Tobold's Blog
Saturday, September 02, 2023
Junk loot

So I am watching the first streamers play Starfield, and couldn't help but notice people picking up all sorts of objects like a pen (mass 0.01, value 1), a wrench (mass 0.75, value 35), or a coffee mug (mass 0.25, value 55). And my blood starts to boil, because I really, really wished that for once we could get a CRPG without that sort of junk loot. The wrench has absolutely no function in the game, in spite of what you might think about a game in which you build space ships and colonies. Just like the rope in Baldur's Gate 3 doesn't have any function, in spite of a rope being a staple of D&D equipment. These are all just items that take up space or weight in the inventory, until you get to a vendor to sell them. And as that might take some time, you end up with an inventory full of junk, and you wasting valuable play time managing the junk in the inventory. With bad inventory management already being a point of criticism in the early Starfield reviews, as well as the lack of usable maps that actually would show where the vendors are.

If you open every container and scan every room (with "F" in Starfield, "ALT" in BG3) to loot every item, then manage your inventory when that becomes necessary, and finally sell all the junk to a vendor, you end spending a significant amount of time for all that. Easily around a quarter of the overall play time, if you like to be thorough. If, like me, you prefer to think of your character as some sort of hero, rather than a combination of petty thief and junk vendor, you can obviously spend a lot less time searching everything. But you never know whether there isn't any good loot in one of the hundred containers you didn't open. And the general economy is balanced in a way that you'll be short on cash if you don't sell bundles of junk. When you are invited to join Constellation and generously given a room in their lodge, you are *supposed* to steal the copy of Moby Dick (mass 0.50, value 590) from your own room and sell it.

I consider junk loot to be artificial filler content, and bad game design. Nobody *likes* collecting a bunch of junk. People like good loot and significant gear upgrades. One treasure chest with 1000 credits / gold in cash is a lot better than 20 crates with 40 items, which together are worth 1000 credits / gold. It isn't even as if you could interact with every single item in the game for the sake of realism, neither in Starfield nor in Baldur's Gate 3: There are still far more objects visible on the screen that you can't interact with than those you can. If devs already decide which items I can take and which aren't worth taking, why not leave out all those junk items with no game functionality?

"Nobody *likes* collecting a bunch of junk."

I was in the middle of typing a long comment based on the post as a whole but it got to the point where I thought I'd better just turn it into a post of my own. I did feel I needed to make a rebuttal to that particular sentence I've quoted, though. I mean, you must know there *are* people who do like collecting a bunch of junk. Enough people spend their time doing it in real life, after all. I did it for years before I discovered MMORPGs and one of the primary reasons I ended up getting so heavily involved with the genre was the way it allowed me to stay home in comfort "collecting a bunch of junk" without having to get in the car and drive to other towns to look round thrift shops and garage sales. Saved me a fortune! There's a reason I called my blog "Inventory Full", you know!

That said, some games do take it too far and it sounds as though Starfield might be one of them.
What is strange is Bethesda already created a system where they made picking up normally useless junk items have a purpose. Is there really no Fallout 4 style materials breakdown thing in Starfield?
I love that items are pickable on table or as logic object : it enhances my immersion vs static prop. But their value should be zero so I am not inclined to collect those.
I think this is part of the overall charm of this type of RPG. @Tobold surely you've seen this behavior at the tabletop, too. I have players regularly loot every last piece of garbage off of dead kobolds in D&D because they can't resist hauling it around for a later sale. The fact that you can do that if you want (but also ignore if you don't....I know I only did it in prior games such as Fallout 4 when the game forced me to) is a perk, not a bug.
As "Anonymous", I too wish that the value was zero. I like that you can pick up pretty much anything in Bethesda games. However, I feel compelled to pickup everything to sell until I've amassed enough funds not to care. It's an issue that I have - I do the same thing in "real life" - I save until I have a lot of funds. That's a good trait in "real life", but in games it can feel overwhelming. Like Tolbold, I find that I spend too much time managing "junk". However, I do realize that it's an issue with my personality and not necessarily the game itself.
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