Friday, February 14, 2014

Habit RPG

Today's writing habit course prompt is to ask if I've "broken the chain" by which it means have I missed a day of writing so far.  The answer is no, so let's move on.

This time, instead of writing more about writing, I'd like to focus on my other productivity/habit forming tool.  I'd already mentioned Lift, so it's time to talk a bit about Habit RPG.

Habit RPG is an app/website that basically does the same sort of thing a number of other sites do: provide a tool for habit building and self-directed behaviour modification.  It works under the same concept as all the other ones out there, keeping track of what you've done and need to do, and gives positive motivation for successfully maintaining habits.  Same as Lift in that sense, but there are a couple of very important differences.

Most importantly, as you may have guessed, Habit RPG is styled after old-school RPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.  You have an avatar, done in loving 8-bit style, get gold and XP for successfully completing tasks, have Dailies you need to accomplish (and I thought I left those behind in WoW), all the trappings of a good RPG.  There's even a saloon and inn where you can socialize or, if you're going to be away for some reason, take a break.  I haven't done that last one yet, but I assume that's how it works.

Later on, there are guilds and parties you can join, quests to go on and so forth.  Plus you can earn gems either via subscribing or winning various challenges/contests which can be applied to customization and other things.  To their credit, the developers are actively acknowledging the danger of a "pay to win" system getting set up and try to avoid it.  It's certainly a danger of any game with a micropayment or subscription model, as players of Facebook games know very well.

On a more practical level, Habit RPG is divided up around a number of different activity types, which sets it apart from Lift which has a much simpler interface.  This can be a bit of a drawback for a new user, as it requires a bit of effort to figure out how it all works.  Essentially there are four categories on your main screen:  Habits, Dailies, To-Dos and Rewards.  To me, the Dailies and To-Dos are the real meat of the system, but different people have different things they respond to.
Habits, in this context, refers to ordinary tasks that are not time specific.  So if you miss one, there isn't any penalty.  For instance, I have one for mailing letters and one for getting up on time.  If I accomplish those tasks, I check them off and get my little XP and gold bonus.  If not, no big deal.  There are also negatives in this column.  So if I have "Eat Junk Food" as a habit, and I check that off I lose health and get no rewards for it.  Not sure what happens when I lose too much health, but I imagine it's not good.

Dailies are next, and obviously those are things that you do every day.  Like writing for 25 minutes or meditating every day.  If you miss one of these, you're liable to incur a penalty, but if you get all of them you receive a bonus.  However, unlike the habits these are time-sensitive in that they need to be done daily, and there isn't a negative choice.  You do them or don't, and the positive/negative reinforcement occurs that way.  Dailies also keep track of "streaks", or how many days in a row you've managed to do them, and give stat bonuses as a result.  For the grind-minded, this can be a pretty big motivation to continue (not saying that's me or anything, erm....I've said too much).

Next are the To-Dos, and this is one area where Habit RPG is superior to Lift in my view.  There are no negatives here, these are all simply tasks that need to get done.  Optionally you can set deadlines on the tasks, but I'm not sure if there's a penalty for missing those or if it's simply a reminder.  In any case, I'm finding it can be a useful tool to keep track of the various things that need to get done from day to day and helps ward off procrastination.  Given that I can be a bit absent-minded about some things, this is something that I'm finding helps a lot.

And finally rewards, which I suppose is self-explanatory.  This is where you largely spend the money you've earned from rewards in the other columns.  For instance, one of the to-dos I have is to do my taxes (once I finally get all my forms).  Once I've done my taxes, I can claim a reward of buying myself a nice lunch.  For that, I use one of the gold pieces I've earned to purchase it.  The rewards column is also where you can buy equipment for your character, so in that sense it's like a shop.  Equipment is, apparently, one of the main ways to get stat bonuses although I imagine there are more that crop up as you go along.

Since I mentioned stats, here's the basic breakdown:

Constitution: Determines how much damage you take from negative habits or missed dailies.

Intelligence: Increases experience earned, and once classes are unlocked (I haven't gotten that far yet) also determines mana.

Perception: Increases gold earned and after level 4 increases the chance of item drops.

Strength: Reduces task threat (I'll mention that in a minute), increases random gold and XP drops and apparently has something to do with boss monsters.  That's probably something I'll encounter later.

Pretty classic RPG stuff, which tells you a lot about the developers and target audience.   An audience who, in my rather limited experience so far, the developers seem to know very well indeed.  Certainly this is a habit-forming tool aimed directly at the sort of person who hung around on the Veldt for DAYS trying to get every damn Rage for Gau.  

Not, uh...not that I did that...oh look over there!

Huh, guess it was nothing.  In any case, to get back to the tool/game, I should mention something a bit puzzling, and that's threat level.  Every new item on your list, whether it's To-Do, Daily or Habit, starts off yellow and starts getting darker towards red as time goes by (just completed tasks turn gray, then green, blue, yellow and so forth as they age.  The further towards red a task gets, the more it's worth, which the developers say encourages concentration on those neglected points, more so since they stand out from the rest and net bigger rewards.

But I have to wonder about that.  I've dealt with min-maxers enough to immediately wonder if someone more motivated to "win the game" wouldn't simply build up a bunch of To-Dos, let them sit for a while, and then knock them off all at once and gain a lot?  After all, there's no negative effects for letting them go like there are with Dailies.  For certain sorts of people, especially those who get more into the game style rather than the actual meat of the system, this would open a door to gaming the system.

I can't really tell, although I imagine it's something that hasn't entirely slipped past the developers.

I've only been working at this particular app/site for a week now, but thus far I have to say I like it.  There are places where Lift has a clear advantage, particularly the clean, easy interface and how it's geared towards coaching and challenges.  So for items like that, I'll continue using it.  Habit RPG on the other  hand, is much better when it comes to managing To-Do lists, daily items that are the same every day, and the social aspect although I haven't done too much with that yet.  That'll come as I get more comfortable with the system.

There's a lot of Habit RPG I haven't explored yet, but that's okay.  I've gotten enough of a taste of the system and some of its strengths that I definitely want to continue, and as a longtime video game geek I'm attracted to the overall motif.  Certainly the grinding here is a lot more fun than in the original Dragon Warrior, ugh.  

2 time units

1425 words

No comments: