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Category: DevBlog

DevBlog: Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How it all works in the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DevBlog: Investors

What do you give the guy who has everything?

Maybe he was born into wealth, maybe he wasn’t – it doesn’t matter. Money means upper class now. The Investor is an industrial dynamo, a believer in hard work, who is simultaneously charismatic and ruthless. He is a new breed of breeding; one that is rich for a reason.

His is a life of member’s clubs, champagne and pimped steam carriages. His expectations are unequalled, for both quantity and quality. Nothing is ever enough. More, more, more!
Once the servants have cleared breakfast, he snaps open the morning newspaper. Falling stocks and shares, a scandal involving a society girl eloping with a postman. He feels empty.

What his life needs is some meaning. Something to stay the terror that grips his conscience. Charity, philanthropy! A big project to make things right; to gain him fame and profile, and most importantly, to milk the fat cash cow.

So when he stumps up the cash for your next big idea, don’t do something boring. He won’t tolerate it, not a jot.

A time of change, where soldiers of fortune build world-spanning conglomerates overnight, competing with an old aristocracy, which refused to lose their grip on dwindling empires.
Power build on century old family ties, all of a sudden threatened by the autonomy of striving companies or the progressive and social thinking of a newly arisen social class; for us a rich time with plenty of inspirations and stories to work with.
Our fifth residential tier, the investors, incorporate many of these fascinating elements. They are the old monarchs, fascinated and threatened alike by the modernizing world. But they are also the new wealth aristocracy, who are willing to take any risk on their hunt for the next big deal and their thirst for reputation and influence. The 19th century was a race about investment, stocks and bonds where the new money and if you were not able to keep up with the pace, you could lose everything in a heartbeat.

Designing a society driven by blood ties and modern economics
Our investors are a snapshot of the wealthy elite of that time, with the focus on the monarchs and especially the new financial aristocracy. The wheels of modern economics turned fast and not even the old counts and kings could allow themselves to just lay back and enjoy their wealthy inheritance.
When designing the portrait and feedback units of the investors, we wanted to convey the self-esteem of the ruling people, the serious etiquette of the time but also the extraordinary lifestyle of the upper class. In a sense, they like to insist on their dignity (if build on heritance or by making a fortune with wits and their bare hands) as well as being something greater, standing above the populace. At the end, the rise of the working class not only modernized our society, it also fueled the conflict between the classes itself.

When it comes to their residential buildings, we aimed for clean and almost marble like appearance, using only a few accents which help them to pop out in your cityscape. The green rooftops creating a great contrast, red highlights convey that feeling of luxury and royalty.
While Engineers and Artisans like to enjoy themselves in a cabaret or other easy to reach amenities, investors are more likely to take their marvelous new steam carriage to fancy restaurant or a dinner party at the clubhouse. Pompous apartment blocks, posh public buildings and sublime parks should feel like crown jewel of your metropolis.
Let the future entertain us – Gameplay
How can you please someone who has more money than you could ever spend, who buys fleets of ships filled with the most precious goods, before overnight, throwing everything overboard and investing in modern factories? In a world of the wonders and scares of modern economics, investors want to savor to the fullest and to collect only the most extraordinaire pieces, to show them to their rich friends and business partners in their fancy smoking rooms. What demonstrates your prosperity more than drinking Champaign while enjoying your rare collection of high-tech toys?
Tier 5 production chains reflect their craving for the most exclusive of all goods: from finest jewelry, to wonderfully designed gramophones or astounding new technology like steam cars.
While some of their beginning needs might start moderate, later production chains reflect their big investment and become an intricate challenge for a player.

The future is here and money loses as fast its worth as a rotting shipment of exotic fruits – You have to demonstrate power in that shark basin full of rival companies. A monopoly on menacing weaponry or stellar reputation as a host of truly marvelous events might impress opponents, allies and populace alike. The tier 5 production chains are only one element that reflects the investors influence on technological advancements. Investors become are a substantial part in the mechanic revolving around Anno 1800’s big monument, the world fair. As they are the patrons of your monument, they provide the investment capital to host exhibitions and having enough influential supports can decide how fast and often you can run the exhibition events (and reap the harvest from your stellar event).

Here the gramophone production chain in moving pictures. You island neighbor mentioned that his steam-car production is way more impressive and complex to look at.

From humble beginnings to a world spanning company
The residential tiers are a picturesque tour through the classes and reflect the changes of that time. With the last residential tier, we close the brief look over Anno 1800’s high-level progression. Starting traditionally with the farmers, every tier will make production chains more modern, complex and will unlock exciting features. On your journey to the end game, gameplay will more and more open up and when reaching the last tier, provide you with all the tools to allow the replay-ability and complexity Anno fans have asked for.

As always, your elaborate feedback was very insightful for our team. Thanks to blog comments and the focus test, we were already able to improve many aspects of the game, such as complexity, balance and even whole production chains. As always, we are looking for your feedback, from expectations, suggestions or even a confirmation that our take on the last residential tier of Anno 1800 is something that resonates with you. Please let us know in the comments below!

On a different note, we have another AnnoAfternoon Community live stream this Sunday at 5pm CEST. Join Chris and John from our Community team once again when they continue their journey through the fan favorite Anno 1404. Watch it as always on


DevBlog: User Interface

Hi Annoholics, my name is Khajag Jabaghchourian, and I am one of the UI Designers working on Anno 1800’s user interface. When I joined Ubisoft Blue Byte’s UI team six months ago, it was just in time to get ready for our big UI overhaul project. During the last episode of the AnnoCast, I had the pleasure to chat with you about the style and functionality of our user interface and why that is especially tricky and important when it comes to strategy games such as Anno. Since then, we received some feedback regarding the UI from our community- a great opportunity to invite you all to have a look at the daily work of a UI Designer.

UI and UX in a nutshell
I bet that most of you have heard the term UI before and what seems simple at first glance, is the result of a fairly intricate design process. The UI (short for user interface) is, to put it simply, the first thing a player encounters when interacting with Anno 1800. It consists all of the interface elements of the game, such as buttons, menu windows, and contextual info layers.
The first thing which comes to your mind is probably a variety of colored boxes and icons. This visual layer on top of your gameplay screen hosts all information a player needs in order to understand what is happening and in the next step, enables you to interact with the game via your input commands.
You can say that the UI enables communication between the player and the game, translating the game language for the user and making the players input understandable for the game.

Especially a management game like Anno needs to convey huge amounts of information to the player.
The user experience (UX) ensures the usability and readability of our UI, as we need to make sure that it is easy to understand, gives clear feedback and takes the least possible effort to achieve a task. Think about Anno’s construction menu, where you want to be able to build complex production lines, consisting of many different buildings and materials, with the smallest amount of clicks (interaction) possible. We want you to be able to focus on your gameplay strategy and not distract you with busywork such as browsing through too many windows to figure out which buildings are connected to what production line. The UX basically serves as a blueprint map, defining the steps you need to take until you reach your goal, while the UI consists of all visual elements which accompany you on your journey.

Why is UI/UX design special or important in an Anno game?
For a complex strategy game like Anno 1800, a good UI and UX design can be the maker or breaker when it comes to ensuring a smooth gameplay experience. While units like ships utilize direct interaction with the player, many other interactions happen between the player and the UI.
If you compare it to a typical action game, most interaction usually happens through direct input to an avatar and it’s interaction with its environment. Here, the avatar reacts to your direct controller input such as a quick press of a button to cast a spell. In a strategy game like Anno, it would mean that you have UI elements such as buttons to command the avatar to perform that action.

But it is the huge scale of the management and building aspect what we all love about Anno, right?

One of the challenges is to find an easy solution for understanding the complex information -> as an example: trade routes (loading, unloading, a big list of items, islands, ships etc.). Without functional design, controlling a complex strategy game can easily overwhelm the player rather than providing an exciting gameplay experience.

And to achieve that goal, we have to prioritize functional design over the artistic touch. As our form follows the function, we can reduce the cognitive and physical workload for the player.

The Anno 1800 UI design
For Anno 1800, we decided on a clean design, including only a minimal amount of ornamentation, materials, and textures. Our focus was on preserving the functionality in our designs, aiming for a more contemporary and refined look that fits our “industrial revolution” setting. We want it to be easy on the eyes of the player, allowing fast access to all needed information. If there are too many visual elements, the UI itself would start competing with the actual game for the player’s attention; such distractions that quickly start hurting the gameplay flow. Talking about the colors, we decided for darker colors for the HUD (heads-up display). As the HUD is constantly visible, bright and flashy color schemes could quickly become tiring for the eyes and also steal too much attention from the actual gameplay screen.
For pop up information or notifications windows, on the other hand, we picked a brighter color to draw the immediate attention of the player.

Let’s start creating
Okay, so far so good, but how do we actually create our UI and UX design? When we start working on a new UI element, Game Design provides us all the gameplay information and details about the game logic we need to make accessible for the player. We discuss which details are the most important information the player needs to know and what tasks they need to be able to perform within the interface element. The trade route menu is again a really good example, as you need to be able to see all the needed information about your ships, the routes, goods, islands and what kind of orders you can give on the different destinations.

In the next step, we grab a pen and some paper and start sketching out so called wireframes, which serve as a blueprint. This wireframe holds all information about the functionality and the flow of the menus, which further allows us to create interactive prototypes to actually test the UX.
When we are confident that the wireframes are working, we can start on the actual visual UI elements. This means creating mock-ups, defining the text and color style as well as the shapes we want to use. Concept Art from our art department serves here as an inspiration and a visual guideline. The UI team has also dedicated Icon Designers, who support us by designing and producing the icons we need for our UI. That can be something simple like a specific button or something complex like the tourist ferry timer we have shown during the last stream.

From mockups to final assets, we usually use programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop as well as After Effects for animations.

Once we have a functional wireframe, including all the boxes and visual elements we need, it’s implementation time! For that, we will discuss the technical requirements with our programming team.
They will then go ahead and build a working skeleton for our UI. In the final step, we make final preparations for the design and then apply it on the skeleton, to implement our UI into the game.

We need your input!
We hope we were able to give you a good understanding of Anno’s intricate UI/UX design, and why it is of such importance for strategy games. Up to the release of the game, we will continue to work and improve our interface but one of our challenges is a lack of community feedback, as the UI is something many players take as a given but rarely discuss in detail.

And here is where the Anno Union comes into play: we would love to get your feedback on our current state of the UI, as seen in the stream and on this blog. Is the overall look satisfying? Is there something from previous Anno games you especially liked about the UI? What is of most importance to you for an exciting and functional Anno 1800 user interface?

Our team is looking forward to your feedback!


DevBlog: Eli Bleakworth

Hope is the most coveted, yet rarest of goods on the dreary rock called Wormways Prison, home for the worst of the worst. And of course for those unfortunate souls who dared to question or defy the absolutely authority of its warden, Eli Bleakworth. He is equal parts cruel taskmaster and calculating bookkeeper, mercilessly ruling his godforsaken rock under the dutiful guise of a faithful servant of the empire.

Eli Bleakworth, the Governor of Wormway Prison is just one part of our diverse cast of supporting third party characters in Anno 1800. He might style himself a dutiful servant, but the truth is that his honor and compassion have long since withered away, alongside his youth. Beneath his lawful façade, he secretly enjoys his power over his prisoners. After all, they would not be on his island if they were not scum that defied the empire’s laws, would they.

Introduced with Anno 1701, third parties quickly became an integral part of the Anno series. The feature has come a long way since then; what started as a collection of free traders has turned into a varied cast of important characters that breathe color and life into the world of Anno 1800. While they are neither direct allies nor competitors, they are an important part of the look and feel of the game world, and offer a variety of gameplay options and challenges.

The role of Wormway Prison in Anno 1800 – Atmosphere / Gameplay
His prison is not only an atmospheric snapshot of the more unruly and hapless elements of 19th century society; the island also offers different gameplay opportunities to the player. For starters, it is not just a prison, but also a business made profitable by its barely existent employment cost. Every day, under a merciless ocean sun, the prisoners toil in the island’s coalmines. Coal is in high demand during the industrial revolution and Eli offers a quick solution for the hungry blast furnaces of your factories.

But there is not only profit, there are also dependencies. Labor might be cheap on Wormway Island, but it’s Governor still need to provide basic good such as food and soap for his involuntary workers. Players should always look out if specific goods are in high demand by AI characters, as trade for sought-after goods might be the better bargain than paying in cold hard cash to bunker coal.

You could also overhear the prison guards mumbling about some their employer’s special interests, which might come in handy if you want to strike a good deal with the Governor.

The island is not only a great location to fill your trading ships’ holds with coal; Eli is also always on the lookout for business partners who are willing to lend the empire a hand in matters of the highest importance. If you decide to help him with his chores, he will provide you with a variety of rewarding bounty quests. There is always demand for work as the gatekeeper, but during challenging times like these, even hell itself can get overcrowded. It is worthwhile to visit his island occasionally to see whether Eli might be willing to restore the freedom of one of his special guests- always contingent, of course, on your willingness to pay their bond, as well as a paltry fee for his corrective services. Gameplay freedom is a core pillar of Anno 1800, so third-party characters present one opportunity where players that are less interested in luring tourists into their attractive cities can get their hands on some specialist characters. Who knows what kind of special talents one could acquire from the more or less guilty souls trapped in Wormways prison.

Transition into the end of the blog: Third party in Anno 1800
Eli will not be the only third party character to offer his stock of resources to the willing buyer. The cast of third party characters in Anno 1800 will not only represent a colorful variety (including some… less law-abiding citizens), but every one of them will allow for different player interactions based on their background and personality. From pirates and traders to curiosities, what kind of third party character would you like to encounter in Anno 1800?


DevBlog: Engineers

The Engineer is the original nerd. Educated and privileged, she is most content in the attic, high above the disorder of the street. This lofty cocoon, with its bubbling flasks and unstable isotopes is “quite chaotic enough!” she might be heard to say, pursing her lips, and briskly adjusting her spectacles.

She is blessed with a remarkable weapon – a willingness, a desire even, to be contradicted by her observations of nature. Previously, social and emotional factors had long-plagued accurate interpretations of reality. Proud scholars declaimed flawed theories made plausible only by cherry-picked facts, or their concealment behind fortifications of logical rhetoric (fake news – imagine that).

Thus with her impartiality and thorough method, the Engineer best represents the new century, one of singular progress. She has the dedication of Curie, the curiosity of Mary Anning, and the output of Brunel. She will not jump to conclusions about your capability as governor, but form them gradually, gathering evidence here and there, until she has a portfolio of objections to present. “I shall let the facts speak for themselves!”

If you find her list of wants and needs far less frugal than she has led you to believe, remember the greatness of her commitment and contribution. Long nights resolving equations just whizzing by! 

“My zeal for breaking everything into its constituent parts has itself mutated,” she says softly, with a hint of scandal, “into an obsession.”

That sensation when all small parts finally come together, you pull the heavy lever and with the sound of pressurized steam, the steel machine starts moving. What’s wicked magic for the simple folk and the antiquated aristocrats, is relentless progress for you. You do not believe in dusty religious concepts, as the law of nature and physics are the great mystery you have sworn an oath to solve. Years of hard study during the day and countless nights tinkering on your new concepts, you never rest mastering the art of mechanics and fighting against dated ideas. The progression from workshops to factories was only the first wave leading to the modernized age, the second wave followed soon, with intellectual force and technological glory.

Designing progress
Our Engineers are the educational elite in a time, where new technology inspired millions. It gave wings to even the craziest ideas, as nouveau rich investors happily opened their pockets for anyone ambitious and bold enough. And this elite has dreams: visions of technological revolution and fame, being the one who changes the world forever. The 19th century is the time of big business, where companies know that getting ahead of the competition is all or nothing. There was a high demand for capable engineers and all of a sudden, the new intellectual class inhabited the rich inner city districts and old aristocratic money and blood ties slowly lost its century’s old relevance.
It is the design of the fourth tier where it becomes apparent that the world is inexorably moving towards the 20th century. The look of the engineers is as modern as their inventions and their sophisticated lifestyle wants to get rid of the musty concepts of old. With that in mind, we wanted that the engineers transmit that intellectual self-esteem of a class, who enjoys the wealthy fruit of their labor but never shy away from getting their hands covered in oil or falling asleep over their blueprints. The mind does not like to chain itself with antiquated ideas; their open-minded nature favored genius over discrimination and gender.

Because of that thinking, that humankind is destined for greater things, we decided that a female representation of the fourth tier would be the perfect fit for their progressive nature. While the workers rolled up the sleeves to stand up for their rights, it was the new intellectual elite, which enabled people to open their mind and strive for something bigger.

Their buildings are havens for the new elite, a sanctum for the precious spare hours after hard days in your office or nights improving the machines in your client’s factories. Some of them are even of humble origins; they make sure to enjoy their precious spare time in an apartment full of modern amenities.
The look of their residential buildings is clean, not too playful and show how much time has changed over the last decades. While the noble folks still prefer to live in their ornamental mansions in the countryside, you want to be in the heart of the city-life, close to your work, watching how your hometown slowly evolves into a metropolis. The avid collectors are not font of wasting any space – engineer housing will merge to impressive residential blocks, which will give a districts a distinctive modernized flair.
The second industrial revolution at your fingertips
Sleep is for the weak, you have to live your dream. The push into the fourth tier will be the big leap into the modern age. While technological advancements like the steel beam where apparent in earlier tiers, the second wave of the industrial revolution will offer new materials and challenge Annoholics with the complex needs of a technology affine class. They are the technology nerds of the 19th century and they like to surround themselve with fine crafts, from pocket watches up to steam-powered machinery.

Other than that, they expect all modern amenities in there accommodation, because who wants to live like in the candle lit Middle Ages?

They will not consider themselves satisfied with constructions made of brick stones and wood, the refined composite cement will allow reaching for the sky with the biggest constructions and buildings to impress residents and tourists alike. Bring that new construction material to good use when building your first steam factories and when you convinced yourself of its supreme qualities, start to put tons of them aside in your depository for ambitious future projects.
Modernized production processes bring filigree filament for light bulbs and astounding steam machines, which are not only satisfying the needs of your tech affine class as also are important goods in your just opened steam shipyard. Allow yourself a short break when enjoying a true achievement for your company:  your watch the first steam-powered ship leaving the dock!
The revolution might have paved the way for better working and living conditions but it was not all to benefit the need of the many. Old lords and new ruler saw the immediate potential to tighten the grip of their power with advanced weaponry and colossal battleships, bristling with canons and layered in inches thick steel.

The industrial revolution will have impact on your production, as steam machines and electricity allowed not only to push productivity to the limit; the second wave was the groundwork for modern automated factories. We want that you feel that progress when taking on the challenge of the industrial revolution. When reaching the fourth tier, you had enough time to learn the ropes and now it’s up to your skill to master the needs of your intellectual elite and the complex production chains. Be smart and make use of all the tools available, the competition is not sleeping in the technological race: take the lead with clever infrastructure and the use of items, workforce and modern marvels such as steam ships and electricity.

Towards the end of a century and the dawn of a new age
It was a time where wonders happened almost on a daily basis, leaving people startled but also inspired.  We want that the engineers transmit that sense of enthusiasm and passion for progress. They might be not the last tier, but their complex needs and production chains will surely put you to the test. Challenging and rewarding alike, we can’t wait to show you the fourth tier in action and when we can share details on how electricity and some other features work.

There is more to come in near future, so stay tuned on future DevBlogs.

In the meantime, what do you think about our decision and depiction of the fourth residential tier? How important is the feeling of moving towards a new century, making progress and changing society as we knew it?



DevBlog: A trip to the zoo!

Dear Grand-mama,

We are spoiled something rotten. A Zoological Gardens has opened in Bright Sands!

Of course, we girls had no expectation of being allowed in, but impetuous curiosity led me to peek through a breach in the perimeter hedge. I gasped, glimpsing a flash of some living creature, carrot pink. “What can it possibly be?” I said aloud.
“That madam, would be a flamingo,” a kind-faced gentleman interjected, ushering us toward an arched entrance-way. “Are we to be allowed inside?” I startled. “This is no royal sideshow,” he said, “no gift from a King to his Queen, for her eyes alone. These natural wonders are for the pleasure and wonder of us all.”

We’d have parted with every penny we had to cross into that secret garden, and those first few moments within were among the most wondrous of my short life. “What long necks!”, “Over there, with the tusks!”, “How much larger they are in person!” we exclaimed, heads swimming with the novelty of so many creatures, bright and bold.

It was with Blake’s poem in mind that we cautiously approached the house of the tiger. “Are any of these animals… dangerous?” I said, to which our wicked guide replied, “oh, all the best ones.”
Remarkably the zoo even keeps Seagulls— forgive me, Herring Gulls (our guide was most insistent on that topic). To see common vermin under the microscope made me think twice. All living things can be both beautiful and interesting!

Save for the unspeakable bottoms of the baboons (forgive me grand-mama), the zoo is quite possibly the most attractive feature of this already magnificent city. Henceforth, I should be very surprised if visitors do not begin to arrive from the Bright Sands ferries in their thousands.

More postcards sure to follow!

Your little tourist.

Cities in Anno used to consist of a limited number of building types: residences, farms, production buildings, monuments and a few public edifices. Since the islands are bigger in Anno 1800, we want to ensure that cities are not be dominated by repetitive patterns of buildings and that they also reflect all aspects of life in the 19th century. With the rise of the working class as one of the defining factors in this dawn of the modern age, this shifting society discovered a new lust for knowledge, culture and entertainment. In our second DevBlog about the new city attractiveness feature, our tourist guide and game designer Natacha will take you on a trip to the zoo.

We briefly touched on the concept of visitors in our last two DevBlogs. This time, we want to give these highly welcome guests to our island paradise a bit more attention. But before you can open your city gates for curious visitants, you first have to construct an all-new building in Anno 1800: the visitor’s harbor (congratulations to those Union members wo speculated about the addition of such a building in the comments on our previous blog!). The visitor harbor is unlocked with the Artisan tier, providing not only s scenic addition to your shoreline, but also an ideal destination for visitor ferries. Whenever one of these special ships decides to lower anchor at your island, a group of excitement-craving tourists will depart the ship and swarm your island; their exact number is both dependent on your city’s attractiveness, as well as the size of the ship, as bigger ferries can  naturally carry more visitors. This follows the simple rules of supply and demand; the more attractive your city is, the more visitors will want to come and see it, leading to larger ships arriving at your harbor.

Besides this regular cadence of visits, certain special events – like the grand opening of the world fair – will lead to additional ferries dropping by. And who could blame them for not wanting to miss such a spectacular occasion in your metropolis?
Once on land, visitors will start strolling around your city and flock to the available attractions. While taking in the sights and breathing the atmosphere of your city, they will also be more than happy to part with some of their cash, making for a profitable business for the city.

If your city’s attractiveness level drops, visitors may decide to leave again. If they are especially disappointed with how your city turned out, they may gather in a spot complain and make it abundantly clear to you what they really think of your island. As you know, we are big fans of having visual feedback delivered to you right inside the game world. This visual feedback is not just eye candy, but also helpful for you to see which parts of your town attract the most visitors.

But there is yet more! Ferries can also bring special visitors to your island. Original drawn in by your reputation as a cultural sanctum or an entertainment hot spot, they may decide to permanently settle and offer their services to you. A high city attractiveness level has therefore a chance to give you access to some exceptional specialist characters (as covered in last week’s DevBlog).

Can we go to the zoo now?
One of our core goals when we first started thinking about the city attractiveness feature was to support beauty builders with satisfying and meaningful gameplay mechanics. We know that many of our Annoholics love to channel their creative energy into some of the cultural buildings, like the palace in Anno 1404. So it was obvious that we would need some large-scale objects in Anno 1800 that players could sink their teeth and creativity into.

Our first idea was to provide a new type of cultural building, which still had to be a true eye catcher in your city. We developed a shortlist of criteria these buildings would have to fulfill: they had to capture the spirit and atmosphere of the 19th century, should be highly customizable to allow players freedom in how they use them, incorporate our items and, most importantly, should be satisfying to see in your city

Not only did the Zoo check all these boxes, but it would also provide a real hotspot for activity and visual feedback inside your city. The mix of open spaces for visitors and various animal enclosures are perfectly suited for a modular building approach, and could offer a lot of visual variety to builders taking their time to craft a unique looking zoo.
Our zoo opens its gates
The zoo will become available to players during the Artisan tier. As a first step, you will have to build the zoo’s entrance gates; given the zoo’s highly modular approach, you should make sure to safe enough space for later expansions. With the gate constructed, you can start placing the first animal enclosures. These can be freely placed, as long as they are connected to the gate, or another enclosure. In the spirit of beauty building, you should also make sure to leave some space for ornament and decorations between them!

Each enclosure can hold one type of animal, and the module will not only update with a visual feedback representation of the slotted item, but the whole enclosure module will visually change, fitting its respective inhabitant. This goes beyond biomes such as meadows or desert landscapes, with certain animals instead being housed in specific buildings or water basins. Of course, your citizens and visitors alike will flock to the most exotic animals on display, as tigers are naturally more exciting to watch than sheep. Here you will once again be able to use the visual feedback to see what visitors find most appealing about your zoo.

Gotta catch them all
On your hunt for the most exotic of animals, you might end up with quite a collection of different specimen. The gate building serves as a general zoo menu, giving you an overview of all currently equipped items/ animals.

There are some additional functionalities with the entrance buildings, such as the ability to create item sets out of specific types of animals, which once completed and equipped will provide certain buffs for your zoo. Furthermore, some items will provide specific titles for your zoo but we will also allow you to choose a name of your liking. Natasha’s National Zoo has a nice ring to it, right?

We are curious!
The visitors and the zoo building are a visually rewarding addition to the game, which is also embedded into the core gameplay in various ways. But as we like to end on a speculative note: the zoo won’t be the only large scale project to give your island a very personal touch. Beside the world exhibition, we are working on a second project, which will make use of modules, items and the attractiveness feature. We want to keep some secrets for later, so we will just say that it will reflect another area of great interest to the people of the 19th century.  

As always, we would like to get as much feedback about the visitor and zoo features as possible. City attractiveness is a vast feature with many different intertwining elements but also something new to the series, so we are curious about your feedback and suggestions in the comments below.


DevBlog: All about items

Introduced with Anno 1404, items have proven to be quite popular among Anno fans, so we decided to significantly expand the system for Anno 2070. It’s a feature which was missed by many Annoholics in 2205, as items did not make a return for the latest game in the series. With Anno 1800, we will not only bring this beloved feature back to the table, but thanks to added functionality it will be better than ever.

All about the items
Most Anno players develop (and tend to stick to) certain tactics after playing the game for a while; some straight forward, others way more elaborate than  simply focusing on trading or total domination of your enemies. As Anno 1800’s core gameplay gains increased complexity as you advance through the game, you can think of items as the control dials to modify your production chains, spice up your tactics with unique abilities and generally being a fun way of boosting your preferred playstyle.

Despite being seemingly straightforward, items can have a major impact on many aspects of Anno 1800. Today, our Senior Game Designer Christian will show you how they work and how items will impact your experience in the age of industrialization.

Let’s get an overview
Most gamers will be familiar with the general concept of “items”, as they are a big part of most of the popular video games out there. Usually they tend to be something player characters can use to overcome various challenges. For a strategy game like Anno 1800, that seemingly simple concept is used a bit differently. In many ways, buildings act almost like characters in Anno games, with their gameplay impact directly influencing the world around them. As you slowly build your empire, ordering the construction of more and more buildings, they directly reflect your actions and impact on the game world.
Most items in Anno 1800 modify the functionality of your buildings. Certain buildings can slot items to make use of the items’ effect in their area of influence. Currently there are three such buildings planned: The guild house impacts production, the town hall is responsible for your residents and city services and the harbor office can, among other things, grant you benefits when trading with other parties. Each building has its own influence radius and you will be able to construct more than one of each of them to affect different districts of your city. There is however a limit to how many of these you can construct, though that limit is expanded as your city grows over time.

One example of such an item could be a hard-boiled constable who will boost the effectiveness of your police force in that district. Other special buildings like the zoo will also make use of items. Here the effect works slightly different, as the zoo can be a major boost to your city attractiveness, without impacting the productivity of other buildings.

An item for any situation
We are currently planning to have a total of four different item categories in Anno 1800: cultural, specialists, consumables and machines. Each of these categories serves a different purpose, and may be tied to different gameplay systems.

Cultural items – the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle class greatly expanded the intellectual horizon of the people. Fueled by an interest in history, art and exotic places, cultural items can boost the attractiveness of your city significantly. Your newly opened zoo won’t attract many visitors without exotic animals to show off but acquiring them might be an adventure in itself…
Specialists – Gifted talents, inspiring personalities or visionary scientists. Specialists are unique visitors who might have been attracted by the attractions and marvels of your aspiring utopia. While a seasoned journeyman might simply boost the production of one of your workshops, infamous adventures are up to the challenge of capturing the rarest of animals, while a long-serving captain can turn the tide of a battle with his special abilities.
Consumables – And are there really problems that cannot be solved with some good, old-fashioned dynamite? Consumables are items with a strong influence on the game world but are limited by factors such as time or limited usage.

Machines – Your workers had heard rumors of course, but nothing could have prepared them for the astonishment of seeing an automatic loom working in your sails factory for the first time. Machines reflect technological advancements of the 19th century and how the rise of the machines paved the way for the modern industry. Naturally, they will be at the center of your attention when you want to boost your production buildings and factories.
There are a few more layers to the items system. Military items, for example, are not their own category but will fall under one of the above types, such as said seasoned captain who comes with his own special abilities or special armaments to surprise your enemy with superior weapon technology.

Rarity and gameplay value
Items will have different ratings, which determines how hard they are to acquire and also represent how effective and even unique their abilities are. While the most common items might give you a straightforward boost, rare items might come with unique effects or special abilities.

We will have five different rarity ratings in total: Common, Unusual, Rare, Remarkable and Extraordinary. While you will be able to just purchase common items from traders, the hunt for the most coveted objects and special personalities will lead you through quests and other challenging tasks. The attractiveness of your city is another way of acquiring specialists, as some special visitors might be among the tourists which decide to settle down on your marvelous island.

But being rewarded for your picturesque metropolis with exceptional personalities is only one of the new features to collect items in Anno 1800. How you can get your hands on the most exotic antiquities, animals and other rarities will be a topic for another future blog.

While there are various different ways and tasks, all of them will be solely acquired through gameplay.

Final words
Complexity is an important pillar of Anno 1800 and with that in mind, we wanted to expand the functionalities and variety of our item system. The new system gives you tools which are not only fun to play with, but we also wanted to ensure that acquiring rare items will be a fun task in itself; be it through challenging quest, as a reward for your great efforts to make your city beautiful or by other means which we haven’t even talked about yet!

With the release of the game, we will have a vast amount of different items, from the must have basics to pieces with quite a unique character. We are interested in your ideas about the new item system- what do you think is a must have or do you have some truly inspiring and creative ideas to share with us?


DevBlog: Beauty Building Part 1 – City Attractiveness

Anno is a strategy series that asks its players to manage complex economies and to build vast cities. Since its the beginning, the franchise has always occupied a special place in the hearts of players who love spending hours creating stunning city dioramas from different eras, be It futuristic or historic.

While past Anno games have offered a variety of aesthetic buildings and ornaments to support that playstyle, the focus of the core gameplay always favored efficient city layouts and optimized production chains. With Anno 1800, we finally want to give those players with an eye for beauty the option to turn their beauty building into a valid and rewarding playstyle.

City Attractiveness – Power to the beauty builders
With Anno 1800, we are introducing a new system called “City Attractiveness”, which assigns every island its own attractiveness rating, which will affect various aspects of the gameplay.
Six different criteria will have a positive or negative effect on the overall attractiveness level of your island. Three positive aspects will raise your level when reaching a certain threshold of points, while the three opposing negative ones can cause a downgrade of your city rating.
This will elevate beauty building to an engaging endgame activity where reaching the highest attractiveness level becomes a challenge in itself. Reaping the harvest of your efforts will be quite rewarding, as it gives you access to special benefits such as unique visitors, among them specialist which can boost certain aspects of your city.
Let’s talk about the three different positive criteria first, as they give a good overview how you can actually influence the beauty of your island:

Culture: The cultural rating consist of all the cultural elements you have placed on your island, such as ornaments and cultural buildings. With that, you can not only boost your rating significantly with a well-planned park area, but can also benefit from transforming otherwise wasted spaces between production buildings with small ornaments and decals. Large projects like the world fair or special attractions like the zoo will not only be popular destinations for your own residents, but will as also attract generous visitors to your metropolis.

Nature: The industrial revolution changed not only our society, but also the surrounding environment significantly. With the expansion of modern industry, untouched and serene nature increasingly became a rarity. Every bit of natural landscape left on your island will benefit the nature rating which will naturally go down as your expanding city takes its toll. We will go more into detail about the nature feature at a future point, but we are planning that the player can have a direct impact on that rating by deciding to make room for Mother Nature by removing industry and other buildings.

Festivity: You remember how we emphasized that you are the writer of your own story and that your actions will decide if your people will see you as their progressive savior or as a robber baron? If you care about the happiness of your residents, supporting all their needs and providing them worthwhile distractions and attractions, your people will show their gratitude. Celebrations held by your happy citizen or from events such as the grand opening of the world fair will boost the attractiveness of your city greatly and impress tourists on your island. Similar to city incidents such as the Riot, celebrations will get a lavish visual representation.

The three positive criteria cover a variety of ways how maintaining a pleasant look-and-feel of your city will attract visitors. But rather than just adding attractiveness points in a linear manner, there are also three criteria which will have a negative influence and could even downgrade the attractiveness level of your island:

Inelegance: Certain buildings are simply not a good looker. A strolling pedestrian might not be very font of the scent of a pig farm and the remnants of ruined buildings will damage the scenic look of your city. The system calculates the amount of unpleasant, noise producing and even smelly buildings- the odor of a 19th century soap factory is something for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Pollution: Every production building has a certain pollution factor, indicated by a variety of visual feedback. While some smaller production and manufacturing buildings might only blow a small amount of white smoke out of their chimneys, the black clouds coming from full-blown industrial districts are not kind to the lungs of your residents.

Instability: City incidents such as groups of demonstrators rioting through the streets are a rather unsettling experience. From civil unrest to blazing fires, every kind of incident will have a negative impact on the attractiveness of your city, albeit a (hopefully!) temporary one.

Find your own playstyle
Influencing criteria creates a balancing act, in which every positive aspect has its own counterpart. You can imagine them as three axis: culture against inelegance, nature against pollution and festivity against instability. Here are a few example how this can encourage a certain playstyle:

Culture versus Inelegance: Will you spend time to beautify your city with ornaments and cultural buildings or do you not care about that, leaving ruins or dirty buildings on your island. The fundamental question: are you a beauty builder at heart or someone who does not care about the aesthetic look of your city?

Natural Landscape versus Pollution: While humankind was always interfering with Mother Nature for its own needs, it was the industrial age where exploitation began at a previously unimaginable scale. Do you want to be the magnate, repressing nature for your steaming industrial machine, or an idealist who wants to preserve the slowly dwindling natural landscape as much as possible?

Festivity versus Instability: Are you a progressive thinker, who roots with his residents like a father who takes care of his children or the robber baron who dominates everyone for power and profit. It’s up to you how your residents will remember you.

While every positive criteria has its own counterpart, it does not mean that you have to strictly counter one element with another. Your city can be a true sanctum for culture and architectural wonders while an ocean of industrial chimneys belches black clouds into the sunny sky. As the attractiveness level is an accumulated value, you don’t have to reduce the amount of factories to benefit your cultural buildings; your marvelous parks can also be supported by the natural habitat of a nearby mountain range or by happy citizen celebration their benevolent governor.

You tell your own story – you create your own playstyle in Anno 1800
With our new feature, classic endgame activities such as controlling the worlds economy or military domination get additional company and with that, expand Anno’s gameplay quite significantly. 
We want to create a meaningful gameplay feature for every Anno player, where keeping your city at a high attractiveness level is a challenge with different rewarding outcomes. Moreover, as we always like to emphasize how the world of Anno shall remember your actions, the attractiveness level will affect your reputation and standing with other second party characters.
We briefly mentioned visitors and large-scale projects like the zoo. Only two of the many features, which are not only new to the world of Anno, but are also intricately connected to the city attractiveness of your island. With our next DevBlog, we want to talk about another fundamental, albeit more familiar feature in Anno 1800 but we will come back to you with the second part of the beauty-building highlight in the very near future.

While you probably picture visitors strolling around your parks, leaving a small fortune in your cities treasury, we are curious about your comments on the new feature. As you might see, it is a significant addition to the gameplay and such your comments can become a valuable pool of ideas and feedback for our team. We are looking forward to your comments!


DevBlog: An update on military in Anno 1800

Today, we want to give you an update on the status of military gameplay and land-based combat in Anno 1800.

Last Fall, we kicked off the topic of military gameplay in Anno 1800 with two blogs here on the Union (The Art of War Part One and Two), where we examined the history of combat and its various incarnations in the series over the years. We also announced that we had decided to focus on a great city-building and economic experience, as well as on expanded and more in-depth naval combat, while not adding land-based combat to Anno 1800. However, as a result of the passionate community feedback to this announcement on the Anno Union, we promised that we would revisit this decision and to explore possible ways to add land-based combat.

Since then, we spent a lot of time discussing your reactions while also inviting Anno veterans from the Union to the studio to discuss the military aspects of the Anno series. Based on the extensive feedback from our communities, we worked on possible game design approaches that would allow us to add land-based combat that would meet the expectations of our fans, while not having a negative impact on the quality and scope of our other planned content and features.

Given the community feedback to Anno 2205, our main priority for 1800 is to deliver a great city-building game that offers fans all the gameplay depth and replayability that they have come to expect from the Anno brand over the past 20 years. At the same time, we also need to ensure that everything that is added to the game meets the high quality standards that we as a development team pride ourselves on. Sadly, none of the possible scenarios and game designs we have worked on over the past months would meet the quality bar we are aiming for without negatively affecting other features. At the same time, cutting back on the gameplay depth of the core economic aspects of Anno in favor of a military system that we know many of our players do not use would be a disservice to our mission to deliver a stand-out city-building game. Therefore, as a team we have decided to stick to our initial plan of focusing on improved naval combat, and will not add land-based combat to Anno 1800 for its launch.

We understand that this is not what some of you in the community were hoping for, but with the Anno Union, we are big believers in transparency and being upfront with our players, even when delivering news that we know some of you will find disappointing. We look forward to sharing much more information about all aspects of Anno 1800, including the improved naval combat and how island take-overs will work, with you all in the coming months, as we get closer to the game’s release.

The Anno 1800 Team


DevBlog: Artisans, the beautiful minds

Head into your local coffee shop, the one with the vapers and twee chalkboards outside, and you might see a stressed-looking fellow dancing between customers, trying not to let his meticulously-managed coiffure and beard slip a pixel. Ask him for “just-any-tea”, and you may expect a look of disbelief, for this fellow is an Artisan, a perfectionist, and a romantic.

So indeed are Anno 1800’s Artisans. Flitting between on-the-knees despair and giddy delirium in the blink of an eye, they are the embodiment of romanticism in the 19th Century. It is distant dream-like idylls, wood nymphs, cherubs and the livid demons of purgatory from which they take their inspiration. Their work is art. More than the product of an education and practiced technique. So bound are they to their craft, they feel there is no choice but to pursue it, even if it means living in abject poverty.

And yet they have, for the moment, escaped that net. They have crawled up from the abyss – the world of cramped factories and back-breaking labour – and found some sense of dignity and freedom of expression. As a consequence, they are living out a contradiction – being eternally grateful while maintaining unreasonably high standards (for themselves as much as anything).

They are the middle class, the in-betweeners, those tugged in two directions. Mistreat them and they shall throw themselves into spiny thickets, please them, and they shall celebrate you like the god of a classical pantheon.

And for goodness` sake don’t let them recite any of their dreadful poetry…

A design for the beautiful minds of the 19th century
Adept Craftsmen. Swinging middle-class. That sweet glimpse of prosperity for a commonality driven by their creativity. Artisans are aesthetes, their mind enabled by all the new possibilities at the dawn of a new age. But they are also aware that their success is built upon hard developed skills and techniques, not to forget their often underestimated capabilities of running a smart business. Their crafted goods are a marvel of modern techniques and materials, paired with their love for art and an incredible eye for detail. And as the new good middle-class, they build a bridge between the simple country-folk, working people and the aloof elite in their marble towers.

While the look on their face might appear presumptuous, their lifestyle does not come from an aristocratic legacy and their self-esteem surely not just from lucky inheritance. We wanted that the artful folk transmit that feeling of hard-earned skill and prestige, while still being rooted in the common folk rather than an elite build on aristocracy.

Their various crafts was on high demand in the modernizing society, and observing their portrait and other concepts of their character designs should tell that they are aware of that demand.
They demonstrate confidence but have also that skeptical look, wearing an apron during the day and a sassy jacket in the long nights, exploring exotic specialties or being on their quest for inspiration in the newly opened cabaret.

Artisans are expressive, playful and interested in anything exotic and new. They are intellectual and eccentric, but share a grounded nature – this all should show in their residential buildings. If you so will, their houses full of excitement for everything new in this century of wonder. After you spent the last tier creating your industrial backbone, reaching the third tier should feel like a reward for your eyes and represent all the new things awaiting the player.

Gameplay, a bouquet of possibilities
You can say that the first two tiers are still the early game portion of Anno 1800, as you establish the core infrastructure for your city. Unlocking the Artisans as the third residential tier starts the venture through the mid-game, where growing your city to a true metropolis will put your previously developed skills to the test and give you access to new features, which add complexity but also further strategic options.
The Artisans are an educated middle-class with a hunger for the wide world which results in more sophisticated and harder to fulfil needs. Goods become modern and exotic and we want to challenge the skill of the player with more intricate production chains.

The invention of steel beams allowed modern architecture to develop and strive but it was use of mass fabricated glass and ornate windows, which resulted in modern and visionary cityscapes. When reaching the third tier, glass windows get introduced as the new construction material and producing them will be a joint effort of all your workforce types.

With three different workforce tiers, which intertwine on complex production chains, you can now start to use the workforce system to its full potential. Boosting the output of specific productions can make the difference between an optimized industry and spacious production districts. Especially players who want to focus on trading can boost their workforce on specific parts of their production, in order to trade overhead while still giving your city the needed room to grow.  
As more Artisans settle in your city, you will get access to more modern production and public buildings. That added complexity comes with new features and options, new tools to develop and support your own playstyle. Special buildings, items and other technical marvels will be able to boost your production, influencing your residence or raising the attractiveness of your city.

As the third tier is called Artisans for a reason, it surely cannot all revolve around industry and economy. It is the third tier where you can start to make a profit from the attractiveness of your city.
The beautiful minds among your residents will gladly share their craft to making your metropole more appealing and as a result, attracting visitors who gladly spend their dime on the attractions you provide. From ornamental decals or tackling impressive projects like the zoo, you start to have a significant impact on the look and feel of your city.

Plenty of new features on the horizon
Items to customize your playstyle or attracting visitors with big projects like the zoo is only a small teaser on many new features, which will have a significant impact on the gameplay. From planning, construction, modifying and acquiring the needed items, every one of them provides enough material for its own dedicated Devblog. With the introduction of the artisans, we opened the door to the wonders of a new and changing world and with upcoming articles; we will open more and more showrooms to cover the features in detail.
From all the mentioned new gameplay elements, what tickles you fancy? Do you want to know more about how beauty building and attractions create empower new playstyles, or how the modernization of your society provide new technology and ways to customize and boost your economy?