So, I thought about games that feature inventory puzzles in one form or another — the kind that I feel I enjoyed in some capacity, anyhow — and tried to figure out exactly what about them really worked for me.

Games that didn’t make the list were those I found that were less about management and were more about “the equipment list.” For management to be a part of gameplay, I felt it there had to be an thing you had to pay attention to–

For example, Final Fantasy phones it in, allowing you to generally carry ninety-nine of just about anything you might happen to find unless it’s plot-relevant.

Now in Diablo, you have physical representations of objects that you manipulate in a rectangular space. I only really care about the first game for the purpose of our discussion — anyway, since you can’t store anything, you have the choice to either ignore it, carry it, or sell it. This is a pretty great setup, actually.

When you combine the town portal system — which might be a cheat, if not for the fact that you have to budget room for them until you can cast the spell yourself — it means you have to weigh the speed of your quest’s progress against the time it takes to travel back and forth between the dungeon and your home base.

Item durability works here, because you can try and time your trips back to town so that you can sell excess loot and repair your items in a single trip.

In Fallout 3, you have the durability of items weighing on you but you can sacrifice items of the same type in your inventory in order to affect repairs. This is fantastic, since it gives you a reason to collect items that you might otherwise ignore — and when they’re used in this fashion, it reinforces the “scavenger world.”

It can be difficult to find good places to fix your stuff or sell your loot, so the ability to increase your self-sufficiency is paramount to making the game work. Now, if only repairing your equipment also gave you experience points!

I don’t know if the math works, but it seems like the process should make the items more valuable — such that if you pick up twelve rifles, burn six to repair the other half-dozen, you should be able to sell them for more than you’d get for twelve.

See, there are some good points about both — having a “mere” list item with a weight, and having a graphical representation to pick up and move around a rectangular area. You can reinforce the game’s themes with a good puzzle!