I’m a dude, so I don’t carry a purse. But one thing Secret World has taught me is that if I did carry a purse, I’d optimize the heck out of it.

After the jump, what’s in the bag?

I’ve seen my fair share of inventory screens, from the godawful lists in a Besthesda game to the helpful crafting toolbelts in Vanguard to the Tetris shenanigans in Deus Ex. As an inventory management veteran — I have the merit badge to prove it — I’m pretty happy with Secret World’s virtual purse system. Like any other MMO, it showers you with tiny icons that you’ll drop into your bags, where you’ll have to constantly mouse over them to bring up the tooltip so you know what they are.

The first great thing Secret World does with its inventory is give you lots of it. How cheap is it when RPGs make storage space a money sink? What kind of cruel bastard game invites you to scoop up piles of treasure, but then gives you a teaspoon instead of a shovel? And although Secret World lets you buy extra space, you’ll never need it. At least that’s what you think at first.

Then the runes, glyphs, weapon materials, and toolkits start rolling in, taking up all the empty space you used to have. There are the potions which you’ll probably never use, but you’ll carry them around anyway. You know, just in case. Okay, so Secret World does use inventory space as a minor money sink. But that only comes later when you’ve got the money to spare.

But what I really like is how it lets you arrange it all however you like. If you want it all dumped onto a single screen, that’s the default option. But maybe you want everything divided among different bags. In which case, you can split the inventory into as many bags of whatever sizes you want. For instance, here’s what it looks like when I tap the I key.

That’s probably pretty overwhelming and it must look a mess to you. Fair enough. You can’t really jump into someone else’s high level MMO character and expect it to make sense. But just to give you an idea how it’s let me arrange the bags — well, they’re technically inventory windows — let me explain my system.

The long thin bag on the right is all my crafting materials, arranged in blocks that help me visualize which components can be combined to make more potent components. I can set it up that way because I can make the window as long and wide as I need.

The three windows along the top are all sets of gear based on how I’m playing.

I can name each window whatever I want, which is how I know the windows are, from left to right, gear for healing, soloing, and doing serious DPS in instances. Soothe, solo, and smack (yes, I realize I misspelled “soothe”). I’ve had a lot of time to think up stupid stuff while playing Secret World, especially during all those times I was trying to solve puzzles and/or bugged quests. Again, I can size these windows however I like, which makes it easy to arrange the bits of gear in the same configuration as the character display that shows which gear is equipped.

(Secret World has a gear management option that lets you save and swap out sets of gear and abilities, but it’s currently more hassle than it’s worth, with no easy way to update your sets.)

Then to the left I have a window for quest items, with potions arranged underneath based on whether they’re hour-long buffs or instant heals. I keep these just in case I ever decide to start using them. I don’t use them now because I don’t want to use them in case I need them later. That’s how potions work in an RPG.

You can even lock these bags to stay on screen when you close your inventory. This is Secret World’s alternative to letting you assign hotkeys to items, something that apparently hasn’t been invented in Norway yet, because I can think of no other reason developer Funcom hasn’t put this in the game. So now I have a long narrow inventory window along the bottom of the screen beside my ability hotkeys like so:

Here I keep a couple of gadgets I’ve made, which are reusable 20-second buffs; a single panic potion; the flamethrower that you make in an early quest that I’ve decided to hang onto because surely it’s going to be useful someday; and my cat, which mysteriously stopped working after providing a 5% damage buff when I first got it. Unfortunately, there’s no way to assign hotkeys to these items. Furthermore, you left click on an ability to use it, but you right click on a consumable to use it. Apparently they haven’t invented consistency in Norway yet either, which has led to some embarrassing moments in the heat of battle where it must look as if I’ve forgotten how to quaff a potion.

Tomorrow: I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.