Time and Money: My visit to DragonVale

I'm going to sound a little naive in this post. I'll make observations that might be obvious to anyone who's played Pokemon or FarmVille. I've avoided the genre until now. I had some experience playing an old SNES game called Harvest Moon, which could be considered a great grandparent of the new crop.

Right, I started playing DragonVale as research for Dung & Dragons. They seemed to have very similar themes, but totally different formats, so any insights I could glean from the app might be usable for a board game with some adaptation.

So here's how DragonVale works: Time and Money. You start with an untamed island, a small plot of cleared land, a nursery, and a portal through which visitors arrive on your island to tour. You're guided to buy your first egg, wait a few minutes for it to hatch or spend a gem to hatch it immediately. Once it hatches, you build it a habitat.

Your first two dragons are a plant dragon and an earth dragon. I named mine Celery and Clump, respectively. They are cute, make cute dragon sounds, and you name them, which pretty much means you'll imprint on them if you're susceptible to that kind of thing. Even if not, you'll pay attention to how much cash each dragon produces.

Celery produces almost 30 coins per minute. Clump produces only about 5. Naturally, feed Celery so he grows to produce even more money. Sorry, Clump, but you eat as much as Celery without producing nearly as quickly. Here's the next obstacle: Regardless of what the dragons produce, their habitats have a maximum capacity. Celery produces fast, but his habitat has a tiny capacity. It's the opposite for Clump.

So, next step is to upgrade Celery's habitat, which will take three hours. Three hours! Of course, you can spend a gem to speed things up. Ah, gems. Opiate of the impatient. As far as I can see, there is no in-game way to earn gems. The only way is to spend real money. Thus, like MMOs, an artificial delay becomes the primary way the game is profitable for it's creators. If you're impatient and have an extra buck, you can do well in this game. For everyone else, it'll take some time.

I'm still playing, but I don't know for how long. The lack of a foreseeable endgame is what turns me off. Even so, I am learning something about how to design around resource management, even if those two resources are just Time and Money.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.