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Gaming Inventories

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Programmer16

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I've been working on designing an inventory system for an RPG and I've come to the fork in the road where I need to decide which method I want to use to limit the inventory. The main options are space and/or weight.

Examples:
World of Warcraft uses a strictly space-based system.
Oblivion uses a strictly weight-based system.
Baldur's Gate uses a combination of weight and space-based systems.

I've always hated space-based systems because I fill up my inventory with little odds and ends that I could carry a million of in a weight-based system.

I've always hated weight-based systems because the weight you can carry is usually based off of your strength, so weak characters (aka a mage) have to either deal with not being able to carry much or wasting attribute points to raise their strength or some sort of skill point to raise their maximum carry weight.

Mixed systems fill in some of the pros, but you end up with the cons of both. The major thing that it does fix is that weaker characters can fill their bags with all of the smaller items, leaving the stronger character's inventory open for heavy items.

However, during my research I came across The Unbearable Heaviness of Gaming Inventories which is a post by Philippa Warr. It's a great read and she makes valid points. I too fall victim to collecting the rare oddities and such in a game (I've had the Spork in my inventory since I first saw it in Oblivion.)

I do have to agree with reply #7 in that this would remove some of the significance of items. However, the bigger issue is that it removes a major development tactic that extends play time: you would never have to empty your bags. By restricting inventory, at some point (a bajillion times throughout the game) you have to run to town to empty out your bags. As I said, this extends play time and also requires you to pay attention to your inventory and what you're picking up (or just pick everything up and then drudge through the inventory when you run out of space/become over-encumbered.)

This also brings about several other issues: people would just pick up everything that they saw leading to memory issues and the app slowing down or even freezing when trying to open your inventory just to name a couple. So, the solution I've been contemplating involves using the (completely awesome) "sanctuary" idea. At any point in the game you can teleport to your sanctuary where you can deposit items. The space in your sanctuary would be limited to space and your inventory could be limited by either space or weight. You could include the ability to upgrade your sanctuary, thus increasing the space available.

I'm kind of rambling now, but this is just one of the things that's always on my mind and I was wondering what your opinion was on the topic.

- edit -
I forgot to mention this, but obviously there are already several games out there have systems similar to this. Some notable examples are Baldur's Gate 2: The Throne of Bhaal expansion, Fable 3, Diablo 2 (and Diablo 2 style games like Fate and Torchlight.) I mention the Diablo 2 style games because they have town portal (if you have any scrolls) and a chest to store items in every town.
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Since nobody has commented anything sensible, what about a kind of inverted Minkowski space-time system where mass [i]decreases[/i] with velocity so you have to throw objects around with the mouse in order to reduce their mass, therefore increasing the capacity of your inventory?

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Two games come to mind when I read this. Morrowind 3 and Fallout 3. (And apparently I've gone on rambling about my experiences to make the point that a sanctuary of some kind is nice but I'm personally not fond of the teleportation part.)

In Morrowind 3, I found a mod online that gave me a house that came complete with a ring of teleportation that could be used to return to the house from whatever location I was at and back again. This gave me free reign to start collecting, of all things, every pair of shoes that I could get my hands on and instantly return to the house whenever my inventory was full. After awhile I realized that I could extend my inventory capacity by going out with a bare minimum of stuff in the first place. If I came upon a dungeon that I wanted to explore, I just teleported home, grabbed the heavy armour and sword and popped back to the dungeon. I'd spend a significant amount of time arranging anything that I've collected in the house for aesthetics and occasionally went out to look for something to complete a set or display. It was nice but it ended up making the idea of traveling anywhere by foot even more unappealing than it already was. I was spoiled by the teleport.

Playing Fallout 3 I once again found myself with a house to store all my stuff in and once again I found myself collecting all I could find of a particular item (this time it was plungers). I found it a lot harder to decorate or otherwise place objects exactly where I wanted to and I was disappointed by that. In Fallout 3 there was a fast travel option which I never used because I knew that it would spoil me. I think it was a good choice. Inevitably, I would find myself a good distance from my house with a load of crap that I don't need but have a hard time parting with. What I found myself doing was basically finding some place that I would be able to find again that looked somewhat innocent (usually a mailbox) and I would store stuff there knowing that I could come back to it later and continue in the direction that I was already heading. I liked making these caches. Finding something that I'll be able to recognize when I pass by it again was fun to plan and I think it created a sort of sensation that I was claiming that area as my own. If I passed by that area again and some enemies were near my cache, I'd want to defend that area even more on the off chance that they were going to take my stuff (I don't think that the game allowed that sort of thing but it was the sensation).

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@Aardvajk: That'd actually be a cool idea to implement for a handheld device (especially the DS.)

@kseh: While the fast travel in those games does tend to spoil you, I found it quite the opposite. In Oblivion I wandered all over the place and only used the fast travel when I wanted to get somewhere fast. As for Fallout, I did pretty well until I started getting into the metro area and then I started using it all the time (I hated trying to navigate the town via the subway.)

I've never had an experience like that simply because I would only leave stuff in a world container if I was willing to lose it. I was worried that 1) I would never remember where it was without a note/roadmap and 2) the game would delete the contents of that container on me.

@Moomin: This is available in Fate as well and is a really nice feature. The problem is that I normally walk away from the game for a few minutes simple because you lose both extra inventory space and damage while your pet is in town.

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I think when you talk about space-based systems, you are really talking about slot based systems, where you have a certain amount of slots that you can fill. In Star Sonata, items have both space and weight. You can hold a certain amount of space in your ship, and each item has a certain amount of weight. You can fill your ship up with all kind of little odds and ends that only take 1 space, while real weapons and useful gear tends to be in the 20-100 space range. The total weight of all the items affects the performance of your ship, but all the little knick-knacks tend to have near-zero weight as well, so in practice you kind of have a two tier system where you can carry lots of random stuff around, but are more limited in terms of how many real items you can carry. I think it works quite well.

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