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Month: October 2017

1701 Anniversary: Share your memories!

The Anno series first bustled onto gamer’s screens nearly two decades ago, and next week marks he anniversary for one of the biggest milestones in the history of the Anno series.

The release of Anno 1701 in the year 2006 was a big step for the series, an evolution from the first two 2D isometric titles into the third dimension of gaming. It is also a very special game for us here at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz, as it was the first time that we (under our original name Related Designs) got our hands on the steering wheel of this storied franchise.

Many of those developers are still a part of the team today and they incorporate their experiences into the development of the upcoming Anno 1800. We love to reminisce in memories about the development of the older games and what they have contributed to the series as a whole.
And with these trips down memory lane, we remembered that many of you guys where already a part of our community  back then while newer fans might have also interesting experiences when going back to try out one of the older Anno games.

And here comes the call to action:
Share your Anno 1701 memories, anecdotes or creations such as videos, screenshots or fan art!

What was the first things you did or remembered when starting to play Anno 1701? How about some funny or beloved memories you connect with the first Anno in 3D and why is Anno 1701 still an important game for you as a fan of the series?
We hope that you have plenty of comments or creations to share with the union. You can also post videos, screenshots, stories and other fan art in our Ubisoft fan creation topic:  http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/1760804-Moving-Pictures-We-are-looking-for-Fanvideos-and-streams!

The best entries will get their own spotlight during next week’s Anno 1701 anniversary celebrations. We are curious and excited and wish you all a great weekend!

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DevBlog: Union Exhibition Vote!

With our recent DevBlog about the world fair, we called on the creative force of the Union to provide us with interesting exhibition ideas, which would fit into the 19th century setting. Unsurprisingly, you all more than delivered, contributing to a huge list of ideas ranging from exotic takes, representing the technical advancements of that new era, to the progression and evolution of its society.

We spent the last weeks gathering all of your ideas and discussing them in detail.  We compiled them in a list of nearly 40 different suggested themes and added additional notes such as interesting stories we could tell, ideas for related items and possible gameplay impact. During those discussions, we had a hard time picking our favorites, so we mixed some ideas and story background from Union posts together and checked which of the exhibitions would work best to benefit certain features. In the end, it was not only about picking the best idea but also about considering which exhibition rewards would offer an interesting addition to the gameplay.

This also tells you that exhibitions will have an influence on various aspects of the game so this is something we always have to take into account.

Without further ado, let’s draw back the curtain on the three candidates vying for your attention and support as the third exhibition to make it into Anno 1800:

A: Agricultural Exhibition: The Cream of the Crop!

An exceedingly cultivated affair! Enjoy agricultural diversity, as strange seeds from every compass-point sprout before your very eyes! Join the rural revolution, as shiny new machines shake the tree of tradition, finding new and measurable agronomical efficiencies! Honk the horns of plenty, and let this fecund feast of farming foment

B: Urbanism Exhibition: Progressive City Development!

Do your dreams lack design? Then here is the architect-tonic! The finest draughtspeople gather under one roof, to conceive cities of style and character! Discover blueprints to enrich and beautify your metropoles, yet still provide the conduits of modern convenience – sewerage, electricals and gaslight – with their fair share of logistical love. Truly ornamental!

C: Naval Exhibition: The Pride of the Ponds!

Ships galore! Immerse yourself in oceans of possibility as to what the future harbours! See what pier-led researches have in store for quay areas of interest! Render trade and travel trivial with the latest innovations, and if feeling nautical, discover naval deterrents to really float your boat! Behold an era of sea change!

It is now up to the members of the Union to vote for your preferred exhibition. Once you have made your choice, let us know why and share your ideas on how your favorite exhibition might have an impact on the world of Anno 1800.

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Union Update: AnnoCast Summary

Last Friday was the kick off of our first livestreaming format: The AnnoCast

Despite airing on a superstitious friday the 13th, our show went really well and we hope that you had as much fun watching the stream as we had being on the show.
A big thank you to everyone who joined the stream, it was great to see so many Annoholics watching, listening and engaging in the chat. And let’s not forget our operator and Senior Game Designer Christian, who spent his birthday evening to ensure that everything is running as well as our moderators Freeway and O5ighter for helping out with the chat!

The AnnoCast is our relaxed “after work” LiveCast, where I invite various developers to talk about their work, the current state of the game and to answer your community questions. While the show itself is a podcast with a live camera, we plan several show formats on our new Twitch channel. From the re-occurring AnnoCast, to Let’s Play sessions of older Anno titles and DevBlog supporting shows where we will be able to show you parts of Anno 1800 and where our developers can show how they work and ask you questions live!

And with that, we can already announce our next livestream. As some of you might now, next week marks the anniversary of Anno 1701, a perfect opportunity to start our first Let’s Play! And what could be more entertaining than watching some of the original developers of the game playing and to walk down memory lane. So prepare for some interesting anecdotes, insights how 1701 inspired Anno 1800 and probably horrible city building.

As always, we are curious about your feedback regarding the show. Let us know what you would like to see in future, how we can improve the stream or share your crazy ideas in the comments below!

Summary of the show:

Streaming Room and Community Creations
You remember that we asked for your screenshots and other community creations to decorate the streaming room? Many of you answered the call but we have to find a way to present them in a proper and worthy fashion. We have some cool ideas how to display your creations, so expect some changes to the arrangement of the room in upcoming shows.

Developer tools and hardware we use for development
A lot of you are interested in insights about or work and with that, what kind of hardware and tools we are using. We mostly use workstations, which have different requirements depending on the various disciplines. That means a lots of RAM (you might not need it for gaming, but 64gig is common) and good CPU’s to compile, render and to run the various demanding applications. We need a lot of processing power but rarely beefy gaming cards. For all things art related, we use Wacom graphic tables in various form and sizes, which are industry standard.

Pirates in Anno 1800
The classic idea of swashbuckling pirates became a tale of old times in the 19th century. But we all know that Pirates are a fundamental part of the Anno series. So rest assured that in Anno 1800, Pirates will be represented in one form or another. How exactly will be a tale of a future DevBlog.

Details about the Campaign
With the reveal, we promised a rich and detailed campaign to get immersed in the 19th century setting. But the campaign, which will be embed in the sandbox gameplay, requires many of the building blocks of the games foundation, which we are currently building. While we surely started to write and work on the campaign, you will have to wait until next year to get more details about its nature and story.

Is there a Jorgensen hiding somewhere?
Can you even imagine an Anno game without a Jorgensen? We surely can’t but also like to keep a few things mysterious.
Dirk gave some details about the beginning of the Jorgensen family with Anno 1701 and how the idea of the Jorgensen is rooted in the old TV series “Babapapa”. No worries, I had to look it up online myself as well.

Camera options to get up close with your citizen
We can confirm that Anno 1800 will have the familiar zoom level but also a free camera option which will allow you to get up close to your citizen or to let your creativity go wild when creating beautiful screenshots.

Sail versus steam ships!
You will be able to build sailing ships as well as steam powered naval units. Both ship types will have features, which will distinguish them in their functionality. Old as new technology will have their own advantages and downsides, which we will discover in future development blogs.

The comeback of our item system
The item system was missing in 2205 and we realized, that it was a feature which many Anno players had grown fond of in the past. We gave you a glimpse on the returning item system with the monument blog and some footage of the zoo. The new system will be an evolution of the old feature, so expect a more complex system, which will give you interesting options how items can affect your gameplay.

The beautiful harbor from our announcement trailer
You were curious about the variety of buildings you have seen in the harbor scene from the announcement trailer. While the footage shown in the trailer is an early version of the game, our goal is that players have a variety of constructions available to create a functional but also beautiful harbor.

How many housing buildings do fit in one Anno game?
A hot topic as of late, many of you want to know how many different assets by tier we will use for housing. The reality: It has not been set in stone yet. Rather than deciding on a fix number, we usually observe how the various tiers feel in a cityscape to decide how many are needed in order to achieve the best possible and feasible variety. That means that buildings might be altered and added in the upcoming milestones. As always: Pre-Alpha or later footage you might see on the Union is not representative for the final game.

Any news about the military system?
Military is an important but also complex topic. As time to answer community questions is limited during the AnnoCast, we could at least say that this topic deserves its own dedicated DevBlog on the union.

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DevBlog: So where is the fish?

One question that keeps popping up  in the comments is how the Anno Union will have an impact on the game’s development. As previously explained, this can happen in a variety of ways- some very direct and immediate (as is the case with our votings), others less so. For today’s blog, our Brand Manager Marcel Hatam will show you how feedback from players lead us to move around some production chains to ensure that 1800 is a proper Anno game.

We decided early on during the development of Anno 1800 that working closely with our community would be a big focus for the team. We had two main reasons to do so: one is that the opportunities for game developers to interact with their communities have dramatically changed in recent years (think of Twitch), and we knew that we wanted to use these tools to get closer than ever to players. Secondly, we had the testing phases for the Anno 2205 DLC packs as a catalyst that deeply impressed the teams. Seeing some players spend hundreds of hours testing these DLC packs, and sending hundreds of suggestions sent our winds wandering…what if we could find a way to get this same amount and quality of feedback long before the game is released, so we would have a chance to let the players influence the day one product? And could we find a way to take this idea a step further, not just giving our community several opportunities to play the game early and give feedback, but to also directly influence some of its content?

The downside of this decision would of course be that we would have to announce the game early, even if that meant that we would not be able to show a lot of gameplay footage for the first few months, as many things were still work in progress during these early pre-alpha stages. As we are a German studio, we eventually agreed to announce Anno 1800 to the world during gamescom 2017, over a year before our planned release.

However, we also knew that gamers want to deeds, not just words, so we did not want to announce the Anno Union with just future promises and big plans, but wanted to show at gamescom that we are serious about involving the community from the start.

Willkommen in Mainz!

And so it came to pass that in late July 2017, roughly a month before we would unveil the game to the world at gamescom, a group of ten long-time Anno fans found themselves in the Ubisoft Blue Byte offices here in Mainz, lured in with an invitation to “discuss the future of the Anno franchise” with us. On the first day, we gave our guests an opportunity to give their general feedback directly to us, sitting down with our Creative Director Dirk and our new Community Developer Bastian to tell us anything Anno-related they had on their minds- praise, criticism, questions, hopes; all was fair game.

Afterwards it was time for us to put the cards on the table, and introduce our guests to the industrial age with a presentation and an exclusive gameplay demo of Anno 1800. Here we could already see the first indication that the Anno Union could be a success, as the questions and feedback on the presentation started pouring in immediately. In fact, there were already more questions than we were able to answer, given that the game was (and still is) in an early pre-alpha, where many things are not final or still in flux on the development side. Finally, Bastian gave our guests a first look at our plans for the Anno Union, before it was time to cap off the day with dinner.

It’s hands-on time

Because on the next day, they became the first people outside of Ubisoft to play Anno 1800. Under the watchful eyes of our Game Designers, who were very excited by the opportunity to see players get their hands on their work and to take notes, the first buildings and roads were being placed. Fast forwarding three hours, and we sat all of our guests down with our Blue Byte GamesLab Team (who regularly conduct playtests for Ubisoft Games), to gather their feedback for the team. The questions asked ranged from the general (“Does this feel like an Anno game to you?”) to the more specific topics such as the game camera or the transportation of goods.

We want to give you a specific example and for that, we need to have to look at the answers given to the question “Do you like the goods and production chains you have encountered so far?”
While everyone was overall happy with what they had played, we did receive several complaints about the missing fishing huts! “Hold on” you may say while grabbing your pitchfork, “an Anno without fishing huts?”

Hear me out!

In the version that our guests got to play, we had sausages as our first source of food in the early game (with a production chain of pig farm => butcher => sausage), whereas we wanted to give the classic Anno fishing huts a new, more industrialized 19th century spin, introducing them later via a new production chain for canned fish.

However, this new approach felt wrong to our fans for two reasons:

  1. Anno games always started with an “one-building” source of food, like the fishing or hunting huts in previous games, so immediately requiring a production chain of several buildings to get any kind of food was overwhelming on the gameplay side. We want our game to be complex and deep, but we also want this complexity to ramp up over time, as was the case in previous Anno games.
  2. Seeing how islands, ships and the ocean are central topics in any Anno game, not having a fishing hut simply did not “feel right”. As we outlined during an earlier DevBlog when we talked about our Vision, creating a world that feels right as an Anno game is an absolute priority for us. In addition, this would be a perfect early introduction to the concept or coastal and harbor building, of which there will be much more later on in the game.

After the event, when our intrepid players had travelled home to wait for the game’s announcement, we discussed the feedback reports from the GamesLab team- and found ourselves agreeing with the feedback from the test session. The production chain for sausages was more complex than usual for Tier 1. In our quest to react to player feedback about Anno 2205 being too easy, we had turned up the complexity a bit too early. On top of that, the lack of the classic Anno start with a fishing hut clearly was something our long-time fans felt very passionately about. So we decided to see what would happen if we moved things around a little bit.

So in the latest version of the game, fish is once again the first simple one-building source of food for the early inhabitants of your island, while the sausages got pushed back to a later stage of the game. Whenever we finish a Milestone, the team will spend the following Friday playing the game, before everyone fills out a survey to see what we think off the new build. As you can see from the screenshot, we quite like these changes, so unless anything unforeseen happens (such as player feedback :p ), you can most likely expect to once again build a fishery as one of your first buildings once you dive into the world of Anno 1800.

So the moral of this story…

So what is the takeaway from this story? First, never get between an Anno fan and his early game fish. However, on a more serious note, I hope that this DevBlog was also reassuring to those of you voicing their concerns that the votings will be the only way the community can influence our development. There are many ways your feedback and ideas can have an impact on the game besides direct voting, and there will be many more opportunities once we invite more Anno Union members to play the game.

Before I leave you, I am curious to hear what some of your favorite productions chains from previous Anno games are, either from a flavor or gameplay aspect. Until next time, and feel free to say “Hi” on the Anno Discord or Twitter,

Marcel

34 Comments

Union Update: Here comes the AnnoCast!

Welcome back to our Anno Union Community Update after the short bank holiday break last week. As some of you may know, October 3rd is the German national Holiday as we celebrate the German reunification, and this year, the official ceremonial act took place in our home city of Mainz. That is why we at Ubisoft Blue Byte also took part, with a small exhibition of some of the prettiest concept art from Anno 1404, 2205, The Settlers, Champions of Anteria and Assassin’s Creed identity. In addition, we had one of our Senior Concept Artists, Ramón, do live demos where he drew some concept art for visitors to watch on a big screen. Good times were had, and we greatly enjoyed the chance to tell attendees of the event more about our work and the art of game development.

Moving on, with a short update about the next big Anno Union vote: With our Monument blog, we asked the Union for ideas about World Fair Exhibitions and you clearly know how to deliver. Our team is currently going through all your great ideas and we will be able to kick off the next vote soon.

Time for the first AnnoCast!

The next agenda point is an announcement many of you waited for: The first AnnoCast will air this Friday, 5pm CEST on twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

The AnnoCast will be our new Anno Union Live Podcast on Twitch and we plan to add more formats such as developer streams and Let’s Play sessions to the channel in the future. In our first episode, Creative Director Dirk Riegert and Int. Brand Manager Marcel Hatam will join Community Developer Bastian Thun to discuss the Anno Union and answer your questions. We hope that many Anno Union members join us during our show.

If you have questions for the QnA part of upcoming podcast, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.
But please keep the questions spot on and brief, as we have to read them out loud during the show!

Community Spotlight

Finally yet importantly, we have another shout out for our Anno communities out there: The Anno Subreddit!

And with that, we hand over keyboard to Logon, admin of /r/Anno:
I started the /r/anno community because all the Anno subreddits where game specific, and this would cause the community to splinter between games. The subreddit started when Anno 2070 was about to be released but I still mostly played Anno 1404 which meant that I could not use the Anno 2070 subreddit due to it being off topic at the time. Now the subreddit is one of the main Anno subreddits which gamespecific ones always popping up with each new release. Hopefully Anno 1800 will continue to grow the Anno community and with the help all the other Anno communities and BlueByte we can grow both the game series and community in a positive way!

And don’t forget: We happily give your community project or creations a spot in the limelight. We created an own topic in the Ubisoft forum to make it easier to reach out to us and will see if we can add a fan section on the Union in future: Moving Pictures: we are looking for your creative content!

Community Q&A

Let’s move on to our QnA session

ecofuture:
I would love it as a gamer if we could enjoy your work up close and personal- not just zooming in, but moving at eye level through my city to see my inhabitants. 

Basti: Experiencing the vivid world of Anno in first person surely sounds exciting but implementing such a feature is not as easy as it sounds. The game is simply not optimized for a first person camera mode. As an example, buildings are created with the specific isometric Anno view in mind, from the shape to the displayed angle. Implementing a first person cam would mean we would have to spent a lot of work creating the camera system itself, its movement, improving buildings and structures so they look good from a FPS angle to optimizing various assets. Creating all assets that would look great in a first person camera would also mean that we would likely have to go with smaller maps, and higher system requirements. And to be frank here, spending so many development resources for a feature that wouldn’t add real value to the game would be better spent working on more important features.

Brosicore:
I hope that Anno 1800’s buildings will have the same attention to detail so players are tempted to spend some time just looking at them.

Basti: There is a lot of work put into the game to ensure that you are immersed in the lively world of Anno. How many bits and pieces we create might be worth to highlighting in a future DevBlog. The Union can let us know if you are interested that 😉 In the meanwhile, this short clip should speak for itself:

(Clip is from a work-in-progress pre-alpha version)

Arkenophas (From the DevBlog: Concept Art):
Wich software do ou use for this render ? Photoshop ? In the little animation, there is a 3D mock-up you talked about, no ? Is it not to hard to imagine a building only with photos ? I mean, I suppose we can’t see everything of a building with photos, so, do you need to imagine the unseen part, as you have less than three bricks on a photo ^^ ? And yes, I forgot something ^^ How do you begin your work ? 

André: The first sketches are done completely in Photoshop. 3d mock-ups are done in 3ds Max and sometimes edited with in-house tool. Overpainting the mockup is then again done in PS sometimes using photo textures.
Working with old references can be challenging at times, especially as some of these older illustrations can be hard to read. Sometimes we just pick ideas from several different sources (e.g. the materials from picture 1, the roof structure from pic 2 etc.). I did a lot of experimentation with different drawing techniques to find a way to efficiently draw detailed-looking buildings. During this process, you also nurture a keener eye for the era you are working on. If I see a brick stone factory these days, I will automatically take a closer look. In addition, there are of course films and tv series from the era that help you build up a mental library of ideas and references.

In the end, the most important aspect is what people associate with the 19th century, like big smoke stacks or bricked buildings. We have to consider these expectations to successfully transport players to this era.

droggelcreeper:
I love the idea of using the exhibitions as an active gameplay elements, and that you can earn items through it (so will you just select one of them that you get to keep?). Do you think it may be possible to add further exhibitions later on, for example through DLC?

Natacha: With the world fair, you can choose the event you want to prepare, but one event at a time! Once the event has ended, you can make another choice. First and foremost, our focus is on the release version, but since events are subject to an unlock during the late game, adding content should be simple for this feature.

Mattrelia:
I’m very happy that there will finally be a possibility of interaction with the public buildings!! Nice. I hope this will be for every building and not only zoo and fair.

Natacha: We also believe that placing a building should not be an end in itself, and that providing interactivity with buildings adds a lot of strategic gameplay. Yet, buildings have different functions, and we will implement this interactivity where it can truly add value. Who knows, maybe the items could play a role here as well? J

denksteichich (from the forums):
Will there be natural catastrophes like earthquakes or erupting volcanoes? Will there be environmental pollution through the factories?

Basti: Natural disasters won’t be in the release version of the game. However, factories will be something you have to look out for, as they are a possible fire hazard for your metropolis. While we don’t want that pollution has a big impact on the game, as it was even a main theme in 2070, you might imagine that your citizen might not be that font of the idea to have a big industrial factory district in front of their courtyard.

Fireseed (from the forums):
Will there be a companion app again?

Basti: We are fully focused on delivering a great PC game with Anno 1800, so there are no plans for a companion app.

nico_Darmstadt:
Will there be churches or religion in Anno 1800? I couldn’t see any church towers in the trailer, but in the older Annos religion was always a need you had to fulfill, and the churches helped to create prettier cities.

Basti:
Rest assured, our churches won’t just be a decorative building for beauty builders.

17 Comments

DevBlog: It begins with art!

“That typical Anno feeling!” – A common comment from long time Anno players when they talk about the very special feel and look of an Anno game. But how do we actually go about designing that familiar Anno art style? It all starts with concept art and today, we want to give you an exclusive look into that work with our Senior Concept Artist André Kieschnik:

Hi, my name is André, and I have now worked as a concept artist on the Anno series for over seven years. From my first Anno steps (or lines) in the middle ages to exploring settings on a futuristic earth and now arriving in the industrial revolution, this journey was a chance for me to earn experience as an artist and to learn many things, some of them are valuable lessons for my craft and career. I want to share a part of said experience with the Anno Union and show you why concept art is important.

Three factors that make for good concept art
Gamers loves concept art, as it gives us a glimpse into the creative vision and direction of a game; but it is not only an eye-catcher, it is also an important part of the development process of a game. Concept art sets the tone for the art direction, helps to visualize concepts and works as reference piece for other departments. You can say that there are three important factors:

Visualization
We talked about the vision for our game in the past, and it is the concept artist’s responsibility to take all these creative ideas and to visualize them. That can be straightforward, like the first concept sketch of a new building, environmental concepts or a panorama visualizing how a whole cityscape could look like. But we also create mood slides, where we capture a certain atmosphere or feeling into a concept art piece, and work sometimes with abstract ideas to get them into form and shape. Visualizing ideas helps Game Designers (but also other disciplines) to get an idea on how game elements could look like, but also to figure out if and how they could function in the game.

Functionality
Functionality is another important factor. Sometimes, an idea sounds great in our mind but once we can see it visually presented in an artwork, we might realize that it is not working out as we hoped or that it needs at least some more thought and iterations to function properly. Imagine you have an idea for a new crazy factory building or a cool 19th century machine. A concept artist can help to figure out if that concept for a factory could work well together with the other buildings in the game or if the design of your machine feels plausible and convincing. Our credo here is “not 100% realistic but believable”. We take advantage of creative freedom when creating concept art but the right mixture between reality and fiction is what makes an asset believable.

Art Design
Finally yet equally importantly, concept art helps to set the visual tone for a game. Having a set art direction is crucial to create that beloved Anno feeling. So what exactly is the tonality and feeling that we are aiming for with the upcoming Anno 1800? The 19th century with its industrial revolution was, especially in large cities, often a dirty and sometimes gritty time. However, as with our Anno games set in the middle ages, the tone for Anno 1800 should reflect memorable aspects of that era without becoming too dark or dirty. For an Anno game, we all want that sense of satisfaction and wonder when observing our citizens bustling around a carefully crafted diorama of a city.

Which of course does not mean that Anno 1800 will not give you that soot-blackened feeling of the 19th century, as the depiction of the industrial revolution is an important part of immersing players in that that era.
At the end, artful architecture, rural buildings and industrial revolution should create a harmonious overall architectural impression. A good mixture allows us to represent everything, with vibrant cultural buildings or other eye-catchers compensating for your brick-stone factories covered in industrial smoke.

From first ideas to final concept art

Step one: Hitting the books
We always start with research. Anno is a city building game and therefore, architecture is the most important aspect we have to visualize. Our team usually starts to browse through various sources from that era, like old photos or paintings. Over time, we gather a good amount of reference material. However, it is not only the 19th century we take inspiration from.
When you do research about production buildings of that time, you quickly realize that many buildings were mostly made out of brick stones and all shared a similar architecture, which makes it hard to distinguish various types of buildings or their functions at a glance. We of course had to admit repetitive buildings made of red brick stones are not very interesting to look at, or not even what people expect when they think of the industrial revolution.

That is the point where creative freedom becomes important: we are also using modern references to include steel and iron, which most of us imagine when we think about the 19th century.

Step two: Time to scribble
The first visualization of a concept is usually a sketch. Let us stick to the factory for this example. We are done with our initial research and can now start to scribble down all the ideas we have in mind to create many variations in shape and form. At this point, while being rough, our scribbles should demonstrate various shapes that could fit in an Anno landscape but also show what is inside the building.

Here is something interesting to consider when creating buildings for Anno. When you take a birds-eye look on a real cityscape, it is hard to identify the various types of buildings. You might be able to spot houses, if it is some kind of cultural building or an industrial estate of sort. In Anno, we need you to be able to easily identify the type of building you are looking at. To immediately make you understand the type and function of a building, we make use of open walls or we even place elements that should be hidden inside the building (like big kettles or a smelter) outside to make it more readable.

We usually draw several sketches to create a variety of concepts for a building. In previous Anno games, the first sketches were usually black and white line-arts. However, our team got more experienced and with that, much faster over the years. That means that today, most of our scribbles already have some coloration to give a better idea how things could look like in the final game.

Step three: Decisions
Once we have a variety of concepts, it is time to pick the most fitting sketch of the building. Our team decides which sketch would work best as a concept for a building, with feedback from our Art and Creative Directors and Senior Artists. There might be a case where we have a hard time deciding on one sketch, which can lead to picking two variants or even mashing them together to create a new concept. Once we have picked the best concept, a 3D Artist will create a low-poly 3D Mockup of the factory. That allows us to compare it to already created Anno buildings and helps to identify if size and proportions are working or if we have to alter the concept a bit. After we have checked various scenarios with our 3D dummy and decided that we can go ahead with the concept, it is time to go back to the drawing board.


Step four: Let’s finish this
In the last phase, we take our first sketch and start to work on the final concept art. That means a lot of detailed work: we create a high definition file, work out all the missing pieces such as props, small details (which can be as minute as a poster on a wall) and define all the materials used in that building. It needs to be clearly visible what is made out of bricks, wood, metal and even if it is in a pristine or worn down form, especially for the later work with shader effects. Having all the details and the correct proportions is incredibly important as a reference for our 3D artists who work with that concept later on.

When the final piece is ready, it is time for the last approval check. If we get the okay from the Creative Director and Senior Artist, it’s time to move on to another piece. If the concept art needs to be changed after the revision, we usually go back to the beginning of step four.

I hope you found this behind the scenes look into the world of Anno’s concept art interesting. In a future Devblog, one of my fellow artists from the 3D side will take over to show you how our factory continues its journey into the finished game. Before I leave you, I would love to hear what some of your favorite Anno concept arts from the previous games were, so hit the comments. You might have even a few questions to our team regarding our work on the concept art for Anno 1800?

Best,

André

22 Comments

Union Update: gamescom throwback!

With the announcement of Anno 1800 and the start of our Anno Union initiative, gamescom 2017 marked the beginning of a new era for the Anno franchise. With the first full month behind us, we thought it would be a perfect moment to start the week with a gamescom recap video, so lean back and enjoy some impressions from the big reveal and reactions to our Ubilounge presentations. Classic QnA’s and Union Updates, such as news about the next vote, will return next week (we will have of course a new DevBlog with a new member of the team for you all later this week).

It surely has been a ride and we are still at the beginning. When we started, we had a clear vision for the Union and it is great to see that our appreciation for our fans and their experience is well received. We only managed to scratch the surface and there is still a huge list of topics to cover up to release of Anno 1800. As with the game, we will continue to improve the Anno Union initiative based on your feedback and might also try new formats, such as our first live stream which will come this October!

We want to thank everyone of you for joining the Anno Union and accompanying us on our journey.

Your Ubisoft Blue Byte team

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