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Permanent decisions and infinite variety. Create a nomadic tribe and guide them across a randomly generated tundra to meet its God. Read more

Austin, TX Video Games
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This project was successfully funded on February 13, 2013.

Permanent decisions and infinite variety. Create a nomadic tribe and guide them across a randomly generated tundra to meet its God.

Austin, TX Video Games
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About this project

UPDATE: We did it! Unwritten continues at

Rock, Paper, Shotgun: "[Unwritten is] a game with pedigree, a well-run campaign and a fascinating hook – a game about travelling, exploring, storytelling and gods."

Kotaku: "Unwritten looks like it could address a lot of the issues people say they have with narrative delivery in games, where choices made in a campaign don't seem to matter and the stakes feel too small." "Unwritten bills itself as a roguelike turn-based strategy game, but thematically it’s already offering something rather fresh."

NOTE: In-game art assets aren't representative of final game.

Important Kickstarter Updates

Unwritten is a turn based strategy game for PC to be released in August 2013.

  • Delve into a turn based strategy game with meaningful, permanent decisions
  • Play as successive generations of a nomadic clan, passing stories and legends down through the ages
  • Experience infinite novelty through randomly generated maps, units, abilities, and enemies
  • Make decisions that become a part of your personal "story", affecting your ability to barter and ally with rival clans
  • Make the trek to "God Mountain", a place of final judgement and potential glory
  • Experience a rich, exotic world inspired by international traditions of story-telling
  • Make your own game modules using the same tools the developer used to make the game

The Story:

The People, who name themselves after their leader, have their eyes on the mountain across the tundra.

They winter in the spires, and summer on the salt flats, but today these places are at their backs. The People have met with the others, and have told them their stories, and the others have given them slaves, animals, and food, because the People are great.

Which is now why the People have their eyes on the mountain across the tundra, the mountain where The God lives. The voice of the People is great, and they call to God Mountain, but the voice of the tundra is greater, with its quick-storms that reveal the wolves and its wide open spaces.

The People begin walking. They will call out as they walk. They will tell their stories to those they meet along the way. They will do many things. They will gather more stories. And when they get close enough The God will finally hear them above the voice of the tundra. The People will finally be judged.

The Game:

In Unwritten the player creates and guides a nomadic clan on a one-way journey across a dangerous wilderness. It is a turn based strategy game with maps, story elements, units, abilities, and enemies that are all randomly generated. Along the way decisions (and death) are permanent, and each play session is unique.

In-Game Concept by Amanda Williams
In-Game Concept by Amanda Williams

Within the team we often call it "Sid Meier's Civilization meets Oregon Trail". It could also be called a "strategy rogue-like" since each area map feels a bit like a "dungeon" in the classic role playing game Rogue. However, in Unwritten you're controlling many units at once that share global resources like food and money.

A World of Stories:

A nomadic clan lives and dies by its ability to tell a good story. Without written language, this is how it passes its legacy on to the next generation and how it represents itself to rivals and potential allies. Ultimately the stories a clan tells are its entire identity. Unwritten's world is one of wandering, nomadic people, so it's natural that a central theme to the game is the oral tradition of storytelling.

This can be seen most prominently in the game's artistic presentation. When creating a clan you choose a leader to represent you. These characters are inspired by story-telling traditions from the world over, including Indonesian story telling masks, Native American rattle sticks, Maori warrior shouts, Mongolian throat singers, and more.

While much of the game takes place on an overhead map (in scale similar to a game like Civilization), frequently the clan will encounter "story events". These play out as though the clan's leader is recounting what happened on that day, representing the events through shadow puppets inspired by Balinese traditions.

A Game of Stories:

Story-telling is more than just the set dressing for Unwritten, it is a physical part of the gameplay. Each time the player makes an important decision in the game they receive a token called a "story fragment". These fragments are the history of the player's clan, and have both positive and negative effects on the clan's stats and abilities. Further, whenever the clan encounters a potential rival a "story bout" is initiated where the leaders of the two groups swap stories and thus their history. The fragments you've acquired directly affect your ability to ally and barter with others, a vital necessity out on the tundra.

However, simply making choices that will win you friends has a catch. Ultimately you're headed to God Mountain, where your clan believes that their god lives and will soon hear your story and learn about your people. Will your god judge you by the same rules that govern the tundra, or will you be measured by a different scale?

The Tools:

Creating strong, efficient tools is a big part of our strategy for getting the game done with high quality and on time (see "Risks and Challenges"). However, it's also part of our dream to collaborate directly with the fans, which is why we're committed to releasing all our development tools with the game on day 1.

This is more than just an afterthought. We factor this into the way we're designing and directing the game, making sure that everything we create has proper tool support and could accessibly be created by one, two, or three person mod teams.

Since infinite variability and novelty is one of our core concepts, we feel this is more than just added value to those interested in trying their hand at creating game modules for Unwritten. This ensures that new ideas will be injected into the game experience long after its initial release.

Roxlou Games was founded by Joe Houston, a professional game developer for the past 8 years. He most recently was one of the original core team members of Dishonored, the VGA's best Action Adventure game of 2012 and game of the year by many other publications.

Joe is joined by industry newcomers Lee VanWallene (longtime artist) and Julian Culme-Seymour (trained musician), who bring an untainted perspective and enthusiasm to the project. It's this combination of experience, vision, and learning that makes Roxlou Games, and thus Unwritten, possible.

What Will You Do With the Funds?

The funds raised here are vital to making this game happen. We are just finishing our "pre-production" phase, but can go no further based on our own time and savings. These funds will pay the salaries of our team so we can devote our full attention to making Unwritten happen. Also, since Joe is a game developer by trade, without additional funding he will have to sign an employment agreement with another game company, which routinely prohibits working on other projects.

In short, this is your opportunity to green-light an exotic, fascinating game that otherwise wouldn't get a chance. We're very confident in our ability to ship this special game (see "Risks and Challenges"), and we hope that you're excited about becoming a part of it.

What if you get more than you ask for? (STRETCH GOALS!)

We will of course be very happy to make Unwritten at our minimum budget. But if we get more there are some great features we want to add that we know our fans are going love.

Unlocked at $100,000 - Mac and Linux Versions

Just what it says, both the game and the tools for Mac and Linux. We want everyone able to play Unwritten, and to do so on their platform of choice.

Unlocked at $125,000 - iPad Version

The market for iOS games is tricky these days, but we want to make a tablet version of Unwritten simply because we think it will play great on the platform. Even if we don't sell a lot of copies, we just know that those that want to take Unwritten on the go will have an awesome version of it that just makes sense on the tablet.

Note that we need extra money for this version because we only want to do it if we can re-design the game for a touch screen interface, making sure that it's the best-playing version of Unwritten it can be.

Unlocked at $150,000 - Mod Community and Website

We're already releasing the same tools we're using to make the game with every single downloaded copy. But we want to take this idea a step further and build a community website around posting, rating, and sharing the mods that you make for the game. This will add value for more than just those that want to mod the game: as a player you'll also have access to a whole host of free additional content, keeping our theme of "infinite variety" going on and on!

Unlocked at $175,000 - The First Official Expansion, Chosen by You!

While we're extremely invested in the unique world of Unwritten, we have many ideas that wouldn't fit in the game we're making now. From stranded Greek warriors making their way home (as in the Odyssey), to a modern exploration of assassins and mercenaries, we have many themes and places that didn't make the cut, but that we want to explore in official expansions to the game. And for the first expansion we want the backers to help us narrow down the field!

If we hit this goal backers will be sent a poll to pick the theme, setting, and mechanics that will be found in the first official expansion. All backers (at any reward level that includes a copy of the game) will also get the expansion for free!

Unlocked at $250,000 - Multiplayer

We are often asked about multiplayer for Unwritten, and honestly it's something that fascinates us. We have talked about how cool seamless, asynchronous multiplayer (like that found in Dark Souls) would would be in the game. Maybe you encounter the ruins of another player's failed playthrough and can play back the last 5 story fragments they participated in. Maybe you can learn from their mistakes, or you might even scavenge from their memories. The possibilities seem endless.

However, we also know that multiplayer is just way out of scope for our tiny budget. Extra money would make some of our "blue sky" features a reality, and would take Unwritten to a new, exciting level.

We have a great list of interesting rewards to pick from. Details on a few of the specific rewards can be found below.

The Art Book

All the concept art from the game, bundled with developer anecdotes and behind-the-scenes facts about the search for Unwritten's unique visual style.

Full color and formatted as a pdf for easy printing.

The Soundtrack

Available as a DRM free mp3 digital download to do with exactly as you like. It will contain more of the eclectic mixture of modern and tribal beats that you can hear in our Kickstarter video and in this sneak peek.

The Strategy Guide

Contains strategies, secrets, and behind-the-scenes facts about designing a game with infinite variety.

Full color and formatted as a pdf for easy printing.

The Poster

You have your choice from the following designs, realized as a full color 18" x 24" print. All printed posters will also be signed by the artist, Lee VanWallene!

Design 1 -- Inspired by M.C. Escher's "tessellations", this design shows two sides of the perilous tundra with abstract style.

Design 2 -- Detailing one imagining of the "real world" of Unwritten, this design is a great companion piece to the world of shadow puppets found in the limited screen print (below).

The Screen Print

We're excited about how this one turned out. It's a 2 color, 18" x 24", screen print on tan paper, depicting an ultra stylized version of our Balinese shadow puppet style.

This is a limited run, so after we print this one batch there won't be any more. Each print will be numbered and signed by the team.


One popular request since we launched the Kickstarter has been for "add-ons", which is a way to customize your individual pledge. In order get an "add-on" simply increase your pledge the indicated amount above the reward you already selected. For example, if you're at the $15 tier and decide you want an extra digital download of the game and the soundtrack, you would add $10 for the game and $10 for the soundtrack, bringing your total pledge to $35.

At the end of the campaign backers will be sent a poll asking them which add-ons they selected. We will then check these selections against the pledge amount and will make sure everyone gets their rewards.

At this time we offer the following "add-ons":

$15 -- Extra Printed Posters

  • Requires the $100 tier "The People in Print"
  • For every extra $15 add an additional printed poster (limit of 5 per person)
  • Includes a high res/vector download of the poster art
  • Your choice of poster design
  • Each poster will be signed by the artist, Lee VanWallene
$15 -- Digital Poster
  • For every extra $15 add a digital download of the poster art
  • Available at all tiers
  • High res/vector download of the poster art, formatted for easy printing
  • Your choice of poster design

$10 -- The Digital Art Book

  • Available at all tiers below $70 (tiers at $70 and above already include it)
  • For every extra $10 add one additional digital download of the art book

$10 -- The Digital Strategy Guide

  • Available at all tiers below $70 (tiers at $70 and above already include it)
  • For every extra $10 add one additional digital download of the strategy guide

$10 -- The Soundtrack

  • Available at all tiers below $70 (tiers at $70 and above already include it)
  • For every extra $10 add one additional digital download of the soundtrack

$10 -- Extra Digital Copies of the Game:

  • Requires the $15 tier "The People Who Walked" or greater
  • For every extra $10 add one additional digital download of the game
  • Provided we run a successful Steam Greenlight campaign, an additional Steam key will also be included

Risks and challenges

Unwritten has an aggressive schedule and healthy ambitions. As with any other game project, the greatest risk is that deadlines might get missed and at worst the game might fail to finish.

Thanks to previous experience in the game industry shipping games of all sizes, we've insulated Unwritten against this regrettably common risk. Our core strategy is focusing on "data driven design", which simply means that we focus heavily on tools and being able to test changes quickly. This also allows us to release our developer tools to the public with confidence, since having strong tools aligns with our development philosophy.

Additionally, Unwritten's core concepts "scale" well, which means that they can be represented very simply but also with high levels of polish. Unwritten's underlying gameplay has already been tested successfully with a design prototype using absolute bare-bones presentation. Because of this we are setting our ambitions for quality presentation high; however, should the unforeseeable happen we can always retreat to simple but effective presentation in nearly all areas.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • The short answer: Adding a Linux version will be our first stretch goal, followed shortly thereafter by a Mac version.

    The slightly less short answer: We're developing the game just as we would if we were going to ship it on multiple platforms. To boot, many of the libraries we're using already have Linux and Mac support built-in. However, tying things up with the appropriate testing and support will require us to bring on an additional programmer on contract, or we'll need to tack on another couple of months doing it ourselves.

    Linux is first in the list because it has a built-in community that is oriented towards self-support, and because most cross platform libraries have up to date Linux support (but deprecated Mac support). Tentatively the stretch goals are set at $85,000 to unlock the Linux version and $100,000 to unlock the Mac.

    If we fail to reach those stretch goals we may still attempt to add the platforms ourselves, but it will be after the release of the PC version, provided we have the money or if the market on that platform seems like it will bear it.

    Last updated:
  • Steam is absolutely where we want Unwritten to be, and if that happens a Steam key will be included with each digital copy for backers. During development we'll run a "Steam Greenlight" campaign (just like any game on Steam), at which time the support of our backers will be vitally important. We can't make promises, but that's where we're planning to go.

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  • When coming up with the world of Unwritten we first started by looking at famous nomadic cultures, and by far the most influential of those is the Mongolian people. The "tundra" comes from starting off with images of the Mongolian homeland (with a little bit of Arizona thrown in), eventually evolving it into our own unique place.

    That said, the whole game won't take place on screen after screen of tundra. We have tentative plans for tunnel passageways (like caves), and other "themed" maps. Plus as the clan grows closer and closer to "God Mountain", they will find that the terrain and the people that live in it change and become more foreign.

    Basically think of the tundra like the world of "The Never Ending Story". If you're a child of the 80s like we are you know the movie I'm talking about, otherwise IMDB will help you out there. The world has a consistent mood and melancholy theme, but you're likely to encounter a lot of variety and strangeness.

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  • The game will be DRM free for backers. If during development we manage to run a successful "Steam Greenlight" campaign, then backers will also get a free Steam key.

    Last updated:
  • We don't have the exact system requirements dialed in since we're still experimenting with the look of the game. Our strategy is to create an expressive, interesting art style that runs on as many machines as possible. Right now we're making sure the prototypes run on a near-ancient laptop, an Intel Duo 2.20GHz. We have a lot of graphics/system programming experience, so we're confident that we can keep our minimum requirements at least this low, if not lower.

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  • Yes, in the sense that it shows the scale of things and some of the gameplay elements. However, the art assets themselves are currently placeholder, meaning that better looking assets will replace them.

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  • Yes... now we do.… Joe is most contrite about the whole affair. However, after thousands of video views only 2 people caught this (or at least only 2 let us know). We've included the above video to ensure that you don't make a similar faux pas, ruining your chances with that hottie on your dorm floor with the sexy New Zealand accent.

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  • We came up with the framework for Unwritten without having played "King of Dragon Pass". However, someone pointed it out to us very early on and so we checked it out on the iPad. In the end the two games' approaches to a similar overall theme were really different, but we did draw a bit of inspiration here and there. One big thing we admired was how "KODP" creates its own world and invests in it completely. They don't explain away things that might be culturally uncomfortably for gamers, they just put confidence in those ideas and let them ride. As game designers we know you have to be very brave to do that, and it's harder to pull off than one might think.

    Ultimately Unwritten is a game with more structure and way less text than KODP (it's primarily a turn based strategy game), but we hope it shares with KODP a grand player investment in a foreign and exotic world of nomads.

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    17 backers

    The People Who Watched -- Get added to the backers only mailing list. Also gets a free download of "Tribal Visions" the first song from the game's soundtrack.

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    The People Who Walked -- Get the game and all the developer tools as soon as they're completed via a digital download. Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    122 backers

    The People Who Made Haste -- Get the full game an entire week before its official release date. Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    285 backers

    The People Who Came Before -- Get early access to the beta. Also gets your name listed in the credits as "Beta Tester". Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    25 backers

    The People Who Gazed at the Sky -- Get a digital art book with all the concept art from the game. Includes all rewards from "The People Who Came Before" and lower.

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    51 backers

    The People Who Stopped to Listen -- Get a DRM free mp3 download of the game's soundtrack. Includes all rewards from "The People Who Came Before" and lower.

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    11 backers

    The People Who Lay in Wait -- Get a digital strategy guide for the game. Includes all rewards from "The People Who Came Before" and lower.

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    Pledge $70 or more

    61 backers

    The People That Sharpened Their Spears -- Get the digital "special edition" of the game. Includes a digital art book with all the game's concept art, a digital strategy guide, and a DRM free mp3 download of the game's full soundtrack. Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    36 backers

    The People That Spoke -- Get a unique "story fragment" (a legend of your people) that appears in your clan's history when starting a new game. Every fragment is unique to you and you alone (other backers in this tier will get a different fragment). Also gets early access to the developer tools and your name in the credits as "Story Teller". Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    19 backers

    The People in Print -- Get a color, printed, "Unwritten" poster with your choice of design (see "What About Rewards?" for more details). Includes all rewards from "The People That Sharpened Their Spears" and lower.

    NOTE: This reward is not included in upper tiers unless specifically mentioned in the description.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    37 backers

    The People of Legend -- Your name or preferred alias (altered to fit the theme and tone of the world) will be used as the name of a rival clan leader in game. Must satisfy basic decency and tone requirements. Also unlocks a special ending of the game available only to backers at this tier and higher. NOTE: rival clan leader names are selected randomly for each play session, but backers will be given a code to ensure their name is selected if desired. Includes all rewards from lower tiers.

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    10 backers Limited (20 left of 30)

    The People on the Horizon -- A silhouette of your face will be used randomly as one of the shadow puppet elements in the game (taken from an exaggerated photo of your profile). Your face will be visible to all players of the game, not just you. NOTE: faces are selected randomly for each play session, but backers will be given a code to ensure their face is selected if desired. Includes all rewards from "The People of Legend" and lower.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    10 backers Limited (15 left of 25)

    The People Who Arrived -- Get a numbered, limited screen print poster created specifically for this reward tier. All copies will be signed by the development team. Read the "What About Rewards?" section for more details. Includes all rewards from "The People of Legend" and lower.

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    Ships anywhere in the world
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    1 backer All gone!

    The God Who Lived in a Mountain -- You get to choose the secret name of the resident of God Mountain, the God of the Tundra. Must satisfy basic decency and tone requirements. Includes all rewards from "The People of Legend" and lower.

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    1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)

    The People Who Spoke With the God -- Get a digital copy of all future games made by Roxlou Games. Includes all rewards from "The People Who Arrived", "The People on the Horizon", and "The People in Print". You will also be listed in the credits of Unwritten and future games as "Patron".

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    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)