Dylan Woodbury has always been making things for people to share.
In third grade, he started his own newspaper called NP4K (Newspaper for Kids) and passed it out among his classmates. It wasn’t a school assignment or anything, Woodbury just discovered he could make brochures on his computer and figured it would be fun.
“I realised what I really loved to make were things that impacted the way people acted together,” says Woodbury, a Fresno-based coding instructor and mobile game developer.
His latest game — DisDat — is available online and across all mobile platforms.
Disdat’s inspiration from Wordle
DisDat was inspired by the simplicity (and also mega success) of Wordle.
The once-a-day word guessing game was created outside the mobile gaming industry, with little advertising or promotional push, by a guy who “sort of knew how to code,” Woodbury says.
Originally designed to be shared among friends and family, Wordle became a viral success with millions of player within a few months. It was eventually bought by the New York Times for a price the newspaper reported to be “in the low seven figures.”
It’s difficult for independent developers to compete against large companies like Jam City in the traditional mobile gaming space, says Woodbury, a Buchanan High School graduate who worked for Jam City in San Francisco before returning to Fresno.
But Wordle (and the slew of copycat games that followed) has created a new market (and audience) for mass appeal, social games.
They aren’t polished or particularly complex, and in some ways seem the antithesis of traditional app-based games, which are created as a kind of time suck to keep people playing for as long as possible.
With games like Wordle and DisDat, the focus is on creating a community for a long-term experience.
“It’s actually revolutionary, even though it’s so simple,” Woodbury says.
The power of prediction in a game
While Wordle uses language to tap into some essential part of humanity, Woodbury wanted to tap into the role that prediction plays in our daily lives. Whether it’s guessing who’s going to get booted from RuPaul’s Drag Race, investing in crypto currency or just anticipating what the guy ahead of you on the road is up to, “we’re always predicting things,” he says.
In DisDat, players are given a simple yes or no question, typically about some aspect of current pop culture — the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trail and Draymond Green’s antics during the NBA finals being two recent examples. The game then tracks a player’s daily progress and awards points for how many times in a row they predict correctly.
Those streak points allow players to open up new content like weekly, monthly and even yearly questions.
Like Wordle, DisDat players are encouraged to share their results via social media.
And much like Wordle, the way one plays the game is open to interpretation.
“You can play it for a minute, or take all day to figure it out,” Woodbury says.
Wordle is an app game, though Woodbury says he’s seen people in the library trying to figure out a daily puzzle with printed charts.
And DisDat can certainly be played quickly on intuition alone. But it’s also designed to solicit response and conversation. There’s an article linked each day, so players who aren’t extensively versed on a particular subject can find out more information.
The hope is that questions will spark debate, either online or with friends.
Latest DisDat version released, and a new game
Woodbury launched the second version of DisDat in early June and will continue to update the game as he gets feedback from players.
For now, game development is a side hustle.
He gets up at 6am each day to update the game’s questions and answers and make any other tweaks. He’s also working on a second game called Emoji Pop, a bubble pop game that allows players to create and share their own levels.
He just finished a stint as lead instructor with the NASA Aerospace Academy’s Kids Code program based at Fresno State, which taught 500 students last year, and plans to start private coding instruction for children in the area.
“I haven’t slept every much.” – The Fresno Bee/Tribune News Service