Lexington video game company Frogdice, which has long operated from the basement of its leaders' home, has moved into office space on Winchester Road.
The move comes as the company has added a third full-time employee and aims to grow to seven full-timers in the next two years.
"When we started adding to the staff, we needed to be able to collaborate directly," said president and CEO Michael Hartman, who runs the company with his wife, Pang.
The company bought the office space in February and began moving in April. State and city officials will visit the site Friday to mark its grand opening.
Frogdice is a great addition to our tech sector, said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in a statement. Theyre bringing their creativity and a commitment to growth in our community. Welcome! Bob Quick, chief executive of Commerce Lexington, added that the company "represents a very important industry sector and were excited to share their success."
To encourage the company's growth, state officials in 2011 granted Frogdice an $80,000 forgivable loan to buy software and other equipment. Frogdice also worked with the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, which includes the city, Commerce Lexington and University of Kentucky.
The physical move heralds a time of major change for the company, which has expanded far beyond its roots.
Frogdice traces to Hartman's time in law school at the University of Georgia, where he began developing a text-only role-playing game called Threshold. He taught himself computer programming and soon found that he liked it much more than the law.
By 1996, Hartman was full-time in the video game business, continuing to manage Threshold as it evolved. He met his wife, Pang, the company's vice president and creative director, while playing Threshold in 1998. They moved to Lexington in 2004 to be closer to her parents.
Threshold contained the elements of any standard role-playing game: quests, leveling up characters, purchasing goods and more. But it was purely text-based. The company has since expanded to the more common graphical games, releasing a social game last year called Coin 'n Carry in which players act as medieval shopkeepers and sell items they make.
There are about 1,500 people playing Coin 'n Carry, Hartman said, and that's without any major marketing effort. Nearly 80 percent of the users pay for upgrades in the game, which is available at Coinncarry.com and is free to play.
He said Frogdice is working on a tower-defense game tentatively titled Tower of Power. Players match tiles, similar to games like Bejeweled, and successful matches strengthen your defensive towers against attacking goblins and monsters.
Frogdice also is planning a Web-based role-playing game, and Hartman said it's likely the company will open a Kickstarter.com fund-raising campaign to help with the costs.
"There will be a lot of really unique concepts in the game and concepts that haven't been done in games in a long time," he said.
Helping the Hartmans in their efforts will be an expected staff of seven local full-time employees, primarily programmers. The first beyond the Hartmans is Adam Sullivan, an artist and three-dimensional modeler who moved to Lexington in November from Maryland.
"It's an honor and a privilege," said Sullivan, who had worked on projects with the company dating to 2009. "I do appreciate being in on the ground floor because my opinion matters a lot more. It's very rewarding."
The company also has two part-time employees, but they continue to live in other cities, though one is eager to move here, Hartman said.
He also has his eye on the company's ultimate goal: a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, the genre defined by World of Warcraft.
"RPGs are what we're best at as a company. It's what we love," he said, adding that it's also the best genre for convincing players to spend money on upgraded items and other in-game perks.
"That's the Holy Grail goal of the company," he said.
Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.