Today’s Penny Arcade comic and news post focus on Torchlight‘s clever innovation in inventory (which Lead Designer Travis Baldree first used in Fate); giving all characters a backpack-wearing wolf or lynx for a pet. The pet fights for you, can be outfitted with equipment and spells, and is a fairly effective tank, but perhaps most useful is its backpack, which is huge; identical in size to your character’s.  Better yet, the pet can journey back to the surface and sell anything you give it, while you continue battling in the dungeons. The selling trip takes some time, longer the deeper you are in the dungeon, and you lose the tanking benefit of the pet while it’s gone, but when it comes to the moral victory of saving a trip to town, this is a great innovation.

    Is the Diablo 3 team thinking of anything along these lines? Not yet, at least according to what DiabloWikiJay Wilson told us in our exclusive interview a few weeks ago:

    Diii.net: How will we sell items easily in town, since there are no more town portals? How do you pop back quickly and easily without slowing down the gameplay?
    Jay Wilson: Waypoints are a little bit more frequent and your bag space is a little bit bigger.

    Diii.net: It?s going to be Diablo 2 in style? There won?t be pets you can send back, or NPC merchants out in the wild, or any other odd features?
    Jay Wilson: No.

    This might yet change, of course, but at this point the D3 team seems not real interested in innovation or newness in their inventory management plans. That by itself isn’t horrible, but consider that they are not going to include Town Portals in the game. Their reasons for removing TPs are sound; they want to add strategy and danger to combat, and make players stick it out in battle, rather than vanishing back to town any time things get sticky. That’s fine, in theory, but it seems like a good way to make item sales and inventory management very inconvenient. More frequent waypoints or not.

    No one enjoys coming up with a full inventory and having to stop in the field and sort out the junk. Left clicking items it to a pet that can sell those items though… that’s nice. Nicer than Dungeon Seige’s pack animal assistant. Hellgate: London‘s method of allowing players to instantly break down items into their (much less bulky) raw components (which were used in crafting) was another clever innovation along these lines. One thing to keep in mind: items in D3 sell for tiny amounts of gold, compared to how much you can accumulate by picking up gold. (There were no NPCs to sell items to in the Blizzcon build, but the item hover info included the sales price, so comparisons could be made). That said, I don’t think that making items so cheap that they’re not really worth the trouble of selling is a great solution to this issue.

    So what do you guys think? Should D3 stick to the old school, “you will return to town and run to an NPC merchant,” or would you prefer to see some innovation? NPC merchants in the dungeons, right clicking for instant item converting/sales (perhaps for less gold than you’d receive in town), a pet or pack animal or mercenary with extra inventory and the ability to sell it off, etc?

    Here’s Penny Arcade’s take on things. Bonus points for depicting the ugliest NPC merchant in the history of RPGs?

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