Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sugar Shack 61: Thoughts on Inventory

Thoughts on Inventory

Way back in beta, inventory was a source of agony. We had just as many tabs as now, but each was only half as big. Incredible but true! A long campaign was waged, with yours truly one of those at the forefront, to allot more space. It was intoxicating when it was finally doubled. And definitely things have been better since then.

At the same time, the relentless drive for acquisition has quickly overwhelmed even this marginally generous allotment. Sure, many things like guns and clothes and boosters can be decompiled and recreated on demand. But in the years since beta, we have seen a torrent of items which cannot:

· PB arc materials. And man, are there a lot!: feathers, tissue samples, countersigns, etc.
· Story arc items
· Stat hack kits
· Teal pills
· Seasonal items, like the snowflakes, gifts, corrupted codes, Oracle cookies and brownies, etc.
· One off items like Burning Eye Coats and Awakening Glasses
· Stuff from the constructs like Widow's Moor lenses. Since you can't go back, you tend to stock up while you are there.
· Blue frags
· Fortune cookie fortunes- stuff like the "thoughts of Neo"
· Collector stuff like Greywolf Coats
· Fly in Amber rings

Players have responded to this with ingenuity unlikely to have been anticipated by the devs:

· Dedicated alts solely for use as mules; I have a couple, and so do many people.
· Use of ingame email to store items

The disappointing thing is that the suitability of these to accommodate inventory is likely to have been a pure accident. In any case, even these have been challenged by the large number of items which are “singleton” and thus not eligible for emailing or decompiling. You know what I mean here, the Pandora Box materials, the Seraphic Feathers, the Awakening Coats, etc. As a result, here in the middle of 2007, we have a collision of two things: the immovable stone of fixed inventory, and the irresistible, beautiful force of player magpieism.

Many people have discussed this; what solutions have been suggested?

1. Expand inventory yet again. This is apparently non-trivial, since one dev has posted that expanding this could trash the whole database of inventory. The dev 9mmfu sagely wrote in May:

“This issue unfortunately is the Database and character persistence, not our desire to give the community more storage.

“The upshot is that every character as a fixed allotted number of bits in the data base. These bits for the most part are all allocated to something at this time. Meaning it would be a huge and potentially catastrophic disaster if we monkied with the DB to try an accomidate a significate change.

“We are very aware of the limited space player's have some of that is intended and some of it isn't.

I'm thinking that MxO cannot be the only game or the only software product in the universe which needed to revise a database after it went into production. So, presumably this would not be like inventing the wheel or something? Fortunately this is not the only option.

2. Expand the code archive. I mean, 500 items was okay 2-3 years ago. But this is 2007! This is only a very partial solution to one part of the issue though. However, it has the merit of leading to my next point.

3. Allow currently non-decompileable items to be decompiled, with the code serving as singleton code items, only compileable into a single item. This would keep the sad, dull singleton restriction but free up space in inventory. Naturally this would work best with an expanded code archive. Otherwise it merely alleviates one problem at the expense of aggravating another. For singleton items, it should also be ordained that they cannot be lost when being decompiled. Otherwise this would not be elegant, to say the least.

4. Allow an additional mule character to store junk. Of course, being able to access the inventory from an alt while logged on with your main character would be a cool thing too. This would be tough, but possible, it seems to me. Related to this is:

5. Allow us to mail singleton items to alts on the same server. This would also reduce some of the pressure. I have a strong suspicion this is technically possible, since I know of at least one ostensibly singleton item which has been placed in email.

6. Bags of Holding. Quite common to many games. Incorporating this would not be like inventing the wheel or something.

7. Off-Character storage, as with banks, rentable storage depots, “hovercraft walk-in closets”, etc. Not exactly a revolutionary idea, I know. But obviously doable in many other games.

8. Permit the mail system to scan all the way down. How tough would that be? Currently the mail window can only allow about 50 number of items to be viewed. To see anything beyond this you have to delete existing items from the 50. Good luck trying to find anything from last year; you have to a major overhaul to achieve something as seemingly simple as seeing how many snowflakes you have. I have several blue frags. I can’t remember the last time I saw them, since doing so would involve effort on a par with spring-cleaning my house!

9. Allow us to append multiple items to email. If we could attach 10 or 20 items per email, we could live within the current constraints of viewing.

Of all these I am guessing that Option 1 is the best from the point of view of the players. When I watch my son play WoW and I see the huge inventory he has, I want to cry. However, from the point of view of devly convenience, I suspect that Options 8 and 9 are the least technically daunting.

Some people object to this, on the grounds that we should live within our inventory budgets. No one is saying people have to fill up their inventories. But since acquisitiveness is such a fundamental, simple human pleasure, frustrating it seems unreasonable.

Some people might think, “If you’ve filled up already, then even if inventory were doubled, you’d be back in a year wailing for more”. However, the current inventory limit was set more than two years ago, before we had anniversary t-shirts, blue frags, Neo’s thoughts, Oracle cookies, non-stackable corrupted stuff, and the slew of Pandora’s Box items, to mention but a few. That was then and this is now; such a request is quite reasonable considering the world we live in.

Let the devs review people’s suggestions, here and in the Development Roundtable, where many of the suggestions above have parallels. They have been so successful with so many things; I am sure they could be successful with this as well.

This and dozens of other writings relevant to MxO may be found in my blog, manifoldmischief.blogspot.com. Thanks to Walrus for the first doubling of inventory, ages and ages ago.