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Inventory management metagame

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Many years later, I finally got around to playing Dragon Age Origins. I'm not far into it yet (no spoilers please!) but I noticed already my inventory is fast becoming full and it got me thinking about inventory management in general and what the benefit is.

Another older game, which I've played many times, is KOTOR. Unlike Dragon Age Origins, it has no maximum inventory size. You just pick stuff up and decide what to use. I've always preferred it this way and I wonder what aspects of inventory management people do or don't like and why.

I expect the general thought is that inventory management forces you to make strategic choices about what to keep and get rid of. On the surface, this sounds interesting to me! Where things go south is when I have to stop the flow of the game to find a merchant to sell stuff to and/or figure out with careful analysis, piece by piece, what should or shouldn't be discarded. Sometimes it's not particularly clear what is valuable or rare and what is worth keeping or using in general. Some items are generic, some can only be found once a game. Some items seem useless now, but could useful later (you know how those jokes go about consuming 1000 carrots or whatever small health item in Skyrim – might need them, just in case!).

The desire not to pass anything useful up has trained me to treat loot like an essential thing to grab every time, but this means dealing with it taking up space. What is actually worth the space? I don't know.

Read:  Battle Brothers is still a labor of love and worth a look. Tactical squad management rpg in a mercenary setting. And a new DLC just landed.

I think the mechanic can be interesting, but maybe in some implementations, is not clear enough on what is a sensible way to manage it? So you get people who hoard, just in case (such as the Skyrim example). And you get people like me, who become overwhelmed by the process.

I'm not sure what my ideal inventory management system would look like, if I were to enjoy one. But I suspect it ties into the mechanics of the game as a whole. RPGs tend to be more complex than, say, an adventure game. This means every complexity of the RPG (stats, classes) tends to tie into loot. I don't need my hand held, but I think some guidance on how to manage it in a game's design would be welcomed.

What kind of implementation does or doesn't work for you? Or you've enjoyed or not enjoyed? If you don't ever enjoy it, is there a way you think you might?


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