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00Kevin

Inventory System Design

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Over the last week I managed to put together an fairly realistic rpg inventory class.

I'm mulling over a few concepts and I'd like to know what some of the more experienced game designers here think.

Realism vs Inventory Tetris

At this point, my inventory component supports nested container objects (much like a tree), in fact any item can be a container. My thought was that inventory could be presented in a tree view, but after reviewing the inventory system of several games like fallout, skyrim, diablo, nwn, and even some anime like rpgs, I've been debating if gamers would really appreciate a nested tree concept.

Personally, I'd really like the idea of being able to place a bunch of items in a sack and trade the sack to another party member. Of course, my system would allow you to place several small sacks full of gear into a large sack and then place the large sack inside your backpack. The system also has container size restrictions, which prevent you from placing a suit of armor inside a small pouch.

Coinage
One other concept I'm debating right now is how to best represent gold. I recall playing Ultima Underworld in which gold was an actual (gold pile) item in your inventory. Actually, that game is one of the only games I can find with a realistic inventory system.

Stackable Items
Stackable items is another concept I noticed in many of the games with inventory Tetris layouts. 24 Arrows per slot, 10 throwing daggers, 20 potions of healing, etc. Why not simply allow an endless number of similar items to be stacked together?


IMO, provided the presentation layer doesn't cause any frustration, I appreciate realism in my games.

Thanks. Edited by 00Kevin

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I like the custom access of nested sack idea, you could actually combine that with a Tetris storage system by having the backpack limited to hold only certain amount of bags of items (of different shapes to represent the items in it) inside it. A fun meta game could be "bag squishing" to shape a bag of items to fit in your backpack with the risk of tearing the bag.

"This damn quiver and potions won't fit next to my sack of scrolls, if only I had a tomb!"
- Mage of the age

This could also make thievery interesting since the player could think they are stealing a bag of gold and it turns out to be a bag of severed thumbs.

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A fun meta game could be "bag squishing" to shape a bag of items to fit in your backpack with the risk of tearing the bag.


I think you misspelled "tedious" smile.png

Honestly, I believe the one true guiding principle in game development should be "If it's not fun, its not part of the game."

I'm all for having items that can contain other items because it makes for natural relationships -- for example, a quiver holds 20 arrows, or a flashlight contains 4 D-cell batteries -- but I don't really see arbitrary sacks, for the sake of having them, be of much value in and of themselves, except for the anal-retentive gamer. It might be nice to get a sack of items as loot to add a bit of mystery, and in particular if there's a mechanic of players competing to grab/divide the loot, but I'm generally of the mind that the sack, as an item should either just disappear once the contents have been emptied, or at least not play an integral role in inventory management.

I most-especially dislike systems that make me manage two constraints on what I carry -- commonly shape (item-tetris) and weight (encumberence).

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I like complicated inventory management if I only have to carry items I need but if I have to haul truckloads of junk back to the item shop just to break even I want the inventory as simple as possible.

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I think it would be interesting to create a system that allows you to carry as much as you want, but the weight gradually slows down your character. The main inventory will contain what the character is able to attach to his body, but he could also haul/roll a large sack with all the extra inventory. If he enters a fight the sack will be released, and will be affected by physics, i.e. will roll down the hill. Well it's mostly a dung beetle inventory system biggrin.png

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I think you misspelled "tedious"[/quote]

Tedious gameplay only happens when the player is forced to play that part of the game, a metagame is a side game that doesn't need to be played and seems disconnected from the main variables that lead the player to the objective. At first it might seem like a pointless aspect of the game, but clearly every RPG player has had the moment of having to make a choice on inventory items. This could enable players a unique challenge where usually they have no choice but to ditch an item.


I'm all for having items that can contain other items because it makes for natural relationships -- for example, a quiver holds 20 arrows...but I don't really see arbitrary sacks, for the sake of having them, be of much value in and of themselves, except for the anal-retentive gamer...but I'm generally of the mind that the sack, as an item should either just disappear once the contents have been emptied, or at least not play an integral role in inventory management.
[/quote]

The arbitrary sack isn't really all that arbitrary for the gamer that has a use for it like the aforementioned small items that would naturally be "stacked" or sacked together. As games get these huge varieties of harvest items from the map, small sacks like this could be handy to fill and hide, use as bait for monsters, combine elements to make magic powders, more realistically pay for items or at least fill with gold to use as an offhand weapon to hit a rich noble with, draw a face on it and put over a guards head while he's sleeping then wake him up, keep your severed body parts in so you can go to a necromancer to have it re-attached, fill with air and dive deeper under water, fill with water and drop on the kings head, see how many times you can nest until the first bag is full, put a live crab in it and leave it under the grand master's pillow, catch live bunnies and leave them in bags everywhere, fill with black market character enhancing pharmaceuticals and sell, etc. An arbitrary item is only useless if the game's designer makes it useless, otherwise it can become one of the most creative additions to a game.

Honestly, I believe the one true guiding principle in game development should be "If it's not fun, its not part of the game."[/quote]

Speaking of arbitrarywink.png . Fun is a pretty subjective. For example being "sexy", there are historically recorded esthetically pleasing aspects that carry on today being considered sexy that a person can aim for, in the attempt to be "sexy" like being naked. But HIMYM E9 S4 or 73rd overall, clearly recognizes that the naked man only works 2 out of 3 times. Therefore its safe to say that even using historically recognized aspects of what we know to be "fun" are only going to work on a % of the population a % of the time.

And doesn't it sound fun to put bunnies in sacks!?

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I like complicated inventory management if I only have to carry items I need but if I have to haul truckloads of junk back to the item shop just to break even I want the inventory as simple as possible.
This is the key distinction. If my equipment is stored on my person in an awesome way, then my inventory is more like a loadout, so it feels like customizing my mech in Armored Core, and I'll learn all kinds of neat mechanics and rules if it helps me get synergy between my railgun and my exhaust port or whatever. I'll sacrifice a coin pouch for a knife sheath, or I'll take off my helmet in favor of night vision goggles, or whatever I have to do to make my guy as awesome and sexy as I can.

But if I'm in the mining business, hauling gold ore out of the cavern in the form of imp testicles and rusted broadswords, then I need a minecart for an inventory, just a big truck I can dump things in.


Of course, combining the two might be a good idea. I like the idea of different types of bags or equipable holders, so you have a scabbard for your sword, a sling for your rifle, a quiver for your arrows and a billfold for your cash and credit cards. Pockets and bags can hold a set volume and/or weight of random stuff, with associated penalties for access time. If I want to reload my handgun and the only other magazine I have for it is at the bottom of my backpack, its' going to take more than a quick animation to get me back in the fight. I'd be running around shoulder-deep in the pack, swearing and scuttling from cover to cover with my empty pistol clamped under my armpit. That's good gameplay.

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If a sack has gameplay value, then fine. But OP only talked about using it as a mechanism for storage and trade. My contention is that as a mechanism for trade, there are better systems, and as a mechanism for storage it sounds pretty boring.

Having to make tradeoffs about what you can and can't carry is a worthwhile game mechanic, but it would be silly to say that you can't carry certain 'loose' items in you big sack, simply because you lack a small sack to place them in. That's just complication for the sake of complication. The only type of character I can see benefitting from arbitrary sacks would be some kind of merchant/trader, but even then the sack itself, as an item, isn't terribly valuable. Just give the ability to create sacks to the classes or designations that need it.

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"If it's not fun, its not part of the game."


I think you're missing on an important point.
Game design is about lasting appeal to fun.
If you designed a fun inventory system that is fun to manipulate for a while, but becomes increasingly frustrating the more you get used to it (because you just want to use its functionality) then you have failed at making a good design even if it was originally fun.

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Of course, combining the two might be a good idea. I like the idea of different types of bags or equipable holders, so you have a scabbard for your sword, a sling for your rifle, a quiver for your arrows and a billfold for your cash and credit cards. Pockets and bags can hold a set volume and/or weight of random stuff, with associated penalties for access time. If I want to reload my handgun and the only other magazine I have for it is at the bottom of my backpack, its' going to take more than a quick animation to get me back in the fight. I'd be running around shoulder-deep in the pack, swearing and scuttling from cover to cover with my empty pistol clamped under my armpit. That's good gameplay.


Actually, the inventory system I wrote does have item type and item ID container restrictions. I did plan on having scabbards and quivers.

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