Writer/artist Sara Alfageeh is known to many for her work on books like her newly-minted Harvey Award-winning YA fantasy graphic novel Squire. But her day job for some years now has been as a video game designer and creative director. She and friends Thariq Shihipar and Hisham Bedri are the co-cofounders of an online video game company called One More Multiverse that is due to release its first game this week.
The company, which in addition to producing games of its own offers its community of users the tools to turn their own tabletop role playing games into online video game adventures, began out of a desire by three designers to tell stories for themselves. “We couldn’t see ourselves in our favorite TV shows, in our favorite books and movies,” Alfageeh remembers. “Then we read this one book called City of Brass that was Game of Thrones-level politics and drama, but based on a mythology that we recognized as Muslim kids. And we were like, we want more of that, and we can’t wait for Marvel to do it, we can’t wait for Disney to do it. Let’s make our own world.”
As the company developed, they decided that a major part of their purpose would be the empowerment of storytellers in general. “It’s the same thread from Squire to One More Multiverse,” Alfageeh says. “The best people to write the stories that you want to see are often going to be you.” To that end, they saw their job as making their platform as accessible and easy to get into as they could, by making it highly automated and visual. “We wanted to give everyone the tools so they can create a story for them and their friends at their table that is perfect for them,” explains Alfageeh, with “all the joy of automation and the art you see in video games but all the imagination that you have with role playing games.”
The company has already drawn a strong user base. Alfageeh notes One More Multiverse has a “very active” Discord of 45,000 people who are creating stories and inviting each other to games. “It’s become like a world of its own.” Art Director Megan McCurdy agrees. “We’re still very early on in seeing how people are using this,” she says. “But I think that’s the really fun part. We have a lot of power users who are going all in on it. They’re making custom pixel art and characters and putting it in the world. That’s been really really cool to see.”
The website currently has a five-minute demo of the new game that they’re releasing on Thursday, a Blades in the Dark project. The visual design has a charmingly pixelated, almost Zelda-esque feel and a nice variety of 2d story spaces to explore, including a some very cool spooky spots, and also areas within which to have more standard rpg-type conversations. McCurdy explains that the design style was very much in keeping with the company’s bigger goal of access. “We chose the pixel art because first of all it’s a very approachable artform,” she says. “ We wanted it to be able to be something that people could learn and be able to do it themselves. You want to create your own stuff. “
The music is also a lot of fun, with a great sense of drama and a driving, cinematic, almost Marvel-moviesque quality. “Every level of Blades in the Dark has music that I thought would fit that that level correctly,” McCurdy notes, all drawn from online music sites like Epidemic Sound. In addition to the game itself, one of the most striking elements of the One More Multiverse website is its About Us page, which said the company wants to be “Good People who Make Great Games.” Plenty of video game companies say things like this, but in reality the industry is notorious for its horrendous treatment of its employees.
Today One More Multiverse has over 40 employees, and for McCurdy, who was the company’s very first hire, the work culture the founders have built is something truly special. “We have the most diverse team I have ever worked with,” McCurdy says, “with a majority female leads, and they’re the best people in the field.” She also notes the level of faith and care everyone is afforded. “Because we all work remotely we all have to be very capable of learning how to work remote and be responsible. We expect people to get the work done. But we also still have unlimited paid time off, we have health care…There’s just this high trust; ‘everyone’s getting stuff done, so take care of yourself.’”
For Alfageeh, the company’s ethos goes back to her beliefs about story. “I think at the root of all storytelling there is someone’s truth; it’s very hard to really detach yourself from whatever you’re investing your time in and creating,” she says. “So if your foundation begins with people who don’t care about the people who might be receiving the stories, that is going to be a part of whatever you’re creating.”