The premise of the game is simple; you gather eggs, raise them into dragons, and then add the dragons to your collection. There's hundreds of breeds, some of them have color variants, it's got a very Pokemon feel to it. What makes Dragon Cave so unique, though, is that it is not a "video game" by traditional standards (though it is according to the Merriam Webster). There is no manipulation of a player character, there's no combat, there's no dialogue, there's no compaign, there's no story (though there is lore). The entire game is played with hyperlinks in your internet browser.
Getting and hatching eggs
When users land at the home page, they are presented with a fantasy map that has six regions: alpine, coast, desert, forest, jungle, and volcano. Upon clicking on the regions, the user is presented with three identical greyed-out eggs with a question mark in the middle, each with a short description. When you click on one of these eggs, the egg is added to your account. You can view all your eggs and dragons by clicking on the "dragons" hyperlink.
Each egg is given its own web page. What makes dragon cave so interesting is that, in order to hatch an egg, you need to give each egg views. This can come in three forms: "overall views", "unique views", and "clicks". A dragon needs thousands of views to hatch. When the egg is first acquired, it's death timer is 7 days, meaning that it will die in seven days if it doesn't hatch. It cannot hatch until the death timer hits 4 days, so it needs enough views AND enough time.
To quote Annilalate#6341 from Dragon Cave's Discord server, who I think sums it up very perfectly, "Dragons require views and unique views to hatch and grow. Views are given when the dragon's image is loaded (such as when you view someone's scroll or see the dragon in a hatchery), and unique views are only given once per IP address per dragon. There is no exact number, and the amount can vary based on breed, time left until the dragon dies, and even between individual dragons. Overall views are restricted by unique views; you can't have more than 15 overall views per unique view. Clicks help dragons grow and act as a boost, but are not required. They are given only when you actually click on the dragon and go to its /view/ page and, similar to unique views, happen only once per dragon per IP. However, your dragon can have a million and one views, but it won't hatch or grow unless its timer reaches 4 days left or less."
Breeding and lineages
This is what I think makes Dragon Cave such a beautiful game; each dragon can be bred with other compatible dragons, and any eggs produced through breeding will display a "lineage" link that can be opened up to see a tree of the egg's ancestors. Lineages have no limit; you can eggs that go back tens, dozens, or hundreds of generations! There are limits, though; the dragons have to be of the same "type"; I think there are four types: dragons, two-headed dragons, drakes, and pygmies. Most of the eggs on the website are "dragons", as far as I'm aware. Some breeds can't be bred, and for some breeds it will be difficult to produce an egg, depending on the rarity of the breed.
There are many terms that are used for these lineages, one of which is 'dorkface'. Legend has it that DC user "ladiefare" was hoping to hatch a gold dragon egg into a female. Annoyed that she was getting males, she threatened the egg, "if you turn out to be a male, I will name you dorkface". The egg hatched into a male, who was thence named Midas Dorkface. I don't know how, I don't know why, but it is considered HIGHLY valuable to get a dragon that is descendent of Dorkface and a white dragon named "Shallyna'ar". The closer in heredity it is, the more valuable (a second generation dorkface is the most highly prized dragon imaginable.) I have a dorkface, but it's 160th generation :)
Another term that is used is "thuwed". This is to refer to anything that has TJ09's dragons in its ancestry. TJ09 is the person who singlehandedly owns and programs dragon cave, and descendents of his breeding pairs are considered highly valuable -- the closer in heredity, the more valuable they are. I also have thuweds, but they're also a very long way down the lineage tree.
The coolest thing about DC, though, is breeding projects. The term 'breeding project' refers to when a person does something cool with a lineage -- one may alternate males of one breed and females of another, with a very particular naming scheme. I am currently working on a breeding project that is a purebred Nebula Dragon spiral lineage, in which each of the dragons is named after an astronomical object. The most amazing lineages, in my opinion, are lyrical lineages. "Lyrical" is a term that means the dragons in the lineage spell out the lyrics to a song or poem or passage. Thanks to the forums, I was able to pick up a dragon from a lyrical lineage that is Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy. I also accidentally stumbled across a dragon on the abandoned page that is Mr. Blue Sky.
Trading and terminology
Once a person acquires a dragon of the breed of "Magi Dragon", they will be able to use a breed-specific action called "teleport". This is used to trade. Only eggs and hatchlings can be traded, not adults.
There is terminology that is used to describe dragons and eggs:
"CB" or "caveborn" or "cave bred" means that the dragon or egg was acquired from the wild and is not a product of breeding.
"AP" or "abandoned page" refers to a link on the homepage that leads one to a page of eggs abandoned by users. One can pick up these eggs instead of wild ones if preferred.
"Dorkface", as explained above, refers to a descendent of Midas Dorkface and Shallyna'ar.
"Thuwed", as explained above, refers to a descendent of any of TJ09's dragons.
"Saltkin" or "spriter's alt kin" refers to a descendent of a dragon that is of an alternate sprite; usually the spriter gets their own "shiny" version of the dragon they sprited that is referred to as the "spriter's alt"
"Prizekin" refers to descendents of the monthly raffle dragons.
"Bloodswap" refers to trading dragons with the same lineages, but unrelated dragons.
I haven't detailed absolutely everything -- that's the magic of the website, you discover the beauty of DC as you play it! Lineages and breeding projects cemented my eternal interest in Dragon Cave. I probably spend a half-hour a day on this website. It's crazy. I joined the Discord server and everyone there is super nice. It's great.
There is no "friending" or "following" on this website, but if you make an account let me know! I'll bookmark your scroll :)
In summary, Dragon Cave is probably my new favorite "game" right now. I don't know if I would subjectively quantify it as a video game. It technically is because it exists in the cyberspace and is interacted with through a computer, but it's so unlike other video games that I question if it's a fair comparison. All in all, this game is amazing and I hope it's around for decades to come.
Here is a link to the site, for anyone curious
// I was considering making this a Brevity Quest 2023
node, but I am too wordy. Curses!