Follow TV Tropes


Resources Management Gameplay

Go To

It’s important that you grind. But with no Inns, how are you supposed to heal? Tonics are found through the mansion, and automatically heal everyone in your party 100% regardless of your levels. That may sound too convenient, but remember, you can’t buy tonics. You’ve to ration the handful littered throughout the whole mansion.
The Happy Video Game Nerd, during his review of Sweet Home here

There is a vital gameplay element — perhaps fuel, or money or air or healing — which is finite and irreplaceable; if it runs out, you're done for. Therefore, the whole game begins to revolve around managing your supply. If you upset the Unstable Equilibrium by failing to scrimp resources, the game can become Unwinnable.

Do not confuse with Refining Resources, which is a different type of resource management.

Strongly related to Too Awesome to Use, and Unstable Equilibrium. Also see Wizard Needs Food Badly, Anti-Grinding and Min Max.



    open/close all folders 

    Roleplaying Games 
  • Fire Emblem games. You can't repeat battles, and the items you have are the ones you'll use in the next battle, so not wasting your equipment is crucial for progress. Many of the games give you heaps of gold on an irregular and unpredictable basis, so you can end up with no gold for several chapters if you spend it all too early.
  • Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu counts as the Ur-Example of this. There is a limited number of enemy encounters, some of which boost your Karma stat to a point where you can't get any experience points (you have to acquire a cursed potion to reduce your Karma, which in turn will cost you some hit points). And the icing on the cake? All slain enemies stay slain for good. That, and you also have to keep a healthy supply of food, and properly make decisions on when to upgrade your equipment.
  • You're going to have a very tough time in Dark Souls if you don't learn to how ration your spells and healing items between bonfires. Even combat is a challenge of resource management since each attack/roll you make will deplete your stamina meter, as well as attacks you block or parry. To make matters worse, keeping your shield up drastically cuts the recovery rate of stamina, meaning that if you don't do things right, you'll either try regenerating stamina and get killed, or keep your shield up and get knocked over. Then killed.
  • In the Mount & Blade series, you have to manage the health, morale and income of both your character and his band of companions and adventurers. Availability and variety of food, how well you handle battles or diplomacy with rivals, and how much you regularly pay your companions (the better the soldier, the higher the wage) all factors into troop morale. Additionally, there's also the matter of buying or acquiring better mounts, armour and weaponry throughout the course of the game, as you start alone and with humble equipment. Though the vanilla games and most of their mods simply use universal currency for recruitment, payments and rewards, some mods play around with making this more complex. For example, a well-regarded mod about the War of the Ring replaced the currency with "resource points", which the player had to earn separately from each of the many factions present in the mod to purchase or recruit within their territory.
  • The Deus Ex series has always involved some basic resource management, which extends not only to the items, tool and weaponry one is carrying around, but to the player's decisions which cybernetic implants to install and improve into the player character's body.
  • In Citizen Sleeper, the player character's bio-mechanical body begins slowly deteriorating if it is not regularly injected with a special stablizer that is very hard to come across outside corporate channels. The corporation that made the body designed it that way as a slow-working kill switch in case the user of the body would try to run away with it. This means that the player have to find a way to semi-regularly acquire stablizers to maintain the player character's health. The player-character also have to maintain their energy levels by eating meals or their condition will drop. To perform actions, each day the player gets a number of dice rolls, based on the player character's current health, which represent the player character performing an action as well as how useful the action is. There are also a number of inventory items such as the stablizers, credits, scrap and non-physical data to manage.

    Adventure Games 
  • In the original Alone in the Dark (1992), you have a limited amount of oil for your lamp. Keeping your lamp lit is necessary in some dark rooms. If you run out of oil, you're screwed because you won't be able to get past some rooms or find important stuff in them. Same applies to healing items: you only find two throughout the entire game. Not to mention weapons, which break or run out of ammo rapidly, and are also finite in number.
  • The late 1980s Japanese horror adventure game Sweet Home, described in the opening quote. Often cited as an influence on early survival horror games, including Resident Evil.
  • The central gameplay mechanic in Ice-Pick Lodge's Turgor (a.k.a. The Void). This is further complicated by the fact that there is one resource to manage that does everything (health, ammo, currency, etc.). A limited amount appears in each time cycle, and it's alarmingly easy to render the game unwinnable through clumsy or reckless spending of color.
  • YU-NO has a time traveling mechanism which allows you to instantly hop between distant parts of the storyline branches, letting you carry items between unrelated scenes. There's a catch, however: you can only travel to moments where you've "dropped" beforehand a "save-jewel", a magical jewel. There's a limited amount of these, 8 in the PC-98 and Windows versions and 10 in the Sega Saturn and remake versions. This system is in place of a conventional save-load system. The timeline is extremely complex, with dozens of confusing branches, loops and U-turns, and some of the routes require items from the end of another route. It's important to leave jewels in important moments so you can return to them later. "Loading" a dropped jewel also automatically puts it back into your pocket, so you may have to remember to instantly drop it again to keep the moment easily accessible. Furthermore, to view the in-game map which you use for loading jewel-saves, you must have at least one unused jewel in your possession. Screw up, and you may have to replay a significant chunk of the game.

    Survival Horror 
  • Matches are used in ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family to reveal plot-vital items and keep Minhyuk's fear of the dark under control. There's only a limited amount of them to be found, they each last only five seconds each, and don't count as 'plot-important', meaning you'll have to hunt for them. And randomly checking objects can make noise, attracting the killer's attention...
  • Resident Evil: Between having limited ammo, limited healing herbs, and limited inventory space; they often became games of deciding just when to fight and when to find a way to avoid that newest pack of zombies and save your ammo, or risk reaching a point where you're screwed with nothing but a knife to defend yourself.
  • The System Shock series offers you a lot of resource management, including food and medical items, ammunition, weapon parts, and most impressively of all, cybernetic implant modules and other software (which you can use to improve your abilities, or for accessing devices and hacking). The initial version of the second game was somewhat infamous for overdoing it with quickly-weathering firearms. Due to all the games' heavily RPG-esque approach and cyberpunk-based items, they are something of a precursor to the first Deus Ex game, which built on their ideas.
  • A staple in Frictional Games' survival horrors:
    • The episodically published Penumbra series has packets of painkillers as healing items and the battery life of your flashlight (luckily, you can find replacement batteries fairly regularly, if you look around). Your other light source is a glowstick which never runs out, but it's weak for illuminating larger distances. The opening episode, Overture, also has the occasional packet of food supplies, the contents of which you can throw to lure away certain enemies. The sequel, Black Plague, was somewhat criticised for nerfing the battery life of the flashlight quite a bit, forcing you to replace batteries more often (though that also adds to the tension and loneliness).
    • Amnesia: The Dark Descent has lantern oil for your lantern (similar to Penumbra's batteries for the flashlight), and tinderboxes for lighting candles, lamps, static lanterns and other light sources strewn across the environment. Without light, your Sanity Meter drops rapidly. The healing item stand-ins for the previous painkillers are, appropriately enough for the period, vials of Laudanum.
  • Ice-Pick Lodge's Pathologic has fairly extensive survival resource management. Everything from food and water (in various states of freshness), medical supplies (major items, given the story; incl. tablets, painkillers, special potions, tourniquets, bandages...), protective clothing (for medical reasons), to ammo (different bullets for each gun type), extra fuel for your lamp (not as important) and various baubles and cheap goods you can use for bartering. You have to have clothes and weapons repaired over time, due to wear and tear. Even resting and sleeping is something of a resource, as it's ill-advised to continue investigating or solving NPC quests without regularly caring for the player character's needs. The extensiveness of this management is logically justified by the premise, as the town the game takes place in is overrun with an ever-expanding mysterious plague. Even the prices of all these goods can grow and fluctuate a lot, both in official shops and while bartering with people, due to the ongoing crisis. The authorities and society as a whole are slowly crumbling, even though the player can somewhat dampen the worst of the spreading epidemic while also investigating the backstory of the town and the locals.
  • In Alien: Isolation you have to look out after the protagonist's health, her flashlight batteries, her ammunition, secondary items, and the craftable resources to make more of them. She needs to balance progressing away from the xenomorph against exploring to find enough of these things to keep surviving against it, then figure out best how to apply them.
  • The Arctic setting of Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason has the player character keeping warm as a central survival mechanic. It's similar to managing one's health in other horror games. The mechanic has the player searching for any useful sources of heat aboard the game's abandoned icebreaker, and using them to fend off the omnipresent frost. Another resource to manage is ammo, which is relatively scarce, especially some particular types.
  • This is the whole basis of Five Nights at Freddy's. You are being stalked by hostile animatronics. You can't leave your station, but you can check their locations with your camera tablet, use door lights to check if they're right outside your door, and shut the doors to prevent them from getting through. However, when the defenses are active, they drain power, and you only have a finite amount (which already drains slowly because of your office lights and fans). When the power runs out, Freddy will kill you, unless you're just on the edge of the clock flipping to 6 AM.
  • The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money strips you of all your equipment and dumps you in a toxic villa where everything is trying to kill you. There is a palpable dearth of supplies and you have to scrounge for every healing item you can. Hope you were a melee/unarmed character because there isn't a lot of ammo and the ghost people don't stay dead...
  • String Tyrant: There are a limited number of potions in the game, with the only way to get more to find them by searching the mansion. Compounding this the player will almost always take at least a little damage during combat, often having to burn one or two potions for the harder enemies. You can restore your health up to half of max at fountains but otherwise you have to constantly gamble if combat is worthwhile.

    Survival Games 
  • The Long Dark, being a survival game, involves collecting and preserving sustenance, supplies, tools, and shelter in the midst of the harsh Canadian winter. The map has a finite amount of food, medicine, bullets and matches on the map, and the game is set up so gaining one resource will mean expending another (for example, you'll need to eat and drink after a long day gather firewood, and melting snow and cooking food will require starting a fire, etc.) so you need to carefully consider your every action. You will run out of something and die eventually, though - the point of the game is how long you can last.
  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted makes being tracked by mustachioed, tweed-clad robots that much harder by limiting you to whatever you can scavenge and fit inside your grid. Rifles and shotguns in particular can really mess up your Tetris game.
  • This War of Mine puts you in the role of an ordinary civilian trying to survive in a besieged city in Graznavia during a devastating modern war (the setting is inspired by the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War). You have to construct shelters in available surviving buildings, scavenge for edible supplies, fuel, materials needed for repairs, etc. You need to regularly venture outside of your (relatively safe) camp and barter or scavenge for new supplies and resources on your own. The game mechanics involve the specific group of survivors working as a team to keep a steady supply of items needed for daily survival. Though you can come across some lighter weapons and ammunition for potential self-defence, these are hard to come by and scarce.
  • UnReal World is an open-world roguelike set in a land based on prehistoric, Iron Age Finland. The primary goal is to simply survive throughout the calendar year, and one can go about it in numerous ways. The game is strongly management-focused, with the player regularly needing to eat, drink, rest and sleep, and avoid overheating, hypothermia or catching diseases. Additionally, every tool and structure needs to be built from gathered resources. Resource gathering itself can often take a while, especially if there's a need for larger quantities of building materials (e.g. for building a log cabin) or rarer, special materials (e.g. quality leather, as a tying/binding implement) and certain crops (both wild and agricultural plants follow seasonal cycles, so you can't just pick them whenever you want). Outside of exploring to find new natural resources for everyday life, the player can also barter with NPCs from established settlements and existing tribes.
  • A False Saint, An Honest Rogue is another wilderness survival roguelike. It has food and temperature as its main resources. Drop too low on either of those, and you start seeing things.
  • Sheltered is about a family trying to survive as long as they can in a fallout shelter immediately following a nuclear war. Supplies scarce and they need to go out into the wasteland to find more.
  • In the same vein as Sheltered above, there's 60 Seconds!. At the beginning of the game, you have 60 seconds to grab all the supplies (and family members) you can and take them to the bunker. After that comes the hard part- surviving until you can be rescued. Supplies can be replenished by scavenging or random events, but they can also be destroyed. Going without food or water for too long will kill family members, and lack of important items can make them get sick, go insane, or prevent you from reaching an ending.
  • In ARIDA Backlands Awakening, water (unlike food) does not regenerate. There are a limited amount of waterholes in the game, each of which have four uses before they go dry- and if you waste them, well, you're screwed. (Luckily, the game is only around two hours, so mistakes aren't too costly.)

    Stealth Games 
  • In the Thief games, while some of your tools are virtually always present and available, you can run out of many items, including regular and trick arrows (the ammo), trick explosives (used mostly for stunning or stalling opponents), and helpful potions (for increasing health, breath, etc.). Replenishing these items involves either finding spares strewn around the missions themselves, or buying the items anew in secret shops in between missions. Depending on how a mission is structured and what challenges it poses, one often has to adopt his tactics to ration certain ammo and items more carefully than others. Naturally, you can handle a lot of things with just stealth alone, but certain tools are very helpful in getting to places or ensuring you won't be detected as easily (e.g. water arrows for putting out lights, rope arrows for vertical exploration).
  • Certain installments of the Splinter Cell series force the player to use his lockpicking tools wisely, as they're one-use only.
  • Hitman: Codename 47, involves a pre-mission menu that also allows the player to buy extra ammo and other smaller equipment, in addition to selecting the equipment for a mission.
  • The Death to Spies series has a similar system of careful pre-mission item and weapon selection, with additional items and weapons being scavangeable during missions.

    First Person Shooter 
  • In Receiver, bullets are only found by threes and fours (or even ones and twos) scattered widely over the map, and you have no Emergency Weapon. Make every shot count, in other words.
  • In SWAT 3 and SWAT 4, outside of using your relatively small amount of ammo reasonably, you also have to ration the use of some of your items. You and even your team members can run out of stun grenades, depending on the size of a mission and how often you decide to use the grenades. The fourth game also offers tactical wedges for blocking doors, but the amount you can comfortably carry with you is fairly limited, so you have to think twice about which exact doors you'll be blocking to box in suspects.
  • Operation Flashpoint and the ARMA series have you managing your and fellow teammates' health, available weaponry and ammunition, available vehicles, etc., in their campaigns.
    • The ARMA series even added basic laying out of military camps, based on the resources you have.
    • Operation Flashpoint's expansion pack, Resistance, made the management focus even greater due to its storyline focusing on leading a resistance group in an invaded country.
  • The now fairly obscure Japanese horror shooter Extermination had your team of special operatives exploring a base overrun with a bizarre infection. Resource management consisted of considered use of ammo and paying attention to meters displaying risk of infection to the player.
  • The original Doom³ is actually noticeably tighter on ammo than most other FPS games. While ammo is common enough that you're unlikely to run out completely, each individual ammo pickup is small enough that you can't rely on any single weapon throughout the entire game, and will need to switch between your guns fairly frequently based on your current ammo supply for each. Only shotgun ammo is found in relative excess, and the Doom 3 shotgun is infamous for being essentially a melee weapon that happens to use ammo. This is averted in the BFG Edition, which roughly doubles the amount of ammo you get.

  • S.W.I.N.E.'s campaigns have this trope, despite the game being a tactical RTS. This is because everything is limited - you only earn Strategic Points at the start of every mission, which you use to field your units, upgrade them and keep them supplied with fuel, ammunition and armor repairs. The number of units you can field is finite, and all three kinds of supplies are finite - in longer missions the supply trailers used to replenish your combat units will themselves run dry. Hence the conservation of the supplies you have, or Points with which to airlift more in, becomes and important strategic factor.
  • Spore has the Staff of Life, which can only be obtained once and only used 42 times.
  • Sieges in Stronghold require you to make effective use of the troops, traps and structures you're given throughout the whole scenario. You can't replenish your forces, so a mistake early on can make things very difficult later.
  • Pharaoh: While resources are infinite, the rate of collection is not, and depends on many factors (building placement, workforce, distance from the raw materials, availability of raw materials if imported, having enough storage space, the weather for floodplain farming...). And if maintaining a suitable balance between having enough of a particular product both to export and satisfy your citizens' needs wasn't enough, you often get demands for ridiculous quantities that almost require you to set up dedicated storage facilities. Juggling them all is the defining aspect of the game, even with the considerable Acceptable Breaks from Reality and Anti-Frustration Features.
  • The Caesar series, by the same developers as Pharaoh, has very similar resource-and-distribution management. Due to the ancient Roman setting, this includes building reservoirs and aqueducts for supplying cities with water, and so on.
  • Dwarf Fortress derives most of its challenge from this trope, once you get past the controls and other complexities. Every single resource has to be accounted for, whether you produce it yourself, acquire (or "acquire") it from caravans, or loot it from invaders.
  • In MechCommander, salvage is everything. The credits you're paid for each mission don't cover all the repairs and upgrades you need, and some items can't be bought in stores, so you'll have to constantly gather salvage to upgrade your mechs. Also, on each mission, you're given very limited supplies of SupportPowers, such as artillery and sensor probes.
  • The later BattleTech video game requires the player to manage heat in battle, similar to the source material. Generate too much heat in battle without being able to vent it via heat sinks, and your 'Mech will start malfunctioning and shut down (or, in a worst case scenario, explode catastrophically). This makes heat dispersal the valuable resource that has to be managed on a per-unit basis. You also need to pay for and ration out your available reserves of medical care and technical support, ensuring you have enough of both to recover and repair damaged units and heal injured warriors in anything less than two months. On top of that, you also have to manage your unit's morale and standing with various benefactors; don't expect a warm welcome if you show up on House Liao's doorstep after shooting up their Capellan Home Guards.
  • Survival mode in Advance Wars: Dual Strike tasks you with completing several maps in a row with a limited amount of money, turns, or time. The goal is not merely to win, but to win as quickly and efficiently as possible so that you don't run out of that resource later.
  • Homeworld could easily turn into a game of resource management, especially early on. Unlike most RTS games you carried your units and remaining resources from one mission to the next, and you didn't always have the luxury of vast resources available to replenish your forces on every map. Suffering too many loses or being forced to abandon parts of your fleet in a hasty retreat could easily lead to an Unwinnable situation. Using cheap workers to capture powerful enemy ships quickly became a go-to favorite for veteran players.
  • Hyperspeed is a game of fuel economy. You are exploring a distant galaxy, and once you travel out of range of your home base, the only ways to replenish fuel are to barter it from aliens (unreliable, costly, and often requires entangling yourself in byzantine alien politics) or through destroying alien starbases (of which there are a limited supply, and is guaranteed to make the offended species and its allies declare war on you.) Becoming stranded between stars is a constant peril; if you do become stranded, the only recourse is to bail out and lose all progress you made on your starship, effectively beginning over at level 1.
  • Transport Tycoon and its successor Locomotion have you mostly building and managing land, water and aerial based public transport, but resource management does come into play. Your available finances allow you to build infrastructure, vehicles and manage budgets and PR, your popularity standing in a particular community affects if you can build there, and you even (indirectly) manage actual industrial resources based on how you interconnect various industries present in the game world (e.g. sending coal to powerplants, iron ore to steel mills, agricultural resources to food-processing companies, etc.). Even commuting passengers become a resource of sorts, as the more you improve the passenger and cargo transport infrastructure, the more towns and cities can grow in size, population and further develop.
  • Stars! (1995) requires careful management of your resources from people to minerals. Of note, there is a finite supply of minerals available on the planets for the most part, so the end-game of the larger games involves finding ways to do more with less because the minerals just don't exist.
  • VGA Planets is another FourX space-empire game where you have to manage your limited supply of the four minerals needed to build spaceships and starbases, and the fuel/fighters/torpedoes for said ships. You can construct ships that produce minerals and fuel using Supplies, but then you need factories churning out those Supplies. And so almost inevitably you have to scrounge and economize.
  • Kingdom and its various updates put you in the role of a king or queen who must begin their kingdom from the ground up, budgeting your gold wisely between recruiting peasants, assigning them tools to perform tasks, and developing fortifications to protect them from the Greed.
  • Wargame: European Escalation and its sequels AirLand Battle and Red Dragon are tactical-level Real-Time Strategy games which, unusually, force the player to be concerned about logistics for each individual unit. Vehicles that run out of fuel will grind to a halt, vehicles and infantry that run out of ammo will be unable to do anything to the enemy, and any unit that is damaged will be less effective in one way or another until it is repaired. Aircraft have a limited loiter time over the battlefield and will evacuate the area once low on fuel or out of ammo. Ammunition, fuel, and "repairs" (either repair parts for vehicles, or replacement soldiers for infantry) must be delivered to your units by truck, helicopter, or landing craft, or those vehicles must return to a Forward Operating Base for refuel, repair, and rearmament. No exceptions. Protecting your supply lines is a key part of gameplay.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light: You have a limited quantity of fuel, which you use on each jump. If you run out, you will not be able to jump until you get more. Getting some more can happen in several ways, from being found by an automated fuel merchant drone, to taking it from the stores of a pirate who tried to take advantage of your weakness, to having to fight the Rebel Fleet. You also have a limited supply of Drone Parts and Missiles.

  • Astroneer: The player will die after running out of oxygen, but bases and vehicles contain an infinite supply that extends to the range of a tether network. All base modules and vehicles require both a variety of materials to be built, and a steady supply of power or fuel to operate. (There are modules that can be used to more easily obtain or replace materials not easily available.)
  • Monster Rancher. Since monsters have a life-span ranging from 1 year to 11 years, you have to be very cautious of what you make your monster do, and when. In general, the money in this game could be considered as no Economy Management.
  • Mercenary Force is a Shoot 'em Up but unlike others of its genre, it involves resource management via money. You have a limited supply of money to buy mercenaries at the start of the game and you must use that money to buy replacements between levels and Power-Up Food at shops to keep them high in hit points. Enemies do drop coins but they are not generous in dropping them when killed. Strategy involves not only getting money when you can but using it wisely and managing your own mercenaries by keeping them alive.
  • Wick has candles to keep the Weaver children away. The candle slowly depletes through the night and need to be replaced. New candles can be lit with old candles. Matches can be used if the character runs out of candles, but once they run out, there is no opportunity for new light sources.
  • The first two Iron Grip games are a blend of first person shooter and tower defence. In Iron Grip Warlord, your primary resources are "Power" (basically finance, used for building defensive structures) and "Morale" (self-explanatory; the game's progress and outcome depends on lowering the attacking enemy's morale to zero, while keeping your defenders' morale high).
  • Cultist Simulator requires you to ensure a constant supply of money, so as to pay for both ongoing survival, recovering from injuries and a string of sinister tomes.
  • The old Avalon Hill board game Third Reich takes place at the corps level and is quite abstract. Attacking is very expensive. A 2:1 attack succeeds about 97.5% of the time (3:1 always succeeds) and the die roll is used to determine the casualties. Defending ground units get terrain multipliers so 2:1 is usually closer to 4:1. Managing your resources and supply lines is a huge (and very boring) part of the game.
  • In Crying Suns, your battleship starts with 5 units of fuel (or Neo-N) and uses up one each time it moves from planet to planet or jumps from one system to another. There are three ways to get more: buy it from shops, which have limited stock; find it on expeditions, which are risky and unpredictable; or scavenge it from hypercubes, which can only be done once per system. Run out, and you’ll be forced to wait for a passing ship to refuel you... and there’s a good chance the passing ship will be a hostile pirate looking to plunder you.
  • Immortal Soul: Black Survival revolves around this mechanic. You have six inventory slots which you have to use over the course of the game to create Armor, Weapons, and Food from a limited amount of resources scattered around the map. You have to manage all of these slots over the course of the game, and if you make improper choices or don't leave enough space to pick up items that you need you will quickly fall behind everyone else.
  • As the year drags on in Papers, Please, you will be tasked with keeping track of more and more minute criteria for allowing people into Arstotzka, including multiple security features for passports, corroborating statements to check for forgery, checking the expiration dates on work permits, etc. If you want to do any of the side quests, you'll also have to make sure that you keep an eye out for specific people in the queue and be careful not to make too many mistakes or you'll start losing money. You even have to remember to take down anything you have hung up on the walls of your post when your supervisor comes by for inspection, or he'll dock your pay!
  • Seaman starts the player off with a limited supply of food pellets to feed to their Seaman which cannot be replenished. To prevent the Seaman from starving, one must carefully ration the pellets until they unlock the insect cage, which also requires attention: the cage must be kept from drying out, and spiders need to be dealt with to keep them from killing your moths. When properly maintained, the insect cage can provide a self-sustaining source of food for your Seaman, while neglecting it will result in your food supplies running out and your Seaman eventually dying of starvation.

Alternative Title(s): Resource Management