Columbus is a Midwestern focal point for college football and several national corporations, but Multivarious Games wants to make the city the regional heart of another industry: video games.
The company’s main goal is to make Columbus the Midwestern hub for video game production. Chris Volpe, CEO and president of Multivarious, believes Columbus has the potential.
“We have all the elements to do this,” Volpe said. “We just have to build out that infrastructure and culture around the city and state. [Video games] are just not something that we do here, so a lot of people do not know the opportunities and the broad expansiveness of the games industry.”
Multivarious, founded in 2011, started as a side project for the team on nights and weekends, and as an offshoot of the Central Ohio Gamedev Group, said Cody Starcher, a producer at Multivarious. COGG is made up of people who create video games and are passionate about game development.
“Here is a bunch of people who are talking about wanting to create video games,” Starcher said. “Let’s actually get them out on the market, let’s actually get them published.”
The amount of time everyone began putting in after work and on weekends started to increase once the group got its start.
“It was everybody’s part-time gig. Nobody could do it full time,” he said. “We [were] just trying to make video games.”
Around 2014, Volpe joined the team and decided to turn the side project into a full-fledged company, Starcher said.
“[Volpe] got out of his job. He cashed in his retirement and was like, ‘All right, I am going to go full time and make this a thing,’” Starcher said. “He started to really work to find clients and contracts, so we could keep the lights on and hire more people.”
Since then, Multivarious has grown to six full-time employees, five of whom are Ohio State graduates, and around another six that work part-time.
Starcher said Multivarious wants to make Columbus into the “Silicon Valley of Gaming” and plans to do so through their three main pillars of business.
The first is to create their own games that they can be proud of and would want to play. Multivarious has already released a mobile game called, “Hatch-It!” and is currently working on its second project, “No Mercy,” an ambitious action-adventure game to be released to PC sometime in 2018.
According to Multivarious’ website, “Hatch-It!” is a puzzle game about a brave little robot whose mission is to save unhatched baby dinosaurs before an asteroid hits Earth.
“We are super excited for [“No Mercy”] and are trying to make something that people have never seen before,” Starcher said. “It is taking the basic brawler mechanics and ideas and really testing what you can do with them.”
Starcher said the company wants to create games for clients that can be used to change the world with video-game technology. One of these projects works to help kids with muscular dystrophy through the therapy apps for Nationwide Children’s Hospital using Microsoft Kinect.
“Instead of [the kids] getting poked, prodded and measured to see how far they can reach, they get to play a game,” Starcher said. “Since we started it has been localized to seven different languages and shipped around the world.”
Multivarious’ final pillar is to build a community for video-game development in Columbus and the Midwest.
Multivarious hosts gaming communities and holds events, such as the Game Development Expo, to advance the role that Columbus plays in the gaming development community.
GDEX, which Starcher considers “Sundance [film festival] for video games,” began as a way to highlight all of the independent games that were being made in Columbus, but started to grow, Starcher said.
“We need some way to showcase all of these awesome little indie games that Ohio was making and then it kind of grew,” Starcher said. “This is Columbus games, now it’s Ohio games, now it’s Midwest games and now it is games from all across the nation.”
Colleges play a large role in what GDEX does. “The largest sponsor every year for GDEX is higher education,” he said.
Columbus State Community College and Shawnee State University are the biggest supporters. Columbus State sponsored DevDay, a day for development workshops, and Shawnee State sponsors the DevDay after-party, Starcher said.
Despite its close connection to Columbus, Ohio State, as an institution, does not participate in GDEX, but several student organizations participate, Starcher added.
Volpe wishes a larger connection could be made and sees the potential in getting Ohio State more involved.
“At GDEX, Ohio University shows up in full force, Columbus State shows up in full force, Miami and Shawnee State, they show up [and] have student projects there,” Volpe said. “They see it as an opportunity to have boots on the ground [and] practical experience, but look who didn’t show up.”
Besides GDEX, Multivarious and Ohio State do have a relationship and have worked together before, Volpe said.
Overall, Volpe said he likes what Multivarious has become, and is excited to see where the company will go from here.
“I like that Multivarious is a strange, creative house that works on a lot of different projects,” Volpe said. “If you ask anyone outside of Columbus, they do not think of us as a creative hotspot. I’d like to change that.”