Unlimited Inventory or Limited Inventory?

Henryetha

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You've never played Diablo, have you, @Wavelength?
Keep the best, sell the rest. That's the rule of thumb.^...
However, D3 is an arpg and the limited inventory is a core mechanic of any arpg. Can't imagine, that an unlimited inventory would even work here, as the player uses to become flooded with items.. unlimited would break the balance on arpgs, just because of the way, how arpgs work, I think.

I have. And I have to wonder: in what world is that kind of forced inventory management fun? When I'm having a good time hacking and slashing my way through hordes of enemies, the LAST thing in the world I want to think about is what I need to throw away in order to make room for whatever the monsters dropped.

...

However, I don't even think that Unlimited Inventory needs to have a "purpose", per se, ... When you add a mechanic that introduces limitations or busywork, that's when you need to be able to express a purpose for that mechanic!

...
Yea, as mentioned above, the limited inventory is kinda necessary for an arpgs core mechanic. Here unlimited would make the game in fact a way too easy and boring soon, I believe. The player is supposed to quickly decide (better before picking up the item), wether the item is it worth or not. Also the item size uses to be part of the inventory system, so.. picking up rings will be always more worth than picking up a big speer for example. With an unlimited inventory, all of this becomes meaningless.
However, it's a good example for when a limited inventory has a purpose.

And yes, I agree, if there's no purpose for it, unlimited should be fine.

----------------

Most mmorpgs also work with limited inventories. But they use to have an extensive storage system. RPGM games usually don't have that (tho you CAN ofc implement such). Also as mmorpgs are multiplayer, putting a limitation helps with the balance, as trading is usually involved.

Also in survival games, limiting the inventory makes sense, as it can be part of the game's core mechanics.

However, a usual RPG, focussed on story, doesn't really need that feature, imho.
 

gstv87

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And I have to wonder: in what world is that kind of forced inventory management fun?
did it occur to you that one could pack up an infinitely-infinite load of regeneration potions, if it wasn't limited?
 

Henryetha

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did it occur to you that one could pack up an infinitely-infinite load of regeneration potions, if it wasn't limited?
You can limit their usage.
Without any customization, drinking potions already uses 1 turn.
But you can even make them an instant item and balance it out by blocking them, if the actor just took one.
 

gstv87

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he was talking about the inventory management in Diablo.
I played it, and I fought Diablo, and I found it limiting to not have more potions available.
if I had, it wouldn't have been as challenging..... or, fun.

and that's a major issue in MMOs I've played: custom servers either make all items weigh 0, or drop the price for mana potions to basically 0 (when compared to other prices, that skyrocket).
in those games, with MP being a balancing factor, nobody runs out of MP, ever..... classes dedicated to regenerate MP? trashed.
classes dedicated to burning MP? trashed.
classes dedicated to outlasting MP users by sheer strength? trashed.
what's the class that everybody's gonna pick? -> the one that makes better use of the MP, per unit of damage.... AKA, wizard.
everybody's spamming one skill.... that's server-wide PVP.

and when opposing guilds are all fully crewed by fully-geared wizards, it becomes a matter of who can field the most secondary accounts and outnumber their opponent.
out of 30 perfectly balanced classes, 27 out of the window.
 

mathmaster74

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I just feel passionately that several of the things you said are dangerous design beliefs.
@Wavelength It's good to feel passionate about things. I just don't see how unlimited inventory even is design. There's no thought put into it. Dangerous? Dangerous how? Dangerous to whom?
 

Henryetha

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he was talking about the inventory management in Diablo.
I played it, and I fought Diablo, and I found it limiting to not have more potions available.
if I had, it wouldn't have been as challenging..... or, fun.
Oh well, it wasn't clear to me, that you refer specifically on D3 with your answer - now even that he did with his sentence.
Talking about D3 (or any other arpg) I agree, as I stated before. that the limitation as a core mechanic is necessary here.

and that's a major issue in MMOs I've played: custom servers either make all items weigh 0, or drop the price for mana potions to basically 0
Yes, original servers put limitations for a reason (sometimes also for the wrong reasons.. pay2win etc *cough*), anyway.. it's true, that's a problem with many pservers, they want to make the game "more fun" but fail to balance properly.
 

Poryg

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@Engr. Adiktuzmiko I wasn't really justifying limited inventory by mentioning Diablo. Although there are some striking resemblances between the two UIs.
Diablo has a comprehensive UI that shows you the data about a weapon or armor by hovering the mouse over. You see the current weapon's and the equipped weapon's stats. Unless there are some funky special abilities involved, determining which one to keep shouldn't be too difficult.
RPG maker has a comprehensive UI that shows you the data about a weapon or armor by going to the equip screen. You see green for stats enhancements, red for stat deficiencies. You also see the description of current item and know what the currently equipped item is doing. Unless there are some funky special abilities involved, determining which one to keep shouldn't be too difficult.
Now, my key is usually to have at least half of the inventory empty. If I don't use items frequently, then even more. So let's say we have 50 inventory slots. Our current game is heavy on potions, but quite lenient on the rest. So I'll stack 15 potions, 5 mana potions and 5 removal of some bad status ailments I can't remove by spells. This leaves 25 slots for collecting items.
30 slots? 10 potions, 2 or 3 mana potions, the rest bad ailment healers. If I need more, I'll adjust the situation accordingly.
It's never 100% black and white, I know. But usually the practical experience tells you how many healing items you need to carry with you. The rest are open slots. It's all about setting the rules.

@Wavelength
I agree, when I'm slashing through hordes of enemies, the last thing I want to think about is which item to keep and which not. But that has a simple solution. Wait with that until the slashing is over. Don't get me wrong, hack and slash can be fun. But doing it constantly is rather monotonous and inventory management is a welcome break. And if we're to take out all things that break immersion, why not just cancel games altogether? Because for you it's limited inventory, for me it's broken battle systems. For this person it's dying and game overs. For that person it's lack of difficulty.

And yes, RPG maker's menu is more text based than Diablo's simple UI. However, you can still compare stats intuitively and read the item's description, which makes determining whether the item is better than your current one fairly simple.

The problem with Limited Inventories, from the frame of Immersion, is that being told "you can't carry this" is a complete immersion-breaker. The human brain isn't wired to deal with hard limits (in reality, you could always carry that one more item; it just becomes heavier and more unwieldy), and even more importantly, you're forced to take yourself out of the immersive action you were connecting with in order to visit a menu and look through a bunch of text or objects. In an Unlimited Inventory system, the player's focus is never being turned to the space in their bag, so they remain focused on things that are immersive.
The problem with this statement is, it's false. Humans are told what they can't do since childhood. It's called rules. Also, I don't know about your brain, but my brain is wired to know its limits. For example I know that if I jump off a 60m bridge, it will 100% kill me and I don't even need to test it, plenty of people have done it before me. I also know I can't lift a 50 kg barbell no matter how hard I try. It's called experience and human brain is so adaptable that given enough practice it will learn to work in these limitations. That's essentially how I have learned to play games with limited inventory. I see limitations, I try to overcome them or live with them. It's part of the challenge.

Unlimited inventory on the other hand, unless offset by proper economy, which I have yet to see, completely breaks the challenge. In turn based RPG an unlimited inventory means I can just stack up on healing items. And if I do, the game is broken almost immediately, unless its battle system is built around item spam. Which is honestly boring.

For example Doom & Destiny. One game made in RPG maker VXAce. I played it 100% on hard difficulty (except for one random encounter when I was testing what happens when I decrease the difficulty) and Loca Cola and chips were so cheap that I never ran out of them as the game progressed (and I had enough money to buy equips too).
When I obtained the skill that depletes mana, every bossfight turned to be completely easy. I just depleted their mana and without the ability to use skills they were as good as dead. And with having two characters set as healers and two set as beaters nobody could defeat me.
Essentially this revelation completely broke turn based JRPG for me.

You can limit their usage.
Without any customization, drinking potions already uses 1 turn.
But you can even make them an instant item and balance it out by blocking them, if the actor just took one.
You can limit the usage of healing potions, but the problem is, if people scream at limited inventory, what would make them not scream at cooldown behind potions? Not to mention if you make a potion cooldown of 5 turns per character, then it means you have to make sure the character cannot be killed in 5 turns from full health to ensure this mechanic is not the victim of RNG. Which already gives the player enough maneuvering space even without the potions. If you decrease this cooldown to two turns, then that's usually the same as not having the cooldown at all.
 
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Wavelength

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did it occur to you that one could pack up an infinitely-infinite load of regeneration potions, if it wasn't limited?
Of course it did! If I failed to consider something as simple as "infinite healing potions", I'd have to tear up and burn my game designer card :D

Here are several very intuitive ways to avert the "infinite space = infinite healing" issue:
1) Cooldowns on Item Usage (some Tales Of games do this, and it works great)
2) Items require a Turn (or a few seconds in ARPGs) to use (best for games with Acute, not Chronic, challenge)
3) Balanced Economy - the player generally won't have enough money to accumulate hundreds of potions
4) Potions regenerate health over time rather than healing instantly - chugging multiple potions won't heal you any quicker, it only makes the regen effect longer (League of Legends used this a few years ago and it worked well; they eventually added a hard cap on the number of potions you could carry, but that was for the very specific reason of allowing more "poke damage" to stick)

@Henryetha Slight language barrier issue here (even though you're way better than I am at communicating in non-native language!). You say "use to" in two sentences, but both sentences left me confused:
Can't imagine, that an unlimited inventory would even work here, as the player uses to become flooded with items.
Also the item size uses to be part of the inventory system, so.. picking up rings will be always more worth than picking up a big speer for example.
As far as your "core mechanic" argument...
However, D3 is an arpg and the limited inventory is a core mechanic of any arpg. Can't imagine, that an unlimited inventory would even work here, as the player uses to become flooded with items.. unlimited would break the balance on arpgs, just because of the way, how arpgs work, I think.
...
Also in survival games, limiting the inventory makes sense, as it can be part of the game's core mechanics.
You are certainly right that Limited Inventory is nearly always found in ARPGs (I cannot think of any counterexamples offhand). But I feel like that's usually happening out of genre convention, rather than out of any sort of purposeful design. Almost every single Action RPG I can think of would be a better game (in my opinion) if it got rid of its Limited Inventory system. After all, even though it is frequently found in the genre, what does it really provide an ARPG?

This Extra Credits video (one of my favorites) argues that genres should not be defined by their Mechanics, but rather by their Aesthetics of Play. Central to this argument is the rejection of "core mechanics": certain mechanics may work well for one game in a genre (like ARPG), but wouldn't be good for other games in that same genre.

(For Survival games, I can see much more of a justification for limited inventory, in that it forces the player to spend time carting around resources, and with time as such a valuable resource in these games, it plays right into the genre's core types of engagement and challenge. It also prevents the player from getting too far ahead of the "survival treadmill", reducing potential idle time. ARPGs are not improved by these dynamics.)

Aside from this quibble, I loved your post. :)

@Wavelength It's good to feel passionate about things. I just don't see how unlimited inventory even is design. There's no thought put into it. Dangerous? Dangerous how? Dangerous to whom?
Are you a Wikipedia editor by any chance? Come on, man! Let me use my dam Weasel Words!! :D

Honestly speaking, what I specifically think is dangerous design are your implication that Realism equals Immersion, and your twin arguments that Unlimited Inventories (as the least restrictive and most convenient form of inventory management) requires justification to use, and also "isn't design".

To the Realism = Immersion argument, I've already spoken my piece about what Immersion is, but let me also paraphrase Sid Meier: "When fun and realistic conflict, I always side with fun". That's the reason that any game that includes his name in the title will sell twice as many copies, and why other designers who have erred toward making their mechanics 'realistic' have made games that flopped and fallen into obscurity.

To the other argument, I'll quote another great mind, Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Game design, like most other fields of design, is more about knowing what to leave out than it is about knowing what to cram in. It requires building up a slim, trim, powerful, and meaningful set of mechanics that support a specific experience that you want to provide your player. If a mechanic doesn't directly contribute to that experience, it needs to be streamlined or eliminated. It is additions that require justification (in their contribution to the special experience), not subtractions.

This is what I mean when I said that your argument was dangerous - it encourages you (and other designers who read it) to add in mechanics that maybe they liked in other games, thinking that all things being equal, the game must be better with the mechanic than without it. But more often than not, a mechanic like Limited Inventories will damage the player's experience rather than enhance it. Only when one of a few very specific dynamics are at play will Limited Inventories be a good addition to an RPG. Putting the burden of evidence on the simplest design, rather than on the more complex design, is a recipe for failure, and that is why I said it was a dangerous design idea.

Unlimited Inventories are not a Mechanic, but they absolutely can be Game Design!!
 

Wavelength

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Mods, please forgive this double-post; the conversation is happening very quickly and I feel like adding this all to my last post would make a big mess. Thank you!!

@Poryg Whew! Lots to unpack here. I'll quote bits and pieces, in order, for better organization, but I feel my argument probably works better as a whole: that the less your player has to visit a menu screen, and the fewer limits you put on them (especially where the limits don't directly contribute to a purposeful dynamic of play), the better your game will feel.

@Engr. Adiktuzmiko@Wavelength
I agree, when I'm slashing through hordes of enemies, the last thing I want to think about is which item to keep and which not. But that has a simple solution. Wait with that until the slashing is over.
Okay, so you're running down a set of corridors, you wipe out three Golems in the first corridor, and it drops an Adamantine Ore. Two more Golems are running down the hall to get you, and there are a bunch more roaming the next hall. Now, normally, you could click the Ore to grab it add it into your Inventory, then start taking down the other Golems... but your Inventory's full and you can't pick it up until you discard something. What are you going to do?

Whether it's now or after the next two Golems, you're going to have to open up the menu, compare the Adamantine Ore to all the other materials you've picked up, figure out what to throw away, then do it again a minute later when something else drops in the next hall. Sixty seconds isn't enough time to get into a Flow State.

Don't get me wrong, hack and slash can be fun. But doing it constantly is rather monotonous and inventory management is a welcome break.
You're the first person I've ever heard say "inventory management is a welcome break"! Do you also find doing your taxes to be a welcome break from being a superstar? :p

I totally agree that Differences in Kind are important, and that it's nice to have a break from hacking and slashing (the best ARPGs give you this). But those need to come in the form of other engaging activities. Minigames can be nice. Dialogue/relationships are great. Shopping can be good if it taps into the players' desires. Inventory management falls somewhere at the crossroads of "chore" and "restriction", so most players won't find it engaging.

Even more importantly, Limited Inventories interrupt your play rather than providing voluntary diversions. In the multi-corridor example above, you have to keep interrupting your run to compare items and throw something away, because if you wait until the end of dungeon to manage and discard your items, you have to backtrack and pick up everything that the monsters dropped throughout the dungeon, which is rarely feasible and never fun.

And if we're to take out all things that break immersion, why not just cancel games altogether? Because for you it's limited inventory, for me it's broken battle systems. For this person it's dying and game overs. For that person it's lack of difficulty.
I feel this is an unfair argument, because Limited Inventory is a mechanic, whereas "broken battle systems" and "lack of difficulty" are qualitative measures. You're jumping right off the slippery slope. :p

And yes, RPG maker's menu is more text based than Diablo's simple UI. However, you can still compare stats intuitively and read the item's description, which makes determining whether the item is better than your current one fairly simple.
Really? How can you compare stats intuitively on RPG Maker's inventory screen? You can only see a few items/equips at a time, and unless the designer fit everything into the description, you are going to need to go to the Equip screen for every single equip to compare them to each other when deciding which one to keep and which one to throw out in order to pick up the new accessory that dropped. Then you probably have to go back to the first few equips, which by this point you've probably forgotten the stats for. Yuck.

The problem with this statement is, it's false. Humans are told what they can't do since childhood. It's called rules. Also, I don't know about your brain, but my brain is wired to know its limits. For example I know that if I jump off a 60m bridge, it will 100% kill me and I don't even need to test it, plenty of people have done it before me. I also know I can't lift a 50 kg barbell no matter how hard I try. It's called experience and human brain is so adaptable that given enough practice it will learn to work in these limitations.
The human brain is good at recognizing impossible things, but it (like all other intelligent animals' brains) is really bad at "frog in boiling water" scenarios. As you add a little, and a little more, the brain doesn't recognize at what point it's no longer tolerable - it takes a lot of experience to judge that.

Haven't you ever been taking groceries into your home and you thought "maybe I can get just one more bag on this trip"? Or tried to put just a bit too much food or drink into your mouth at once, and things got messy? You've done it, right? And maybe you even managed to carry that bag in, even though it was a struggle.

If a popup screen appeared in front of you as you reached for that last bag and said "You can't pick it up, you're over your limit" and pushed you backwards, wouldn't that be weird? You'd feel detached from the reality around you. That's sort of what I was getting at when I said the brain doesn't process that kind of stuff well. Limited Inventory brings the player's attention to the artificiality of the game, and that's a big immersion-breaker.

That's essentially how I have learned to play games with limited inventory. I see limitations, I try to overcome them or live with them. It's part of the challenge.
As a designer, you should never, ever foist limitations onto your player without a clear and strong purpose for doing so.

Challenge can be a valid purpose, but only if the whole item system (and the larger combat/gameplay framework around it) is designed so that one of the major factors in your success is the decisions you make about what to keep in your inventory. (RPGs are rarely designed to accommodate this sort of dynamic.) Generally, this means that the player should expect to go through their entire stock of consumables in one combat (or at least in one dungeon).

If it's as simple as "throw out the vendor trash to make room" or even "throw out the things with lower numbers", you have utterly failed in your design, and the Limited Inventory is acting as nothing more than a major player inconvenience.

Unlimited inventory on the other hand, unless offset by proper economy, which I have yet to see, completely breaks the challenge. In turn based RPG an unlimited inventory means I can just stack up on healing items. And if I do, the game is broken almost immediately, unless its battle system is built around item spam. Which is honestly boring.
Check out the list at the beginning of my post above for just a few ways that infinite healing won't break a game's challenge.

The Persona games are a great example - they have unlimited inventory, but are still wickedly hard. You can stack dozens or hundreds of healing items, and it doesn't make things too much easier.

In fact, I'm having a much harder time coming up with an example to support your opinion. Can you name two professional turn-based RPGs you felt were broken because of the presence of an unlimited inventory, yet would have been well-designed and balanced if they had limited the player's bag to, say, 30 slots?

When I obtained the skill that depletes mana, every bossfight turned to be completely easy. I just depleted their mana and without the ability to use skills they were as good as dead. And with having two characters set as healers and two set as beaters nobody could defeat me.
Essentially this revelation completely broke turn based JRPG for me.
Sounds like poor battle design to me. But I'm not sure what a player skill that depletes enemies' mana has to do with Limited Inventory.

You can limit the usage of healing potions, but the problem is, if people scream at limited inventory, what would make them not scream at cooldown behind potions?
There are a couple differences, but the biggest difference is that the Cooldown doesn't require the player to interrupt what they're already doing, nor to spend any time on menu screens. Also important is that the Cooldown actually does contribute to Acute challenge (forcing you to avoid damage for a few seconds), whereas the Limited Inventory, at best, only contributes to Chronic challenge, and at worst is nothing but an annoyance.

Not to mention if you make a potion cooldown of 5 turns per character, then it means you have to make sure the character cannot be killed in 5 turns from full health to ensure this mechanic is not the victim of RNG. Which already gives the player enough maneuvering space even without the potions. If you decrease this cooldown to two turns, then that's usually the same as not having the cooldown at all.
Cooldowns are usually best in a real-time system (in a turn-based system it's often enough for the Item to simply consume a turn), but even in a turn-based system I reject most of your assumptions.

If your game is designed to "ensure a character can't be killed in X turns" where X is the number of turns between a Potion, then that is why the game's challenge was broken to zero! If the Potion doesn't have a cooldown, are you ensuring the player can never be killed from full health in one turn?

I think the ideal item setup in a turn-based RPG is to make items powerful enough that they serve as "trump cards" that can get you out of sticky situations, but expensive (or rare) enough so that you don't get a lot of trump cards to use. A lot of games make items weak enough that they're not really relevant within battle, and some games do make items both very powerful and very cheap (in the late-game). The latter case might be what you're talking about with balance-breaking, but most games don't do that and the best ones manage to make them relevant (even without a limited inventory) without making them gamebreaking.
 

mathmaster74

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Here are several very intuitive ways to avert the "infinite space = infinite healing" issue:
1) Cooldowns on Item Usage (some Tales Of games do this, and it works great)
2) Items require a Turn (or a few seconds in ARPGs) to use (best for games with Acute, not Chronic, challenge)
3) Balanced Economy - the player generally won't have enough money to accumulate hundreds of potions
4) Potions regenerate health over time rather than healing instantly - chugging multiple potions won't heal you any quicker, it only makes the regen effect longer (League of Legends used this a few years ago and it worked well; they eventually added a hard cap on the number of potions you could carry, but that was for the very specific reason of allowing more "poke damage" to stick)
@Wavelength I like the way you defend unlimited inventories by saying they can be justified if we apply these limitations. That's exactly what I mean by design...purposeful thought behind what the items are the player is given the opportunity to use, balance of said items in game play, control over the potential dynamics to prevent game breaking. Yes, if a player in a game encounters a rock, the character could pick it up and put it in their pocket...but if there's no reason to, then why make the rock a potential inventory item? That's what I meant by pointless inventory. It's just...there. I prefer to spend the work hours I put into crafting my game content considering what makes sense to include, what furthers the story/plot, what items are key. There are two "realism" arguments with the rock example that conflict...so permit me to be clear about my preferred realism here. It's more realistic to make the rock potential inventory because you could in real life. To your point, it's not more fun to have a useless rock taking space on my inventory list. I prefer the realism of the role-play. My characters aren't concerned with the valueless rock, so they aren't going to pick it up, so don't make it an inventory item...unless someone has a slingshot and the rock suddenly becomes meaningful ammo.

a slim, trim, powerful, and meaningful set of mechanics that support a specific experience that you want to provide your player. If a mechanic doesn't directly contribute to that experience, it needs to be streamlined or eliminated. It is additions that require justification (in their contribution to the special experience), not subtractions.
I agree. That's why I say a limited inventory is best. Cut out all of the non-necessities and the remaining items available for inventory couldn't amass to limitless amounts if you tried. Take away limits and you just get o.p. I don't think I have to bring up your point about fun again with regard to the player being o.p. :p Oh...and use them weasel words, man! :wink::biggrin::cool:

@Everyone: This is a lot of fun. I'm glad we can share our thoughts and feelings unabashedly. :hhappy:
 

Henryetha

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Slight language barrier issue here (even though you're way better than I am at communicating in non-native language!). You say "use to" in two sentences, but both sentences left me confused:

[...]

As far as your "core mechanic" argument...

You are certainly right that Limited Inventory is nearly always found in ARPGs (I cannot think of any counterexamples offhand). But I feel like that's usually happening out of genre convention, rather than out of any sort of purposeful design. Almost every single Action RPG I can think of would be a better game (in my opinion) if it got rid of its Limited Inventory system. After all, even though it is frequently found in the genre, what does it really provide an ARPG?

This Extra Credits video (one of my favorites) argues that genres should not be defined by their Mechanics, but rather by their Aesthetics of Play. Central to this argument is the rejection of "core mechanics": certain mechanics may work well for one game in a genre (like ARPG), but wouldn't be good for other games in that same genre.

(For Survival games, I can see much more of a justification for limited inventory, in that it forces the player to spend time carting around resources, and with time as such a valuable resource in these games, it plays right into the genre's core types of engagement and challenge. It also prevents the player from getting too far ahead of the "survival treadmill", reducing potential idle time. ARPGs are not improved by these dynamics.)

Aside from this quibble, I loved your post. :)
Hm.. if replacing "use to" with "would usually"?

About the ARPGs limited inventory design:
Let's just imagine, you can loot everything, that your inventory in fact is unlimited.

I will include here 3 screenshots displaying how loot in arpg games can look like (Diablo 3, Path Of Exile and Grim Dawn as examples here)




This is just for demonstration purpose.

And here demonstrating how the typical arpg inventory looks like (example PoE) - also because there might be people reading, who aren't familiar with this genre.


The core mechanic is to make the player choose, which items to actually pick up, compairing the item value with their size.
You see a bow, occupying 6 slots, while the belt only occupies 2 slots.
Currency items.. only 1 slot and stackable.
Rings would occupy 1 slot typically.
And there are actually items in these games, occupying 8 slots even.

What would happen, if the inventory was unlimited..? - It would screw this whole mechanic.
I think we can agree, that size (how many slots 1 item occupies) will not matter on an unlimited inventory.
This is basically, why I call it a "core mechanic".

Yes, it limits the player.
But also it gives the player a choice, which makes the game interesting (for those who like it).

Another reason is having to manage and organize that inventory.
Unlimited means, you might have thousands of equipable items at some point, because of not selecting while playing, but instead hoarding (close to) everything until the storage self becomes too overwhelming.

Usual RPGs don't face that problem, as their loot is by far not so much like in the given examples.
And yes, one could argument, that players can choose themselves, whether they want to loot everything in first place..
But then again there is "human nature".. as we've heard before, a human being is a hunter and collector (usually? or.. at least in many cases).

Talking about RPGs which wouldn't need a limited inventory.. I can think of The Witcher 3. Inventory is limited by weight but rather also limits the fun. I mean, witcher 3 is a great game, but it would be better without that limitation. (fortunately can be modded)

Unfortunately I don't know either any example of an ARPG with unlimited inventory.

"Chronicon" has a middle way, where equipable items always would occupy 1 slot only.. and the inventory space self is much larger than in Diablo & Co. It even has a "semi autoloot" feature. There is still limitation, however. Anyway, the "core mechanic" mentioned above doesn't apply here. So.. yea. I guess, a big role plays also, that items there can be autolooted (loot in a circle mechanic). So a player wouldn't spend too much time, picking up items.
One thing I could notice, however, is, that organizing that inventory required significantly more time than in PoE, for example.
But Chronicon is well balanced, so that wasn't much of an issue.

I would totally try a game in arpg design with unlimited inventory, to see how the developer handles balancing it in this specific genre and keep it interesting, still avoiding, that the item amount, a player might hoard, becomes too overwhelming. Who knows, maybe it's fun.
Generally I'm open to it, specially as I love the genre and would love to see different ideas realized here.
 

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@Wavelength I like the way you defend unlimited inventories by saying they can be justified if we apply these limitations.
Hang on, now. You are calling "Using an Item takes a turn" and "Balanced Economy" limitations to turn my argument back on me?! The cooldown one, yes, that's a limitation, but none of the others.

That's exactly what I mean by design...purposeful thought behind what the items are the player is given the opportunity to use, balance of said items in game play, control over the potential dynamics to prevent game breaking. Yes, if a player in a game encounters a rock, the character could pick it up and put it in their pocket...but if there's no reason to, then why make the rock a potential inventory item? That's what I meant by pointless inventory. It's just...there.
Okay, I do understand what you mean by useless inventory now, but if a rock does absolutely nothing for you, then the more elegant solution is to simply not let the player add the rock to their inventory in the first place. It's streamlined and it doesn't waste the player's time with something uninteresting. (see the next quote too)

I prefer to spend the work hours I put into crafting my game content considering what makes sense to include, what furthers the story/plot, what items are key. There are two "realism" arguments with the rock example that conflict...so permit me to be clear about my preferred realism here. It's more realistic to make the rock potential inventory because you could in real life. To your point, it's not more fun to have a useless rock taking space on my inventory list. I prefer the realism of the role-play. My characters aren't concerned with the valueless rock, so they aren't going to pick it up, so don't make it an inventory item...unless someone has a slingshot and the rock suddenly becomes meaningful ammo.
Of course, if the rock can be used in some way, then it becomes a whole lot more interesting! If you're designing a game where the seemingly-meaningless rock can become useful ammo later on when you find a slingshot, that's pretty cool, but let's explore how the different types of systems interact with this dynamic:
  • Limited Inventory: You find the rock and put it in your bag thinking maybe it will be useful later. Your inventory fills up. The first thing you discard is the useless rock. Later on, you find the slingshot, and you can't use it because you've discarded the rock. It's useless to you. You probably discard the slingshot as well.
  • Unlimited Inventory: You find the rock and put it in your bag thinking maybe it will be useful later. For a few hours, it just sits there in your bag, not hurting anyone. Later on, you find the slingshot, and you have the rock to use as ammo. You use the rock and get to enjoy an entirely new form of play via the slingshot for as long as you like.
I'm of the belief that the Unlimited Inventory system leads to much better outcomes for "items that might be useful later" like the rock.

Essentially, if it has any use, let the player grab it for later and enjoy it. If it has no use whatsoever, don't make it obtainable. That's good, elegant design.

Take away limits and you just get o.p.
There are some limits this is certainly true for, but I don't believe Inventory to be one of them. Can you name two professional turn-based RPGs where the player was completely OP, but where the game would have been well-balanced if the player's bag was limited to, say, 30 slots?

Oh...and use them weasel words, man! :wink::biggrin::cool:
Some people would consider this great advice! :D :D



@Henryetha
Hm.. if replacing "use to" with "would usually"?
Yes! That's much better! "Usually" in the first instance you used it, and "Is usually" in the second instance. Now those sentences make sense to me. Thanks for clarifying.

About the ARPGs limited inventory design:
Let's just imagine, you can loot everything, that your inventory in fact is unlimited.
I laughed REALLY hard when I saw those pictures. It was like I was being assaulted by labels!! :guffaw:

While your point about Bloat is well-taken, I feel that with good organization, such as the ability to sort your (infinite) inventory by category, it would be very manageable. Star Ocean: Til the End of Time is a good example of a game with thousands of loot/crafting items, which still feels perfectly manageable on the inventory screen. If I'm looking for something in that game, I can find it.

You would also need to visit the inventory screen a lot less - only when you need to use an item, or sell something because you don't have enough gold. You wouldn't ever need to visit it just to "make room".

The core mechanic is to make the player choose, which items to actually pick up, compairing the item value with their size.
You see a bow, occupying 6 slots, while the belt only occupies 2 slots.
Currency items.. only 1 slot and stackable.
Rings would occupy 1 slot typically.
And there are actually items in these games, occupying 8 slots even.
Why is this mechanic automatically interesting or fun?

What would happen, if the inventory was unlimited..? - It would screw this whole mechanic.
I think we can agree, that size (how many slots 1 item occupies) will not matter on an unlimited inventory.
Certainly agreed on that point, but...
This is basically, why I call it a "core mechanic".
Why is this size/"slots" mechanic a core mechanic of ARPGs (or any genre)? Can't an Action RPG still be an Action RPG no matter what its Inventory System looks like?

Yes, it limits the player.
But also it gives the player a choice, which makes the game interesting (for those who like it).
At its best, yes, Limited Inventory can accomplish that. If the choice is important to gameplay, and the choice is interesting (and not always obvious), it can create some great game dynamics.

But I think that is only going to happen in a small majority of games. More often, you get something like Elsword, which is a good game (and sort of an Action RPG) with a horribly unnecessary Limited Inventory system:
  • I'm carrying around Health Potions because I need them
  • I'm carrying around Blessed Enchantment Stones because I feel like I'll need them for crafting later
  • I'm carrying around a Pumpkin Candy because it came from a special event and I'm never going to get one again
  • I'm carrying around the Cat Ears accessory because even though its stats are bad, the elf girl looks really cute in them
  • I'm carrying around a Headband because its stats are higher than the Cat Ears, so I might need it for tough dungeons
  • I'm carrying around six different unidentified Armor Pieces because they dropped during this dungeon run, and I haven't had the time to check their stats out yet
  • I'm carrying around four Mermaid's Tears because I need 10 of them to complete a quest, but now I've been lured to another area of the world where there are no Mermaid's Tears
  • I'm carrying around a bunch of Wolf Fangs, Beast Skins, and Metal Ingots because I haven't had the chance to go back to town to sell them yet
  • I'm carrying around a big stack of Fire Orbs because I haven't needed them yet, but I might need them to damage a boss later on, or I might just feel like throwing them at monsters to burn them because it would be funny in a perverse way
And now, in the middle of some sublime slashing and shooting and spell-slinging, another unidentified Weapon or Armor Piece drops, and I have to decide to either trash it, or trash one of those other things I was carrying around for what I feel are perfectly legitimate reasons.

That's not Choice - it's not an engaging decision of "what do I need more". It's simple frustration - being forced to throw out one of the things I enjoyed holding on to.

Another reason is having to manage and organize that inventory.
Unlimited means, you might have thousands of equipable items at some point, because of not selecting while playing, but instead hoarding (close to) everything until the storage self becomes too overwhelming.
Aside from my Star Ocean argument a few paragraphs up, there's also the fact that in an Unlimited Inventory system, the player can decide to "clean house" any time they feel it's getting too overwhelming, and sell hundreds of items to vendors on their own time.

The Limited Inventory system, on the other hand, forces the player to sell/discard items, in a frustrating way, even when the player doesn't want to deal with it at that particular time.

Usual RPGs don't face that problem, as their loot is by far not so much like in the given examples.
Right on. I agree with you here, and I really like that you are looking at the question in the frame of different solutions for different types of games.
 
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Poryg

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Okay, so you're running down a set of corridors, you wipe out three Golems in the first corridor, and it drops an Adamantine Ore. Two more Golems are running down the hall to get you, and there are a bunch more roaming the next hall. Now, normally, you could click the Ore to grab it add it into your Inventory, then start taking down the other Golems... but your Inventory's full and you can't pick it up until you discard something. What are you going to do?

Whether it's now or after the next two Golems, you're going to have to open up the menu, compare the Adamantine Ore to all the other materials you've picked up, figure out what to throw away, then do it again a minute later when something else drops in the next hall. Sixty seconds isn't enough time to get into a Flow State.
In real-time battle RPGs like Diablo, Shadow flare, Silverfall, TES Oblivion, Cardhalia, basically anywhere where the loot wouldn't disappear in next 30 seconds, I never bother with loot mid-battle or until I had some time to sort out my inventory issues. That's for the first part.
For the second part, if I'm running a bunch of corridors, I usually enter a dung with decently empty inventory. Nevertheless, let's say I'm in a dung for a while and my inventory is full and there is no teleport to a safe city to sell excess items feature.
I have my items sorted out according to importance, with the important cases on top (in left-right top may mean left too) and the least important at the bottom... And essentials like healing items at the very bottom if possible.
This makes comparisons rather easy, because out of my inventory there are only few relevant pieces, the rest is just junk to sell. Not to mention, as I progress further, my time required to compare decreases as my knowledge about item tiers and gold reserve increases. For example if I seek an item that boosts attack, it's pointless to compare it to item that boosts magical attack. The same key comes with ore, I select a comparison criteria and go with that.
And that's the same with RPG maker's UI. I only need to compare the currently selected item to the item I have equipped, which the game shows on the equip screen, there's no need to compare it with the rest. If I need to decide which item to throw away, then I throw away what costs the least and is not important. And if I don't know what costs the least, which is a normal procedure in RM RPGs, I select what I think costs the least. Although as I said, in case of Yanfly's plugin the limited inventory should not limit picking items off the ground, only purchasing them, so this whole thing would be pointless to consider. Nevertheless, for me that does not break the immersion, that is part of it.
If a popup screen appeared in front of you as you reached for that last bag and said "You can't pick it up, you're over your limit" and pushed you backwards, wouldn't that be weird? You'd feel detached from the reality around you. That's sort of what I was getting at when I said the brain doesn't process that kind of stuff well. Limited Inventory brings the player's attention to the artificiality of the game, and that's a big immersion-breaker.
Golden Sun, that was a reality for me once or twice. And I can confirm it did not detach me from the reality around me. I'd feel detached perhaps if I'd known the game had unlimited inventory and I suddenly couldn't carry any more. But if I know the game has limited inventory and I encounter inventory management troubles, it's the same as marrying and expecting to have a quarrel with my wife from time to time. In other words nothing extremely unexpected happened, so why would it break my immersion?

I feel this is an unfair argument, because Limited Inventory is a mechanic, whereas "broken battle systems" and "lack of difficulty" are qualitative measures. You're jumping right off the slippery slope. :p
Well, if you want to be nitpicky, then let's replace that with front view battle system. With turn based battle system. I've already seen people hate on that. Or leveling up, because it introduces grinding, which some hate. And I can continue. But I won't, because it's being nitpicky and all it does is get us sidetracked.

As a designer, you should never, ever foist limitations onto your player without a clear and strong purpose for doing so.
That's exactly why we have a large difference between easy as pie and challenging games nowadays. Every game leads your hand and gameplay is sacrificed for graphics and challenge is becoming a niche.

If it's as simple as "throw out the vendor trash to make room" or even "throw out the things with lower numbers", you have utterly failed in your design, and the Limited Inventory is acting as nothing more than a major player inconvenience.
Congratulations, now you've actually killed 99% of the games on the market that involve sellable items. This has actually been a thing ever since we had tiered items. Does that mean tiered items are a bad design?
On the other hand, if you ask me, yes, tiered items are bad design. We are in 2019, but I have yet to see a game where old items might be handy in the late game and it's not just a better tier than the previous one.

In fact, I'm having a much harder time coming up with an example to support your opinion. Can you name two professional turn-based RPGs you felt were broken because of the presence of an unlimited inventory, yet would have been well-designed and balanced if they had limited the player's bag to, say, 30 slots?
For me any battle design that has one surefire winning strategy that you can find and win the entire game with without breaking a sweat is broken. Nevertheless, for concrete examples of itemspam... Pokémon franchise can be passed seriously underleveled with item spam and due to poor economy it's not even that hard to obtain them. Final fantasy, although it took few turns to use items, it still allowed for item spam, you just had to cast it ahead of time. Final fantasy XV abolished the mechanics of spending turns before using items, so item spam in that game is worse than in previous one. Although it's more criticised for poor balance altogether than just item spam.
And just a side note, I know it's not an RPG, but I've had a lot of fun with Heroes of Might and Magic 4, in particular Might faction. My favorite strategy was an army of 3 heroes. When they got strong enough, I could just spam Elixirs of immortality. As my heroes got stronger I needed less and less of the elixirs against soldiers and as long as the enemy did not have any nasty items (for example once my brother had a robe that negates the damage of first 3 attacks and of course he had an Elixir of immortality he randomly found, which upon revival refreshed the robe), I could even defeat whole enemy army.

If your game is designed to "ensure a character can't be killed in X turns" where X is the number of turns between a Potion, then that is why the game's challenge was broken to zero! If the Potion doesn't have a cooldown, are you ensuring the player can never be killed from full health in one turn?
I forgot to mention that I considered healing in the total equation. If my healer plus potions cannot outheal the enemy to save their life, I don't consider that a good design, The moment my character dies, instead of spending time attacking the enemy I have to divert forces to patch up the downed character. Which, if they took out my healer, is even worse, because now I don't have a healing source. And unless the enemy is already low in HP, that can be the beginning of the chain of demise. When that happens, I am not defeated by the game, but by RNG. And if there's something that breaks my immersion, it's a long battle ended by RNG.
Nevertheless, Persona games look interesting if they're genuinely difficult and not just beefy enemies (if all the game has to offer is ridiculously beefed up enemies that you can only defeat by grinding more, I don't consider that difficulty, since grinding is not a skill). Too bad they're Playstation exclusives :(

I think the ideal item setup in a turn-based RPG is to make items powerful enough that they serve as "trump cards" that can get you out of sticky situations, but expensive (or rare) enough so that you don't get a lot of trump cards to use. A lot of games make items weak enough that they're not really relevant within battle, and some games do make items both very powerful and very cheap (in the late-game). The latter case might be what you're talking about with balance-breaking, but most games don't do that and the best ones manage to make them relevant (even without a limited inventory) without making them gamebreaking.
I have huge tendencies to play games with either no item use or item spam and be quite successful with it :D But it's true that I haven't played the titles you mentioned as I don't own a Playstation and am not going to purchase it anytime soon. But I can absolutely agree that if you want unlimited inventory, items should not be that easy to obtain. That's why I mentioned balanced economy multiple times.


Of course, if the rock can be used in some way, then it becomes a whole lot more interesting! If you're designing a game where the seemingly-meaningless rock can become useful ammo later on when you find a slingshot, that's pretty cool, but let's explore how the different types of systems interact with this dynamic:
  • Limited Inventory: You find the rock and put it in your bag thinking maybe it will be useful later. Your inventory fills up. The first thing you discard is the useless rock. Later on, you find the slingshot, and you can't use it because you've discarded the rock. It's useless to you. You probably discard the slingshot as well.
  • Unlimited Inventory: You find the rock and put it in your bag thinking maybe it will be useful later. For a few hours, it just sits there in your bag, not hurting anyone. Later on, you find the slingshot, and you have the rock to use as ammo. You use the rock and get to enjoy an entirely new form of play via the slingshot for as long as you like.
I'm of the belief that the Unlimited Inventory system leads to much better outcomes for "items that might be useful later" like the rock.
If you find a rock at the beginning of the game and a slingshot at the end of the game, then that's either bad design or a gimmick and hence this argument is irrelevant. It's like when in Gothic 1 you decide to go for one-handed sword and magic level 5 only to find Uriziel and Rune armor at the end. You can't let Xardas make Wave of death rune from it, because it requires lv 6 magic. And so you're stuck with a two-handed weapon that you lack the skill to use, so although you can still use it, it's clunky.
But I think that is only going to happen in a small majority of games. More often, you get something like Elsword, which is a good game (and sort of an Action RPG) with a horribly unnecessary Limited Inventory system:
MMORPG are badly designed by default, cannot consider them as valid examples. In a game like Diablo however, I never had the need to stack X items. I had two weapons that were preferably in affinity with one magic I was using. Three or four later on if respecs became necessary. Another priority in equips was HP and MP regeneration. I was even willing to sacrifice a tier of equips just to keep the desired regeneration. Since I primarily used spellcaster classes, I guess it was natural, I did not need to worry so much about HP damage due to fighting from distance.
And if I had my desired items, once I had sufficient gold reserve, there was no need to collect items just to sell. Inventory management reduced.

Hell... I'm going to buy Diablo 2, it was a fun game. :D
 

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Most MMOs and ARPGs need to have limited slots for potions because most of the times, you can simply use the potions without repercussions, you just click it on the hotbar or hotkey and its used without any real time delay... Some even go as far as putting cooldowns to the items so you cant spam them.

But in most RPG Maker games and Turn Based games in general, using potions takes one whole turn... In a sense, the turn battle design is already a limiting factor to counter spamming potions.

At the end of the day, it depends on the applicability on the game. But we are on RPG Maker forums and most games made here are turn based, in which case a limited inventory design is usually just punishing without real value added.
 
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Poryg

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But in most RPG Maker games and Turn Based games in general, using potions takes one whole turn... In a sense, the turn battle design is already a limiting factor to counter spamming potions.
Casting a healing spell takes a whole turn.
Reviving a fallen member not only costs you one whole turn, but also the action of the fallen member who won't be able to attack until next turn.
Consuming a potion takes a whole turn.
How is that a limiting factor to counter spamming potions when it takes the same time as casting a healing spell? Not to mention, by default you can use four healing potions per turn, but only one healing spell per turn.

That's why item spam is powerful, especially in indie JRPGs. Many games are balanced around one healer. If I make two healers by simply making one hero throw items around, it completely throws the battle system off balance. I am sacrificing 33% of my firepower, but gaining 100% healing power. It takes time, but is much safer, since the enemy's damage output is not enough to counter the two healers!
 

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Unlimited or GTFO. Inventory management sucks balls, as does just about any time spent stuck in menus instead of actually playing a game.

Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.
Inventory is full.

Gee, let me stop playing the actual game, shuffle some crap around and throw a few things away before I can continue. What fun.

Many years ago, I swore I'd never make a game that forced the player to deal with it, and so far, I've stayed true to that. I honestly don't see any reason, other than to limit consumables (legit) or force players to buy extra storage space from a cash shop (uncool). If limiting consumables is the goal, why not...just limit those and leave the rest unlimited?

However, limiting item stack sizes is just fine to me as it encourages players to use those potions instead of hoarding them for the final battle. My current project limits potion stacks to 20 for now, but that's subject to change should balance require it.
 

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Not to mention, by default you can use four healing potions per turn, but only one healing spell per turn.
Not if you have more than one character able to cast healing spells...

Your argument there was sort of destroyed by the fact that you brought up the multiple healer scenario, you know...
Or I'm just really not seeing the point you're trying to make with it.
Not sure which.
 

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@Havod A standard JRPG I've seen had only one member with healing abilities.
 

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Sure, but we're here to discuss mechanics with a view to deciding what would be good or bad to include in our own games. You can't assume something is in every game because it is "standard"; we are free to change whatever we want.

Regarding potion spam: there are two fairly obvious countermeasures. One is to make potions less effective than healing magic, so that their main purpose is to be a fallback when the healer is unavailable or out of MP and you need a backup; or for a little extra healing if you've taken a hard knock and need a bit more help getting back on your feet; or even for a little extra damage if you have that mechanic in play.

In addition, using potions always has the cost of using an item that has to be replenished. No matter how cheap they are, replenishing them is boring busywork and in using them, I am accepting that I'm pushing myself closer to the point of running out and having to get more. Well, one way to make shopping more interesting is to give the player a difficult choice to make by having items not be so cheap that you can mindlessly stock up 99 of the highest-tier potion at all times. (And since I can already see your perennial "every-jRPG-ever" argument on the tip of your tongue, I'll say again: I am not making every jRPG ever, just my one game, and I am free to do things differently.)

A somewhat less obvious point: you say that sacrificing 33% firepower to gain 100% healing power is "safer", but it has the downside that the boss takes longer to defeat. So, an interesting way to counteract this would be to give the boss hard-hitting moves that take a while to charge up, so that the player has an incentive to look for ways to defeat it as fast as possible.
 

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Many games are balanced around one healer. If I make two healers by simply making one hero throw items around, it completely throws the battle system off balance. I am sacrificing 33% of my firepower, but gaining 100% healing power. It takes time, but is much safer, since the enemy's damage output is not enough to counter the two healers!
The obvious solution here is don't balance around just 1 healer. Balance around that one healer, plus a little help from outside sources from time to time. Whether that comes in the form of another member potion chucking or another member with weaker off-healing capability, or a mix of both, is up to the developer. If your hardest battles are designed to be won without ever downing a single potion because the dedicated healer can keep everyone up on his own, and the use of potions trivializes that, then it's a design flaw.

In my current project (and likely future projects as well) everyone can heal to some degree (be it self-only or offhealing allies) but there's one character who's main role is to heal. The combat is ATB-based, so to make potions appealing, I have them set to be usable instantly whereas every single healing ability except for one (with a CD) takes time to cast. They're also set to stack to 20 max (to avoid 99 hoarding) and are slightly stronger than the healing abilities, so there are definitely times when even the dedicated healer might want to throw an elixir at somebody instead of using his spammable heal on them.

Also, when you say "sacrificing 33% of your firepower" that leads me to believe the combat system in question is a bit on the simple side. Nobody tanks, debuffs, buffs, etc? 3 guys spamming attacks with one guy spamming Curaja every round isn't really a very engaging system, and it could probably use a bit more complexity. (I don't mean any offense by that)
 

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