Frogdice: Making Games on the Road Less Traveled

Dungeon of Elements

In a bit of a change for a Kickstarter, Dungeon of Elements will be released about a month after the campaign ends on June 19. “Backers are going to get the game pretty quick,” Michael says. “It’s instant gratification.” That’s because the game is almost done, really – the main reason they went to Kickstarter was to raise funds for additional polishing on the game, and the hire a professional sound engineer. He also explained that they view Kickstarter as more than just a funding source. “It’s a platform,” he says. He says they chose to make a Kickstarter for three big reasons, “First, funds are always a challenge for indie developers. Second, the people on Kickstarter aren’t looking for Call of Duty or other AAA titles – they’re looking for something different.” But his final reason for going the crowdfunding route?

“There are a lot of times where you make little decisions at the end that are really a toss up. Decisions that can go either way. If you make a call, sometimes it’s wrong.”

“We wanted to get our fans and backers involved at this stage. There are a lot of times where you make little decisions at the end that are really a toss up. Decisions that can go either way. If you make a call, sometimes it’s wrong. But if you have players involved, you can say, “Hey, one thousand people who have already bought the game, we’re going to make this feature be either X or Y, which do you prefer?” That’s kind of handy, because we don’t have the budget to bring in an army of QA testers to focus test things like that.”

Both of the Hartmans agree that another big positive for Kickstarter is the positivity of the users. “Kickstarter as a community is pretty positive, unlike most gaming communities,” says Pang. “It’s not that all of the people on there are positive, but as a collective, the vast majority of them are.” Michael concurs, adding, “Ultimately, they’re there to support other people’s projects. That’s a very positive thing. Sure, there are people who treat KS like a store, and all they’re interested in is what you’re going to give them. But as a whole, most of them are very positive.”

Although he’s obviously a fan of Kickstarter, Michael didn’t mince words when talking about the inevitability of a big project failing in the future, and how that would affect the platform. “If a lot of games, especially some of the bigger ones, come out and deliver before a big failure happens, the impact won’t be as bad,” he said. “If numerous large projects don’t deliver, I think that’ll be it. I think that will make the gaming Kickstarter thing will dry up really fast, simply because people will see it as throwing your money down a hole. It’s inevitable that a big project is eventually going to fail. My hope is that we’ll be positive blip on the radar. I know we’ll deliver on Dungeon of Elements. Part of that is that our company is 17 years old. We haven’t failed to deliver in 17 years, and we’re not going to suddenly do so just because we had a Kickstarter.”

While Frogdice has been around a long time, both of the Hartmans say there’s only one piece of advice that they’d offer to aspiring indie developers. “FINISH A GAME!” they say simultaneously. Laughing, Michael adds, “Release something. But don’t get stuck on it. Don’t make 47 iterations of something, unless of course it’s a gigantic hit. Once you’ve released it, take that feedback, learn from it, and move on. Most people get bogged down and never release a game. They get stuck, because if you never get one out, you can’t get two out. But there are so many things you learn from having released a game that cannot be simulated in any other way.”

Additionally, Pang offered advice on acquiring investors. “Don’t ever think you’re going to do a little bit and then go get investors. You need to just be able to release that game on your own. Even if it means tweaking the design, or whatever, get that game out. Don’t think that you’re going to make a little demo and go out and get a ton of money.”

“Exactly,” says Michael. “That’s why the advice is: Finish a Game. Well, and back the Dungeon of Elements Kickstarter,” he said, laughing. “You’ll learn so much from that experience, it’ll jump start you towards being a successful indie developer.”

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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.