Frogdice, a homegrown Lexington video-game company, announced Thursday that it plans to hire seven new employees by 2014.
The company, which began by developing text-based role-playing games and now works on social media games, was awarded an $80,000 forgivable loan by the state to help it buy software and other equipment.
"This is really exciting," said President and CEO Michael Hartman, who founded the company in 1994. "In the last year or two, we've grown into a much more mature company. Before, we were just a game. Now we're much more a company."
The company 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.
"In the classic entrepreneurial spirit, I thought I could build a better mousetrap," he said.
He taught himself computer programming and soon found that he liked it much more than the law.
"I eventually just said that I really hate being a lawyer, and I really love making games," he told the Herald-Leader in 2009.
The game contained the elements of any standard role-playing game: quests, leveling up characters, purchasing goods and more. Players join guilds, or clans, and try to become the most influential. They also take part in a religious system.
By 1996, he 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.
Last year, the couple and their small staff of freelancers worldwide released a follow-up to Threshold called Primordiax, which began featuring some graphics. They have since turned more to casual games like those popular on social media sites such as Facebook. In the next few months, they expect to launch one called Coin 'n Carry.
"It's a full Web browser game in which you're a medieval shopkeeper and sell products," Hartman said Thursday. "The core is a whole bunch of mini-games. It's very casual and friendly."
Working in their home in Lexington, the couple manage the company full-time and make money off users paying for items and other features in their games.
The first of the couple's new full-time employees, who will have an average salary of about $49,000 annually, will be an artist they've used in Maryland who plans to move to Lexington.
They also plan to look locally for computer programmers and artists and are seeking venture capital funding for office space, Hartman said Thursday.
Hartman complimented the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, which includes the city, Commerce Lexington and the University of Kentucky,
"Talking with them and working with them was a huge help," Hartman said.