An Interview with Dododex Creator – THE ARK Taming Calculator APP
PlayerAuctions is thrilled for having the opportunity to interview Dan, the innovator of the DODODEX – The ARK Taming Calculator APP . In fact, Dan’s app has gotten 1.3 million downloads and is one of the most popular tools in the world of ARK.You might be wondering what’s the 411 on Dan (i.e., his story, how he got the idea, including the name of the app, Dan’s background, and so on). We know how important details are, and we’ll get there.
It’s amazing to know how he developed a new app from scratch, independently, and the growth of Dododex. We’ve also asked Dan to provide some helpful tips to new ARK players so that they can hit the ground running. If you are a techy guy or gal, we also include some nerdy questions relating to programming language.
Anyhow, enough spoilers! Read on and get the lowdown. If you have any feedback or questions, you’re welcomed to drop them in the comments area. Cheers!
PLAYERAUCTIONS: When did it cross your mind that it would be a good idea to create your app?
DAN: When I first started playing ARK, I would use a few different web tools to help me play. I hated having to use a second monitor to use them since it’d interrupt my gameplay, so I’d almost always use my phone. The tools I used, however, were terrible on mobile. They weren’t mobile formatted and were very poorly designed in general. I was shocked that no one had created an actual companion app for Ark and I kept wishing I knew how to create one but figured it was way beyond my skillset.
But then my friend showed me Facebook’s React Native, which makes it easy to develop an app using a programming language I already knew. I took a stab at creating a very simple taming calculator app and launched it within a month or two.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: What inspired you to create an app for ARK compared to other and bigger MMORPGs?
DAN: It was mostly because I saw the perfect opportunity to create an app, so I taught myself how. I wouldn’t have normally thought about creating an app for a game, just because I didn’t have the skills to.
However, after starting on Dododex, I’m constantly thinking about what a companion app would look like for other games I play. I think Ark was the perfect opportunity just because of how much gameplay relies on knowing calculations, stats, and recipes, but I still know there’s other opportunities out there. I just don’t have the time to commit to another app at the moment.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Do you plan to create calculator apps for other games?
I’ve always thought about it, and I think there’s a lot of opportunities out there, but at the moment I think my hands are pretty full with Dododex. There’s a lot more I still want to do to improve the app, and there’s a huge list of features that have been requested by users.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: How big is your team (or do you work independently)?
I work independently, so I’m only a team of one. However, I would have never been able to continue the app without all the help correcting and validating data by Dododex’s users. Not to mention all the people who suggest new features and ideas for the app.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Is there are any margin of error regarding the app’s calculations?
Dododex calculations, for the most part, aren’t estimated— they’re calculations based on the game’s actual underlying values. So most calculations should be correct, however, Ark is always making changes and adding new items, so sometimes certain calculations can get out of sync. There are a small handful of food and creature combinations that are based on my own tests, so those are a bit more prone to error. It’s hard to say what the margin of error would be because if I know about an error, I fix it. I set up a method for users to report errors, so I constantly get reports that I can use to improve the results. But I always tell people to bring extra supplies to be safe.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Are there any social media features that you plan to include in Dododex (e.g., sharing your favorite calculations and tips)?
There’s definitely some simple opportunities for social media features, especially since all player tips and calculations have corresponding versions on the web version of Dododex, which would make them easy to share. I thought about adding share buttons, I just haven’t got around to it yet.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: When it comes to designing the user experience/UX of the app, whatmotivated you or what influences did you have?
Experience and interface design are two things I’m very passionate about. Ark is a very complicated game, and there are some important aspects of the game that pretty much require a companion app. My goal is to make everything as easy and intuitive as possible. So simplification was a major focus of the design.
One of the biggest design issues I’ve struggled with is taking complex information and calculations, and making them as simple and understandable as possible while still including all the pertinent information. Sometimes it’s really tough to remove and consolidate information since you have to balance what’s truly important.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: From a gamer’s perspective, how do you think calculator apps affect a user’s experience when playing games?
When you’re playing a game that can take four or five hours to do a task, having a calculator helps set expectations and plan ahead. If you don’t know how many items are needed to tame a dino, it can be a huge waste of time and very frustrating if you don’t bring enough. A few people — mostly those not familiar with Ark — have asked me if an app like Dododex would take the fun out of the game, but I don’t think there’s any Ark player that would tell you they enjoy calculating or guessing about taming requirements — especially when you could waste hours of gameplay if you don’t know what is needed.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: What programming language did you use for this app?
PLAYERAUCTIONS: How did you grow from 0 to 1.3M users? – Was your user growth drivenorganically or did you gain help with other tools, people or companies?
It was almost all organic. I was shocked to see how fast the app was growing after first posting about it on Reddit, a few Facebook Groups, and some forums. People would just spread the word about the app through the in-game chat. I’m always posting updates about the app on Reddit and building a social media audience too, but the very strong majority of growth is just organic.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Do you have any preferred PL when it comes to developing your apps?
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Are you expecting ARK’s expansions to change your app’s calculations overtime due to game balancing? Would you prefer setting up separate stand-alone calculators or re-coding everything to have a unified experience?
Ark is always changing, and that’s been the more difficult issue — especially when they do a large rebalancing patch. As for expansions, I’m a little bit worried because I don’t know what will be involved, but I recently asked them if taming would be the same in the next expansion and they confirmed that it would be for the majority of creatures. I’ve coincidentally been working on some changes that will make the interface support a lot more creatures and items — including making it easier to find creatures in specific expansion packs. Since expansions will likely always have overlap of creatures and items, it makes more sense to keep it all in one app.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: What were your biggest challenges of this project?
The biggest challenge was definitely learning how to make a mobile app. While I’ve built quite a few web apps before, Dododex is my first mobile app, and it’s completely new territory to me, so a lot of my time is spent learning how to do the things I want, and then redoing features when I realize I built them the wrong way.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Share with us how you came up with the name of the app? Is Dodo your favorite creature?
I wanted a unique, memorable name, so I put a lot of thought into it. I felt that the the suffix “-dex” made a lot of sense for what the app would be; an “index” or a “Pokédex” for creatures in Ark. I have another site called “Equaldex,” which is a crowdsource index for LGBT rights, so Dododex just seemed like the perfect name for my next project. I went with the Dodo just because I felt it was a pretty iconic creature in the game; the first one many players tame. Dodos are also kind of silly and cute, so I felt like it was memorable.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: How does it feel to be the creator of something big for ARK?
It’s unbelievable, and in a way it feels too good to be true. In some ways, I feel a bit out of place since gaming is not an area I’ve ever focused in professionally — not to mention that this is my first time being a mobile developer. Dododex users have been asking me t develop apps for other games, and it’s just a strange feeling, but I feel so fortunate to have been given an opportunity to help so many gamers.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Are there any exciting new features in Dododex that you care to share?
Right now, my biggest focus is version 2 of Dododex, which will include a revamp of how you switch between dinos, including a highly-requested search feature.
I’m also working on a feature that shows you how difficult each creature is to tame so new players will know what they’re getting into. I gathered ratings from dozens of pro ARK players and I‘m using their ratings to define Dododex’s difficulty scores.
There’s two other really exciting features that I plan on working on but I don’t want to say much about them until I’m confident they’ll happen.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Any advice for new ARK players?
Always bring extra supplies! I hear so many stories of people not bringing enough food and resources to tame a creature. While Dododex will give you exact amounts, things can always go wrong, and having a few extra supplies could save you from wasting hours.
PLAYERAUCTIONS: Lastly, could you please tell us about yourself (i.e., where are you from, age, occupation, games that you play other than ARK)?
DAN: Sure! I’m 29 and I live in Los Angeles. I’ve been in Los Angeles for about 7 years, and I was born in New Hampshire. As a full-time job, I’m the Director of Product Marketing at DeviantArt.com. Lately, my other favorite game has been Fortnite, the zombie survival game and Overcooked, the multiplayer cooking game. I’ve also played a lot of Nintendo Switch (Zelda, Mario Kart…). I’m also a huge fan of the Jackbox party games as well.
To download Dododex: