Annoyed About: Action-RPG Inventories

By Alec Meer on July 7th, 2008 at 11:10 pm.

I couldn't carry one magic robe in real life, let alone three

It scares me how suggestible I can be. I worry that one day I’ll walk past a sign saying “heroin makes you big and strong!” and that’ll be it. Most recently, I saw all the Diablo III stuff and duly thought “durrrr I wud like 2 play dat”.

So I load up Diablo 1 (now almost unplayable in this day and age. While it was scarcely inventive as sequels go, the improvements Diablo II made to the formula can’t be overstated). I play some Mythos. Most of all, I play Titan Quest. Amusingly, my Steam friends list revealed that several people I know have also been playing Titan Quest lately. My, what a coinkydink.

I’d slaughtered my way through a good seven or eight hours’ worth of beastmen and harpies before I had one of those catch-yourself-in-the-mirror moments. What was I doing? Theoretically, I was killing an awful lot of monsters, big ol’ hero that I was. Actually, I was obsessively picking up shiny things from the ground until a number of small squares on my inventory screen were full up, teleporting back to town to sell said shinies, then repeating the process. This was not, I realised, making me a better person. I’ll stress that I’m fine with a few hours of mindless hacking, slashing and looting (though I’ll tire of it before too long), so my objection is not to the basic nature of these games. It’s an objection to the fact my hacking, slashing and looting is so regularly interrupted by thankless commuting. And lo, I became annoyed enough with both myself and the game(s) to make some sweeping generalisations. Not novel ones I’ll admit, but as we’re in digs-at-gaming-clichés mode today anyway… Whee!

Thus has it ever been, thus shall it always be. It’s how RPG inventory systems are – from Diablo to WoW to Deus Ex, it’s always about running out of little squares to keep stuff in. But while story/character-led RPGs tend to be a little more restrained in their loot/inventory treatment, often sensibly employing it to prevent players becoming overpowered, the pure-action likes of Diablo, Titan Quest, Mythos et al actively make storage restrictions an essential mechanic of the game. All that relentless dungeoneering is extended and broken up by regular return trips to the shops. You don’t have to to make ‘em, but oh you will, because you need that sweet, sweet cash for better toys.

Some Diablolikes are more thoughtful than others, and occasional evolutions such as potion stacking have taken some of the pain away, but no-one seems in any hurry to replace the system. Instead, they’re going to increasingly ridiculous lengths to keep it on life-support. Titan Quest even has a button to automatically re-arrange items so they’re stacked as neatly as possible, maximising the available space. Well, I say automatic, but it doesn’t do it for you. You have to press a button every single time you want to rearrange, and half the time it doesn’t result in the right-shaped gap anyway, so you end up shuffling kit around manually. You should be saving the world from demons, but no, you’re mucking about with spreadsheets so that you’ve got space for an extra pair of bracers.

And Portals! I mean… These are worlds capable of incredible teleportation magic, the ability to travel instantly over miles of land, and what’s it used for? Shopping. Not banishing evil or revolutionising society or sticking one hand through so you can wave to your mum from the other side of the world. Just. Shopping.

Is it fun, this unending cycle of luggage-rearranging and travel? I don’t know that it is. It’s compelling for sure – but so’s watching all those coloured blocks dance around when your hard drive’s defragging itself. Creepily, from this compulsion has spun all manner of weird little tricks and delays that offer the illusion of personal achievement. They’re most common in MMOs – like buying additional slots in the WoW bank, or a 1000g backpack with two more spaces in it. Every time, I get this brief burst of pride. Yeah! I’ve won… more room! I haven’t achieved anything. All I’ve done is jump when the game says ‘jump.’

Would having more slots in my backpack make my game more enjoyable? No, it’d just make it slightly less annoying. Because that’s the horrible truth of it – WoW and cos’ inventories are deliberately designed to be annoying, so the games can forever hold the tempting carrot of less-annoying before you. Your reward for long adventures is convenience – but crucially never quite enough convenience.

Elsewhere, it’s less cynical but still this blindly accepted side-effect, like getting hangovers from booze or that horrible black bit at the bottom of bananas. No-one actually tries to do anything about it. Instead we get painkillers such as Dungeon Siege’s mule or Dungeon Runners’ Bling Gnome. They’re there to ease the burden of constant space-shortage, but in a way they just emphasise what a ridiculous, mechanical system it is. When a game offers its players so extreme a fix as a Gnome that can eat loot on the spot and crap out gold, it’s a pretty clear sign that a critical element of the game isn’t as fun as it could be. It is, of course, also a very canny way to lure free players into picking up the boxed copy.

If these sorts of lengths are being resorted to, why even try to mask that the inventory/shopping mechanics are totally artificial? Those Diablo-esque portals might as well just connect directly to the shopkeeper’s pockets, selling any item there and then with a right-click. That way you get to keep on killing and killing without interruption, without worrying that you’ve only got two squares left, so the next drop had better be a dagger or a bracelet and not a giant helmet adorned with 40 rhino horns. Inane, you say? No more so than the fact there’s a guy hanging around in a city somewhere with pockets full of infinite weapons, happy to buy infinitely more weapons from you (no matter that they’re dripping with bits of ogre brainmatter), even though quite clearly no other bugger in the entire world is buying anything from him.

Admittedly it’s part and parcel of the inherently statistical nature of RPGs, though it’s a deviation from the original D&D approach – where your character’s strength affects how much you can carry. That’s a take on the concept more common in RPGs that think beyond base hacking and slashing, and one I much prefer. It’s still a statistical limitation, but it at least has the pretence that this is something to do with real-world factors, not how many pixels are on the inventory screen or your character’s mystic inability to equip backpacks until he’s level 28. I oddly enjoy that Oblivion has a spell that temporarily increases your maximum carry weight. It was still artificial and ludicrous as all hell, but I chose to learn that spell, I chose when to use it, I elected when to augment it with a potion that increased the effect. It felt as though I was flexing the game and my character to my purposes, not simply being restricted by a cynical/pointless/archaic limitation on the developers’ part.

Of course, I’d still really, really like to see my character visibly carting around six sacks of potions and forty swords. That’s my idea of next-gen.

Oh God. Have I really written 800 words about how I’m annoyed by RPG inventories? I do get far too het up about these things. Don’t even get me started on how you have to buy weapons off your own employee in Mass Effect…

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139 Comments »

  1. Sam says:

    The roguelike Linley’s Dungeon Crawl fixes this by… not letting you sell stuff in shops (although you can sacrifice items to relevant gods if you want). As the manual notes, shopkeepers don’t want to buy your battered old junk.

  2. Cigol says:

    Please; email blizzard your suggestion above. Allowing us to sell directly from the inventory screen would save so much heartache. Maybe limit it to sales and force us back for purchases. I don’t know… just, do something because it’s a very laboured and annoying mechanic that I don’t even think adds to the addictiveness but takes away from it.

  3. MisterBritish says:

    Perhaps gold (credits/caps etc) should be represented properly too? Maybe it would be entertaining to lug around your bodyweight in currency.

  4. Whiskey Jak says:

    Glad I ain’t alone on this one. Almost right after seeing the Diablo III footage I searched for my Diablo II copy, couldn’t find it, figured I “lost” it somewhere (more probable that my gf took the opportunity of us moving to a new house to “clean up” or something) and went directly to the Blizzard store and bought it back for 20$.

    Two days later, seeing that Diablo II wouldn’t suffice, I went on my Steam account and bought Titan Gold Edition. I played the demo or something at work and liked it enough. I’m such a good little consumer… how depressing.

    And I think I’ve played too much these last few days. My first reflex while reading this article was to put my pointer over the staff image to see what it was. Like I said… depressing.

    As for Oblivion, my only grudge was when you see “You are over burdened” (or whatever the way that they phrase it).

  5. Dinger says:

    Bah. The problem with RPG inventories isn’t that you have them; it’s that you have to have them. Most people in the world today end their lives poorer than the poorest RPG beggar, but they still have a place, however small, they can call their own. So why is it so tough for us? Why do we have to pack everything like were hopping the pond for the summer?

  6. EyeMessiah says:

    Like everything that sucks about rpgs, it has unfortunately become an integral part of the genre and will take a long time to shake off. Also like everything that sucks about RPGS it represents the things that were easy to port over from REAL RPGS at the expense of leaving the hard things (the R & the P most often) behind. So instead of immersing yourself in a captivating fantasy world where YOU are the hero, you get stuck with some crazy minigame where you have to find the optimal way to stack identical cloaks so when you go back to town you can desperately extract some meaning out from the lives of the 600 identical quill-boars\gnolls\murlocks you have spent the last two hours mercilessly killing.

    I’m in despair! The world of repetitive number crunching CRPGS that miss the point of REAL RPGS has left me in despair!

  7. capital L says:

    I must admit I feel a guilty relief when a game just says “fuck it” and lets you carry a metric fuck-ton of stuff. KOTOR is a great example of this, and has the benefit of an easy excuse –the Jedi power to drag your shit along behind you! Freelancer had a maximum cargo capacity, but you could truck as many weapons as you wanted all over the universe, which was nice because it didn’t ruin the trade mechanic, but let you store up the better weapons until you could use them. Baldur’s Gate was an absolute prick about inventory management, but bags of holding seemed show up with increasing frequency as the infinity engine games progressed. (So, while I never did carry those fucking pants around in BG1, I had no problem trucking dead cats about in Icewind Dale II. Unprompted. Just in case, cause you never know right?!)

  8. Pidesco says:

    You completely missed the point.

    The problem isn’t the inventories, the problem is that Diablo style dungeon romps are all about getting loot and kitting yourself with it. They’re not about saving the world, exploring new lands, meeting new characters, playing through a story or even just killing monsters. Diablo style games are simply glorified loot collecting. For some reason this is incredibly addictive for many people, but the problem isn’t the inventories. If you took the inventory away Diablo would automatically crumble because there’d be nothing left to do.

    RPG style inventories are fine as long as they aren’t all there is to the game.

  9. Thrawny says:

    I always liked the transmutation spell in Dungeon siege, instantly turns crap loot into gold!

  10. PsyW says:

    The Mass Effect quartermaster buys nonstandard weapons (i.e. NOT crappy hahne-kedar standard issue Alliance equipment) from his own money, to provide you and your team with better than normal equipment. Basically, Bioware needed to put a shop on the Normandy and this is a decent attempt at justifying it. Anyway, I maxed out my first character at 9,999,999 credits, so I think it’s fair I pay him for the weapons he paid for…

    What you should really be complaining about is the stupid arbitrary 150 item limit after which you are forced to reduce new items to gel. Luckily, it’s quite easy to mod out in MEPC…

  11. The Shed says:

    Intense article man, well observed. These inventory things have been annoying since the beggining of time, but have simply been considered a necessary evil to any and all RPGers. Alone in the Dark had a good go at fixing the rubbish inventory, but in some ways it made things even more confusing (although overall I kinda preferred it; items became higher up on the list in terms of survival use rather than cost/value). Mass Effect had an alright inventory/ item use system, but they totally destroyed it with about a million items every few steps; leaving you to omni-gel any one’s that you had doubles of/ were of a lower grade. Man that was annoying. Cross-referencing them with your teammates too… Goddamnit.

  12. Jochen Scheisse says:

    And don’t forget the BLING GNOME!

  13. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Eastern Sun bumps up the Diablo II inventory to almost infinite or something, I believe. I guess hardcore players decided that the inventory filling minigame was not for them. I’m inclined to agree.

  14. Jonas says:

    To be fair though, the problem isn’t really that your inventory is limited, is it? After all, Halo’s or Call of Duty’s inventories are even more limited. The problem is that earning money is an important aspect of the gameplay, and the best and fastest way to do that is to pick up any useful stuff you find (which in these games is quite a truckload of items) and drag it back to town to sell it.

    Note that you couldn’t sell items in Deus Ex, and so the inventory tetris just served as a decent way to restrict your inventory and make you pick the weapons you want to use.

  15. Lh'owon says:

    On this topic, this is what Fallout 3′s inventory will be like:

    How does the inventory system work? Is it slot based? Or a never ending back pocket like with the original games?

    It’s based on weight. No fiddling with slots. The Pip-Boy separates your items into categories for you – Weapons, Apparel, Aid, Misc, and Ammo. The “Aid” category is for things like meds, chems, food; anything that you can consume to modify stats. It also contains the books, as like Fallout 1, these are read/consumed and raise a skill (permanently). Also, Ammo has zero weight, as we didn’t want the player having to micromanage that aspect.

    Bethesda agrees with you :)

  16. Atacama says:

    You only used 1 spell like that in Oblivion? By the time I got to level 15 or so I was continually stacking 3 of them plus a couple of capacity-upping items. Every time I upgraded I would take more strength to carry more loot. I don’t play RPGs in general so I found it pretty fun to have a game with such a strong loot mining component (I was saving up for all the battlehorn castle stuff…). But, if every game was like that I would completely lose interest.

    The only inventory-related thing that’s really irritated me is playing all the way through STALKER without a single opportunity to use any of the rocket launchers I found, because they’re too heavy. I could have shot a mutant dog with one, but I wanted at least a helicopter to ‘splode. Next time (and maybe with Clear Skies if it’s similar) I’m using a weight mod.

  17. Paul S says:

    Mass Effect is, IMO, a bad example as items are, generally speaking, pretty inconsequential. Yes, you need to zap up your armour and guns a little, but fiddly inventory management is entirely unecessary. The game just isn’t about that and if you ignore item upgrading / the compulsion to buy shiny new guns, the game really doesn’t punish you for it. It’s only really there as a concession to CRPG traditionalists who need their fiddling – do it if you like, but I ignored every shop in the game and had no trouble at all completing it.

    It is weird though. The RPG should surely be about story and character (you know, “role playing) but as Alec said, it’s almost always about the clickathon and the Pokemon style obsessive collecting of slightly improved magic swords. This needs to stop, or at the very least, these games need to stop being called RPGs. Diablo is not an RPG. It’s an isometric fantasy action game. There is no roleplaying. At all. How the hell is it an RPG?

    We need a new genre title. RPS – use your gaming big brains to create one!

    Um. Please.

  18. Mil says:

    I agree that inventories as they currently exist in most CRPGs seem like a strange compromise. I could understand limiting the player to a couple of large weapons for plausibility reasons, but if you’re going to allow them to carry ten swords, why not make it one hundred or one thousand?

  19. RichPowers says:

    Diablo II, Titan Quest Gold, and Dungeon Siege II gather dust on my shelf because I’ve realized how much I hate collecting loot. The only thing more useless is collecting achievements in Team Fortress 2.

    I’m disappointed by the number of RPG games that botch the item collection/management system. Making gold and acquiring items can, and should, be more interesting. At the very least, make transporting and selling more efficient.

    Actually, I enjoyed gathering and selling cotton in Ultima Online. Yep, I would pick it in the fields surrounding Moonglow, load it into a pack mule, transfer it to boat, and sail to Britain where I could sell it in large quantities without flooding the market. (Screw portal traveling!) Roleplaying a merchant, doing my irrelevant part to globalize Britannia, was actually fun!

    @Paul: The inventory system in Marvel Ultimate Alliance can also be totally ignored. At least some games give you the choice as to whether or not you want to screw around with items.

  20. yns88 says:

    MisterBritish: Diablo 1 did that. Gold took up one slot in your inventory in stacks of 5000. So by the end of the game you either had half your inventory filled up, or rows of loot lined up the town square. There were some obvious problems with this: in order to buy anything expensive, you had to go and pick up all 15 piles of gold you had in town, and it ended up becoming hard to navigate without accidentally clicking on some gold. Not to mention the problems it had with multiplayer…

    However, a better system is in most roguelikes, where each gold piece takes up a fraction of a pound in weight. Once it starts getting heavy, you’ve got to either stash it away somewhere or just spend it on something.

    Also, like others have said, it’s really not the inventory that’s the problem; the inventory minigame is necessary in order to give the game any substance at all. That’s why you tend to only notice it so much in action RPGs, even though real RPGs usually have the same system.

    Edit to Paul: The reason why Diablo is called an RPG is because it’s a descendant of the roguelike, which some consider to be an RPG. I personally would rather have all dungeon crawling games to be lumped into their own category; that way we won’t have all the genre-clashing that RPG fans get into.

  21. Fede says:

    The “cynical/pointless/archaic limitation”, as you call it, could also be an improvement. Let me make an example: Angband.
    In Angband you have a fixed amout of inventory slots, because if you could take all the stuff you wanted you could escape from any situation.
    So the choice to add the inventory limit comes from the fact that players should choose what they want to bring with them, and know they should avoid all things leading to a situation they can’t escape from.

    This is not for saying that inventory limitations are always good, but to say that in some cases there might be a good reason for the inventory to be like that.

    Oh, and could someone please tell me if the D&D approach is something like “STR decides how much you can carry”? Or (like in roguelikes) something like “STR decides how much weight you can carry”?

  22. Alec Meer says:

    Yes, quite clearly the looting & levelling is what really props Diablolikes up, but I suspect the loot-lust can still hold their players’ interest without requiring a bus trip home every ten minutes. I never want to go back to town – I’m always annoyed by the disruption of it and end up binning a load of stuff to delay it for as long as possible.

  23. yns88 says:

    Fede: That is indeed the D&D approach. That’s why the Infinity Engine games give all characters the same limit to the number of items they can carry, but their max weight capacity is determined by STR.

    An interesting variant is in the roguelike IVaN, where Arm Strength and Leg Strength are two different stats, and your Leg Strength mostly just determines your carrying capacity (which is incredibly important early on in the game, since just about any decent suit of armor will burden you down to exhaustion just by itself).

  24. Fede says:

    yns88: I’ve heard about IVaN’s system, but I was wondering… couldn’t one simply get immFire resBlind and a huge amount of scrolls? Scrolls are light and if you can read them safely they should be a reliable life-saver, unless you can be insta-killed. So someone going on slowly shouldn’t have so many problems, is it correct?

  25. muggins says:

    Yessss, loot. Precious loot.

  26. Sam Combs says:

    I don’t know, I think the limitation of having only so much inventory space adds something to the game, when inventory management isn’t the whole game like in Diablo. For example, in Deus Ex. There really isn’t a point to picking up every single thing in the level, unless you’re OCD about it, since there’s no one to sell it to, and you can’t use half of it effectively anyway since you don’t have the skills for it. Items you need multiples of (medkits, multitools, lockpicks) stacked, so you could always hang on to plenty of those. The limited inventory space forces you to be practical and specialize. It also made the “blow everything up” style of play more of a challenge since you could only hold on to so many things that go boom.

    The same goes for STALKER – I don’t understand why everyone complained about the limited carrying weight and quickslots. It adds another layer of decisions to the game – should I take this rocket launcher and dump that backup rifle I’ve been carrying around? Rockets are pretty rare, and my main rifle might break, but I do like to blow things up with rockets…

  27. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Last generation’s The Bard’s Tale (for Xbox and PS2) had a system where all loot you found was automatically equipped when it was better than you currently had, and the rest was automatically converted to gold. It was widely criticized for streamlining the process too much, though, so gamers obviously did miss the selling process.

    Other RPG’s that had very little in-game economy, like Jade Empire and Lord of the Rings: The Third Age were also criticized for missing for what to many is an essential component of RPG’s.

  28. Andrew Doull says:

    Years of developing roguelikes has left me convinced that not letting the player sell anything is the best way to combat this particular inventory scourge. The trip to town component is just too much like work, and the lack of game world breaking inflation and infinite shop purses just as inexplicable.

  29. Cradok says:

    I miss those dancing blocks of colour from the defrag… The XP one is all boring.

  30. yns88 says:

    Fede: I can’t really say for sure, since I haven’t gotten past the second dungeon. The game’s kind enough to reveal the identity of all scrolls, potions, and wands, and there’s no BUC status on items, but in order to make up for that the monsters are incredibly difficult. That said, going slowly and searching a lot really would help; sometimes stepping on a mine can kill you in one turn; this is even more true when you’re carrying a wand of fireballs that can explode at the slightest disturbance. However, only a fraction of the animals you kill can be safely eaten, and food quickly goes rotten unless tinned, so there’s a real limit to how slowly you can go.

    (oh, and sorry for going so off-topic, here, I’ll try to get back on again)
    Andrew: Sure, that’s one approach for it, but the problem you get into then is that the only way to buy things is to collect piles of gold lying around. I prefer either having shops within the dungeon or making sure that the dungeons never get too deep, and having the shopkeepers only willing to give you money for rare, quality items.

  31. Noc says:

    I liked the system in the Baldur’s Gate games. Not the inventory management system. (Strength-based, okay, but why does a suit of full plate armor take up the same space as a scroll? The limited-slots thing was a little bizarre, though they helped it out in BGII with item boxes.) What I liked was that instead of these inane random drops (Magical Axe of Lightning off a cougar?) slain enemies just dropped their entire inventory . . . but most of it was junk. There’s no reason to collect fifty longswords and suits of leather armor off fifty dead goblins; instead of pack-ratting and gathering everything you see, you take a few choice magical bits from the officers and leave the rest for the crows. It keeps the acquisition thrill of Diablo (“Ooh! Look what THIS sword does! I’m keeping this.”) but tosses, to a great extent, the ridiculous packrattery.

    What I’d like to see is a system based simply on bag slots you equip in your inventory. You can have belt pouches and stuff that hold small, quickslottable items, a backpack for holding supplies and crap, maybe a satchel . . . all of it giving you limited inventory space, but making the management important. You can’t carry everything you pick up, and you can’t have it all available at the push of a button, so you need to figure out where crap gets stashed on your person. And the result, if you decide to play the game in “pick up everything and sell it” style, is that you’re all hung over with bags and sacks and such in comedic and possibly combat-impairing fashion. Give everything a clear, real-world mechanic instead of this abstract “inventory space” thing, and see how it pans out from there.

  32. Ginger Yellow says:

    I think you could keep the loot lust and drop the tedious inventory management/recycling if they just made the drops worthless, GP wise. You can’t lose the loot lust and still have a Diablo-clone be a Diablo-clone. But if you make loot about being something to equip rather than something to sell (to a vendor), then you don’t have to faff about with portals and the like but you keep the addictive nature of those games. If you find something really cool that you can’t use (an awesome crossbow when you’re a melee specialist, say) then you can trade it with another player, but no NPC will take it off your hands.

  33. BrokenSymmetry says:

    This subject reminds me of Halo’s innovation (within the FPS genre) of only being able to carry 2 weapons. This very strict limitation (compared to previous games in the genre) added a great strategic aspect to the game.

  34. Noc says:

    Sam Combos: I think the complaint in the article wasn’t about limited space.

    The mechanic in Action RPGs has NOTHING to do with deciding what to pick up or not. It’s a given that you’ll pick up everything that’s not worthless and then run back to town to sell it then repeat. It’s not about making sure that you’ve got the equipment you need on you . . . it’s about trying to gather as much expensive junk as you can then open a portal back to town, sell it, then repeat the process until the end of the game.

  35. Steven Hutton says:

    I’ve been replaying diablo 2 and yes the endless return trips to town are problematic I don’t even bother picking up potions or none blue items. I can’t say I’ve ever had that problem in wow though. Everyone else I know has a full compliment of huge bags which are full to bursting. I ususally have at least 20 bag slots free. I play a warrior who carries around a whole bunch of extra gear and a warlock who loses a bunch of space to shards and enchanting mats. I think this has something to do with the insane reaction I have to seeing other peoples full bags. The disorganisation pierces me to my very core.

  36. Tom says:

    There is no cow level…
    But seriously, Diablo is an insane game. Have you ever watched somebody play a character at the highest level?
    Truly disturbing, especially when you know that this level 99 Barbarian this someone is showing off to you is just one out of 10 level 90+ characters that that someone has…
    Anyway, he doesn’t really cares about picking ‘things’ up. its just killkillkillkillkill.
    Much like fps, like doom, which too alow you to carry lots and lots of very big guns, but still stay agile, even though you don’t even have any feet…

  37. sinister agent says:

    Diablo and TQ and WoW and the like are deliberately designed to be annoying, forever holding the tempting carrot of less-annoying over you.

    This is exactly the feeling I got from Morrowind and Oblivion, too. I like Oblivion (though compared to what it could be, it still falls desperately short, I reckon), but after playing it for more than a few hours a week, I invariably get the creeping feeling that I’m just playing it because I’m hoping it’ll get less irritating and make me less useless at something.

  38. Stick says:

    Another alternative:

    Bard’s Tale had everything non-critical automatically converted to cash. Of course, that game’s central mechanic wasn’t loot collection…

    I s’pose it’s hard to separate the Woo! Purple Unique Set Item of Extra Shiny from the Inventory Tetris of Blaaargh.

  39. Janto says:

    How did people find Two World’s idea of ‘distill multiple basic objects into more powerful objects’? It seemed like a good idea in theory, what was the actual application like?

    I quite liked Throne of Darkness’ approach to loot, the really important stuff was ingredients for enchanting your kit, you could sacrifice magical items to the gods for spells or xp, can’t remember which, and you had seven dudes to control, so there was never a huge inventory issue until you got to a fixed portal. There was some inventory messing about, but it was a lot less painful than Diablo.

    The most joyless loot experience I ever had was Dungeon Siege.

  40. EyeMessiah says:

    In deus ex I once picked up every movable object in Unatco HQ and moved them all into my office. Including stuff that you couldn’t put in your inventory so I had to carry lamps e.t.c. one at a time. It took a long time, but once I was finished I was happy, and my office was filled almost to bursting point with awesome things.

  41. Fede says:

    yns88: Andrew’s idea could be applied in many a way. One example could be this: entirely remove gold from the game. Usually what you need to buy is life-saving stuff, so, knowing that monster X often drops commodity Y, you can get from the enemies you kill all what you need. Not only for potions/scrolls/other but also for better weapons and armor. Of course this is just an example, you could do it also with different mechanics who might avoid you to hunt monster X to get commodity Y, for example.

  42. Dolphan says:

    I’m playing Diablo 2 as well – planning to complete it for the first time. The trips to town are massively irritating. I like getting new stuff, sure, but I think I’d enjoy the game as much if I couldn’t sell items. The enjoyment comes from getting new stuff to equip (and most of all from levelling up and getting new skills to use to beat down tricky enemies or massive hordes) not the constant town portal spamming.

  43. gulag says:

    Has anyone mentioned Stalker/Deus Ex/System Shock/Witcher yet? These crappy inventory systems just aren’t going away…

  44. Deuteronomy says:

    Stalker’s inventory system was not a square based system friend. It was weight limited.

  45. Sam Combs says:

    EyeMessiah: I guess that was part of what made Deus Ex great – that you could carry around everything in the level, do almost anything you wanted to, but it never required you do do anything like that, it was the player’s choice. Off topic, sorry.

    Deuteronomy: You’re right, it has the squares, but you weren’t limited by them. It had the same feel, however, since you were still limited by weight.

  46. veerus says:

    At its most basic level we strive for bigger and shinier toys and since those toys cost money, we pick up whatever crap we can find off the ground to be able to sell it for money to buy the next best toy. The problem which inspired this great rant is that these games force us to pick up a lot of useless items so we can sell them to be able to afford that shiny toy we saw for sale. The solution seems simple to me — cut out the middle man. Instead of monsters dropping rusty axes and copper helmets, they could just drop money. Or if that’s unrealistic enough, they can drop their teeth or brains or something else that’s small, stackable and can be sold to townspeople so they can make their favorite pie out of it. The point here is to eliminate random worthless loot and substitute it by a small currency-equivalent item that doesn’t take up inventory space. Leave the item drops to the unique monsters whose loot actually matters. If D2 was this way, I bet you could go through the most of the first act before even considering going back to town.

  47. Tony says:

    Though it’s not anything close to a CRPG, the SNES RPG Earthbound had an interesting mechanic.

    You could purchase an item called a “For Sale Sign,” which, when used anywhere in the world, caused a customer to run up to you, and you could sell an item to them.

    Of course, that game is quirky as hell and that doesn’t fit in every setting, but it was very helpful.

  48. Arathain says:

    One of the things that bugs me is the veritable explosion of loot that occurs every time I kill a bunch of things, 99% of which is utterly useless to me. Even if something drops that I might want (when identified, it’ll turn out to be useless as well, but you have to hope) I have to wade through acres of non-magical junk or weapons I can’t use just to pick the stupid stuff up. I’d like to see far fewer drops with a higher chance of being useable. Why do magic wands keep dropping for my Barbarian? Why enormous axes for my Necromancer? It would be easy to have the loot tables select for what you can use.

  49. Simone Spinozzi says:

    The Gothic Series never had any inventory limit, you could take with you whatever you wanted at no price. However each merchant did have a small amount of money or some items that you could buy were only in certain cities, so item acquisition was limited only by it becoming purposeless

  50. Tunips says:

    If I recall, Throne of Darkness had a system where the various shops were just another window on your inventory. And the collection and sale of loot was about more than just money. You could melt down stacks of useless items, and forge them into something much pointier.