This interview is special to me because I was able to talk to Dan Leveille who is the developer of Dododex, the biggest companion app and probably the most used software in regard to ARK Survival Evolved. Dododex has 35k ratings on the App Store with a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars. On the Google Play Store it is listed with over 5 Million downloads, 79k ratings and an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. If that is not a monumental success then I don’t know what is.
Dododex has been at my side during my whole 12k hours of ARK and I even have been a Beta tester in 2017. That’s why I am happy that we dive a little into the story of the birth of Dododex.
Would you like to introduce yourself to the reader, what is your background?
My name is Dan Leveille. I’m the developer of Dododex. I’m based in Los Angeles and my background is in web development and marketing. I’m super passionate about gaming, the internet, and basically everything nerdy! 🙂
How was the idea of Dododex born?
Back in 2015, when ARK first launched, I quickly became obsessed with the game. Like any ARK player, I searched the web for information about how to tame dinos. The only tools available were the ARK Wiki (which I believe was super limited at the time) and Crumplecorn. The Crumplecorn website was amazing, but it was a little difficult to use on a mobile device. When I play games on PC, I prefer to have my phone to look stuff up rather than tabbing between windows.
I checked if there were any ARK companion apps available and there were none. I kept thinking about the idea of creating an ARK mobile app, but I didn’t have the skillset. I’ve always wanted to have an app in the app store, but my developer skills were limited to just web development. Coincidentally, my friend told me about React Native, which is a framework that lets you build apps basically using code that’s familiar to web developers. I played around with a basic app that just had taming information, knock out information, and kibble recipes, and was able to actually get it working. So I launched it in January of 2016.
Did you ever think it would grow to the size it is now?
No, absolutely not. I imagined it to be a little side project that I would spend a bit of time on and improve it a bit. I thought there would be a handful of people who would download it, and in the weeks after launching, my jaw just dropped at how many people were downloading it and sharing it around. I never imagined that it would basically turn into a full time job and my life would be taken over by… video game dinosaurs. Haha.
Which is your favorite creature in ARK?
I feel like any time there’s a new dinosaur, one of them becomes my new favorite, but I always have a soft spot for pteranodons. It’s obviously not the best flyer, but I think it’s most people’s first flyer, and I have fond memories of my first lengthy play-through on an official server. I remember the days of ARK and how I was so looking forward to getting a flyer.
What are your thoughts, fears and hopes for ARK 2?
I have so many thoughts, fears, and hopes! I think my biggest hope is that it stays faithful to the parts of ARK we love, but really innovates into a brand new type of game. One of my biggest critiques of ARK is how easy it is to lose months of progress. Back in the early days of ARK, I remember losing probably like 3 months of gameplay overnight because a toxic alpha tribe wiped our entire base and killed every single one of our dinos while we were offline. Making the game a bit more balanced and welcoming for new players is definitely something that could bring in a wider audience.
I’m really into base building, so I’m hoping that they really improve on what ARK 1 offered, especially with so many games really improving building mechanics. More customization, more flexibility, better controls. And of course, I hope taming is still a major component of the game! 🙂
Tekcor from beacon made the suggestion* for Wildcard to hire someone into the position of a Developer Relations Manager. What are your thoughts on that idea?
(* you can find the interview here)
It’s a really interesting idea. I don’t get as deep into the game mechanics as game modders would, but I imagine they constantly have a lot of questions. One of the challenges is that ARK is a pretty complex game. I think having better official documentation could help — or an official way for the community to help document game mechanics or ask questions might also help too. I know they plan to have cross-platform mod support for ARK 2, so I’m sure they’ll take some of their learnings into the new game and potentially make it a bit more standardized and easy.
What is your favorite ARK meme right now?
It’s definitely not a new one, but the absurd character proportions meme and every variation of it always gets me — and whenever you see an image of someone with really unusual body or face proportions anywhere on the internet, people are like “This looks like an ARK character!”
Do you have any final words to the ARK devs?
I’d definitely want to say thank you for how supportive they’ve been with Dododex since day one. Other than that, I’d say… “When can we get more ARK 2 info?” I’m dying for any other morsel of information. 🙂