Posts Tagged ‘PC Inventory Management’

When Inventory Management Ruins a Game

not a typical video game rucksack

You can seriously carry a couch in this thing

Many video games have inventories. Lets face it, any game that requires you to pick stuff up, carry stuff around, or use something typically has some form of inventory management. Whether its keeping tabs on how much ammo you have or making sure you still have room in your expansive (albeit invisible) rucksack that holds 150 fire arms, 12 outfits, 3 items of food  or potions, and a fork, lute, cup, or cat (yeah Anders I’m looking at you) you have to remain aware of something you are lugging around. Some video games do it so well its almost unnoticeable while others wind up taking up more time than the actual gameplay.

Diablo falls into this category because it was simply clean and fantastic. You had a system that was based around a grid. Each item took up a specific amount of squares on this grid. You have certain items that are stackable and items that aren’t. Either you could carry it or you couldn’t. You can quickly see what will and what will not work. There is typically very little question about if you can or even want to carry that shiny new sword or not. This allows you to spend little time mucking about asking if it’s worth it or not.

Mass Effect 2 is another example of an inventory control system I enjoyed. While it’s not perfect its pretty solid. It’s a simple “only important shit” system. You have things that kill, things that heal, and things that keep you safe. If you don’t have to decide on it then you don’t have to look at it. It gets stored in your data pad and you bring it up when you find the person that is ultimately looking for it.

Mass Effect - Mako

Put the bike down, we are not putting it in the trunk. Or the sofa.

When it comes to the equipment itself you typically know what weapons and armor you like before going into a mission. If not you deal with it prior to the mission. During the game if you find some fancy new boom-stick while you’re exploring a new world new you get to try it out. If you don’t like it you can swap it out after the mission or at a weapons locker that is typically found near the point of discovery.

What makes these so fantastic to me is that they are  quick, easy, painless, and it gets you back to the action. It’s almost easy to forget that they are even there. They fit into the game and flow naturally. I’m admittedly an A.D.D. gamer. I need to keep moving, keep doing something new, because that’s what keeps things going. I may stop and take a look at what I have and size it up with what I’m using from time to time but its the GAME that makes it fun, not the stuff I get in it.

What made Mass Effect 2 so good was the improvement from the original Mass Effect. Weapons, armor, and upgrades were found with such a high frequency that I wound up spending more time seeing what I just picked up instead of simply using it. After a while I had to force myself to adopt the mindset of “screw it I will look at it after a few missions. After a while it became “screw it, I’m just going to sell it.”

Mass Effect - Hand Cannon

I swear to the goddess that if you drop anything for me to pick up I will unity your ass kill you all over again

Then there is Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Again I spent so much time worrying about inventory that it wound up taking away from the video game itself. Whether it was scrolling through all of the items themselves or checking them to see if I should be using them, I would up spending more time staring at the screen of a Pip-Boy than down the barrel of my tri-beam laser rifle. That’s not an attack on Fallout. It was a fantastic game with a great set of stories that could absolutely hook you. Hell even the long stretches of just walking around were fun. But do I really need to decide if I should carry 210 forks or my weapons? That’s a no contest. I’ll just throw forks at things and move on with my day.

Now the real question gets asked: What makes for a good inventory management system?  The biggest flaw in Fallout isn’t how its displayed (however the long scrolling lists could stand a revamp) its the sheer volume of items. This is part of Fallout’s charm however. Being able to take just about anything you find and do whatever you bloody well want with it is half the fun for some people. Hell, for some its the entire experience. But the ridiculous volume was the ultimate killer. This is ultimately the same complaint for Mass Effect. There was just so much information and no easy easy way to trudge through it or quick compare with what you’re using.

Quick comparisons between what you’re using and what you’re looking at can always be a big benefit. Dragon Age: Origins took this concept quite literally and would display a side by side comparison of equipment. While it made things go more smoothly there was always a lot of information to go through. What we need is quick and simply inventory management that can keep you in the action. Quick displays of is it better or is it worse than what you’re currently using can help you make that tough decision: throw the new sword away, or save it for later.

Sound off: what’s your favorite / least favorite inventory management system in a video game?

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