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Category: DevBlog

DevBlog: Working Conditions

Across the long rows, your employees are a picture of focus. They are shuddering, and their breath condenses against the metal, for it is February and the pipes have frozen. The shed is so vast that they may as well be outside.

Then a whisper develops – they say you are visiting in person. Will this be the much-hoped-for closure?

The warehouse door is swung open for you. Tentatively you poke the long silver-tip of your cane over the threshold, then your white spats follow. You take your position on the prescribed rostrum.

“Fifteen percent, production has dropped. Fifteen!” you rap your cane sharply against the thin tin wall. “It is cold every winter, that’s the season! Get used to it. You will work night-after-night until the work is done, or I will tear this worthless shack down!”

With a crack of the whip, your black cab is gone again. Yes. You are a scumbag.

Workforce in detail
We briefly talked about it before in our residential introduction and this time, we want to share some more details about our workforce feature. As you already know, every residential tier in Anno 1800 provides its own workforce type. However, workforce tiers are not just allocated to production lines of said tier; instead, labor of your different residential tiers will be used for specific types of production buildings.
Agricultural buildings as an example will always require farmers to get their production going but you will unlock more of that type of production buildings in later tiers. As every workforce tier is dedicated to a specific type of production, you won’t be able to use your higher tier workforce, such as workers, in a lower tier agricultural buildings.

Every workforce tier supports a specific type of production building, which are not limited to the residential tier of your workforce.

With our new system, lower tier workforce never becomes obsolete and that increases the challenge and complexity when advancing through the tiers.
Your workforce is calculated for each isle separately, which leaves you with the option to either build small settlements to support your production, or to transfer workforce from one isle to another.
If you don’t have sufficient workforce of a given type available to keep your factories going, productivity will get partially reduced based on the percentage of workers missing.
Getting rid of the old way of progressing linearly through the tiers adds complexity and believability while it also provides more strategic freedom for the player.
But there is more to it than just providing the required amount of workforce- we also give you the option to impact the working conditions of your residents in order to influence your productivity.

Here an example for a level two production chain, including not only two types of workforce as also two types of production buildings from two tiers.

You hold the whip, working conditions
Steel beams, mass fabricated glass and modern manufacturing progresses such as the conveyer belt allowed cities to massively expand in size and height. However, while modern factories pushed productions to a level never seen before, the era became also known for its working conditions: days often longer than 12 hours under (for our modern understanding) harshest conditions.
We want to give you the freedom of choice regarding the working conditions in your company, if it is a temporary boost of your steel factories to keep up in an arms race, becoming a modern socialist rewarding your residents with short working days or even pushing your industry and your workforce to its absolute limit. Just like your manufactured modern steel, everything has its own breaking point.
We give you the tools to affect the working conditions on each of your islands. Simply speaking, you can decide to let your residents work longer and harder to compensate workforce shortage by increasing productivity or boosting your economy in general. We do not only enable you to change the working conditions for each type of workforce, you will also be able to change the conditions for each type of production building. You have a shortage of iron ore, which slows down your weapon manufacturing? Just push the working conditions of your iron miners, which will only increase the productivity of all your iron mines on that island.

Workers became a prideful new class of citizen, welded together by hard labor and a sense of community.
Pushing your working conditions at the cost of your residents has consequences, as it affects the happiness of your people negatively. It has a negative impact on the morale of the affected workforce type, while the system will also take into account if you change the conditions only for a specific production building. In the case of the boosted iron mines, it will have an impact on the happiness of all your workers based on the percentage of your workforce working in your mineshafts.
Always keep an eye on your people and interpret the signs of times early enough if you want to take appropriate actions. Your working folks will bend only that much and if you pass that mark, they might put down their tools and mobilize for a strike.

On the contrary, if you are a modernist implementing good working conditions in your factories or on your farms, your residents will show you their gratitude.
The working conditions are only one factor which impacts the happiness of your residents. The happier your residents, the better the mood in the city. A clever economist can find the right balance between bending your working conditions while pleasing your residents with other concessions while a ruthless or desperate ruler can rely on their police forces to keep things in order.

Happiness and player freedom
There are many ways how you can have an impact on the happiness of your residents and how their mood affects the gameplay. While a topic on it’s own for a future blog, we are curious to know how you see the new possibilities playing around with the working conditions. Are you already thinking about all the ways to micromanage your power economy? Are you an altruist who likes to give something back and keep your folk happy or do you just love the freedom of choice and all the small stories, which the system might tell?


DevBlog: The Rise of the Working Class

The 19th century worker. Downtrodden, disillusioned and outspoken. Each a dormant volcano ready to spout its hot lava of protest, to unite a single luminous trickle with the molten flow – a flow of discontent that threatens to devour all in its path until it becomes the nigh-unstoppable fire-tide of revolution!

However, thankfully in ANNO 1800, it doesn’t always have to be like that.

The industrial revolution brought horrific working conditions – endless days (and nights), clogged lungs and limb-inhaling machines – woes enough to make anyone violent. But perhaps you happen to be the one employer enlightened enough to lift the burden, to be the humanitarian, the progressive.

Or perhaps, preferring to play the role of an unscrupulous taskmaster, you will indulge the worker’s proclivity for vice. Feed their demon, and they’re likely to forget any complaint right there and then. A greasy bit of grub unwrapped, a bottle unstoppered – anything to numb them to the miseries of the working day. Your reward for conferring such iniquitous mercies? The kind of loyalty not easily come by, your name celebrated by market hawkers and urchins alike.

Depiction of the working class
Previous historical Anno games had their distinctive art style but it was the advent of the working class which changed the urban life drastically. While the hard work in modern factories was demanding and exhausting, it also enabled families a safe income.
There was also a need to accommodate the thousands of new workers in your city and so new suburbs were born. On the one hand, you had small and crowded flats in large apartment buildings as a reality of that time. On the other hand, suburban worker districts attracted country folk to the city, giving the second residential tier a distinctive look and feel.

As you can see in the picture, the housing plots allow us to add many small details to tell their inhabitants stories, from various objects, textures up to animations and visual feedback. Compared to the romantic cottages of the countryside, these buildings are full of pep and fighting spirit, much like the workers themselves.

And hard labour it was, working long days in steel factories while being exposed to the heat from glowing smelters, we should not forget that it was their commitment and dedication which would form our modern society. While their fuliginous clothes are functional, the workers should still transmit that sense of solidarity and pride. Workers have a chirpy and fun-loving nature – they are an outgoing and outspoken bunch, with a sense of solidarity, pride and dignity that is truly remarkable given the circumstances.

A future forged out of thousand fires
With the first workers moving into your settlement, you will get access to numerous new production chains. Ring the bell of the industrial revolution, when you dig deep into the earth to excavate needed resources to build your first factories. Reaching residential tier II will feel like the push into a new century, as the first rather simple productions unfold more and more to complex chains. This groundwork, such as from molten iron manufactured steel-beams, will be an important material for many other future production chains from higher residential tiers. That way, no matter how much you advance, workers will stay as important to supply your industry as farmers providing food and other rural goods.

While factories forge modern marvels, their size and smoking chimneys might not be the beautiful vista for visitors and residents who want to enjoy the beauty of your city. It marks also the turning point of your first city expansion when you have to decide where to construct your production districts and where you want to place your worker suburbs. Just placing a few factories for your basic needs won’t be enough anymore, when you thrive for a bigger city and start to engage other factions in trade contracts or conquer new territory.

Here the Anno 1800 gameplay will open up: alongside factories, further production chains and expanding demands will add complexity and the shipyard will allow you to explore, expand and engage the world around you. Naturally fitting with growing needs and the capability to expand your territory, fertilities will start to have an impact on your overall strategy. Workers will always play an important part during that expansion and it will be up to you to decide how your world will remember you: are you willing to exploit your people to leave the competition behind or do you refuse to build an empire on the back of your workers?

You decide how your society evolves
However you decide to run your empire, we want that you have all strategic options at hand while the world should react to your actions. Changing your working conditions selfishly or even to your residents favour will have different benefits and drawbacks. As an important part in the history of the working class, we will explore the working conditions in the next part of this DevBlog series, when we show you how your decisions can elevate your empire or push your people to the limit.

Are you looking forward to build huge industrial districts in the outskirts or do you see smelting furnaces and factories as a part of your cityscape which grows together with your living quarters and economy?


DevBlog: A farmers life

We have been farmers for more than 10,000 years. We think of rice terraces, cereals and livestock, of Nile irrigation, cabbages and beekeeping. If we are here in 10,000 years, there will still be farmers. After all, they endured the century that arguably saw most change.

A typical farmer in 1800 had similar tools at their disposal, as two-hundred years previous. But the new century brought iron ploughs, fertiliser, seed drills, and threshing machines. Though the new yields were huge, life and work were no less hard.
In Anno 1800, farmers epitomise rustic life. The simple things. To work the soil, tend the animals, and breathe fresh air away from the burgeoning smog. After a long day in the fields, a farmer wants to sit by the fire with family, and speak of their strange neighbours in hushed tones.
They don’t have a lot – or need a lot – and quick as hare, they’ll tell you so. Speaking their mind comes ‘natural’, and honesty is important, when you need to gauge feeling.
Yet they are also sympathetic. This business of yours, vast and sprawling as it is, goes far beyond their powers of cognition. Problems are to be expected – heaven forbids a farmer telling you how things ought to be run. And yet, while they are just the foundation on which the vainer elements of your society stack, you will achieve nothing without their love.

Depiction of a rural lifestyle
When you draw a picture of the industrial revolution, the rural population is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. As the first residential tier, farmers serve as a throwback to old times, you could even say to the other historical titles of the series.
While the tier should depict a lifestyle that defined our society for thousands of years, the life of the farming people changed with the dawning age of technical marvels and urban life.
As workforce is now a factor in Anno 1800, they should have a distinguishable charm and character but also need to fit in a cityscape dominated by other residential tiers, especially in the later stages of the game. When setting the art direction for a residential tier, you always have to think about how their design will work together with all the other elements of the game.

A recent Concept-Art for the farmer residential buildings. During production, many buildings going to several reworks until we find the right look and feel.

Farmers are self-supported, used to their independence from most of the modern amenities. From their clothing, portraits up to their buildings, they are proud and hard-working residents, often overlooked by the evolving society. While architects plan modern housing space, farmer’s property should feel self-build rather than a product of a construction company. Their residential buildings resemble country houses, with wooden boards and small individual decals.
If you watch their buildings closely, they should feel like a postcard from a more calm time, where people minded their own business but also enjoyed a hard but probably simpler life. Naturally, that style should also fit their production buildings.

Backbone of your future empire
If you do some research on the history of any influential city in the 19th century, you notice that there is a significant spike in population. Nevertheless, the rural population had still an important role in society and economy, as farm products supported the growing needs for foods and basic goods for the rising world population.
Most players tend to construct their first buildings near the coastline in order to establish the basic food supply and lay the groundwork for future production. This also creates almost its own small village to support your expansion, as you probably plan the city centre of your future metropolis more land inwards of your island.

The main gameplay purpose of the farmer tier is to produce two kinds of wares: the first goods to fulfil the demands of your residence in order to advance and secondly, the foundation for some of the future production chains in higher tiers. So you not only have to account for the current state of your small settlement, it makes sense to account for the later growth and size of your city. While advancing through the first tier should be easy to achieve, farmers will stay an important part of your population.

You decide if you either go for a big farm village to support your whole island, let the modern city grow around your cottages or if you just create a new tier one residential and production buildings when they are needed. Imagine the picturesque scene when landing at the harbour and taking a ride through beautiful rural outskirts, while your eyes slowly focus on the impressive skyline covered in smoking chimneys on the horizon.
While Schnaps is an early and more simple production chain, the potato farms take part in refining the rural look of your outskirts.

Help us to fill the blanks!
With the next DevBlog in our big residential tier series, we will take you on a trip to the sooth-blackened worker districts, a new class of citizens, which should change our society forever. But before we end today’s blog, we have a special request to all Anno Union members.

We are currently missing a public building, which fits the rural lifestyle of our farmer tier. While we have some interesting ideas, we are curious what ideas the Union could bring to the table.
What do farmers actually do after a hard day working on the field and what would help them to advance to the next level? Maybe there is a specific infrastructure, which every farming village should have? We are looking forward to your suggestions for the missing tier 1 public building!



DevBlog: Residential Tiers

In most games, progression usually means acquiring new skills for your persona, raising stats and expanding your arsenal. In Anno, your residents are at the heart of gameplay progression, as levelling up your population gives you access to a growing catalogue of new buildings and opens up new and more complex production chains. Your city will advance through an era of change and wonders, while you improve your own management skills to become a masterful city-builder.

With this series of DevBlogs, we put the residential tiers and their gameplay role for Anno 1800 into the spotlight. Making the start are Game Designer Christian Schneider and Lead Artist Manuel Reinher, introducing the fundamental ideas behind Anno’s residents.

Residential Tiers, our progression system – Christian
Anno’s core gameplay idea is the concept of “fulfillments of needs”, where you have to provide the infrastructure and amenities for your citizens in order to advance. Residential tiers also work as a threshold, which determines how far you have progressed in the game, similar to the character’s levels in other games.
Reaching the next tier is a rewarding milestone, giving you access to a variety of new buildings to construct advanced production chains. Similarly to your production, your society will advance with each level and their demands will become harder to fulfill – a natural difficulty curve.
Your population serves also as an indicator of your skill as an Anno player. If you just advance in a new tier, only a few basic buildings will be available to kick off your new production but as the amount of residents in a specific class rises, more and more buildings will become available.

In Anno, every single building has not only a distinctive visual character; it also has its own gameplay aspect and interface elements. Buildings of each tier become a tool for environmental storytelling: you click on a tier home and the farmer tells a story from his daily life, and public buildings like the market become a stage for visual feedback.
From a gameplay perspective, public buildings play an especially important role, as they are the center of your attention. Their influence on your city district is an important gameplay indicator, which leads players to have a close eye on your pub and other public buildings. Because of their influence, city districts are often built around a center of public buildings and other eye-catching constructions.

There is also an important change for Anno veterans out there: every citizen tier has its own workforce type, which is required to run the specific production buildings of that tier. If you think about it, it makes sense: farmers take care of rural production, while the working class was born out of the demand from factories for specialized workers. That means that you have to make sure that sufficient workforce of a specific tier is available to run the production of said tier. This change provides a new layer of complexity when designing and managing your city and results in a way more interesting and natural cityscape.

An era of change and our artistic vision – Manuel
When cities grew to metropoles and workshops became factories, our society changed drastically. While aristocrats still fought over colonies in the backrooms of glamourous palaces, the new working class would go on to become the foundation of our modern society. For Anno 1800, the depiction of the century and especially the evolution of classes and society as a whole are important aspects of our artistic vision.

Every new match in Anno 1800 will be a romantic journey through history, starting with the beginning of the industrial age all the way to the end of the 19th century.

Every house, public and even production building for each tier should convey a certain character, and their design should be our way of telling the story of the people of that era. Every single tier is a specific snapshot of a different class and with that, shows how society advanced during the industrial age. A lot of thought went into the different buildings and subsequent events to represent their residential tier properly. Farmers and agriculture where still important during that time but they stood as a remnant of an old age. Their houses are not streamlined by modern pragmatic architecture, allowing them to have a personal touch while you will also able be able to notice that progress is coming to a halt for their production buildings. To support the working class on the other hand, cities needed to make accommodations quickly available and the modern city life changed personality and habits.

At first, your lower tier settlement has a more natural but less structured look and over time, as order and structure will find their way in the metropolis you are aspiring for.
That is the special rewarding feeling of an Anno game, when watching how through your hard work, a small farming village becomes a large city with beautiful higher tier districts, impressive factories and stunning cultural buildings.

Not only the 3D models, the right palette of color and material also defines look and feeling of a tier.

The Anno Puzzle – Manuel and Christian

During the industrial revolution, cities grew larger and architecture adapted in order to accommodate the masses of citizens who needed to work in the growing factories. Modern technologies like assembly conveyors pushed mass production, while steel beams allowed factories and other buildings to expand, and that changed the urban environment drastically.
Residential buildings take up space on your island and with that, compete with your production lines over available space. This creates the classic Anno puzzle: how much space is available and how do I allocate it? To represent the setting properly, we realized that things have to get bigger for a proper representation of that era. In Anno 2205, residential buildings where mostly 3×3, 5×5 or 6×6 depending on your citizen tier and region. While the 6×6 fields in Anno 2205 made it easier for us to create organic cityscapes, it limited the amount of buildings a player could place.
In Anno 1800, islands will be bigger and can hold more assets compared to previous titles. With all residential buildings now consuming only 3×3 tiles, it allows you to not only ramp up the amount buildings you can create significantly, it also enables us to make use of bigger production buildings. To fit the style of that era, we wanted these factories to be clearly bigger in size than other buildings; your modern production districts should be impressive feats of city design and modern architecture.

The beginning of a series of blogs
The residential tiers are a substantial part of Anno’s atmosphere, artistic design and gameplay created with passion and love for the franchise and setting. But we won’t just close the book on that topic, stay tuned as we get even more into detail and showcase the different tiers with their historical background, design and their production chains.

How important is the depiction of that era and the detail work, which goes into the different tiers, for you? We are curious how our take on that setting resonates with you and if you like the changes to the classic Anno formula to add challenge and give your city a more natural and realistic look.


DevBlog: Treasures of the soil

From rags to riches – your industrial machine shall never rest when your soot-blackened empire rises into a glorious new era. Manufacturing the first goods is easy enough but soon, you will manage a complex logistical network to ensure a steady flow of resources for your hungry industry.

Today, our Game Designers Christian and Sebastian illuminate our lodes and fertility system, which are kicking off a series of posts focusing on the focal point of Anno 1800’s core gameplay: production chains.

In the first stages, Anno is dominated by simple production chains, such as establishing a basic food supply. Harvesting natural resources such as capturing fish at your coastline or chopping wood is enough to get things rolling. But soon enough, your small settlement will start to expand and production lines will become more complex. When your production will be evolving into a real industry, it will start to require harder to find resources.
Fishing and lumbering won’t be enough anymore, when advanced goods will require you to grow various crops or to tap into the mineral deposits on your island.
The growing complexity of the resource management is an important challenge when progressing through the game and soon, you might realize that the conditions on your main island are not enough to support your demanding society.

Reaping the harvest – Fertility
In the real world, every plant has certain requirements in order to grow properly. The right enrichment of minerals in the soil determines the fertility for certain crops and other plants. Additionally, there are other ground and weather conditions which might affect the fertility of the soil.
Agriculture makes up a big part of Anno’s production chains, but we simplified the complexity of Mother Nature and translated the concept into our fertility system.
In Anno 1800, not every plant will grow on any island and players have to seek out other isles with the right prerequisites. When progressing, you need to either settle on other islands or establish trading routes in order to improve your production. The scarcity of some resources drives the economic aspect of the game and fuels conflict between different factions that compete over the most interesting islands. Later in the game, we will give you options to have an impact on the fertility of your island. But that is bound to a different feature, which we will highlight in a future blog post.

Have a look on our hops production – the beer must flow!

Earth riches – lodes
In general, lodes work similarly to fertilities with a few additions. Lodes are mineral deposits on your island, with ores like iron found in mountain ranges, while some others, like clay, can be found in a pit rather than a mine. There is one major difference with the fertility system. While you can cultivate crops and other plants at any spot if the needed fertility is provided, you have to construct your mining buildings on fixed deposits, which will get randomly generated with each new game.
That means that you have to build your coal mine on an actual lode and cannot freely start mining anywhere. In difference with fertilities, you won’t be able to add or change existing lodes during a session. The location of the lodes on an island play a role in your strategy when designing your city, as they create a natural center for your production districts. Will you create your district effectively around your mining area or will you decide to make use of a clever supply line for your distant factories to avoid having your heavy industry close to the city center?
To account for the effort you put in to optimizing your city layout, lodes won’t deplete after time, unlike in Anno 2070. We don’t want to force the player to completely re-arrange an already complex supply line.

Coal for the thousand fires of the industrial revolution

Resource restrictions and their gameplay importance
The fertility and lodes system can have a major impact on the gameplay, as the players need to make important decisions based on the availability of the necessary resources:
When is the best moment to expand? Should I rush for other islands to dominate the fight for resources or choose a more laid back approach, where a small outpost or a trading network will do the job?

How you tackle on expansion, diplomacy, trade or even the size of your empire, depends on your approach, define your playstyle and let you set your own goals for a match.
We want to encourage different approaches and never take away your free will. You should not only decide how you want to play the game, we will also allow you to modify the difficulty of the game based on your preferences. Higher difficulty settings will make resources more rare while easy settings ensure that you don’t have to worry about fertility too much.

But that’s it for today, a good foundation for us to build upon in the upcoming weeks. Whether you are a veterans used to fertility and lodes systems or new to it, we are curious to read your feedback in the comments below.


DevBlog: QA Detectives

Hi guys, my name is Dorina and I am in charge of the Anno 1800 QA department. I have been working in games for 13 years by now, starting as a student assistant on Anno 1701. A few years later, I got a permanent development testing position and then worked on Anno 2070.
It is a great honor to lead the QA team for Anno 1800 and I hope that this blog will give you an interesting look on the diversified tasks of our Quality Assurance team.

When it comes to game testing and QA, most gamers out there already seem to have a set opinion about that matter, and often make their voice heard. If you are able to identify bugs in your favorite game, then it surely can’t be that hard for the developers to fix the issue, right?
Today, we want to shine a light on the Anno 1800 QA team and give you a look behind the scenes of our daily work, in order to paint a clearer picture of game testing and the complex nature of game development.

QA tropes – playing games, all day long
There is a common trope that working in QA means playing games all day long, and while getting your hands on the game is surely part of the deal, reality is quite different. In fact, spending the day playing the game to check its overall shape and functionalities happens only occasionally. Our day-to-day work consists of specific tasks, where we have to test a certain feature of the game to evaluate its quality or to investigate reported issues. A complex matter, as reproducing a situation can be a demanding task and the causes and effects might often seem totally unrelated at first glance. We get an extensive features list to test for every new development milestone. To reach our goals up to the next big milestone, cooperation in our team and with the feature stakeholders (such as a game designer responsible for said feature) is crucial.

Our QA team’s desks are located in the middle of the studio, as we are a central focal point of production, being the team with a broad overview on the entire game. That allows us to build a strong connection with the other teams; you can almost say that QA is the watching eye of the production. People also might get a bit nervous when we spawn at their desk, as that usually means that their features are partly broken in some way.

The detective and his handbook
When we start investigating, our analytic skills, experience and knowledge about various development disciplines are our main weapons. While being on a case, the detailed design document (also referred to as DDD) is the QA detective’s handbook. While testing the game or analyzing issues, we always check back with the DDD if the game elements work as intended. As the DDD defines the function of every  element in the game, it allows us to create both kinds of test cases: the ones where we check if the game behaves as intended and those where we try to break the system on purpose. We will then compile all data in feedback reports and deliver those to the responsible developer and to the other stakeholders.

You all remember how we talked about the trade routes feature in last week’s DevBlog? The DDD describes that feature and all underlying rules of the system in detail, such as how the ships are being added to the routes, but also how menus should work and look, related audio elements, text display, button functionality and much more. When testing that feature, we have to work with the feature checklist to ensure that every single point is properly working. After a bug is fixed, we have to perform further checks to see if the fix breaks any other element of the game.

But it is not only about testing if every element works or if there are hidden bugs, we also help to test the balance of the game, from the production chains to the assessment of the difficulty of the battles. We always have to ask ourselves: is it working as intended and is the feature complex enough (or sometimes even too complex)?
A task rarely finished in one day, as it involves feedback reporting and ongoing discussions with the responsible developers. When the feature owner then applies changes based on that feedback, it means back to the testing process again.
But that is not all- another difference between the QA and QC’s (quality control) work is that we also check the projects globally. If we find out that a tool is not working properly or if there might possibly be a blocker in the production process, we will provide a report to the production team.

Bug hunting!

If we find a bug during the testing process, we will track it down in our bug-tracking tool and forward that report to the responsible game designer. As described before, that kicks off the testing and feedback loop until the issue is resolved.

Are you familiar with the saying that goes “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”?
When testing and resolving bugs, there is always a probability that the fix breaks something else in the game. Most of the time, we do not know where a blocker is rooted so we have to find out what’s actually causing the issue first. Games are incredibly complex and there is one general rule: if we fix one bug, it might cause another.
When explaining that, I like to refer to the “butterfly effect”, where every flap of a wing can cause something unexpected and kick off a whole series of events. Therefore, before we release an update, we have to test the whole game again to verify that the fix is not breaking something different, which might not seem to be related to the initial issue at first.

This is a case-by-case process and the complex nature of a game, where bugs appear often during the development and we have to ensure that this doesn’t block anything in production process, as bug fixing can require hours of work from our coding team.

Make the game better
But there is another layer of our work which is not necessarily related to bug testing and fixing. When going through the DDD and observing the game, we might notice that something is missing or might cause gameplay issues based on our experience. If that occurs, we will provide a report including improvement suggestions of what might be missing or what could be changed, in order to improve or to balance the game’s content. The knowledge in our team is hereby of a deciding factor, as we are all different types of players and experience levels. That exact level of variety is important to be able to observe things from as many perspectives as possible.

How about you?
I hope that this blog gave you a good overview of the complex nature of game testing, as it affects every aspect of a game’s production across every development discipline.
Working in QA requires enthusiasm, passion and a deep understanding of the games in general, as well as the title you work on.

What your takeaway on the role of a professional game tester? Was the topic all too familiar, or did you get new information? I would also love to know if you have ever tested bugs in the past for games or other projects, maybe just as member of a community or even on a semi- or professional level?
It requires a passionate and dedicated team of experts to tackle the daily QA challenges of a complex strategy title like Anno 1800.


DevBlog: Your own trading empire

Hi, my name is Sebastian and I am one of the Game Designers for Anno 1800. I have been part of the Anno Team since about two and a half years now and today I want to share some information with you on something we have been working on for a while now, the trade routes!

More than just a city builder, Anno 1800 is also a game about growing a small settlement to a real economic empire. Over the course of the game, the needs of your capital island will raise and you are in charge to fuel your hungry industry and fulfill the demands of your citizens.
Your main island can be a demanding beast and at some point, you have to expand to other islands to support your advancing metropole or to buy needed goods from other characters.
With trade routes, you can connect your islands with a transport network to ensure a steady flow of resources.

Here an example familiar to most Anno veterans:
“These pesky citizens! It seems whatever you do, they always ask for more and not exactly in a polite manner.” To fulfill their demand for beer, we could rely on trading but we decide to get our own production going. Unfortunately, the needed hops does not want to grow on our island so we have to establish our beer production line on our outpost, which is located on a nearby island. Of course, you do not want to order your ships back and forth manually, so you setup a trade route to ship the harvested hop or even the brewed beer over automatically. The beer will flow and hopefully make them happy for at least a while.

As you know, we want to bring back more complex features to the next title in the series. Instead of the more recent and simpler iteration of the trade routes, you will be able to make use of two different systems this time. One for the players who like to modify, tinker and optimize their routes for maximum efficiency and another one for simpler and faster but potentially less efficient routes.

Trade Routes
Let’s start with the more complex system. As this one is much closer to the ones from 1701, 1404 and 2070 you could call it the “classic trade route system”.
It allows you to transport goods between your islands or to trade with other parties automatically.

To give you an idea about the complexity of the system, here is an overview over most of the available options: You can freely set stations and define which goods should be loaded and unloaded by your ships. You will again be able to assign multiple ships to a route and each of them will be able to transport multiple goods. There is no limitation to the amount of routes you can create. Of course, you can name your routes for better overview and for those who do not like to come up with route names themselves we implemented an automatic naming system that should give you an idea of what this route is doing. The routes overview will also display the most common goods transported by a route.

Here a design study, or so called mockup of the trading route feature. Not representative of the final version in the game.

With several ships following one route, you might encounter the situation that one first ship is fully loaded with goods at a harbor but there is not enough left to load the second one. Instead of leaving with an almost empty storage, you can order the ship to wait until the full amount of goods is loaded. Additionally if a ship arrives at the destination and wants to unload its cargo, but the harbor has no space to load up your ships delivery, you can command your vessel to throw stuff over board in order to make space for the goods you would like to load. These two options called “Wait until full” and “Throw overboard” – very creative, I know – can be configured for every station separately.


When creating your trade route, you trust your ships’ captains to find their way across the sea on their own. With no further instructions, your ships will naturally take the shortest route, which might be problematic as this does not factor in hostile areas or wind direction.
It might be an option to guard your ships against loot hungry pirates but maybe avoiding their territory might be the wiser strategy in the first place.
To account for this we will also bring back waypoints for routes. When two consecutive stations are assigned, the route automatically draws a line between them and the player can add and move a waypoint to change the path of the ships.

Visibility and complexity go hand in hand. The UI elements shown are not final.

None of this is limited to islands on your current session; you will be able to expand your trade routes to other sessions as well.
What we are aiming for is a complex system, which favors the freedom of the player. It can also be seen as a challenge for seasoned Anno and strategy player, as it brings room for error and mismanagement back into the game. However, sometimes even the most seasoned logistics expert needs a fast and easy solution to get things done to take care of other, more pressing matters.

For that, we added a second system to the game.

Charter Routes
If you know the routes system from 2205, the charter routes will sound familiar.
They are a much lighter system that allows you to rent ships in order to transport goods between your own islands. Easier to handle but also more limited than their big brother, they can only transport one type of good in one direction between two of your islands. This is one ship per route. The chartered trading ship cannot be controlled manually but can be attacked by opponents or other AI characters. Chartered ships also have higher upkeep costs than your own trading vessels – in the end the captains need to pay their crew and want to make some profit too. As a result, players who spend time creating their own routes save money and players who are in a rush or don’t care so much about the money can save time.

Here an early version of the charter route menu. Amount of items and general loading capacities in this blog are also not representative.

It’s your time to share!
Supporting your ever-growing cities is part of the fun and with these two systems, we want to give you the tools to create an impressive and world-spanning economic empire.

And with this matter at hand, I would love to know what kind of player you are. Are you a transport tycoon who builds a highly efficient transport network with trade routes? Are you willing to invest a bit more in charter routes in order to concentrate fully on your city planning? Or will you mix and match the systems as you like?


DevBlog: Island creation

Hi, my Name is Simon Wolf and I am a Level Artist on Anno 1800. I joined the team here in Mainz roughly a year ago and today, I would like to give you some insights into my job- both what motivates me and how us Level Artists shape the world of Anno, one island at a time.

At its heart, Anno is about vast cityscapes, ships on high waters or citizens roaming through narrow streets. But at one point in any discussion about the series, you will be able to hear players talking about another really important element of the game: the islands themselves.

Islands are both the playground to let your creative energy loose and the challenge which stands between your goals, such as expanding your city’s population by just a few thousands citizens.

The importance of your game world
Playing a game is more than progressing in the campaign or advancing your city. Becoming an explorer of the game worlds around me, always on the hunt for hidden secrets and stories, fueled my passion and creative investment in videogames since I was a kid. Questions like, “is there something hidden behind that mountain?” or “look at that landslide, is there a story why it collapsed?” was probably even the driving factor for me to become a level artist.

That enthusiasm allowed me to experience games beyond gaming. I started to play around with level editors to create my own levels and with that, to become the writer of my own environmental stories.

Anno 1800 is in fact the first strategy game I’ve worked on. In the game, islands are more than just a blank space, islands have personality, add to the feeling of the game and even create gameplay challenges, as players have to work within the given space.

It’s a creative puzzle you need to solve as you alter and shape the game world surround you.

Islands in Anno come in various shapes and sizes, some of them making it easy to expand and to grow your city while others have a higher difficulty, challenging the player to optimize and deal with the situation at hand. The specific features and difficulty level of an island has a strong impact on the gameplay. We call that “Creative Constraints”, where limitations result in solutions and interesting designs in order to overcome that challenge. Overcoming that limitations feels rewarding and often results in a more organic and beautiful city layout.

The creation of an island
Okay, let us see how our level team actually creates and shapes that playground for you.

It all starts with a shape!

It usually starts with a shape: Ideas for the look and form of an island come often from different sources, sometimes just creative brainstorming in the team full of crazy ideas but we also spend time researching satellite data or photos from real islands as an inspiration.
We are always on the hunt for the right middle ground between interesting shapes, a good challenge and gameplay freedom.It also depends on the type of island currently needed for the game. Do we need a few larger but easier islands or are we talking about a design which should test the skills of our veteran players? Beginner islands should not have overly complex structures, mountains or other obstructing details as these terrain elements can determine the difficulty level.

The first concepts for island shapes often include color-coding, where we block out construction areas, mountains and other obstacles. When defining these areas, we usually check back with the Game Design team for their requirements such as the size of a beach or mining resources, but how we implement that is usually up to us. We always have to keep one thing in mind: from the beaches to mountainsides, the layout will have an impact on your future city layout, such as having the choice of two beaches allows you to decide where to build your harbor and start your city.

Tools of an level artist
When our shape got a thumbs up from game design or other stakeholders, we can start to work on the actual 3D model. In our daily work, we make use of various tools fitting the needs of the different steps we are working on. While we spend a lot of time in our actual engine, handy tools such as World Machine, allow us to create a basic preset terrain based on various parameters (ground land mass, cliffs, plateaus, mountains, beaches, erosion etc.). The resulting model is a perfect foundation for the next steps.

When we are happy with the three dimensional form of the asset, we implement the island in our engine. In this first iteration of our future island, we will bring it to a playable state. That means basic texturing, defining construction and harbor areas, placing obstacles, mining slots, basic vegetation and more. The next step is a feedback process where we will decide if everyone is cool with the design or if we have to change something
And here the final work piece, you can see blocked out areas and basic level of terrain.

Environmental Storytelling and future steps
And now it’s time to bring some individual character to our island in the so-called “visual stage.”
In this stage, we take our time to make it look natural yet interesting by texturing, placing decorative objects, vegetation and sculpting. While our engine does offers some neat sculpting tools, we often take a piece of terrain to a sculpting tool called Mudbox to work on the fine details.

With the visual stage completed the island is about 80% done, with further polishing work to be done for the release version of the game.

On average, a large island takes roughly 80 working hours to complete. In the polishing phase, which usually comes a bit later in development, we will add the smallest visual details and include even some environmental stories, such as landslides or other unique things to discover. Keep that in mind when examining screenshots or discussing the footage seen during a stream, as the polishing phase will have an impact on the final visual fidelity of the islands.

It is all about ideas, inspiration and handicraft
I hope this blog about the daily work of a level artist on Anno 1800 gave you some interesting insights. The next time you play an Anno game, you may want to hunt down all the handcrafted details and secrets we love to hide in a level.

I know that you started many discussions about your favorite islands types already. To shake things up a bit, I would like to hear your ideas about small visual elements, remembered from previous titles that could make up for great environmental stories in Anno 1800. You can share your inspiring ideas with the level art team in the comments below.


DevBlog: Visual Feedback

Hi, my name is Carsten Eckhardt and I am a senior 3D artist at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz. I am a part of the company for almost 15 years now and as a result, worked on almost all Anno titles in the past. My main responsibilities are 3D environment art (houses, terrain elements etc.).

Going from the initial idea and the first concept art up to the final version of a 3D asset can be a long and winding road. Developers across many disciplines are involved in that process in order to bring the brimming era of the industrial revolution to life in Anno 1800.

The last time, we invited you to watch and learn how our 3D designers work as digital architects, so this time we will add visual feedback and animations to breathe life into our future 19th century buildings.

Visual feedback
Do you remember the final version of the brick factory from the last 3D Art DevBlog? Well, sadly I have to break it to you that there are even further steps to take until it reaches the level of quality and the appropriate Anno feeling we want for our game.
Before we start to get things (literally!) moving, our building needs to get implemented into our game engine. This will add our object to the asset library, which enables us to place it in the game, block out clipping areas and add visual feedback such as actors, effects and much more. As soon as the building has been imported into the library, we can start adding visual feedback.

“Hold on”, you may say, “what exactly is visual feedback, and why do you keep talking about it?”
Visual feedback helps the player to have a better understanding what is currently going on in their metropolis while also making the game world more believable. While you can inform players about nearly every aspect of the game with contextual menus, actually seeing what is going on makes everything easier and faster to grasp, not to mention way more enjoyable to watch.
For Anno, it is not surprising that we make use of a lot of general and event based animations for the variety of buildings, such as moving steel kettles, smoking chimneys or special effects work like sparkling fire.

But it is not only for the sake of the atmosphere. As mentioned, visual feedback also gives you an indicator whether a building is currently productive, idling or affected by events like a blazing fire spreading through your residential district. For that, some buildings have different animation states. A factory as an example needs a state which defines if it is currently producing (workers being productive, machines working) and one where the factory is currently in idle state (effects like smoke and fire toned down or removed).

he BoB and Feedback editor
To create and modify the visual feedback elements, we developed our own tools internally, one with the thrilling name BoB (Bombastic Object Builder) and the other one rather pragmatically titled “Feedback Editor”. Originally developed for Anno 1701, the BoB’s main purpose is to block movable areas; it defines the space where units and actors (such as unloading carts or the workers of the building) can move as well as construction areas to ensure that buildings do not clip into each other (the size the unit needs on the construction grid). Furthermore, BoB allows us to place ornamental objects on existing assets in order to bring a bit more variation and life to them.

The feedback editor on the other hand allows us to give buildings feedback trigger to coordinate the movement sequences of units on the previously in BoB defined movable area.
If that sounds a little bit abstract for you, how about a small example: We all love the small stories we encounter when watching our city up close. If you observe your bakery, you can watch the baker going around minding his business, maybe even slacking off from work once a while. Or how about animals enjoying the day on a green meadow of a farm or even cat and dog chasing scene on the market place. Flying animals or other wildlife are an exception as they are not part of the eventful story we create for a specific building and more part of the actual game world.

Enough explanation, let’s see the system in action
Okay, I bet you have a pretty good understanding what we are talking about right now, so let’s start working. The first step is a straightforward process: in BoB, we define movable and inaccessible areas of the building, as we need to tell the engine on what area of the building units are allowed to move. Imagine that we paint the different parts and areas of a brick factory in different colors. The courtyard should be a movable area while we do not want that the workers clip through the walls or take a stroll on the rooftop.
The next step is to use the BoB to place effects, such as smoke for chimneys (hey we are in the industrial revolution; smoke galore!) and to place props like streetlights, crates and various kinds of vegetation.
Once done with that step, we have to define so called 3D selection areas, which ensures that players can actually target a building with a mouse click. A small, but important detail to keep in mind.

Here we define movable areas and use hitboxes as a blocker on our Pub asset.

But enough of BoB for now, it is time for the Feedback Editor to shine. Here, we first have to think about what kind of movement behavior for units would make sense for this specific building. There is for example a lot of lively stuff going on with the pub or the market place, such as a marching band, guests etc.
In case of a steel beam factory, it is more about bustling workers operating industrial machines.
That is the magic trick and crucial part of creating the crowded and lively feeling which Anno games are beloved and known for.
To catch your attention and keep you excited when you observe your industrial district, we want there to always be something exciting going on or that you can take a break while enjoying special eye catchers like the zoo or the crowded market place.
Quite some work can go into that process, and a building with many and complex units, such as the market place, can take a whole work day to finish. As we also we like to hide small details for the explorers out there, I strongly recommend to keep a keen eye on your city life.

Okay we are nice here and provide these fellas a path because they seem a bit lost right now 🙂

Let’s make that a bit more random
As you all are familiar with Anno, you know that there is way more than one thing going on at a time and that there is a surprising variety of visual feedback. Our animations will not play out the same any time, due to the good portion of randomization parameter we add to a building. The Feedback editor also ensures that we have randomization in the movement areas going on, as we do not want the units doing the same stuff on the same spot repeatedly.
From the baker, the farmhands on the field or the innkeeper of a pub, the so called actors use a building as a stage to perform a show for the player. We can set variables how often an actor shows up, duration of their performance before they leaves, usually using a variation of a set path. An actor on the market place could enter the scene from the entrance of the market before leaving through a door or as a variation, entering the market hall. The movement of a unit or in this case an actor is usually defined by dummies or splines; imagine a variation of rails, which it can use to move through the scenery.

Okay you might get the idea what we mean when we say “there is a ton of work and detail hidden in every asset”

Final thoughts
As you can see, a lot of handiwork goes into that one building, from the previous steps from game design, concept art up to our 3D art team. We are now ready to let our asset lose on the world, the last final bits, like defining hit points and other game parameters is usually a job for our programming and game design team. While not every building you might see on the stream or clips has all its animation or even detail right now, all buildings get the same treatment for the release version of the game.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the journey an Anno 1800 3D asset takes during its creation and I am curious about your most favorite visual feedback, from small stories going to animation from previous Anno titles.

The comment section is right below and shoot if you have any questions, as we might have the chance to answer some of them in an upcoming community QNA.


DevBlog: Pushing carts

Anno is about building an empire, starting with just a handful of coins in your pocket and a few buildings in your newly founded settlement. It is a long road with many challenges to overcome but with skillful management, you will soon grow your city into an impressive metropolis. Seasoned Anno players might already know this of course, but efficient logistics is the key to a successful economy.
Today, our Senior Game Designer Christian opens his ledgers and gives you an exclusive look at the logistics system in Anno 1800, including interesting insights for both experienced economists and new players taking their first steps into the world of Anno alike.

Hi my name is Christian and I am Game Designer for Anno 1800. I joined the team for the production of Anno 2070 and have since then worked on all following Anno titles. My job is to work on the core economical parts of Anno 1800 and I am excited to give you a little glimpse into our logistics system!

Your economy’s pounding heart
If you break it down to a very basic level, logistics is the system of transportation of goods. In Anno, it is a complex system of interacting cogs in a wheel, powering your economy in order to build, maintain, and expand your city.

Whether you are the min-maxing perfectionist or a beauty builder who wants to create the most picturesque cities, meeting your citizens’ ever-increasing demands for goods and resources is at the very heart of the Anno gameplay formula.

Of course, many of our players want to go beyond simply meeting those demands and instead take pride in perfecting their logistics to build massive empires with huge production lines and dozens of trade routes. That just shows what a massive and complex topic logistics is in an Anno game, so we will focus on the transportation of goods on your main island for today’s DevBlog. Of course, trade routes will play an important role in Anno 1800 as well, but we will save that topic for another day.

Let’s get visual, the returning of physical goods
In the last Anno game, the position of the goods on the map or their distance to the next production building was largely irrelevant. This will drastically change with Anno 1800, as physical goods celebrate their comeback to the series, and in doing so bumping up the complexity of gameplay that many of you have asked for.

To make that possible, the game needs to be able to measure the distance to a building and other targets, while taking the current location of the goods into account. This is once again all visually represented in the game world, allowing you to follow your wares’ cart journey from production to warehouse; this helps to immerse players in the world, but also to make logistics easier to grasp through visualization. And of course, it really adds to that crowded and lively feeling that you expect from a flourishing Anno city!

Cart pushers, carriages and smart decisions
In order to optimize your economy, you have to keep a keen eye on your production chain to ensure that all goods find their way through your thoughtfully created street layout. We all know that this can be a rather demanding task; building a complex production chain, ensuring that all goods find their destination and identifying blockers when there is a sudden shortcoming of resources.

To explain some of these concepts better, let us look at a typical production chain in Anno 1800: steel production.
Our newly built smelter is ready for production but in order to fuel our steel industry, we need to ensure that it gets a steady supply of coal and iron ore. Luckily, a charcoal burner is close by and cart pushers ensure that the coal finds its way directly to the smelter.

If the smelter is sufficiently stocked with coal, or if there is a general overhead production of coal, it will instead direct the goods to the warehouse for storage (unless there is some other immediate demand for it in the vicinity). This is where horse-drawn carriages come into play. While it is the job of a cart pusher to deliver resources from one production building to another, the carriages loads up excess production to bring it to a warehouse for storage.

As mentioned before, our logistics system checks the shortest way between a supplier and your production buildings. The basic rule for efficient delivery is that – in order to reduce bottlenecks – emptying your storage has the highest priority. In our given example, the charcoal burner detects that there is a demand for coal nearby and sends a cart pusher to the smelter instead to the nearest warehouse. The game will also decide if it sends out goods before the cart is fully loaded to fulfill demands or if it would be more efficient to wait until it has loaded more before sending the delivery.

So what are these decisions based on? Deliveries are prioritized by the necessary travel distance on streets. To help with planning, you can see a building’s “reach” on the map. Upgrading your streets from a muddy path to proper cobblestone will increase speed, which furthermore means that a production building might be capable of reaching facilities in corners that may have been too far away to reach previously.

Wonders of the industrial revolution (pre-alpha)

Warehouse and queue management
Our goal is to give you more options when designing your city, from optimized street layouts to the decisions on where to put your manufacturing districts.

We added a new layer to the warehouse itself, which now has a loading and delivery bay. As more transporters try to access the warehouse, it will get crowded outside, which can lead to a delay of the loading process. When too many carriages try to store resources and goods in the same warehouse, you will be able to see how they queue up in front of the loading bay. However, don’t worry about traffic jams on your streets, as this will only affect the warehouse gates.
Transporters also check the nearby warehouses and might prioritize a warehouse with less traffic, if it would result in an overall shorter delivery time.

This will all be represented in the warehouse menu, where you can see detailed information about delivery and loading processes, as well as the actual goods in storage. As your progress through the game, you will also be able to upgrade your warehouse to increase the number of loading bays, allowing more carts to be serviced, simultaneously.

Depots will further increase the islands storage limit but will not have an effect on loading and delivery. These will come in handy when you expand your empire and establish trade routes. Warehouses themselves share one island bound storage, where all stored resources on your island will be accessible from any of your warehouses. This is still an experimental new feature we are working on, but we are so far quite happy with it and hope the additional visual feedback not only makes it easier to understand, but also adds some additional entertainment.

With Anno 1800, we want to create a complex logistics system while enhancing the visibility and readability. Added options will be a welcome addition for Anno veterans while making it stays comprehensible even for new players.

Somebody should tell them how to queue up properly (pre-alpha)

What’s the deal with trains?
We also know that there is one specific topic where you are thirsty for details: the trains, relentless steel horses of the industrial revolution. The train feature is not 100% set in stone yet, and we are currently evaluating some possible design scenarios for how trains could work in Anno 1800.

We have many ideas on how we could implement trains into the game and we want trains to reflect the advancement of the industrial age. Trains presented a reliable new way to transport tons of goods over long distances, overcoming one of the major hurdles that threatened the progress of the industrial revolution.
It is a complex topic and of course, we want feedback from you, the Anno Union. With this logistics DevBlog, it was also our intention to explain some of our underlying systems in order to give you the knowledge to give feedback on potential train gameplay designs.

We are looking forward to reading your comments and are curious to see what you think of the logistics in Anno 1800.