When I decided to start a blog a couple of years or so back, I already had the name and a clear idea what I intended to blog about. I was going to write about one of my very favorite aspects of MMOs, one of the main activities that drew me into the genre in the first place and kept me hooked all these years: inventory management.
My first post here was emblematic of what I intended. I even called it "My Bag". A handful more posts on the topic followed but the theme soon sank out of sight under the tsunami of opinion, reportage, whimsy and general MMO noodling with which anyone who visits here now and again will be all too familiar.
Despite my inability to stay on message, however, I'm still extremely interested in inventory management. There's little I like better on a Sunday morning than a long, leisurely browse through my imaginary backpacks, picking up beautifully-drawn icons of logs of wood and chunks of ore, sorting medallions, sigils and runes into tidy stacks, poring through piles of weapons and armor deciding what to keep, what to sell and what to hand on.
When it comes to inventory, GW2 and EQ2 provide an instructive contrast in approach, both from a player's and a developers point of view. Both games operate on a form of free-to-play, generating at least some of their income stream through cash shops. In the classic F2P model, inventory space has tended to be used as a key driver of income.
Like Everquest before it, EQ2 sends you out into the world with more storage at level 1 than many MMOs allow you when fully extended, expanded and kitted out at level cap. Even under the very first, most restrictive version of the EQ2 F2P template, a Bronze starter potentially had a couple of hundred inventory slots.
The irony is that it was under Allods extremely restrictive regime that I was able to hone and refine my own inventory management skills. Faced with the choice of keeping everything I owned in what would barely pass for a Halfling's waistcoat pocket in Norrath or paying real money for really not that much more, I opted for the former and learned to sort, sell and send smart.
Before that, spoiled by the vast vaultage of the Norrathian banking system and the cavernous backpacks and boxes knocked out for a pittance by Norrathian crafters, I'd been in the habit of keeping everything. If I ever did run out of space I'd just create another character and presto, another few hundred empty slots! Suddenly, thanks to the developers of Allods and other penny-pinching, money-grubbing game-makers with their selfish desire to earn a living, feed their families and keep a roof over their heads, I learned if not to love then at least to accept the tiny bag.
Moreover, it was in Allods that I also overcame my irrational fear of automated sorts. Let's not go overboard here - I still don't like systems that shake up my bags and leave everything tidier in a microsecond than I could get it in a month of Sundays. Those invisible sorting elves are having all my fun and making me look bad while they're having it. But sometimes you just need stuff sorted and fun has to take a back seat.
The upshot is that I've played GW2 for six months without feeling the need to buy any bag space whatsoever. I've thought about it a few times. My mouse pointer has even hovered over the padlock on that second bank vault. In the end, though, there are two things stopping me clicking through and spending real money: I have enough space to get by without feeling frustrated and the cost of adding more is too steep.
It seems to me that GW2 could have handled the sale of inventory space better, both in and out of the cash shop. Bags in-game are extortionately expensive. All bar the basic ones require various Runes of Holding sold by NPCs at prices ranging from four silver to ten gold. This establishes an irreducible base price for each type of bag or box and throws up a price ceiling that most players won't want to push through.
With bags being sold at a high premium both inside and outside of the game, I feel ArenaNet have efficiently and successfully trained me to be satisfied, indeed happy, with limited storage options. I'm not complaining - it works for me. I'm just not sure it's for the best for the game. As a player it means I don't even bother to make bags for myself, probably the first time that's ever happened, and as a customer the single payment I made last September, when I bought a second account, may well be the only time I give them money this side of an expansion.
That second account turned out to be an excellent decision, by the way. It's served me extremely well ever since, providing me with all the character slots and storage space I'm ever likely to need, along with the invaluable option of mailing stuff to myself, something you can't do on a single account and which is incredibly convenient.
What with all this and the very generous and easy to get Guild Bank and its extensions, somewhat to my surprise I find myself looking forward more to EQ2's new bag sorting options than to the prospect of a fire sale on storage in Tyria. Indeed, if I was going to take advantage of any of ANet's current promotions, it would more likely be the 30% off the game itself.
I don't really need a third account though. Do I?