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Month: September 2017

DevBlog: Welcome to the world fair!

A city can only call itself a true metropolis if it has memorable architecture, standing as a testament of time and the progress of society and technology. Monuments have been an exciting building project in Anno games for a long time now, but they are more than just impressive structures to display the beauty of your flourishing city. Today Natacha Hentzien from our Game Design Team will give you some insights into our Monument and the new Exhibition feature that comes alongside with it.

Since Anno Union started, we have been following community feedback with interest, longing to share more of Anno 1800’s new features with you. Since I often read queries regarding the monument, I am glad to have the opportunity today to explain a little about our master building and its new functionality.

When we started the conception phase, the monument was one of the traditional Anno features that we decided to bring back into the game. We wanted to keep the core of the feature: a multi-staged construction building crowning a well-developed city, with an additional, powerful effect. We did a lot of research on the 19th century: general historical research, on city landmarks, photo collages, and much else. Many ideas about what the monument should be flew around the department, but we ultimately decided on the World Fair (as seen in the header picture in a an early stage of development), for its direct correlation to the industrial era, and as an expression of the scientific and historical curiosity in the 19th century.   Building on beloved features of the previous Anno titles is as important for us as finding new ways to improve and expand the gameplay of the series. When designing the monument feature for Anno 1800, our first idea was to give the building an island wide buff effect, similar to the way they work in Anno 1404. Since it was also one of our priorities to improve features with Anno 1800, we decided instead to create a new event system, giving players the freedom of choice based on their cities current needs and preferences. We wanted to have direct player interaction rather than a passive effect on your settlement, especially since the World Fair was the perfect occasion to introduce such gameplay with exhibitions.

Gameplay
The 19th century was an era of huge technological breakthroughs and new ideas, such as steel beams, which allowed for unprecedented constructions. We want this industrious pioneering spirit reflected in the game, from the Monument’s first foundation to the finished building. That’ why a construction of the Monument will be a challenging task, requiring players to complete several construction phases and to manage complex production pipelines. Once all of the required steel beams, concrete and tons of glass are assembled, it is time to celebrate: You just opened the doors to your very own World Fair!

But the World Fair is not just an impressive building in its own right, it also represents the dawn of the modern era- an age of technology as well as of discovery and exploration. Beyond being an eye-catcher and the new pride and joy of your capital city, it also gives you access to an all-new gameplay system: exhibition events. These exhibitions are special events that are hosted in your new World Fair, and will task players with organizing a variety of themed events for their citizens.

So how does it work?
Your first step will be to decide which kind of exhibition you want to bring to your World Fair. After you picked the theme for your next exhibition, it is time to start the preparations. The preparations will take some time to finish, but you will have some options to speed that process up by investing in your event.

While the exhibition is active in your city, it is important for us that players can feel and participate in the excitement created by such a festive event. Making Anno 1800 feel like a living, breathing world is one of our core goals for the game. Who knows, maybe such an event would even draw visitors from beyond your own city? Of course, after putting in all this effort to stage the exhibition, players have earned some rewards. Once it has ended, the gracious host will be able to keep a few of the exhibited items for themselves.

Events hosted in your World Fair will grant you exotic and rare items. While there will be other ways to get items in Anno 1800 (this being a topic for another day), some of these exhibition items will be among the rarest in the game, or may even be obtainable exclusively through these events. For example, you could earn an exotic new animal for your zoo, or a new technological invention that may boost one of your factories’ productivity.

Exhibitions!
We are currently planning to have three of these exhibitions at launch, covering the major topics of the era. There will of course be the industrially themed fair, bringing the technological wonders of the industrialization to your city. The second event we are planning will be all about the wonders of the past, and the strange. One of the aspects that makes the 19th century so fascinating is that for all the scientific progress, people were still deeply fascinated by the romantic and inexplicable. This exhibition could cover topics such as dinosaurs or mysterious ancient artefacts.

And the third? Well, we have many ideas already- but we also have an Anno Union community full of creative and clever members such as yourself. Before we give you the opportunity to vote on the third exhibition in the future, we first want to give you a chance to let us know what you would like to see in the comments. What would be a cool theme for the exhibition? What kind of items could players earn through this feature? We are very curious to see if you are thinking along the same lines as our team, or maybe come up with something completely different that none of us had on their radar.

We hope to see plenty of your suggestions in the days to come!

Until next time,

Natacha

 

37 Comments

Union Update: Our Union vote has a winner!

“Our big Anno Union election has been a thrilling race between our candidates. Union members across the world made their voices heard to choose a Union representative who should venture forth to expand the Unions influence and settle in new waters. Representing the Unions voice is a matter of responsibility and all candidates gave their best to convince members that their vision and ideas will be the road to success and in the best interests for the whole Union.”

Thanks for your participation in our first big vote from the whole development team!

Today marks the announcement of the winner of our big Anno Union NPC character vote. Thousands of Union members gave their voice but a strong lead made it easy for us to declare the winner.

While the Anarchist had new and revolutionary ideas of change to progress in the 19th century, it was the visionary ideas and the open mindset, which convinced the Union that Artur Gasparov, fittingly called “The Visionary”, was the right candidate for the task. Dr. Hugo Mercier, the Anarchist, was able to secure a respectable second place with his radical ideas while his direct opponent, Silas Grendel, found great support for his ruthless and oppressive plans for the coming century.  Following in midfield was the nebulous Florence Morel with her unconventional theories and weird tales, which got her quite a following. While one of the dev team’s favorites, she was not able to secure a win but will not be forgotten by all her fans and supporters.
The diplomat Hafsa Sultan as well as the gambler Jake Turner lagged far behind their contestants.

So what is next?
There is no time for the Visionary to enjoy his moment of success as we will move ahead to prepare him for the next step. There is still a lot to do for us in order to implement him into the game, such as final artwork, 3D model, animations and a fitting voice. We will provide you frequent updates about his development, so that can partake in his journey from start to finish.

We know that you are all curious about the next vote. We will not announce the next vote today but keep a keen eye on this very website, as we will reveal the next topic very soon. This time, we decided to make your voice count from the very first steps, so keep an eye out for a future DevBlog.

QnA Part:

AegriMiles: I wish possibilities to translate the game to other languages (not everybody understand english or german). Here in Hungary there are lot of people who couldn’t play the lasts Anno because lack of translation possibilities.

Basti: Translation will come at a later stage and we cannot confirm any localized territories as of yet. We will share details when we can confirm localized territories.

OneklickLP: How are things with the harbor? It looks pretty rigid in the video, will we be able to build/place it on our own like in 1404/2070?

Basti: Many Union members are curious how much freedom in placement of the harbor they will actually have. To clarify that, let us have a look at the placement system:

Please keep in mind that this is not the final version how it will appear and be usable in the game. While you see some empty gaps, you will be able to place the harbor smoothly on the spot, which fits it best in your opinion.

MellamoEjooo: Are there any details about the music yet? I hope you will add some sentences like “Your citizens starving!” “Your shipyard finished a ship” “You are running low on tobacco” …. 😀 Good old times!

Basti: Music, ambient sounds and voice lines are an incredibly important part to immerse you in the world of Anno. We got many comments about audio and the music score of Anno 1800 and decided that we will give that topic a highlight in future DevBlogs. Speaking about voice lines, Artur will get, as many other NPC’s, his own fully dubbed voice lines.

 

Marc_The_Miner
How much time do we have before you close the screenshot contest for the streaming room?

Basti: There is no ETA right now; we want to see how many screenshots and other art we get. Especially as some of you want to go nuts and create crazy screenshots or pictures made out of buildings. We are currently thinking about just leaving the thread open, as we might want to swap artwork or expand the decoration in the streaming room over time.

Soulridder
In the 19th century lots of factories got build, which leads me to wonder wether all that grey smoke will be there in Anno 1800. I’m thinking there a bit of the Tycoons of Anno 2070 with their grey islands and all of the smoke there produces. I guess having all of the smoke and maybe even something similar to the effect the Tycoons causes on their islands with all those factories would definitely give you more of the feeling that you are in the 19th century. So will this be in Anno 1800???

Basti: Heavy industry and coal based production chains are a major factor of that 19th century feeling. It will be represented in the game, so I would not recommend building your factories in the center of your city. But as Matt described in the last DevBlog, we want to show the other side of the coin but not force players into a specific playstyle or moral decisions which could lead to skip an important feature of the game. More freedom and less restriction is our goal in Anno 1800.

Swimming-Paul
I am very happy with the artwork included in this post! It´s not only extremely beautiful, but is it also hinting that we´re going to be able to produce bicycles in the game?

Basti: Concept art is an important part of the research process. That does not necessarily mean that all ideas and concepts make it into the game. But there are also various ways that certain elements of the 19th century are represented in Anno 1800, if not as a production chain than maybe as a part of the living and breathing world, as an animation or graphic in the game.

24 Comments

DevBlog: Truth or Fiction

As previously announced, we want to use these DevBlogs to give the Anno Union community an opportunity to learn about various team members’ work, and some of the considerations going into it. For today’s entry, we have drafted our Game Writer Matt Cook to explain how Anno cares about history without being historically accurate:

Hi, I am Matt- Game Writer, former Brit turned European, and new to the Anno-Team. Welcome to my world! A world a bit like our own, but then, not quite…

A history in broad strokes

Anno’s world is a tongue-in-cheek celebration of mercantilism, in which time, place and identity blur. Yet we expect the game as a whole to define the 19th century as an era of industry, discovery and revolution.

Some of you wonder if real historical figures will appear in our game. The short answer is no. The long answer is that this has never been the Anno way. It shows how inspiring and evocative this era is however, that people have already come up with so many good suggestions for historic personalities they would like to see.

A matter of opinion of course, but I often find divergence from history, and anachronism jarring in games (unless of course this is a conscious choice) – and by parallel and parody, Anno has always sought to avoid this. For example, Napoleon and Queen Victoria will not appear in person in Anno 1800, but you may find their personalities and even their appearances very much alive there.

Playing Anno 1404 as part of my devilish indoctrination into the cult of Anno, I was struck by how close the AI personalities were to satire and caricature. I can’t help feeling Anno characters are at their best when they have that boldness, even if it means humor has realism by the throat.

Anno Character Characteristics
Take the characters in our recent poll; a blend of archetypal and specific people from the period. Somehow they are larger than life, while still remaining unique. I like them all, but the Occultist is my favorite. She really captures the spirit (!) of an era in which rationalism and romanticism meet. Think Verne, Shelley, Dickens and all the rest – Anno could touch upon the curious, the mysterious, even the supernatural – as well as the productive, grounded core we know and love.

I’d be very interested to hear in the comments how you feel about such possibilities, because 19th century people were fascinated by the unexplained. Keep in mind that “unexplained” is a key word. The intention with Anno is always to create a believable, substantial world based on (albeit cherry-picked) historical fact, and we would always be careful never to cross the line into fantasy. But think for example about the emergence of forms of entertainment such as stage conjuring, or how some claim to have caught fairies on photograph, or sailors returning from sea voyages with tall stories, and you get the general idea. How conservative or brave should we be?

A History of our own
Besides anything else, Anno has its own tradition when it comes to the setting: the recurring characters, like a reassuringly gentle Jorgensen in every iteration, or the different guises of our stalwart fish and ships over the years.

Perhaps Goldfurt was your best island ever. Perhaps Lord Richard Northburgh was the sort of person you’d hope to meet in a world as dark and cruel as 1404. Anno has every reason to remain true to itself, and some of that history will not be lost or forgotten in Anno 1800.

Anno: A study.
But does all this “vagueness” about history mean that we aren’t meticulous about detail? Of course not. You can’t create any kind of world (ask any writer worth their salt) if you fail to research your inspiration, which when coupled with imagination, creates a tangible and plausible sense of place. The labor movement, the industrial revolution and other sweeping changes the world witnessed in this remarkable century, are already a huge part of the game.

In our researches at the Mainz studio, we also profit from a collaboration with our colleagues around Ubisoft, who are helping us to steep the game in real history. Alongside the detailed visuals, we believe the atmosphere and narrative will have those with an interest in the period smiling sagely at all the little references, as their picturesque settlements become vibrant metropolises.

So what do you imagine?
As a writer, I am curious as to what ideas the era conjures up for you. What was your first thought on seeing the announcement of Anno 1800? Which event, theme or even personality was your first association for the 19th century? I am looking forward to your comments, and indeed to talking with you all again in the near future.

Matt

20 Comments

Union Update: Voting, Spotlight and QnA

Welcome to the fifth week since our announcement of Anno 1800 and the Anno Union. A lot has happened over the last couple of weeks and we got some great feedback regarding our last DevBlog. For that reason, today’s QnA part will tackle many of your questions regarding sessions.

But before we head over and answer your questions, it is time for our Union community update:

Our first voting will end next week!
Our first big Anno Union voting will end Monday next week. That means you have 7 days left to vote for your favorite Union NPC. After the vote has closed, we will call out the winner and use the chance to review our first vote.  But that marks only the beginning of the journey of our Anno Union character. As stated before, we will share important milestones on their development and even want to give you the chance to have further impact during some moments of the journey. Furthermore, you can look forward to a new voting, which will tackle an exciting new topic. However, we do not want to reveal too much at this point…

Videos, streams and language
We are happy that so many of you liked the idea about video and streaming content. But it also raised a few questions in our community, such as if there is a possibility for German subtitles or even whole episodes in German language. Anno has a strong tradition in Germany and with that, a strong German fan community. Even with that history, there are big communities of non-German fans out there and everyone should be able to join the Anno Union and to enjoy all our content. For us, the English language is the biggest common ground to reach out to as many people as possible. We need to allocate time wisely for streams and videos, as the development team will create the shows, where the development of Anno 1800 has still the highest priority. We would love to bring extra German episodes to our German fans, but that would mean that we have to spend way more time with streams, that we have to stretch our content or even exclude all non-German fans from specific topics.

Everyone should have the same chance to be a part of the Union, and nobody should feel excluded. We will provide German subtitles for our videos but that will not be possible for streams right now, as that would require too much work from our team. However, we will provide a summary of previous shows for the Union and there might be fans out there who would be willing to share a fan translation in their specific language with the Union? Some of you asked us if we could at least provide a transcript of the show. Well, that will not be possible, as we are not using scripts for our streams and podcast, because the last thing we want to do is to read out text from a prompter or piece of paper.

Community Spotlight

Anno fans are not only crazy active here on the Anno Union or in our Anno Ubisoft forum, but also in countless fan communities out there. As we are big fans of our Anno communities, we would like to give these projects a spot in the limelight in the future. Today, we would like to start with our Anno Union Fan-Discord channel: http://ubi.li/sp35t

You want to engage other Anno fans in live- hats to discuss Anno 1800 and the Anno Union? You should check out the Anno Union Community Discord and join the growing number of worldwide-connected Annholics!

Your ideas about our Streaming Room decoration
In our last community update, we asked you how we should decorate our streaming room. We loved some of your suggestions, especially the idea to put pictures of old Anno titles on our walls. We want to take that one-step further and use your own community creations for that! And here comes the call to action for the Anno Union: We want your most beautiful and creative screenshots from previous Anno titles. Go wild, impress with stunning panoramas or city landscapes and share them with us on our Anno Fan art forum section: Help us beautify our streaming room!
Please keep in mind that we need these Screenshots in a decent size (min. 1080p), as we will print out the best entries to use them as backdrops in our streaming room.

Community QnA : Your questions and our answers

MattMcCorman: The biggest isles in Anno 1404 had 2048*2048 tiles. Are the 1200*1220 in 2070 you mentioned only representative for an average size for an isle? Therefore, will the biggest Isle in 1800 be even bigger than 1600*1600?

Dirk: Maximum and minimum size for isles are different from the examples we used in our blog. We are not able to commit to a maximum size for isles in Anno 1800, as the final numbers are not decided yet. In our multi session blog, we compared the average isle size of the respective anno game to give you an idea about the relations in size of Anno games.

Khorinis2142: Will the campaign be embedded in the game like in 2205 or will it work like in 2070/1404, where the campaign is strictly separated and runs on different maps than the endless game?

Dirk: The campaign will be embed into the game if you do not deactivate it manually. However, the presentation and narration of the campaign will be stronger orientated to 1701 and 1404 than was the case with 2205.

Zimery: If a second session outside oft he main map oft he player is possible, will different climate zones like in 1503 take a role?

Dirk: That is in the realm of possibility but not necessarily required. We see many different options here and will share more details about that topic with you all in future.

BlueBarret77: Will AI settle in different regions of will they remain in your starting map?

Dirk: Ai will show the same construction habits and behavior as a player and as a result of that, might settle in different regions.

hike98: In addition, it is important for me that AI not settles in undiscovered sectors before I do, so that I am not ending up in a situation where AI takes all isles after I decided to go into a new session after 10 hours of play.

Dirk: The behavior of the AI depends, like in previous Anno titles, on the individual AI routine of a specific character. Different characters have a variety of different preferences and behaviors. With his actions during gameplay, the player has an impact on the AI’s difficulty. We will have AI which waits for the players and asks him before settling in other territories or isles while others might be fairly aggressive, taking new land as fast and much as possible.

LadyHonday: Will I be able to leave my main on it’s own when moving to a different session, without being afraid about my home burning to cinder, storms ravaging or the black death taking its toll on my citizen to find everything destroyed when I am coming back?
Sephko: The military is integrated in the main session again. Does that mean that military units can’t enter secondary sessions? Are that safe exclaves which follow other game mechanics?

Basti: Everyone knows that moment when you forget your Anno session for a while and the aftermath of cleaning everything up when you come back to your PC. We implemented specific game mechanics to ensure that sessions expand possibilities and making the game more complex, while on the other hand not causing too much stress for the players. It will not be the case that events destroy your whole settlement while you are abroad in a secondary session. It will also be possible to have military escalations in a different session. We will share information that is a bit more detailed on how these systems works in the future.

danielf2001: How will trading look like between different sessions? Will you utilize trade posts which you have to supply or will there be something else in addition?

Basti: You can send ships into a different session, and as soon as it will leave your zone, it will move over to the other session. You will be able to modify trade routes and we will give you additional tools, to drive trading of goods between the zones. Trading in general is a complex and important topic, so keep an eye on future DevBlogs.

Lord.Roke: Do you have plans how players can keep the overview between the different sessions?

Basti: That players being able to keep track on their sessions was an important topic for our Designers from the get go. A world map and further features will ensure that you all have a good overview on what is going on!

AnnoAndilein: Sad to see that no one answered my most burning question yet: How will the Interface/UI look? I NEED to know this. Will there be scaling options for the font size or will it even be possible to customize the whole interface to your liking? So please dear Basti, tell us something about the interface.

Basti: Our UI elements and functionality are not final and the UI gets usually finished at a pretty late point in development. That means that until the release of the game, we will change many things on our current interface and the Anno Union will be an important tool to test, evaluate and improve the functionality of our UI in playtests. However, the Interface sounds for me like a really great topic to ask the community some specific questions about.

Spike2412: The question is if it will be possible in Anno 1800 to get the highest citizen level in your starting world. It was not possible in Anno 2205.

Basti: As explained in our last DevBlog, we want to expand possibilities but not restrict players in their playstyle. You will be able to reach the highest tier without leaving your main map.

AnnOgamer94 /Ubisoft Anno 1800 Forum: I did not like 2205 concept to connect all isles (on preset places of all things). I had city on production on every isle and I had nearly no impact where to put my harbor. I hope that with 1800 I will have the option again to set the harbor where I want.

Basti: More options and freedom is important for us. And for that reason, you will be able to set your harbor way more freely, as it was the case in 2205.

MinneIceCube: You still haven’t answered a burning question that I have. are the maps randomly generated?

Basti: That’s really not acceptable- I was convinced that we talked about this already. Let me put my coffee mug aside to address your burning question immediately: Yes!

22 Comments

Multisession gameplay in Anno 1800

Time to get serious! As previously announced, we want to use the Anno Union to give you more insights into various aspects of Anno 1800. Starting things off is our Creative Director Dirk Riegert, who has been working on the series since the Anno 1701 days. In today’s extensive DevBlog, he will explain a core aspect of our new game: the multisession gameplay.

Our entire team is following the comments and feedback on the Anno Union with great interest and that of course includes myself. One topic that I keep coming across during my evening reading that many of you seem to have questions about is the so-called multisession gameplay. As we had always planned to start our proper DevBlogs with a meaty subject, this seemed like a perfect candidate to do so.

Looking back at Anno 2205

To be fully able to appreciate the changes we made to the system in Anno 1800, we first have to circle back a bit. Multisession gameplay is a fairly new element for the Anno series, as it was first introduced with our last game Anno 2205. This allowed players to connect several separate worlds (called “sessions”), and to transfer goods between them. Our goal for it was to create a larger, persistent game world while combining various different maps (in the case of 2205 for example, Earth and Moon). At the basic level, we were pretty happy with this new feature as it offered us many new game design possibilities. Moreover, players seemed to like it as well, voting the multisession gameplay as one of their favorite new elements of 2205 (alongside the ability to move buildings and production modules).

How can we go further?

Despite all that, our post-mortem analysis of Anno 2205 also showed us that there were many avenues where we could go even further to improve the multisession gameplay beyond that game’s implementation, as the expansion of the game across several sessions had some big implications. We identified four main parts that we wanted to address to ensure that the multisession gameplay fully met our expectations.

  1. Gameplay freedom
  2. The size of the game world
  3. A focus on your home session
  4. The game world’s integrity

To spoil the good news- we have made major improvements to each one of these aspects. So read on for much more details how we achieved this.

A question of freedom

The gameplay freedom to do as you please within the provided systems has been a core pillar of the Anno philosophy since we started with 1602. However, the multisession gameplay implementation in Anno 2205 did not fully deliver on this, as players were quickly required to settle in additional sessions to progress in the game. While it was possible to stay in your first session for as long as you wanted, this effectively limited your game progress. This lead to some players feeling limited in their ability to play Anno the way they want to, including the option of moving to additional sessions at their own pace (or not at all, even).

One session? Multiple sessions? It is up to you!

By comparison, the multisession gameplay in Anno 1800 is a lot more flexible. From a certain point on, players will be able to decide if they want to move to a new session. We know that exploration and that sense of discovery it instils are important aspects for some of our players, so we want to allow you relatively early on to set out and discover not only new islands, but also new sessions.

But there are also those players who prefer a “my home is my castle” approach, and who are more reluctant to move beyond their home island. These players prefer to make the move to another session much later in the game, once they feel fully familiar and comfortable with the gameplay. Allowing this flexibility is important for us with Anno 1800.

We are even going further to allow for those players who would prefer to only play on their starting map, as we aim to make the move to a second session entirely optional. We expect that the vast majority of players will spread out after a certain point to fully experience the full breadth of gameplay, but we will enable players to stick to their home session by focusing on trade to acquire other goods. As a side note, we currently plan to limit the classic multiplayer experience to one large session for 2-4 players.

Size matters after all

Fully understanding our goals for the multisession gameplay requires us to dive a bit into hard numbers. Staying forever in on one map is all nice and dandy- but only if it delivers the intended gameplay fantasy. For example, while the individual islands in Anno 2205 were much bigger than in previous Anno games, the maps were in turn much smaller. To see a concrete example, take a look at this graph, showing the respective to scale sizes of the game worlds in Anno 2070 (comparable to Anno 1404), Anno 2205 and our plans for Anno 1800.

As you can see, Anno 2205 had the smallest game worlds at 800×800 grids (grids being the name we use for the square units you build on). The worlds of Anno 1404 and 2070 were comparatively much bigger at 1200×1200 grids. And with Anno 1800, we take it a step further with massive 1600×1600 grid worlds.

For those of you hoping (or maybe fearing) that this means that the game world has also proportionally grown, we present this next graph, which shows the distribution of islands you can build on in the world. Whereas Anno 2070 offered around 25 islands per map, Anno 2205 reduced the number to five islands on average (we made some post-release changes with free patches and DLCs). With Anno 1800, we are going back to an island count that is more comparable to 2070 and 1404, offering up to 4 players (be they human or AI) enough space to advance to the highest civilization level. The reason that the world is comparatively bigger is that we have increased the size of the islands (especially your starting islands) to allow for more buildings, mountains that are more impressive and our huge monument. Thanks to these changes, each session should offer players enough space to for a full-fledged Anno experience. Which begs the question why we are even bringing back sessions? I am glad you asked!

A safe harbor

Similarly to how the fantasy of settling on the Moon drove the decision for the multisession gameplay in Anno 2205, our new setting in the age of industrialization and imperialism will also benefit from allowing players to move beyond their home map. We consider the players first session as kind of a home base, where their capital city will be located, and where they meets their allies and foes. After taking roots there, they are free to spread out and extend their area of influence to other regions.

Thanks to the inclusion of the multisession gameplay, we are not limited to your stating session when it comes to breathing life into the game world. After all, what proper empire would be limited to just one map?

On the other hand, we don’t want players to have to spread themselves too thin across to many sessions, leading to constant switching between them as could be the case in Anno 2205. This is why we will be very careful with the introduction of additional sessions. Our current plan is that we will offer a second big session beyond our stating map at launch. Here we are following the notion that sometimes less is more. This especially the case as (as explained above) the individual sessions are far larger and offer more gameplay than they did in 2205.

And while our restraint when it comes to the number of initial sessions is primarily driven by gameplay considerations, it comes with some has technical benefits. We were able to minimize the loading times between sessions, as they are simulated in parallel (after an initial load when you start).

The integrity of the game world

The last point of focus when it comes to improving the multisession gameplay in 1800 is the integrity of gameplay. This was an issue in 2205 as some of the typical Anno elements did not come together in a satisfying away, which sis something that we aim to rectify with 1800.

For example, there was a lack of immersion when it came to the transportation of goods, as they were not really transported from A to B, and rather managed via abstract balance sheets. To fit into the world of the 19th century, all goods in Anno 1800 once again exist as physical items that need to be transported between locations. This happens with the classic carts on the islands, and of course with ships when it comes to transportation between islands. And we are paying a lot of attention to the changes that happened to shipping during the industrialization, as time is an important factor during shipping. And not just between islands, but of course all when sending your transport ships between different sessions.

Also, contrary to Anno 2205, military engagements are no longer taking place in special “event sessions”. They are once again part of the main session in Anno 1800. How exactly these engagements work and what role multisession gameplay has there is however a topic for another DevBlog.

What do you think?

Now that I have spent two and a half hours typing up this in-depth answer to all of your questions regarding the multisession gameplay, it is your turn- we want your feedback!

This this DevBog help you to get a clearer picture of where we are headed with Anno 1800? What sounds most exciting to you, and what aspects of the multisession gameplay are you worried about? Would you personally prefer to stick to your home session, or are you more interested in exploring to world to its fullest? We look forward to reading your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks and until next time,

Dirk, Creative Cart Pusher

63 Comments

Union Update: Streaming and Community QnA

Another week, another update for the Anno Union. Some website improvements are still work in progress, and we will share more information about that when we are able to provide you detailed update notes.

This week’s DevBlog will continue to give you more insights about the development of Anno 1800 but this time, we will start to talk more about specific features of the game. As we also have a good amount of community questions to answer, let us dive right into this week’s big community update: Our new streaming room!

While we are currently putting everything together, we will soon be able to have our first test recording. We would like to give you an idea what we have in mind for future video and streaming content. We have various ideas for content, but especially at the beginning, will test out what might work best for the Anno Union:

Video Content – Live-Streams will not be our only focus, as we also want to bring you Anno Union update videos and – with the development insights from our DevBlog being well received – maybe get a few developers in front of the camera. Whether it is directly hosted videos or YouTube/Vimeo content, all videos will always be shared on the Anno Union to give you the chance to comment and discuss the content on our community hub. Video content allows us to be a bit more flexible and gives us more options to show you what is going on inside Ubisoft Blue Byte’s studio in Mainz. And while we are talking about video content, we will see that we can improve the video player on the Anno Union website.

Twitch Streams – Based on our ideas and plenty of comments on the Anno Union, we plan to utilize our streaming room for various formats. It seems that you would like to watch Let’s Play streams with Anno veteran developers? We got you covered: While Anno 1800 will be the focus of the shows, we will play classic Anno titles in special episodes and for anniversaries of older Anno games. Furthermore, we plan to let you have a look how our developers work with Live demonstrations and interviews as well as sharing the impressions of the current state of the game. Finally yet importantly, we plan to do a developer Podcast (or “AnnoCast”, if you will) where we talk about Anno 1800, the Anno Union and invite you Annoholics to discuss with us in a relaxed atmosphere. To allow you to participate, we will run the show as a live broadcast on Twitch.

Schedule, “Video on Demand” and language – We plan to do frequent media content but will not be able to commit to a schedule right now, as the people involved to make that all possible are all devs and busy working on the game. We want to test the waters, see how it goes and then gather your feedback. While we will not be able to share a streaming schedule, we will announce every show a few days in advance to give everyone a chance to participate. If you will not be able to watch the broadcast, you will be able to watch the stream as a video on demand on our channel. We want to reach as many Anno fans out there as possible; for that reason, all videos and streaming formats will be in English only.

As our walls are a bit empty right now, let us know if you have any cool ideas for decoration or know some community fan art to get some color on our walls!

Community QnA

Dadisony
Really cool look at your daily work. I cannot wait to read more about the production lines. The second videoclip looks great. I hope that you will be able to zoom really close in the final game, so that we can try and enjoy this new technology.

Basti: To make the world of Anno 1800 lively, charming and pretty is a matter of honor for us. The game is most immersive and beautiful when all visual features come together, so rest assured: you will be able participate in the lives of your Anno citizen as close as possible, in all its beauty and wonder.

Droggelcreeper
I have a hard time to imagine how exactly you have planned the whole game flow after the conception phase. Is it so that every production line is already set in stone or is it more like a  rough concept where you want to end up? If everything is planned out already, I am a bit afraid that there is not much room for you to take community feedback into account.

Basti: In our latest Devblog, we explained how we will gather feedback in order to let it benefit our development process. We have a set plan for all major game content and features, but changes to our development roadmap based playtests and balancing are the reality of game development. That means that most production lines are set but we reserve the right to perform smaller or even major changes based on community feedback. Right now, our community blog has a big focus on answering general community questions but we will be able to get more into detail on how your feedback affected development at a later stage.

RedEyeRagnarok
Your decision to involve the community is something I support but I hope that you will also have the strength to say not to suggestions, no matter how vocal the community will be – at the end, you have your own vision for Anno 1800 and not everyone who writes comments here will have the same level of understanding for that.

Basti: We are all really happy about the incredibly amount of suggestions and ideas and hope that you all will continue to use the Anno Union to discuss all your creative thoughts. It is still reality that, as a game developer, we have to work within our possibilities and certain boundaries. That means furthermore, that we will not be able to comment or implement every suggestion into the game. However, we still gather all your feedback to discuss and evaluate it within the team. If it is an idea from our community or even from our team, we always need to check if such ideas are feasible, benefit the game experience and if it fits our design principles and vision for the game. Only this way it is possible for us to ensure that we create a satisfying and good Anno game at the end. We hope that the last DevBlog gave you an interesting look behind the scenes.

LucyDemoon
I have a question regarding the Windows only topic. Do you plan a Linux or Mac, maybe even a version for both or will it be a “no, thank you” again.

Basti: We promised to be as transparent as possible with you all, and sometimes that means bearing bad news as well: at launch, the game will only be available for Windows PC. Currently, we do not have plans for a Mac or Linux version of Anno 1800.

KingStrike_TV
If the whole game looks like this, I am afraid that I need a new PC as it won’t be able to handle that level of visuals.

Basti: The system requirements are not final at this point. But like with any previous Anno we aim to serve a wide range of systems from an average PC up to high-end machine. We will always provide the best quality experience whatever machine players are using.

nichTim
Would it be possible to place moving sailors on the ship or is that impossible?

Basti: Attention to detail was always a corner stone of the Anno franchise but we have to work within the scope of our team (as especially such animated features and AI cause many hours of workload), while also having to deal with hardware limitations. Even some visual features, which might not be too hard for us to develop, might end up having a bigger impact on CPU and GPU. A game like Anno 1800 has an extensive amount of different objects, assets, animations and AI behavior displayed on screen. To come back to the many ship-crew questions in the comment section, we like that idea and have to check if and to what extend it might be possible.

doml17
P.s. I would still like to see a video where all Anno developers introduce themselves.

Basti: We have quite a few developers in our studio, a bit too many to introduce everyone in a video. We already mentioned that we want to dive into the various development disciplines with our DevBlog, which sounds like the perfect opportunity to get to know a few of our developers better.

Arkenophas
I’m waiting to see the devblog of the 3D artist, as I want to do this job, it will be useful for me. Nice idea to let us see how you work, and where you are in this fantastic project Long life to the ANNO serie and long life to Norbert !!

Basti: To give the various creation steps of 3D assets a spotlight has a quite prominent spot on our list for DevBlog content. You can look forward to detailed and interesting information about the work of an Anno 1800 3D artist.

RayoOyar
Out of curiosity: how do you determine system requirements and all? I know they’re never shared until very late in the development process, and the renders of these ships look awesome already, so does that mean you first create the high-res textures and then “work down” until you find a balance between low system reqs and high-quality renders? Or am I thinking too simplistically?

Basti: Optimization is a crucial part of game development process and a quite interesting topic we might want to talk about more in detail in a future blog. A few elements come together, such as optimization of code and clever use of visual improvements but also tricks to ensure a satisfying performance. It is a very complex topic, which might be better suited for a DevBlog than a QnA session. And by the way, processes like the one you described, called „bump mapping“, are a major way to optimize performance.

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DevBlog: Building Blocks and Milestones

Have you ever wondered how game development is structured and how we work on certain features of the game?

To let you help us shape the future of Anno 1800, we will provide exclusive insights into how our team in Mainz works and with that, get you ready for future feedback sessions and playtests.

Concept phase
With our vision (outlined in this previous post), we had an idea about the game’s premise but the concept phase would help us to define what features the final game would need in order to achieve our goals. That process can take a while and involves a core team of experts, dedicating their time researching and designing the concept. There are creative aspects, game design elements and production steps, which ensure that our vision is achievable and feasible. Every game developer would love to create the biggest game ever seen, but we have to work within the boundaries of development time, work force and budget, with all of them being closely intertwined.

With our final concept for the game, we build our first playable prototype. Often called “vertical slice”, this first prototype helps to test if our concept works and if we are on the right track. With a complex project like a new Anno, which involves a big team of experts over many years, it is an important step to decide if we can start development with the current vision, or if we have to go back to the drawing board.

Pre-Alpha
While we announced the new title during Gamescom, the team started the actual development several months ago, with the pre-production phase. During this time, we take all the features and concepts from our vision to work on the foundation of the game.

So at what stage is Anno 1800 now? To be even more precise, we are right now in the pre-alpha state, which is when all building blocks of the early pre-production come together. During this time, the game is playable but usually in a very rough state and many features are still very bare bone or even placeholder. With the pre-alpha state, our goal is to achieve the full Alpha version of the game to follow up with a similar process for the Beta.

One example from our Milestone Meetings- a clip of one of the new ship assets in the game

Getting the game ready for the Alpha phase requires the manpower of the whole team. Game development is split into various disciplines – from concept to 3D artists, game designers, various coders (gameplay, engine, network etc.), writing and content creation, QA and many more. It would be too much to dive into that today, so we decided to dedicate some of our future DevBlogs to these various disciplines.

While talking about disciplines, it is the responsibility of the production team to oversee that process and to ensure that the work of all disciplines comes together. As the different development disciplines rely on each other’s work, the production team defines a roadmap to ensure that everything comes together at the right time.

To create the development roadmap for Anno 1800, they need to define the important parts to work on and ensure that the allocation of the workload is doable and fair. Our roadmap has set milestones, which are two-month long development cycles to check if we are on track with our development. Think about it like managing an extremely complex production pipeline in an Anno game.

And if you wondered about the header photo of today’s blog- at the end of each milestone, our team sits together for a two hour long meeting to through everything we achieved in the last two months.

To give you an idea about our latest achievements up to this milestone, we were busy creating ship assets and polishing the ship AI, the monument functionality is now working in a basic playable state, we had basic implementation for multiple savegames and did the groundwork for the AI construction behavior. In future development blogs, we will give you more insights into the current state of the various game elements.

Here is the same ship with a technology called cloth subsurface scattering enabled, allowing the sun to shine through the sails for a more realistic look

Playtesting and Feature collection
When we reach the Alpha milestone, feedback becomes a crucial part to further develop the game. And as you might imagine, the Anno Union will be a major factor to get that feedback.

Our Alpha goal is to see if the implemented content works, if we need to change/correct anything, if something is missing and if it feels great to play. Complexity and gameplay experience will also be focal points for the Anno Union.

During Alpha, we will perform frequent playtests in our own team as well as focus-tests and diary studies where we allow a small group of people to test the game. We will evaluate that feedback and perform feasibility checks to see if it is possible to implement certain suggestions and ideas into the game. Just changing existing content or even adding new features could lead us to cut down other content. For that reason, such checks are important to ensure that we stick to our design principles and vision for the game.

After implementation, we proceed with further playtests if the newly implemented features are working. That process continuous until we reach the release state of the game but changes in scope and focus during the Beta stage, where it is more about bug-testing and balancing.

How your feedback impacts development
Innovative features or major changes often cause discussion in our team and that is where Union feedback becomes incredibly valuable. With the ongoing series of developments blogs, we will give you details about such features and want you to help us making those hard decisions.

Here are three examples of how we gather your feedback:

Make your vote count
A straightforward process is to let you vote on a variety of different possibilities, which we will present you with a vote or survey. That gives us very specific data about content and features and the results will become a major deciding factor in our decision process.

Community creativity
The second way is a more creative approach, such as what kind of ideas do you get when we present you a certain feature. That allows us to see if we are on the right track of if we need to steer the ship into another direction. Sometimes, the result of that are creative ideas from our community, which might lead to feature or gameplay detail we never had in mind.

Answer focused questions
Finally, the third option is to ask you straight away for your suggestions and wishes. We will present you with a framework or scenario and ask you straight out for your feedback and ideas. Also here, we have to always evaluate and see if it fits our vision and design principles of the game. There is still a lot of room for creativity but is more focused.

What’s next
After we gathered all your feedback, our production team will have meetings and will perform further feasibility checks and evaluation. A lot of people working on the game and with such a large project, we have to work in the scope of our possibilities. We plan to give you more insights into the decision making process over time, as we plan to talk more about the state of the game in future update blogs.

And the Community Developer?
The Community Developer takes part in many of the mentioned development processes to ensure that we use your feedback to shape the game. To give you an idea, he will join production meetings, represents our communities in our milestones and provides feedback reports to the team. As communication is key, we placed him in the same room as our producers and our veteran Production Mascot Norbert. As our office plant Norbert has been part of the team for a long time now, he also gets a more prominent spot with more sunlight than our ComDev does.


Producers at work, with a healthy level of oxygen guaranteed by Norbert.

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Union Update: Feedback, website and answers

With the first development blog, we gave you some insights into our vision and concept for the game. With the next DevBlog, which will come this week, we will give you a much deeper insight how we actually develop Anno 1800 and what it means to design and build a complex strategy title. But today, it’s time to kick off our first Community Update, where we will give you frequent updates about the Union, answer some questions and, in the future, also want to spotlight your creations.

Fun fact: you might have noticed the different frames for the preview pictures for each blog. The different colors indicate the type of content, with grey used for community updates, the nice painting style for dev updates, and green for votes (and so on).

Website improvements
Our Anno Union launch was crazy so far and you can clearly tell that the passion and dedication of Anno fans out there is something truly special. We are currently working on improving the experience of the website in various ways. We got many comments about a Union forum and for that reason; we implemented a forum link to the Ubisoft Anno forum where you will also find the Union subsection. As not everything might fit into the certain theme of a blog, please feel free to use the Anno Ubisoft forum if you want to discuss certain ideas further or start new discussions. The comment section here will remain as our main way of gathering feedback to a certain topic, which does of course not mean that we will not have an eye on the Ubisoft forum or other platforms. Please try to stay on-topic to the specific topic of a blog!

Visibility and readability will be our focus with the next Anno Union website update. We will provide full update notes about all these improvements as soon as everything is ready.

Streaming Room Do you know that feeling when you ordered new toys and still wait for some of them to arrive? Our dedicated streaming room will allow us to create video updates and insights, but not all tech is here yet and we still have to assemble everything. But hey, that should be good fun!

Feedback gathering
Yes, we are reading your feedback, even with the sometimes-overwhelming amount of reactions on our blog. We choose to use blogs and later on videos and streams for that, as we think that these answers deserve to be as visible as possible for all Union members. That also means that if we pick your question, you get a cool spotlight out of it. If you want to get an overview over all the answers given at this point, just hit the QnA category tab at the bottom of the blog. Please keep in mind that we will not be able to comment on everything, as our team is still busy creating your new Anno game! Many of you asked how we actually use that feedback: we collect your comments, analyze your feedback and create a report, which we then discuss within the development team. We hope that you are looking forward to learn how we structure development (what sprint planning is etc.) to get a rough idea about our development roadmap, which will then lead to further articles you are waiting for: in-depth blogs about certain features in development and how you can help us shape them. But more about development with the next blog J

And to close our first Community Blog, here a few of your comments and our answers.

Sebi5445
A big part of the game concept seems to be set in stone (great job!). How much impact on the development process will the Union actually have? Are there any open questions about gameplay features, which could change the game in a major way or is it more about the small things?

Basti: Creating a big game like Anno is a very complex task, including dozens of disciplines, a huge team of experts and years of hard work. We want to use community feedback to help expanding, polishing and balancing features based on your sentiment and there will be room to add a few of your ideas but as you mentioned, the feature list is one of the things you decide at the beginning of development. Using feedback on the extensive features in an Anno game is a big commitment and task in itself and the whole team is excited about the concept to let our fans helping us with that. I recommend checking the next DevBlog, which will dive more into details about the development structure of Anno 1800.

Moonwalked
If you need any help checking all the comments, maybe there is a way the community can help you out with that?

Basti: We are just happy if you guys share your feedback and stay on topic with the specific theme of each blog. As mentioned in the community update, our team collects and analyzes all feedback in order to create a report for our development team. That gives us a good indicator about the sentiment of our communities, topics you care about most and general feedback and suggestions regarding game features and other gameplay elements.

HarroLP
How will the playtests work; I have read somewhere that it will work via applications as soon as you announce an Alpha/Beta test. Basti mentioned that, if we involve ourselves here, we will have a good chance to get access. Maybe @BastianThun can say something about how it will work.

Basti: The first tests will most likely be focus tests with a small group of people rather than a big Alpha or even Beta test. There will be various ways of inviting people, we might contact some very active members directly to invite them to test a certain feature up to tests where we need more people, which might go along with an announcement. Either way, registering here is the first step to be in our database but being a constructive member of the community will also be an important factor for us to choose players. Most playtests will run under NDA, which means that you will not necessarily know who is participating in a test. Nevertheless, rest assured that we will talk about that in more detail in the future, so just stay active until that time comes.

stolperprinz
I have a few suggestions regarding the game concept, how can I share my ideas.

Basti: We would love to see that you all stick to the topic of the specific blog, which is usually centered around a certain feature, content or gameplay elements. If you have general ideas, the best thing would be to discuss that with the community in the Ubisoft Anno forums. It makes it easier for us to create reports for the different blogs and for our forum team to check if a topic sticks out because of a good idea and a healthy and active discussion.

Julius A.
Do you roughly know how often you want to post new articles and votes for the site?

Basti: We created a plan for the types of content and how often we want to post. That plan goes along with our development roadmap but especially the content might change dynamically based on feedback and some development factors. What we can tell us that we want at least 2 articles each week. It is a bit harder to tell with votes, but our plan here is to have one active vote up most of the time (please note that not all votes will run equally long). So in general, weekly content to get your feedback and keep you up to date. It might fluctuate from time to time as we are all working together to bring you the Union content but also still pretty busy developing the game.

Pizzafighter
Morning, I’ve sent a mail to your info mail addy not long ago, where I talked about a few ideas (a lot about the train). Have you received my mail?

Basti: I am still stunned by all the cool ideas and great feedback we get and I totally understand that you want to share all your ideas with the team. However, the reality is that it is just impossible to react to every feedback and we have to concentrate on the Union blog, with help from the community team for the forums and other channels. For feasibility reasons, we will not comment on feedback received via e-mail outside of special circumstances.

ThmzV
Do we get more information about the gameplay :)?

Basti: I can tell that I am as hyped as our fans but there is still a lot of time between now and the final release. As teased, we will now start to show you how we develop the game and that allows us to dive into certain development aspects such as features and gameplay, in order to get important feedback from our Anno Union members.

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A journey through the history of Anno

The Anno Union is about the journey of Anno 1800 and future Anno titles, but sometimes it feels good to just lean back and take a look what made the previous Anno games so beloved for so many players. To start you all off into the weekend, come and join us on a trip down memory lane.

It all started in 1998 with the cornerstone of the franchise, Anno 1602. This classic established all the key ingredients of the Anno gameplay formula that we still adhere to, from the humble beginnings with just a ship full of goods and an empty island, to your first few fishing and woodcutting huts and finally, after many hours (and the occasional bankruptcy and restart) a flourishing city.

And while a lot has changed since (hello, third dimension!), we still adhere to many of those core tenets today in the development of Anno 1800.

Fans had to wait four long years for the next evolution in the series, with Anno 1503 releasing in fall 2002. As a classic sequel, 1503 offered fans more of the beloved Anno gameplay, while improving it and adding more complexity to many aspects. Players were now able to discover varied climate zones, interact with several new cultures, and use a larger variety of military units to settle any disputes. Of course, we couldn’t talk about Anno 1503 without mentioning the multiplayer controversy, with the initially promised mode being delayed and ultimately cancelled- in fact, those events are one of the reasons why we already announced that Anno 1800 will have multiplayer from day one!

The next game in the series, Anno 1701, is very special to us here at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz, as it was the first game in the series that our team (under its original name Related Designs) developed. In fact, many of the members of the 1701 team are still with us, and are now some of the key members of the Anno 1800 team -including our Executive Producer, Creative Director, Art Director and our Technical Directors! So what was new in Anno 1701 besides the developer? The biggest difference was of course the jump to 3D graphics, bringing your islands to life in an all-new dimension. By the time the game released in 2006, the step to 3D was overdue, especially given the series’ tradition of being on the cutting edge for strategy game visuals. Needless to say that this is a tradition that lives on to this day, as we definitely hope that Anno 1800 will be a great looking game by the time it releases in Winter 2018.


The new team here in Mainz were able to follow up their Anno debut with one of the most beloved entries in the series when they released Anno 1404 in 2009. Building on the three previous games, 1404 combined deep gameplay, great graphics and a lengthy campaign to become the pinnacle (and to date last) of the historic Anno games. It also introduced a Diplomacy system, which will return in Anno 1800 to give you many options when it comes to interacting with your fellow rulers.

Following that came a bold move with the announcement of Anno 2070. For the first time, players would go to the future, as we replaced beloved series staples like aforementioned fishing hut and instead allowed players to build huge futuristic metropolises on land, and even under the sea. Another element unique to Anno 2070 was the choice between which factions you wanted to align yourself with – Ecos, Tycoons or Techs – and the central role that topics like ecology and pollution played, challenging players to decide which path they wanted to follow.

So where do you go next after you built a futuristic underwater city? To space, obviously! With 2015’s Anno 2205, we decided that “the world is not enough”, as we allowed players to leave mother earth’s familiar embrace behind to colonize the moon. One big new feature in 2205 was the Session-based gameplay- instead of just building on one map, players could in parallel build in several different sectors across the globe and moon, and seamlessly switch between them. We are not going into too many details yet, but rest assured that this session-based gameplay is making a big return in Anno 1800. Where will you be able to settle? Well, that is a topic for another day…

Which brings us to the end of our little excursion through the history of Anno. We hope you have a great weekend, and please let us know in the comments what kind of throwback content you would love to see here on the Anno Union. Blog posts, old photos, Let’s Play streams of older games- we want to hear from you!

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