Thursday, May 9, 2013

HabitRPG: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

In my ever-continuing quest to keep myself on track, I've been experimenting with HabitRPG, a website that promises to help you build good habits and track your tasks by treating your life like a roleplaying game. Earn gold and experience points (EXP)! Level up! Lose health because you hit snooze on your alarm clock for the fifteenth time! And so on.

Welcome to the world of task lists.
I've been using HabitRPG for nearly a month now, and here's what I know:

The Good

The system works. The basic premise of HabitRPG does a great job of modifying your behavior. Good habits give you EXP, so if you add "Take the stairs" as a habit, you'll damn well take the stairs, because if you don't take the stairs you're going to lose hit points and your little sprite man might die. Daily tasks act the same way, except on a timer. You can also tweak your version of a "day" to start and stop at, say, 3 a.m. to cover staying up past midnight on a spontaneous writing jag. To-dos, tasks with no time limit, will gradually become worth more EXP as they age, which counter-intuitively manages to train you to complete overdue tasks when you get a chance. And once you've done enough tasks, you can treat yourself to a simple reward for a small (or large) amount of gold.

You know why World of Warcraft is so addictive? HabitRPG knows, and it's using that power for good.

It looks good. The user interface is clean, simplistic, and does the job in a pixelated style. Your character is roughly customizable to fit a variety of appearances, and you can upgrade him to wear cooler gear and hang out with pets as you progress. There are ads on the page, but they're as unobtrusive as possible and can be dismissed if you donate to the development team.

It's free. As noted, you can donate to the developer, but it's not required. Enjoy the full features of the site for absolutely no money.

It's social. If you feel up to that sort of thing, you can form a Habit Adventuring Party (patent pending) or spend some time chatting with other HabitRPG folk in the tavern. Another plus: while you can log in with Facebook, HabitRPG won't spam your wall for no reason.

The Bad

The system is easy to cheat. If you play by the rules, you'll find yourself making new habits, but it's very easy to avoid any consequences. Check off your dailies! Ignore your bad habits! Basically if you can't stick to the honor system, this website is useless.

Tasks are tricky to organize. You've got habits, dailies and to-dos, which is fine, but the to-dos can be hard to organize, especially if you build up too many to fit on one screen. It's not great to find out you were supposed to bathe the dog two weeks ago, but the task ended up five screens down on the list. Some sort of folder system (perhaps based on the recently-introduced tags) would help make it easier to keep tasks organized.

The Ugly

The user interface ranges from unstable to broken. I'm not sure what code base HabitRPG uses, but the GUI is tricky at best. Simply marking a task complete might require refreshing the page three times, and moving a task entry can send it flying across the screen for no reason. These aren't things that should be happening in a modern user interface, even one that's still technically in development. I'm hoping the planned mobile apps for HabitRPG will be an improvement, but they need to get these things fixed regardless.

Overall, HabitRPG has some kinks that need to be worked out, especially in the user interface, but it's still a worthy tool to help you increase your productivity. Especially if you like EXP.

3 comments:

lefnire said...

Developer here, thanks for the review! Very good :) As far as the ugly - absolutely fair. An going issue we're struggling with. We're using an experimental web framework, and trying to find time to migrate off it to a more production-ready framework. The pro of the former is it allows us to build new features in the blink of an eye; the con is it gives mixed results across the board. Anyway, thanks for playing and soldiering through the bugs!

David said...

Appreciate your comment! I'm glad to hear you're aware of the framework issues, and I look forward to using your site on the replacement when it comes. Think I'll be picking up a few tokens soon to help speed that along. ;)

Sam W. said...

Thanks for writing this all out :). It helped me understand more about HabitRPG.