MMO Baggage: Encumbrance Vs Inventory

Piles of Loot

Inventory managment has always been an issue for me and I despise it in every game except for Warframe. For some reason this is the only game I’m playing at the moment that just has one big pot for all of the craftables and ‘stuff’.

Warframe does charge for arsenal unlocks, but to be fair, that’s a pittance in comparison to the sheer amount of different types of blueprints, crafting materials, pet growing materials, lootables, and other random junk a Tenno collects as we murder hobo their way through the universe.

So today I want to ask the following:

Why don’t we see too many other games taking on Warframe’s inventory model?

Why aren’t more games looking at ESO’s near bottomless crafting bag?

And/or why not Encumbrance over slots?

Bag Space Boggle

Most games use the bag space method of inventory limitation. So you only have so many bag spaces you can fill before you can’t carry anything else. A lot of free to play or buy to play games monetize this feature by selling additional bag spaces to players.

There’s just one problem with bag slot sales on a per character basis. That is what happens when people get bored playing a class, new classes are released, or builds get nerfed.

Take GW2 as an example. I have unused characters serve as bank alts to carry a lot of my extra storage. I also have a three person legacy guild with an unlocked guild bank that we just store extra shareable items in.

Sadly I haven’t bought bag expansion in GW2. Due to the alt friendly nature of the game, I can’t justify spending cash on bag slot unlocks for just ONE of the … many… characters I have in GW2.


NOW, investing in bags expansions for one character would work if I could unlock all of the classes on one character. Then I could swap back and forth between those classes that I enjoy the most on the same character.

Then quite honestly, I’d have no problem investing more in one character if I knew I could swap between classes and builds to avoid nerfs or boredom.

With GW2 I can’t say that I need more bank space as much as I could really use an unlimited crafting bank in the same vain as ESO. Mostly for the huge quantities of materials required for ascended and legendary crafting. And or making bag space unlocks account wide as opposed to character bound.

Come on guys, infinite crafting bags, industry standard, why isn’t this a thing?

This could be a boon to players. Why?

  • Because there’s never enough room for all the crafting mats that players need.
  • It’s usually super handy to have even low or mid tier mats lying around for leveling players or even alts or alt jobs.
  • Also crafters are going to be a bit more heavily invested in your game as it just takes so much work!

If it takes a good amount of time to get a crafter leveled up and geared up, a player is going have that veteran status feeling for that game.

Veteran status by the way is one of WoW’s big sticking points. Players that have this Veteran status feel are going to have a MUCH harder time leaving a game than folks who don’t feel invested in the product.

These steady crafters are probably going to have their crafting and sales dailies that are going to keep your game lively and the economy running even during those pesky content droughts.


Now if you’ve seen the title of the article you’ll notice that I haven’t even touched encumbrance yet. Encumbrance is the concept that you’re limited on the amount of things you can carry based on weight and not by the number of different things you have in your bag.

One thing I really liked about New World is that it has an encumbrance system over a bag slot system. For me this is super handy because I don’t have to worry about running out of bag space.

The downside is that I have to do the Neocron waddle when I end up carrying so much that I can barely move. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve earned it and I build tanky characters to compensate. I can’t tell you how many times I went up to the limit in Fallen Earth.

For some reason encumbrance and getting slowed down doesn’t bug me. Mostly because I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything behind just because I can’t shove another thing in my bag.

The physical slow down just feels better as a physical indicator even if it can be pretty annoying when a wolf is trying to chew my butt.

Safe to say I’d prefer an encumbrance model any day, but I know that’s old school and more of a PvP or sandbox approach that doesn’t resonate with many other gamers or games for that matter.

Encumbrance AND Bag Space

The one inventory system I can’t get behind is the Black Desert Online inventory system that charges players for BOTH encumbrance and bag spaces.

  • If you want to fish in BDO you needed a bag space for every fish you wanted to catch.
  • If you wanted to carry craft items, you were limited on the carry weight of the crafting materials even if you were only carrying one or two types of craft materials.
  • And finally when gathering you could get double penalized by getting a bunch of different items, some of which like trade items are really heavy. Fortunately now they stack, but that wasn’t always the case.
  • Oh and silver also had a carry weight, fortunately this one has been removed.

Safe to say while I adored the concept of BDO, the actual play of the game was an adventure in heart break and endless frustration, but that’s a story best left untold for the moment.

Wrapping It Up or the TLDR

In closing I don’t mind games making price points out of inventory management in non sub games. I also don’t mind adding extra inventory space AS a sub feature, when it’s done well.

Out of all of the free to play games on the market though I honestly think that Warframe comes out on top in inventory monetization. Warframe monetizes where it counts and doesn’t penalize players with a one size fits none inventory system that doesn’t expand along with the inevitable growth that is any game’s ever expanding crafting system.

Even as GW2 has tried to manage crafting items by having a horizontal progression system, they’re always adding new difererent types of stat groups and new ways to craft items in these stat groups. Even though the base materials for those haven’t changed, there’s now one more item that people will need to get if they want that stat group on their gear. That means that even in GW2, crafting items are also an ever expanding issue.

Warframe monetizes your warframe and weapon slots. These come along in reasonable quantities.

While it may be a pain to have to pay for or grind for that extra warframe slot, you can always sell a frame you don’t use or even recycle it for skills using their new system. This frees up a warframe slot so that you don’t have to buy one unless you just want to.

This means that while players may have to stop for some inventory management when they’re already in their ship pulling weapons or warframes out of the queue, they DON’T have to stop in the middle of a fast paced game session just to free up some inventory space.

This also gives players more ‘fun’ uptime in just logging in and getting started. If players have to stop and look at their bags first, this can be a big demotivator to game play IF they don’t have other motivating factors to get them into game play.

When your players are looking at their bags and wondering “Is it worth playing this game when I have to spend so much time just managing my inventory?” You may have already lost the war before the battle even starts.

While I like the encumbrance method of inventory management over bag space, I know it’s not for every game. Warframe would be completely wrecked if players slowed down because they were carrying too much.

However, for PvP games or games where resources are supposed to be a commodity I can see encumbrance being something useful. I also like the slow down method. Being physically slowed actually gives me more of an incentive to return to town.

Bag space fill ups are more the buzzing fly of inventory management as you just keep tossing junk items here and there to make some space and keep going until you hit that wall again. It really wrecks the flow of gameplay when I have to stop every five minutes just to manage my inventory.

Granted, I should probably just pay the 35 bucks for the handy dandy vendor npc that follows you around. Yes ESO, I’m looking at you.

Until next time I’ll working on my plotty plotting since it’s D&D night.

Thank you dear reader for tip toeing through the mine field with me. Please stay safe and healthy in these trying times.


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