Luxury Bag Space In MMORPGs Is Bogus


The sun is beaming, bouncing off my leather boot curb stomping another weasel skull. Ranger knees on the grass, my bombshell blonde stuffs carcass remains into her satchel. Or tries to. Glaring red text at the center of my monitor blares, “Inventory Space Full.” What? Sixteen slots are overflowing with beetle mucus, iron ore, dilapidated daisies, two fishing rods, potions, and bind-on-account quest items. Instead of letting maimed mammal viscera hang outside my pocket like a punk kid’s wallet I have to hobble back to town to cram materials into storage. The fourth wall is broken. And I spend more time roleplaying warehouse manager than I do purging the wildlife.

Back in my day inventory space was only limited by the amount of gold in your purse. Run out of slots? Head to the Auction House and purchase a new colored sack to double, triple, or quadruple the amount of bric-a-brac hidden beneath your robe. Nowadays bag space is a luxury, expandable through the cash shop or by completing quests.

A “luxury.” Let that word sink in. Bag space is a luxury like a Sharper Image AcuTouch Massage chair, like a 24K Gold Plated iPhone, like a 4-Star chic hotel with a balcony view of half-naked tourists on a Miami beach. Bag slots are considered an unnecessary comfort, one clipped with a price tag.

Commodifying bag slots is a natural progression from the early days of MMORPGs. Vigilance against pay-to-win shenanigans has caused companies to second-guess what can reasonably be monetized without stirring the ire of internet brigades. And when crusaders haphazardly slapped “this is pay-to-win BS, uninstall, losers” on everything developers and publishers started biting their fingernails to figure out how they can keep face and make some money. I can lucidly envision how the board room meeting ushering in the stick-poking limitation went down. The CEO paces at the head of a conference room table:

“We can’t make it obvious we want to pump these kids for their money like an Azerbaijan oil field. How the hell do we do it?

“Well sir… you can create artificial limitations… limit bag space, put the frilly items in the shop… ya know… don’t make it pay-to-win but make it ‘pay-to-make-life-easier.’”

“Dammit Johnson! You’re a brilliant son of a bitch. Give this man a raise!”

And so rings the death knell for traditional bag space expansion. Rather than buy fanny packs in the player-run auction house, 8 glittering slots glare at players from the cash shop [for a paltry $7.99]. Bag space perception is reconfigured as “convenience,” and staunch defenders gallantly cut down anyone who dare raise their voice against such noble monetization decisions. The knights hold a meeting and retroactively decide that all MMORPGs with free bag slots promoted unnecessary convenience.

Is it the end of the world? No. But pay-to-not-be-annoyed raises blood pressure to near heart attack levels. How am I supposed to pursue crafting professions, collect Fox eyeballs, transport goods, mine blood diamonds, and do my taxes when I have a measly 16 slots to work with? Of course I’m tempted to spend money.

Imagine you’re on a plane. You’re job pays a meager salary so you’re sitting in a closet-like Economy class seat (an aptly named slap that the economy doesn’t work for you). A kid with snot hanging from his lips like Christmas lights presses into your chair again and again, further compartmentalizing the seat. Everyone around you adds in a prayer thanking whatever deity (Ah Puch) that the future convict isn't sitting behind them. The kid leans forward and whispers in your ear, “Pay me $7.99 and you’ll have all the space the Economy class affords you.” Well-versed little rat isn’t he?

You can earn slots by doing quests!

Yeah, well guess what? Those quests aren’t available when the game’s myriad options of play are presented. If I want to pursue crafting early on I’m out of luck, and get to stand near my storage locker like a runaway staying at the YMCA, because quest-rewarded bag slots are dished out across the entirety of the game—if at all. And typically slots are given out like after-dinner mints, one at a time. You don’t unlock a whole row of space, but one indent for one item. Great.

Well the game studio has to make money somehow!

There’s a straddled line between acceptable space and paralyzing limitations that deserve handicapped parking. I admit balancing the see-saw is no easy task. But some titles, particularly Korean ones, have decided balancing is for Yoga instructors and Gymnasts, tipping the scales towards pay-now-for-bag-slots.

MMORPGs are games designed for overindulging in loot collection. When gameplay is routinely brought to a halt because I need to vend, store, or destroy, that nebulous quality "immersion" is swinging from the gallows. Give me enough space to grind effectively so that I’m not anxiously pressing “I” to ensure I can receive a quest reward.

What I see is a trend, a trend largely accepted by MMORPG communities. (For some reason experience boosters are given stage time and bag slots sit in darkness at the wing.) While experience boosts and cosmetics are add-ons, creating value where it didn’t exist, monetized bag slots is an artificial limitation. It’s an imposed restriction, a negative “convenience,” like taunts from an alleyway with a toll. Historically, it didn’t exist but has risen from the graves of failed cash shops, to cash grandma’s check so you can keep beating kobolds to death.

I despise games with limited bag slots. It’s a tactic I hope to see wither in time. And on the day the rotten flesh of artificial limited bag slots is burned in a dump I’ll drunkenly cut down animals with my +2 Seleth Longsword until the sun sets.

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.