Inventory management is a constant part of all the MMORPGs that I play, although it’s more of a pressing problem in some rather than others. It isn’t something that I particularly enjoy, in the same way that the micromanagement of weight limits for equipment in early tabletop roleplaying games was a layer of gameplay I was happy to ignore.
Yesterday while playing Guild Wars 2, I was reminded of how dominant inventory space issues are in this game, for me personally at least. The problem is that any larger scale event in Heart of Thorns or Path of Fire zones showers you in loot, much of which is a container that when opened may further add to the loot pile, under which your character could easily be squashed.
This is compounded by the specific “follow the zerg” gameplay style of these big events. If you follow the ‘flagged’ raid leader you get to experience the event as it happens. If you lag behind too far or too often then you’ll miss out on experiencing the event and the rewards. We happened to get into the Mouth of Mordremoth event for the first time yesterday, and this play through was made notably worse by having constantly full bags and not having any time to make any space.
If I knew the content better and had years of experience at dealing with different loot containers and items, then we’d instinctively know what to discard or sell via the auction house, but I don’t as yet. I’d compare it to those TV shows where contestants try to do an obstacle course while being targeted by water jets or the like – we were trying to follow the zerg and negotiate maps we didn’t know at all and every big glowy chest caused another bag overflow window to appear. Then you have the frantic attempts to auction as much as possible and the split-second judgements on what to discard. Our characters are dirt poor after buying their griffons so any money lost does really count at the moment.
In contrast to the Guild Wars 2 extreme, in other games inventory management is more a long-term puzzle than an issue of immediacy. In Everquest 2 for instance both my main characters have full bags all the time. In that game you can have extremely large inventory size as well without any real effort, the problem is more that my desire to gather resources, and my lack of motivation to tidy-up leaves bags full of old quest items, clickable items and spare armour pieces.
‘Clickies’ are the biggest inventory management issue in DDO as well. I love having one-use items in the game as a means to broaden your characters abilities, but they can take up so much bag space. In this MMO the greater offender for bag-space hogging is the endlessly varied collectable items that you pick up as minor loot from specific nodes. Getting rid of them is usually a lot of effort – you have to run around multiple zones within Stormreach to take them to a specific vendor, and trade in multiples of them to receive minor rewards. Often you hand in all but one of a given collectable meaning it’s freed up no slots in your inventory, and the rewards you receive in return may well take up more space than you’ve freed up by trading the collectables in.
Although most discussions about MMORPG tend to focus on combat gameplay or story-telling, there are other aspects to these games that cut across the genre. Generally I guess inventory management is a background issue to most players, one they rarely care about. I’ve lost count of the number of times in World of Warcraft, Rift or Elder Scrolls Online that I’ve run out of hand-space mid dungeon and had to ask for a quick pause while trying to free up some space. In our recent duo sessions of GW2 this issue seems compounded by the sheer volume of loot and the frenetic pace of some content. I’m happy enough for inventory space to be limited, I have strong enough RPG roots to accept this, but if it becomes a distraction during combat or story-telling I’m liable to be less happy.