Are inventory weight limits a useless mechanic?

Not Lord Atkin

I'm dead inside.
Oct 25, 2008
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So here's a thought. After finally finishing Dark Souls (yes, I know, I know, I'm sorry), I concluded that it was the single best RPG I've played and therefore every other game should take examples from it (again, sorry). And it wasn't until I decided to give Demon's Souls another shot and started playing Elder Scrolls again before I started comparing. And analysing. And judging.

Now I know Dark Souls has been the main topic of just about every discussion in the past two years and most of you are getting sick of it by now but please, hear me out. This thread is not about Dark Souls. It's just that only after playing Dark Souls I noticed that some of the mechanics that have grown to be the staple of the RPG genre, things that every single RPG has to include without giving it a second thought, are actually not that great an idea. RPG design has become standardised to a large degree and only after playing a game which purposefuly left these mechanics out was I able to see just how much better it made the game as a whole.

Let's talk about inventory weight systems then.

First of all, I get why they exist. The idea makes sense. There should be a limit to what a human being can carry on their person at all times. I mean, you can't be expected to be able to handle ANOTHER small health potion on top of five suits of armour, 35 swords and a sizable collection of rocks you were already carrying, right?

What it often boils down to, however, is excessive inventory management. Which is, for most people at least, not fun. Why do I have to stop playing halfway through a dungeon and start sorting through the inventory? Why do I have to throw out half my loot to be able to make room for more loot? I don't see the point. Especially if it's just there for its own sake. Just because, as I said earlier, it's expected of an RPG to have limited inventory space. But honestly, if a mechanic serves no purpose and it's only effect is that it interrupts the flow of gameplay and annoys the fuck out of the player, isn't that just... well... bad design?

Now I do not condemn the mechanic itself. I mean, it's just another tool in a designer's box, isn't it? It even makes sense in games in which resource management is a major focus. survival horror is a great example of this. The thing is, I just don't see what point it has in most RPGs. It seems to only serve to put hurdles in the way of exploration.

Case in point: Demon's Souls. A game, in which you are driven to explore every nook and cranny of every level. A game in which everything you find while exploring is in some way useful and/or important. The inventory weight cap in this case undermines all other mechanics. When you become overburdened, you can not carry any more items. there is no indication of this other than the number displayed in menus. of course, when picking up loot, you are given no indication of what the loot is, how much it weights, and whether it would overburden you when you pick it up, and if it would, the game does not let you take it. However, if you have already attempted to take it, you have to throw out other shit from your inventory otherwise the loot is going to disappear and will be lost forever. Oh, and should you decide to run back to the last archstone and clear out your inventory in the nexus, you lose all the progress you've made in the level as well as all the items you couldn't carry back. This becomes especially infuriating in the Archstone of the Burrow King area where all loot are heavy upgrade stones and there are fucktons of them everywhere.

Thoughts? Do you also find weight limits infuriatingly useless and annoying in most RPGs? Can you actually think of examples within the genre where they actually have a place and serve to make the game better?

Discuss
 

Zhukov

The Laughing Arsehole
Dec 29, 2009
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I do indeed find inventory weight limits to be annoying and useless.

Never amounts to anything except sorting through your list of crap every now and again to drop stuff so you can pick up other stuff.

However, I wouldn't deal with it by removing inventory limits. I'd deal with it by making consumable resources scarce enough that you won't be able to stockpile them and making equipment a matter of preference and play style rather than pointlessly swapping out things for other things with incrementally larger numbers attached.
 

DementedSheep

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Jan 8, 2010
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I don't mind having to to manage inventory for weight in rpg's nor do I really miss it when it's gone. I don't think its ever actually there for realism because your inventory weight is often more than you can carry anyway, at least if you intend to be fighting, running and climbing around and even without weight carrying 8 swords would be very awkward. I think forcing you to mange your inventory and pick which loot to take which you or ditch is the point. So in skyrim I would be roughly diving the worth with the weight (when I could be assed and before the point where I had some much money I never bothered looting anything anyway) to see if I'm going to make more money picking up these daggers or this one piece of armour that at first glance seems to be worth more. If the gear you are wearing isn't excluded from the weight it adds another little later to using heavy or light armours and if strength increases your weight limit it gives a non combat use for it.

That and I think it's one of those things that gets done just because it's kinda always been done.

It would be a bit pointless in a game like darksouls I think since you don't really sell loot (you can to frampt but I only ever used that feature to get rid of items I had multiples of because it's not huge amounts and the games has few junk or obsolete as you level items) an you already have limited healing although I suppose it means you would be limited in what you carry around to swap out for different fights. I've never played demon souls but that dose sound like a terrible system.
 

Smooth Operator

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Oct 5, 2010
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Well you do need limits on your inventory otherwise people will just stack up some shit that will make them immortal, I personally prefer the "item tetris" approach because it is just so very clear how many slots are still open and how many you need to free for a certain thing.

Weight can be ok if presented prominently, and would be no worse then item slots if you could tell the outcomes at first glance, Infinity engine games were pretty good with that because all numbers were kept simple and before you picked up and item they would already show the weight value next to items, which would turn red if over your limit, obviously it also helps immensely to have a party where everything can be distributed or worse case scenario you down a strength potion to muscle through weight limits.
The worst you can do is Fallout inventory, thousands of items, tucked away into gigantic lists only sorted by name and only listing the weight of a single item, and only displaying the weight once an item is selected... so good luck browsing through bloody everything and working out how much 48 items with weight 0.7 make up, oh and you need to do that for every damn item every damn time you go through the inventory.
Obviously Demon/Dark Souls with it's insta world reset mechanic adds yet another layer of insanity to that mix.

In short I would say the weight limits are a taxing concept for the player so the presentation should make up for that, but so far that part has been generally half arsed which makes it much worse.
 

carnex

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Jan 9, 2008
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I don't mind restricted inventory mechanics. It's meant, mostly, to force player to be more thoughtful. I'm one of those who is obsessive compulsive in those games. I still have save from Fallout New Vegas where I'm about 60% done in cleaning up wasteland (collecting all the junk in the game in single mailbox in Novac) but I appreciate idea that you can only carry so much so you have to thing about your habits. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but there is a big point for it.

I mean, really, MF Hyperbreather Alpha, fully modified LAER, fully modified Gobi Campaign Sniper Rifle, 12mm Submachine gun, I forgot which melee weapon, and Anabelle. All with plenty of Ammo. And I play stealthy character... Really?!?!?!
 

HoneyVision

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Jan 4, 2013
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It's only good if it serves a purpose. And realism is not a purpose because REALISTICALLY a human can barely carry 2 or 3 weapons let alone a whole bunch of other crap and still run comfortably.
 

Ed130 The Vanguard

(Insert witty quote here)
Sep 10, 2008
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Well its either that or Item Tetris because being able to pick up anything with no limit would result in a mess of an inventory, broken game mechanics (like carrying enough ammunition to start WW4 in Fallout 3) and more.

Also your case in point is the exception not the rule to inventories and sounds like the implementation of it was either retarded or part of the game lore.
 

Roofstone

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May 13, 2010
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I myself am very fond of the old school inventory management that was basically a grid. Representing your backpack or whatever. Human Revolution had it I believe. I think that is quite a fun way to manage it.

Weight management often seem to arbitrary to me. It seems odd that the simple act of picking a flower makes my backpack instantly grow several tons in weight and make me collapse.
 

MHR

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Apr 3, 2010
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I like inventory limits, even though I'm sure I spend more than the average player managing it and I seldom enjoy it while I'm doing so.

But I like the fact that I'm not carrying around a whole convenience store worth of junk wherever I go. It's an absurd idea, but more importantly it forces people to make decisions. I love having to make the decisions of what gear I should take with me or which loot to loot. If you manage your inventory poorly, you have to drop things, things that might be important. It gives me some satisfaction knowing that since I managed my inventory correctly, I can carry out most of the loot in an entire dungeon whereas someone else may have thought the heavy rebar club in horrible disrepair was more important than a large stack of valuable cigarette cartons.

Being able to carry everything would make the game too easy as well as present an annoying overabundance of options. Not to mention the clutter.
 

BeeGeenie

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May 30, 2012
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On one hand, you're right. It's not necessary. I can't think of any JRPGs have such restrictions, and they're no worse off for it.

However, I can't say I've ever been very bothered by weight limits. It serves as an element of strategy. It can force the player to make real choices that have real consequences in game. Of course, it helps if it's well implemented. In the case you've described, that's an obviously flawed system.
Also, as others have pointed out, those systems are generally pretty generous, letting you stow several suits of armor and a dozen massive swords all in one little backpack. :p

Also, since different characters would choose to carry different things, and some would be able to carry more than others, it also adds to the actual "Roleplaying" element.

I can tell you, if I was a 3 strength wizard, I wouldn't be hauling full plate mail around the battlefield, no matter how much gold it was worth at the local blacksmith's shop. I hire mercs to do the heavy lifting.
 

Caiphus

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Mar 31, 2010
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Depends. Sometimes I like some degree of realism. Hell, I even made the inventory weight limit in my Skyrim game worse!

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/21211

Some people are out there putting sexy elves and succubi in their game. Not me though.

Christ.

But yeah. I mean, either can work. As long as the game is built properly around whatever inventory system is being used, then it's fine. I prefer some sort of limit, don't really care between weight or item tetris. But it's hardly a deal breaker. If I don't have to plan my inventory, then I tend not to think about it and play the game. And if I do have to plan it, then I can get some enjoyment out of roleplaying with that. But I'm a sad bastard, so what do I know?
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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Sep 6, 2009
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I like the Deus Ex inventory system, it was Tetris style as mentioned above. There was another inventory style system that I like, but I can't remember the game it was from. That game's system was your coat pockets was your inventory system, if you wanted something, you had to open your coat to get it out. Annoying, especially during combat, but it added a nice sense of realism.
 

MeChaNiZ3D

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Aug 30, 2011
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My kneejerk reaction was no, they're there for a reason, but generally, actually they're useless. Survival games where the decisions you make about inventory affect how you play the game, yes, that makes sense, especially in games with crafting systems. Deus Ex Human Revolution was good too, limiting weapons and ammo and resources and allowing creativity at the same time. RPGs like Skyrim where what it amounts to is how much useless shit you can cart to the store, no. Removing the weight limit would be fine, all I did was crawl around until I found a horse anyway. But even better, take an example from Dark Souls and remove the useless shit in the first place. Dark Souls doesn't often give you crap with no use except to sell. You get crap armour, sure, but that's useful when you encounter it. The currency is weightless souls, you're never picking up sticks to sell.

I'm a little tired so basically: The armour and weapons you're wearing affecting speed and agility and that sort of thing is cool, but if you're going to have sundry shit with the sole purpose of it being sold later then don't limit how much you can carry.
 

dangoball

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Jun 20, 2011
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Weight limit is most certainly not useless in and of itself.

For example STALKER implemented it quite well to keep you from becoming immortal by carrying a ton of med-packs and ammo. It worked well for immersion and atmosphere of the game.

In TES, Fallout 3/NV and such it can be slightly annoying when you calculate Value/Weight ratio on every item to decide what's worth picking up or when you make several trips just to sell all the loot you can. And then there are weightless items and carrying 10k of anything without it being a burden doesn't make sense.

I never minded weight limits in Baldur's Gate and such when they were combined with inventory space, because it just made sense that my weak-ass spell-caster just can't carry those 200 lb of ore so I have my SchwarceRambo warrior take it.

All in all it depends on how is a certain mechanic used and how it meshes with overall design. Not useless by default, doesn't make sense in some games, enhances others.
 

lechat

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Dec 5, 2012
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usually the first hack i plug into any game i play.
unlimited inventory weight or you can fuck off. ironically resident evil was passable because finding the most efficient way to stack stuff was a game in and of itself but when the whole game mechanic involves you having to take 50 trips back to town to sell the loot you earned in one dungeon it just feels like padding.
 

Zenja

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Jan 16, 2013
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I disagree and actually find games that remove weight limits as "dumbing down" the game. While I do understand the idea of inventory management being "unfun", I would be downright pissed if games stopped using it. Ideally this is because having infinite carry space drastically effects the economy in the game so that the only way to balance it is to require the player pick up and sell everything because every item is calculated into the player's budget so everything buyable is super expensive - or - ignore it entirely usually resulting in the player being a millionaire and the most expensive thing in game only costs 5,000 gold. RPGs with a bullshit economies lose me pretty fast.

Skyrim is so bad I had to install mods that blasted player prices and STILL set self imposed inventory limitations. I didn't do it because I enjoy being broke or am a masochist. I did it because I like gear progression and in a game with an economy that makes me a bajillionaire, once I hit 50,000 gold there is no more of that really, now its just leveling progression and I am only level 12. I like being broke at level 12 if max level is 80 because I see cool stuff and can't afford it at low levels which makes sense, I have to work for it in that economy. SO that when I do get it, it actually feels like an accomplishment. I like spending all my gold on an awesome new upgrade knowing it may be some time before I can afford another one.

Ultimately, I see removing it as dumbing it down so the player doesn't have to do any math. It isn't hard math either, its basic division. Elementary school level division that I can do in my sleep. Most if not all of us probably can. Locating the center of a board is actually harder math than a any game's weight limit system. I will do math if it aids the game's economy gladly. This is a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" thing for me. Is it fun to juggle that stuff? Not particularly, but it makes the overall game more enjoyable. It amazes me the amount of open world games we have today and that in-game economic systems are so terrible compared to the purely mediocre ones of yesteryear.
 

lacktheknack

Je suis joined jewels.
Jan 19, 2009
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HoneyVision said:
It's only good if it serves a purpose. And realism is not a purpose because REALISTICALLY a human can barely carry 2 or 3 weapons let alone a whole bunch of other crap and still run comfortably.
I think you'd be surprised. I've carried a forty-five pound messengers bag and a twenty-pound wooden box of supplies across the city and still had no trouble chasing down a bus (although I was pretty tired by the end of the day).

OT: My OCD inventory collection is bad enough without further enabling it. I like weight limits, they stop me from picking up literally every last thing I find.
 

Not Lord Atkin

I'm dead inside.
Oct 25, 2008
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I've seen some compelling arguments so far, however, there are a couple that I want to address.

First, I do not agree with the general notion that removing the limit would make the character overpowered/invincible. Since most healing items like potions generally don't weight all that much, you tend to be able to carry as many of them as you want. There is no limit to how many healing items you can carry in most RPGs with weight-based inventory systems such as Fallout or TES, that is very much dependent on how many you can afford, find and/or make. Even though they still have a weight value and can eventually overencumber you, by the time that happens you will have enough to tackle pretty much any challenge without any danger of running out anytime soon (provided that you're lucky enough to find that many).

In fact, wouldn't it be more logical to impose a limit on the number of healing items you can carry? That way, you wouldn't have to worry about the game becoming too easy while also keeping the inventory system not annoying.

Then there's the cluttered inventory argument. The thing about that is that not having a limit does not prevent you from selling all your useless junk and cleaning up the inventory. What it does do is prevent the inventory from abruptly interrupting your gameplay, telling you when and where you're supposed to clean out your inventory. That's not a restriction. That's just an inconvenience.

You'd think that limiting the number of vendor trash in the world would solve the problem, but it only makes the issue worse unless you remove the limit. Just look at Dragon Age, which is far more practical when it comes to loot but still has that arbitrary inventory weight limit - which means that some of the quest areas are going to overencumber you whether you like it or not - or indeed Demon's Souls, my initial example where you literally need every single item of loot, yet it still has that INCREDIBLY broken inventory system. Now what Dark Souls did compared to Demon's Souls was to simply remove the limit. It still gave you the bottomless box, a space where you could simply store all of the items that you felt cluttered your inventory, but you could carry on your person whatever you wanted. It did not make the game any easier. Only more convenient and enjoyable.

Here's the thing though. In games like Deus Ex and Stalker - both very good examples, thank you - inventory limits work simply because these games use resource management as a mechanic. TES does not. Dragon Age does not. Demon's Souls does not. So why are the limits still there? We all seem to have agreed that it's not realism and it sure as hell doesn't force the player to manage their resources - not in any meaningful way anyway. At this point, it just seems to me like meaningless inconvenience.
 

CloudAtlas

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Caiphus said:
Depends. Sometimes I like some degree of realism. Hell, I even made the inventory weight limit in my Skyrim game worse!

http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/21211

Some people are out there putting sexy elves and succubi in their game. Not me though.

Christ.

But yeah. I mean, either can work. As long as the game is built properly around whatever inventory system is being used, then it's fine. I prefer some sort of limit, don't really care between weight or item tetris. But it's hardly a deal breaker. If I don't have to plan my inventory, then I tend not to think about it and play the game. And if I do have to plan it, then I can get some enjoyment out of roleplaying with that. But I'm a sad bastard, so what do I know?
I did something similar with Skyrim, in combination with a couple of other realism/difficulty mods. Made for a whole new game at the beginning, provided me with immediate goals: Get a horse to carry a bit more heavy stuff with you around. Like a tent so you don't have to return to Riverwood every day to sleep. Learn smithing so you can use the heavy ores you mined. Probably my favourite time in Skyrim. And Skyrim isn't even designed with such a limit in mind right from the get go.

If an RPG is trying to be realistic and is not all about loot and gold, a really harsh carry weight limit can add to immersion. In fact, I would welcome more games that do exactly that. Then again I'm not suffering from the OCD need to pick up every bit I find, so there's that.
 

RJ 17

The Sound of Silence
Nov 27, 2011
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Funny story about inventory management in the middle of a dungeon.

Playing through Skyrim, I was doing a pure-stealth run of a dungeon for one of the Thieves' Guild missions. The cave was filled with bandits and I was sneaking past them all. I come to a section of the cave that the bandits had turned into a little bar area to get their drink on. There was a note pinned to the wall by an iron dagger near the exit to the room, in trying to read said note I accidentally picked up the dagger instead. Oh well, I read the note then dropped the dagger, didn't want the stupid thing taking up space in my inventory, and proceeded into the next chamber. While snooping around, I see someone coming down the corridor from the bar area, so I press up against a wall in a shadowy corner and just wait for them to pass by...only they didn't pass by. Instead the bandit walks right up to me - while my "stealth eye indicator" was completely shut, meaning I was totally hidden - and says "You dropped this back there, I figured you might want it back." And a little message popped up "Iron Dagger Added" as the bandit turned around and went back to the bar area to join his friends for another round of ale.

Anecdote aside, I've never liked limited inventories. The work-around to not having to sort through your crap in the middle of a dungeon is to make sure you sell everything after every dungeon you go through. Or do what I do in TES and dump it in a chest in a property that you own........of course that's just the height of procrastination since you're either just going to have to sort through an even bigger list sometime later or it'll just sit in that chest forever collecting cobwebs.

What I really hate are the games (like Dragon Age: Origins) that make you buy inventory space. Then again games where you have to increase your strength stat (for example) to carry more stuff are just as bad since they force you to put points into a stat you might not really be interested in.