Frogdice: Making Games on the Road Less Traveled

Giving The Players What They Want

Seventeen years is a long time for any game to remain in existence, especially in this era of sequels and server shutdowns, but Threshold is still going strong today, serving thousands of players in its role-playing required, text-only world. Michael attributes Threshold’s longevity to the game’s focus on on role-playing and community, and also to the fact that the game doesn’t try to appeal to everyone. “As long as it’s really good at doing the things that it does,” he says, “the people who are fans of those things will be its audience. One of the beauties of our medium of entertainment, especially compared to TV or movies, is that we can so directly target to an audience so much easier. With a movie, everyone has to go the same theaters, everyone has to have the same experience. We don’t have to do that with games. You can make games be whatever you want.”

As strange as that may sound, Michael says Threshold’s longevity isn’t the most surprising thing. “What’s extra bizarre,” he told me, “is that Threshold is growing again.” He attributes that growth to an unlikely source for a MUD – mobile phones.

“I love whoever made BlowTorch,” Michael says. “BlowTorch is a free MUD client for Android phones. A ton of our players use it who had kind of quit playing Threshold because they couldn’t find the time, or were at work, or whatever. But now they have an Android phone, so they get on Blowtorch, and that gets them reconnected to the community. Next thing you know, they’re playing at home on their PC again.”

“There are lots of players now who use how well they do in combat on their phone as a bragging right,” Pang added. “I killed someone on my phone, I beat this mob on my phone, and so on.”

“Every one of our games, even our flash games on Kongregate, even our one-minute demos – they all have a story,”

Rather than simply be amused by the trend, the Hartmans set out to capitalize on it. Frogdice lead developer Brian Workman (known as “Gessler” in-game) is currently at work on a new setting tailored for the mobile platform. “The main goal,” Michael says, “is to cut back on some of the text outputs that are inherent to a text-based game. You know, to tone it down for mobile.”

Threshold also has some ties to every other Frogdice title. You see, every game they make, from Coin and Carry – the collection of mini-games – to Tower of Elements – the match 3 RPG – is set in the same world. “Every one of our games, even our flash games on Kongregate, even our one-minute demos – they all have a story,” Pang explained. “Any time you’re writing a story, it’s much easier to set it in a world that you know super, super well. You know the history, you’ve got all the timelines, and you have more of the details of every little story that can be told.”

Naturally, that shared universe includes Dungeon of Elements, Frogdice’s latest project. It mixes RPG elements with Dr. Mario and Tetris inspired combat, as well as crafting, exploration, gear and pets. It’s a weird mix of familiar puzzle gameplay in a slightly different RPG wrapper. Michael describes it as “core meets casual.” Frogdice is hoping to complete it with the help of some Kickstarter funding. And the good news: It won’t take that much.

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21 Comments on Frogdice: Making Games on the Road Less Traveled

Dras

On June 7, 2013 at 9:13 am

Having been one of those people that have stuck around with Frogdice for over ten years now, I can tell you that there’s another part of their company, beyond the well made games.

They encourage and support a -community-. They’re not faceless developers who we rant and rave at and may or may not respond to our complaints (I’m looking at you, Bioware). They’re Michael and Pang, they’re the ones making these worlds come alive WITH our input, not BECAUSE of the cash flow.

It’s a weird distinction, and I’m not sure my words get it across correctly, but I will -always- support Frogdice. It’s not just another gaming company, the people involved, players and admins, have become friends (and one even became my wife!).

Anthony Davis

On June 7, 2013 at 9:27 am

This is almost a comfort in my eyes. When companies like THQ are shutting down completely, being a student attempting to get into the game making industry, you look to positive events happening. This shiws that even small companies can make it. Even if you arent in the center of game making hub central. Keep moving forward FrogDice!

Hoo-Rah

On June 7, 2013 at 10:07 am

When I think of Kentucky, I think of bourbon. But it’s nice to see a gaming company doing well outside the traditional meccas. Looks like they’ve found a solid niche and are doing their best to cater to its members.

Loigan

On June 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

I’ve been playing Frogdice’s Threshold for over 10 years now.

I’ve met lots of cool people in my time with them and will be going to my 4th Frogdice convention this year.

While I might not play all the different games they have made, I continue to support this company because they are great people and have a great community.

I look forward to another 10 years with Michael and Pang.

Vasco

On June 7, 2013 at 10:31 am

I believe what has really helped Frogdice more than their excellent games and content is the support and respect they show their customers. As Dras said, they are always looking for input and ideas. They want to hear if they may have introduced a new aspect to a game that had unintended consequences. Good or bad news, they are receptive and they are quick to follow up.

Even with all the input they take stances that they will not budge on. Which is a good thing. They have not changed their core mentality for core game design. When you shake up foundations, things start to crumble. They know their strengths and they work well with them and they are always tweaking from the input they receive.

John

On June 7, 2013 at 10:33 am

I’ve been playing MUDs on and off for something like 15 years now, since I was in grade school. I got really into Threshold a few years ago, and it’s hands down the most entertaining, immersive game I’ve ever played. There are MUDs with more players, or more complicated combat systems, but if you’re looking to feel like a real piece of a fantasy world, you shouldn’t be playing anything other than Threshold.

Not only that, but the people who run the game are the most responsive, available, easy to talk to admins that I’ve ever encountered. From jump street, it was clear that they cared about the game and about their players. They’ve been doing it for almost 20 years now, and show no signs of stopping now.

The growth and the new games that are on the horizon for this company couldn’t have me more excited about sticking around to see what comes next.

Tyren

On June 7, 2013 at 10:33 am

I have been a long time supporter of Frogdice. I have been playing Threshold for over 13 years now and I play and support all of their other games as well. What makes these games what are they is the community behind them. The majority of us have been players for a very long time and we have all played together through the growth and expansion. Its a crazy ride but in the end we always end up enjoying what Frogdice does with the game. I highly recommend Threshold to anyone with an imagination and an open mind, also Tower of Elements if you enjoy match 3. I await DoE’s release and can’t wait to see what else they pump out.

Pel

On June 7, 2013 at 10:49 am

Though I haven’t played much of any of their new releases I’ve been playing Threshold on and off for around 10 years its nice to see that as a company they can continue to make enjoyable, good games.

Sier

On June 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Can’t wait for this game to come out! Frogdice is my favorite indie company. :)

Loigan

On June 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I have been playing Threshold for over 10 years now.

Even though I don’t play every game they release, I always have and always will continue to support Frogdice.

They are a great company with great people.

I look forward to another 10 years with Pang and Michael.

Carl D Price

On June 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

I’m very pleased that this article made it to this site. I have been playing Threshold RPG for over thirteen years and I always come back because the community, players, admins, and developers are just an amazing group of people. Not to mention that the world is just so stinking immersive. I can literally log into the game and not kill/farm/raid/grind at all and feel like I have accomplished something just by engaging in the in-game social interaction that has been setup. (mostly by the players!)

Threshold RPG has been around for seventeen years and it shows signs of being around for decades longer at this point. This is because the community is there and the enforced roleplay only enhances the experience rather than detract from it.

Long story, short: Frogdice is an amazing company and I hope they get the success they deserve. They may be an Indie developer, but they have the drive, vision, and ethics that are deserving of so much more.

Taila

On June 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Just joined the whole Frogdice community and I’ve only really checked out tower of elements and Threshold, but I love the games and the developers. They actually care about their community of gamers and have so much interaction with them that, it makes you feel like you’re part of a tight family of folks.

Keep up the good work! =)

Chris Angelico

On June 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I’ve been playing Frogdice games – specifically, Threshold RPG – for about ten years now. There are literally no other games that I’ve played for anything like that long without a break; some games I’ll return to every once in a while, but nothing that I consistently play for over a decade. Why? Because it’s a huge community. I’ve met friends through Threshold (and some people have met *spouses* that way), and there’s no way that I’d ever give that up.

And part of the awesomeness of DoE? It includes that community. There is a little easter egg in there somewhere of a Threshold RPG character, depicted magnificently in a completely new setting!

Halyanne

On June 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Back in the day when MUD’s were popular, I tried and played quite a few. Then a friend of mine suggested Threshold. I gave it a try and haven’t looked back since. I loved the roleplay enforced structure. I loved the stories. I loved the people I met both IC and OOC. I love being able to contribute to gameplay through suggestions, ideas and concepts that I make up for my character. I love being able to bring things I love, to the IC public, so to speak. The possibilities are endless. They also make it easy for you to try things, have it not work out, and able to roleplay your way back to before.

As the years have gone on, Frogdice has come out with other games. I love playing Coin N Carry. I usually have that playing while I have a character playing on Threshold. The support that Frogdice gives is totally amazing. Certainly not something you see from big game developers. This is even more awesome in a story driven character game like Threshold. They really do mean it when they say that the people run and decide the fate of the stories.

There is a reason Frogdice has been around for 17 years and I have no doubt they will be around for another 17. And I will be playing along side them.

Tethon

On June 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Been an active member on the Frogdice scene for over 15 years and am still entertained. Hope this trend continues with new games/content through the years!

Chris Angelico

On June 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Actually, the reason I’ve hung around is because of the dual nature of Threshold. When the community or admins offend, I can just talk to the computer (play the coded game). When I don’t have much time to invest in actually playing the game, I can still chat with the community. Hence I’m still around after ten years.

Matt Johnson

On June 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

It’s so cool to see a fantasy setting that has been a fun part of my life for over a decade come to life in so many creative ways in Frogdice games. I will be really excited to see what they do next!

Halyanne

On June 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I started playing MUD games about 19 years ago. I played quite a few, some I stuck around with for a year or two and others I didn’t. But never has there been a game that I have played for so long than Threshold, Frogdice’s first game. When I was first introduced to the game, the biggest attraction was the enforced roleplaying and strict structure of the game. Threshold is a game where your suggestions and character driven ideas matter. People are given so much freedom in the game to do what they want to do. That is amazing for a MMO. The people at Frogdice are always supportive and there for questions, to hear your comments and a lot of times they often use your suggestions.

I’ve made some really good friends via Frogdice games. Some people I speak to every day. The community that Frogdice develops is an everlasting one. A game with administrators that support their players like they do is the reason they have been around for so long. That is also the reason they will be around for many years into the future.

yrizaria

On June 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm

This is a really wonderful, indepth article! Helping a small company like this get funded on Kickstarter should make every gamer out there feel good about him/herself. Players are loyal to games like Threshold because of the caring company behind the scenes. If you thought this company sounds great you should pledge a little something to help on Kickstarter and be a part of games like this growing and succeeding!

Nicole K

On June 8, 2013 at 7:16 am

I’ve been a fan of Frogdice for years, and it’s really exciting to see them constantly developing and putting out new and exciting games. Threshold was my first MUD, and it quickly became my only MUD because of how wonderfully developed and immersive it was, and still is. I enjoyed the stories, and my character’s part in them, so much that I actually went a little bit fangirl and got a tattoo inspired by the game.

Another big thing I love about Frogdice is the community aspect. When you get involved in any of Frogdice’s games, you become a part of this wonderful family. The staff and players are fun and supportive, whether you’re a veteran gamer, or a total newbie, and I can definitely credit Frogdice with introducing me to some of my favorite friends.

That said, I can’t wait to see how far Frogdice can go with DoE (and anything else they do in the future)! If it’s anything like my love affair with Threshold, it’s sure to be a hell of an experience with great interactions that will keep you entertained for hours.

Halyanne

On June 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm

As someone who has played Frogdice games for almost 15 years, it’s awesome to see such positive articles such as this. Beginning with Threshold, the Frogdice team has always cared what their customers want and need. They have been instrumental in such a supportive community. I can’t even begin to tell you how many friends I have made via Frogdice games. Lots of people I speak to every day. I might not have met them in Real Life, but I still consider them friends.

Besides the many friendships I’ve found via Frogdice games, I can’t even begin to tell you how much their involvement in their games is refreshing. They are always there to answer questions, field comments and concerns and to listen to your ideas. Many player ideas have been implemented into all their games. No where have I found a game that that lets you be as creative or involved in your roleplaying than Threshold. You can pretty much do anything with your character. Bringing in things that you love, like various games, stories, even cooking ideas, makes Threshold a game that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing for almost 15 years. What other game can really brag that they have people who play who have been playing for so long. The main reason behind this is the dedication of Michael and Pang. I’ll always be there to support their games.