Kickstarter-Funded Unwritten Passage Suspended, ‘Out of Money’
After more than nine months of development and a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign that resulted in about $68,000 for its budget, it appears indie developer Roxlou Games’ Unwritten Passage may never see the light of day.
Unwritten Passage, formerly called Unwritten: That Which Happened, is an indie title that first popped up on Kickstarter in January 2013 with a funding goal of $75,000 (it raised $78,017). The game was described as “Civlizaiton meets Oregon Trail,” in which players were to guide a tribe to an important destination. Procedural generation and permadeath for characters brought a rogue-like element, and story decisions made by players influenced the tribe positively and negatively as it built itself an oral history.
In a backer update* posted today on the Unwritten Passage Kickstarter page, Roxlou Games founder Joe Houston wrote that health concerns and costs among his family, as well as budget and other troubles, have delayed the game.
The result is a situation that Houston describes as “not stable enough.” It has become difficult to maintain contributors because of Unwritten’s dwindling budget, he writes, and other concerns are pulling him in multiple directions:
“So here’s the situation right now, as simply as I can think to put it. We raised $75k (which became about $68k after various Kickstarter costs) to make a game in 6 months with the efforts of 3 people. At this stage we’re at the 9-10 month mark. I’ve stretched the budget hard, and for the last month and a half I’ve been doing contracting on the side to try and stay afloat and to give my family the stability to see the doctors we need in order to heal. To be blunt, this is not enough. It is not stable enough for my fragile personal life (due in part to how healthcare works in the U.S.). It is not enough to retain fulltime commitments from my contributors. And in the meantime, as I balance my roles between programmer, designer, writer, producer, contractor, husband, father, brother, and son, I am not doing a very good job.”
There is work that has been done on the project, as Houston mentions art and music created by Roxlou’s Lee VanWallene and Julian Culme-Seymour, respectively. He also states that the concept for Unwritten Passage still excites him and others. But the reality of the situation seems to be that the game won’t exist in its originally described form, if it does at all.
“However, my experience also says that we have lost momentum, we’re out of money, and it’s now a one-man project centered around a fulltime game developer with family baggage that needs better health insurance,” he wrote. “And I’ve worked in the past on wonderful projects with real promise that have been canceled, so I know what that looks like. Sometimes it still takes a lot of luck to make a game.”
Houston wrote that he isn’t necessarily ready to give up on the game, but it’s not his top priority — not officially canceled, but not necessarily ever to see completion, either.
“It lives on as my personal side project, something I hope to bring about on my own and through the help of talented friends when possible,” he wrote. “And should it come to be I will do my best to deliver on my original promises… but I have to be honest. To many this is probably the end.”
Houston also offered backers refunds from “a small fund” for “pursuing future art costs for the game,” should they wish.
“If you are a backer and feel that we have violated your trust in us, please contact Roxlou Games via Kickstarter and I will do my best to give you a refund,” he wrote.
We’ve reached out to Roxlou for further comment about the situation and the future of Unwritten Passage. You can read the full Kickstarter update here.
*Full disclosure: I’m a backer of Unwritten Passage at the $15 tier.