society Virtual Console at MidnightSociety.com/Access

Around the same time, Midnight Society opened up a Discord server, and gave members the choice to select the “Claws” role, granting access to ARG-related channels in the Discord. Players noticed that commands from the virtual console worked in these channels, and used the M:\Verify command to start receiving direct messages from the Midnight Protocol Discord bot, which requested a password. Using clues from the virtual console (which noted that the passcode format would be #####XXXXXX), players figured out the password was 14421PCGSPD – grabbing the numbers from the sector numbers displayed on the virtual console, and PCGSPD from the names of “watched users” in a separate popup.

This unlocked the ability for players to direct message the bot to access the M:\Access portal shown on the website, and query the console. Using command cues hinted at on the Access page paired with guesswork, players were able to map out commands, and check on what looks to be the aftermath of an FPS match involving ten players: three of them emerged victorious, and the rest were marked as “KIA – Loadout recoverable.” Through the M:\Map command, players even found an additional page on the website at MidnightSociety.com/Map, featuring annotated concept art of the facilities, including guard sight lines and potential routes.

Annotated concept art of what is assumed to be sector 1

First-Person Shooter As Text Adventure: Mapping Through Murder
Finally, on January 5th, the M:\Access page showed Sector 1 as “ready”, and players were able to trigger an interactive text adventure within the sector, making key decisions by reacting to each successive text post with emojis. The goal? Survive the mission while gathering loot, while simultaneously avoiding death – too many “bad ends”, and players are locked out for the day. Loot persists across mission attempts, so players’ item loadouts grow with every successive raid.

There are multiple valid routes to complete sector 1. Two in particular stand out for allowing players to collect “Visor Cortexes” from Nikolai and LordsofKarma, two of the players labeled “KIA – Loadout recoverable” in the virtual console. So while the text adventure so far is something that can be played solo, risking virtual death to map out each sector as a collective may help players piece together the broader mystery.

An example of Midnight Protocol’s emoji-driven text adventure format

Midnight Society has maintained an aggressive daily update schedule since the game launched with updates at 12AM PST (a potential nod to the Midnight Society’s @12AM Twitter handle), and signs point to that pace continuing through the month of January – typing in the command M:\12AM into the portal notes that “31 total moments [match] the start time of 00:00:00”, before tracking the number of moments that have progressed so far.

Early /Access As Playable Game
It’s too soon to say exactly what’s going on from a narrative perspective with Midnight Society’s window into their “Midnight Protocol” – are players sneaking in to view the system files of a game in early prototyping phase, or is something else going on with all the talk of “Variants”, “Visor Cortexes”, and “Claws”?

Looting Visual Cortexes from the dead is perfectly reasonable behavior

Whatever direction the story takes, there’s something inherently charming about playing a first-person shooter as text adventure, especially knowing the time spent getting familiarized with the world will eventually pay off with a much more expansive game. Early concept art is given immediate practical use, and a world that will eventually be built out in Unreal Engine 5 can still come alive in a lower fidelity format well before the game is ready to hit the shelves.

Midnight Society’s debut game shows some similarities to Stranger Things‘ ARG collaboration with Baskin Robbins, which used a text adventure to send players on a thriller adventure, facing off against both Russians and Demodogs, turning the complication of navigating somewhat antiquated systems into a game mechanic in itself. It’s still early on, but this should be an interesting one to follow. The game also resembles James Lantz’s Discord bot-driven game SmileBot, which plays out as a single-player resource management game that plays out on a Discord server, except for the times it changes. For Midnight Society, a few commands in the virtual console like “Party” and “Revive” imply the single-player text adventure might be getting a dash of multiplayer functionality over the coming days.

Joining the Text Adventure-Based Action
Geeky Pastimes has been holding daily livestreamed “solve-along” sessions on his Twitch channel every night when new content drops, along with brief summaries of the community’s findings on his YouTube channel. But the bulk of the action takes place in the Midnight Society Discord, where players share their findings and strategies, and compile information in a shared Google Doc pinned in the #conspiracy-theory-clues channel. As a shortcut, to get in on the action you’ll want to:

  1. Join the Discord server, and select the “Claws” role;
  2. Make sure your DMs are open, and type “M:\Verify @YourDiscordName” in #claws-only;
  3. When the Midnight Protocol bot sends a DM, reply with 14421PCGSPD as the passcode;
  4. Once registered, either start the first mission by sending M:\sector1 to the bot via DM, or checking out the Google Doc pinned in #conspiracy-theory-clues to see the full list of commands, and progress made so far.