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.