Recently I had the pleasure of being in contact with Jean Leggett, the CEO of a little games company called One More Story Games. If you haven’t heard of them before, don’t worry; neither had I – but I’m glad I have now.
When I first spoke with Jean, I assumed that she worked for a regular games development company. Once I talked with her a little more and did a little research into the company however, I found out that One More Story doesn’t just create games themselves, they also help others create their own games. With a tool called ‘StoryStylus’, children as young as 10 years old are creating their own story-driven adventures. I just knew I had to find out more about this awesome group of people and tell a short version of their story for those who may be as interested as I was.
I chatted a little with Jean and got to know about her and how she got into gaming. particular. She grew up on Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, Paperboy and Contra after being introduced to the NES back in 1987 when her grandparents bought one for her and her sister. She’s not just all about games, either; on her “about” page, I was able to see that Jean has a ton of experience working in executive administration but she also worked in stand up comedy for a few years. This, of course, intrigued me and I asked Jean how she went from comedy to managing One More Story Games. “After University I was primarily doing executive admin work and comedy on the side,” she responded. “I only just got into the (gaming) industry in a formal capacity in 2014. I’d watched my husband work crazy long hours at Electronic Arts and Zynga since 2001 and it was not an appealing industry.”
Jean and her husband Blair are the founders of One More Story games, with Jean taking the role of Chief Executive Officer and Blair being the Chief Technical Officer. I was interested in learning more about how they got to where they are now. Jean explained that around the Autumn 2012, Blair, who was working with Zynga Dallas at the time, “discovered a medical error that nearly killed him”. Due the stress of the situation, Jean and Blair decided to move back to his hometown. From there they decided they’d take a bit of break and begin to grow their own businesses and see what happened. “I started working with entrepreneur women to help them find more joy and balance in their lives,” Jean said, “while Blair started work on One More Story Games’ engine StoryStylus.” Jean decided to get on board with Blair and his project and since 2014 they have raised over $360,000 while building their company.
It’s quite an inspiring story to say the least. Jean started off as COO (Chief Operations Officer) and Blair as CEO but soon Blair let Jean take the reins as she’s “the outward face of the company, handling media interviews and out there meeting investors” –although she assured me that all decisions made for the company are a joint effort! Plus, with Jean in charge, One More Story Games has access to helpful grants and funds designated for women-led tech companies.
When Jean and Blair got started with One More Story Games, they wanted to create what Jean describes as an “ecosystem” for game creators to make and sell their content. Over the last three years things of working on their project, things have of course changed; at first they were focused solely on mystery-oriented story-driven games but have since expanded into other genres of storytelling.
Their main goal is to “reduce the tech barrier for writers to be able to assemble component of a game.” Basically, they want to make it easier for people who may not otherwise have the ability to create their own video game masterpieces.
Despite all of their hard work so far, there’s still a lot more more to be done, so StoryStylus is still in early beta. That doesn’t mean that two haven’t done great things with what they’ve created so far. The team at One More Story Games hold week-long intensive camps to teach children how to use their software. One of Jean’s favourites is 11-year-old Keira’s game, Attack of the Killer Zombie Cats: USA Edition, which was made in just 18 hours and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
For those of you that may be wondering if StoryStylus might be for you, I asked Jean about all of the different kinds of tools available at your disposal and why someone who’s interested might want to check them out. “StoryStylus has a lot of bells and whistles for advanced users, like complex scripting, legacy player choices carrying over to subsequent games, analytics, translation tools and more,” she said. She then went on to explain that it’s suitable for beginners too, with a simple but powerful toolset. She also mentioned, “we have a game designer with 20+ years of narrative design under his belt who said StoryStylus has ruined him for all other tools.” It’s certainly an impressive feat.
Let’s talk about money. When I asked Jean what the average cost of using the tool would be, she mentioned that StoryStylus has a free trial so that people can give it a try to see if it works for them. An annual subscription costs between £20–£75 (around $25–$100). Once you’ve created a game on the program, you can begin earning money from it through a ‘tipping system’ – people can choose to tip games that they really enjoy. Projects that really stand out can even be published on the One More Story Games marketplace. Royalties for all projects range from about 30-50% for game creators who own their own right to their game.
The possibility for collaboration is out there for game creators as well. “We’re seeing writers collaborate with artists and musicians and it’s great,” Jean says. “Every game has a different look and feel. We’re putting together a community component to our site so you can search for the collaborators you need.” So if you find yourself wanting to work on game but can’t do it alone, there are options are out there for you.
Later this year, One More Story Games will also be integrating a publishing agreement so that collaborators can designate certain percentages of tips and sales to all collaborators rather than the sole original creator. Overall Jean mentions that, “A lot of people will use StoryStylus for fun, which we encourage, and there will be some who see this as a viable way to develop a recurring revenue stream. In the end, we want narrative-focused game creation to be fun and worthwhile.”
And this was the very reason why I was so happy to get to speak with her about One More Story Games. I’m sure there are many creative minds out there craving to create something brilliant, and this is brilliant little company is encouraging anyone to give it a shot. As games and game development becomes more mainstream and widespread, it’s very encouraging to know that there are companies out there dedicated to making it more accessible to everyone, not just those with supreme technical know-how.
Jean and Blair and the rest of the One More Story team will be continuing to work hard on improve their business and fulfilling their ambitions. Meanwhile, Jean herself will be probably continue to harbour her dream of becoming a professional Tetris player.