Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 12, 2021
What is treasure?

I am playing a lot of games in which I control either a single character or a group that is exploring a virtual world. Inevitably there are things to find in those worlds, and my character or group has some sort of an inventory in which he can carry those things. So a part of these games is always akin to treasure hunting. However, in most cases there are limits to your inventory, in the number of things you can carry, their weight, or both. Which gets you to the point where you find something and you need to decide whether this is actually a treasure, worth picking up, or whether the value of that thing is less than the value of empty inventory slot.

What makes this exercise a bit complicated is that the things you find in the virtual world are often called after things in the real world, while their value is determined in a very different manner. In the real world you would obviously value a set of leather armor far more than you would value a mushroom. But when I play Pathfinder: Kingmaker, I tend to leave the set of leather armor behind, because it is relatively heavy for its value, while I do take the mushroom for cooking, as it is both light and useful.

In Valheim, most of the things I found were useful to me, and I considered them as treasures, even if it was very simple things like a blueberry. In Pathfinder: Kingmaker I am really getting fed up with all the non-magical weapons and armor that tends to be left behind after each combat. Because either you spend a lot of valuable time carrying all that loot to the next vendor for relatively little gold, or you just have to leave it behind.

The difference is mostly that in Valheim the game knows exactly what you need, resources to craft and build on a pre-determined crafting tech tree. In Pathfinder: Kingmaker what you consider to be valuable beyond its vendor sales price depends on choices that the game doesn't know in advance. That is most obvious with weapons: If you take the standard companions the game offers you, and use the automatic level up algorithm, you will end up with both Valerie and Amiri being specialized in bastard swords. That makes a bastard sword far more valuable than a longsword. Some weapons of the exotic type are only ever useful if you just happen to have made a rare main character that actually uses these weapons. If your main character is a monk or you made a monk mercenary you will appreciate some weapons as treasure which otherwise are just vendor junk.

There are a lot of items in a lot of games which can only be used to be sold to a vendor for currency. And in my opinion there are games in which that simply goes too far. I still remember games of the Fallout series or The Outer Worlds in which you constantly find low value items; you end up spending hours of the game to rifle through hundreds of containers, only to end up with an inventory full of vendor junk. That makes the things you find not treasure, but an inconvenience. It would be a lot more fun if you had to go through a lot less containers, and then mostly find nothing, but occasionally find something really useful or valuable. Inventory management for vendor junk just isn't fun.

You got me trying to remember my first experience with inventory management in a game. I think it might have been Treasure of Tarmin that my uncle had for the intellivision. A D&D game, go figure. Everything you found in that game was useful, but some things were more useful than others, forcing the inevitable discard.
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