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.