GoldFire Studios & James Simpson, Oklahoma City’s First Game Developer

Welcome back to our series covering some of the key players in the Oklahoma City video game development community. In this series, I introduce companies and independent developers alike, with the intent of educating and inspiring future artists, programmers, and storytellers who create the virtual worlds in which we love to play.

“Business is my game, and games are my business,” states the Twitter biography of James Simpson. It didn’t take long after arriving in his downtown office for me to realize just how serious the CEO and Founder of GoldFire Studios really is.

James Simpson at his Desk in the GoldFire Studios Office
James Simpson founded GoldFire Studios in 2002

Oklahoma City isn’t exactly the place you might expect game development to be thriving, but James has been working night and day to foster that growth since his graduation from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. Since then, he’s founded the Oklahoma Game Developers Meetup. He’s also released several games on the GoldFire Network, the free-to-play social gaming platform hosting the three games under his belt: BC Wars, PokerRPG, and the most recent and successful entry, CasinoRPG.

CasinoRPG incorporates elements of tycoon, role-playing, and simulation genres into a cohesive experience wherein the player must build, manage, and grow a casino empire by Framed games published by GoldFire Studios in the office in downtown Oklahoma Cityparticipating in games, designing his or her own casino, and interacting with other players. Originally funded by a successful Kickstarter Campaign, CasinoRPG is the flagship offering on the GoldFire Network. It was recently released and featured on Desura, a digital distribution platform. James hopes to soon apply for Steam Greenlighting – a community voting service that picks what games will be added next to Valve’s wildly popular PC gaming platform – in the near future.

Simpson’s formal education wasn’t responsible for making him into the developer he is today. He attributes that to a personal interest in coding – going back to when he first got a personal computer at the age of 13. He released his first game one year later, a digital pet game called Venetopia.

Games have changed in the last 12 years, and James knows that better than most. “The last game I played was GTA V,” he explains. “The problem is, when you develop for so long, you play those games and all you’re paying attention to is how they built it, and you can’t really focus on the gameplay.”  Simpson drums his fingers on his desk. “So all I’ve done in GTA is walk around and [think], wow, how did they do this part or how did they get all these assets in?”

The entrance to the GoldFire Studios office in downtown Oklahoma City

GoldFire Studios hired its first full-time employees in 2012 with the help of a seed investment from LaunchOklahoma, Oklahoma City’s venture accelerator that educates and develops young entrepreneurs. And they’re looking to grow: there’s a job posting for engineers currently posted on the GoldFire Studios site.

CasinoRPG continues to grow every day, and additional features like bingo, restaurants, hotels, and even horse breeding and racing are slated to be implemented throughout the year. “There’s a bunch of stuff to expand into,” James tells me. “The plan is to keep expanding CasinoRPG and, probably earlier next year, start transitioning into – hopefully after bringing on a few more developers – bringing third-party developers into the [GoldFire Network] platform.”

Below is a trailer for CasinoRPG. Stay tuned for more tales of game development from around Oklahoma.

If you’re interested in Oklahoma Game Development, you’ll want to check out the other entries in our series!