What an exciting week it has been thanks to the big announcement of the upcoming Union focus-playtests and a passionate look inside in the work of our level art team.
This week, it is time for the next DevBlog in our logistic series, where we will demonstrate how we bring back both complexity and freedom of choice with Anno 1800’s trading routes.
While you will hear back about the story contest winners soon, today we want to fuel your creativity once more:
The Union Island creation contest
Islands design has been a matter of passionate community discussions for a long time now and you shared plenty of interesting ideas and suggestions in last week’s DevBlog.
While we love to take inspiration from your ideas, there is also a creative power in the Anno Union, and we want to use that energy to its fullest potential- so we decided to give our Union the chance to bring a true community created map into the game.
We kick off our official Union island creation contest today and we are looking for your interesting takes on the Anno island formula. The best entries get the chance to become something truly special, as we will put the best maps up for a vote on the Anno Union and the winning island shape will get implemented into the game.
Here are the details:
– The deadline for the contest is Thursday, February 15th and you can post your entry here: Island Creation Contest
– You design your own island shape, you can either do it digitally or send us a scan of your drawn image. – Your island should be a clearly visible island shape shown in top down view.
– Your shape should include terrain elements such as mountains and hills as well as marked spaces for beaches. Keep in mind: if something is not marked as a beach, it is counted as a cliff-side.
– Finally , but very importantly, add interesting details and obstacles. We are curious about your interesting ideas but make sure that things do not get too crazy.
– A picture of your island is mandatory but you can post a short description and the gameplay ideas behind your concept in the forum as well.
Here is an example of shape and drawn areas.
Focus Playtest requirements and questions
We got plenty of detailed and well thought out applications but we also know that there are some burning questions regarding the focus playtests. Instead of answering every single question in the QnA part separately, we decided to provide some extended details on the playtest and will overhaul the FAQ on the playtest page this week.
Deadlines and do I need to apply again for future playtests?
The application process has no deadline attached and you won’t need to apply for each test separately. Several test sessions will run over the course of the year and we will pick testers always from an aggregated list of applicants, which we will frequently update over time.
If I am invited once, will I be able to play on every future focus test?
You won’t – while we might invite people more than once, we want a variety feedback from different players and for that reason, we will change testers for every focus group. Later tests might require data from bigger groups, so just keep an eye on the Union for future information on that matter.
What are the exact system requirements?
Many of you were curious about the time requirements of the first test. While we aim to provide many options to customize your experience for the final game, our early development version is not optimized yet. That means that performance is subject to change and that the hardware requirements are not representative. It is hard for us to tell right now, but you will most likely need a PC which runs 2205 with at least recommended specs.
Why do I need to be 18+?
We are aware that there are many younger Anno fans out there. The minimum age is a legal requirement as the playtest will be subject of a strict NDA. Remember that we give players access to the in-development version of the game. The NDA requirements might change in a later stage of development and we will keep you updated in future Union Updates.
I can’t play one hour every day, why is it not possible to play just 14 hours over the weekend?
We are aware that at least one hour a day over the course of two weeks is a lot of commitment and not feasible for everyone. Future playtests can vary in length, but for the moment we need detailed feedback on a daily basis from testers.
The one hour is a minimum requirement and as mentioned, you can play as long as you have time during the focus test. We will monitor bugs, might perform changes and fixes to the client as well as ask for specific feedback about certain game elements on a daily basis. Because of that, playing the minimum daily time altogether on a weekend is unfortunately not possible.
Will Uplay be required to test the game?
Yes, Uplay will be a requirement for the focus tests.
I am disappointed that activity in the Union was not taking into account for the application process!
As mentioned on the playtest page, constructive behavior is a requirement to be eligible for playtesting. It makes no sense for us to ask you how active you are in the Anno Union or the Ubisoft forum, as we can gather these data on our own. Activity as well as other community engagement is an absolute plus.
How do feedback and bug reports work, will I have someone to talk to if I encounter problems during the focus test?
We will offer support from a dedicated testing team to all testers. We will provide the exact details if you get invited to a test but rest assured that we have a process and the needed tools for feedback collections and reports.
Do all islands have only a small amount of beaches? Is it the rule that mountains surround islands rather than rising from the middle?
Simon: The beaches are the only spots allowing access to your island. However, you will usually have several beach slots available, depending on the size of an island.
Mountains are not limited to the borders of the playing area, and there will be islands in the game where hills and mountains ascend from the center. We want a variety gameplay challenges and scenarios, and the placement of a mountains and other terrain has a strong influence on the difficulty.
We are curious how many tiles the island shown in the blog has? When you work on the surface details, it seems that you work on one big object, and that before you structure the sectors of the island. How are you doing that? Additionally, I would like to know what kind of textures you use? And how do you ensure that your textures don’t look like repeating tiles? 80 hours of work for one island, I guess that more than one person works on one island?
Simon: Our islands are one big 3D element, which we are able to completely modify and edit as a whole. It is not segmented by separate elements. Our tools allow us to define the construction space while we work on the object. There are several methods and ways of handling textures, such as “Seamless Textures” or “Tint Maps”, which can prevent unwanted tiling effects. But that is a complex topic in itself and like always, often a combination of different techniques. The 80 hours for an island are the average time spent but we share the workload with several team members.
I have one question, did this thing that it can take 80 hours map time become in 1800, 2205 or was it already in early games like 2070?
Simon: In fact, we optimized our workflow a bit since then, which means we need slightly less time than we needed for an average island in 2205.
How many islands would be created for the entire game? Are any of them created via a scripting tool or is it all done manually?
Simon: We don’t want to reveal the final amount of islands for the game as of yet. We use the tool World Machine to create a basic layout for the map which we than alter and polish by hand.
One question, as a Level Artist, are there performance constraints that go into what you can do with the design of an island? Is there a limit to the number of “features” on each island for the sake of engine performance?
Simon: Level artists usually care about making a level visually stunning but we also have to keep performance in mind especially when it comes to placeable objects or complex vegetation, as these can take up a lot of performance if you aren’t careful.