How Can I Stop Item Hoarding In Games? ~ Design Doc


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Item hoarding is a problem that happens in tons of games across lots of genres, and can cause unnecessary anxiety for players. Not all players are affected the same way, but item hoarding is a problem that designers can address and reduce. Some techniques are simple, some are complicated, and some can cause other knock-on effects down the line. Let’s talk about item hoarding in games, and the design choices that you can use to tackle the problem.

Games by order of first appearance
0:19 Persona 4
0:22 Dragon Quest III
0:27 Pokemon Sword & Shield
0:30 Final Fantasy X
0:38 Paper Mario (N64)
0:43 Skyrim
0:45 Fire Emblem: Three Houses
0:50 Animal Crossing New Horizons
0:55 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
0:59 Skies of Arcadia
1:03 Just Cause 2
1:10 Dishonored
1:16 Paper Mario: Sticker Star
1:18 Resident Evil 2 Remake
1:22 Dragon Quest XI
1:29 Enter the Gungeon
2:40 Moonlighter
2:46 Zelda: Breath of The Wild
3:08 Demon’s Souls (PS3)
3:13 Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2
3:38 Final Fantasy VII
3:46 Doom 2016
4:00 Final Fantasy IX
6:21 Tales of Vesperia
6:27 Shin Megami Tensei IV
6:46 Resident Evil 4
7:21 Dark Souls 3
11:21 Kingdom Hearts 3
11:25 Terraria
11:38 Monster Hunter World
12:40 Final Fantasy VIII
14:52 Rogue Legacy
14:59 The Binding of Isaac
15:01 Spelunky
15:47 Don’t Starve
16:14 Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition

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  1. I hoarded the heck out of my rations while playing MGS3. Only the items you hunt or forage go bad, which encourages you to stock up on the rations and other food that doesn't expire. This leads to a disincentive to experiment with the other food options, which often had neat secondary effects like the glowing mushrooms that recharge batteries, or poisonous items that debuff enemies.

  2. The sticker star thing happened to me. I was grinding on one of the bosses, and felt like I cheated when I used the actual intended way of solving the boss fight

  3. If I don't need it I won't use it. That's how it's always been. Especially in JRPG. Even if you tell me that item is gonna disappear I'm not gonna waste a turn just so I can pretend I'm being optimal. FF3 had items that were one use powerful spells and they were very valuable early game and even then the fact that there were no ethers and phoenix downs not available in stores encouraged players to use it because it was so essential. I was burning elixirs just so I have enough MP to cast raise. And when you hear all this you realize why later games let you hoard. It's just too frustrating for most players in a game that's supposed to be chill and stress free. Imagine the anxiety of a player who has to burn an elixir just so he can revive someone. I think the fact that hoarding alleviates anxiety is its main purpose.

  4. Bug Fables was a recent game I played where I never felt like hoarding. Low inventory slots, powerful items, ext… were a part of it, but what I think really helped was that you could get any consumable in the game whenever you wanted if you had enough currency, even the super rare "full heal/full revive" stuff. Yeah it was somewhat expensive, but not too expensive. So I felt like actually using my buff items.

  5. Simple, do what City of Heroes does:
    Limit storage, but make trading easy and cheap. The most wanted items even get better when traded compared to if you use your own crafted items.
    City of Heroes has a lot of good game design.
    Go look at it.

  6. Sorry about the oncoming wall of text, but I like talking about things like this, and you asked so no take-backsies.
    Personally, I've noticed that if an item has a percentage based benefit, and there's any kind of progression involved, I'll never use it unless I'm in particular situations.
    In the Persona games, I'll gleefully use medkits and soul drops because I know that they only do fixed amounts, like 200 hp for everyone on the field, or 20 mp for a single person. But the items that do 30% health on an individual never get used, because until a character basically maxes out their health stats, it's always going to be a wasteful usage. It does mean that low amount items mean a little less in-battle use, but it's good to know that if I take a hit in a late game trash fight, I can use 50 of my 99 bandages and not worry about using beads on minor wounds.
    Same thing with Souls games, especially with the combat related items; in DS2 I could use a Brightbug to double my damage and damage reduction, but what if I slip up a few moments into a fight and it ends up being wasted? The only time I ever used them was in a NG+ run, against the wonderfully silly Double Pursuers fight, when I had 20 of them and knew that all I wanted to do in this playthrough at this point was to beat them. On the other hand, in 1 and 3, I do feel better about using consumable combat items like arrows and firebombs because they're usually cheap, and souls as a resource are practically infinite.
    I want to say that perhaps the onus for item hoarding falls a little on the player, though. It is an issue, but it's one that is partially based on the player being cautious of a worse time than the present, or a more fitting time, whatever that may entail.
    Personally, the Sunk Cost fallacy tends to work wonders on me; if I've fought something for a while and I might die if I don't use a big boy consumable, I can go "oh god I don't wanna spend another 14 days, 18 hours and 32 minutes fighting, I guess I'll use this high potion…" and feel less bad when I'm continuing the game and having fun. I think you shouldn't aim to intentionally get the player to feel like this, though. If losing feels like a big waste of time, it can leave a real sour taste.
    It also helps to, like you said, give the player good information about how something works or about a situation. When the game is practically putting on a fireworks display that spells out "THE NEXT GUY COMING UP WILL COMET TACKLE YOUR NUTSACK OFF, STEAL IT AND SELL IT ON AMAZON", it feels a bit better using good items knowing that you're expected to use everything you've got to succeed.
    Heck, you could do something that encourages item usage in general; Persona games are really good for this, I feel, because of the whole "ONE MORE" mechanic regarding weakness exploiting. In other similar RPGs, an item takes a whole turn, so healing could end up being nullified by being immediately attacked and reverting the items effect. In Persona, you can target a weakness, or get a critical hit, and then use an item rather than do another attack. This is a more fundamental game design choice, and less about the items themselves, but I think that knowing that using a full heal item won't end up in some kind of back and forth of "heal, damaged for 90 percent of heal, heal, damaged for 90 percent of heal, loop until victory or defeat" is more fun, tactically speaking.
    This was a really nice video, by the way.

  7. "Finally, after days I finally beat this boss. The world is saved and my ultimate objective is complete. Sure I may have had to rely on all my items but at least-"
    happy celebratory music stops
    the dramatic piano kicks in

  8. Something I think would be useful would be an approach where you reliably and regularly get items of a certain type, but you can't carry many of each item, meaning if you end a level with 5/5 medkits, or whatever, you've essentially wasted the +1 medkit you automatically get back at the end of the level, or something like that. Perhaps expandable to something like a temporary currency, where whatever amount of currency or whatever you get, you only get to keep a certain amount between levels, so even if you need to go all-out with consumables, the game could be designed around those harder levels giving more monetary rewards, so maybe you need to spend all your potions and other consumable items, but you get enough money back, combined with what you've banked, to get most of them back for next level, without too much feel-bads from "wasting resources" though I could see this possibly backfiring if the difficulty isn't tuned enough, and players feel like they're regularly missing out on rewards just because they didn't need to use them.
    Alternatively, you could design in a variable drop rate mechanic where drops are more common the fewer of that type of item you have, so if you use an item, you're more likely to get that item back, than getting an extra one by hording. Though this has to be something the player knows, or it could possibly increase hoarding behavior, by making it seem like an item is rarer than it is.

  9. Very useful video. You should make one about grinding too. It's a really big and boring problem how some people just grind their way out of hard parts of the games.

  10. Roguelike/-lite mechanics make me hoard even harder, actually.

    Dying because you didn't use an item stings, sure. But so does dying because you wasted the item earlier and don't have it now that you really need it. And since the difficulty tends to ramp up steeply in these games, I know I'll need consumables more later on. And so I try to go as long as I possibly can without using them.

    But then I don't "get" rougelike mechanics in general, so maybe the psychology of the sort of person who enjoys playing through the same low-level area and then dying to an unlucky dice roll fifty times in a row is just fundamentally different :p

  11. one thing to mention is the "what im saving it for?" moments, in some games since you arent clear of how much game you have left you have no idea of how much you can space your items, maybe there are 10 battles left and you have 20 of an item so you figure you can use 2 per battle, but thats never information you have beforehand without spoilers

    a game example i like is Hades battle out of hell titan bloods, they have a single use and it is to unlock and upgrade weapons, there is a clear limit on how many you need, and a clear limit on how many you can reliable get and when and how, so while you feel they are precious you also know exactly how many you count on in the future

  12. Crafting systems with many, small, upgrades tends to make me skip upgrade steps, as I don't want to craft something that's just going to be outclassed in a level or two. I would rather just save my resources for a better thing, and then I feel like I never end up using it.

  13. One way item hoarding can be avoided is to reward the consumption of those items as a bonus. In the Trails JRPG series, using 3 items in a battle adds a tactical bonus called "Bag of Tricks", which adds +0.1 (10%) to the EXP multiplier for the battle. The neat thing is that this can be stacked up to 10 times. So if I gained a base EXP of 1000 and I used 9 items, the total EXP earned for that battle is 1000 x 1.3 = 1300.

    … I still hoard my items anyway.

  14. My favorite anti-hoarding method is if I ever find myself asking "should I use this" or "do I need this" I just say fuck it and use it. If a time comes where I NEED that item in the future, that game is probably poorly designed. In a good game there are always tools to progress, items are just one of those tools.

  15. Limiting inventory space and limiting what you can carry by usefulness by size might seem like a cure-all for hoarding, but it causes a worse effect that I like to refer to as "The Inventory Management Mini-game".

    Wherein, you have a huge potential pool of items that you can carry but not enough space to carry or store them. So you end up wasting time organizing storage space, maximizing utility, and trying to cram as many useful items as humanly possible into your inventory while still leaving room for new pickups.

    Say what you will about Final Fantasy style bottomless inventory system, but it has never been as detrimental to good game play as the countless hours if not days I've spent putzing around in MMOs and crafting games to try to maximize inventory space. Anything that interrupts gameplay flow is a bigger problem imho.

    And I don't think that adding space limitations necessarily curbs the problems with hoarding, especially if you add perishability into the mix. This is just a different type of consumability, one where the game consumes the item before you can even use it. This just promotes a different kind of hoarding where you end up either endlessly grinding for more perishable items, promoting them to rarer, less perishable, more hoardable items. Or avoiding the perishables entirely for rarer items which than must be horded.

    I think it's more of a question of item diversity and usefulness in general. Simply put, the more types of items you have, the more hoarding and inventory bloat becomes a problem. And taking away utility doesn't help either, because then you need more of an item to be effective. Especially when an item has no apparent initial use and either only exists to be sold or has to be craft promoted up to be eventually useful. In crafting systems this isn't avoidable, but I think it can be better accounted for.

    I think when designing item reliant games, the principle of Less is More needs to be applied more often. As in whether or not you need so many variations of the same kind of item, and whether or not you need that type of item at all. Maybe other game mechanics already do a better job of what an item does and the item isn't needed. A lot of items and a lot of game mechanics just end up being reskinned variations of the same theme, and while this is a cheap way to make a game seem better, it isn't actually an improvement.

  16. Something nobody I have seen mention is how players are too afraid of failure and learning.
    As a child, I would just spam my items and learned what they did.
    When I ran out of stuff and needed it for a boss, I accepted my loss and next time through I saved a few items, but I didn't have to hoard them either.
    Also, in a game where you can sell them,I would only hoard in terms of flipping them for profit to buy good stuff. I wouldn't save 30-99 small potions just for the sake of healing. I sold that stuff to buy the best armor.

  17. LISA the Painful is a great example of how to do this right. You basically HAVE to use items to succeed because enemies are tough enough to threaten you without appropriate use of items like firebombs and healing items. There's also a number of choices the player has to make in the game where they must choose between their entire inventory being taken from them or losing irreplacable things such as party members and even your own arms (permanently weakening the protagonist's moveset and abilities). Weighing the value of that stack of Diesel Firebombs you just collected vs. the really strong party members you're about to lose or the permanent debilitating debuff that is losing your arm(s) is a genuine concern that forces the player to think more about using those items when they're needed because you might not get to use them otherwise.

  18. So what? I love hoarding things in games? Sometimes it's like another challenge for me, getting max stacks of things in Capcom games.

  19. I have a fair amount of issues with hoarding items in Dark Souls, primarily things that add buffs or change weapon damage, though not because I'm worried the game will be stingy.
    Ultimately I "hoard" items that I've figured are useless. They're usually worth too little to sell and do too little to be worth using.
    For Turn-Based RPGs, any item that deals elemental damage, outside of a series with mechanics like Persona's 1-More system, basically sit in my inventory until I get max capacity to sell in bulk.

  20. A big problem I had was with the soul meter in Hollow Knight. It's that game's version of MP. The fact that 'focusing', the ONLY way to heal other than at checkpoints, also used the same resource as spells completely dissuaded me from ever dipping my toes into that side of the combat system. By the end of the game, I was way too reliant on the strategy of 'close-ranged combat + focusing' to ever switch over to using spells.

  21. hahaha I don't hoard! hahahaha
    Has 100+ of every crafting item in ACNH
    Is constantly making life worse in Paper Mario ttyd & 64 by refusing to use items to restore FP and HP because I can use Star Power
    Grinds for hours in Yo-Kai Watch to get enough of each item and hours more in Blasters for each crafting item
    Never uses PP in Earthbound even when I need it because i'm to worried about not having enough later then kicks myself when I can heal but have used almost no PP
    Refuses to revive Mario in M&L because, "I only have 32 1Ups"

  22. Mystery dungeon games are somewhqt designed with hoarding in mind as some fights are incredibly tough without a few items at least

  23. I'm probably just weird, but my big thing is just items where I'm not sure I can EVER get them again, or where I know for sure that's a fact. Even if they sell for ridiculous prices in an endgame shop or are extremely rare drops, just give me the ability to restock anything if I hypothetically "needed" to. That puts my mind at easy and makes me way more likely to consume any item, especially universally (across games) rare ones like ethers.
    Nobody likes the looming threat of being permanently locked out of something if they "play the game wrong". Sierra vs. Lucasarts is the same principle.

  24. Penny Arcades: on the rain slick precipice of darkness 3
    For Anti-hoarding.
    MP & Health reset after every encounter. And Items like potions are purchased and upgraded as slots that also restock after every battle.
    You don't have to use it. But if you do you get it back free right after the battle.

  25. Me: "I'm having a really tough time with the Atelier games battles"
    Friend: "But you have 10 bombs and 20 Barrels… Use them! That's the core mechanic, use the items you make"
    Me: "WHAT?! No way! Do you know how hard it was to alchemize them with the right traits and rank?"
    Bottom line: I've stopped playing because I can't pass the battles =D

  26. I think Pathologic 2 has a really interesting case of item hoarding, because it is kind of built around the urge to hoard items in the first place. Having items as a backup is super useful (one time use, trading and crafting are all mechanics of the game) and even incentivised (there is a loading screen where the game advises you to "stock up" and other people talk about stocking up in game) but firstly your carrying capacity is pretty small in the beginning and secondly items are very fleeting because of the game's difficulty. So you have the incentive to stock up on items but no real way to actually do it, which creates a really interesting gameplay dynamic. And if you actually manage to built your safety net it can feel like a major success and not a design flaw because it did address the usefulness of it directly.

  27. The best anti-hoarding that works for me (a fairly big hoarder) is giving me a reason to use those items.
    It doesn't matter if it's rare or not, if I gain something by using the item that I wouldn't with other means it will push me to use the items.
    This is very different from a system where you are forced to use items by the way.

    The series that has good systems in that aspect (for me) is the atelier series, where you have a limited bag (both for collecting materials and bringing consumables) but very few things are hard to get or rare.
    It encourages you to use those materials to craft various things included consumables and your main character's effectiveness in combat as well as the quality of items you pick in the field are directly related to the usage of those consumables.

    In many of these games you can invest a bit more time and resources to get slightly more potency out of your consumables as well, for example making high quality bombs will make them do more damage or be able to hit a wider area, potentially defeating more enemies.
    Atelier Firis even introduces a "mastery" level for each recipe, pushing the player to craft items several times, and since there is no point in selling most things you might as well use those 15 bombs you just made.
    Even better, stronger recipes of the same item line can be unlocked by crafting and using those lower tier ones, so there is no reason to not throw those bombs and use those healing salves at every opportunity.

    Of course, it isn't transposable to all games but the concept of making an item better by repeatedly using it over the course of the game means that you can encourage the usage of items a lot more, with clear benefits for it, especially if the rarer items are clearly shown to show up more and more often as you progress, possibly even making sure that most of them appear in shop by the end.

  28. mmo's are the true hoarding fests!! I played ESO for 5 years and my crafting bag (unlimited) was so full it was hard to find items lol. But last year I haven't played much and my girlfriend used almost everything to build houses and sell for gold.

    So in the end I made her life way better! xD

    I had 12characters with 160 inventory
    bank with 280 inventory
    personal guildbank with 500 inventory
    8 housing chests with 4×30 and 4×60
    a crafting bag and many millions of gold. xD
    true hoarder?

  29. In Fell Seal Arbiters Mark you have a limited amount of items you can use per battle. They restock between battles. It also has a crafting system that once you get a new material it will show you all recipes that use it and how many you will need. The crafting system can increase your items effectiveness or new equipment and part of the maps have gathering spots for some materials so in this game they did a good job making you not hoard, in my opinion.

  30. Monster Hunter World is highly encouraging me to use my items.
    At first I hoarded everything from Heal Potions, Buff Potions to Traps.
    But then I realized all the consumables are very easy to craft and their materials can be farmed passively.
    Not to mention that the Steamworks from Iceborne literally throw more items at you than you would ever use.

  31. I've beaten every mainline final fantasy game to date, besides from the ff7 remake thus far, I've never used a megalixer or an elixer due to my item hoarding problem.

  32. Yeah, I can recall the exact moment I've become an item hoarder:
    Young me: I used ALL my potions, but I was finally able to defeat the boss, yay!
    Boss: now, my final form!
    Young me: wait, what…?

  33. Skyrim. It has WAY too many varied items. Most is garbage, but for unique items, like bee-in-a-jar, I wanna keep it simply as a trophy or something.
    Fallout 3 & New Vegas, you gotta hoard items to sell them for money. FO4? OMG. they encourage hoarding to the Nth degree. You need every item to either sell or break down or something. And can't do it on the go.

  34. I love how Enter the Gungeon handles hoarding. You'll always find a weapon on each floor no matter what, and that weapon is either effective against the bosses or not. Even a good boss weapon can be outshined by a better one. So, you use the non-boss weapons for room clearing and tough enemies.

  35. hoarding in terraria:
    "i want to pick this up but i don't have any room"
    "just throw something away"
    "but everything is favorited"
    "maybe and old weapon? they're useless now"
    "but.. it's favorited"

  36. Well I, like most people, don't like to use items because it feels like a cheap "get out of jail free" card. As if I'm not strong enough to defeat the boss on my own merits so I had to resort to lazy tactics. This is most pronounced in Pokemon since the games are made for children, but any game that just gives out consumables has this problem. If bosses were less of a test of skill and more of an obstacle that you couldn't defeat no matter how hard you grind, you would be forced to prepare and use consumables smartly.

  37. In the Golden Sun games for the GBA you can easily hoard healing items and most other consumables, by just using the magic system. At a high enough level you even get full party healing when the equivalent item is treating and expensive. You also get reusable status effects in the form of the dijin that you are encouraged to use for summoning.

    Besides the inventory sister is a pain in the ass to use, having limited slots and a small capacity for stacking items, which wouldn't be a problem if not for the fact that it used a cascade system to determine who gets the items, you can't just choose a character to automatically get a specific item and the party lead gets all picked up items unless their inventory is full.

  38. My worst case of hoarding/usage is Resident Evil 2 Remastered. I got to a boss fight with nothing but 3 flame rounds for my grenade launcher, all because I felt compelled to use it because it was plentiful.

  39. Please dude, roguelikes and roguelites push me to stop playing, not to stop hoarding. The unpredictability and idea that "there's always a bigger fish" makes me want to cling onto everything.

    Also, you made me realize the ability to hoard things other than items applied to my playthrough of Borderlands 3 as Amara, the siren. My primary ability of choice felt like the cooldown was long enough in the early game that it needed to be saved for beefy enemies and by the endgame, even though this problem had been solved through leveling, I'd all but forgotten about it and relied on my guns through the entire game.

  40. I think difficulty is one of the best fixes to item hoarding if i lose a fight or am struggling to win a fight i am more likely to use an item to make the fight easier .


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