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Month: July 2018

Union Update: Questions, Answers and Artificial Intelligence

In today’s Union Update, we will once again give you answers on some of the most burning questions from our communities. You also can look forward to our upcoming DevBlog, in which our programmers Jonas and Johannes will show you how we teach our second party characters how to build a believable metropolis.

But before we dive into our QnA section, we have a small reminder: The Union ship design contest will end next week Monday. We got a few strong designs already and we are looking for the last few submissions entering the race before the beginning of next week.

Without further ado, let’s answer some questions:

DfZug
Will the number of wagons per train depend on your production or is it just a visual feature? Will the trains run faster or slower depending on their weight?
Answer: While the payload will not affect the speed of a train, the number of wagons will be an indicator for you how much oil is currently loaded.

Mr.Beko80
Will you need to construct power plants near to the residential area, which will further have a negative impact on your residential happiness? How will the electrical support work, will you need to power supply lines on your own or can you just upgrade your streets?
Answer: To pander your demanding investors, you will need to support them with electricity from a close by a power plant. However, you will not need to install power lines manually, as power plants have their own influence radii like the marketplace and the fire station. Electrical poles will automatically appear across streets, which are in the influence radius of a power station. When you upgrade your simple farm roads to proper streets, the influence of all buildings will expand which also affects your power supply. Power plants will have an impact on the pollution of your city but are not a real competitor against your smoke covered heavy industry.

Acroz.Gaming
While watching the video, I’ve noticed that they look rather static right now. Will you include more animation and visual feedback in the future?
Answer: Many assets used in the electricity blog are not final yet, so you can look forward to a higher level of detail and more visual feedback. Same goes for the oil harbor, the oils ships and the motor carts, which are currently in a low polygon state or getting overhauled. How about an update on that in a future blog or live-stream?

Sandi.V.
Will the roads cross the railway? Or will the railway line block the construction of road crossing?
Answer: You will be able to cross streets when building railway tracks.

olblf
Are power plants only using oil? I guess it makes sense from a gameplay perspective, but historically and logically, coal would have been the go to fuel. I would have liked if powerplants could use both coal and oil.
Answer: In Anno 1800, coal is finding is an important resource for many production chains and it is especially utilized in your heavy industry. Power plants need a very high amount of fuel in order to operate. If we would just use coal for our power plants, we would completely devalue the resource for other production chains and furthermore, we need to ensure that trains could also access the mines. The new electricity production chain including oil as fuel is an exciting new system, which challenges players but also rewards them with technical progress coming to your metropolis. We choose quality over quantity as making use of two fuel resources (oil and coal) would artificially bloat the system while at the same time, watering down the gameplay as a result.

Anno_2070_
Is he ascension to the next tier bound to the need on available and needed workforce or will it be more like in the past, where only a percentage of your residents was able to ascend, which further guaranteed that you always had enough workforce to run everything?
Answer: Anno 1800 will not have the classic ascension rights. If a residential building has all needs fulfilled to reach the maximum amount of residents it can inhabit, you can upgrade the house to the next tier by investing the needed construction material. There won’t be any limit for the number of residents you can upgrade, which means you can let as many farmers ascend to the working class as you like, even if that will cause a bottleneck for farmhands needed on your rural production buildings. Although, you will be able to downgrade buildings if you need an additional workforce in a lower tier.

nico_Darmstadt
If I start building production lines to create luxury goods, will it cause higher upkeep costs but also generate higher income?
Answer: Luxury goods will make your residents and your treasury happy.

Gxy12
Will it be still possible to deny your residents certain goods (such as fish), like it was possible in Anno 2070 or 1404?
Answer: It will be possible to deny your residents any goods you wish by locking it in the specific residential window for each tier. Seems your poor residents have to run dry if you need the schnapps to hand in that quest at your neighbor’s island.

5 Comments

DevBlog: Electricity

Driven by the ever-present urge of territorial expansion, Anno 1800 will see you venturing forth to claim new islands, expand your industrial machine and grow your population. Your once scenic rural hamlet will grow into an impressive metropolis, bringing with it all the challenges of managing dozens of complex production chains at once. Thankfully, if you are feeling a little adventurous (or always strive for perfection), there is one wonder of the modern age that may come in handy: electricity!

Power for the new age
Upon reaching the fourth residential tier, the future suddenly becomes reality, as your first power plants start boosting your industry and giving you a significant advantage over your competition. Once connected to your factories and other modern production buildings, electricity will significantly buff your productivity, which will allow you to grow your cities without losing crucial building space needed for your residents or to expand your trading empire. Thanks to this breakthrough, a smaller production island could quickly turn into an industrial powerhouse, being able to provide the majority of resources to supply your main island.
Storing electricity and transporting power over long distance was a song of the future back then, which means that your power plant will provide electricity on a radius based on street distance. All factories and craft business can benefit from a connection to the local power plant, while farm buildings (such as the pig or grain farm) will not receive a boost from electrical power.
While electricity can boost the outcome of your older production buildings significantly, some modern facilities will require a connection to your electrical network to begin operation.

To drive home the atmosphere of this brave new world, electricity will also be visualized in the game world, with electrical poles on your streets showing you which areas are connected to your electrical network. With boost up to 200%, the cart pushers of old will not be able to handle the higher demand for production relevant material to keep the machines running. To solve that issue, boosted production buildings will swap their old horse carts for modern steam powered contraptions and the UI of connected buildings will undergo significant changes as well:

Get things rollin! Not all assets are final.

But not only modern factories are hungry for power, your dear investor friends will have a serious chat with you at the country club if you are not providing their modern city mansions with electricity. They obviously cannot be bothered taking care of the logistics of establishing electrical supply to an apartment district in a 19th century metropolis, but they are certain that you are up for the task.
Many assets and visual feedback are still a work in progress but we are looking forward to show you the system in action!

Running the electricity business
While power plants are an incredibly effective tool to boost your production, they are also fairly challenging to operate. The trick is that your power plant runs on fossil fuel, and its hunger for oil is not to be taken lightly. Refineries, which extract the fossil fuel from natural deposits, can provide the huge amount of oil needed to run your power plant – but that still leaves the question of how you transport all this oil!
In order to support large parts of your city with electricity, you will need to pave the way for the train to transport tons of fuel across your island.

This is where the oil harbor comes into play, giving your tankers an opportunity to unload and store all the oil coming into your production islands. But you still need to get it from the harbor to the power plants, right?

The industrial revolution lead to an incredible demand for resources and materials, creating a logistical challenge impossible that called for  modern solutions. Enter stage left: the railway, the trusted iron horse powering the advances of the 19th century!

The train will load the fuel from your harbor to transport them to any connected power plants on the island. Of course, that means that you have to connect your oil harbor to your power plant via railway tracks to get things moving. Depending on your islands layout, this can pose an interesting challenge in itself, making sure that all power plants are connected to the harbor (or an oil field, assuming you were lucky enough to have one on this island).

Establishing an efficient supply line is therefore by no means a trivial task, from finding and tapping oil reserves, putting all the needed workforce in place to the logistics of getting it all to the power plants near the factories you want to power with electricity. This is where good predictive building of your industrial districts pays off, ensuring that you can group your factories efficiently to ensure that as many of them as possible benefit from your power plants.
This diagram gives you an overview about the logistical network required to support a power plant.

A new century on the horizon.
During development of these features, we closely followed the many creative and passionate community discussions revolving around the railway. Because of that, we wanted to create a meaningful endgame feature for Annoholics who want to optimize their economy as well as for enthusiasts who want to experience technology advance alongside society.

Together with features like our item system or Influence, electricity allows for a level of customization and strategic gameplay rarely seen in the Anno series. Imagine dense industrial districts powered by electricity, further boosted by items and Influence specializations. A feature, which also greatly benefitted from our Anno Union play testers, as their feedback helped to shape and improve the system.

We are eager to hear your opinion, so feel free to share your feedback on the new electricity feature in the comments below!

21 Comments

Union Update: GC2018 Community Dinner

While some of you hopefully enjoy the weather during this record summer, our team is taking on the road to gamescom 2018. While the preparations for gc2018 keep us busy for the upcoming weeks, we will still bring development insights and updates to the Union. Some other formats, such as our development streams are on hold for now but will come back after the event.
To give you a teaser for this week’s content: industrial revolution enthusiasts will find what their hearts desire, as we will highlight technology, which truly changed life in the 19th century.

Anno Union gc2018 community dinner
We are looking forward to Europe’s biggest gaming event and can tell that gamescom 2018 will be especially exciting for Anno 1800 fans. While we will share the exact details about our presence at the event in another update, we have a special announcement to make for Union members visiting Cologne in August.

With the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Anno Union in mind, we want to invite you to celebrate with us at our Union GC2018 community dinner on August 23rd.

During the meet and greet, we want to reminisce with you about the journey so far, chat about Anno 1800 and share development and community stories alike.

How can I register?
Just use our Anno Union “GC2018 community dinner” form.

When and where will the community dinner happen?
Thursday, 23. August 2018 at 9pm (MESZ)
Restaurant “Em Kölsche Boor”
Eigelstein 121, 50668 Cologne

General information about the event

  • Registration via the form is required – we will send out confirmation mails after the advanced registration period has ended on August 6th.
  • Receiving a confirmation mail is required in order to participate.
  • Keep in mind that we have limited seats available, register as fast as possible.
  • Only register if you are sure that you can participate.
  • Participants have to be 18 or older.
  • As the event will take place outside of the gamescom 2018 venue, receiving an invitation to the dinner will not grant you access to gamescom 2018. On the contrary, you will not need a gamescom 2018 ticket to join the event.
  • While we take care of full boarding during the event, we will not cover travel and accommodation expenses.
3 Comments

DevBlog: Happiness

Hi guys, my name is Jan Dungel and I am the Lead Game Designer on Anno 1800. I worked on many different games in the past but Anno 1800 is an especially exciting project for me. Even compared to other strategy games, the incredibly large feature list of intertwined systems makes you realize how everything in Anno’s grand scheme is deeply connected. The setting in the era of the industrial revolutions with its many social changes is just an added cherry on top: Anno 1800 educates you, encourages smart thinking and breathes creativity.

Will you be remembered as a liberator or robber baron?
Happiness as a gameplay mechanic is nothing new to Anno fans, but as with many other features in Anno 1800, we refined the system to make it more meaningful than in any previous title in the series. But before we go into the details, let’s break down what that actually means for you.

Happiness tracks how satisfied the residents on your island are. And as freedom of choice is one of our design philosophies, you will be able to decide if your residents will remember you as a saint or robber baron, with both approaches being a valid playstyle. That means that an altruistic approach is as much of a valid strategy as exploiting your residents. To make that possible, we changed one important rule in the Anno formula: It is no longer necessary that your residents are happy in order to advance to the next tier.

With that requirement out of the way, we went ahead and re-designed residential happiness. The needs of your residents are now separated, with one part being relevant for happiness and the other being relevant for the population of your residential buildings. That allows you to just fulfill the bare minimum of subsistence needs to push your population while ignoring the satisfaction of your residents. Think about the rise of the working class, where people moved into the big cities to work in the modern factories, while often being forced to live a simplistic life, lacking any form of luxury. And still, the big cities were expanding at a rapid speed, having a hard time to catch up with the needed living space to host thousands of newly arriving residents.

Let’s look at an example. The first farmers come in because you provide a marketplace. But if you want to attract more farmers, you have to provide the different population needs such as fish or woolen smocks, which will stack up until you have the maximum amount of 10 farmers in one building in order to advance. Schnapps and a pub will surely make them happy, but they are not required in order to become part of the working class, as luxury needs won’t attract more people to your residential buildings.

Push them hard or lend them your hand
But what are the gains if you treat your residents mercilessly, or should you even care about your populace just for the peace of mind? As you are now able to advance your people based on population needs alone, you are not forced to provide luxury goods, which will save you production space and money. Imagine you want to establish a smaller production island, where you decide to maximize the profit and outcome while keeping construction space and investment as low as possible. Or maybe you have to quickly establish a working infrastructure to provide your main city with some urgently needed goods. You also might engage in large scale economic or military warfare and therefore want to concentrate your actions effectively in order to not lose the lead against the competition.

Neither happiness nor population needs are a global stat, which means that the artisans on one island can celebrate you as their savior while they desperately wait for better times to come to the next one. Remember: You can further impact the happiness of your residents when changing their workforce conditions. They won’t be pleased if you force them to harder work but on the other hand, loosening the reigns on their working conditions will make them happier at their working place.

The exact dynamics of revolting residents will be highlighted in a future blog but for now, keep in mind that happiness is separated by islands, residential tiers and even the living areas and workplaces of your population. Why should an engineer care about the exploited working class? Besides the fulfillment of happiness relevant needs and working conditions, there are other factors which might have an impact on Happiness, such as the in the Influence blog mentioned propaganda or being in a state of war with other parties.

This concept video shows the different extremes of your citizen’s happiness

Workers on strike who put your steel production on hold or farmers rallying through the streets might be an obvious downside, but how about the benefits of your satisfied citizens? Not only are happy residents are less likely to start a riot, their loyalty towards you will make them more willing to stand behind their governor’s reign when an enemy fleet besieges your island. But there is more to that- if your folks like you, they might reward you for your service with small quests or even direct rewards. If you manage to become a true hero of the people, they might even start festivities to celebrate you as a leader, which will not only affect your city attractiveness greatly but also reward you with truly exciting visual feedback. Your happy residents will also give something back to society, such helping you out with a neighborhood watch or amateur fire squads.

The different faces of happiness
Your residents have different states which show how satisfied they are with their living standards and you as a ruler. These states range from absolutely euphoric to rage against the machine, with five different states in total: Angry, Unhappy, Content, Happy and Euphoric.

A familiar element for Annoholics is the residential tiers info layer, which you can easily access by clicking on one of the residential buildings and which will tell you about their current mood. It will show you the current state and a rating how happy they are (an important stat to know how far you can go before their mood changes). The residents will also talk to you, telling you how they feel and what’s on their mind. For that, we make use of voice lines and text but also of animated portraits. By looking in their face, you should immediately get an idea how they feel, and whether they are currently happy with you or if they are concerned or angry. Besides being an important visual information layer for you as a player, it also allows us to give the people inhabiting the world of Anno 1800 some real personality:

This mock-up gives you an idea of how the Happiness UI could function in the game

You write your own story
The new Happiness system adds a few more wheels to the complex machinery and together with other features such items for specific public buildings, influence or working conditions, which make Anno 1800 to a real sandbox experience. What do you think about the changes, are you looking forward to play around with the many different systems, do you have questions or feedback with us to share?

 

10 Comments

Union Update: Happiness and Community QnA

Before we handle the needs of our residents in this weeks DevBlog: Happiness, we will tackle some community questions in todays Union Update. 

Thaliruth
I have a question coming from how other building games do it. I cannot recall Anno games ever having some kind of maintenance mechanics for buildings, such as that they wear off after a while and have to be repaired. How is it with 1800? Do we need to maintain buildings in order to keep the production going?
Answer: Buildings will not wear themselves out from usage and therefore there is no need to perform any maintenance actions. However, incidents such as fire can damage buildings, which will regenerate over time. Ruins on the other hand, have to be manually refurbed by the player. When it comes to harbor defense, repair cranes serve as a measure to maintain your damaged defense structures. While the idea of a maintenance mechanic for buildings sounds interesting for the early game, it would have an extremely heavy micro-management impact in the mid- and late-game. In Anno, you construct not only hundreds or even thousands of buildings across multiple islands and sessions, you also have to take care of trading routes, your fleets and to manage complex logistical networks.

Jinkha5
What if I spent all my influence on a big fleet of ships and then want to change my strategy to use a ton of items or settle on many different islands?
Answer: That depends on the size of your empire, as the amount of influence points is bound to your population. Even if you spend enough points on one category to benefit from the bigger global buff, you will have still some influence at your disposal to invest in other categories. You can also downsize your fleet to reinvest the points in different categories. The military category will allow building fleets at a size and scope previously unseen in an Anno title but a total focus on military won’t be necessary to build up a strong fleet.

Das_ist_Phil
„Investing in Expansion will allow you to settle on more islands, …..”
Does that mean that we will be restricted from the get go? We won’t be able to settle on an unlimited amount of islands and NEED to invest in the expansion category?
Answer: Players who like to steal islands away from AI or other players as fast as possible will need to invest in the expansion category in order to do so. Most players however won’t even need to spend any influence in the beginning, unless they pursue a rush strategy at the start of the game. This way, during the early game influence is especially relevant for players who want to fully commit to a certain playstyle, such as expanding quickly in all directions or to rush a production pipeline to have a large fleet of battle ships as early as possible. When it comes to the “Expansion”category, there is something you have to keep in mind: additional islands will automatically generate influence alongside your growing population (unless you are just claiming new land without establishing settlements). If you just establish a few production islands, you won’t need to spent much (or even any) influence at all but if you want to prevent other parties from expanding, you will need to invest. Players who want to build huge empires don’t need to worry, as influence has no upper limit and will grow together with your empire and its number of inhabitants.

Hexagon19
Is it correct that gramophones are produced by engineers? It makes sense to a degree, but will investors even provide any form of workforce? I also think that it would make more sense that the artisans create the ornaments for the gramophones, instead of the engineers.
Answer: Not all production chains are final yet, as we are still working on balancing, which is also affected by feedback from our focus test groups. It is also important that we find a good distribution of all workforce, in order to ensure that each residential tier is equally relevant, and remains so even in later stages. If we notice that we ask for too many engineers in one production tier while artisans are being left out, we will sit together to find ways to have the workforce distributed more evenly. Since we started developing the game, we had to re-arrange and sometimes even completely change different production chains. But there is one overarching rule: the workforce from all residential tiers stays relevant throughout the whole game.
Investors are different, as they will not provide a typical workforce for your production chains. However, the amount of investors available will play a role when organizing events that are hosted at the world fair.

Ger_Lunak
Will there be a Beta phase for final polishing and bugfixing?
Answer: In order to improve the game, we will continue to make use of our Union focus test program, but also have larger scale testing phases with a lot more players later on.

Frederic440
I would really like to see that every residential tier would get their own enhanced version of the basic kontor. IN the tradition of Anno 1602, it would be great if the enhanced kontor would be available as a project from your construction menu instead of upgrading automatically.
Answer:  While the kontor will not automatically upgrade with every new residential tier, you will be able to upgrade every kontor as well as you warehouses in several stages.

8 Comments

Union Ship Design Contest

You have an artistic eye and can’t wait to give the imperial pride a new coat of paint? That one great idea for a design haunts you seemingly forever? Your pencil is ready to bring us a cool story revolving around an infamous ship or you just want to get crazy with a design paper?

The Anno Union island contest has shown that the Union is a creative force to reckon with and this time, we want you to design your own model variation of the Imperial Pride.
To utilize all talent from our communities, we allow you to use any medium you like to shape and illustrate your idea: You want to overpaint our concept art or create your own true piece of art, go for it! How about going all in with a 19th century style blueprint, a cool  story about the vessels history or something which feels like an description right out of an RPG sourcebook, including fictional stats and skills?

Use any medium you like to pitch your idea, here are some things to keep in mind:
– As the design will be implemented as a model variant of the Imperial Pride, your submission needs to be based on the community vote winning cruiser.
– Even though the Imperial Pride is a steam cruiser with medium defensive capabilities, you can decide if your variant is a fierce battleship, true pack mule or something entirely different.
– While we like you to go all in with your cool ideas, keep in mind we are still talking about a ship design, which should fit into the setting and to Anno’s gameplay.
– If you want to work with loose stats or special skills, you can just use definitions like “HP – Medium / DMG – High / MANOUVERABLILTY – Weak etc.” or just work with some sort of a points system.
– Surprise us!
And here the “Imperial Pride” in all her glory! Just click to get concept art in high resolution.

The deadline for submissions to the Ship Design Contest is Monday 6th of August.

Just post your entry in the dedicated contest topic in our Anno 1800 Ubisoft forum:
International Ship Design thread

After the contest has ended, our team will sit together and browse through the ideas from our Union hobby designers. We will then decide on which submission will get the full development treatment and makes it as a model variant into the game. There also might be a scenario where two submissions complement each other so greatly that we make use of both for the variant.

Additionally, we will make sure that the coolest submissions will get a true community spotlight on our Anno Union and Anno 1800 channels.
Have fun and good luck!

2 Comments

Union Update: Contest, Stream and details

With today’s Community Update, we want give you an overview on this week’s content and provide a few additional details regarding our last DevBlog about Influence.

As mentioned last week, we are about to start our next big Anno Union contest later this week. This time we will allow you to create your own ship variant and will provide some general guidelines and information needed for you to put your own unique spin on the Imperial Pride.
There were also many questions wondering if we could also allow to create a second variant for the Iron Dragon, as this flaming terror of the seas lost the vote by the smallest of margins. We love seeing your passion, implementing a second community-edited ship is sadly not possible. However, as previously mentioned, you will be able to get your hands on all of the unedited basic ships from the vote.

Next week, we will continue our feature showcase and show you how you can manage the satisfaction of your residents with another DevBlog. With the Happiness feature, you will have the freedom to exploit or to cultivate your residents without lowering one’s sights on advancing your empire to the highest tiers.

Next AnnoAfternoon on the horizon!
Rest is for the wicked – our community team O5ighter and Seraxia jump on deck once again to continue their journey through Anno 1404’s waters. These fellas does not seem to always have a clue what they are doing but at last, they seem to be unstoppable doing so! Give them some support and tune in this SATURDAY at 5pm CEST at twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte
UPDATE: Due to the World Cup Finale, we’re moving the Stream Day from Sunday to Saturday the 14th.

Some additional information to our DevBlog: Influence
Last week’s Devblog about the new Influence system sparked a lively discussions in our communities. As it is a currently worked on feature, our team were eagerly awaiting constructive community feedback and with over 200 comments in the Anno Union alone, we got a lot of material to work with. As our design team currently analyses sentiment from our blog as well as from our focus playtests, we want to share some further insights with your today.

Company Level – Naming conventions and general understanding
Many of you stated that you are not necessarily happy with the word “company”, as it does not feel right given the city-building nature of Anno’s gameplay. As we mentioned before, naming as well as translation is not final at this stage and for us, this kind of feedback can be of equal importance as discussing actual features. Therefore, we will consider using a different name instead of “company level”, which will fit better into the world of Anno 1800.
When it comes to the company level as a gameplay element, which generates your pool of Influence points, we want to provide some additional information on how the system works.

Some of you are concerned that the system hinders you in your ambitions to control and expand over the whole island world. The “company” level is bound to your global population and therefore only limited by size of your empire, which means there is no hard cap applied which will hinder you to conquer everything the way you want to. To put it simply, the more residents living in your empire, the more influence points you will accumulate.
With the progression curve we have in mind, we want you to have enough influence points at the start of a match to push for an agenda while in the late game, your Influence will continuously grow, allowing you to stretch your empire in any direction you want to.

Let’s talk about numbers
We deliberately avoided talking too much about the exact amounts of points and the distribution costs based on category. As a subject to constant balancing, we will continue to change and alter the ratios up until release, and if needed even beyond. For that, we take Anno Union feedback as well as our focus playtests result into consideration. Balancing does not only affect the accumulation your growing pool of influence points but also the amount of free units, the investment costs in each category and even the category gameplay elements as a whole.

Optimisation category and the public buildings confusion
This caused a lot of confusion in our community, as the description of the affected buildings was not clear enough in our blog. The optimization feature only affects the three previously revealed buildings able to slot items: the town hall, harbor office and guild hall. You will be able to construct a set number of each of them for “free” before investing influence points in more of these buildings to boost certain aspects of the game. It will not affect buildings like the church or school and therefore, has no negative impact on the needs of your residents whatsoever.

Work in progress and the expansion category
The idea that vast island expansion is tied to a progression system resulted in some heated discussions and our team is currently going through your feedback. As the feature is still a work in progress, we cannot say how it will affect the whole system, the expansion and other categories right now but we will make sure to give you an update on that topic in a future blog.

 

3 Comments

DevBlog: Influence

Hello Anno fans! My name is Erwin, and I work on the game design of Anno 1800. As a player myself, I have a fairly competitive mindset. I love attempting to gain an edge over other players or the AI where I can, especially when I am given the freedom in how I gain this edge. For this reason, I am very excited to talk to you today about a new feature we are introducing with Anno 1800: Influence!

Anno is many things to many different players: it’s a city builder, an economic simulation, tense naval engagements against both human and AI opponents- and that is only scratching the surface in terms of Anno’s unique gameplay mix.
Anno players love to tinker around with all these features, creating their own strategies, tactics and setting their own challenges for themselves through various handicaps. What goals will you set for yourselves? Will you attract more residents than anyone else? Do you plan to exploit your workers and production lines to their fullest? Or maybe you will reach just one more company level before it is time to go to bed? And if all else is too easy for you, you can of course always stack the deck against yourself with a crazy challenging map and game setup.

Tying into this freedom of choosing your own playstyle and what challenges you want to tackle is the Influence system. With this feature, we want to both challenge grizzled veterans who are looking for interesting new ways to play, while helping to ease new players into the complex gameplay systems of the age of industrialization. It also encourages and incentivizes players to experiment with different gameplay styles, adding to the game’s overall replayability (which is a high priority for the team).

Influence: A resource that defines your playstyle
Influence is a new global resource, which you can invest depending on your playstyle, for example by raising the production limits on certain buildings or units. This allows players to go all in on certain aspects of the game. Do you have ambitions of becoming a feared warmonger, fielding the largest fleet of mighty dreadnaughts the world has ever seen? You can- just be prepared that you will not be as successful a trader as another player will who instead choses to focus his influence in that area.

When setting the initial construction limits for buildings and units, we take the community feedback we have seen on the Anno Union and our forums into account. It is important that you as the player should never feel too restricted, even if you chose to invest all of your influence in just one area. That is why you will be able to dabble on all areas of the game a little bit; it is only after you reach a certain threshold that you will need to invest influence points. The goal here is clear: the system should feel empowering to the player, asking them to make interesting gameplay decisions without feeling too restricted.

When you start a new match, you will have a set amount of influence that will slowly grow over time as your company level increases. A familiar system for many Anno players, the company level is a representation of the players overall success, determined by the total population of residents on your islands. So whether it is growing your main island or expanding across the world, the growth of your empire will provide you will additional influence that you can invest.

Unlike gold, influence as a currency does not deplete; it is instead a pool of available points that you can allocate freely in the various categories. Think of it as an investment: If for example your trade fleet is not delivering results as hoped, you can remove some of the influence used by it and instead allocate it in another area such as harbor defenses. With this kind if freedom, it is also crucial that players never feel punished for making “the wrong choice”. It also adds a lot of dynamics and meta-narrative to your games, allowing you to react to aggressive moves by an AI opponent or the unpredictable actions for your human multiplayer opponents.

Investing influence in a certain category will grant you titles, which both work to help other’s in the game known what they are facing (someone with a military title is likely not planning to keep things entirely peaceful) and to provide you with useful global buffs.

How it all works in the game

By now, you are probably very curious of how the system works during the moment to moment gameplay. As discussed, you will be able to freely use your available influence points in a variety of categories, each of which is related to and supporting a different kind of playstyle.

Currently, we are planning to have six such categories: Propaganda, Trade, Military Power, Optimization, Culture, and Expansion. However, please keep in mind that the feature is still heavily under development and everything might be subject to change, as we try to allow interesting customization options while still keeping categories meaningful and not convoluted.

On a base level, investing Influence points in one category allows you to expand your building, unit, and module limit. But here comes the catch: If you spend enough influence in one category, such as 50% of all your points, you will get a global buff, which additionally empowers and enhances your playstyle. We also want to support hybrid playstyles, which would allow you to not only rely on one big global buff but also give you the option to split influence on different categories to gain several smaller bonuses. That opens the gates for really interesting strategic combinations.

To give you an idea, investing in Optimization will allow you to expand your public building limit, which is currently three buildings. By investing points, you can easily add many additional items to your guildhalls and harbor offices to optimize your economy further. If you invest the majority of your points into optimization, the title granted will further buff the effectiveness of your public buildings. Investing in Expansion will allow you to settle on more islands and affects the amount of routes you can create to move your workforce between settlements.

A giant armada or enough public buildings to boost your whole city
The categories themselves are also divided into different sections. For the Military category, you can either spend influence to expand the maximum number of warships or defensive structures. This allows some interesting combinations; for example if you spend all your influence on warships, you will not only be able to create a huge fleet but your global buff will make your ships even more powerful. On the flipside, it would leave your islands defenseless apart from these ships, as you would need to rely on a smaller number of coastal defenses. You could also split it up equally, allowing you a decent fleet of ships and strong harbor defensed. Alternatively, you just invest a crazy amount of points into military defense or split it with other categories, to be able to defend yourself while also optimizing your economy. As you see, completely specializing makes you a force to be reckoned with, but cleverly splitting your investment on the various categories makes you a true jack of all traits.

Culture will allow you to invest in projects like the zoo, which will allow you to increase the number of modules and push your attractiveness when you spent enough points to benefit from the global buff. To give you a better idea what we are talking about in numbers, we are currently planning with around 10 free modules before investing influence. We think that this is a high enough number to allow players to create a varied and great looking zoo; if however you want to create an entire zoo island with dozens of modules (“Welcome to Anno Park”, anyone?), you should be able to do this with your influence. And before you ask: Ornamental structures will be free, as we think that the space they take up on your island is investment enough.

Influence becomes more and more relevant, especially during the end game of an Anno 1800 match. However, Influence is not limited to expanding unit or building limitations.
Propaganda will allow you to influence and manipulate the populace in various ways. But as it is tied to another new feature, we cannot talk about it in detail right now. We think that this additional new feature deserves its own dedicated DevBlog further down the road.

So what do you think?
Influence is still heavily work in progress, so the balancing is of course still far from final. However, the Anno Union will come in handy to balance the game, especially some of your larger future focus tests.
We are looking forward to your feedback about the new Influence feature, so let us know in the comments below!

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Union Update: Ship vote has ended

It was an incredibly close head-to-head race but at the end, the Imperial Pride managed to reach the finish line in a true photo finish just ahead of its closest competitor, the Iron Dragon. But beyond a highly entertaining race to watch, it was also very insightful for us to see how the comments and the actual votes being cast can vary. We knew from the start of the vote that the Imperial Pride would be a strong contender, but given some of the comments about the design, who could have guessed that the Iron Dragon would almost steal the race? On the other hand, the tourist ship did not manage to rally a large enough number of voters, despite being one of the team’s favorites. However, we were all delighted to see that the little tug boat that could was so popular with the Anno Union members.

For the Union members who had high hopes that their personal favorite would make the race, remember that you still will be able to acquire all of the ships via gameplay.

With the closing of the Union Ship vote, we all can look forward to the second stage: the Ship Design Contest, where the Union will be able to hand in their own design ideas for an alternate variant of the Imperial Pride. The exact details for the contest will be shared next week.

When it comes to Union content during the summer, we are not planning to lay back and enjoying the nice weather. Instead, we will bring you exciting DevBlog’s in the weeks to come, among them features highlighting how we encourage player freedom as well as gameplay complexity and customization. The first one will put our new Influence feature into the limelight, a great way to customize and support different gameplay approaches. Gameplay complexity is a theme we mentioned many times since reveal of Anno 1800, but Influence is only one of the many features the game has to offer.

But it is not all just deep systems and mechanics, we will soon tackle one of the most important technological achievements of the industrial age!

Do not forget: English Community Roundtable this evening 7pm CEST
The last weeks German Roundtable session was a blast and today, we are looking forward to have a chat with our international Union community. If you missed the previous roundtables, it is a friendly chat session where our community team and Anno Union members come together to discuss everything Anno 1800 and Anno Union related.
Join our Anno Union community roundtable in our Annoverse Fan Discord at 7pm CEST: https://discordapp.com/invite/V4xhZ8Z

Our communities are important for us: let us know if you run your own fan project or want to share some cool or even crazy ideas how we could highlight projects and content from our Anno communities out there. Just get in contact with us vie the comments, our Anno Ubisoft forum or just hit us on Twitter our official Twitter channel @Anno_EN

We are looking forward to this week’s DevBlog and if you have anything to add, feedback to share or just cool ideas for the Anno Union and our communities out there, let us know in the comments below!

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