The Hard Problem

The Hard Problem
Faucets, Sinks, and Markets

John Scott Tynes | 7 Jan 2010 21:00
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So how do you play the markets more effectively? In Assassin's Creed II there are town criers who announce various things. If you are being hunted by the town guard, you can bribe a town crier to suppress news of your exploits. For this market feature, town criers are also where you learn what the market trend is. In Florence, the town crier may say something like, "Grain is in short supply between here and Venice". This indicates that grain prices will be higher for the next period of time. By paying attention to the town criers and then hurrying back to your villa to instruct your Trade Master, you can make better investments. Further, you should be able to bribe the town criers to deliver false market news, actually increasing the chance of commodity prices to rise and fall as you desire for short periods. They won't definitely go your way, but your odds improve.

The game also features bands of thieves whom you can hire to distract town guards for you. For the market feature, you can pay off the thieves to threaten a given trade route, increasing the chances of inflating prices there. So if you're investing in Venice-Florence, you can pay the thieves to harass that trade route (excepting your shipments, of course!) and reap the profits.

So the town criers affect commodities and the thieves affect trade routes. By playing them both smartly, you can increase your odds of success in the markets. Bribing them is no guarantee, but it can help.

Of course, manipulating the markets has a price. The game's die rolls on the three return rates (5%, 15%, and 30%) are initially biased towards the low end. Most of your investments pay off at +/-5%, but the more often you manipulate the markets by bribing town criers and thieves, the more volatile the market becomes. The odds shift towards bigger potential losses and rewards. In addition, the interval between new rolls on the commodity and route tables grows shorter. When you first bribe a town crier the price change you desired remains in effect for twenty minutes. When the market becomes more volatile due to your manipulation, however, those price changes are re-rolled every five minutes.

So if you want to maximize your manipulation, you'll have to drop everything else, just pay bribes, and make frequent trips back and forth between your villa and the towns. Your reward will be higher potential gains but also higher potential losses. With dedicated play you can game the system in your favor, but you'll have to spend a lot of time and effort doing it. Or you can play the market more casually with less risk and lower returns.

There's a lot more we could do to make economic gameplay more interesting and integral to the game, but this is an example of a way to get high-rolling players putting their money into risky investments that will give a little bit of control in exchange for accepting even greater risk. Once your game's economy has actual risk to it, you have a better chance of keeping those faucets draining at the rate the player needs to feel like it all really matters.

John Scott Tynes would love to Make Money Fast while hanging out with Leonardo DaVinci, and if he has to assassinate a few Borgias in the process then that'll be okay.

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