From a game-design perspective, I was wondering what the mechanic of manually picking up items off the ground does for the player. Keep in mind that items that fall on the ground can most likely be put into one of two groups:

  • Equipment Items: depending on the character the player is creating, the majority of these items might be ignored and left on the ground. Players will only pick up the ones that they want to "spend" inventory space and time (by clicking and eventually having to go back to town) on.

  • Consumables: gold, gems, crafting materials, etc - which players generally always want to pick up and sometimes don't take up inventory space.

While I can see that making players choose which items to pick up is an interesting "collecting" mechanic for the Equipment group, why make the "Consumable" group require manual picking up as well?

Examples of games which do this: (most diablo-esque dungeon crawlers)

Diablo 3

Path of Exile

Grim Dawn

Torchlight 2

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the main thing it gives the player is choice. They can choose to pick it up, instead of being forced to pick it up/given to them, and then choosing to put it down. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zymus
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zymus I suppose the alternative I am considering would be an option to automatically pick up certain consumables, rather than forcing them to either pick it up manually or drop manually - but trying to see if there are reasons why I shouldn't do this in my own game while maybe getting a thorough answer on the mechanic in general. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19, 2016 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Manual selection in multiplayer games allows players to share loot by their own rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – 1000ml
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ For some consumables on "infinite" resources (like gold, health, mana, etc) I see no problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zymus
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A large, automatic pickup radius might hurt a player who is trying to avoid wasting a health-globe at 99/100 HP. Also, getting to the loot can be made a hurdle that adds difficulty. Just brainstorming here :) Interesting question. \$\endgroup\$
    – 1000ml
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Why are you giving the player loot in the first place?

It's a reward stimulus for the player. Games need a constant stream of reward stimulus (or at least the anticipation of a reward) to keep the player motivated to continue playing. The impact of a reward is not just determined by the mechanical effect (player now has 10 more gold to spend) but also by how much the player notices it.

By having the player interact with the reward in form of clicking to pick it up, you have the player notice it more which amplifies its psychological effect without changing its mechanical effect.

It also makes the player more aware of their current possessions. When you just put stuff into their inventory directly, they might easily miss that they just had the luck of finding the ultra-rare +99 sword of pwnage because they were focusing on something else. Then half an hour later they open their inventory for a completely different reason and wonder how they got it. The same applies to more generic resource-style items which the player collects in bulk. By getting a more direct feedback about the loot reward they get a clearer impression of which actions reward them with what kind of loot.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "you have the player notice it" is the exact reason why you still have to click on consumables other than gold in Diablo III. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Apr 19, 2016 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ If someone remembers Tibia, I love how they did loot related stuff. You have to manually drag every item you want from the world or monsters corpse to your inventory (the actual item/graphic, not like a listed name), even money (which is an item too, i hate money being just numbers in games). It may seem inconvenient but it gives that weird feeling that is hard to describe but it makes items more materialistic, more real. You want to cellect them, because you feel like they are something that you can touch and manipulate. I don't know any other game that does this, and I really miss it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sopel
    Apr 23, 2016 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ The secondary purpose is to add pacing to the "moment to moment" gameplay, giving the player something simple to do to wind down after combat is over, yet still keeping them active and not feeling suddenly abandoned by the game itself. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 23, 2016 at 20:55

In some games, mainly in fps, it can create a bit more of a thrill. Ex. if you are behind cover and out of ammo and you see a gun. Maybe you can reach it or you have to sprint across the open to grab it. Making it manual adds a little more skill and requires a bit more attention to be played by the player.

Another reason is that a lot of games (like Skyrim) have a lot of junk loot. Stuff you don't really want but sometimes you take it just for the fun of it. So the game let's you. But it would suck if you had to constantly empty your inventory of cups because you walked over a table. Due to this they have to keep the pick up system constant through the game so every item becomes manual pick up.


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