You’ve heard there’s a new kitty-related crypto fad in town, and you want in on the action.
This is exactly what you’re looking for. In this article, we’ll explain how to play CryptoKitties, the game that’s taking the world by storm (and earning some people a fair amount of money).
CryptoKitties is a digital goods trading game that lives on the Ethereum blockchain. It lets you purchase, trade, and breed digital kittens. The game has no straightforward “goal” — you can simply buy a digital kitten, and it will eternally be yours due to the nature of blockchain technology.
However, kittens come with different visual features, called traits, and some of these traits are rarer than others. Naturally, most users are trying to breed rare cats, not only because they look cool, but also because they can be very expensive; one particularly rare cat was recently sold for more than a hundred thousand dollars.
In fact, the total kitten sales so far are around $3 million dollars; pretty impressive given the game launched last week.
Before we go on any further, please note that this game requires ether (the currency of Ethereum) to play, which can be converted into real money, and that it can get expensive fast (though it can also be lucrative if you play your kittens right). It also resembles a bit of a pyramid structure, meaning that early adopters were able to buy rare kittens cheaper than you probably will be able to. Finally, the game is currently putting quite a strain on Ethereum’s network, and if this becomes a serious problem, it’s easy to imagine the game being shut down.
First, you need some ether
To start playing the game, you’ll need to purchase some ether, and put it in a digital wallet called MetaMask. For a primer on how to buy ether (and other cryptocurrencies), go here. As for MetaMask, it’s one of the simplest wallets out there, and since it works as a Chrome browser extension, it makes it very easy to interact with numerous decentralized apps on the Ethereum blockchain, including CryptoKitties.
Once you’ve purchased some ether, install MetaMask and create a wallet. Then transfer some ether to that wallet (before sending ETH, always make a test transaction with a tiny amount of ether, such as 0.0001 ETH, to see if you got everything right). Once your MetaMask wallet is loaded with ETH (I recommend starting with at least 0.1 ETH, which is about $47 bucks), just go to the CryptoKitties website create an account. Now, as long as MetaMask is unlocked and connected to Ethereum’s main network, you’ll be able to seamlessly buy, sell, and breed kitties on the CryptoKitties website.
Note that to perform any transaction on the Ethereum network — which, in this case, includes buying, selling, and breeding kitties — you need enough ETH to pay the fees associated with that transaction, but you also need some extra ETH for the transaction to go through.
Then, you need some kitties
Now that MetaMask is operational, you’re all signed in and you have some ETH in your account, it’s time to buy a kitten. But why do it, anyway?
For a newcomer, the game might appear very plain and even boring. You can’t really fondle your kittens; you don’t get to feed them as you would with a Tamagotchi; there’s nothing else to do with them except buy them, sell them, rent them out for breeding (called siring in the game) or have them sire between themselves.
But the game gets interesting once you start figuring out which traits are rare, and how to get them. For example, there are thousands of kitties in the game, but according to kitty-tracking site CryptoKittydex, there are only 81 “mainecoon” kitties, and only 156 “jaguar” kitties.
Besides owning a digital rarity, this gets exciting once you see the prices for those kittens. Some of the rarest ones go for hundreds of ETH; some prices are already into millions of dollars. So it’s a bit like digital lottery; if you breed two common kitties and get a rare one, you might actually be able to sell it for a lot of money.
To start playing, however, the only thing you need is purchase a kitty — or better yet, two kitties, so you can sire them. This is easy to do; Go to the MarketPlace, browse a little and when you find a kitty you like, click on “buy now.” You’ll get a prompt from MetaMask asking you to confirm the transaction (always check how much ether you’ll actually be spending; if the figure seems unreasonably high, hit “reject,” refresh the page and try again.)
Wait, which kitties should I buy?
Kitties come with several important attributes, so pay attention when you buy them. Besides the traits — each kitty has about a dozen of them — there’s also the generation number and the cooldown.
The generation number tells you how many generations a kitty is removed from the Gen 0 kitties, which are introduced into the game every 15 minutes (at a pretty hefty price of about 7.7 ETH right now). If a Gen 0 kitty breeds with another Gen 0 kitty, the offspring will be Gen 1. If a Gen 1 breeds with a Gen 5 kitty, the offspring will be Gen 6. The higher the generation number, the worse the kitty will perform, long-term, and the lower its value.
Kitties’ cooldown is another very important metric. It goes from “fast” to “catatonic” and it tells you how much time a kitty needs before it can breed after it last gave birth. Obviously, kitties that can breed faster are more desirable. The trick, however, is that every time a kitty breeds, its cooldown gets a little bit worse.
So for example, a Gen 20 kitty with a “sluggish” (2-4 days) cooldown isn’t very desirable unless it has some really rare traits. On the other hand, a Gen 1 kitty with a “swift” cooldown and “jaguar” and “chartreux” traits is basically the jackpot — not only is it extremely rare, but it can also be bred many more times to create other rare kitties, and if you only sire it with low generation kitties, you’ll get great genetic offspring.
With all this in mind, you should probably start with a cheap kitty just to get a feel of how all of this works. Anything between Gen 8 – 15 will do for starters, and just make sure the cooldown isn’t too bad.
And here’s a primer on how to get rare ones
OK, sorry: There is no primer on how to get rare kitties. If it were easy, everyone would be breeding those “mainecoon” kitties which sell for thousands of dollars each. The algorithm on how to get rare kitty traits by breeding is secret; the game’s developer AxiomZen claims that people who know it are forbidden from playing.
But there’s a couple of steps you can undertake to get better at this and, hopefully, ahead of other players.
First, you should know that a kitty’s genetic material is actually a 256-bit number, and certain traits will correspond with certain digits of that number; for example, “mainecoon” cats’ zero gene is always number 5. The way genes pass on from parents to offspring is secret, but somewhat similar to the way it works in biology; there’s a higher chance that baby kitty will inherit traits from its mom and dad, but it doesn’t always happen. Vice-versa also applies: A baby kitty can get an entirely new trait, that neither mom and dad have. Finally, some traits combine into other traits — a kitty with blue eyes, when bred with a kitty with green eyes, might birth a brown-eyed kitty.
Figuring how all this works is a tall order, though we’re sure someone will do the math sooner or later. For now, though, all you can do is guess and breed your kitties as often as you can and hope for the best.
It’s important to know what you’re doing, though. CryptoKittydex keeps track of traits and how common they are. So even if someone puts up their kitty for sale and calls it “ULTRA RARE,” you can look at this table and see whether its traits are actually rare.
You should also know that there’s no fixed algorithm for rarity and that the makers of the game do not decide which cats are more expensive than others. The marketplace has a life of its own, and sometimes you’ll find that a certain trait is more coveted than another, far more scarce one.
This should be more enough to usher you into your cryptokitty journey. One last piece of advice: Always check those dollar values before buying anything. Working with ether might seem like spending make-believe money, but it’s very easy to rack up hundreds of dollars by buying kittens.
Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH, as well as some adorable digital kittens.
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