Scan it the Right Way: ESO Price Lens App
Android and iOS applications for our favorite games come pretty much at a dime a dozen. Chances are if the game you’re playing is populated by the thousands, there is almost always a companion app for it. Such apps offer a host of possibilities from checking on your guildmates, looking at stats on a boss creature, being privy to latest events, or simply chatting with your online friends.
But what if the app you have on your phone can be used to actually scan the text on your screen and can do a price check of an item? This is what came about when the proverbial light bulb lit up for Carlo. Thus, he developed the ESO Price Lens app for Android. It’s a nifty little app that allows you to use your phone’s camera to check on an item name and the app will subsequently give you a price approximation. This way, guesswork goes by the wayside and you don’t have to sell items for less than what they’re actually worth. This is immensely useful if you’re playing Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox One or PlayStation 4. No need to boot up the laptop or PC!
We talked with Carlo about his favorite games, the programming process for ESO Price Lens as well as some insights into UX design.
(1) Tell us about yourself (your name/nickname, hometown, age, occupation, favorite games that you play and what platform(s) you play)?
In the gaming world, I’m known as Carlo Rizz NL as is my gamertag on Xbox. I’m 26 years old and live in The Netherlands. My occupation is a full-time software engineer. I specialize in app development however in my profession I’m working on all kind of software. In my free time, I like to play games with my group. Mostly I play Destiny 2, Elder Scrolls Online but I’m also a fan of Battlefield, Halo, Assassins Creed and Fallout games; Mostly games that include a good multiplayer to play together with my group.
(2) Share with us how it feels to be the creator of something big for this game?
I don’t know if you can consider ESO Price Lens as something big. But I didn’t expect it to get any attention at all. I had some positive responses about the app, so I’m glad the app is helping people.
(3) What inspired you to create an app specifically for this game? When did it cross your mind to create your app?
The idea for the app was a combination of frustration and curiosity of knowing if I could make an app that can read and interpret the text by filming it. The basic frustration I had was that within ESO you have guild trading. While playing the game I received a lot of items which were worthless to me but I could sell to others. The problem was I didn’t know how much an item is worth. On PC you have mods which create overlays that tell you exactly how much an item is worth. However, on Xbox, there are no mods. I was basically stuck researching 1 item at a time which takes forever if you have like 100 items that you want to sell. Then I got an idea, could I make a physical overlay using my smartphone. That triggered my curiosity. So I started making the app, without any intention of releasing it to the public. After a while, the app started functioning and was actually usable. At that point I decided, why keep it for myself, so I polished and released it.
(4) Do you work independently or in a team? If in a team, how big is it?
This app I made independently.
(5) From the developer’s (and gamer’s) perspective, how do you think the app affects the overall experience of the game?
I don’t know. For me the app does what is supposed to do, I quickly can search up item prices. How it might affect others? Hopefully, it helps them the same way it helps me and enhances the game.
(6) Is there any margin of error when it comes to the app’s performance and provided information?
Well, the app is designed to appeal to console users. But the prices are based on data mining the PC prices as it’s not possible on a console. So there always will be a difference between the different economies. But the app is designed to be more of a guide, for example, that user won’t sell an item for 100 coins which might be worth 100k on PC and 150k on the console.
(7) When it comes to designing the user experience/UX of the app, what motivated you or what influences did you have?
My goal when designing the UX is to make it look and feel as the UX from ESO itself. The app has the camera search function which can read from the screen. However, it is not always accurate or quick because this is caused by different factors, the speed of the phone, and the quality of the camera. So if a user has a bad experience using the camera, I provided a manual search function where a user can type in the item name. Unlike other apps/websites, I created an easy to use search function which searches while a user is typing without the need of filling in a full form. Speed is the key to designing the UX, the whole idea of the app originated from the slow way of searching for item prices.
(8) What programming language or tool did you use to create this app? Do you have any favorite PLs or tools in particular?
The app is designed with Xamarin. At this moment the app is only on Android, but because it was made in Xamarin it can quickly be ported to iOS. This might come in the future.
(9) What were your biggest challenges for this project? How did you overcome them?
The biggest problem was reading from the screen. I overcame this by doing a lot of research and experimenting with different techniques.
(10) Are you expecting the game’s expansions to change your app’s dynamics and performance? Is it something that you’ve already prepared to tackle?
Time will tell. Any game breaking changes can be fixed with an update.
(11) Are there any exciting new developments for your app that you would care to share?
I have a couple of ideas. One example is integrating some kind of guild feature where like-minded people can find each other. However for me to make this change I will need motivation in the form of a large user base. Guild/social space only works if you have the people to support it. But at this moment the app is growing steadily so I might start designing it.
(12) Do you plan to create more apps like these for other games in the future?
As I have a full-time job as a software engineer I’m developing almost every day. So time is precious. However like with this app I might get another idea. Making apps is not hard, it is getting a bright idea of what to make is hard. I’m always open for feedback.
(13) Could you share a few quick tips to new players of the game?
Get in a Guild and play with others. This makes the game 10x more fun.
(14) Any advice you’d like to share to aspiring game app or web developers?
Developing software or games is all about practicing. I went to study software engineering, however, I started programming at the age of 13-14. Most of the tools we engineers use are free. My advice is to grab a tool, think of something easy to make (a calculator?), and start googling for tutorials on how to make it. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to make something to difficult without knowledge. The feeling you get when you succeed in making something is the motivational drive to continue developing.
Don’t forget to check Carlo’s unique ESO Price Lens app!
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