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Author Topic: Inventory and Encumbrance  (Read 38743 times)
eleazzaar
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« on: March 06, 2009, 05:23:35 AM »

The following is in reference to this wiki page:
http://wiki.parpg.net/Zenbitz:Thoughts_on_Encumbrance_and_Equipment


Disclaimer: Personally i'm ambivalent to realism.  I don't care if the rules are realistic as long as they are understandable and fun (or at least avoid being non-fun).


The page linked above is great if your primary concern is realism, but i don't think the playability aspect has been considered.  Not to put too fine a point to it, the system described sounds like a potential micromanagement nightmare.

I do agree that it's reasonable to have a limited number of "slots" where things can be put for quick access in battle.  That involves some significant strategic choices, but for everything else, i don't see why the player would ever care if a non-combat item is in the PC's backpack, pocket or stuffed in his hat.

Measuring items by bulk and weight and giving the PC various containers (each presumably with their own bulk limits) and slots to store stuff  would make it a very non-obvious what the best way to distribute things would be.  Thus it could take quite a bit of time to organize your stuff for optimum encumbrance.  I believe switching major items or gaining new ones would often require a major reshuffling of your gear. Inventory management has always struck me as an chore in RPGs.

"Realism" is after all simply a continuum, and while this proposal is far more realistic than most RPGs, it is also grossly simpler than actual reality.


I would suggest that are only measured by one quantity, either "weight", "bulk", or some conceptual hybrid of the two-- which would make the understanding much easier for the player.  "Bulk" after all is a rather generalized concept anyway-- why not generalize it a little more?

Similarly, with the exception of quickly-accessible combat items, the specific location of an item is of no interest to the player.  IMHO It should be obvious to the player how much he can carry and what the encumbrance penalty will be of of carrying a particular amount.

Do we really want inventory management to be an involved mini-game?
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 03:27:07 PM by mvBarracuda » Logged
Gaspard
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2009, 11:44:19 AM »

The Zenbitz version really is a lot of micromanagement. It's pushing the realism and it sounds cool. I was thinking of something like that on my own but with the twist that a man-pulled or a dog-pulled sledge is a necessity in the game. Like in Fallout 2 you had the trunk of the car 'following you around', you'd have the sledge in every area you walk into, except for the ones labeled as indoors.

I personally liked the inventory system in Arcanum. You have the maximum bulk limit and you have the weight limit. You can pick up XX non-stackable stones or X rifles, some stackable items and a car battery etc.. (although a car battery weighs a LOT irl). For some management there was the button that automatically and randomly micromanaged the items in your inventory for you to free more adjacent slots for you to be able to pick up larger items.

- What about if you start the game with a not very large but not irritatingly small inventory restricted by bulk. Let's say (numbers from the sky) 5x6 slots (yes this would decree that we use a slot-based in which each item's size corresponds to a certain amount of slots ie Arcanum, Diablo).
During the game, like with the idea of adding clothing the importance of keeping you warm, you need to find different sized backpacks and sacks to throw over your shoulders. That way you'd enlarge your initial meager-sized inventory. If you try to fill your bags/inventory with too h e a v y items then still the penalties would kick in, would they be Agility-based or not. Depends on what base Stats system we're going to use in the game.
So the inventory display would include the slots for your armor, your warm clothing and extra slots for your bags, sacks, slings, pouches etc, each adding a number of slots to your base inventory size. Here let me illustrate with a big sloppy doodle (this version indicates that the information about an item(description stats) would be shown in a pop-up menu if you click on it for there is no screen included in the inventory menu for that, as I said - it's a doodle):



- Or you start with an even smaller inventory, but every single item takes up one slot no matter what it's bulk (ie Baldur's Gate series, Planescape: Torment?, many DnD-based cRPGs, even Fallout) but you can have a 'magic bag' or just a container take up a slot for carrying such things as gems/potions/scrolls.

ie In PARPG setting we might have a pouch for the local currencies, a leather box for the cigarettes, also a tube for important documents, a keyring for keys (like in Arcanum, loved that - later you could see what keys you have in your Notebook/Diary menu).
I personally would like it if items have varying sizes in the inventory...

in short:
+ items which sizes correspond to a number of slots (ie rifle horizontal 4 slots, book 1 slot, medication 1 slot but stackable)
+ increasing inventory size (picking up light containers)
+ movable container pretty much mandatory if you want to hoard or need stuff just for selling (man-sledge or dog-pulled, ...)
+ weight limit increasing/decreasing proportionately with strength, various items have various numerical weights
+ a button in the inventory menu that randomly optimizes your use of the available slots to 'free' space (ie stacks stackables, if for some reason they were separately just taking up space)
« Last Edit: March 06, 2009, 12:19:08 PM by Gaspard » Logged
shanxi
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2009, 11:46:57 AM »

I agree, this encumberance idea seems too complex.  It would require the player to be constantly thinking about optimum arrangements of things.  Packing a bag in real life isn't fun, it wouldn't be fun in a game.

Depending on how the items were handled, a hybrid weight/bulk solution could be worked out.  I played Ultima Online for a while and in that the items were sprites which could be freely moved around your backpack and any number of 'child' backpacks within it.  There was an overall weight limit for your character, which may have increased with your character's strength and each item was assigned a specific weight (heavier/bigger ones weighing more) which meant that you really couldn't carry more than one very heavy item anyway.

I think there was a limit to the number of items but it was so high that I don't remember it ever mattering as a lot of items stacked.  If you became overburdened your character could only travel for a few steps before having to stop for a rest.

I'd be in favour of a system similar to this, or if not then I'd prefer to stick to the traditional 'item slots' and weight limit.  But forced organization of the inventory is a big no-no for me.

*edit* I like Gaspard's idea, particularly making large items physically bigger and the inclusion of a micromanagement button.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2009, 11:50:19 AM by shanxi » Logged
eleazzaar
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2009, 06:24:59 PM »

ie In PARPG setting we might have a pouch for the local currencies, a leather box for the cigarettes, also a tube for important documents, a keyring for keys (like in Arcanum, loved that - later you could see what keys you have in your Notebook/Diary menu).
I agree that having single-purpose containers that automatically organize your stuff like that is a good, player-friendly thing.

It's containers you must shuffle stuff between that i object to.  Buying a backpack to gain more space and/or decrease encumbrance is fine, as long as the player doesn't need to care where exactly an non-equitable item is.


+ a button in the inventory menu that randomly optimizes your use of the available slots to 'free' space (ie stacks stackables, if for some reason they were separately just taking up space)
What does "randomly optimize" mean?

And what does it optimize for?  This concept has three possible qualities that could be optimized for weight, bulk, and encumbrance.  It seems to me with a setup as you are zenbitz has described i the difference between optimizing for either of these could be significant.

In working on other projects, i've come to consider this the sure sign of a bad game mechanic: where you try to keep an overcomplicated mechanism that the player often won't want to deal with by making an AI to effectively make judgment calls and manage the thing for the player.
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Gaspard
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2009, 07:52:40 PM »

ie In PARPG setting we might have a pouch for the local currencies, a leather box for the cigarettes, also a tube for important documents, a keyring for keys (like in Arcanum, loved that - later you could see what keys you have in your Notebook/Diary menu).
I agree that having single-purpose containers that automatically organize your stuff like that is a good, player-friendly thing.

It's containers you must shuffle stuff between that i object to.  Buying a backpack to gain more space and/or decrease encumbrance is fine, as long as the player doesn't need to care where exactly an non-equitable item is.

Yeah I guess I didn't phrase myself well enough.
So as I also tried to show in the sketch of a basic inventory screen - all the item slots will be shown to you at once - you would have a clear overview of all you have (with more programming one might be able to choose which type of items go into which segment or somesuch) the moment you open the inventory screen.
And yeah the extra slots provided by the sacks-bags are cluttered all over the screen, with (with a detailed ingame visual they'd also be logical) pointers that point out which cluster of slots belongs to which container (ie the top-right ones belong to the backpack which would expand as you get a bigger backpack (a bit like the belts in Diablo) lower left ones are belt pouches etc). When you pick something up the message might say just 'You picked up a half-full box of shotgun cells' or "You picked up a half-full box of shotgun cells and put then in your belt pouch/right shoulder bag/backpack"

Then again instead of having them cluttered all the over the screen the slots gained from carry-able containers might be added to the main body of item slots, that I also have tried to show in my blurry sketch (the lower middle cluster of slots) that an arrow points at with a label that says "this is the base inventory you start with". Then that would just become bigger, wider perhaps.
+ a button in the inventory menu that randomly optimizes your use of the available slots to 'free' space (ie stacks stackables, if for some reason they were separately just taking up space)
What does "randomly optimize" mean?

And what does it optimize for?  This concept has three possible qualities that could be optimized for weight, bulk, and encumbrance.  It seems to me with a setup as you are zenbitz has described i the difference between optimizing for either of these could be significant.

In working on other projects, i've come to consider this the sure sign of a bad game mechanic: where you try to keep an overcomplicated mechanism that the player often won't want to deal with by making an AI to effectively make judgment calls and manage the thing for the player.

Yeah again my choice of words... Mm. (actually a great reason why I don't apply for a position of writer ._.)
By 'optimize' I mean 're-arranges the items in your inventory so that you'd have a greater chance of fitting something extra into your inventory (ie that if there's a one-slot hole between two bigger items and there are some items with a size of one at the other end of the inventory it would be crammed into that hole. basically re-arrangement sets bigger items together and crams smaller ones around them to open up most space, like a quick automated tetris game with your items)'

In Arcanum if you pressed the button, when clicked once, the items would be crammed onto the top half of the inventory screen, if clicked again - into the left half of the inventory screen. First it would (if you had enough total free space in the first place) allow you to pick up horizontally big items (a rifle) and after the second click and items in the left half of the screen you'd be allowed to pick up vertically large items (a shovel, long bow, high statuette). These items would go into the lower half or right half opened up spaces.

I'll mention here that the button is most probably used only when you have a lot of smaller items scattered all over the inventory and that would stop you from picking up something bigger (the annoying micromanagement in Diablo 2 for example)

I can't even be sure if these explanations cleared anything up about anything but I sort of hope so...
« Last Edit: March 06, 2009, 07:56:15 PM by Gaspard » Logged
zenbitz
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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2009, 08:07:45 PM »

Just a couple thoughts - I will catch up on the whole thread later.

1) I am quite aware of playability issues.  Consider there is no GUI mentioned in this doc.
2) My general philosophy is to design the model in detail (when it's cheap) and abstract it later for playability.  Otherwise, I don't have any idea what I am abstracting*.
3) There is a reason why this is just "thoughts" not a proposal yet, let alone a "Draft"
4) There is a "realism" element here but the actual design goal is to restrict the players' power and flexibility (relative to your typical cRPG, where you can carry around 7 broadswords, 2 suits of armor, and flip them on and off at will).   

What I want is for the Player to decide which of his items are accessible at 3-5 different levels. 5 level version:
 "In Hand" "Ready", "Accessible", "Stowed", and "Packed away on the mule". I think the 3 middle ones are the minimum, because I can see the "ends" merging into one from a playability perspective.

*I just realized this is not totally true in the document we are talking about.   I have broken things down into "bulk classes" primarily to aid the level and item designers.  It might make sense to actual give everything a numerical volume - particularly for things like bags and packs  - which is used instead  of "X of one or 3X of smaller" (shown in GUI as a "status bar" )

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Gaspard
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2009, 09:13:32 PM »

Just a couple thoughts - I will catch up on the whole thread later.

4) There is a "realism" element here but the actual design goal is to restrict the players' power and flexibility (relative to your typical cRPG, where you can carry around 7 broadswords, 2 suits of armor, and flip them on and off at will).   

What I want is for the Player to decide which of his items are accessible at 3-5 different levels. 5 level version:
 "In Hand" "Ready", "Accessible", "Stowed", and "Packed away on the mule". I think the 3 middle ones are the minimum, because I can see the "ends" merging into one from a playability perspective.

that's why I thought of the divided slot-based inventory. You cannot put too many huge items into the bag. There'd be a maximum to that. Size restricts. You could have a suit of armor in the bag, a helmet in another bag, and boots in another, not all in one backpack
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eleazzaar
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2009, 02:38:04 AM »

Just a couple thoughts - I will catch up on the whole thread later.

1) I am quite aware of playability issues.  Consider there is no GUI mentioned in this doc.
2) My general philosophy is to design the model in detail (when it's cheap) and abstract it later for playability.  Otherwise, I don't have any idea what I am abstracting*.

That's good to know.  That kind of workflow is foreign to me, and opposite of the way my brain works.  Chances for misunderstanding will probably abound.


4) There is a "realism" element here but the actual design goal is to restrict the players' power and flexibility (relative to your typical cRPG, where you can carry around 7 broadswords, 2 suits of armor, and flip them on and off at will).   
I understand, and agree with that goal, though not because it's "realistic" but because if requires the player to make interesting choices that augment the kind of atmosphere that it seems this project is trying to create.  I just think we can do that in a way that doesn't require tedious micromanagement of inventory.

What I want is for the Player to decide which of his items are accessible at 3-5 different levels. 5 level version:
 "In Hand" "Ready", "Accessible", "Stowed", and "Packed away on the mule". I think the 3 middle ones are the minimum, because I can see the "ends" merging into one from a playability perspective.
I'm not sure of the exact function of all of these levels of accessibility.  3 levels + pack mule/dog sled/etc. seem to do everything interesting i can think of.

* In Hand / Ready:  something that you can use immediately, one in each hand or a big two-handed item.

* Accessable:  stuff that you can access in a very quickly i.e. hanging from your belt or something similar.  limited number of slots

* Packed Away: something that can't quickly be accessed, practically inaccessible in battle.  The aggregate of all the storage space on your person.  Slots are irrelevant, but total weight/bulk is calculated.

* Pack Mule / Dog Sled / etc:  only accessible if you can freely travel to where you "parked".  I.E. probably closed to you in battle, and while in "dangerous" location (functionally dungeons).  But should be part of your accessible inventory when conversing with merchants.  It's a pain to have to fill your pack from the sled, walk to the merchant, sell, return to the sled, fill your pack... etc. when you want to sell more than you can personally carry.

Though, depending on how the game actually works, the whole party's "packed away" could be aggregated together possibly with the dog sled.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2009, 02:40:10 AM by eleazzaar » Logged
eleazzaar
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2009, 05:05:42 AM »

So as I also tried to show in the sketch of a basic inventory screen - all the item slots will be shown to you at once - you would have a clear overview of all you have (with more programming one might be able to choose which type of items go into which segment or somesuch) the moment you open the inventory screen.
Showing it all at once is certainly better than the nested inventory window of some games where you can only see a fraction of your stuff at once... But i think we can still do better.


Then again instead of having them cluttered all the over the screen the slots gained from carry-able containers might be added to the main body of item slot... Then that would just become bigger, wider perhaps.
Yeah, that's better, unless there's some compelling reason that the player would really care if the key is in his pocket, or backpack, or wherever.  I don't think there is.


I'll mention here that the button is most probably used only when you have a lot of smaller items scattered all over the inventory and that would stop you from picking up something bigger (the annoying micromanagement in Diablo 2 for example)

That happened in Neverwinter too.  Certainly having such a button is better than having to do it by hand.


But what are we trying to accomplish with tetris inventory?

It's not a very good approximation of bulk since the smallest items (like a key or jewel) are generally only 1/6th or 1/8th the size of a suit of armor.  Size constraint prevent it from being more reasonable.

Preventing a PC from carrying absurd amounts of gear is a good goal, but it can be accomplished in other ways also.  In most circumstances limiting by "bulk" or "weight" won't produce radically different results.  We're not going to be having magic suits of armor that weigh 1 lb.

 You can prevent him from carrying 8 suits of armor with weight limits just as effectively without a tetris inventory.
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zenbitz
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2009, 08:22:42 AM »

OK, here is a slightly simplified version:

= Inventory "slots" (Revised) & Readyness =

to recap from the wiki
Quote
These go roughly on 3-to-1 scale.  This is purely bulk, weight is totaled separately
* '''Teensy''' (paper clip, coin, seed) - you are only limited by the total weight of these items, they are assumed to have zero bulk if they are in a container (possibly this could capped at a very large number like 10,000)
* '''Tiny''' (bullet, AA battery, key)
* '''Very Small''' (watch, pencil, pocket knife)
* '''Small''' (hip flask, hand grenade, baseball, pack of cigarettes, large knife, small book, flare)
* '''Medium''' (machete, pistol, first aid kit, large reference book, torch, 1 hit location worth of armor)
* '''Large''' (1m sword, 1 handed axe, monkey wrench, large first aid kit, 3 hit locations worth of armor)
* '''Very Large''' (rifle, crossbow, spear, shoulder bag, big tool kit, sleeping bag, sm. tent (2 person), 4-6 hit locations worth of armor)
* '''Extremely Large''' (medium box, back pack, watermelon, >6 locations worth of armor)
* '''Huge''' - (large chest, bicycle, major appliance) these things cannot be carried for long distances, but can be moved.
* '''Too Big''' - You cannot lift or move this alone

The player can have 1-2 items in hand (some items are two handed).  These  require zero action points/phases to "Ready" for use in combat or drop

The player has 7 "Prepared" Slots:
1 is Very Larger (or smaller)
2 are Large (or smaller)
1 is Medium (or smaller)
4 are small (for ammo clips, typically)

Things in "Prepared" slots can be readied in one phase or action (X action points).  Should this require one hand free if you don't drop something?

These slots can be drawn as 4 1x1 squares (small), 1 2x1 rectangle (med), 2 3x1 rectangle (large) and 1 4x1 rectangle (V. Large).  Since this is a nice even number "16" units of bulk it can be easily arranged in the GUI.

Everything else the player has is "stowed".  Items are either stowed in pockets or folds or whatever (abstractly - just a pool of space), or in a backpack.  Backpacks can be either Large, Very large, or Extremely Large.

Lets give a small item 1 bulk.  Very Small is .3, Tiny is .11.  We could round those off to 1/4th or 1/10th (instead of 1/3 and 1/9th).  Medium = 3, Large 9, V. Large 12, Ex. Large 36.

Instead of stowage factors for each item, we'll just double these numbers for Container capacity. 

Extremely Large (this is like a full frame pack) backpack: 72
Very Large: 36
Large: 18
Medium: 9

PC should probably start with some size bag (medium?) - perhaps paying equipment points for a larger one at character creation.

So there very little tetrising.  There are slots where you must place items you wish to be available in combat.
Then the player has some "pool" of bulk carrying capacity of his pockets + backpack size. 
Pockets would basically be a constant, say 5
Add to this 9-36 for current backpack size.  There would be no in game distinction between pockets/belt/shoulder/pack (most of the interesting ones are abstracted in the "Prepared" slots anyhow)
Pack animals (including humans), sleds, wagons, and vehicles would just have a maximum bulk and weight, but would be a separate pool each (so that they can be stolen, or gifted, or traded).  I think the barter interface should seamlessly access all these extra pools.  This stuff could never be accessed in combat so there is no need for slots.

You should not really tetris the slots because it should be maximized for combat efficiency, not capacity.  Now "should" is a funny word because I know the temptation to maximize carrying capacity can sometimes take on excessive importance in an RPG.

It might make sense to let the Player "save" certain "load outs" for his "Prepared slots".  You could "instantly" switch load outs as long as you weren't in combat.

Mass/Weight is totaled separately.
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« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2009, 08:50:33 PM »

I really like Gaspard's draft. It is very similar to the inventory in the XCOM series, and this is one of the most fun inventories I've come accross:


The inventory position there really matters. For example stuff placed on the shoulders is really fast to access, but could decrease your aiming; stuff attached to the leg slots is also fast, but could affect your speed, etc.

Granted, we will probably have more slots, and micromanagement may be harder, but I still like the idea Smiley
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Lamoot
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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2009, 10:01:55 PM »

Yeah, I like this idea as well. We'll need to pay attention to how the interface will behave to avoid the pitfalls of micromanagement. For example grabing an object makes all slots it can fit to light up a bit.
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2009, 01:50:13 AM »

Proposal: The large inventory grid's edge squares in "unfixed" position to allow the maximise the potential of the space. By this I mean if you have an almost full grid and perhaps 3 individual squares free but you have a two square object, would it possible to accomodate the object by moving squares if they are in the right position. This could be done on a 1:1 basis or on a 2:1 basis, the 2:1 representing the fact that are you are not using the optimum area of the bag, but the squares you do have will have more utility.
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eleazzaar
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2009, 04:09:13 AM »

I lost the response to zenbitz post in a power outage.  Not immediately eager to type it again, but will eventually if the flow of conversation doesn't make it superfluous.

...representing the fact that are you are not using the optimum area of the bag, but the squares you do have will have more utility.

I'm not sure i follow the proposal.

But are you saying that it is fun or strategically valuable to sort inventory to optimally use the bags area?

Personally i find them distinctly unfun.  (ignoring the size-limited slots for combat-ready stuff previous discussed)  And i haven't seen anyone give a reason why a tetris inventory is good in itself.  This kind of "feature" was born out of the limits of the GUIs of a decade ago.  There's no reason to emulate it today.

General problems like "it's silly to be able to carry 53 broadswords" can be dealt with in many other ways.

For the general "stowed away" inventory, we don't need to do any tetrising at all.

Simplest solution:
* give the player a grid with more space for stuff than he can carry-- if necessary the grid expands and scrolls.
** (optional) in this area, all item in this inventory are represented by a uniform sized icon
* the extra grid space allows the player to organize his stuff visually.
* all identical items stack
* the limiting factor is encumbrance, beyond a certain point no more can be added.
** the current encumbrance is displayed so the player knows the consequences of carrying that much stuff
* bulk is ignored here because it doesn't add anything interesting... what sort of large, unusually light objects might the player carry which necessitate limits on bulk and weight?

More complicated version:
* Same as above, except bulk capacity is also displayed numerically something like:
 12/14
... to show that only 2 more "bulk points" can be added to the backpack.

* when bulk is maxed out, or when attempting to add something of excessive bulk the background of the inventory grid does something obvious like turn red.
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2009, 08:59:05 PM »

El - if you have objections or arguments to my new proposal - as in "doesn't actually prevent tetrising" I would like to hear them.
I agree the X-com stuff is like what I was thinking originally... but too much organizing work for player.

The key difference in my system is that you cannot min/max the ready slots very well.  If we consider the special case where all items are the same size - then I just have 7 ready slots and 10-40 "packed" slots.  The only nuance I've added is that you have <7 ready slots that can be used on larger items.
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