Gamer lifestyleSelf-development

First impressions of Habitica, the self-improvement RPG

I like to arrange my life into lists: shopping, gaming, business ideas, blogging, gift ideas etc. When I have a thought written down somewhere it stops taking valuable storage space in my head. After all, I don’t want to think about toilet paper before I am at the store and pull out my shopping list. I’ve been using task management app called Todoist for quite some time now, but every once in a while it’s good to try something new. This way I might be able to improve my workflow. So I decided to give an app called Habitica a go.

Habitica is a mash-up of a task management app and a role-playing game. You create a character that gains experience when you complete real-world tasks and stick to the habits you want to form. The app/game—I’m not sure which to call it at this point—has guilds, parties and quests. Could this be a way to get a gaming fix when you are too busy to actually play? It seems like an attempt to cross the border between self-development and games I talked about in an earlier post about forming habits with games.

Day 1: Getting to know the game

Choosing the areas I want to improve and we are ready for an adventure!

When you start with Habitica, you create a character and choose which goals you want to work on. These then become the starting categories of tasks you can add to your lists. I noticed you are able to add more categories once inside the game, so you don’t need to worry much about them at this point.

When you are done creating your character you are greeted by a brief tutorial. To make things easy there are some sample tasks in the lists. At first I’m not quite sure how the habits section works. It seems they are supposed to be these pairs of good and bad behaviour patterns, like eating healthy and junk food. You can then either tap on the plus or minus sign based on your behaviour. By sticking to the good habits you are rewarded with experience and gold. If you slip into the negative habits, your character loses health. Health can be recovered with potions and level ups.

Habitica also has quite an extensive wiki site, which maaaybe would have been beneficial to check out on the first day. I did not do that, so I was kind of just picking things up as I went. To be honest, I only discovered the wiki on day 5.

Game features

Habitica offers a rather rich RPG experience and community features that are sure to help you keep on track with your habits. I am not going to be able to cover everything the app has in store at this point, as I am only level 3. Certainly the app has more in store as I get further in the game. Anyway, here are some of the highlights from the first days with Habitica.

Items and stable
You get a check-in prize every day you use the app. However, I’ve only had this pop up on the desktop version of Habitica.

First thing on the next morning I’m greeted with a snazzy new outfit as a check-in gift. On the first day I already got a training sword, which has little use besides cosmetic value. But I’m already starting to look like an adventurer, am I right?

Now would seem like an appropriate time to take a look at the inventory and equipment. There are three inventory tabs:

  • Items: For storing everything miscellaneous. Has categories for Eggs, Hatching Potions, Food and Saddles, Special and Quests. I own none of these at this point. Some of these category names give an idea of what’s to come.
  • Equipment: For storing all the equipment you pick up on your travels. Seems like a standard set of RPG gear, minus rings and necklaces. Pretty empty here at the moment, but I did get 7 headbands and eyeglasses when I created my character! Though I wear none of them.
  • Stable: For storing pets and mounts (starting at level 3). And there seems to be a ridiculous number of them as well. I counted 724 pets and 720 mounts. My collector sense is tingling.
Habitica equipment window with some beginner gear. By the time I took this screenshot I already got myself a new hat.
Stats and class system
My Bardic Robes give +3 Perception, which increases my gold gain.

In Habitica the character development is based on four stats: strength, constitution, intelligence and perception. I did not find an explanation of what the stats do at first, but the wiki came to my rescue. Here’s what they do:

  • Strength: affects critical hits and damage to bosses.
  • Constitution: affects health and defence.
  • Intelligence: affects experience and mana points.
  • Perception: affects item and gold drop rates.

I am a bit torn on which stat would be the most beneficial. What ever decision end up to, will affect the gaming side of the experience. The stats tie to the class system, with each of the classes—Warrior, Healer, Mage and Rogue—having their respective primary attribute. I have not actually been able to test the class system at the time of writing, as we can only choose the class at level 10. In RPGs in general I have a tendency to go for rogue or warrior type classes.

Parties and bosses
Dust bunnies taking a beating and looking menacing.

Habitica features a party system that allows up to 30 people to band together to fight bosses and complete quests. The bosses take damage by—you guessed it—the party members completing their to-dos and sticking to good habits. And like in all good fights, it’s not only one side dealing damage. If party members miss their dailies the boss will strike back. I would imagine it is then up to the healers of the party to keep the health of others up.

To get an idea of what’s in store I created a one-man-army and set out to my first boss fight. I’ve been battling these guys for a couple of days now, so it seems like teaming up with others is a good idea. I’ll be sure to do that next.

Guilds and challenges

To not feel like a complete loner, I joined a few guilds. Guilds in Habitica offer a place to interact with other players. There are guilds for different groups of people like students and artists, and for people who share a common goal, like learning a language or exercising more. Guilds can have challenges in them and people share advice on the topic of the guild.

Challenges are basically to-dos and habits bundled together to create a more holistic plan into tackling a certain habit, skill or trait. I have to say I like the idea, and it makes it easy to get sample tasks on your lists if you are running low on creativity. One problem is that one size does usually not fit all, and some of the challenges I have seen have a way too ambitious schedule if you have something else in your focus. Then again, you can always create your own challenges as well!

Shops and currencies
Equipment is bought with gold, so the only way to make progress is to complete tasks.

There are two kinds of currencies in Habitica: gold and gems. Gold is the default in-game currency which is earned by completing tasks. It can be used to buy new equipment, potions and—according to the wiki—certain quests.

The other type of currency are gems. Gems are bought with real money or earned from challenges. The good thing is that gems are mainly used for cosmetic items, and buying them supports the game developers. So no pay-to-win. The developers have made a conscious choice to keep the the items you need to advance in the game achievable only by playing. In my opinion, this promotes the values of the app that encourage people to stick to good and healthy habits. Being mindful of your spending is one such good habit. Only spend the money you can afford to live without!

How does it compare to other task management apps?

Habitica offers a full-fledged task management app inside an RPG. While it has had to somewhat compromise on ease of use to accommodate the game mechanics, I still find it rather enjoyable to use. No other task manager has such a strong community element built in it, and that is certainly something that will help players stick to their habits. After all, who wants to be the one who always lets the bosses do damage to the whole party?

What I like in my current task manager is the ability to arrange my to-dos into different projects and sharing them with the participants, and that is something I miss in Habitica. I tried to create a to-do with a checklist to mimic the feature, but found it a bit too tedious on mobile. It is not likely to completely replace my current workflow, but maybe that is not what the app is for anyway. Habitica seems like a good way to form habits and stick to them, but not as flexible in managing your running errands as some other solutions out there. My own course of action from now on is to run the two apps in parallel: notes and everything with no definite date in Todoist, and everything I want to improve on or practice daily in Habitica.

To sum it up, here’s what I think of Habitica:

+ Great idea and execution.

+ Challenges give an idea of other people’s workflows and can inspire you to take action.

+ Feels like an RPG, and can act as a gaming fix when there is no time.

+ Community element for staying on track to achieve your goals.

– Had to make some usability sacrifices for the sake of game mechanics.

– No early game quests.

– A bit too lightweight tutorial.

There are likely many things I haven’t yet discovered in Habitica, so I’m going to stick around. Maybe we’ll see each other there? I think my next goal will be around reading more..