Here's What Really Happened To The Kickstarter Game Unwritten

When people back a Kickstarter project, they understand there's a bit of faith involved. A video game in the making requires a lot of work, after all, and creators aren't always able to come through on their promises even if they're professionals with years of experience. Still, crowdfunding is designed to remove some of the major obstacles that are involved with making exciting, ambitious ideas a reality — like a lack of money or motivation. However, the result isn't always as good as fans hope. And in some cases — a very few, with luck — the worst-case scenario happens: backers just get ghosted.


That's what seemingly occurred with the game Unwritten: That Which Happened, which got a fair amount of press — including an AMA on Reddit — and then disappeared. While creator Joe Houston did update the page for a while and offered refunds to displeased backers, the Kickstarter page was abandoned in 2014. 

Here's what actually happened to Unwritten, as far as we know, and why it hasn't been released.

Unwritten offered a fresh take on turn-based strategy games

Alternately referred to as Unwritten: That Which Happened or Unwritten Passage, the turn-based strategy game was meant to be a product of Houston's independent studio, Roxlou Games. According to the Kickstarter campaign video, the focus of the game is a group of nomads, which the player leads across a randomly-generated tundra to meet their god. 


Unwritten was meant to draw from storytelling traditions all over the world and include rogue-like elements such as permadeath and a high level of difficulty, varied art styles, and all the tools players might need to make the game their own. The game also featured characters modeled after Balinese shadow puppets, musical tribal traditions, and a "story fragment" system that gives meaning to each decision a player makes. In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Houston compared the game's world to the one in The Neverending Story, with "a lot of variety and strangeness along the way."

In the end, the Kickstarter met and exceeded its $75,000 goal with 2,212 backers. Unfortunately, meeting its campaign goals was not enough to give life to this promising title.


But the story remains Unwritten

Until January 2014, Houston was offering updates on the Kickstarter page, indicating that, while the project lived on, it no longer matched the vision Houston had of building a full-time effort with monthly updates. However, he noted that he wasn't ready "to completely call it quits and say that Unwritten Passage is dead forever." While he did say "this is probably the end," he also noted that development was ongoing by himself and his collaborators.


The delays were caused, in some part, by a fluid living situation and medical issues he alluded to starting in mid-2013. At the time he stopped posting, he implied his family situation was not yet stabilized and referred to a "family in crisis."

While the Kickstarter page is dead, Houston is still around. He occasionally mentions his wife and game-loving daughter on his Twitter account, which gives fans hope that his family is indeed well and thriving today. His jobs since 2014 include a stint with Bluepoint Games and he is now with Discord. Houston even mentions Unwritten on his LinkedIn resume, saying, "The game is currently on hiatus due to personal issues."

Hopefully, fans will one day get to see Unwritten as it was intended.