Alone in the Dark (2008) also tried to re-invent the inventory screen for a more immersive experience. What they did was have your character open their jacket to access items and have you select items from a first-person perspective. They wanted certain items in your inventory to be instantly-accessible during combat. However, it proved to be just a re-skinning of a traditional slot-based inventory screen.
I think I've come up with something better for what they were trying to do. However, it requires Full Motion.
The most convenient way to make items instantly accessible during combat is to dedicate a button to each item. Since we don't have that luxury on a gaming console, we need some other way to have instant access.
With a Full Motion system, we can make the character mimic the player's body movement. For example, if the player puts their hands on their hips, the character would do the same in real time. We can use this to instantly access any virtual object physically attached to the character's body, such as a pistol in a pistol holster.
Here's how you would instantly access that pistol. You would move your hand to where the holster would be if it were real. Since you can't actually feel the holster there, the game would inform you via rumble that the character is touching the holster. This is an example of a "haptic interface".
Once your hand touches the holster, an icon would appear on screen:
The purpose of this icon is to tell the player what they would grab if they were to click the "grab" button. In this case, it's saying that the player can grab the pistol. To grab the pistol, you simply click the "grab" button while your hand is next to the holster. To put it back in the holster, you do exactly the same thing: move your hand to the holster, and click the "grab" button.
Instead of a holster, let's say the pistol is in a jacket pocket along with several other objects, such as a key and a lighter. Since we have more than one object in the pocket, the most needed item needs to be set as the default, that way you can grab it instantly without having to "feel around" for it.
Okay, so you can access a default object instantly, but what about everything else? In order to access a specific item, most games would have you open a large, flow-breaking inventory screen. In truth, we do need such an inventory screen for the sake of item management (and I'll show what that would look like later), but in combat we'll probably need full access to any given individual container on the fly.
- Hold "grab" for a second while touching a container = Open container
- Hold "grab" for a second while not touching anything = Drop held object
"Open container" would display a small window off to one side of the screen showing the different objects in the container:
The interface in this mock-up is as simple as it gets. There are no slots or grid squares. All that matters is that there's stuff in a container, and they take up space.
The default object is at the top, and everything else is on the bottom. The numbers in the lower right are the combined volume of the objects and the capacity of the container.
Here are the functions of the container window:
- Click "grab" on an object = Take object
- Click "grab" while holding an object and pointing at the container = Store object
- Click "grab" and drag an object from bottom to top = Set default object
- Click "grab" and drag an object from top to bottom = Clear default object
- Click "grab" and drag an object out of the container = Drop object
- Put your hand down = Close container
The full "inventory screen" would work the same way, but show all containers at once.
In this mock-up, the figure at the top represents the character's avatar. Pointing at any of the container windows would highlight the location of the container on the avatar's body. Pointing at what the avatar is wearing would show pop-up windows regarding the item being pointed at. To equip don an article, simply drag the article from its container to the avatar. To doff an article, drag it from the avatar to a container.
You can put any number of items in any container while on this screen, regardless of object size. This makes it much easier to manage your inventory. However, if there's too much stuff in a container (indicated by a pale red background inside the container), you won't be able to exit the inventory screen. The "FIT" button (grayed out here) if clicked attempts to rearrange the objects in your inventory so that everything fits. If it can't, it's covered with a big red 'X'.
On top of all this, you could also have several containers that only accept one of a certain kind of object (like how a pistol holster can only hold a pistol). This would allow you even more instant-access objects.