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Category: DevBlog

DevBlog: Union Exhibition Vote!

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

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

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

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

A: Agricultural Exhibition: The Cream of the Crop!

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

B: Urbanism Exhibition: Progressive City Development!

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

C: Naval Exhibition: The Pride of the Ponds!

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

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

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DevBlog: So where is the fish?

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

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

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

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

Willkommen in Mainz!

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

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

It’s hands-on time

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

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

Hear me out!

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

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

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

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

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

So the moral of this story…

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

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

Marcel

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DevBlog: It begins with art!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From first ideas to final concept art

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Best,

André

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DevBlog: Welcome to the world fair!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Natacha

 

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DevBlog: Truth or Fiction

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

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

A history in broad strokes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt

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Multisession gameplay in Anno 1800

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

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

Looking back at Anno 2205

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

How can we go further?

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

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

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

A question of freedom

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

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

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

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

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

Size matters after all

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

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

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

A safe harbor

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

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

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

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

The integrity of the game world

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

Thanks and until next time,

Dirk, Creative Cart Pusher

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DevBlog: Building Blocks and Milestones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are three examples of how we gather your feedback:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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DevBlog: Our Vision

With a nearly 20 year history for the Anno franchise and 6 games in the series, creating the vision for Anno 1800 was not an easy task. We would like to take you on a journey with us, showing where we are coming from, our promise for Anno 1800 and how we want to achieve our goals for the game.

For almost 2 decades now, the Anno name has been synonymous with deep, high-quality city-building games made in Germany. While the first four games in the series all took place in historic settings, we took a step to the future with the release of Anno 2070, exchanging beloved series staples like fishing huts for futuristic metropolises on land and even under the sea. And in Anno 2205, we allowed players to settle simultaneously on various points around the globe as well as on the moon.

While many of our players enjoyed the new technological possibilities that these futuristic settings allowed for, others were asking for a return to the series historical roots, and the classic Anno gameplay of titles like 1404.

When working on the first concept, we created a list of all the beloved Anno features, based on our experience and especially the feedback from our community. The new Anno should combine the strength of classic titles with all the new possibilities coming from our experience with the latest games. We build the foundation for Anno 1800 out of these features and decided, that these features have to be in Anno 1800 from day one to create the game our fans are waiting for and possibly the biggest Anno game in the series.

Many of you stated that you enjoyed first hours of Anno 2205 but that you were missing complexity, replayability and the challenge for veterans of the series. Because of that, it was clear to us that we need to focus on rich and complex gameplay while making the game still accessible for new fans. With Anno 1800, the series not only returns to its historical roots, but also delivers the full Anno package on day one, including many of the features that long-time fans missed in Anno 2205, such as sandbox mode, physical goods, classic Anno multiplayer, randomly generated maps, trade routes and a military fully integrated into the main game. Third party AI, an in-depth diplomacy and trading system will allow you to engage characters as allies, enemies or partners while competing over different islands and trade routes together on one big map. We will furthermore explore the 19th century with a story rich campaign, which will touch in many of the important aspects of that era. We cannot wait to give you more details about the story next year.

With the next articles on our Anno Union hub, we will dive in to certain aspects of these features and will give you insights about the current state of the game. While we have a clear vision about the complexity and features of the game, we want your experience and feedback to make a truly great Anno game. Please keep in mind that the game is over a year away from launch and that means that many of the features we mentioned here are all work in progress. It was important for us to show you the game as early as possible but that also means that a lot of content we will show is not representative for the final game, and that we won’t be able to show you new trailers or screenshots every week.

That said many of you are curious how we will use and implement your feedback. With upcoming blogs, we will talk about certain features and aspects we are working on and that is a good way for us to gather your ideas and input. We frequently mentioned live feedback sessions via voice chats such as Discord or Skype, that we will answer your questions in frequent video updates an invite you to talk to us in live podcasts and streams directly from our studio. As some of you might know, all that requires a lot of tech and organization in the background, so bear with us when it needs a bit more time until everything is ready to go.

What we would like to know from you now is what kind specific development insight would you like to see in future Anno Union blogs?

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