Bags Of Fun: Wasteland 2 Takes Inventory

By Adam Smith on June 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

not a picture of a bag

As a man who has spent entire days asking myself if it’s healthy to spend so much time staring at ASCII representations of dungeons and dwarves, it’s something of a shock to find something in my inbox that makes me realise just how much of my personality was plucked from the containers marked ‘nerd’ and ‘dweeb’. In this instance, it’s a video for Wasteland 2 that provides the trigger, but it does at least prove that the developers and large parts of the fan community are at least as ridiculous as me. The footage lasts for two minutes and it’s all about inventory management. Grids are discussed earnestly and I’m happy with what’s shown. Happy. About arranging imaginary pants on a screen. Bloody hell.

Share your opinions about the compromises, convenience and comeliness of the system below, and join me in considering great inventories of the past. I’m a fan of party-based dungeon crawlers with individual grid-based baggage for each adventurer.

I actually used to play Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder with my sister, and we’d each ‘control’ two members of the party. Because they move as a block, all of their individual agency tended to be in inventory management – the first item found would go to character number one, the second to number two and so on. This meant that characters would occasionally end up with useless equipment – wizards with massive swords – and we would then barter rather than just handing the goods over. Madness. Nerdy, dweeby madness.

It was brilliant.

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39 Comments »

  1. Sakkura says:

    Rearranging imaginary pants on a screen is highly underrated.

    • RedViv says:

      Nah it’s totes overrated everybody LOVES having unsortable lists!

      (I find this inventory rather nice and would very much agree.)

      • povu says:

        Yeah man, old school inventories are the best! Giant icons where your only means of comparison is clicking back and forth between items! Who needs sorting and efficiency!

        I also think Wasteland 2 should not have support for resolutions above 800×600! Old school, yeaaaah

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Well to be absolutely fair, the two are not related. you could have icons and still use a system to compare items to each other to currently equipped gear. Tooltips in particular are a good way of doing that.

          The advantage of icons like that is that they can be very visually distinct and so you can identify particular items instantly with a glance rather than having to read their names, as in a list or click on them to find out more.

        • Harlander says:

          That might not be a problem, as I think the W2 items will probably fall into the category of “AK47″, “1911″, “other sort of gun I don’t know”, “backpack”, “spade” – quite visually distinct, as the next commenter remarks,, rather than “sword”, “slightly better sword”, “less damage but a bit of fire sword”, “sword that lets you summon ghosts for no well-explained reason” that you need to squint at side-by-side statblocks to pick the best

        • mb says:

          I have to agree. I think this inventory looks terrible. The fact you’re making an old school-esque game doesn’t mean you have to totally neglect and advancements in UI interfaces and understandings. Half the inventory screen is filled with unused space.

          • Continuity says:

            Either my irony detector has failed or you’ve completely gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. This is a modernised inventory.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    I think their inventory system looks good. More importantly, the cards are a great example of Kickstarter having a positive effect on game design.

    JE Sawyer (who’s not connected to Wastland 2, but priniciples bleed over), has fielded a bunch of questions about PE’s lack of personal inventory on his formspring. His argument was basically that juggling inventory is an artificial time sink that doesn’t increase difficulty. I tend to agree, but think it may take away some verisimilitude (Infinity Engine games had a lot of characters with their special items in their inventory).

  3. Drake Sigar says:

    We stopped doing that after the first fight when my dad lay down the law.

  4. Werthead says:

    RPG inventory management can be fun or a chore, depending on how they do it. I actually liked the Infinity Engine’s way of handling it (individual inventories) whilst I despised how DRAGON AGE and MASS EFFECT 1 did it (massive list with arbritary number limit). If you’re going to reduce the inventory, than either get rid of it entirely (as ME2 and 3 – sort of – did) or have an unlimited inventory like the old LucasArts adventure games.

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      The ME1 inventory was truly terrible. So many hours in Normandy’s cargo hold, deciding which pistol with what ammo to give Liara.

      • RedViv says:

        ME1 and Skyrim are sharing the top spot on my list of worst inventory displays.

        • JFS says:

          Absolutely. Infinity Engine was a dream in comparison.

        • S Jay says:

          Yeah, Skyrim had a terrible inventory system. A mod (forgot the name) fixes it – and in fact the fix looks a lot like this one on Wasteland 2.

          • gi_ty says:

            SkyUI and they are certainly similar.

          • Isaac says:

            @ S Jay, it is called “SkyUI” and is practically perfect. Though one note, I did like Skyrim’s UI in the sense that it didn’t intrude too much, it wasn’t the YE OLDE PARCHMENT SHEET, but sleek, simple and got me doing stuff and back to the game. Though it was messed up in a lot of other ways (how much displayed on the screen, organization), the concept was sound.

    • Arona Daal says:

      I second Baldurs gate 2 like Inventory.

      Or at least Shift or Double click to instantly equip Items.
      Drag and Drop alone is unnecessarily slow & complicated.

      IMHO a good UI-Design lets you do everything in the most efficient Way.

  5. Tony M says:

    Adam. You promised the judge, no more imaginary pants. You have to wear real pants.

  6. Kefren says:

    Ha ha, I used to play Dungeon Master like that, though I also used that system when playing solo, and would still have characters trade with each other. It added to replayability, since it would alter based on the characters, their personalities, what route I took, who got the first item and so on.

    I also used to play UFO and X-COM TFTD two player, where we had a base each and kept track of how much money belonged to each of us on a bit of paper. We would have a few of our own troops in the other person’s base (with an extra letter to denote ownership) so we could still take part in every mission. We gave each other presents sometimes, sending (transfer) each other plasma rifles, armour or alien bodies to research. Happy days.

    • Kefren says:

      I prefer grid based a la System Shock 2, Dungeon Master, Might and Magic 6 etc. I can then sort things by priority or any other system I feel like e.g. food on the middle row, weapons up top, things to sell at the bottom, quest items in top right or whatever.

    • Jp1138 says:

      The one I played a lot like this was Civilization: one city to each one of the players (my brother and I, usually), where you could build whatever you wanted. We even competed for the best wonders between us :)

  7. Serpok says:

    I don’t mind the list over grid, but current sorting is weak.

    One should be allowed to sort by weapon/armor’s stats other then weight, and it’s prefferable to see these stats in a list to be able to compare them imideatly, without switching back and forth between items.

  8. fitzroy_doll says:

    One inventory feature I’ve always wanted is a button to “save loadout”. For example, items that enhance map movement would be saved as a travelling loadout, while items that enhance combat would be saved as a combat loadout. Has this ever been done?

    • Andrew says:

      Not an RPG per say, but Planetside 2 allows you save a variety of different load outs – weapons, abilities, etc. – for each different class. It’s quite handy.

      My only complaint about this video is either all people in the post nuclear world are little or the weapon models are gigantic.

    • Sakkura says:

      Many MMOs have that sort of feature.

    • Godsmith says:

      Most roguelikes enable you to record macros that can be used to easily switch loadout.

  9. particlese says:

    Hmmm… They’re bothering to be picky about the inventory, and yet the right half looks a lot like Skyrim’s awful inventory, partially modded so you can at least sort the pants (hehe pants), but not modded enough to make good use of the available space within the list. Unless they’re going for a specific look (nostalgia-based, perhaps), I would suggest making half-sized versions of the icons in the list so the row height can also be halved. The SkyUI mod for Skyrim shows this can be done while keeping the icons clear and informative. It also lets you choose the columns you care about or have screen space for, which is nice, but it doesn’t reduce the size of the item preview to Wasteland 2′s more reasonable size. And to be fair, redesigning icons takes time, which might be better spent elsewhere when you don’t have gobs of money or time! But since they care enough to post a video, they get my rambling suggestions.

    At, any rate, they do have a proper (but not on a turntable?) paper doll with slots here, which is great!

  10. Reapy says:

    I am I the only one that has some learning disability when it comes to icons instead of text? There is a lot of ‘modern UI’ design philosophy that says the same thing, don’t want to clutter with text, use pictures.

    I mean, from a design point of view pictures look better, and from a translation point of view, pictures are pictures…but damn me if when they flip to using icon’s I always have to use tooltips before I click a button. When they flipped gmail to iconography I still for the life of me can’t remember which button is reply, reply all, forward, check mail blah blah. I just can’t form links in my brain fast enough between icons and functionality.

    I still like the look of the inventory screen, I just know I’ll be hovering over tooltips for stats every time.

    In terms of grid vs list, I think grids give you a nicer feel for having an item, you get a cool ass icon to go with it, and it feels more ‘real’ when you can click and drag it around vs having it in a list. But at the end of the day I hate wasting time stacking arrows together and sorting out my crap and keeping it sorted, so, full steam ahead lists.

    • strangeloup says:

      Definitely not just you. I had a similar experience the other day wanting to watch a DVD, and instead of the usual Play film / Scene select / Extra features / Subtitles / Gubbins options, it had little icons instead. Only the ‘Play’ one made it obvious what it did.

      I’d generally rather have text options, or at least text labels (in the case of a slider or something) than icons, unless it’s really transparently obvious what the icons mean. Even then, tooltips.

  11. Judas says:

    Looks good. Very similar to Fallout Tactics.

    Hope the game has hours of gameplay.

  12. Strangerator says:

    Looks like the party size can go up to 7, not too shabby! I guess the inventory looks functional, although the thing that makes it tolerable are the descriptive cards popping up at the top.

    Also… a mariachi costume? Sure, we all know they’re keeping miniguns and rocket launchers in those instrument cases, but even these guys had a less flamboyant version of the outfit.

  13. Bhazor says:

    It has mariachi costumes.

    GOTY.

  14. F3ck says:

    I’m also a nerd…but not a smart nerd, just a weak nerd.

  15. LionsPhil says:

    Dear Gods, someone backport this to Fallout: New Vegas, stat.

  16. DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

    What is it about this game that looks so ugly. Shadowrun and Project Eternity look great. This looks nothing like the art and like somebody’s first attempt to model stuff in 3d studio max or something.

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