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AG Theme of the Week 1 - Managing Our Stuff

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Managing Our Stuff

Most adventure games have some sort of inventory system for objects that we pick up and need to use somewhere else, but I’ve always been amazed at the variety of the ways we store and retrieve those objects.  The methods designers give us to manage our stuff can be clunky, cumbersome, instantly intuitive, or automatic, but once we use a system a few times, it usually becomes second nature as we move through the game.

Inventory systems can be basic, as in a list of items

or a list with pictures.

Sometimes a right click will bring up the gadgets you are carrying
or you may need to click on your PDA,

your Oracle wrist unit, 

or your coffin.

The articles may appear at the top of your screen

or at the bottom

or in another screen altogether.

Sometimes you have a limit to the things you can carry with you, and the rest are stored in other places, such as
here or here:

Sometimes you have to carry your stuff around in a valise, 

a purse,

or a box,

and sometimes you just use your pockets, even for a shovel.

Some systems make scrolling through multiple items a chore,

but then in some games you can’t carry more than one item at a time, and if you let go of it, you’ll just have to fetch it again.

Some games allow you to view everything at once, but in some you have to scroll through your objects one at a time.

In addition, many games give you closeups of items that might give you further information, and many require you to combine objects before you can use them.

We don’t always pay much attention to our inventory unless it causes problems, but there are a plethora of methods created to help us manage our stuff.  What games have your favorite inventory systems and which ones could you do without?  Are there any unique arrangements that you haven’t seen anywhere else?  Also, think about the items you’ve carried about.  What is the strangest, the silliest, or the most awful?

By the way, I purposely left the titles off these screenshots, but most should be familiar to you.  If not, just ask.  Wink

     

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interesting.

i always loved PR:The Immortals of Terra inventory system, as it was the only adventure that had this unique style; where however many objects you are carrying down at the bottom inventory bar, they stay in/at this one row (without the need for scrolling left or right) by them always shrinking (or enlarging) to the size that can make all you inventory objects apparent .

also one can see each all the NPCs you met at the game down there, you can use them as inventory objects, however, this feature was apparent at other AGs too, i remember Haunted of Deck13 now. but it always had this extra kinda fun to the inventory system usage.

     

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Lady Kestrel - 15 May 2017 12:40 AM

your Oracle wrist unit, 

That was one of the worst menu/inventory system ever. So slow and clunky. Even scrolling through the seemingly-endless inventory took forever… (At least they gave you the option to you disable that obnoxious “Greetings, citizen!” line that plays every time you open the inventory.)


In general, I like my inventory as readily-accessible as possible. Put it on the main screen, with as little scrolling as possible, and I’m happy.

     

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Simon carried everything in his hat, including, memorably, a ladder at one point. At least in the first couple of games. EDIT: Added a quick-and-dirty screenshot from a youtube playthrough.

Lady Kestrel - 15 May 2017 12:40 AM

Didn’t care much for how Rincewind’s inventory was limited in the first Discworld but I was willing to condone it just for the sake of The Luggage’s company.

I do enjoy the occasional inventory puzzle that requires direct item manipulation in a zoomed-in view. Too many of those involve finding a battery compartment to open and loot (AG protagonists clearly live in alternate realities with a perpetual dire shortage of double As) but occasionally some better ideas sneak in.

     
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I just got through developing our inventory system for our adventure games SDK so I am fresh on the many perspectives. 

1. The inventory system is a thankless job, the better you do it, the more nobody will notice.  However…, screw it up, and nobody will want to play your game.  Same for Save / Load system.

2. When playing other adventure games, one of my pet peeves was consistency among the brand.  i.e. Sierra and Lucas arts had different systems, but they were the same among their games.  It makes me crazy to get an adventure game from an already established brand and find they changed the game mechanics a great deal from their last one.

3. Try to make everything of some use, even if just for comic relief on closer inspection of the item.  I once played a game that had like 5 items I picked up and never used.  Then tried to go back through the game and figure out where the Easter egg parts were that those items could have been used.  After watching a few play-throughs, found there weren’t any.  Which makes me think the game was finished before it was planned, or they just didn’t think things through.  Either way, it urked me.

In testing, people had no problems with our inventory system which is a hybrid of the best of about 4 systems.  I guess we’ll find out when we release.  Tongue

`Randell Trulson

     
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Advie,
That expanding and contracting in Perry Rhodan sounds like the dock on my iMac. Smile

I agree with you about The Feeble Files system, Kurufinwe.  Feeble picked up so many things in his travels, and never got rid of anything.  It would have been a bit better if we could have rearranged the items.

TerminusEst,
At least Rincewind’s luggage was always with him.  In my other example, The Messenger/Louvre: The Final Curse, you had to go to one of the trunks that had your spare items.  I often found myself missing something I needed at a critical time, but at least I could jump there using the map.

Randell,
Yes, the best interfaces are the ones that run smoothly.  Frustration with those things can ruin immersion.  In Traitors Gate, I remember picking up so many things that I never needed and then having to scroll through an endless parade to find the object I did need.  Best of luck with your game!

     

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I’ve got along with most inventory systems but this one from Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness, similar to the 1st 2 Dracula game Resurrection & The Last Sanctuary,  in theory, is a nice idea being in a circle so you can see all the items you have except you can’t as they’re too small & have to click on each item individually to get a close-up to see what it is…....but sometimes if you haven’t played the game for a couple of days, forgot what you picked-up & the image of the item is not well realised, you still might have trouble identifying what it is!

There are many other games where you accumulate items but can’t see them clearly enough to see what you’ve got - I don’t need to be led by the hand to know the purpose of a particular object (unless it’s unusual) but close-ups don’t always help to recognise an item so I prefer for them to also have a label/description! 

NB I can’t remember if in any of the games I’ve mentioned whether or not you get further description but there’s certainly a number of games I’ve played where it’s difficult to identify at least some of the items in your inventory! Smile

     
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i prefer my inventory to be displayed at the bottom of the screen.
The most annoying inventory,for me, was in still life 2 where you had only a limited of space to put the items in and if the inventory was full you had to choose wich item you would carry and wich to store away in cabinets.

     

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yes, the Feeble Files had a terrible system for using inventory. I still loved the game, but, it could have been so much better.  Simon the sorcerer had a great inventory system, I thought - he could even put a beer keg in his hat!  wow, now that would be a trick. 

I do prefer all my inventory at the bottom of the screen and I really don’t like scrolling around too much. At a glance I would like all inventory items to be seen.  I think the Lucas Arts games had it nailed down pretty good.

     
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Curse of Monkey Island, Toonstruck… type of inventory is my favorite. Simple right click, all items displayed without the need to scroll (of course, every smart designer will have you left clicking on an item after you called for an inventory window, with the window disappearing as soon as you click). And inventory item close-up is always a plus.

     

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One of the cleanest and most useable inventory systems were in UaKM and Pandora. The inventory was always there as a list and by highlighting any one item you could see it in a separate window without leaving the list. You also had the option to examine the object and a separate option to combine items. Worked well - for me anyway. I also enjoyed cheerily taking a six foot pole out of his trench coat pocket - breaking the fourth wall quietly and with style.

The one game that gave me problems with the inventory was Edna and Harvey: The Breakout but I can’t remember why. It’s some time since I played it but I do recall it annoying me in how it was used.

     

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I quite like the “right-click to bring up the inventory” system.

As to where it’s stored, I don’t really care. I don’t mind “hammerspace” even in more serious games, like Indy keeping a ladder *somewhere* on him, or Commander Low’s shovel example. It’s nice if they explain it in-universe, like the sapient pearwood trunk in Discworld, or if they play it for laughs, like Larry shoving a 100 gallon soda cup that’s larger than him in his jacket pocket in LSL2, but I’ll never cause a fuss over it.

I’d sooner take issue with overly limiting inventories, or required backtracking for items you can’t take (A Vampyre Story handled this pretty well with the teleport-fetching).

Randell Trulson - 15 May 2017 09:58 AM

3. Try to make everything of some use, even if just for comic relief on closer inspection of the item.  I once played a game that had like 5 items I picked up and never used.  Then tried to go back through the game and figure out where the Easter egg parts were that those items could have been used.  After watching a few play-throughs, found there weren’t any.  Which makes me think the game was finished before it was planned, or they just didn’t think things through.  Either way, it urked me.

You might want to stay away from And Then There Were None in that case. You’ll pick up dozens of red herring items and items that are used in alternate solutions that are easily missable. I don’t really mind that personally. Eliminates the brute force “use everything on everything” method…

     

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I think the worst inventory control system ever displayed in a game was the one used in Still Life II. Not only could you not carry your entire inventory with you, but your excess inventory had to fit in a storage bin. And if it didn’t fit the exact dimensions of an opening in the storage bin, it had to be returned to the place where you found it until either inventory or storage space was available. Complete idiocy! Although that comment easily applies to the game itself.

     

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Chrissie,
I do remember the inventory being small in Dracula Resurrection and The Last Sanctuary, but at least clicking on an item enlarged it, so it didn’t take me too long to get used to it.

The easiest inventory I ever used was in Alida.  There was only one item to pick up, and I didn’t have far to go to use it.

     

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eddyc - 15 May 2017 01:36 PM

The most annoying inventory,for me, was in still life 2 where you had only a limited of space to put the items in and if the inventory was full you had to choose wich item you would carry and wich to store away in cabinets.


ditto, this game sucked all the way, and now it’s not a surprise what Microids ve done to Syberia3 if one quietly looked back at this disastrous SL2 Frown

     

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I like the fact that in the Discworld games you can resize the inventory window to avoid having to scroll. Though clicking on luggage can be annoying at times since it likes to dilly dally.

What are your thoughts on the inventory system for the Return to Mysterious Island games? There were a couple of other Kheops games that used a similar system as well. Anyway, I thought it was pretty well done. Once I got the hang of crafting things I would keep certain types of items in certain tabs to keep it organized and quick and easy to find what I needed when crafting or using items.

     

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