Does inventory weight help RPG immersion?

If you want to set gamers off on frothy rants, then one tried-and-true button to press is that of their opinion on inventories and inventory management in RPGs, MMOs, and other titles. Hoo boy, some people are really tetchy about the subject, throwing a hate at any game that features inventory limitations that would be better spent deriding the Klu Klux Klan.

Inventories just bother people, some more than others. These system are seen as artificially restraining, unwieldy, and — particularly in MMOs — an easy way to shove microtransactions in players’ faces.

All that? Yeah, it’s true. I’m not going to fight it or take a one-sided stance against it. I’m not always a fan of inventories, especially ones where the UIs are poorly designed (Bethesda/Zenimax) or overly restrictive. Sometimes I really don’t want to be spending time gaming just doing virtual spring cleaning.

Yet I do see the value of inventories and even appreciate them after a fashion. My inventory is part of my character’s possessions, a kind of “closet on the go” that is the best thing I get to a mobile home in these games. Going into an inventory is my own personal space that isn’t shared with others, and I enjoy chasing after bigger bag space and seeing a well-organized inventory.

And for those who beat on the drums of “artificial restrictions,” well, there’s no end to that in games. Everything in a game is artificially restricted, because it’s part of a developer’s design. Your character is restricted from doing a trillion points of damage with one button because of design. You can’t blink through walls because of design. The devs have to make choices in how to limit characters to keep from being too game-breaking while also giving players goals to pursue.

For me, inventory is about choice: What to carry, what to store in the bank, what to keep, and what to ditch. As long as there’s a fair amount of space, I don’t feel constrained, and I don’t mind that a full inventory serves as a prompt to head back to cities or auction houses. It does help immerse me into a character’s journey.

Of course, some games go much farther in the quest for immersion-by-inventory design. Fallen Earth, for example, made you consider item weight as well as available slots. This is an old school approach that I think works better for survival-type games, but it’s something that Pantheon is looking to bring back — including weight for coinage. Now that I feel is going a little too far in the name of netting a few nostalgia points from long-time MMO vets, and I don’t think it’s going to go over that well with the wider modern crowd of gamers.

Does weight help with immersion? Kind of? In Fallen Earth, I was keenly aware that picking up ore and picking up paper weren’t the same thing. One was more rare than the other (that would be the paper), and one had much more carry weight (the ore), even though they both took up a bag slot. Mentally, I could feel the heavier weight of the ore, which weirdly made it more real to me. I find this to be equally true in Fallout 76, as that missile launcher I just snatched is going to overencumber me quick.

I guess no matter whether you like inventory restrictions or not, having carry weight is not a step forward in today’s environment unless there are a lot of ways to deal with it. Even then… yeah, I wouldn’t.

7 thoughts on “Does inventory weight help RPG immersion?

  1. Nimgimli (@pasmith) May 19, 2020 / 9:27 am

    I’m Team Syp on this one, if for no other reason than inventory limits force players to head back to social hubs to unload (assuming we’re talking MMOs) which creates opportunities to interact.

    Though since you mentioned Bethesda, in TESO the fact that you can buy a banker (w/real money) who’ll appear at your side anywhere in the world kind of breaks that whole argument and then just feels like a cash-grab.

    In single player games, I’m less certain of how much inventory limits bring. Yes it does make you think about what to take and what to keep, which can add some nuance to your gameplay. My biggest gripe is games where when you take something out of your inventory it vanishes. At least let me leave stuff laying on the ground so I can come back for it if need be.

  2. Alli May 19, 2020 / 10:14 am

    Not a fan of inventory; it’s just something I’ll put up with because it’s in just about every RPG ever. It feels like a mini game that’s just not very much fun. I prefer space requirements to weight requirements. I’m also a hot target for cash shop items that make inventory management easier. It would be cool if you could stash stuff on your mount like you can store things in your car in real life.

  3. bhagpuss May 19, 2020 / 11:48 am

    I can think of quite a few MMORPGs I’ve played where inventory management was the best part of the game. It’s always one of the more interesting and absorbing aspects, even in games that have plenty more going for them.

    I guess it depends how satisfying you find moving little icons about. I can do it for hours. I like systems that use representations of actual containers. Bonus points for having vaults that you can drag and drop the containers into. Putting things in things in things is better than just putting things in things.

    I do like some automation, though. I like inventory that has sort settings so I can drag and drop and have the game put everthing where I’ve pre-set it to go. GW2’s auto-storage of mats is good although the personal storage bins in EQ2 are better, even if you do have to go to them and empty out your bags. They hold a thousand different mats in stacks that seem to be limitless – I have tens of thousands in mine.

    Coin weight I can take or leave. It would neither encourage nor discourage me when deciding whether to play a specific game.

  4. DDOCentral May 20, 2020 / 2:00 pm

    Dungeons and Dragons Online also has a inventory weight system (“encumbrance” from pencil and paper D&D). Low strength characters have trouble keeping all of their inventory slots full due to this system, especially if they are carrying heavy armor and shields. Log into your character and take a look.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s