It's been about four months since this was originally asked, and in that time I've gotten a shiny new phone that is actually capable of playing this game. So I got it, and I loaded this game up, and I checked out what all the fuss was about.
This is a complicated game with very little user feedback. It is probably one of the most impenetrable "casual" experiences I've had to date, and I feel lost a lot. If you've never played it, and your assumption is that the game is trivial or easy or simplified for a casual audience, there is nothing further from the truth. It's simplified in that there is virtually no documentation on hardly any feature, and what there is is often either contradictory or useless.
The fallout from this discussion was that we're against questions where the information is ostensibly given in-game. We also believe that the Wikia site is a good source of information. Let's test that theory and see if the community at large can be a good judge of these questions, shall we?
Let's play Identify That Breeding Pair!
Here's a sample of dragons, tell me which ones are trivial or have significant Wikia info. I'll even give you the in-game store's information for each, so you don't feel left out if you can't see it.
- Frostfire Dragon - The game says "Cold" and "Fire"
- Love Dragon - The game says "Lightning" "Plant" and "Fire"
- Gold Olympus Dragon - The game says nothing.
While you're pondering and consulting Wikia, enjoy this picture of Alex Trebek back when he was rocking a monster 'stache:
If you answered anything besides "this is meta, and he has a point to make, so agent86 is giving us a trick question" - you failed. Let's take the "simplest" one and break it down.
The Frostfire Dragon seems easy enough from the store data. Breed Fire + Cold, bam, Frostfire. Only, the game won't let you do that. Turns out there are opposites in the game that can't be bred together, and Fire + Cold is one set of those. The game doesn't mention this, it just grays out one when you select the other. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a bug.
You can breed hybrids that feature both elements together, and knowing this you might assume that any hybrid Fire + hybrid Cold combination would work, given that you're going for Fire + Cold. You'd be wrong, enjoy your hours of wasted time as you wait for these combos to yield things you don't want.
The Wikia is slightly more helpful, in that it tells you you must breed a Fire Hybrid with a Cold Dragon. This narrows the field a bit, but still leaves you with 20 possible combinations. Again, every time you fail, you're looking at hours of waiting until you can try again.
We've exhausted the Wikia's information on the subject, and most other sites are just parroting that data. However, the game has a statistical model behind it, and it's possible to understand it if:
- You're a gamer who invests significant time in Dragonvale, enough to understand how the model works
- You've got enough expertise in math and statistics to be able to SCIENCE your way out of the complex potential statistical combinations and their various benefits.
This sounds an awful lot like the kind of expert we are supposed to be cultivating here, doesn't it? The kind of question that yields intelligent answer that SE is in a unique position to provide? That cuts through the "this worked for me" anecdotal answers you find elsewhere? Hmm.
I won't go into the derivation as deeply as I did for Frostfire, but suffice it to say that only a subset of the dragons that feature the three elements are actually valid. Wikia here tells us that to get the Plant and Fire, you must use a Plant/Fire hybrid, specifically Flower, (even though Poison is also a Plant/Fire hybrid). You might now think "OK, well, then that means that I can just breed Flower + Lightning and that's the only way." Except, no.
In this case, you can breed Plant + Lightning or any Lightning Hybrid. There are 19 possible combinations. This is also a limited time dragon, so there's a maximum amount of times you can try given the long delays you experience on failure. If you're in this situation, you want to know what the statistically "best" pairing is - the one that optimizes the breeding time curve for fewest possible failures AND shortest failures when they do occur. This is a complicated function, but it's solvable if you've got the math background and Dragonvale experience to figure it out.
Wikia doesn't provide this information, and googling it turns up a bunch of unsourced info on sites that seem more concerned with ad revenue than informative content, and shudder Yahoo Answers is in the top results.
The gold olympus seems like the worst of the bunch, and there you'd be correct. Not only do you need to know the pairing, you've also got the problem that the pairings can produce "junk" dragons (like the other two, not the one you're looking for) as well as "lesser" Olympus dragons. Your chances are so slim at getting one that it is easy to lose hope, or break down and just pay Backflip so that you can own one.
Again, the Wikia helps, a little. It narrows the field to just the "possible valid" combinations. But, knowing the optimal solution to the breeding problem can save days or weeks of breeding time.
Advancement in this game is a complex problem tuned to get you to spend money - and lots of money. Some of these dragons cost $80 or more if you don't know how to breed them. However, you can make progress in the game without spending money if you are patient, and you can get a leg up by having an expert in your corner who knows how to game the system.
What we've done here is reject that expert, call his motivations into doubt, and harm his image of the site.
Meanwhile, we created a hostile environment for question askers who must be able to prove that their question is sufficiently non-trivial to avoid downvotes and votes to close. We did this even though most of us don't play this game and can't judge these questions.
In a community that is supposed to be open to newcomers and provide expert advice, shouldn't we embrace the easy questions? Shouldn't we embrace the ones that require a bit more work to communicate with new users and edit to bring up to our high standards? Aren't we introducing these people to new concepts and encouraging them to participate, teaching them that gamers are a welcoming crowd and always ready to help, and this is the premiere site to get that help?
Meanwhile, shouldn't we encourage our experts? Let the reward systems designed by SE and in place on the site encourage them to continue contributing?
In my opinion, making decisions like this makes us look elitist, gives us chances to look down on people without completely understanding their problems, and causes arguments and strife where it shouldn't. To me, this is a capital-B Bad Thing.