After emptying out another dungeon in Neverwinter Nights II, I’m dragging items around between characters, seeing what I should keep and what I should sell. It takes forever, has tons of unnecessary clicking, I have to actually drag every single item from one character to another, and it strikes me - why am I doing this?
I’m not talking about the general game design principle of dropping loot you then go sell. What I’d like to know is why on earth I’m putting up with a RPG user interface that feels like it was built in 1988. No, “go get some mods” is not a answer, shut up - half this shit is hardcoded and not extensible anyway.
Buffing Before Combat
This sure is fun. Having to remember which characters can cast which buffing spells is a memory game. Figuring out which spells conflict or supersede with each other even though the only documentation on this is a end-user forum post somewhere on the bioware forums just encourages internet search skills. Clicking on each buffer, once on their target, and then once on the spell icon for about a dozen spells scattered across three buffer characters just encourages mouse accuracy. Inventory buffing items just help things further! Having some sort of way to explain conflicts or an auto-casting system or a spell sequence memorization system would be encouraging gamer dependency, no doubt.
Healing Up After Combat
I just finished a combat, and one of my characters has some negative status effects I need to remove. I can tell because there’s these little icons next to their portrait that have a big minus sign on them - good job, designers. Now comes the hard part - uh, how do I get rid of it? Resting works for some statuses, so let’s try that. Nope, didn’t work. Ok, let’s tooltip on the icon - CON decreased. Great, thanks a lot. Let’s go to the character status screen, scroll down 2 pages (why scrolling exists here I have no idea), and then we see…CON decreased. No tooltip available on the status screen for the effect, either.
The answer, as any good D&D dork knows, is the spell “Lesser Restoration”. But you know what? Fuck you, UI designer, I don’t play video games so I can a trivia bonus round after every set of combat. Would it kill you bastards to explain why I got something (granted by item? Spell? Cast by who?), and how (What item? What spell? Castable by who?) to resolve it? Maybe even something CRAZY like a contextual button that has the cleric heal it off you.
Figuring this shit out in the middle of combat is even worse, obviously - do I need Remove Curse, Lesser Restoration, Restoration, or Dispel Magic? You have to pause and scroll back through the goddamn combat log and then rely on memory, that Player’s Handbook mod that includes all the spell descriptions in an easily accessible format - no thanks to the developers, or searching the internet. Or you just give up and try to get out of the dungeon alive.
Inventory and Shopping
There’s no filters on item type in your inventory, only at the shop. The auto-sorting only sorts by item type, it doesn’t sort alphabetically. There’s no auto-preview behavior which tells you what the effects would be if you equip an item - you have to open the character screen and remember what your stats were previously.
God help you if you’re trying to improve multiple characters or dealing with lots of inventory. There’s no way to easily move more than 1 item between characters. You have to manually drag every single fucking item from character to character. Bags don’t help, as you still have to drag everything into the bag.
There’s no way to buy or sell multiple items at once, either. To top it off, every time you buy something, the scroller resets to the beginning of the fucking list. I think they’re taunting me.
It’s fantastic the way I can’t see the feats I’ve already taken, or what I did on each previous level up as a development history (even though that’s actually stored in the save game file), or even what I’m wearing or what I have stored in my inventory. Making the player cancel out of leveling up to go look is clearly preferable.
The wizard spell mechanic of only being able to use spells you chose at level up or bought at a shop is also shit. You have to track it all in notepad or something so you don’t accidentally take a spell at level up you could have just bought in notepad.
The Stupidest Thing Ever
Once you’re past the opening, there’s a good half-dozen shops in the game. They’re virtually all on different maps, which require boring walking around and load screens to get to. They all have overlapping sets of items. This adds to the two ways of shopping that existed in 1988 games:
- Walk to every single shop and look at their inventory.
- Alt-tab out and write down in notepad everything you might be interested in later.
Where’s the in-game “inventory at shops I’ve seen” tracker, if you’re going to make half the game item hunting? This is probably my favorite design failing, because it’s so gratuitously awful and trivially easy to correct.
Would you people please hire a motherfucking competent design person at some point? No, I don’t mean “design” as in someone to make it all pretty, I mean someone who can design an interface that lets the user accomplish their goal with a minimum amount of hassle. It’s not rocket science, people.