Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A certain charm

I still don't know why Maude enjoyed coming here. "It's got a certain charm," she'd say, waving an arm around in a feeble attempt to highlight  what it was about the run-down stone walls or some other small elements that drew her - us - back to this boring backwater again and again.

"I just like it," she would say, and that smile of hers would break on through and because of that, I tried to like it too. I did like it in a way, because of her. For her. We always intended on moving here, but you know how it is. Next year. Life always gets in the way.

Some day one day just never seems to happen. You plan for it, but then without warning, it can’t. A wonderful shared dream together doesn’t work so well when there’s just the one of you. At least she didn’t suffer. I stayed away for a long time, hating this place that reminded me of Maude. Why did this town bring her joy when my joy is now gone forever? But because it reminded me of her, I eventually was drawn back here, and now I’m part of the ‘quaint local colour’ she loved so much. What’s a country pub without a maudlin drunk?


It's been ages since I've done any writing, time to get back in the saddle and try and make it a more consistent habit. This is my entry for Trifecta's 110th week, we have to use the word quaint somewhere in the Story. A distinct lack of magic, aliens, happiness and humour in this one, so quite out of character for me, but it tied in so well with this previous piece from long ago that I had to make it a closer match.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Habit of Excellence

HabitRPG is my latest productivity kick, from my opinion it's got me going gangbusters. I just did a quick breakdown comparing it to my other self-improvement tool/website, but I want to go over it at length on its own as well.

In HabitRPG you get a little avatar that you have to level up and keep alive by completing your tasks. The word avatar has been debased in recent times, nowadays it can mean something as minor as an icon that represents you in a chat forum. But it used to mean a vessel of a divine being - ole JC hisself, or Vishnu come to put the smack down, or Zeus to get it on with the ladies. That's how I feel with my 8 bit sprite, filled with even more potential than when I last had an alter-ego me who journeyed through Azeroth (though that could be because while I enjoy those sorts of games, I am terrible at them, and largely looked at WoW as a prettier IRC client with things I could poke with axes when there was no-one to talk to).

It's a me, Mario Snellopy!
As you tick things off, you're awarded gold and experience. After level 2, you're able to buy things (armour, swords) for your avatar, and you can also set up custom rewards too - though I don't find these as useful. For certain activities, not doing the task (or doing a bad task) inflicts damage on your little avatar, and you either need a cleric to heal you, level up for an XP refill, or spend your hoarded gold on a healing potion.

Since no-one else sees your list (except for specific ones that are added to challenges) you're free to list anything down without fear of judgment. Since you don't have to explain your ideas to others, it's also possible to gamify everything, which is what I've done. I also added a little icon emoji next to each one, to help me find things faster, and there's mouse over text explaining what each one is just in case I forget (like after my holiday).

Habits are best thought of as things that you do either more than once a day, or every now and then. They come in three different types: positive only, positive or negative, negative only. Each suit a particular situation. Writing an email is just a positive one. Having one too many beers is a positive/negative one... I click on the minus when I have an extra one and take damage, and click on the plus when I've been all saintly. Sitting for a whole period is just a negative one. I could make it so that it went both ways, but since I count even the most tokenistic foray from my computer chair, I don't think it'd be fair.

The vast majority of mine are plus only, but I do have a couple of each of the other types.

I didn't realise I had so many until I screenshotted them all.
Here's a screenie of all my non-challenge habits (I took this at the end of the day, that's why they're pretty much uniform in colour). Normally they're in one single big scrolling column, but I figure this way they're easier to see. Some of them map obviously to what they are - tome of knowledge is reading a self help book, Soulbond is spending time with Tho. Flash of Magic is posting flash fiction. Some of them are more fictionalised like regaling over ale (forum interaction) and dented shield (too much internetting).

Dailies are things that you want to do on specific days every week. Most of mine I have set up to only be active on Monday to Friday, because they're school based. I do have a few for weekends as well, but if we go away for the weekend and we have no internet, then my little guy is going to take damage.

I have my dailies set up in five main groups. Everything is gamified with a dwarven or cleric bent.

Clan and Kin, Forge and Foundry, Axe and Anvil, Mine and Mountain, Beer and Beards. These headers are always grey because they're inactive. This means I never take damage from them. They're also set to hard, because when I've had a crazy productive day in that area, then I can tick it off for an extra payout. All my habits are tagged with at least one of them too, so even if there's not a lot sitting in the list under dailies, there might be other things causing the free points. I like this idea because often they're pulling me in different directions, so it is really hard with the way I have set it up to get a clean sweep of all my dailies.

Clan and Kin is stuff to do with family. Vespers with the Novitiate is playing with Madeline, Circle of protection is cleaning up the house.

Forge and Foundry is works stuff as you might guess by the mark roll online. Goblin warband is homework and the Slay an Ogre is my weekly plan (they're grey at the moment as they're not due every day)

Axe and Anvil is self improvement stuff. Kern is mentioned in a few places, I made that my dwarf's deity's name. Communing with Kern is meditating (which I suck at). Hang up my axe is a productive day in general.

Mine and Mountain is writing or other creative pursuits. Sellsword and Swordplay have tomato icons as they are pomorodos for work and fun respectively. I have different variant of the pomodoro system that is tailor made to me. When I was at uni, I was a terrible slacker, leaving all my essays till the last minute. When it was time to write them, I'd put on Cotton Eye Joe (the most annoying song I could find) on repeat until it was done. I wasn't allowed to turn it off when I slept (if I needed to sleep) and I took it with me on an mp3 player if I left my room. My mates all knew if that song was playing it was pointless trying to talk me into anything. Even now if I hear that song playing anywhere, my fingers start twitching and I feel all jittery if I am not typing, have a pen in my hand or looking at papers/books. Possibly I should be kinder to myself, but it is working so far.

Beer and Beards is the generic catch all/misc category. Wordstorm is always greyed out, it for an extended amount of typing in a day. Does that mean that I sometimes double/triple  dip, if I've done some flash fiction while listening to Cotton Eye Joe? Yes, but again, we have to use whatever motivates us, and I don't consider that cheating.

In association with the android app, the To-Do column is really useful, especially because I have such a piss-poor memory. If I think of something late at night that I have to do tomorrow, I just jot it down, and it's right in front of me when I open the website at either work or home.

Because of this improved organisation, this list as got very long very fast. I think I'm adding to it faster than I am knocking tasks off, but that can't be helped. I don't bother gamifying the to-Do's I add, because they're all one shot things, and hopefully knocked on the head quite quickly. But I do have headings for sorting them too.

Hack and Slash is the 2 things I plan to focus on the head today.

King's Sovereign is normally kept empty. It's for sudden, bullshittedly important things that get dropped on you and were due yesterday.

Caravan Guard is for things coming up in the next week or so.

Crows Nest is further down the line, sometime this term.

Scribing Spells emails to write to people

Flash of Magic creative writing or reviews I want to do.

Bag of Holding someday one day stuff. Some of it likely will never get done, some of it just takes a minute but there's too many other fires to put out.

Hired Blade is where I shove all the Challenge To-Do's so they don't clutter up my stuff.

The other reason for having headings like this is they slowly ripen for more gold and XP over time, so if something REALLY big comes up and I think I haven't got a decent reward that is commensurate to the effort and/or stress involved, I can click on a couple of these and cash them in for something more appropriate.

There's two sorts of rewards in the game - one's that you make yourself, and ones that are gear for your avatar. The latter are far more effective for me.

All but the starting gear has various stats that help out your avatar and change the gameplay mechanics. But since the introduction of the inventory, you can be waving around something big and stat-heavy but be wearing something else as a costume.

I recently restarted my character, so instead of the avatar of me at the top of the page, I currently look like this:
I think I look a bit like Van Gough, with a yeti-hair paintbrush and a blue paint palette
I am frantically trying to save up for the last bits of the cleric winter gear, before they disappear on the 31st. So extra motivation there! And much as it pains me to do so, I won't just wave my axe and horned helmet round, though I will have a soft spot for them. I guess I could set up my custom rewards as negative habits, and take a health hit each time I clicked on them, but that would make it more likely I would die, so I'd be less likely to actually click on them and just ignore them instead. With the way it is set up, they appear next to my to-do list, right next to my hack and slash and King's Sovereign headings, so it helps decide if I really do have time to slack off. They're also above the armour and weapons, so I have to consider how close I am to buying a new sexy piece of gear and if going to chase links for a moment overrides my desire for better equipment. After I've bought ALL the things, and my gold just starts stockpiling with nothing else to spend it on, I ratchet up the prices on each of my time wasters to compensate.

The old me

The new me. See how this me looks far more honest and trustworthy?
I recently restarted my character, as I was a dirty no good cheat (but I reformed). It's the second time I've restarted, for exactly the same reason. On my first run through, I was still working out the mechanics of everything. I saw a lot of people had an achievement for Ultimate gear, but that meant they all looked the same. So I zipped through, collecting ALL the things, and deciding on what I was going to use so I looked different. I've always been a fan of customisation, and that was the only way to know what was available. I've also clicked I've done stuff when I haven't really to keep a streak alive (doing things for more than 21 days), to keep my avatar alive (no way am I dying again!) and just on the off chance I got a drop, because today was rough and I wanted a prize. Yeah, yeah, you're cheating no-one but yourself. But that's OK, I do cheat sometimes in single player games. But with the advent of classes and the inventory, I instantly became way more attached to my avatar. My party is doing the occasional bit of RP (I haven't joined in yet, as I would feel silly doing so as a cleric with no healing spells, but I only have one more level to go and I have them all), and I want my little guy growing up properly, that's why I reset him. Will I stick to this new improved Snellopy? Only time will tell, but it is looking promising so far, especially as I'm idly telling myself stories about him, inventing a pantheon for him, and other facets that make him more interesting and appealing to me. Whatever works, right?

Interaction with others
There's a few different ways you can interact with others if you choose to. You can form a party that is supposed to help you be more accountable, especially if you're doing quests, as any dailies you don't complete while questing (if it's a boss battle) will injure your party members. I'm not sure if that's going to make me accountable, or more prone to cheat, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. My current plan is to be able to heal my party members for more damage than I inflict on them, so hopefully that will work out OK.

Our party: Snellopy (me), Questing Orc, Raymond Luk, Retridemption, aiseant, littleleez
We can cast buffs on each other, and we have our own chat section, and as I mentioned, we're even doing a bit of Role-play in there too.

There's guilds, which are larger groupings (where you can't buff each other) that are aligned more along the lines of interest groups - writing ones, parents, dancers etc. Some of them are a lot more active than others.

Finally there's the Tavern, the chat room for everyone who wants to hold forth. All these chat sections are ephemeral, storing only the last 200 lines of conversation, so during busy periods there's going to be things that you never see. As much as I like lurking and reading what people say, I find this a very good middle ground so it doesn't become a horrible time sink.

At all these grouping levels, players can set up challenges. This is a set of habits/dailies/to-do's that work towards a particular goal. There can be gem prizes for winning, and whoever wins the challenge also has it listed as their achievement. But even if you don't snag the top spot (if like me, you can't often do things on a weekend, or perhaps you start a challenge late) it's still worthwhile participating, as you're still working on forming habits that you want to instill in yourself. Though when challenges first came out, I did go overboard and took on too many, killing my avatar again because I had too many dailies that I couldn't complete. Now I'm more circumspect, and sometimes steal the ideas I see in challenges and add parts of them as habits instead, so they won't damage me if I don't get around to them.

There's plenty of friendly camaraderie at all three levels, with things to stimulate your creativity or some other facet of  your life. And the conversations are often fun to join in, too. If someone strikes you as interesting you can look up their character description by clicking on their name. A lot of people list blogs, twitter accounts or other places you can see their output. A nice way of grabbing new, interesting sources of distraction.

If you're really enjoying Habit, there's two main ways you can help out - one is by throwing money at them (always appreciated) by buying gems, and the other is by doing something that moves the project forward: pixel art, coding, or writing stuff up on the wiki. Do enough of it, and you'll be acknowledged by a different colour name for your chat messages, and an achievement listed. I've done a tokenistic amount on the wiki, just enough to stand out from the normal run of the mill folk. I plan on doing more, but life tends to get in the way, you know how it is. It's nice that they acknowledge you for your efforts, in a way that everyone can see. Depending on how much you do, you also can unlock special gear for your avatar. Gems can be used for buying customisation stuff for your character - it's important to note that no-one of it has buffs or stats, it's purely cosmetic. There's no pay to win or play to pay here, it's merely for the fashion conscious. Beards are one example of that. It also allows you to put up a challenge in the tavern and form guilds, or skip the randomness of waiting for a drop if you just have to buy a golden hatching potion.

Drops and Streaks
Two ways they try and motivate you (on top of the buying of armour and weapons) is by a chance of drops when you click on tasks. These can be eggs, hatching potions or food to feed the pets (that hatch out of the eggs). They give no boost apart from cuteness to your avatar, and if you give them enough to eat they can grow up and be ridden (again no bonus except for customisation, which is something I love).

Streaks are when you've completed a daily 21 times in a row (not necessarily 21 days in succession, for example if you have one for taking out the rubbish which only falls due on a Friday). I'm a bit ambivalent about these myself, as I have in the past ticked off some when I didn't really do much if anything towards them. For a while there I had a couple of rewards which for a hefty slug of gold I could tick stuff off that I hadn't done. That system didn't really work for me, so I've discontinued it.

What is really great about Habit is there's an app you can use to check off things while you're doing them. But far more useful for me is to list down things that I think of (usually while in bed) that I need to do tomorrow or in the near future. Grab my phone, pencil it in, then it is in front of me the next morning at work. Much better than writing it down on a piece of paper I will lose or leave at home, and streets in front of trying to hold it in my head until I need to do it. I've had a couple of nights where I haven't been able to sleep, so I have just lain there brainstorming things I need to do and entering them in. Good for productivity, and eventually I get tired enough that I can put my phone down and sleep, so win-win.

What are you playing?
Another serious advantage to Habit is both my students and my wife have glanced at the screen and asked me what game I'm playing (it was a bit more accusatory in the latter case, until I explained how it's been so useful for me, though I don't think I've convinced her of the need). The game elements are fun and not too distracting, the same as the chat functions. I have just added a fee in gold if I spend too long in any of the chat areas, especially if I am not posting and merely lurking. It's a great way of hooking you in and making dreary, boring jobs that you have to, should, or want to do more appealing.

Habitually Super Better

For the past few years now, I've been slowly shaking off my slovenly ways in the name of self-improvement. Mainly due to the gentle insistence of my good natured and long suffering wife, but more recently I've taken it somewhat upon myself to take an interest in it too. I've been using two websites to help do that, and I thought I'd do a bit of a compare and contrast here, since they're both about gamifying your tasks in the name of self improvement.

I've been using Super Better for longer (I'm not good with time, but it's nearly three years). I picked up quite a number of allies over that time, though a large percentage have stopped playing. I have had a couple of them come back to the game though, as they've seen the difference it has made to them. I like the depth of connection you can make with allies, and greatly value their feedback, insights and witticisms. I'm a better person due to my interactions with them. I've talked a few times previously here to my imaginary audience about Super Better, so I'll just skim it quickly now:

In the rainbow corner, Super Better

Super Better is designed mainly with healing from injury or quitting bad habits. There's a range of users who are battling a diverse array of problems. While you can play it solo, I don't really see the point of that, as the interactions and feedback you get from allies takes it to a whole new level, and is the game for me. You take on as many allies as you feel you're able to support (I've got quite a large stable of allies, because I like the interaction, but there's nothing wrong with a handful, or even none). It's a good idea to pick your allies carefully, because if you're using it to your full potential, then you're baring your soul to random weirdos on the internet. A couple of times I've picked up a new ally, and had raised eyebrows as I've read over some of their custom made quests or powerups, but the way I look at it is they're providing me a point of view from somewhere that's completely different to what I'm used to, so that might be of great value.

Quests, Powerups, Badguys
These are the three main groupings of "things to click on" in Super Better. Quests can be repeatable or once off. Powerups are more designed for quick hits. With bad guys, you choose if you win or lose, and the severity of the battle (was it just a little un, or was it a great big challenge)

Rocking it old school in 8-bit glory, HabitRPG

I've had a HabitRPG account for a year now, but only really seriously started using it maybe six months ago (when Super Better was having some hiccups). For little things, I find it is very valuable. I've seen quite a few places mention if you just start something for 5 minutes and tell yourself you're free to stop after that, quite often you're in the swing of things and can't be arsed to stop (even though you had to cajole yourself in the beginning). Well, Habit is perfect for this sort of impetus. Your party members and guild mates can't see what you are working on improving (unless you join a challenge), so it is better for those concerned about privacy. This does mean that you're not as closely connected to them, but idle chatting in guild/party/tavern still means you can make a rapport. Habit gives you an avatar that represents you, that you buy weapons and armour for, and find pets that you can raise into mounts. It's not just for fun, they're tapping into extrinsic rewards that you work towards and those that happen randomly, so there's science behind it too.

Habits, Dailies, To-Do's
Habits are things that you want to improve at, and may do more than once a day, or not at all. They can be positive (give you gold and XP), negative (take health) or go both ways. I have a range of all three listed. Dailies damage you if you don't check them off on the day you've got them active. To-do's are a once off, and don't damage you. I've been using To-do's more and more, relying on Habit instead of my faulty memory for storing my ever expanding list of what I should be doing. They also have a rewards column, where you can add real life things if you want (though these don't generally work for me, but some people like them) and the aforementioned armour and weapons. I've added the three main distractions at work - feedly (my RSS aggregator), Facebook and Reddit, but the price is low (well, it's low when I'm not trying to buy new equipment) but just having it there next to a list of things I should be doing instead is working well for me.

Speed of Data Entry:
Habit has it hands down over Super Better. My work computer, home computer, tablet and phone all remember my login, and as soon as you load it, you're presented with everything you have to do:

Some habits (first column), dailies (second column) to-do's (third column) and rewards (fourth column). My party members are the avatars up the top of my screen, to the right of my health bar.

Mine are gamified, so while it doesn't seem like it's work, they are (the breakdown for the Skeletal army gives it away that its marking)

I have to log in on Super Better each day on each device (more than once if I close the browser).

I have to select the correct group on the left hand list, then I have to find it in the list

Then view it, then click I did this.

I normally right click and open everything I want to check off (sometimes multiple copies of each). Even if I am only doing one or two, I still right click, as that was faster when we were fighting the Oops Monster (may it never darken our halls again).


Graphs. Yay, I guess. I don't do maths, and I so I don't really care
Habit has a graph on your dailies and habits that you can click on to look at, but I don't really care so I hadn't actually done it before this (I've just come back from holidays, that's why I'm sucking at a lot of mine). You can also export your information as a CSV file if you want, but again, facts and figures don't do it for me

SB lists the number of times you've clicked on it, in reverse chronological order. If it's a bad guy battle, it also lists if it was a win or a loss, and what difficulty setting it was on.

Staff involvement:
Once again, a clear winner in Habit. The tavern is jumping with commentary from staff, and knowledgeable normal users. If it's more along the lines of bug reports or updating new features, it has them in spades as well. And since it's open source, we're all welcomed along if we want to help. I've been acknowledged for puttering around on the wiki for example. I forget the last time we had any official word from Super Better staff, even when it looked iffy and there was rumours on their forums of insolvency, spammers running riot etc, we didn't hear a peep out of them. It's a bit disconcerting, and is the reason I searched out other similar sites, in case it died and left me high and dry.

Super Better has forums and groups, but apart from the Cozy Circle and the newer Bunker of Badarsery, they're pretty deserted. Most users come in, say they're new, pick up a few allies and then never return to the forums.

Habit has a jumping Tavern - with the latest influx of users from Tumblr it often scrolls past the 200 line limit overnight or on weekends. There's plenty of special interest guilds, some of which are quite chatty.

Super Better's strength in this regard is the deep ties you form with your allies. Part psychotherapists couch, part happy hour with your mates having a whinge, it's a great format to blow off steam. Habit's Tavern gives you a more ephemeral and tenuous connection with a larger number of people, which is equally good but in a different way. Parties are similar to, but a pale comparison of the camaraderie of SB allies.

This is a tricky call, I think SB wins it slightly, because there's no pay-out apart from the input of your allies, so making up stuff is pointless there. In fact, you're more likely to not list losses when you've battled a bad guy, as you're often not at a computer when you do, and you likely don't want to revisit while you type it up again, even if they give you good advice. Because of buying gear/getting drops/wanting health/leveling up/keeping streaks there's sometimes the motivation to cheat in Habit. Yeah yeah, you're only cheating yourself, but it's just a little tick mark, so what's it hurt?

Unless they click on something or make a comment, there's no way to tell if an ally has logged in on SB. If you don't hear from them for a week, you don't know if they're busy, on holidays, or have stopped playing. When you click on someone's name in Habit, it shows you the last time they logged in, and some Zzz's if they're staying in the inn (often done when you're on holidays or sick), so you do have some feedback there if they're around and about.

Level of Detail:
Super Better wins this - and I'm not talking graphics.

Super Better wins this, so long as you put in the work and explain what you're doing. All my Quests, Powerups and Badguys have detailed descriptions and customised icons.

Here's an example. This one doesn't have much of a description, but you get the idea.

On top of that, I also often give a write-up of why or how something happened/went, and my allies will chime in on that.

This sort of sharing isn't really common in Habit, though I'm starting to see more of it, particularly in guilds where people are grouped by interest in a common cause. It may come with time with party members, but we'd have to be a lot more open about what we're doing and why.

I reckon this one is a tie. Like I said in the previous part, you can do icons and detailed descriptions on Super Better. Habit's aren't in such depth, but you've got your avatar you can play dress up with, and because your list of things that you're doing, you can be brutally honest (or whimsical and silly) in your descriptions. I've gamified all my dailies, habits and to-do headers, which I quite enjoy.

Support Network:
Again, the depth of your relationship with your allies means that Super Better has this one in the bag. In both places I've had people asking me about my recent holiday, and I've seen people in both places mention concern about users whose loved ones were in a recent car accident, there's the extra feeling closeness with SB.

For example, I had three long term allies, who I've chatted with extensively disappear from SB at the same time (one on an extended holiday, one other decided it was no longer for her, but she's changed her mind and returned, and the third was going to have a bit of a hiatus but again, it didn't last as long as she thought it would). For the next couple of days I was walking about, zombie-like. I felt dazed, and had quite a few people ask me if I was OK.

We had two members of our party leave in quick succession in Habit, and it had nowhere near the impact - though to be fair, we'd only been together about a month or so, and I still chat to them in guilds and the tavern, but still, the depth of the association is not there.

Habit wins this, because they're always adding new features and you've got the avatar you can play dress-up with. I think not knowing each other's tasks helps for this too. It can be hard to be lighthearted if your allies are having a rough time of it.

Habit wins by a country mile. They had a kickstarter at the beginning, and now you can buy gems (used for some customisation things, challenge rewards, starting guilds). They don't come begging or badgering emails ala happify and some other self improvement sites I've tried, and you could play happily and never need a gem. You can also earn them by contributing towards it by making pixel art, writing code or other things (I've picked up some like I said for working on the wiki).

There's not even an option to throw money at Super Better no matter how badly I want to support them. Madness! When the Oops Monster has come rampaging, we always worry it's because funds are drying up. When there was the rumour of they were out of dough, there was still no way to throw money at them. There's talk of an android app someday, which I'd gladly break Tho's rule of no paid apps for, but I can't until they release the damn thing. It drives me bonkers.

They haven't worked out how to monetize SB, which is why there was the worry that they were going to shutter. But they won't hand it back to Jane McGonigal, who created it, as they reckon it'll be a financial loss to them. At least with Habit, if it goes tits up because it's open source, I could pull down my own copy (and after a bunch of swearing) install it locally and keep using it. But let's hope it never comes to that.

Ease of Navigation:
Habit. Big time. Occasionally I forget where a certain setting is, but there's not that many tabs to flail around on. I've already said about the list I have to go through to check stuff off with SB, then add in visiting allies on top of that and it starts taking forever if there's been lots of updates, especially if they need thoughtful replies.

Privacy and Trolling Potential:
You could play both games completely ignoring everyone else, and you'd be right as rain. I'm really glad that neither network seems to be hit by griefers or trolls, but SB in particular. In the forums, it seems like a lot of people are battling some real nasty inner demons, and I don't reckon it'd be too much of a stretch to imagine someone offing themselves if a particularly malicious person became their ally. Especially if they  waited at first getting their trust. with Habit, annoying people aren't that serious, it's just forum spam that makes your eyes glaze over, that's all.

Since my list is just for me, I've really done a number of Habit. Our party is also talking about doing some RP as well (I haven't joined in yet, as I restarted my character, and I would feel silly since I'm a cleric and haven't unlocked any healing spells yet). For SB, I try and make my icons, titles and descriptions interesting for my allies, but that's about as far as it goes.

The Dweller in the Darkness

A good way to give an insight into the two different games is with the Dweller in the Darkness. This started off as a badguy in Super Better:

Petty Retaliation and Pointless Bickering are two other badguys that can trigger or be triggered by it. THey have their own writeups as well.

I added it as a +/- habit, and wrote it up for the inaugural Tales of Uncommon Valour (it won!)

The unhallowed hall was a jumble of haphazard pillars and jutting furniture (the use of which was best not imagined). Torchlight felt especially feeble here, but that was no great loss, as the graphic frescoes were disconcerting to say the least. 

Gripping the haft of his axe with clammy hands, the dwarf strained to see true movement amongst the flickering shadows. At the edge of hearing, there was a seething scrabbling and susurration. With a click of its chitinous carapace and scrape of scale on stone the horror left a moist trail within its enclosure. Tentacles writhing, pincers reaching, slavering maw gaping -  it was an abomination that surely belonged only in the deepest pits. “By Kern’s Forge!” Behind him, the dwarf heard one of his comrades being noisily sick. 

Grimly they advanced on the flailing form as it threw itself at the wards that were barely holding it in check. A pseudopod lashed out, escaping the constraints of the circle, and the dwarf hacked at it savagely. A meagre flow of ichor dripped from the creature as the axe head bit deep, but once it was removed the pulsating wound closed over and hardened spines formed where before there had been only putrid flesh. The beast roared its defiance at the party. Almost as one, they broke and ran for the stairs and the faint smudge of daylight that it promised.

So that's how the same task in both of them stacks up but the SB one is far more effective, as I can list what set me off, what I did to try and combat it, and my allies can give me feedback, support, or just listen to me whinge. If I click on it in Habit, no-one's the wiser.

This cuts both ways though, my allies don't really need to be informed that I took the stairs an extra time today, it dilutes the usefulness of Super Better for me - so Habit is the perfect place for me to get some sort of internal recognition of those tasks.

Overhauling and Refocusing
I've been playing on both sites for long enough that they've had to be overhauled a couple of times each, as I've either changed focus or become more familiar with their workings. Because everything is on one screen for Habit, it's by far the easiest to tweak (either for minor things, or really big changes).

Connecting in other places
To join up with allies, you need to exchange email addresses, so even if SB died suddenly, I'd still be able to get in contact with the people I've been talking to and seek out their opinion. A lot of them write or post stuff elsewhere, and they've given me links when I've expressed an interest (unless it's been stuff that's just for them). A few of us have also hooked up on Facebook, too (though we haven't interacted much there - but I don't really do much on facebook anyway, so that could be my fault). There's also the Private Messaging system on the forums as another way to talk to people that you aren't directly allied with.

For Habit, you have the option of linking your various sites under your profile, and so if someone has done that, it makes it a lot easier to follow them. You can also holler at them across the tavern (or a mutual guild) but since the chats there are limited to displaying the first 200 lines, there's no guarantee they will see it. If they don't list some website or way of getting in contact with them (twitter handle for example) then you're out of luck.

What worked well:
For Super Better - opening up to the idea of good positive changes, because they're good and I can instigate them, rather than just when Tho suggested them. Cutting down on drinking. Starting to mark and do paperwork more frequently. Fighting less. Learning the candle song. Giving reading self-help books a chance. Cutting down on swearing in the beginning.

For Habit: Marking a lot more (but this was also building on the original gains from Super Better). Going some days without drinking at all (again, building on previous gains). Writing more. Exercise. Now that I've got swearing largely down t acceptable levels, Habit is where I track losses there.

What doesn't work well:
For Habit: The sort of things where SB excels at - the deep thinking things where input from others is helpful. Occasionally clicking on stuff saying it was done so my avatar didn't die, or so a streak wouldn't be broken, or just because I wanted gold for a new item or a potential drop.

SB: not always logging losses, especially over the weekend or an extended break away from a computer, as I tend to rationalise that it's not that bad really. Sometimes the outlay into finding a new ally, explaining to them where I'm at and what I'm doing and getting familiar with what they're trying to do - and then they stop playing really annoys me. But that's on me, not them. For Super Better, the quality (and how active) your allies are affects what you get out of it. Waning interest in a few allies at the same time tends to have a domino effect on me - I've been under this for quite some time now. Even this week, I haven't really got back into it, instead I have been busy writing this comparison (and my next post, which is just about Habit).

Neither of them have been effective at motivating me to learn Vietnamese consistently (I'm still trying to work out a good system for that, on top of the million and one other things I want to do), nor for creative writing every day. I do have general writing ones on both, and specific ones relating to longer pieces and flash fiction, but I'm still not seeing me push out any consistent word count every day.

Also, both have completely failed at making me rich and/or famous, no matter how many things I click on. Same with getting me into space.

Which one is best? I don't think we have to declare a champion - this isn't a zero sum game, both are helpful in different ways. It's like saying which do you want, a dinosaur or a unicorn for a pet. The obvious answer is both! They're complimentary, and can utilize each other’s synergy or some other buzzwords. Try one, try both, or better yet try them in tandem. I've slowly been won over by Habit, but I would really like to cultivate the habit of using both, because they scratch different itches. But there's only so much time in a day.