Jay Rampant Coyote Barnson has written a nice post responding to my earlier post about pots in CRPGs. In his post, Jay writes in defense of consumable items, although he shares a lot of the same issues–the ol’ wand of fireballs that you keep on toting around because you just know you’re going to really need it for another battle. Eventually, of course, you find it still sitting in your inventory at such a late point in the game that any monster you used it on would laugh at you.
As I was reading his post, though, I had a couple ideas. One was to make items specific for a particular boss battle. WOW does this all the time, giving you, say, a gnomish thingamajig that will shrink down an elite water giant so you can easily smite him. However, my friends and I always have to try killing one in his elite form–just to prove we got the guts to do it. Unfortunately, usually the only way you can actually complete the quest is to shrink them with the device.
However, why not give you an even better reward if you don’t? That way, if you had to use it to get past the boss, fine; that’s what it is there for. However, if you somehow manage to get it done without it, you get a bonus reward. I could see a system where you’d automatically get gold or experience point bonuses if you have a certain amount of potions in your inventory at a certain point–they’d all disappear, automatically, rewarding you without fuss.
I was thinking, too, that some games indirectly reward for not using pots or consumables by making those items very valuable to vendors. I’d have to do dig to find examples of this, but I’ve played CRPGs in which the potions were worth enough gold to make me seriously wince whenever I had to “waste” merely to save my characters’ sorry lives. It’d be easy enough to put a vendor at the starting area of a new zone that’d offer to buy all your now-useless stuff for a hefty markup, and it’d make sense, too–just because a 50 health point potion is useless to you doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be great for the low level guards (or sick farmers?) hanging around that zone. Maybe they could restock the store for future novices?
And I agree with Jay that inventory management can be fun, but also very tiresome. I like games that will show you at-a-glance not only if an item is an upgrade for a particular character in a particular slot, but whether that item is an upgrade for any character in any slot. That shouldn’t be too hard to program. It could be as subtle as I’ve seen in some games, where the characters’ faces light up if you hover over an item that is an upgrade for them.
I also like the idea of a character getting attached to an item. So, if you try to take his favorite sword away, he’ll say something like, “Oh, man, don’t take away Audry the Impaler!” Even if it had no real impact on the game, it’d still seem to give the characters a bit more personality and make equipping more interesting, if not enjoyable. I could imagine a character liking a “pretty” ring better than one that was actually more useful.
In general, I’m not a big fan of special armor or weapons. By “special,” I mean something like a longsword +4 vs. lizardmen. That might be great if the whole game is swarming with lizards, but, let’s face it, you’re going to be lugging that thing around forever just hoping to God you somehow find a lizardman before the game is over. Bleh. The same goes for “ring of earth resistance.” Yawn. Just make a “ring of magic resistance” and have it cover everything, but be weaker. If you really want a character to have such a specialized form of protection, just make it a spell. That way, you don’t have to clutter up your inventory with a spare set of rings for everybody.
I don’t think characters should automatically heal or mana up after a battle, but I also don’t think the player should have to manually cast a bunch of spells, eat foods, quaff, etc. Just give me a damn “REST” button. It’s actually kinda fun watching your stats build back up and keeping your fingers crossed that you don’t get surprised by monsters. It’d be even neater to throw in a skill that makes you better at hiding or securing your camp (always a fun thing to see in games).
I think in general, many players (most?) will feel bad about using consumable items. If you say “this wand has 10,000” charges, we won’t use it. If you say “this wand has a 24 hour cool down,” we’ll a lot more likely to use it. I’m not sure why this is, especially in games where there’s a good to certain chance you’re going to find plenty of wands or pots.
One thing I do love is finding weird pots or wands–“Potion of Azamondius” or some such. You’re like…what is that? You quaff it, get a message about “Nothing seems to happen…” Reload. Okay, I don’t know what this pot does, but it must do something–I’ll hold on to it and keep my eyes open for some clues about where this might be needed. That kind of thing always adds a bit of spice and prevents you from zombie play.
Might and Magic 6 did so many things right that, for whatever reason, nobody else imitated. One of the best was letting you have two NPCs in your party–they didn’t fight, but could take care of things that some players didn’t want to bother with. I remember one was buying stuff off your characters so you wouldn’t have to run back to town. I *love* this solution. For one thing, anyone who doesn’t mind the trek can just hire another NPC that does something else. For another, there is a trade-off; maybe it’d also be nice to have that NPC who helps you spot traps or improves the quality of the food you eat. Fine; I’m willing to live with that. At any rate, here’s a solution that makes perfect sense in the game world and lets players customize aspects they don’t like. Finally, it’s a fun chance to add some more personality to the game by giving these NPCs humorous dialog and such without having to worry about seriously impacting the game mechanics (as you would if they could actually fight).