Inventory and Immersion
The Dark Brotherhood DLC goes live next week and I could not be more excited. Nyx, my main Nightblade, is a thief rather than an assassin, but Vashta Neradae, my Dunmer, insect-themed Daedra worshipper, is going to be all over this. Poisons, huzzah! All hail Sithis! However, while the DB content will be exciting, the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the “crafting bag” storage added to subscriber accounts. Honestly, if I hadn’t been a subscriber already, the promise of “infinite” crafting storage would have tipped it for me.
I just recently used subscriber Crowns to purchase the banker assistant, and I can not overstate how much it has changed/improved the game for me. Since I joined in late December, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I have spent dozens of hours of my life on inventory management: transferring craft mats to mules and back again, logging and re-logging to shift inventory so new mats would fit, running back into town in the middle of a quest line only because my bag was full (of crafting mats). Making a new suit of armor for a character involved several runs back and forth from the bank to the specialty crafting station (usually in the distant wilderness), and since my crafting is spread over several characters, I had to repeat those repetitive, back-and-forth runs multiple times as I did cloth/leather (‘Fire), then metal weapons/armor (Issa) , then staves/bow (Zahara). Now, with the banker, I can go to the specialty station… and just stay there, summoning Tythis in and dismissing him when I’m done. When I’m questing, if my bags get full I can summon him into a quiet corner, un-load, and go back to having fun.
The thing is, continually moving stacks of raw flax, linen bolts, or steel ingots is not sexy, not fun, not interesting. I love doing crafting, I f—ing hate messing with crafting inventory. It’s repetitive, it’s boring. And worst of all, it’s damned unnecessary.
I get that inventory size regulation is part of the limitations that do add to the game’s fun. But accumulating cool stuff is also part of the fun. Human beings – real ones – we like our stuff. We like to look at it and decorate with it and touch it. But the only way to interact with the game world’s “stuff” is to put it in our bags and look at it. If my bank inventory, and most of my characters’ inventories, are filled with crafting mats, then the game becomes about accumulation of boring stuff I don’t really care about. Crafting mats are a means to an end, and are nothing in and of themselves. I vastly prefer all those things that don’t have personal appeal to be invisible.
I realized last week while I was playing that not only does “infinite crafting bag” mean no more shuffling stacks of runes from a holding alt to the bank and back again, it also means that the space in my bank will be free for trophies, collections, and trinkets. In other words – character memories and accomplishments. As of next week, when I open my bank inventory, I’ll see cool things that remind of fun times I’ve had, and interesting character adventures… as opposed to seeing boring things that remind of what a friggin’ slog crafting can be.
It would be absolutely wonderful if they push this concept even further when they do player housing. Each of my characters has a collection (I’ll be featuring galleries this summer) and I love how much depth those items add to the personality I’m playing. Zellfire collects hair care products – that tells you something about her, right? Zelliah d’Argent collects high-quality serving dishes and utensils, because of course she does. Vashta Neradae has an extensive collection of creepy dolls and Daedric ritual items. Remember the doll collection Drusilla had around her bed in early Buffy:TVS episodes? That’s how I imagine Vashta and her dolls — but I have to imagine it, because I can’t make it happen on the screen. Wouldn’t it be cool if the player houses had the option of displaying inventory items as 3D objects in the house? Even if it were just a trophy case with 5 slots, that would provide an incredible immersion opportunity. “Hi, welcome to my home! Oh, that? That’s three selections from my creepy doll collection, a Daedric ritual candle, and a cute little wrist wrap made out of tattoo’d skin. No, I’m not planning on sacrificing you to the Night Mother, but… don’t displease me.”
In short: Inventory management directly affects immersion, directly impacts how the player and the character view the world, and could directly impact how other players perceive a character in a way that goes far beyond clothing choices. Player housing could be hugely supportive of this concept, and I hope it is.
In the meantime, allowing me to shift focus away from stacksandstacksandstacks of the same boring mats and over to more immersive, role-playing-centric items is a great way to start. Well done, ESO.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hoard some more plants in anticipation of all poison I’m going to get to brew soon…