Dragon City is SocialPoint’s most renowned game, and since its release date, has been a dominant stakeholder inside the social games environment. Why? It uses a formula based on the well known farm games but adds a dynamic component of gathering and collecting units for later fighting with them, which numbers actually have surpassed the amount of two hundred. Inside the first part of the recipe we will tackle the pure game side of Dragon City how the different features are applied regarding game flow, gameplay and dynamics. On the second part we will focus deeper on social interactions, retention and monetization tricks and formulas. Here we go!
How it tastes like?
Dragon city is a social game based on two different formulas, the first one is a farm game, understood as an strategy/simulation model where the player gathers different resources, in order to advance or progress, by growing up around a main building (just like expanding a town). The other one is collecting (breeding) and fighting with units (dragons) produced through the farm process and upgrading them for an optimal result in such fights. The fact of mixing two different systems inside a social game makes players to have a wider set of meaningful choices where to pick, and deploying a more satisfactory feedback where farms weren’t able to reach due its reiterative and aged schemes.
Variables and resources
In every free to play game there are a set of resources necessary to purchase every in game asset and ensure theplayer’s progression. Inside Dragon City we can find the following:
Gold: as a main soft currency, gold allows players to purchase buildings, upgrade them, purchase basic dragons and buy the second soft currency (food). As well, gold is generated by dragons inside their specific gathering buildings or by fighting inside leagues.
Food: food is the second soft currency, less determining and more specific than gold. Its purpose is to upgrade dragons and it is only generated inside an specific building called farms.
Experience: experience is a variable which serves for leveling up, requiring a specific amount for each level to be gained. It’s obtained by fulfilling tasks in the objective panel, finishing buildings, collecting food and winning fights
Gems: gems are the hard currency inside the game, obtainable through previous purchase with real money. They serve for the triad of unlocks, boosters and skippers. In detail, they do the following: skipping waiting times (creating dragons or buildings) buying more advanced dragons, purchasing specific buildings or exchanging it for gold or food.
Time: as in every freemium farm formula, time acts as a constraint variable, pacing the player’s progression. Every building, dragon or food creation takes a toll of time, and its amount gets increased as long as the game goes further. Time challenges player’s pain tolerance (the enough the player can hold a diminish of his lusory attitude or engagement waiting for a reward) therefore increasing the chances of a possible purchase of hard currency.
Gameplay & Flow
Dragon City uses partially the Farm prototype of games in a way we’ve seen in older titles considered the grandfathers of the genre, such as Farmville, but with some significant changes and gameplay turnarounds which makes it way more interesting to have a more elastic and adaptive experience.
In one side, the farming part of dragon city is a 3 way resource one with a time constraint in its core and a hard currency called Gems. Players start with a blank island where they need to start creating different buildings, then dragons, to advance. The flow chart works like this scheme below:
So in order to advance the player needs to create buildings, which will generate gold (currency 1) used to buy new buildings, dragons (eggs) and food. The larger amount of dragons the player holds inside the different habitats the more gold they will generate. Habitats will gradually run out of holding capability, therefore needing upgrades or purchasing new ones.
The collecting phase
The second pillar of the game, between farming and combat, is collecting; particularly dragons. Dragons are obtainable through purchasing (where the standard and normal types are with soft currency and the more specialized ones with premium) and through breeding and mixing. By mixing two different dragons players obtain a different one and sometimes way exotic, therefore generating more money and being more dynamic (having two different elemental types or even three) in terms of combat reliability. While some mixings can be expected (A + B makes AB type) another ones are jackpotted, meaning that there is an option to obtain a different unit from a mix, more accused if it is between previously merged results (AB + CD, and so on). Players are constantly mixing dragons in order to obtain more excentric or powerful ones, some clues are given about how they shall be done (their types and names can be known) but nothing far from such statements. If the player wants to know how to get proper results, he will partially need a) try until he gets the desired result or b) check further inside the community forums for the “recipes”.
Variety is the spice of life, collecting value is highly powered up by a large list of units to unlock and gather.
So far so good, the maximum amount of dragons is larger than two hundred, creating one of the biggest lists of collectibles through the social games network. The value of a collectible is always up to the player, whether there are some types that don’t pay much attention to gathering, for others the fulfillment of collections and the need to achieve is a powerful determinant for their constant application to get more inside the spectrum of available assets (the gotta catch em’ all reaction). So dragons act as an incentive for players willing to expand their books (where the registry of dragons is made inside different collections, whose fulfillment is rewarded with hard currency) as if a set of cards or miniatures they were, fulfilling the illusive idea of owning a trophy display of successful combinatorial results.
The combat system
Whether it just all could be farming and growing up, Dragon City uses combats to supply the obsolescence of a single farm model, and tackles it in a very interesting way. Players can use their dragons to fight against other players in leagues (still there is no way to fight with friends, opponents are randomized based on the level they have) in an asynchronous way, meaning that opponents did not have to be present in order to play. Of course, they also won’t receive any feedback for such actions and be just recorded assembles of their dragons in order to cause a feeling of fighting against a real opponent, even though AI is managing the whole background.
Both destrucive dragons with a set of abilities to pick up with, for newcomers is a simplified yet satisfying fighting system
Fighting is an entertaining feature when it comes to refreshing the mechanics of the game. Friendly-RPG players will find a simplified UI but still satisfying: every team of dragons is formed by 3 of them, from where the player needs to choose wisely because there is an uncertainty of what kind of opponent is about to expect, and what has been his choosing regarding types. Choosing the correct attack will cause a critical effect on the other player, usually sweeping all his health points from a single blow, a standard attack will have a standard damage output and a weak attack against an opponent resistant to such element or type will have a poor performance, leaving the player exposed.
EDIT: In iOS version, there is an available option to challenge friends in what its called “Dragon Wars”, therefore there is a challenging component inside the game which adds a more dynamic value against the fact of facing randomized opponents. Yet the play is asynchronous and works by choosing the dragons then letting them fight, without any other direct control above the overall game (I understand it is way difficult due to asynchrony) it socializes way more the meaning of the player’s actions, going way forward than the actual league system, where opponents were hardly able to be far more profitable (in social terms) than just mere names.
Player’s onboarding process starts with an input-obliged tutorial, where he learns all about what it takes to succeed in the game: building, farming, breeding dragons and fighting. Alongside the it the player is hard suggested to spend his initial amount of premium currency to skip different time constraints (consumer educational process for proper monetization, shall it be called).
Later on and once the player has ended the tutorial it is transformed into the objective list. Inside it, there is a set of tasks which helps the player to decide to take his next step inside the game. The list proves to be an indispensable companion for starts, suggesting which actions to make and rewarding for its completion, creating a favorable reinforcement into players behavior and therefore making him more able to rely on the objective list to check it out whenever he wants to take his next step.
An important factor of farm games is how they tackle player’s progression and how they benefit from upgrading their stuff. Dragon city mainly rewards the player’s path to success with unique and more powerful units and with a large display of the farm (a wider building ground with more constructions). Progression is measured directly with levels ( based on the experience they have gathered), and they determine the amount of buildings the player may access to, therefore unlocking more dragons and the capability to gather them. So we could state that the far the player goes=the more/more diverse he can build=the more/more diverse units he has.
The starting ground looks like this…
Inside the equation, a few variables should be added to invigorate it: the longer he reaches the more capabilities to upgrade his dragons there are, therefore the longer he can advance inside player versus player leagues. But aside this performance meter, art meets a more satisfactorily way in terms of quick feedback, reinforcing the player’s behavior and needs of hard work tracking: just when the player starts, he will face an plain simple island where nothing on board but just green grass, as soon as he advances through the game, there is a visual imprint of a recorded progress in terms of espectacularity: there are more islands, they’re usually filled with more details and they are way more populated, jumping from the display of a weak village to a powerful city on the clouds, where shiny dragons travel through it.
…to end up being like this