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Habitica Design Challenge Finalist for Octalysis - Jacob Bender
Challenge Jacob Bender
The story so far
Habitica is a lifestyle gamification app that integrates RPG design to
encourage user engagement. Habitica is well received and has good brand
awareness, but is struggling to retain users after the novelty of an RPG style
interface wears off.
Although gamified to some Degree, Habitica falls short in some key areas. I
think with some new mechanics and some fresh interaction, designing for
Core Drives could help Habitica really engage it’s user base in a way it
Business Metrics/Game Objectives
Increase Daily Active Users
Increase Returning Users
After Six Months
Increase Social Engagement Inside
The App And On Social Media
Increase Weekly Tasks
Completed Per User
Player Type Analysis
Based on a user survey conducted by Habitica, we can draw some
conclusions about the demographics of its user base.
User Demographics/Player Stats*
From the survey we can conclude that the avg. user
of Habitica is 25 years old, is already into gaming to
some degree, and uses it primarily for Health and
Fitness purposes. They are looking for a more fun
and engaging way to form better habits and meet
● Players range in age from 5 to 62+.
● 1 in 5 users do not identify as gamers.
● Those who identify as non-gamers rate the
app higher for overall impact.
● Health and Fitness are the most popular
things the app is used for.
● Education and Work are a close second/third
● Popular for Exercise, diet, and sleep.
*Survey is from 2013 but contains the most
recently available demographic information.
Habitica implements several Core Drives and techniques to encourage
engagement. Most noticeable are elements from CD2, CD4, CD5, and
CD8. Currently the App should appeal most to Achievers and Socializers.
Achievers will be happy with the engagement of setting goals and habits
and then completing them (earning in game rewards) and Socializers will
enjoy the Tavern, Guild, and Party systems.
Lacking however are Core Drives meant to attract Explorers or Killers.
Unfortunately, several factors in Habitica can be considered Anti-Core Drives. These are things that take
away from the player experience and make it less likely players will continue to engage.
This core drive is mostly absent from the
design of Habtica
Current design lacks appropriate
feedback and a clear tutorial
Players may be tempted to avoid marking
bad habit or may pause dailies to avoid
Anti-Core Drive: CD1
Habitica has a complete absence of CD1. There is no story, no quest, no
setup, and frankly no reason for your avatar or you to care. It would be very
easy to make Habitica into “The world of Habitica”, adding both narrative
and Destiny Child. As a user, I currently have zero motivation to engage
with the world itself, and there is no reason why monsters even exist in
Habitica beyond it “being an RPG”
The lack of CD1 is easily the biggest Anti-Core Drive for me.
What can be done
● Give the world of Habitica a story and a reason to exist and push this during discovery.
● Make the player feel important by saying Habitica needs them to help save the kingdom.
● Add lore to the world, let players envision themselves in a land of fantasy.
● Provide a “Big Bad” that both provides motivation and an End Game goal.
● Show a clear sense of progression in promotional material (Noob -> Knight -> Epic Ninja).
● Integrate the story inside the app in the form of quests, notifications, and feedback.
Anti-Core Drive: CD2
Habitica has a lack of meaningful progression. The in-app tutorial is
scattered and unfocused. Feedback is always the same when leveling and it
is not clear what items do, what is coming up, or why the player should
What can be done
● Revamp the tutorial to provide a step-by-step guided tour.
● Make leveling up more exciting, currently the exact same message is given every time.
● Show what items come next in the shop.
● Provide progress bars for things like “Check-ins until next reward”.
● Milestone unlocks should be added.
● Let the player choose an item to work towards from a set of three. This can even be
Anti-Core Drive: CD8
Habitica tries to implement a version of loss avoidance by penalizing
players who do not complete their goals with a health loss. However
currently this system has two glaring flaws: It is just as easy to avoid tapping
a negative/to lie about tasks to avoid taking the penalty in the first place and
it is incredibly easy to cheat the system and avoid any real consequences
(you can tap a positive habit repeatedly to get gold/level up extremely
What can be done
● Provide a more serious warning like “You are in danger of failing several quests!”.
● Have the app check to make sure you are not spamming a reward habit.
● If the player acts suspicious ask “Are you sure? Heros don’t dishonor themselves”.
● Add more micro rewards and in game positive feedback. There is very little external incentive to
Areas of Concern
Habitica has several areas that need addressing in terms of design and
engagement. Below are some of the issues that turned me off to Habitica as
Major Suggestions (Broad)
● Revamp website
● Engage in social media campaign
● Send out success stories as press
● Reach out to schools with “classroom
● Teased Content that cannot be
accessed (but also doesn’t provide
a clear progress towards
● Lackluster discovery experience
● Poor quest design
● Not enough to do
● Stale Feedback
● Easy to “game the system”
● Poor Onboarding Experience
● Complete lack of Narrative (CD 1
● Provide story and a reason for the player to care
● Revamp new player tutorial
● Provide clear paths forwards
● Revamp quest interface to provide clearer
objective on how to complete
● Add more interactions with the game, such as the
shop glowing if you can buy a new items
Major Suggestions Cont.
● Make daily push notifications more engaging
● Show players progress updates towards unlocks
● Show more items in the shop (even if you can’t buy yet)
● Add more things to do
● Make pets act more like tamagotchi and not just trophies
● Add App wide quests that call on users to participate
● Make leveling up more fun, provide different messages for feedback.
● Have an evolving UI instead of just giving the player everything,
especially since much cannot be used at first.
● Have not reached, cannot say.
● Unsure if End Game exists
A new game loop
Areas to improve per Core Drive
New Game Loop
1. Each day the player receives a push notification from the
app with a message like “The Kingdom Needs you” or
“Don’t forget to claim your check-in bonus!”
2. The user opens the app. If it is the first check-in, they
receive either a reward or a progress mark towards their
next daily check-in reward.
3. Occasionally users get to spin a wheel for a random item
when they first check-in. The chance of this happening is
related to the amount of goals the player has consistently
met. Feedback should make the player feel important, such
as “The High King of Habitica has noticed your
commitment as has decided to reward you with a spin on
the Wheel of Wonder”, etc.
4. Next, the user is shown a status update containing
information like “X dailies till next reward” or the progress
towards a party quest (currently you have to navigate to
the party menu to check).
5. If the user has earned enough gold to unlock a new item,
they should be notified that the shop has new inventory.
6. As the user checks off items, they should be frequently
reinforced with a High Five message.
Here are my thoughts for an improved game loop that keeps the
players engaged and coming back
7. When a player levels up, the feedback should be variable
and show progress towards a new goal/item (leveling up
should create a new goal to work towards)
8. The social share feature is currently lackluster and should
provide more incentive, even if it’s just “Let your friends
see your progress!” - there is no real trigger to share
9. Since more social interaction is a business metric, provide
feedback encouraging the user to visit the tavern (there is
room for a much more robust social system)
10. If the user opts in (or out), send daily emails with progress
reports to encourage engagement (the Todoist App does
11. When a user clears out their dailies a message like “The
kingdom rests peacefully, but a new day awaits” should be
shown to both show the player they completed a set of
desired actions and prime them for the next day.
Narrative - Currently no narrative exists tying the player to the game world. I think adding a backstory, flushing out the
world, and giving the player a reason to want to be in the World of Habitica would help increase engagement and retention
Elitism - There really isn’t a sense of elitism at all. While this can be a good thing in some cases, there are no areas,
content, or guilds that are locked to players beyond a level/gear requirement. There do not seem to be any user titles
reward those who make their goals for a long term that can only be earned this way. There is no status for long term
players that identify them in the chat as veterans. (Scaffolding/Endgame)
Humanity Hero - Habitica offers no tie-in incentive to the real world. Adding an app wide quest that works towards a real
world goal would help with this. If X amount of users complete Y dailies/todos/etc then Habatic will donate something to a
good cause. There is no feeling that what you are doing really benefits anyone but you and does not make you feel like
you are part of something larger. (Discovery/Scaffolding)
Destiny Child - Tying in with Narrative, there should be some indication that your avatar is special or why Habitica need
Leaderboards - There is no social leaderboard (that I can find) for users to compare how they are doing against their
peers. If Habitica feels this would make the game competitive in a negative ways, simply showing the user what percentile
they rank in for various areas would be a good way to add feedback and another thing for players to intrinsically focus on.
Badges - There is currently to my knowledge no “Achivements” page. Many games implement badges when you complete
certain in game tasks. Adding such in game unlocks for things like “Logged in x times” or “Completed 100 dailies” are a
nice thing for users to see and track for themselves. Habitica claims to have badges but I have yet to find them.
High Five(s) - There seems to be a complete lack of “Good Job” and “You Rock” type messages when a user completes
goals on Habitica. Even simple positive feedback can go a long way in making a player feel valued and welcome. In fact,
this is currently on of the biggest things that stands out to me (alongside the lack of CD 1) (Onboarding/Scaffolding)
Step-by-Step Overlay Tutorial - I mentioned this in my analysis, the current tutorial is very hap hazard and offers no
sense of progression or momentum for new players. (Onboarding)
Progress Bars - While some progress bars exist, I think more should be added to track other forms of progress. These
include progress to next unlock (items/gear), progress to unlocking new areas, etc. (Onboarding/Scaffolding)
Milestone Unlocks - Add longer term goals for the player to meet that comes from completing a number of dailies or
Boosters - Either as an in game item or a variable reward, provide boosters that give extra gold/exp if a player's tasks are
completed for that day.
Demon Pacts - An item the player can commit to. If they complete all dailies for a week they get a bigger reward but there
is a penalty for failing to complete it. (Scaffolding)
Choice Perception - Let the player decide what unlock they want to work towards, but make the difference
cosmetic/flavor only (Scaffolding)
Now you do it! - Provide sample/template habits for users to build on and encourage them to make their own
Player Housing - This is a big draw in many games. Let the player have a small house (grid based) that they
can fill with furniture and other items they get from question. Make the items snap to the grid and rotate so each
player can customize their own space. (Scaffolding/Endgame)
Pets that need you - Make pets lose health and eventually die if you fail to complete your goals (think tamagotchi). Infact,
creating a system of rewards and penalties that are pet specific might tie into the same demographics that engages in a
game like Neopets. (Scaffolding)
Item Durability - Make it so that players equipment takes damage if they fail to complete goals and require gold to repair
Pet Names - There is currently no way to name your pets or mounts. (Onboarding)
Beyond Cosmetics - Currently pets are cosmetic only, but if you take care of them long enough they should provide a
NPC mail - Send the player occasional mail from an NPC congratulating them on progress and occasionally containing a
small reward. This will encourage players who have not yet made friends to start using the social features more.
Friend Party Bonus - Give the party a bonus when members are made of friends recruited from outside the app. This will
encourage friends to sign up to Habitica together (Discovery/Onboarding/Scaffolding)
Brag Button - Streamline the current “Share” feature when leveling up to broadcast your might achievement to the Tavern
or make it easier to share to Facebook (Onboarding/Scaffolding)
Auto Sharing - Provide an opt-out feature that integrates with social media and posts to your friends when you level up -
“Bob just reached level 5 in Habitica, join him in the quest for Epic Loot” (Discovery)
All for one - For guilds, have each members individual goals add progress to larger guild goals that when met
reward users who participated and provide bonuses to the guild itself (to be enjoyed by members)
Party Fever - Reduce steps needed to join party.- I should be able to hit “Join Open Party” (Onboarding)
Last Mile Drive- Remind players when they are almost done with dailies to keep pushing on (Scaffolding)
Magnetic Caps - Only allow a certain amount of Habits to be checked each day, this should help with players cheating
Dangling - Showcase a cool items that takes a longer amount of commitment to earn (A week of dailies, etc)
Evolving UI - Lock away parts of the UI players cannot use (Onboarding/Scaffolding)
Torture Breaks - Add a daily Gold/Exp cap consistent with the amount of items a player has added (Scaffolding)
Rolling Rewards - Currently there is an item in the game that cost 100g and rewards you with a random item (I got a
wand followed by some cheese) - Instead of this, consider adding an item that acts as a token, which you can take to a
lottery wheel that give random rewards. This way you can create a more complete loop (make the wheel actually spin
instead of just giving out an item): Get gold -> Buy coin -> Spin wheel -> Receive variable reward -> Magnetic Cap (can
only spin once per day) -> Come back the next day.
To increase the likelihood of completing the loop, each time you spin the wheel you might earn progress towards either a
free spin or a spin on an even more special wheel. An even better implementation would be to occasionally reward the
player with a token for the wheel when they complete all their dailies/todos. The Magnetic Cap prevents users from
spamming todos in an attempt to earn a token.
Visual Storytelling- In addition to “normal quests”, once in awhile a quest should be available the
advances the Story of Habitica and ties in with the overall narrative. These can be locked by various
requirements (Level, amount of tasks done, etc) but should come up as a reward in themselves where
completing them unlocks more of the story/lore about the world and the peril the kingdom is in.
Countdown Timer - Show how much time left the player has to complete dailies before they are penalized (Scaffolding)
Progress loss - Reset the user's check-in progress if they do not check-in daily (Scaffolding)
Status Quo Sloth - Require the user to try to create new positive habits after they have been successfully completing old
ones by reducing the continued reward for habits they have already mastered (Scaffolding/Endgame)
Rightful Heritage - Remove an item from the player that was given as a free lunch if the player fails to check-in a number
of times in a row (“While you were away some evil Rat Monks broke in and stole your hat!” - provide a quest to get it back)
Using the Octalysis Tool I came up with a diagram that got a score of 52
(Weak/Falling Asleep) for the current design of Habitica. By increasing Meaning,
Empowerment, Ownership and Accomplishment the score was raised to 146 (Good
Motivation). By adding better Unpredictability and greater Social Influence we get a
score of 191 (Proud of You/Good Motivation). This suggests that with some minor
improvement and the addition of CD1 Habitica could easily double its current
Focusing on Meaning, Accomplishment,
Empowerment, and Ownership drastically
improved the score
Adding better social integration and
unpridicicality further boosted the score