encumbrance

Movement and encumbrance

Everyone who has played the typical RPG is familiar with the way most games model encumbrance: Your character has a “carry weight.” Add anything to your backpack, from nothing at all, and up to that magical "carry weight," and your character moves exactly the same way. Go over the limit by even one bit, and in some games you lose the ability to run, or sometimes you can no longer move at all.

We think there's a better way to model this.

What if instead of using the player stats to compute a weight limit, we just compute the walking and running speed for any given weight? Computers are good at math, so this is not a burden to them as it would be to human players playing a pen-and-paper game.

Here’s a rough graph of the results:

Making the speed vs weight tradeoff continuous has a big effect on gameplay. In most games the strategy is to just pick up everything in sight until you are encumbered, then go through your inventory and throw away what you don’t want to keep. With a continuous system now the player will have to decide for every item, if it’s worth its weight.

Encumbrance affects things beyond running speed. Walking can also be slowed and the rate a character loses stamina might change. In addition some actions can be impacted. Some examples:

  • You are trying to pick a lock. Encumbrance will have a minimal effect as a character is not really moving much.
  • You are trying to swim across a stream. It may seem pretty obvious that this is not the best time to be wearing heavy armor or carrying your gold ingot loot.
  • Bicycle riding. Some small effect, but like lock picking, the effect will be minimal

Each in-game skill will know how to adjust for any given encumbrance, making for a richer and more realistic player experience.

Here's a case in point: Mythbusters testing encumbrance in a real-world Doom setup. It will go no different for the characters in our game: the fitter and stronger they are, the more they can carry without a noticeable encumbrance.

Can you really carry all the gear of a first-person shooter and remain operational? UFC's Brendan Schaub helps Jamie and Adam find out.