Annoying the player and how not to annoy the player.

So… there’s this thing.


You’re in prison. you don’t have pockets. you can’t smuggle stuff in your clothes because sci fi future.
you have two hands. but you can get something to smuggle several small objects at once. or you can use that hand to carry one big object.

as long as i keep my puzzles based around one or two objects at a time, and I don’t make the game too big so you don’t have to go through a metric mess-ton of rooms to get to another item… would that still annoy the player?

at some point I’d need to have the player choose something and have that play out with the choices they made on what to bring. so limited inventory does serve a purpose.

Well, even if the puzzles only work at one or two objects at a time, and the map is only two rooms big at a time–if there are five objects that might solve a puzzle in one room, and those five objects are two rooms away, and I can only carry one object at a time, that’s something like twenty moves of shuttling objects back and forth so I can try them all on the puzzle. This is still annoying. You want to keep down the ratio of “moves where I’m trying to solve a puzzle” to “moves where I’m fiddling with stuff because the game won’t let me try the idea I just had until I fiddle with this stuff first.”

If the point of the limit is to force a choice among a few things, maybe make the mechanism force that choice more directly rather than try to make an inventory limit? Like have those things be bulky. Or include a satchel that needs to be left behind, although that’s cheesy. Or… I’m not sure what, and there’s some risk that the player will ask “Hey, why could I carry this stuff before now?” but I’m rarely happy to be forced to jump through extra hoops for the sake of realism.

(I should confess here that I complain about inventory limits all the time and I made a game with an inventory limit. But! It was a one-room game, and you didn’t actually need to pick up most of the things to do what you needed to do with it, and there was a message that told the player that that was what the inventory limit was for. I put it in because my first tester started with “take all” which messed up my nice room description with things scattered all over.)

For what it’s worth, a couple minutes’ worth of transcript, which ends at the point at which the inventory limit annoys me. I am bad at this puzzle, whatever it is, but I suspect I should not be able to take the duct. Also I forgot to examine it.

You can see Door Delta 402, Jake, your bed (on which is a copy of the Baker of Shireton (in which is a postcard)), a sink (on which is your cup (in which are your toothbrush and your tube of toothpaste)), a ventilation duct (closed) and a fire sprinkler here.

open duct
(the ventilation duct)
It seems to be locked.

x me
Everyone’s on edge. They’ll probably beat you if you try approaching them. Discretion is the better part of valor plus it’s nice to have teeth, so let’s not draw any attention to yourself.

x jake
Everyone’s on edge. They’ll probably beat you if you try approaching them. Discretion is the better part of valor plus it’s nice to have teeth, so let’s not draw any attention to yourself.

x postcard
It’s got a picture of a naked lady on one side, and the scribblings of a lunatic on the other.

read postcard
It’s got a picture of a naked lady on one side, and the scribblings of a lunatic on the other.

take all
ventilation duct: Taken.
copy of the Baker of Shireton: Taken.
postcard: You’re carrying too many things already.
your cup: You’re carrying too many things already.
your toothbrush: You’re carrying too many things already.
your tube of toothpaste: You’re carrying too many things already.

You’re carrying a copy of the Baker of Shireton and a ventilation duct.

x sprinkler
If the guards catch you messing around with that they’ll beat you for hours.

take sprinkler
That’s fixed in place.

x toothpaste
It’s empty, and the cap is missing.

x door
You see nothing special about Door Delta 402.

squeeze toothpaste
You achieve nothing by this.

open door
It seems to be locked.

x toothbrush
It’s a moldproof toothbrush. Even though it’s long and thing, it can’t be made into a shiv because it’s made of Permaplastic.

unlock vent with toothbrush
You can’t see any such thing.

bite toothbrush
That’s not a verb I recognise.

x shireton
It’s a fantasy novel based on the famous “Age of Aeons” MMORPG called “the Baker of Shireton”.

In the copy of the Baker of Shireton is a postcard.

open shireton
It isn’t something you can open.

make postcard into shiv
That’s not a verb I recognise.

x cup
A tall, clear Permaplastic cup. Moldproof and dishwasher safe. Rounded edges, and too rubbery to work as an improvised weapon.

In your cup are your toothbrush and your tube of toothpaste.

x bed
Your bed is, of course, a standard bunk built into the far wall. No blanket, no pillow. Just a slab that’s somehow more comfortable than it looks.

x sink
The sink is nothing special. Just a faucet and a drain.

On the sink is your cup (in which are your toothbrush and your tube of toothpaste).

look under bed
You find nothing of interest.

open duct with toothbrush
(the ventilation duct with your toothbrush)
(first taking your toothbrush)
You’re carrying too many things already.


… you’re not supposed to be able to take the vent.

thanks. it’s been very helpful already :smiley:

and i don’t wanna spoil anything but there’ll be ways to take a bunch of stuff in one go. you’ll just have to make do.

Matt makes a very good point. I don’t so much hate limited inventory if there’s a reason for it - until I start having to spend turns shuttling two inventory items at a time between locations because they all seem important. The idea that you can only escape with two items is interesting, but I’d suggest in that case at least a moderate amount of leeway to solve later puzzles with different combinations of items. An idea might be to let the PC give suggestions of the uses of things. If there are three different things that might be used to shove a key out of the wrong side of a lock and the descriptions point that out: “This is my toothbrush. It can’t be carved into a shiv since it’s made of permaplastic, but it might be useful for fishing something out of a narrow opening, or scrubbing corrosion off of metal.” “This drinking straw got overlooked from my last meal. It might be good for fishing something out of a narrow opening, or moving small amounts of liquid between two places.” “This plastic dental mirror could be used to poke into narrow openings, or perhaps to signal someone by reflecting a beam of light…”


the player will have several ways to overcome an obstacle.

the player will be able to hold a container that holds smaller things.
there will be two such containers, per type.

however, the player will need to locate and obtain these containers.

and nobody needs to put coins in bread.

Well, you know, even when you’ve managed to complete and publish five games that involve plot and puzzle chains longer than picking up two items and sitting down, there is still often much to be learned!
You’ll get there one day Wes. Maybe! :laughing: :wink:

I am friends with Wes, and he totally deserves this.

Well, given that the question is “Would this annoy you?”–if I have an inventory limit, and I run up against the inventory limit a lot, but I have a container that lets me circumvent the inventory limit, except I have to worry about putting stuff into my container when I don’t need it and taking it out when I need it except when I need it I have to stash something else because my inventory is full, that would annoy me. Look at this:

[code]Cafe is a room.

The carrying capacity of the player is 3.

The player carries a sack. The sack is a container. The carrying capacity of the sack is 5.

A scone, a croissant, a donut, a cronut, a tea cake, a strudel, and a danish are edible things in Cafe.[/code]

Or we could declare the sack as a player’s holdall instead of a mere container, and we get:

This is Fiddly. And if I had to solve a puzzle to get the sack, and the purpose of the sack was to make sure that I only had to fiddle around with taking things in and out of the sack instead of dropping them and shuttling around, I would still wonder why the game was making me do all this extra stuff instead of the stuff that lets me solve puzzles. Especially because the existence of the sack lets me know that the author knows that the inventory management is annoying and has chosen to include something to make it less annoying–but make me solve a puzzle to make it less annoying–when it would be nicer to make it not annoying at all.

It’s a different story if it’s actually gating progress, like I need three things to solve this puzzle but it’s in a patrolled area where I can’t just leave things lying around, so the sack is necessary for me to make progress at all. But if I could just work around the absence of the sack by shuffling things back and forth, then all the inventory limit/sack/etc. has done is make me do a lot of extra stuff if I don’t solve the puzzle, and somewhat less extra stuff if I do.

The multiple solutions thing doesn’t necessarily help–if there are three solutions, one of which involves the thing I’m carrying, and two of which involve things I left three rooms back, and the first one I think of isn’t the one that involves the thing I’m carrying, then I’m still trekking back and cursing the inventory limits.

The holdall thing came up in Moon-Shaped–IIRC there was a gameplay mechanism that did make a difference as to whether something was in your hands. Even though the holdall could hold everything, 'twas still annoying and fiddly. And Counterfeit Monkey had a holdall that was almost entirely transparent–except there’s a part where it matters whether you’ve got stuff in your bag, and the bag has to be closed, but the game kept automatically taking stuff out of your bag and automatically opening it and killing you because the bag was open and AARGH. The thing was that I had perfectly well figured out the puzzle there, I just had to keep typing extra commands because the mechanic was getting in the way. It’s like trying to drive a car that keeps stalling.

It sort of feels like you’re trying to justify the inventory limit, but as your original post shows you’re aware that inventory limits usually make players throw things–and the reason it annoys players (IMO) is that it makes them spend time on inventory management instead of the fun stuff. So unless the inventory management is somehow part of the fun stuff, it’s gonna be annoying. (And as I said, there may be another way to force the player to choose an object when that becomes part of the fun stuff.)

Now I want to write a game where the player is an octopus and has a carrying capacity of 8. :smiley:

why isnt’ the sack wearable? or am i thinking of purse? i mean…

i don’t wanna give anything away but i try annoying myself with it before i’d consider annoying anyone else with it.

i do intend to make the inventory limit a thing you bump into but you can also get around quite easily with a wearable container with also limited inventory but still enough room for stuff. … and a smaller container that fits inside the wearable container. that way you still have three inventory spots, right?

The game Degeneracy had an inventory limit similar to what you described. Try playing it and see how frustrating (or not) it feels.

I don’t dislike inventory limits. (Actually, some time ago I have partially designed and implemented a game where the inventory limit was actually crucial to winning the game; it was impossible to complete the game without the limit.)

Concerning inventory limits: I am currently working on a game with an inventory limit of exactly one item. This is necessary because the PC has no hands and must use his mouth to hold stuff.

So. Ahem.

As with all such design rules, you can break the rule once you understand why the rule exists and why your game is an exception.

Care to explain how that works? I love it when games subvert the old clichés in a clever way like that.