Lexington video game company Frogdice recently launched its latest game, which blends the match-three puzzle and tower-defense genres.
Tower of Elements takes place in the same universe created by the company in previous titles including Threshold, Primordiax and Coin 'n Carry.
"It's a very casual, friendly game," said Frogdice CEO Michael Hartman. "Anyone can play, kids or adults, because it's really easy to learn."
The impetus for the title came from Hartman's wife, Frogdice creative director Pang Hartman, who is a fan of casual games.
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"She identified a real lack in the match-three genre," Michael Hartman said. "It's really fun, but there's no larger context."
So came the tale of how you must defend your tower from the onslaught of The Void army, a group that rose to prominence in Primordiax.
"Basically, The Void abhor existence," Hartman said. "They are a power of nihilism, and they want the universe to cease to exist."
So as The Void approach your tower, you must defend it by matching the runes inside. Each match sends out a powerful blast that can destroy enemies in its path.
Beyond that, you can pick up gold left behind by the enemies to purchase gear. There are also powerful spells to learn.
"We like to take time-tested game mechanics and put a new spin on them," Hartman said. "You can help yourself out with the gears and the spells.
"The good thing, too, is if you're getting beat on a level over and over, you can use the money to buy gear and spells."
The game was developed in roughly three months, and its main programmer was an intern from the University of Kentucky who has since been hired. The hire boosts Frogdice's employment to five full-time employees, Hartman said.
For Tower of Elements, Frogdice began selling the single-player PC title through gaming site Bigfishgames.com as well as through its own site at Frogdice.com.
"One of the biggest challenges for us is just getting our name out there," Hartman said.
Within its first two weeks on Big Fish, the game's demo was downloaded 50,000 times, Hartman said. The percentage of those purchasing after playing the demo was 5 percent, higher than the industry average of 2 percent, he said.
The success of Tower of Elements has also continued over to Coin 'n Carry, which has seen a 20 percent increase in new accounts created, Hartman said.
For the first time with any of its titles, Frogdice has launched a charitable initiative, partnering with international hunger relief agency Stop Hunger Now. For each copy of Tower of Elements bought on Frogdice.com through Jan. 31, the company will donate funding for at least one meal to be served to a child.
The concept came with the assistance of Sojo Studios, another Lexington game development company that creates social games to finance real-world development projects.
There's already talk of making a sequel to Tower of Elements that would be released for play on mobile devices.
Hartman said it would incorporate some of the lessons learned already such as the need for a relaxed mode, in which players could just play the matching game "where there's no pressure."
But taking precedent now is work on Dungeon of Elements, a dungeon crawler role-playing game with combat styled after Dr. Mario.
"In our studio, we don't rest on our laurels," Hartman said.