by Julie Morley
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s been a long time since anything about Unwritten: That Which Happened has been talked about; so I figured it was time for a refresher on the campaign, and what the developers have been up to.
Unwritten: That Which Happened (now Unwritten Passage) is a strategy game where players go through generations upon generations of a nomadic clan, exploring all the legends and tales of their history, hiking all the way to the famous “God Mountain,” and surveying the countless randomly generated maps and such through these generations. At its core, Unwritten centers around the beauty of storytelling. It was planned for release on Windows and on Steam in August of 2013.
In February on 2013 Roxlou Games’s Unwritten Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $75K and then some. By raising around $78k via the Unwritten Kickstarter, things seemed to be going in a well. For the first few months following the campaign development was looking great, but complications soon entered the picture and the intended Beta release had to be pushed off until it was eventually set “to be determined.”
The core member and founder of Austin-based Roxlou Games, Joe Houston, is a gaming industry veteran with experience with projects like Dishonored, iOS games, “The Old Republic” MMO, and even PSP games under his belt. Typically, when a developer signs on with a development company/group, it jeopardizes whatever projects that developer was working on outside of the companyx. Such restrictions can limit ones afterhours development significantly, which is why Joe turned to Kickstarter in order to fund Unwritten’s development; to pay his salary so the game could be developed past its pre-production phase.
Unfortunately, life threw the development team curveballs left and right, and for several months there was complete radio silence on their end.
First, it was a matter of the name. According to a February 21st 2013 update on the games’ blog, and Kickstarter, the exposure gained through the Unwritten Kickstarter brought legal troubles; comic superpower DC Comics claimed that Unwritten: That Which Happened is based on their comic The Unwritten. After much discussion and voting on the Roxlou Games site, the game was rechristened Unwritten Passage. A crisis was averted, but it ushered in a chain of bad luck.
With troublesome apartment construction, unforeseen car complications, and the inability to rent an office space, things weren’t looking good for the team, according to the August 12, 2013 update. But when a guesthouse was offered rent-free to the team, things seemed to be moving smoothly and efficiently once again. Unfortunately, the Beta deadline was once again pushed back, this time to October.
Around the time the Beta was due Joe made a serious and personal update about some current events in his life; including his daughter’s medical complications, and hinting at the emotional and financial drain associated with it. The Beta’s release was changed to “to be determined,” while development slowed down significantly so Joe could take care of his family. Fortunately for Joe, most of the backers were understanding and supportive. Another update wasn’t posted until January 2014, when a pair of posts went up spelling out the official state of the project, which wasn’t good. The group was low on funds, and personal life complications meant that Joe needed to concentrate on family. The project was considered to be in development slowly from that point on without a promise of a release date; indicating that when Roxlou Games is able to do so, there will be development.
Some backers were sympathetic to the January updates, but others requested refunds. Unfortunately there have been no updates or posts made to the Unwritten Kickstarter page, Twitter account, or official Unwritten website since the January 2014 one. That was over 11 months ago. The last word from by Joe was on his personal blog, “The Sovereign State of Houston” on February 6th of this year, contemplating various aspects of his situation. Based on his LinkedIn profile Joe has been working for Bluepoint Games since 2013, which great for personal stability, but raises concerns about the state of Unwritten’s development.
I reached out to Joe Houston to find out what he’s been up to since anyone heard from him this past February. According to him, the project is currently still “…roughly in the same state it was a year ago…“. Which means balancing a full-time job and the health complications in his personal life that he mentioned in his Kickstarter updates. Though now with his work at Bluepoint Games things seem to be looking brighter due to the creative freedom he’s been allowed after hours. Things may not be perfect but it seems like they’re improving..
But what about the lack of updates? Many on the outside looking in would wonder why the silence for eleven months. Simple, according to Joe, the updates have been held off on because of their “emotional drain,” but he also states that he’ll be posting again when he “…reaches a stable place with something more complete to show.”
For now, the only thing about Unwritten that is certain is that it’s long overdue. But at least for Joe things seem to be improving. We’ll have to wait and see if this translates into fulfillment of that $78,000 promise made 21 months ago.
Have any news or updates regarding Unwritten you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments, or drop us a line!
Know of other Kickstarter projects that have just dropped off the map? Want us to do some digging and see what’s going on? Comment below, or shoot us an email and we’ll start nosing around.
Read more Kickstarter MIA articles right here for more sad crowdfunding tales.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/julie.jpg” ]Julie Morley is a freelance writer and comic artist from Spring, Texas. She attended the Academy of Art University for two years, studying Animation and Illustration. Whilst here, she learned about writing comic scripts, storyboards, and general storytelling. Since leaving college, she has been working on personal comic projects, stories, and illustrations. She aspires to release a self published comic within two years. For the majority of her life, she has been playing console games, typically being third-person shooters and sandboxes. Her favorite game of existence is Dark Cloud II (Dark Chronicle) and her favorite Indie game is Gone Home.[/author]