Recently, I’ve been playing Dragonvale, a dragon-farming game from Backflip Studios. While it’s far from perfect, I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, and I’ve had some decent success with it. So…I thought I’d share some tips and tricks.

Get Some Friends!

I’m putting this one first, simply because it’s critical to so many of the other suggestions I’ll make :). Having friends in Dragonvale is the key to two really important things: getting gems, and getting money.

You can, of course, pay *real* cash to get gems and money, but that’s stoopid. It’s better to make friends in Dragonvale, and help each other out.

So for example, you are able to visit your friend’s islands whenever you want. Once a day, you’ll receive 3 free bonuses of money from each friend, and the amount you receive increases as you level up. For example, at level 15, I’m currently pulling in about $7,500 per day, per friend.

Unfortunately, Dragonvale’s current friend management is AWFUL, so I don’t visit each friend every day. However, when you need some cash, it’s an easy way to score some pretty signifiant dough–if you’re willing to invest the time.

So…how do you get friends? Well, you can do it the hard way and browse through the Facebook Dragonvale fan pages, and add people requesting Game Center friends. Or, with the new Game Center in iOS 5, you can actually pretty easily request friends based on GC’s “recommendations”. Using this, I was able to add over 300 friends in less than 2 days…which inevitably means a nice pile of gems!

Clear Your Islands

You’ll notice pretty quickly that each of your islands starts off as a pretty unkempt, overgrown forest filled with trees, rocks, more trees, and more rocks :). Now I know that it’s tempting to funnel all of your money toward leveling dragons and breeding new ones…however, I’m a big advocate of clearing your islands of trees and rocks pretty early on. The biggest reason? Experience points. If you systematically clear your islands, you’ll notice that you rack up some mega experience points. And the best part is that it only costs you money…no gems required. So go ahead, get the wheels moving on clearing your islands; you can breed dragons while you wait.

Smart Leveling

When leveling up your dragons, be smart. There are a few things to think about here.

  1. The amount of money any particular habitat can generate at any one time is limited. For example, the Plant habitat has an upper-bound of $500. So, having 4 level 10 dragons in one Plant habitat is not going to do you a lot of good.
  2. Related to #1, if you have habitats that have a higher economic upper-bound, it will behoove you to have some moderately-leveled dragons abiding there, so you can maximize the cash you’re bringing in per-habitat, per collection. Just as 4 level 10 dragons in a Plant habitat is a waste, 2 level 1 dragons in an Air habitat are also a bad strategy.
  3. Finally, leveling up your dragons obviously comes by purchasing treats for them. So carefully weigh the cost of treats against the benefit which your dragons’ levels will bring, given the current rank– you are at.

Trick or Treat?

Speaking of treats, be careful about how you go about procuring treats for your dragons. If you look closely at the breakdown for each tier of treat production, you might notice that it’s a degrading scale as the prices become more expensive. Here’s a breakdown:
Treat Amount Cost Time Total Food / Cost Per Hour
Dragon Snaps 5 50 00:00:00:30 600 / $6000
Dragon Root 20 250 00:00:05:00 240 / $3000
Zazzberries 75 1000 00:00:30:00 150 / $2000
Blushrooms 300 5000 00:02:00:00 150 / $2500
Pumpermelons 800 15000 00:06:00:00 133 / $2500
Dragon Fruit 3000 75000 01:00:00:00 125 / $3125

As you can see, you get a lot less bang for your buck as you go after larger quantities. Personally, unless you are planning on not looking at Dragonvale for a day or two, buying Dragon Fruit is ridiculous. On the other hand, sticking exclusively to Dragon Snaps will give you the best deal…assuming you are committed to harvesting and re-ordering food every 30 seconds :)

Personally, I tend to go with either Zazzberries, or Blushrooms, depending on how much I plan on playing Dragonvale during the day.

Intelligent Breeding

There are a million breeding guides available, so I’ll stay away from that subject. However, my general advice is to be smart about breeding. What I mean by this is:

  1. Pay attention to how long your potential egg will take to be fertilized, and then to hatch. Nothing worse than setting some dragon-lovin’ in progress, and then realizing that it will be 12+ hours until the “magic happens”…and then an extra 12 hours to hatch.
  2. Pay attention to your available habitats. Unless you’ve upgraded your nursery ridiculously, you have limited space for “staging” eggs. If you don’t have habitats built, or don’t have room in existing habitats, your egg will have to sit until you make room. While this doesn’t hurt anything, it may prevent you from moving forward with other eggs…and since Dragonvale is a waiting game anyway, this will just create more frustration.
  3. Unless you are ready to breed hybrids, be sure that the dragons you’re breeding are actually the “base type” dragons that will create the proper match for the hybrid you want to create. In other words, just because a dragon is “red” does not mean that it fulfills the “fire dragon” requirement of a particular match. And just because a dragon happens to live in an Earth habitat, does not mean it will create a mud dragon. In general, since you have to wait so long for eggs to be fertilized and hatched, be paranoid about breeding.
  4. Take a look at the “Goals” for your particular level. Some hybrids will score you bigger experience/cash rewards than others. Go after these first, Yes, you’ll eventually need to get them all in order to fulfill the achievement. But you have plenty of time for that, so grab the experience and cash as early as possible.