Dear Developers, Inventory Management isn’t fun!

Inventory Management isn't fun!One of the biggest, if not the biggest gripe I am having with LOTRO ever since my return, is inventory management. Not only am I squinting at small icons and tooltips in lieu of proper UI scale, the bags in LOTRO are one big mess and the amount of vendor trash is horrifying. There’s the option to assign individual slots to each bag nowadays and auto-order everything but that doesn’t change that you are constantly clearing out stuff and making room while painstakingly selling unwanted knickknacks at an equally terrible vendor window.

I spend enormous amounts of time clearing my bags in LOTRO despite having bought several of the cash shop inventory expansions. Bank and wardrobe space are equally unsatisfying unless you are ready to spend a lot of extra cash. As a VIP subscriber, I find this state of affairs rather unacceptable.

This particular gripe is one we may forgive in older MMOs but they’re absolutely GNARF in newer titles! So imagine my surprise when I learned that both Project Gorgon and upcoming Ashes of Creation have their own ideas about making players micro manage inventory space. For Project Gorgon it’s the general issue of limited bagspace vs. realism (05:30 onward) and for AoC it will be restricted inventory space (02:30 onward) paired with what sounds like pretty cumbersome inventory “escort travel” in order to move goods from one place to the next, BDO style.

OH JOYYY.

After 15 years of MMOing, I do not know a single MMO player who enjoys spending time sorting and moving around inventory; limited storage, tedious micro-management of too many (useless) items and having to move around inventory that’s bound to location, are decidedly unfun activities after a short time. This is not the kind of mini-game I want to spend my precious time on while playing games!

I get that for some titles, there’s the concern of realism playing into such concepts so okay, let’s keep it real: “yay, I get to spend another 30 minutes moving my goods from A to B for the tenth time” – said no MMO player ever! There’s realism to further gameplay satisfaction and there’s completely obsolete and dated MMO mechanics, such as armor decay, vendor trash, local auction houses and yes, inventory micro-management!

Let me have my generous and globally accessible bag and bank space already and spare me the plethora of vendor trash junk when I could just be looting coin or crafting resources, preferably ending up in their designated crafting storage. It’s tragic when we can’t see our special drops and purples anymore in a sea of broken sword hilts, pinewood ash heaps and rabbit hides. This stuff needs to go, folks – free our bag space!

27 comments

  1. “After 15 years of MMOing, I do not know a single MMO player who enjoys spending time sorting and moving around inventory…”

    I just wanted to point out that Inventory Full is on your blog roll. Ahem. :)

    I don’t enjoy it either, but it’s a great way to incentivize microtransactions! (Looking at you, GW2 and TESO.) Probably the most thoughtful inventory management system I’ve seen is FF14 where everything goes straight into your bags, your slots take forever to fill up, and your gear storage is designed with multiple jobs/classes in mind. Oh, and retainers.

    1. Haha I know but I was not aware whether his stance was in favor of inventory management really! I dig FF14’s default bag space which is generous – but the retainer management is very tedious too in my humble opinion. I never know which of them has what!

  2. Lately I have discovered that turning “Always loot all” off in the UI settings saves a lot of pain. When you do this all the stuff just accumulates in a queue, and disappears after an hour. You can go through the queue anytime at your leisure and a right-click on anything you do want will put into your bags.

    There are a couple of hassles…

    1) If you do any resource gathering (e.g. mining ore) you will now get prompted whether you want to loot all the stuff that came out of the node. It’s no big deal unless you are going on a major resource gathering expedition, when you might want to turn auto-looting back on for the duration.

    2) When you’ve taken everything you want, there is no quick way to empty the queue. Either you destroy the things one at a time, or leave them there until they expire of their own accord.

    Still a big improvement on having to keep dumping trash out of bags!

    None of this was possible before remote looting was a thing – came in with Rohan – so the likes of me did not “grow up” doing it and only happened to discover long afterwards.

    1. Oh wow, I had no idea – cheers for the directions! I will definitely turn off auto-loot next time I log into LOTRO then, sounds like the better alternative. I shudder at the old days. ;)

  3. @ Karinshastha Hehehe! You got there before me!

    My feelings on inventory management have become more nuanced over the years. For a long time it was solidly in the top two or three reasons I played MMOs in the first place. Increasing inventory space has always been one of the prime progression mechanics that drive and hold my interest in any MMO. One of the things I have always looked forward to most in EQ and EQ2 expansions is the incoming tier of larger bags and boxes that crafters can make. Its almost as exciting as getting new levels.

    I also thoroughly enjoying sorting, tidying and ordering my bags. I am not exaggerating to say that I have often settled down at my PC after breakfast on Sunday looking forward to spending most of the day working on my bags and bank vaults. i did once spend all Sunday and most of Monday doing it.

    That said, I don’t by any means love all inventory systems. Some are bland and others are terrible. LotRO is, I think, quite literally the worst I’ve ever used. It manages to combine ugliness, lack of facility and sheer, bloody irritation in a way nothing else can, not even cheap cash-grab F2Ps. I also didn’t much like Black Desert’s system, which was fiddly. I do like regional banks though.

    In the end, like everything else, some people enjoy bag sorting and some don’t. I think if inventory management really was as unpopular as you’re suggesting, very few MMOs would use anything more complicated than a big rectangle accessed from the UI. Personally I really, really like systems that use actual bags and boxes that are objects in the world.

    As for removing trash loot I feel exactly the opposite. Stop giving us “good” drops that we are supposed to salvage for mats (GW2 is appalling for this but it’s not the only one) and give us actual vendor loot that sells for decent coin. I used to get so excited when one of those rat pelts dropped in EQ that sold for over a platinum to a vendor – it was as good as a drop off a boss mob any day!

    1. Haha, seek help! :P
      Now really, I get that some people enjoy sorting stuff but I don’t think it should be a constant occurrence every 20mins when you’re trying to progress through quests and dungeons. To take a Sunday afternoon organizing all your ‘riches’ is a different thing in my mind; there is value attached to everything and you’re seeing an end result. That seems different than clearing bags constantly while playing which breaks game flow all the time and isn’t meaningful in any way.

      I agree some MMOs do it better than others, WoW was never an issue somehow. I can also see that certain gamer types, certainly traders and crafters, see inventory expansion as a progression mechanic. For others it’s a pure hindrance – there’s a hundred other things that should be motivating me to play before something as trivial and pesky as bag space.

      As for better trash drops, I could certainly live with that! Loot overall is very underwhelm for the most part these days.

  4. My first though on the “…I do not know a single MMO player…” was Bhagpuss as well.

    LOTRO has a particularly bad combo of lots of vendor trash, tiny icons, and a horrible vendor interface for selling. Add in all the daily give-away things that accumulate, special items from expansions, quest items that still show up, holiday tokens, crafting supplies, various potions of dubious value, and then actual gear and it is a complete mess. Merely opening up my bags has become a deterrent to actually going back to play the game. If I were in the books I would be the character that excused himself somewhere after Moria because he couldn’t find anything in his bags. So there I sit in Lothlorien, all my stuff strewn about the floor, trying to decide if I need those boar hooves or whatever.

    I am not dead set against making limited inventory a factor. Make the player make choices about what they really value. That is fine. That sort of thing was a factor in early EQ and early WoW and worked well enough in both places. But don’t then make the interface bad and constantly fill up the player’s bag with vendor trash from every mob. You can’t have it both ways.

    1. “…So there I sit in Lothlorien, all my stuff strewn about the floor, trying to decide if I need those boar hooves or whatever.”

      ROFL that would be me.

      I have nothing to add other than that LOTRO really is that terrible. I recently discovered you can actually ‘pay extra’ (of course) to also expand your token/currency tab. Otherwise you’ll be carrying 50 different ones of them around before long.

  5. You knoooooooooow, inventory management is one of if not THE most profitable avenue for micro-transactions. It’s in the best interest of game designers and developers to make it a huge pain in the butt so you buy expansions and chests and bank slots and stuff.

    *cough cough*payment models*cough cough*

    ;)

    1. If LOTRO offered cash shop options for bigger icons or a better vendor interface, I’d be all over that. Money in the bank, so to speak.

      As it is though, everything they offer comes with the eye-strain-o-vision iconography and the shite vendor tab that literally makes me never buy anything in the cash shop because I can’t stand the sight of either.

    2. I knowww….to be fair, inventory gripes are really as old as MMORPGs. Long before 2017, UO and EQ were terrible already without cash shops. This is just a very tiresome subject and monetization sure didn’t make it better!

  6. How many people did you actually ask about their opinion on inventory management? Because I enjoy it too… not as much as Bhagpuss for sure, and of course there are better and worse ways a game can go about handling it, but in general I find that there’s a certain fun in shuffling loot around.

    1. Haha – not many! Rants are beautiful because they don’t have to be balanced and they provoke disagreement! QED :D

      I never met an inventory management junkie though, only UI modding fans! Many of my guild mates used to moan about bagspace in WoW and beyond.

  7. Actually, I like inventory management. I know this makes me rather odd, but there’s just something satisfying about bringing order to the chaos that is bags in games. Figuring out what to keep, what to ditch, what to sell, and what to auction gives me a little jolt of pleasure. But, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority here. :)

    But, just remember that for anything, there’s going to be someone out there that enjoys it. There are still people who pine for EQ1 style corpse runs, even!

    1. Yeah of course – I know players who enjoy the market and auction house game myself. I guess inventory management is something that goes more naturally with that. It’s not that I mind having to make choices of what to keep in MMOs but I do not want my gaming flow interrupted every 20 minutes because bagspace. I doubt many players truly enjoy this.

  8. I think these things may depend on your clutter personality. Sounds like there are the “neat and tidy” folks that gain pleasure from keeping everything just so, whilst many of us suffer boredom and bulging bags.

    My MMO life got a lot simpler and more enjoyable once I stopped keeping things that “might be useful someday” and started cheerfully throwing everything away.

    Btw to those seeing the ugly hand of monetization in this, LOTRO has done a surprising amount to reduce your bag requirements in recent times. Many things now stack to 500 where it used to be only 100, and where for example there once were three types of Khazad ores to drop and burden your bags, now there’s only one. It’s a similar story with all types of crafting at all levels. And unless my memory’s really playing tricks, a lot of those class quest items (Emblems of Something and Runes of Whatnot from Carn Dum) didn’t use to stack at all, and now they do.

    I complain as much as the next person about the cost of extra bag and vault space, but thanks to such changes (and the loot queue thing in my first comment) I feel like I’ve actually got enough space now, and don’t have to stress about perpetually rearranging where I keep things or what I can keep.

  9. In response to your Twitter post, I mentioned roguelikes have a legit tendency for extremely limited inventory space and picking and choosing what items come with you. Basically, inventory space *matters*, as opposed to being a minor inconvenience that likely exists mostly because you can’t give players infinite item storage because server costs.

    However, I have one significant counter-example of an MMO that revels in inventory management and inventory movement: EVE Online.

    1. Ah yes EVE, one I sadly can’t comment on because I never played it. :) I think you’re spot on that there’s few genres where inventory restrictions are actually meaningful vs. added nuisance/timesinks. It does make more sense in roguelikes, certain sims and any games that deal with trade and resource management!

    1. Haha afraid not! This really needs an overhaul before everything else.
      They make you pay extra for absolutely everything at the moment, also expanding the token/currency bag which makes a huge difference. I carry so many marks and rep currencies around that won’t go in there unless I pay…

  10. I dig inventory management!

    I think especially in games where trades are important, the task of planning the transport of items to craft or sell is a deliberate step. That can separate the players who are “annoyed they are forced into crafting” and the players who are dedicated enough to take all of the steps!

    There’s more to it I think, but that’s the gist… making inventory easier and unlimited devalues certain aspects of gameplay. :)

    1. I agree there are genres or certain activities where inventory restrictions are part of progress and achievement. Also see Talarian’s post further up which makes a good point.

      As a non-trader in MMOs, I don’t exactly hate organizing my bank from time to time; what upsets me is game flow being interrupted every 20mins to clear out bags. That is not a meaningful activity in any way.

  11. I don’t think it’s really something you can blame on the free to play model- games had inventory management, and encumbrance limits, long before that was a thing. I remember crafters in DAoC begging for strength buffs to carry materials from the vendor to the forge, and the hilarity that ensued when the buff got cancelled half way there.

    Like almost anything in games design, it can either result in interesting choices or a chore, depending on how it’s implemented. I’ll grant that LOTRO doesn’t have the best inventory system I’ve seen…

    1. Yeap, also see my reply to Liore further up! :) Inventory was always mostly terrible in MMOs, in my humble opinion. Few games like WoW did okay, I dig GW2 especially where resources just end up in their own database….and LOTRO is teh worst!

  12. I am in so much agreement right now!! Inventory space in LotRO is bugging me SO much. I think WoW has got it somewhat right, these days. On my main, all of my bags for 30 slots, anything for transmog goes into the wardrobe, and there’s a dedicated crafting section of my bank. Since they’ve implemented these things I haven’t had an issue with inventory management and it is sooo glorious. My default is still to go to a vendor/banker/mailbox at any given moment to keep things in order and not end up in a complete mess but that’s also how I keep it sorted in other MMOs. LotRO have… something. Just.. erk. If you own the expansions and/or VIP, this really should not be as tied into microtransactions as it is.. in ESO, if you’re a VIP member, you get an unlimited crafting bag. All crafting mats go into it automatically, you can access it at any time. It’s an incentive to subscribe, you REALLY miss it if you don’t (which is another issue entirely), but you at least feel less gimped, unlike LotRO. It makes me grumpy. And there is a special place in hell for GW2’s inventory management system. I like their crafting bank options, but otherwise, ACK.

  13. My FFXIV inventory mostly consists of “what is this thing that has the same icon as 7 other things also in here, and what’s it used for?” I clear it out, run a few roulettes, do some questing, and suddenly have bags full of random stuff again.

    Then there’s two retainers with more inventory of the same stuff, some of which probably is duplicates because there isn’t a way to have both of them open at the same time to figure out who has what.

    Then I have to try and find one of those things to craft something, which of course can’t pull from a retainer’s inventory automatically because reasons…

    Yeah, this pretty much sucks. Oh, and then there’s the stuff that literally has no purpose except to sell for gil. Why does that even exist? Why not just give me the gil directly?

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