Big pile of acorns

Piles

A pile can contain a number of items of one type or some amount of a material (powder, liquid, paste or other). In the future mixes of various substances could also be formed and handled as piles, but that is currently an optional feature for Mason.

For some ideas of how to store many similar but slightly different items look at this discussion: http://grimicus.dyndns.org/logs/info.php?file=forge200105050720.irc

The graphical presentation of piles of items

It would be nice if graphics for piles could be generated automatically, because that would allow to create piles of any item types.

Here's some alternative pile drawing strategies. Each itemtype would use one of these strategies for drawing piles.

There can exist many alternative graphics for a specific item, that will allow a bit of natural variation for things like piles of acorns or firewood.

Various pile drawing methods are not required for Mason, this it's just general brainstorming for future use (although the implementation shouldn't be that complicated).

Homogenous stuffs like clay, sugar, pebbles, jello, water and mead need only to define the color, transparency, grain size, reflection and maybe some other constants. Graphics for piles of different sizes of these items could be predrawn or (pre)generated and colorchanged as neccesary.

Some sort of stuffs have a varying look, like chicken soup, mixed pebbles, and polka-colored toothpaste. In most cases it might be enough to define primary and secondary color attributes, for different grain sizes.. Although the easiest way would probably be to use predrawn graphics of different sizes.

Piles in the Inventory

The user interface could show the number of items (or the mass) in a pile with small numbers in the top right corner of the inventory slot, for example. This technique has been used in various games such as Ultima Underworld. Civilization also included the actual number of trade/food/shield items produced beside the graphical list of them.

Hiding the actual number from the user can be annoying. Consider all computer RPG and other games that hide the skill values of your character, the protectiveness of armor or the damage of weapons (DM comes to mind). The only way the player can get an idea if the diamond edged cleaver or the sabre of darkness is better is by collecting a large amount of sample data from the use of the weapons and running advanced statistical analysis on the result

This severely restricts the players ability to make strategic decisions about the configuring of his character, and reduces the fun of that important aspect of CRPG:s.

Combining piles

Combining two piles would be as easy as dragging one on top of the other and dropping it. If the number of items / mass exceeds the max pile size for that item type it would produce one full pile and another pile with the extra items. Adding one item to a pile would also work in this way.

Splitting a pile would require some suitably flexible system to specify the number of items / mass to be moved. Extracting one item from it should be possible using a meta key or some similar, easy way. Control could be used to extract one item, and shift to extract a user specified number of items.

The user interface is of course up to the client, the above is just some ideas of how it could be handled with a mouse. The server will just provide some commands for handling piles.