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Inventory Question


MarkN
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This might sound like an odd question, but how much do you like fiddling around with inventories in games that have them? I'm thinking things where you collect lots of loot or produce, and have to sell or stash it, or shuffle it around into storage chests etc.

 

Because I'm working on a game, and one of the hassles for me is that when a new item becomes available I need to check if the player has space in their inventory to collect it, and if not is has to lay around on the floor waiting for you to come back for it. There's actually a fair bit of work in this, and it could potentially start looking messy and being an issue for a couple of reasons. And then it occurred to me that potentially I could just let you collect EVERYTHING. Limiting inventory space is just a game mechanic, designed to encourage busywork, and make you want to buy a bigger rucksack. The game is set in space, so I could just say your backpack has tardis-like capabilities, or it teleports things into storage or something. I've not fully thought out how it would look or work, but basically you'd end up having access to all your stuff everywhere.

 

Is that a good thing though? I think it is, personally, but I wonder if there's some people who actually like the busy work of inventory organisation. Of having a chest for hats, and a chest for fish you've caught, and another for gems etc. On the one hand you'd never not have the thing you needed at any given moment which I think is a huge boon, but would you lose elements of ritualistic tidying up at the end of a day/mission, and careful curating of gathered resources into collections to negate this to some extent. Is there enough relief in finally being able to purchase a bigger rucksack, that justifies the penalty of not having had enough storage space to start with?

 

Thinking about it, I could possibly automate this, so everything goes into a themed container automatically, as you pick it up.

 

I'd be really interested to hear thoughts on this because I really like the idea of doing something different - and just making this one less thing you have to care about when playing. No arbitrary upper limit to the amount of sticks you can carry, no having to run home to the trouser chest when you fancy changing your clothes, no need to consult a wiki to find out what resources you will need to take to the mason to get a building constructed, and no finding yourself at the blacksmith's without the ore you needed to upgrade your sword etc.

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15 minutes ago, MarkN said:

And then it occurred to me that potentially I could just let you collect EVERYTHING. Limiting inventory space is just a game mechanic, designed to encourage busywork, and make you want to buy a bigger rucksack. The game is set in space, so I could just say your backpack has tardis-like capabilities, or it teleports things into storage or something


Pretty much exactly how From deal with it, well since Dark Souls. Fuck manual inventory management, crushingly dull stuff. 

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One of the worst things in Elden Ring is getting a new item and then trying to find the correct sub-menu so I can read what it is / item description lore

 

One of the best things in Elden Ring is that I can pick everything up and never ever use it

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It works for some games, like Resident Evil, where carrying a limited amount of ammo and herbs feeds into the horror and tension. Other games will dish out inventory upgrades as a reward for reaching milestones, for better or for worse.

 

If you can’t think of a reason for it to be there then don’t include it, but you just need to consider a decent way to sort and keep track of what you’ve collected!

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Inventory limits can get in the bin. It's too much for me to handle in many games. It is the worst thing in No Man's Sky and I wish I could mod it out of my game.

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One thing that gets tricky in Destiny (and from what I've heard, Monster Hunter?) is playing through a mission or something where your inventory gets filled with a million things and by the end you just want to find the "useful" stuff amongst all of the junk. I think MH World has, like, a "manage loadouts" option where you can define an inventory of general-purpose stuff, and by selecting the preset it will take that particular stuff out of your box and into your inventory. Meanwhile, Destiny has "locked" gear - allowing you to put a lock on some equipment so that you don't accidentally trash it.

 

(An aside: one thing I'd really like to see in Destiny or other looter-shooters is a "gear preset" where you can save a particular helmet/arms/legs/chest/weapons as a build and equip it at the touch of a button!)

 

So you could have:

-limited inventory on your person; make the hard decisions yourself

-limited inventory on your person but a bigger "item box" outside of a mission

-limited inventory, an item box, and a way to define a "set" of items to withdraw from your box (if the box has those items)

 

With the bonus option of

-marking particular things as "favourite" or "locked", so that they don't accidentally get junked!

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I'd say unlimited is best unless the limit has a reason (which ideally isn't just to prevent the player getting too much money by picking up all the useless shit and selling it - just drop less shit if this is your intent).

 

Add sorting and your golden.

 

I also always things back to WoW which had limits obviously but I loved the item colouring. Most important was 'grey' to indicate this is pure shit that you should sell immediately. Make it clear what is literally just cash in another form and then make a button which says "give me cash for all the pointless shit". It has the flavour of not just dropping money but none of the pain.

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8 minutes ago, thesnwmn said:

I'd say unlimited is best unless the limit has a reason (which ideally isn't just to prevent the player getting too much money by picking up all the useless shit and selling it - just drop less shit if this is your intent).

 

Add sorting and your golden.

 

I also always things back to WoW which had limits obviously but I loved the item colouring. Most important was 'grey' to indicate this is pure shit that you should sell immediately. Make it clear what is literally just cash in another form and then make a button which says "give me cash for all the pointless shit". It has the flavour of not just dropping money but none of the pain.

 

100% this. 

 

You need to consider accessibility. 

 

Colour coding doesn't always work for the visually impaired

A catch all inventory can be hard for the neurodivergent

Consider clearer markers

Have auto trash as an option

Consider tired inventory (Critical, Useful, Trash, etc)

Think about the limits imposed. Are they THAT important... does it break the game without them? If so how? What does that say about the game? Can you hjave less tat? Or is it needed to keep the player engaged> Again if so, then think about other ways to increase that engagement. 

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9 minutes ago, bradigor said:

Consider tired inventory


Tiered? (Not being a dick, was trying to figure out if you meant some sort of system where less valuable old items vanish over time which I thought might be interesting if potentially annoying)

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10 minutes ago, petrolgirls said:


Tiered? (Not being a dick, was trying to figure out if you meant some sort of system where less valuable old items vanish over time which I thought might be interesting if potentially annoying)

 

Sorry I meant sections, but critical front and center with junk not as in your face bar highlighting when you reach eg: a village or trader

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Ultimately it comes down to whether there are intristic choices the player has to make in inventory management, and whether thats a compelling part of the gameplay. I play a lot of survival games and inventory management is vital to that genre, where you have to weigh up (sometimes literally) what to pick up when out and about. There are other games like RPGs (Divinity Original Sin 2 comes to mind) where having inventory restrictions just prolongs the grind to get all the loot - because there's nothing to stop you selling it all and returning to get the rest.

 

Now consider if going back to pick stuff you had to leave behind is in itself a challenge. If so, you've added another dynamic where players may just take the priority stuff and may have to choose whether its worth returning for the rest. 

 

Certainly I agree with the posts above that whenever you are dealing with large inventories, different ways to filter them, store and sell them takes out a lot of the crap. I'll raise a good point about Divinity 2 here, where you can toggle anything as 'to sell' with one button press and then there's a 'sell all tagged' option at vendors, which makes selling much less painful than old skool RPGS.

 

Back in the day Diablo and Resident Evil games also had you rearranging items within your inventory to fit everything in. There is an element of satisfaction to that but its quite niche and ends up being busy work a lot of the time. One more recent game that uses that mechanic but has a cool twist on it is Neo Scavenger. In that game your clothing and bags have their own inventory grids so you have to decide what will go where on your body, and it incentivises finding clothing with pockets or larger bags. Bags and clothing also decays over time in Neo Scavenger so you can be left with all your shit on the floor if you didn't plan ahead! They use a handy auto-sort button to deal with the inventory jenga issue, although you can go in and manually tweak items if you want. 

 

One game with a very unique inventory system is Astroneer where you phsyically can see the items you are carrying and manually move them in 3D space to storage.

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You do lose some of the exploration achievements if you allow people to just take everything they find. I quite like the role playing aspects of dragging home a big haul, it's satisfying. And then you get to turn it into other stuff or sell it or what have you.

 

Games like Minecraft, Valheim, Satisfactory would suffer from unlimited space. Because in those games you have to brave the world to get the stuff you need to get further in the world. Albeit they still allow you to carry amounts that would make an ant blush.

 

Plus I've always sighed at the ridiculous amount of weapons you can carry. You definitely lose some measure of reality being able to choose amongst thirty different weapons. 

 

Having said that, elden ring is an interesting way of doing it. Allowing you an Hermione's bag whilst limiting what you can have in your hands and as armour.

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I think inventory as a way to make money is a bit annoying in practice. 

 

As in, shit you find lying around shouldn't exist purely to sell. Items should have no value beyond their use. 

 

That way the management becomes about character building and prep for the game play. On top of that you don't have to say "I'd better run back to a town so I can sell my trash and go back to finish the dungeon". 

 

Infinite loot storage sounds nice but I think you create more admin for the player later trying to sort and rank the items they have (especially if they are trying to discern useful vs sellable) 

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Depends on the game really but usually, Ignore everything anyway as items are for open worlds and open worlds are pointless. 

 

End of story. 

 

But seriously, two different inventories for collectables/craftables and main items. Stops you from trudging through fifty eggs, mushrooms and wooden pieces to find the thing you need immediately.

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After re watching Tim Rogers' Last of Us review again recently I do think it probably has my favourite inventory, crafting and ratio of pickups in any game. So perfectly fits the experience. 

 

 

(skip to 48:16) 

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I think an inventory that both allows you to gather everything without limit and sorts it for you so you can more easily find it later would be great. Especially because an inventory with unlimited storage would become unwieldy very quickly. 

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I can think of one game where I’d say the inventory management was fun, Resi 4. However as others have said no limit creates its own problem, having loads of shit to sort through. I generally prefer less shot to pick up but it’s all meaningful. 

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It really works in horror games as previously mentioned. I like the inventory in Dead Space - you have to think about the approach you want to take, and bring the appropraite equipment with you. As the game is quite linear, you ever get lost and storgae lockers are never too far away if you want to switch your loadout. The games usually works out like puzzle/encounter > save point > puzzle/encounter > storage/save/upgrade > puzzle/encounter and so on.

Worked well for me.

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Yeah, there’s a line between it being an actual gameplay mechanic or a nuisance. Like, if I had an inventory of just a few items, I wouldn’t feel bad about dropping most things because I know that’s what the game wants me to do.

 

I hate when you have a limited inventory, but it’s large enough so if/when you do fill it up, it takes an age to sort out. Then I need to make dozens of decisions about whether I’ll need something or not. Piss poor design.

 

Any player-friendly feature like being able to mark junk/sell all junk in one go/sell or drop useless tat automatically is good though.

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As long as there's no encumbrance system, I'm pretty happy.

 

Two systems I quite like are RRD2's approach of an unlimited number of slots, but small number of items in each slot, so you're never prevented from picking up something new, but you're limited to 3 or 5 items of each so using your resources is meaningful and you can't stack 99 healing potions and just cheese the game (at least until you unlock the ultimate satchel).

 

Elden Rings follows a similar principle, your inventory just grows and grows to include hundreds of distinct weapons and every item in the game, but only stuff you equip figures into your characters encumbrance, I'd hope the likes of Starfield adopt one of these systems over the Skyrim/Fallout approach.

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Cheers for all the feedback - super useful. My game is basically Harvest Moon in space, so it requires lots of crops, fish, foraged items, and resources like metal ores. Then it will have the usual crafting and cooking, so a lot of the game will be played via inventories.

 

I think I will look at making the inventory unlimited so that everything is accessible always - as much as I like Stardew Valley, for example, there were a lot of times I couldn't do what I wanted in a remote location because I'd forgotten to take the correct resources with me. My initial idea is to have a fairly typical main inventory, which the player can reorganise and put whatever they want in (so commonly used resources will always stack in there) and then give them dedicated storage chests that anything that won't fit will be teleported into - closet for clothes, fridge for food, trunk for ores/minerals and so on. As long as I can communicate what has happened to the player I think this should work well. This basically will give you a first level of filtering, but I do like the idea of doing more with filters, so that's something I'll think on. I'm also considering maybe a button press to instantly find the last thing you picked up if it isn't in your main inventory - that could be really handy.

 

The one bit of inventory busy work I will keep is that the shipping crate will be separate, since there is a game mechanic there. You'll have to visit it before the collection time to put any stuff you want to sell in each day, or miss losing out.

 

This all requires a big rework of how I'm doing things, but I think it'll be so much better afterwards.

 

@bradigor I will keep the accessibility suggestions in mind, thanks. It's already changed the way I will implement something - the quality level of produce. Rather than doing different coloured stars I'll look at either doing multiple stars, or different icons entirely.

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@MarkNBrilliant, thanks. It may not work for your game, but at least you are taking it into consideration, which is all we ask. (Such as, can you do anytime save points, alt colours, larger text, UI scaling, etc) It may not all be poszsible, but it is good to know it has been considered. 

 

I want to start an accessibility consultancy thing for games down the line. 

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48 minutes ago, bradigor said:

@MarkNBrilliant, thanks. It may not work for your game, but at least you are taking it into consideration, which is all we ask. (Such as, can you do anytime save points, alt colours, larger text, UI scaling, etc) It may not all be poszsible, but it is good to know it has been considered. 

 

I want to start an accessibility consultancy thing for games down the line. 

I tend to make my UI fairly chunky anyway, but I will bear it in mind. The alt colours I will bear in mind too. I did have this planned for my first take on the game (which was a bit more serious) where the front end would actually look like it was running on the in-game computers, and those would allow you to choose different colour schemes. I might think about revisiting it, because I really liked the idea, and it sounds like it could actually be useful. If not - I will look at doing it a different way.

 

Harvest Moon-style games generally save at the end of each day of play - I'm not sure if any do let you save anywhere. Certainly whenever I go to play one, I expect to have to play in day-sized chunks. However, I've not implemented saving yet, and it is something I want to get started soon, so I'll definitely look at it. I can think of a few things that might be problematic, but I can probably design around that going forward. Probably wouldn't have done it without you mentioning it, but it sounds like a good thing, so if I can I will. Cheers.

 

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