Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 17, 2013
One of the issues that I face when playing any RPG – computer, dice & paper, whatever – is my tendency to hoard expendable items. Expendable items (AKA consumables) are those things that can get “used up.” Potions, magic items with charges, scrolls, etc. Often, at the end of a game, my level 60 character will retire victorious with an inventory still containing items he acquired back at level 2.
I hold on to these items for the time that I might really need them… only to discover I still have them long after they are no longer very useful. Then I’ll say something like, “Oh, yeah, that wand of magic missiles. You know, that would have been useful in some of those early battles.”
Occasionally I’ll go on binges. I’ll remember I have a bunch of expendable items that really should get used, and I’ll just start blowing through them. This continues until I’ve used up a good selection of my inventory, and I’ll get to hoarding again. Saving up for the next binge or something.
I wonder how much that reflects my behavior in real life… hmmm….
Anyway – there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but it does make progress through a game uneven, and likely more difficult than it should be. As a designer, you assume the player will actually use these resources to succeed against the more challenging encounters. That’s why they are there. When the “renewable” resources (like spell points – “Mana”, hit points, uses per day or per combat of abilities, etc.) are running low, you can fall back on those extra, expendable resources. Or, for the more overpowered ones, you save ‘em for that nasty boss or dragon encounter.
Now, in a Diablo-style game, players will use some of them in a steady stream. I do. I actually have no problem maintaining a constant drip of potions in those games. I hate dying with healing potions still in my belt. The game has trained me to hit those hotkeys whenever I see the red or blue indicators getting low. Health and mana potions don’t seem scarce. They don’t feel like things that need to be preserved… just a resource to manage.
But in other games – things get hoarded. I know I’m not the only one.
I’ve seen this in my own game, too. Realizing that the intro dungeon – and the general threat to low-level characters in the game system – could get a little rough for new players, I compensated by providing some really potent, expendable items – in particular, potions of Liquid Sleep, and Chloe’s magic wand of fireballs. My hope was to help train players early in the game to use these resources, and get in the habit of expending them. Between those, plentiful additional potions to be discovered in that dungeon, and an all but guaranteed leveling up in the middle of the dungeon (which automatically restores health and endurance), it seemed like a good plan, and that the dungeon was really not that hard.
But people still have trouble with it, and don’t always use these resources. Maybe it’s because it’s too hard to use them, too confusing when players are still learning the basics of the game system. That’s certainly possible. Or maybe the hoarding mentality is not limited to me, and people are reluctant to use these resources, or even think about them. I don’t know.
What do you think? Do you also end up hoarding expendable magic items? If so, what can help it? If not, what do you think accounts for the difference? The “resource management” aspect is one of my favorite aspects of old-school RPGs, and it seems newer designs (particularly AAA games) have responded by simply avoiding the problem, having most powers and resources restore automatically on a timer or at the end of combat. I’d like to see the indies forge ahead on better solutions.
Filed Under: Design, Frayed Knights - Comments: 30 Comments to Read