The one with a tutu hatched into a ballerina
YOU WOULD THINK ONLY BIRDS and reptiles hatch eggs, or maybe chocolates during Easter. But you?d be wrong.

So far I have seen the following hatch from a variety of artfully designed eggs: gummy bears, seals, foxes, whales, a plaid bunny, elephants, and even a vampire. The eggs they came from weren?t so boring, either. There are scaly eggs, shiny eggs, striped eggs, heart-shaped eggs, and there was one with a tutu. One time I found an apple and wondered whether it was a fluke, but then it hatched a green snake.

Hatchlings, the addictive game of egg hunting in Facebook, started two years ago when the social networking site was new. Brad Dwyer, then a 19-year-old Computer Science student from the University of Iowa, designed it to be an Easter egg hunt at first, a ?hybrid between a real world and online game.?

But the logistics of shipping plastic eggs all over the world is not really taking off, so only the online game remained.

Dwyer launched the game, then called the Worldwide Easter Egg Hunt, to some of his friends in January 2008. In just a matter of weeks, the numbers multiplied so fast that his servers were reaching their limits. After Easter the game was re-launched as Hatchlings, when the pets were introduced.

Addicting

I sit like a zombie in front of my laptop for blocks of time just clicking on my ?nest? to see if there?s an egg there. If there is one, I add it to my basket. If the egg is hatchable, I have a choice to incubate it, give it to my friends, or feed it to an existing Hatchling.

If I incubate to keep it as a pet, it will hatch in about 30 minutes after finding it. Then I would have to feed that pet, otherwise it runs away.

If there are no eggs in my profile, I look at my friends? baskets. This is where it gets addicting. When I find special eggs. Special eggs are of limited circulation, and some special eggs are only available on particular days of the week.

I have found 100 of 364 limited edition eggs so far, and this is what fuels more clicking on nests and baskets hoping for more special eggs.

Part of the excitement in finding eggs, special or not, is the anticipation of what it will hatch into. The designs of the unhatched egg sometimes provide a clue on the creature inside, but most of the time it?s a total surprise. Just like the apple that hatched into a snake, the egg with a tutu hatched into a ballerina.

The special eggs are often a part of a series, or a collection. The ballerina egg belongs to the Twelve Days of Christmas series (nine ladies dancing). There are dinosaur sets, birthstone sets, Chinese zodiac sets, and eggs released for special occasions.

The series are retired after a season, so you will not be able to find them during hunting. However, you can get them at The Warehouse in exchange for shells.

Awesome artwork

I cannot stop talking about the artwork for the eggs and the Hatchlings themselves, because they?re really awesome. Pasquale D?Silva has been doing artwork for Hatchlings since it started, and later on Corina Alvarez Loeblich joined the team. Loeblich did the Zodiac series, the gargoyles, and the mythological series along with some standalone Hatchlings. They are given creative freedom for their designs.

If you find some of the Hatchlings too cute to just be seen online, Hatchlings merchandise are also sold at http://www.cafepress.com/fbhatchlings.

This is obviously a collector?s game, but it also pitches you against the rest of the world. Players are ranked globally according to the number of eggs they have found, and for competitive people seeing their name in a numbered list would only make them want to collect more eggs to up their ranks.

Players who haven?t had time to play need not worry about catching up, because the rankings are done in ?rounds.? Every three months the scores are reset and everyone starts over. But Hatchlings, special eggs and shells are kept intact. They would even give you a certificate after every round.

Start your collection now before I beat you to the very rare Cheeseburger egg.