BioWare Dev Explains Inventory Issues in Games, Could Possibly Hint at Anthem Inventory System

While developers are usually quite and reserved in answering development, and game-specific questions (most often instructed by PR to do so), we get rare glimpses of developers that share insight into the development process, and game design decisions we see in their games.

If you’re curious why there’s only a set amount of items you can keep in your inventory in games, then here’s the answer! Over on Reddit, BioWare developer Brennon Holmes, who’s working on Anthem, explained why that’s the case. Holmes explained the developer’s side when asked by a user on Destiny 2’s inventory limitations.

u/BrenonHolmes Sorry to bother you, but I had a question regarding inventory space in looter-shooters. The genre typically gives you access to hundreds of weapons and gear items to use, and players will obviously want to be able to collect those items, either because: 1) they like said item, 2) for collections sake, and/or 3) for sentimental reasons. Something I’ve always wondered about is: Why do some loot-based games seemingly have little storage space; relative to the amount of items possible to collect? I’m hearing/seeing complaints from people playing Destiny 2 about how they are running out of room in their vault for items. I know you can’t answer about Destiny 2’s issue, but maybe on the whole, you might be able to provide an answer.

I wanted to get a developers perspective on this (if you have one) as to why it may be difficult in giving players significantly large amounts of storage space to collect their items. Is there a memory load issue involved? Is it burdensome to develop? Is it a strain on the network/servers? I don’t want to be ignorant as to why such a dilemma exists in the genre.

I can’t speak for Destiny, I’m sure they have very valid reasons for all of the things they’re doing 😊. In a more general sense, it might have to do with a few things – storage, UX, bandwidth, architecture (?).

If you think about it, your character data… all of the plot data about what you’ve done, all of your weapons, mods, vanity items, etc… all of these things take up space – probably not a lot, mind you… but it adds up. Especially when you’re talking about storing all that data for every player that has ever played your game. Let’s say that your character data takes up 5MB, if over the lifetime of your product you have 15 million players that’s 75 terabytes. It’s not a ridiculous cost, but it’s one that you need to bear for the lifetime of the product. It needs to be archived, upgraded, maintained, etc.

Another consideration is around the UX (User Experience), designing an interface for 40 items is different from designing an interface for 400 items. At some critical mass, you start to need the ability to categorize, to filter, to search, etc. That can increase complexity and cost for your UIs.

Another consideration is around bandwidth, if you have at most 20 items (for example)… you know that your cost for sending a character from a server to a client is fixed. That means that the transmission time is generally also fixed. If it can grow much larger… you now have other types of problems to deal with. Do you need load screens now? There are platform certification requirements around how long you can display screens without activity, at ship if someone has 20 items you may be fine… but if at some point you have 200 items, maybe the load is too long now and you’re technically violating platform certification rules. This is also before we even get to talking about the fact that you have to pay for the bandwidth… 😊

Lastly, game companies often have in-house technology that we use to drive a lot of our back-end servers. These come with their own sets of quirks or limitations… there may be something in here that imposes limitations on what is possible without significant cost.

Hopefully this helps shed a bit of light on the types of things that may be happening. Often simple things like “Why can’t I store 100 items instead of 40” are often dependent on a lot of different factors. 😊

You can read up more about it here.

Will Anthem have a limited inventory as well? Chances are, it will, but at least we know why now. Speaking of Anthem, it’s one of the games which we think will be delayed this year.

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