Murder, Mayhem, and Management Skills

| Thursday, June 27, 2013
Saints Row: The Third is the delightful story of a plucky group of Americans trying to make it in a new city while being harassed by Mexican clones, hackers from the 80s, and a Belgian man who insists that it isn't the same as being French.  On the surface it's an adrenaline-filled game of violence and many terrible things.  Dig deeper and you'll see that it has important management skills to teach.

Servant Leadership
A servant leader leads not for his own power, but to help others.  In SR3 the protagonist is the leader of the Saints gang.  Yet he is also the servant of the gang, frequently putting his own safety on the line in order to help others.  He serves the gang as much as it serves him.  With his help, gang members grow as individuals and advance their goals.  Whether that means killing a Belgian guy or restarting a drug franchise, the protagonist helps his team members meet their many diverse goals.

When not shooting people (I needed a car), the protagonist is helping his gang members to grow as individuals.  He listens to them and helps them with their goals.  He offers advice as well as covering fire.

Learn from your Subordinates
A good leader becomes a great leader by learning.  The protagonist takes every opportunity to learn.  For example, he drove around in a convertible with a live tiger attacking him to learn to master his fear.  He also learned the value of team work and insurance fraud by working with new members of his gang.

At no point does the protagonist insist that "this is the way we've always done things."  When offered new opportunities, he leaps at the chance, whether this means leaping from a plane or jumping into a new and exceptionally violent, yet highly ethical Japanese game show.  In keeping with his style of learning from others, he seeks out those who understand the strange new city and adopts their methods.

Have a Goal
The protagonist has an ambitious set of goals.  He wants to kill people who tried to kill him.  He wants to get rich.  He wants to run the city.  Yet he also has achievable smaller goals along the way.  He gathers intelligence.  He develops money-laundering operations.  He takes over small areas of the city and recruits supporters.  Each small goal builds up toward the larger goals, like a mighty pyramid.

Civilization V: Gods and the Kings' Spies

| Monday, June 24, 2013
Spies hide out in every corner; you can't touch them no, 'cause they're all spies
Espionage has made a much-needed comeback.  A somewhat lame comeback, but this is Civ V, so it's still an improvement.  I must admit that I found the Civ IV spies to be somewhat annoying.  You'd send this little unit shuffling across the world, only to get caught a turn after entering the next civ's borders.  Missions knocked it back to the capitol, since as we all know, the best place for an agent who successfully completes a mission without blowing their cover is back where they started, with all their carefully generated contacts and hideouts rotting away (that's how I interpret the no-movement espionage discount).

Civ V takes a more sensible approach.  You have your list of spies and you can send them to cities.  They take a turn to move and then take a few turns to set up.  Then they can begin the fun.  Admittedly it's a mostly fire-and-forget process, but that depends on the situation.  You'll want to move them around as it changes even though you won't be managing them turn-by-turn (since then they'll accomplish nothing).

In other civilizations this takes the sometimes-fruitful path of slowly, very slowly, working toward stealing a tech.  It seems to take around 15 turns, depending on difficulty and whether they have theft-slowing buildings.  In effect this a second research path and if you're not playing at low settings you're going to need it.  You can put multiple spies in enemy cities, even of the same civ, to get parallel paths to theft, all of which can bear fruit independently.  This can be life-or-death, and has been for me at least once, when I was falling behind pretty far.  However, if your spy is caught the AI will get pretty mad at you.  I've never seen to lead to a war, but I've not tested the limits, instead switching to another civ.  Still, this can turn a friendly civ to guarded, so it might be a bad idea to spy on your 'allies' (for as much as such things exist in Civilization).

City States are a bit more fun in the espionage arena.  The boring thing is rigging elections.  Send in a spy and he'll try to rig the next round of elections for that particular city state, which are all held at the same time for every city state.  This gives a boost to your standing, if it succeeds.  Other civs may be doing the same and only one will succeed.  The real fun is in the coups.  If someone else has the ally, you can stage a coup, with varying changes of success depending on your current standing.  If they don't like you at all, you're not going to succeed.  However if some other jerk just bought off the city state, a coup will not only put you back on top, it will also knock them way down.  It hurts when this happens to you.  Failed coups will get the spy killed, though they are replaced eventually so it's a temporary loss, though the replacement won't be experienced.

A last interesting bit that I keep forgetting to take advantage of is Intrigue.  Spies can sometimes see what the AI is planning.  Maybe recon with your units shows that Isabella is building a navy, but who is she planning to attack?  A spy could find out, or see inside a civ that has closed borders.  The AI civs sometimes share this information when they find it, which is nice of them.  Though the one time I was notified that the English were plotting against me I was well aware of it since I'd already captured two city states under their protection and was positioning my navy to launch my own attack.

My only major complaint about the espionage system is that it favors players who are slightly behind in tech, but not by much.  If you're too far behind, then you have fewer spies (you get one slot per era starting in the Renaissance).  If you're ahead, then you have nothing to steal and therefore your spies can only get experience by catching other spies stealing tech, and since the odds of stealing and surviving seem to be significantly higher than getting caught, you're going to have lower-level spies.  On the other hand, maybe that's just one more way to keep a game interesting.  It helps keep lower-tech civs from becoming completely left behind.

My God can beat up your god.
Religion is back.  I'm undecided on if I prefer it to the version in Civ IV, but it's certainly a bit of fun and makes for some difficult decisions early in the game.  You first adopt a pantheon which will give a situational bonus, such as more food or culture from particular tiles, improvements, or buildings.  With a prophet you can form a real religion (take that, Greece, you didn't have a real religion, just a bunch of jerks in the sky), which gives two more bonuses.  Finally you can enhance it for two more and then you have a fully-fledged religion tailor-made for your civilization.  Since it gives bonuses you'll want to spread it to your cities.

Spread can be active or passive, both based on converting followers to form a majority in a city.  Cities that follow a religion will exert pressure on nearby cities and if one religion has more pressure than another, then the city will gradually convert to that religion.   If you want to speed it up, great prophets and missionaries can convert a large number of people, often forming a majority right away.  Inquisitors can remove those of other faiths, also potentially converting a city.  I tend to use them for the more dramatic purpose of wiping out the holy city for competing religions, thereby crippling their spread.

I've not seen any religion-based wars, but some of the bonuses will affect combat.  The AI will get mad if you try to spread a competing religion in their lands.  I've only played a few games, so maybe I've just not seen it yet.  Though as of writing this, Sweden has happily adopted my religion in the majority of their cities.  Good thing I slaughtered the Hindus and destroyed their holy city.  I guess I've started all the wars over religion.  I do hate those competing holy cities so much.

I'm not sure how powerful religion is in the game.  The slower rep decay with city states is obviously a pretty big deal, equal in power to the first social policy of patronage.  I tend to go for Ethiopia (Jewish) and pick up the 1% production per follower, since 15% at the max is pretty awesome.  Yet I don't have much to compare it with, since I almost always have my own religion.

Currently I'm playing a game as England, which has no particular benefits for religion, or much of anything else until their longbowmen aka artillery conquer everything flat.  Due to Ethiopia getting in the way I ended up with an awful start and have been a perpetual underdog, with only my constant spying keeping my civ from being irrelevant.  I don't see how a religion could have fixed this.  If anything, atheism saved us a lot of time and money that would have gone to shrines and temples.  On the other hand, having more happiness and production would have been a big help.  Only very late in the game did I manage to crush Ethiopia and start to be a factor in the world.

The sad yet undefeated state of my England is a strong endorsement of the impact of espionage.  At times I was getting half my beakers from stolen tech rather than my own civilization.  Rather than an ignorant backwater waiting to be crushed, we were instead second or third in technology, aided by our spies speaking what must have been perfect Russian.

Starvation was the least of my worries

| Saturday, June 22, 2013
I finally played Don't Starve.  I hated it at first sight.  The graphics look weird.  The gameplay is odd, like Minecraft meets Diablo, but with permadeath.  You punch a shrub and pick up some flint off the ground, so that you can hit trees and rocks for logs and stones.  Things go uphill from there.

The game features a multitude of ways to die.  I've experienced a few.  Much as it is not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop, starvation is merely the thing that pushes you away from your comfortable fire into the deadly world.

For the most part you're safe.  You can chop trees and dig up graves and trap rabbits.  But sometimes the trees come alive and attack you.  Sometimes a ghost prefers that you not rob his grave.  Sometimes, well the rabbit-trapping seems to be perfectly safe.  As long as you don't encounter a pack of wolves.

It was the exploration that killed me.  I wanted to go out, see the world, which is a fine impulse in most circumstances.  But for some reason I chose the winter to do it.  During winter you can freeze to death when away from fires and earmuffs only buy time.  Freezing means losing health, so you have to have some way to recover; normal cooked food is extremely inefficient at health recovery, but dried meat works well.  I'd not stockpiled, nor brought much on the trip.  It was meant to be a little jaunt around the area, just a little jump into a wormhole to see where I ended up.  I nearly froze and starved before I got back to my home base.

Bases aren't safe areas.  They're just areas (that you set up yourself) where the cold and darkness themselves won't kill you.  Animals and monsters will still attack.  And so, starving and weak, I was attacked by a trio of wolves.  I was not going to survive it, but I hoped that maybe they couldn't follow me through the wormhole.  I set out running across the frozen land, hoping the cold wouldn't kill me first, knowing that on the other side of the wormhole I'd left a single campfire.  Running and running, just barely ahead of their snappings mouths, I got to the wormhole.

And then they ate me.

I guess they were playing the same game.

Gambling is an experience, not a risk

| Friday, June 21, 2013
To start off, this isn't about addicted gambling.  This is about the stages before that, when gambling isn't yet a miserable money hole that destroys your life.

Syl is looking at the potential overlap between gambling and buying lockbox keys from cash shops, presumably since both involve throwing money into a random system and hoping to get something good.  Oddly, she uses the term "random drops" yet talks about lockboxes rather than actual drops.  I'll talk about both.  And gambling.

Let's start with those lockboxes.  They're stupid and annoying.  They drop and say:
I might have something good
but you can't look
Drop a coin in the key slot
and I'll unlock

I hate when inanimate objects try to do poetry.  I also hate handing over bits of money for nothing in return.  I don't mind buying things, such as food and beer.  I hand over bits of money and I get something in return, such as deliciousness and drunkenness.  Maybe this means I hate gambling.  Yet I play poker sometimes, not because I come out ahead very often, but because it's fun.  I can find no fun in lockboxes.

Moving on to random drops: I like virtual violence.  Real violence is bad and makes me angry, but virtual violence is, if anything, in too short of a supply.  Travel time?  Could be more violent.  Loading screens?  Violent cutscenes.  Combat?  Bigger guns, or guns if the game lacks them.

In keeping with this love of virtual violence, I don't mind random drops too much.  To some extent they hit the same "I might or might not be useful" nerve that angers me with lockboxes, but to compensate, they're usually violent and take time rather than money.  If I'm gaming, I have time, or I'd not be gaming.

Finally there is gambling in casinos.  It's not simply a matter of putting in some money and most likely getting nothing back.  It's an experience!  There are TV ads making it look fun.  Billboards and radio spots to hype it up.  And of course everyone is either winning or about to win, while surrounded by smoking hot babes who will totally want to do you when you win.  Or they're prostitutes that you bought with your winnings.  Or if the ad is supposed to appeal to women, then the central person is a smoking hot babe on the verge of winning, but surrounded by hot women still.  It's rather appealing since if women win they don't get only 78% of the winnings.

Anyway, the point to take away, beside the sexism inherent in most advertising, is that casinos are fun exciting experiences.  In that regard they're not like the dull risk lockboxes, but like the thrilling violence of random drops.  Except instead of violence it's cheering, dice, and sex.  Win or lose, you're going to get lucky, is the message.

Columbus DID discover the New World

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Oh sure, some Asians wandered across a bridge to Alaska.  Maybe some Polynesians sailed all the way across the Pacific (quite a feat!).  Vikings settled all over the place.  And of course that dope thought he was in Asia.

Yet he was an Explorer.  An explorer doesn't need to find something first.  They merely need to find it, themselves, without a map telling them it is there.  To suggest otherwise would mean that it is impossible to explore, or at least to know we are doing so.  Much of the Earth has been seen before, by someone.  Maybe aliens have seen it all, and the rest of the universe.  There may be nothing that has never been seen before by conscious minds.

New is relative.  New is new to a person.  Columbus found a land that was new to him.  It was new to Portugal.  Of course he didn't quite know it yet, but someone else figured out what it was, and for that person it was new.

On the flip side, you can't explore something if someone just handed you a detailed map of it.  That's tourism.  Throw out the map and wander, see what you find, and then you are an explorer.  Maybe it's not the most exciting exploration ever, but it is exploration, for it is discovery done by you.

Free to play

| Monday, June 17, 2013
Back in the day I loved shareware.  I'd get these Mac Addict discs from my cousin after he'd used them, packed with demos and shareware.  Wonderful things, those discs.  The equivalent download would have taken days, even if it didn't get interrupted.  Who else remembers using some sort of download manager to be able to continue downloads after someone screws up the dialup or dsl?  Horrible times #firstworldproblemsfromadecadeandahalfago

Anyway, these discs were a way to play all sorts of games that I'd have never played otherwise.  I'd not have even known they existed.  How would I?  My friends weren't gamers and the internet was just an unruly adolescent rebelling at its neglectful father, Al Gore, before it gave up acting and went into porn.  Shareware games were nifty.  Play for a while, then if you like it, send someone a few bucks then they'd send you a license code to enter and viola, you'd have a fully-fledged game.

The closest we have to that is free to play games, and that brings us to the theme of this post: free to play games.  Act one: The fourth wall enters into a cash shop.  Act two: I'm cheaper than an ethnic stereotype.  Act three: Wretched hives of scum and villainy.

Act one
I like being in games.  Actually in them, where all that I experience is the game.  This is why I start all gaming sessions by first telling everyone in a five block range to shut up and if they're going to get injured, please call the ambulance now so it doesn't distract me.  Yet some games ruin this.  The shareware games did it with a variety of techniques, such as Hector in his invincible spaceship blowing you out of the sky if you'd played more than 30 days without registering.  That's why God invented afterburners.  Even games where you buy a box do this, inviting you to buy DLC at all moments.  I first ran into this in Dragon Age: Origins, where in keeping with the RPG rule to Talk to Everyone, I talked to a guy who told this interesting story and hey cool I should go to that place, but I don't have that DLC.  Huh?  Guild Wars 2 has its gem shop, but it's shoved off to the side and seems to be a shady side business than part of the real store, like when you ask the guy at Home Depot if they sell any Happy Plants, wink, and slip him $500 cash before he calls the police.

And then there are the free to play games.  At all turns you're reminded that you didn't give them money.  There is another bag slot, but you can't use it.  You can't check your mail because you're too cheap.  You would be able to level up, but not if you won't pay!

Act two
I really like that free and play parts, but that to bit in the middle causes trouble.  There are all manner of sources of free games.  Many of them are good games in their own right.  Many are not broken out of the box.  That leads me to my annoyance with many free to play implementations: they don't work so well out of the box that you didn't buy.  Why would I not pay good money for something that doesn't work?  If I'm going to not spend money, I want to get my no money's worth.

I could pay a little bit of money to get a fully-functioning game.  Sometimes its even quite inexpensive to upgrade.  If presented with such a package I might even buy it.  I give you money, you give me a game that works in its entirety.  Yet free to play breaks this concept for me.  My ability to hand over money is mentally hindered.  It's a free game and why should I pay for free?  Sell a man a fish and you feed him for a day; offer a man a free fish and an inexpensive fishing class and he'll get really pissed off and starve to death instead.  Because he's stupid.

Act three
What sort of scum plays a free to play game anyway?  No one I'd want to be around!  On one hand you have the cheap jerks who refuse to support a game that they're more than happy to play.  They have literally zero investment beside their time, which I presume they have in abundance and can therefore use to do a lot of whining about this thing that they refuse to pay for. The other group are the idiots who pay for a game that is free just so they can get another bag slot.  Why not just play a subscription game that never tries to get a few more bucks from you with seemingly-obvious features or ridiculous items?

Today's post was brought to us by a bunch of imaginary people at whom I am angry and me, who might be getting some pretty cool fanmail for people such an excellent writer but cannot open it because "you can't check your mail because you're too cheap."

Why I burn down so many cities

| Thursday, June 13, 2013
When Jesus quoted Reagan about a city upon a hill, He wasn't talking about Civ V.  Losing a windmill and a hydro plant makes no sense at all.
I wish the Polynesian symbol weren't so hypnotizing.

Mutual Distress and Damsels

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013
A conversation with Syl of MMO Gypsy has gotten me thinking again about Bioshock Infinite.  I'd claimed that Elizabeth was not a mere useful damsel.  She was instead a character with her own motivations and goals rather than a useful object that sometimes threw other useful objects to the player.

In part this was based on my view that she and Booker experienced mutual distress.  She'd need rescuing, but he would as well, making it something more like a partnership than a male-dominated rescue fantasy.  It could still be slightly tilted one way or another, but with how games generally go, having a female character who ever saves the male character is something significant (though not necessarily sufficient)  I'm not to aiming for mathematical parity here.

This should actually be pretty easy to evaluate.  I'll start with a basic standard: does Elizabeth save Booker?  The answer is pretty obviously, yes.  The incident that first comes to mind is when Songbird has them cornered and is just about to crush Booker into goo when she yells at him to stop.  She agrees to return with Songbird if she leaves Booker alone.

Okay then, she's saved Booker.  Done.

Or did she?  Well yes, but how?  Merely keeping him from dying hardly makes her a mutual protector or means that he's mutually distressed.

Notice how she saves him.  She doesn't use a tear.  She doesn't run away to draw his attention.  She doesn't poke a weak spot.  She gives up.  She surrenders.  She puts herself right back into a situation of needing saving.  In effect, she hasn't saved Booker, she's just reset the story back to the point where Booker is wandering a hostile city looking for her.

Resetting is her true power.  In the end, which the phrasing of which should indicate that spoilers follow, she resets Booker.  She doesn't actually fix him or fix history.  She's just hitting a reset button and if we're lucky, Booker won't be as evil this time, but since I think he was evil all along...

When I first started discussing this with Syl I didn't mind that she hid a lot.  Look at her.  She's never been in combat.  She doesn't know how to fight.  She doesn't have a shield tonic.  One bullet at the game is over.  Yet as I tried to argue this I realized something: she never changes.  She never gets used to the fighting.  She's always startled, terrified, at everything.  She never develops a sense of confidence in herself or even in Booker.  If they changed her sound, to make her a little less scared all the time, I think that would make a big difference.

But when can't she fight?  She's been learning so much in all her books.  Surely she's read a few about combat.  She could have even read too many that make combat seem glorious and exciting.  The books are such a convenient thing for the writers, like the uploads in the Matrix.  She could learn anything, with every book and all the time in the world.  We're not given the sense that her knowledge was restricted; her lockpicking skills are evidence that she learned things that people locking her up might not have wanted her to know.

I'm not suggesting that she should have been a good fighter.  In fact, I think it would have been great if in the first fight she was utterly worthless.  Make her terrified at the sound of the gun, having never heard it before.  Make the recoil knock her off an airship, saved by a tear, just as she does for Booker.  This could be comical or dramatic, depending on how they portray it.  But then she learns, slowly getting used to the weapons, learning to use them.  And yes, she'd kill a few people.  Would that ruin her purity?  No!  Purity is a silly concept and besides, is it pure to leave someone else to do all the killing while you throw them more guns?  Let her feel bad about killing, but don't pretend that she's not allowed to do it.  Even with no change to the overall story, making Elizabeth more directly active would have made her less of a damsel and more of a person.

After this it's just baseless speculation.  Maybe Fitroy's an Elizabeth from a different universe.  She made a tear and pulled in another self.  She told that self how to start a revolution.  With the revolution and the fall of Comstock's regime, Elizabeth would be free.  She would break herself out using herself and her power.  Suddenly she's not a damsel being rescued.  Booker walked into her story, and while he did a lot, it was Elizabeth who was running the show.  She saw that Booker was useful and when her alternate self threatened to get out of control she disposed of it.  Wouldn't you react somewhat poorly if you had to stab yourself?

Civ V: Gods and Kings: Part One: It got better

| Monday, June 10, 2013
This was supposed to be one post.  Then I realized that it was giant.  I think this says something good about the expansion right there, that rather than writing a short "I liked/didn't like the expansion", I instead wanted to explain.  I'm actually a bit excited to talk about this game and not in my usual rant about how Civ IV is so much better.  At this point, I think there could even be an actual debate there rather than it being an obvious statement.  Anyway, first up, buildings!  Spies, religion, diplomacy, navies, and whatever else I think of will follow.

I purchased the expansion recently, thanks to a Steam sale.  It was strange timing.  Just that morning I'd been thinking that Civ V was irredeemably bad.  So much was screwed up and the gameplay seemed overly simplistic relative to Civ IV.  The tactical combat was nice, but the empire itself was a trivial matter.  The empire, rather than being the thing that supported the army, was instead a weight.  Only a few units were ever needed, but if I won too much I'd fall into crippling unhappiness and lose the ability to fight.

This has changed somewhat.

Buckets of Buildings
The expansion adds a lot of buildings.  These are linked related to the new mechanics of religion and espionage.  Shrines add faith, as do temples now, with the new amphitheater replacing them in the culture generation role.  Two anti-spying buildings are added, though I suspect I'd need to play on a harder difficulty for them to matter much.  They slow down the rate at which enemies can steal technology, which is only relevant in a sort of bitter spot between totally outpacing them and therefore not caring that they stole railroads with which to flee your giant death robots and being behind them in tech and therefore having nothing for them to steal.

These buildings give me something to do beside spam more unneeded units or generate science.  I feel like I'm actually managing something.  Religion can give bonuses to these buildings, making them worth building if they didn't seem to be already, since at first the 1 faith per turn shrine can seem pretty lame.  There are also a lot of new wonders and some existing wonders have been tweaked a bit.  Some remain generally powerful, just as Chichen Itza (50% longer golden age, though it lost the +4 happiness) while the Hagia Sophia only generates a prophet instead a great person of your choice (aka, an engineer).  Someone apparently noticed that the Hanging Gardens are a sort of garden, so now they give a free garden.

The Great Wall remains overpowered.

Or if you're playing Civ V, Gold Edition is on sale on Steam

| Thursday, June 6, 2013
And is, for some reason, cheaper than buying the Gods and Kings expansion, which it includes.  Buy more and save $2.50.  I don't understand it either.

Since I know you're all still playing Civ IV, here's a production UI tip

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The other day I discovered something by accident that changed everything.  Well, changed something.  It made things slightly more convenient.

If you alt-click on a unit to produce, the city will keep making it indefinitely.  This is upgraded and maintained when more advanced units are available.  Until I discovered this I'd been spamming shift-click when I wanted a lot of a unit.

Even better, if you shift-click and add something after it, once the current unit is done it will build the next item in the queue, and then go back to the infinite unit.  For example, if you wanted to finish the spearman that is almost done and have the city build walls before starting on the next one, this can do that.

Even more better, if you shift-alt-click you can have two units being built in an alternating pattern.  Or add more to change the ratio.  This makes it easier to keep a good mix of spears and axes.

Civ IV has a great production management system.  It's strange that Civ V completely lost this, with a much clunkier queue system.  About the only thing it made better was allowing you to pick city production anytime before the end of the turn rather than forcing a decision at the start.

I don't like having a production UI pop up constantly.  I like being able to make a plan, push it into the city, and focus on something else.  It reduces distraction.  In Civ IV this is as simple as shift-clicking as you go through the build order.  My only annoyance when dealing with pre-req buildings, such as needing libraries to build universities; even if you have the library queued before it, you cannot add a university to the queue until it is done.

[edit] Something else that isn't quite related, but here goes: if you can get to a city screen you can also get to the diplomacy screen.  For example, let's say a window popped up informing you that a fire burned down your forge and offers these options: ignore it (forge destroyed and unhappiness), investigate (forge destroyed and costs 10g), rebuild it (forge saved and costs 50g), and of course examine city, but you only have 40g.  I'd say it's worth much more than 40g to keep a forge working.  If you pick examine city, then hit F4 you'll get to the diplomacy screen.  You can now trade with other civilizations, possibly getting the gold you need.  In a similar scenario, if you get a free tech you can use the option to view the tech tree, then go to the diplomacy screen and trade for something, allowing you to leapfrog further ahead.  Wouldn't you rather have free astronomy than free optics?

Miscellaneous items should not be easily classified

| Monday, June 3, 2013
Alternative title: Easily classified items should not be miscellaneous.

Games with inventory also have inventory management and organization.  Once upon a time there would be no sorting at all beside alphabetical.  Everything was just there.  Let's admit it, alphabetical is not often a useful sorting method, particularly when done by the first letter.  Surely Small Blaster and Large Blaster should be next to each other, rather than buried between Smack and Smelling Salts and Lacey Combat Armor and Lice Remover.

In a visual space players could do much of it manually.  In WoW, in the early days players could stick items in different bags, though needing to manually resort since the looting system didn't play along.  Eventually all the col people got bag addons and the coolest people spent a lot of time making sure everything was sorted perfectly.  No miscellaneous items here.  Diablo could use a similar location-based organization, but of course that couldn't last forever when the Tetris mini-game started.

Games such as Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout use tabs of pre-sorted categories.  Weapons, armor, consumables (potions, scrolls, food), and... miscellaneous.  The first three are just great.  But what's miscellaneous?

I'm not opposed to the presence of a bag category for items that don't fit well elsewhere or for items that don't fit a classification with anything else.  Wookie hair balls and cantina music samples don't really belong in consumable, at least I hope not...  But what about crafting materials?  Skyrim even puts the potion ingredients in their own category: ingredients.  Yet the many ores, gems, pelts,and dragon bits are stuck in the miscellaneous category alongside Pelagius' hip bone and various soul gems.  Surely a crafting category would be called for.  The same, but worse, may apply to Fallout: New Vegas.  The currency is weightless and therefore is not something I ever need to remove from my inventory.  Ditto for the hundred types of empty shell casings which exist only to be reloaded into more bullets.  Yet my somewhat more important scrap metal is mixed in with these, alongside the various heads and brains I'd be collecting.

Knights of the Old Republic may be even worse.  Grenades and mines, rather than being in either weapons or usable, and seemingly being a coherent category unto themselves, have somehow been classified as miscellaneous.  This mixes them in with passkeys, various non-quest quest bits (such as pieces for fixing up the speeder on Nar Shaddaa), and what is surely a worthy category: item upgrades.

I understand that when you only have a handful of a type of item that it is not worth the effort to make a category for it.  It would take time, and even more importantly, space in the UI.  Yet when an item is thrown into the miscellaneous category, despite being worth a category of its own, or at least fitting somewhat well in another, don't put them in miscellaneous. 
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