Inventorying inventory systems

I’m still hoping to figure out what makes for a better/worse inventory system, and there are some general issues that come up when talking about inventory systems:

  • Do equipped items get their own slots in the UI?
  • Are there weight restrictions, and what does it affect?
  • Does item size/shape matter? Do you have to play inventory-tetris?
  • Can you stack items?
  • Does item condition matter?
  • How easy is it to compare items/stats?
  • How is the inventory organized/sorted/compartmentalized?
  • Alan

Speaking of inventory systems, I guess Diablo III is now using a semi-Tetris system. Before, it was more WoW-like in that each item (no matter size or weight) used only one square. Now, there’s a mix of one and two square items.

Frankly, I think inventory Tetris is the least fun part of any game. Get rid of it.

These two are intimately related. An inventory system can model bulk, or it can track weight, but when they do both at the same time it’s just a pain in the ass.

Inventories suck. Inventories with grid patterns suck. Inventories with grid patterns where every item is 1 grid size and has to be identified via mouseover or by a 50x50 pixel icon suck even more.

RPG-esque gaming is stuck in a retarded loop where developers don’t know if they should get rid of the inventory system entirely (they should) or if they think most gamers actually like playing tetris with all the crap they pick up.

Games should not let me pick up stupid crap that enemies drop that is not in any way related to gameplay. At all. Get away from inventory crap entirely and just have me pick up relevant loot automatically. If there’s a weapon I want, let me swap it or add it to a weapon slot by looking at it while it lays on the ground dropped from a kill. If I need to catalog and organize 5 different types of weapon ammunition, screw you for making your game less fun (looking at you, STALKER).

Give me a paper doll screen for armor and weapons and trinkets/add-ons. I don’t want your Goat Ass. I don’t want to be required to pick up another Broken Shitty Sword to vendor it and get the gold I need to play your game. If I need to hold 5 different sets of armor in a backpack just to get through your game, screw you again your game sucks.

I’d have stayed with Titan Quest a lot longer if they hadn’t gone all puzzle-game with the inventory.

Of course we all know there is nothing new under the sun.

Here are some previous threads that dealt with this topic.


A really nice thing about grid inventories is that, to a certain extent, they allow the player to roll their own UI. Why yes, I like my healing items on the top, guns on the bottom, and miscellaneous consumables in the middle.

One of the threads jellyfish linked above had an old suggestion of mine I’d forgotten about-- Eliminate selling. The ability to collect dozens of items and sell them for even small amounts of cash leads directly to the worst sort of OCD gotta-sell-it-all behavior. Confine loot drops and findable items to cash, never (or very rarely) usable equipment.

I’ll add to the small chorus of those who think inventories should be eliminated entirely.

It seems to me that inventories consist of the following:

  • equipment: your weapons, armor, trinkets, etc.
  • consumables: stuff that replenishes resources, possibly also buffs. Ammo too.
  • trash: stuff you’re going to sell

It seems like you can and should get rid of trash entirely - having it around is totally pointless.

The other two are more problematic. I think you can get away from consumables; for instance a Halo/Gears of War/etc style health system. I’m not sure how you deal with equipment, which is a bit of an odd case. Insofar as RPGs seem to be aping their source material (e.g. novels) the whole concept of upgrading gear seems a bit incongruous. It might happen once in a blue moon (Aragorn gets a new sword), but it’s not at all something that happens regularly.

Off the top of my head, the justification for equipment seems to be twofold:

  • it’s another form of progression
  • it can be situationally valuable.

It seems like you can dispense with the first one entirely and just fold it into the typical XP/level/whatever form of character progression your game has. #2 is a bit more problematic, not sure how you solve it.

U7 was great once they added the key ring.

I was about to post and mention System Shock 2. The real-time inventory was a massive contributor to the tension of that game.

I agree, except that in my case I’d replace “tension” with “game-breaking frustration.”

Don’t blame the game if you’re not smart enough to go hide someplace safe before rooting around in your rucksack. Even without upgrades you’re faster than every enemy but one, so running away is always a viable option.

Could you expand on that, Gordon? How does it create frustration?

Trash : Yes, if it’s not of use for any real reason they I don’t want it in my inventory.

Consumables : I don’t think the Halo style health thing works anywhere but Halo-ish titles, but that said I personally do not care to have 47 bespoke varieties of consumables. Maybe just “food” would do. You might find carrots, fish or a dead rabbit you can use for sustenance and it would appear such in game. Inventory wise however it’s just listed as FOOD = XX. Maybe it takes 5 “foods” to get X health back, thus it’s converted from a real world variety of various foodstuffs to it’s most basic common denominator… fish, rabbit, carrots, bread, beer, potatoes, etc… in the end it’s all just food.

Equipment : I greatly dislike too much variety of equipment, ie- Mass Effect and the Laser Rifles Mark I through Mark MCMXXVII inclusive. I mean really, a Daisy BB gun might be more expensive than a Crossman, but both will put your eye out with equal capability so I don’t really need to differentiate them in an inventory do I? So instead of 30 pistol types, 30 rifle types and 30 shotgun types (in a shooty type game obviously) why not just Pistol Light, Pistol Heavy, Rifle Light, Rifle Heavy etc. Sure maybe there are different visuals for different guns if one is so inclined, but inventory wise things are much broader in definition. .45 caliber or .357… shoot something in the face and it’s dead so why do through all the motions of having one gun or the other in the inventory? Who cares? I don’t know, maybe that’s pushing it to old-school-simple?

One key thing I would like though is a real honest to Jesus reflection of what a person can actually carry and still function. A long gun, a pistol, some grenades and a backpack with some food in it. I’d think an average person could deal with that. Maybe if your strength/conditioning was higher you could tote larger rucks like you’d find in the military but for short periods. I really dislike finding several hundred things in any game inventory especially if its just magically toted along like the miraculous weightless torches of Oblivion.

Oddly, Japanese RPG’s seem to be tending the other way: many games are mimicing Monster Hunter’s model, where abilities and states are relatively stable, and equipment improvement (and player skill) is the only real way the character improves.

It was terrible.

Yeah, I agree that most stuff can be split into the categories of consumables, equipment, and trash, maybe with an exception for “special” items that are story-related in some way (i.e. things that the character wants to have along for personal use).

Also, people tend to stick to a small set of weapons that they’re familiar with, so upgrading in the field should be a rare thing. I mean, I can understand the appeal of wanting to find “better” equipment, but when you have to sort through hundreds of items, it gets pretty silly.

The would be less of a problem if weapons and equipment were more effective. I mean, if it takes 20 shots to bring down an enemy, the game is going to have to find some way to accommodate the absurd amounts of ammunition I’ll probably need to carry around.

  • Alan

Immortal Throne made that problem irrelevant with its auto-sorting.

I really liked Jade Empire’s inventory system. It didn’t have one, because there were no bullshit items cluttering up the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bioware’s games, but the loot is not the reason. Unless the game is going to be a loot grind, I really don’t see the need for piles of items.

I was trying to think of a single example of a good inventory system, and the best I can come up with is Final Fantasy VII, which had a searchable inventory that you could sort in a number of ways. I wouldn’t shed any tears if we saw the back of them.

It’s actually kind of a fun exercise to think of otherwise fantastic games with annoying inventories. Fallout springs to mind, with that hideous use of the shop interface-for-party-loot-transfer kludge.

I’m trying to remember how inventory worked in games like Final Fantasy X and XII-the reason I am trying to remember is because I don’t actually recall the systems because they seemed so streamlined to me. It was very easy and trivial to choose new equipment, you had no inventory juggling to do, and the only real annoyance was scrolling through potions in battle.