The Daily Grind: Is inventory management a fundamental part of MMO gameplay?

    
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As intended.

Growing up mostly on consoles, inventory management was not a big part of gaming when I was younger. Downright irrelevant, even; the question was how many cottages I had on-hand in the original Final Fantasy, not whether or not I could fit them in my inventory. (Which makes sense, since by the time you’ve fit an entire cottage into your backpack you might as well be able to fit ninety-eight more.) But MMOs work on stricter requirements, and thus we have ongoing changes with games like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft giving me more space even as they give me more stuff to manage.

The latest bit of inventory management hassle for Guild Wars 2, though, makes me wonder if this is really just a matter of chasing old ideas when there are better options available. That might be more a function of annoyance than a useful idea, but then I remember that the games I remember most fondly are not ones in which I recall inventory management; at best, I forget those irritations (such was the case with City of Heroes, where I actually forgot about the glut of Enhancement drops even at launch, much less the later crafting materials). What do you think, readers? Is inventory management a fundamental part of MMO gameplay? Or should it be something you don’t have to worry about any longer?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Malcolm Swoboda

Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. And sometimes it simply has to be there not for gameplay, but database management. When things lean loot-grinder, I really don’t appreciate limited slots while the developer toss tons of gear my way, but when things lean survival, I figure it to be pretty important. Some games can be in the middle, like dungeon exploration games that get you REALLY deep into dungeons and its clear that there is a smart intention for players to prioritize what they bring, take, keep on themselves.

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camelotcrusade

Not just in MMOs… it’s important in any game where collecting stuff is a thing and a major reward mechanism. It really helps to have alternate ways to store these things, such as galleries and separate screens for stuff you really just want to look at, not carry around.

Imagine if you had to carry a physical trophy, in game, for every achievement. That’s basically what you have to do for all your other stuff!

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Robert Mann

No, or rather it depends. There are games that limit inventory for a reason other than just technical limits or milking players to buy them in the store. Most MMOs… do not fit that bill, sadly.

If the game world is designed to be an engaging and realistic world without fast travel options, then inventory and system management for things like trade is important. If not… then it really doesn’t fit the game, which means it feels more jarring than just unlimited inventory.

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Bryan Correll

Sadly selling inventory space seems to be a big part of most FTP games. Inventory management is a bigger chore these days than ever.

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starbuck1771

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT is Important just ask MJ who can’t manage her inventory. I swear she has more junk then Ebay. :P

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ichi sakari

its ‘da mental’ part, cause there’s not really any ‘fun’ in it

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Lethality

It doesn’t go far enough these days. Size and weight encumbrance should absolutely be a thing, and storage shouldn’t be magically accessed from anywhere in the world.

It should be strategic which warehouse you keep certain things in, and limiting what you can carry individually forces tactics that drive the value of the actions players take higher.

The author is a self-admitted console kiddie and doesn’t seem to understand that “inventory management” is key to making virtual worlds more believable.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

I think it is a fundamental part of MMO gameplay, but I think the current incarnation is … silly and dated. The idea that on your person you carry around 4-5 sets of armor just because you have a bag (not even a bag of holding, I mean come on ;-)) but I think the larger problem becomes that games gives us all this cool stuff and then say “I’m not going to give you enjoyable ways to manage this.”

For example: I have on my rogue in WoW a set of tier … 4 armor I keep purely for nostalgic purposes. What would be amazing (at least in my book) would be a house (which I know, Blizzard Blasphemy — god forbid we have a space in their world to call our own…) where I can reasonably store stuff — like an armor stand. Where I put my armor I like to look at. Without necessarily having to wear it. Like EQ2 or Minecraft

Having someplace to my crafting mats that’s not bags or some dedicated space that I can magically teleport some crafting things to, but not others … because reasons. Again back to housing or hell, just something beyond “I have bags that travel with me, and then I have bags I have to run back to (the bank).” Because again … reasons.

I’m probably of a different perspective in that I want more meaningful ways to store and manage my inventory of pixels arranged into pleasing patterns. Meaningful doesn’t mean that I remove the need for inventory management all together, but that developers come up with more interesting ways to deal with our inventory. It doesn’t have to be more challenging or annoying, but man we can do something very, very different with all the crap we acquire.

I think it boils down to developers are kind of lazy and uninteresting when it comes to inventory management in games, and that bleeds through to the players – we also think its boring and uninteresting. But I think its also hard to look at without also considering what it means to loot things, corpse rotting, or even just the bloody concept of being able to drop something on the ground WITHOUT destroying it.

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Andy McAdams

Maybe I would amend to say that its fundamental in Virtual Worlds – I think in theme parks you can arguably make the case that it shouldn’t matter because themeparks don’t really care about feeling realish.

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Schmidt.Capela

Even in virtual worlds it isn’t quite fundamental. Games (and just about every kind of entertainment media) use the concept of “acceptable breaks from reality” because reality is often the opposite of fun; realism for realism’s sake is, thus, silly and often counterproductive.

If you are going for a system with restrictive inventory, where inventory management matters, then the rest of the game needs to be designed to make inventory management fun, or at least engaging. If you can’t make inventory management fun or engaging, then it’s better to simply remove it from the game.

This is why bags of holding, portable holes, and other kinds of in-universe ways to cheat yourself out of inventory management are so widespread across all game genres.

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Ket Viliano

I recall some old adventure games where you could only carry one item.

When you have only a few items to carry and use, or to store, and a modest number to choose from, you are forced to make a strategic trade off. The choice of what to carry or keep becomes part of the game.

When you have a large number of items to manage, it is a chore.

When that number of items is sold as bag storage in the cash shop, it is exploitation of the cheapest, crudest sort, and a detraction from the fun of playing a game.

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Alfredo Garcia

If the game involves an inventory management that is based around an actual encumbrance system with weight and size limits, I’m all for it. But if inventory limits just revolve around turning carrying stuff into a micromanagement challenge and/or part of some character advancement scheme, then let me introduce you to my digitus medius.

I understand the need for inventory limits due to data issues. Which I think is all the more reason to base carried inventory on an encumbrance system. Devs should also seriously consider not shoving so much crap that can be carried around into their games, as well as the amount of materials required to craft items.