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Category: DevBlog

DevBlog: The Residents of the New World

A continent carved by rivers, dominated by lush jungle forests and dotted with ancient mountains. Your Kontor just established on a white sand beach, the first residents settle in your newly founded city and you take a moment to watch the Tobacco leaves grow in the ardent sun.
The New World will leave a strong and vibrant impression and it was important for us that the new residents and their buildings invite the player to sink deep into the atmosphere of that beautiful continent.

Inspired by 19th century Latin America, Anno 1800’s New World residents are bound to their country but other than the dawn of the industrial age in the old world, their story is a tale of building a strong prospering society fueled by the dream of independence.
Beside a set of strong third party characters populating the second session, your settlements will have visual feedback representing residents local to the continent, including models, portraits for residential tiers and new production chains.

Residential Tier I – Jornaleros
Jornaleros are the farmers of the New World, devout and hardworking people who are driven by the dream of independence at a dawn of a new era.
Similar to your first session, the first residential tier in the New World will represent the ways of old, farmers cultivating cotton and cocoa but also participating in traditional crafts such as pearl diving. However, it is also important for us to show respect to their roots and heritage as the Jornaleros are not to color them with the same brush as the Farmers. Working on the fields is hard labor, but by the middle of the 19th century for the first time, they could call the soil they cultivate their own. When the sun sets after a long day, Jornaleros find community and harmony in cultural buildings such as the chapel.The Jornaleros are the hard working and devout farmers of the New World

Their farm houses are rather simple but also a pragmatic fit for the hot and stifling climate of their continent. We wanted that their residential buildings convey that they are slowly adapting to a new life and are not built as a long-standing family heirloom. However, not many of them can call a farm their own and it is not easy to build a lasting foundation for a small home on the jungle soil outside of paved cities or large haciendas.This concept art gives you a good idea about the flair of the Jornaleros homes.

Cocoa, Bananas or Pearls, which seem almost ordinary to the Jornaleros, fetch a high price to fulfill the craving for anything new and rare in the high society of the Old World. But while they call even common plants like sugar-cane “exotic”, the life of the New World residents also changed when goods from across the ocean became an integral part of their life. Centuries of influence brought new goods to their continent, some of them now cultivated on their own land while others are in high demand as imported luxury goods.Rum export is big business in the 19th century, as there is a high demand for the drink in the Old world.

Residential Tier II – Obreros
When the power monopoly of the Old Worlds monarchy crumbled, the Orebros managed to take advantage of the new trading deals and connections to the rising class of financial entrepreneurs. Their new prosperity allows them to import expensive crafted goods such as sewing machines and they value a distinctive lifestyle based on old traditions, which grows confidently into a promising future.
Their settled city lifestyle also offers amenities for their society, from healthcare provided by the local hospital to entertainment during a visit at the boxing ring.The Obreros are the residents of the new worlds who found their way from the farmlands into the cities, where they found wealth as tradespeople.

Some of their residential buildings have a long history but over time, the Obreros gave them their own character. As many of the Obreros grow accustom to the city lifestyle, their houses were built with lasting stone and they are more likely to spend their new wealth on their homes for the generations to come.The residential buildings of the Obreros depict an urban lifestyle still fitted to the climate.

The lounging investors and engineers in your metropolis cannot get enough of their imported cigars and chocolate but the real driver for the economy lies in precious gold and oil. Almost all goods you export into the Old World serve luxury needs and making your money aristocracy happy will challenge your smart management skills and require an elaborate trade network.Goods produced in the New World will serve as luxury goods in the Old World and vice versa.

Gold is hard to get by, which results in a heavy demand in workforce for prospecting the luxurious metal in several mines in order to ensure a profitable output.
But oil was the real game changer to bring progress and a thriving economy to the New World.  While some few oil fields will be available in the old world to cover the need for basic electrical supply, you will need to tap into the rich oil resources of the New World if you want to support your power economy and make your investors happy. The oil towers surrounded by jungle provide quite a vista, but the fossil fuel not only wants to be pumped out of the ground but also conveyed to the oil harbor and then distributed in large tanks to your Old World’s metropolis.

A lush continent with a vibrant society
The New World will carry you away with its details, offer new and challenging production chains and invite you to meet a rich set of new third party characters and to explore it’s story in the campaign. But Anno 1800’s campaign is a story for another day and with that brief look over the two production chains, we bet you have many questions about the New World session.

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DevBlog: Let’s go on an adventure

By the dawn of the 19th century, the majority of the globe had been accessed by various trade conglomerates and empires, but there were still curious adventurers willing to conquer our world’s final frontiers and history’s last big secrets. From the journeys of Charles Darwin and Alexander Humboldt to various novellas and tales about curiosity, bravery, and hardship – we had plenty of material to inspire Anno 1800’s new Expedition feature.

Expeditions allow us to experience the world of Anno from a completely different perspective from our usual view through the lens of an architect. From dangerous scientific expeditions to the arctic regions, exploring the heritage of old civilizations hidden in dense jungles or the hunt for infamous freebooters, playing through these exciting stories will reward you with precious and rare items. These can be anything ranging from exotic animals for your zoo or artifacts to be displayed in your newly opened museum to specialists who can boost your productivity, accompany you on future expeditions or even lead your flagships as seasoned naval veterans.

However, these undertakings were never without risk, and many scientists and explorers paid the ultimate price to follow their dreams; similarly, some of these dangerous ventures may pose a grave threat to your ship and crew.

Let me take you on an adventure
The new Expedition feature adds “choose your own adventure” style quests to Anno 1800, where you send a ship and it’s crew on a journey with an uncertain outcome. During that adventure, your crew will encounter scenarios based on the type of expedition, and you have to choose wisely how to tackle these events to guarantee a safe and rewarding outcome. There will be a variety of expedition types, such as archeological, zoological, rescue missions or even bounty hunting pirates.

Available at the third residential tier, these adventures will become available in your expedition menu and as a marker on your world map. Here, you can also see the title, type and difficulty indicator for each expedition. Naturally, lengthier and more dangerous expeditions will offer higher rewards for the risks you have to undertake. There will be many different stories with a variety of events to play through and you will be able to run several expeditions at the same time. Once you have decided which journey you want to undergo, you first have to prepare your ship.

The moral bar of your expedition serves as a health bar during the long journey into uncharted waters. The moral bar is a combination of the ship’s basic morale rating as well as the various items on your ship, including rations, goods that provide special abilities and any specialists who join your crew. The general rule: the higher the morale, the more likely it is that your expedition will be successful.

Your seasoned naval advisor provides you with information about an expedition, such as potential rewards and the types of encounters you may face. And there will be plenty of those- from foreign cultures which require diplomatic tactfulness, to diseases which can befall your crew to superstitious rumors about stranger things which befell the last unlucky souls who sailed through that mysterious passage, our expeditions can get pretty eventful. If items are a good fit for the challenges you can expect on an expedition, they will provide a significant boost to your morale bar.
Specialists with diplomatic experience might help you out with foreign encounters, canons or an experienced cannoneer will help against hostile ships and extra rations will help to endure the month long trips on the high seas.

As soon as you loaded up your ship with specialists and other items based on the Captains recommendation, you are ready to send the brave crew on to their journey and your ship will leave your session in real-time until entering the world map. There, it will travel to the expedition’s destination, indicated by a marker and a line showing the ship’s course.

Events – Captain, there is land on the horizon!
During their journey, which will take time based on the distance to the destination, events will happen, which are more frequently and challenging based on the expedition’s difficulty rating. These events will each have their own story and different stages, based on the decisions you make and their outcome. The key here is that almost every encounter has multiple possible outcomes, both joyful and negative. The decisions you make and even the items you brought with you can have an impact on the said outcome. The chance of success is affected by the quality of your items, as your specialists, the ship itself and other items and goods have their own skills and modifiers.

Let’s look at the example. Your ship took serious damage during a gruesome storm, but a carpenter might be able to repair it with his skills and some wooden planks. You have neither the needed material nor the craftsman to fix the damage? It might be worth taking the risk to ask for help on the mysterious island on the horizon. You may even boldly decide to ignore the damage altogether and just venture forth, even if your crew’s morale will take a heavy hit from travelling on a damaged ship.

As mentioned, Characters can have special traits, such as an anthropologist who can help you when encountering foreign cultures, which might lead to unique decision options based on the traits of said specialist.

Example: We have an event in which your crew makes landfall on an island in search of potable water and while doing so, meets a native tribe who currently performs a sacred ritual. A tricky situation as you don’t want to antagonize the inhabitants of the islands. Luckily, as your Anthropologist spent years studying foreign customs, he can show respect for the tribe by joining their ritual, which will reward you with a special item if successful.

Sometimes, you might have the perfect item to solve a tricky situation, which will enable a special decision with a guaranteed chance of success. But even some basic goods can help you through certain scenarios; for example, soap gives a bonus to medicine, wooden planks help if you need to repair your ship during an event and the trusty parrot gives you a bonus on faith when “pining for the fjords”.

Risks? There are always risks
In the spirit of the great scientific journeys of the 19th century, there is always something at stake but a higher skill rating can weight the odds dds when making decisions. Failing events or ignoring them when you are missing needed materials and skills will cause a hit to the morale of your expedition.
On our “Love Island” expedition shown at gamescom, an encounter with a tribe’s chieftain could lead to various outcomes: if you are lucky (or well prepared), one of the tribesmen might join your crew as a specialist but if Lady Luck is not smiling upon you that day, an ill-timed “knock knock joke” could even cost your comedian her life. Space is also precious on your ship, as you might need to leave someone behind or throw goods overboard in order to make space for that rare reward which you managed to catch during an event.

Going through events during an expedition costs morale (even during events with positive outcomes). All food and drink related goods you have on your ship count as rations, and after every event, you will be able to spend extra rations to lose less morale. The morale will sink over time or even suffer greatly when facing grim circumstances. If the morale bar falls to zero before you finish your adventure, the expedition is lost – including your ship, your crew, the precious schnapps, and even any trusty parrots you had with you.
But you are at the helm of your ship and if you feel that the risk is too high or that an expedition may take an unfortunate turn, you can always recall your ship from an active expedition.

Fortune favors the bold- and so do the rewards
When finishing an expedition, you will be rewarded with several rare or even legendary items. Every expedition has its own loot table based on the difficulty and the type of the venture, such as archaeological expeditions giving you a guaranteed cultural artifact if you succeed. Furthermore, individual encounters can also have their own loot tables or grant fixed items for specific outcomes, which are separate from the rewards for finishing the overall expedition. The rewards for finishing an expedition can be rich and plentiful, and we are looking forward to reports on your adventures and players comparing their rare items.

Besides items you can get from the event encounters themselves, expedition loot will not take up any space on your ship to make sure that you receive the deserved loot for the efforts you went through. After finishing the expedition, your ship will return to your main island and dutifully unload your spoils into your imperial harbor.

And so our story ends… for now

Expeditions are an exciting new feature that allows you to enhance your city-building experience with opportunities to get deeper immersed in the world of Anno 1800, while being able to snag some helpful items and specialists along the way. As a team, we can’t wait to hear your thoughts, and to read the first tall tales of players relay their expedition (mis)fortunes and what spoils they managed to bring back home to their islands!
What do you think of the expeditions? What stories and adventures do you want to see? And what kind of rations are the best for long expeditions? Let us know in the comments what you think.

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DevBlog: Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the New World
The idea of splitting the game world into the orient and occident quickly became a fan-favorite feature in Anno 1404. With Anno 2205, we expanded on the idea of different biomes and created the multi session system, which allowed us to ramp up the scale of Anno’s world with separate and vastly different new habitats to colonize. With Anno 1800, we will combine the best of these two worlds: a new biome and culture brimming with details on a large separate map on which your empire and your opponents can compete over new islands and resources. Welcome to the New World!

This new fascinating archipelago will both challenge your skills as a city planner and allow you to exciting new characters; who knows, you may even be able to help them in their struggle for independence as part of Anno 1800’s campaign! But keep in mind that characters from the Old World will also follow your new trade routes and bring your existing feuds or alliances into this lush new world.

This is the first DevBlog in a two-piece series, covering the “New World” session in Anno 1800. Today, we show you the scale of the second session including the setting and gameplay elements. In a future second blog, we will focus on the new production chains as well as the new residential tiers you will find on this new continent.

Enter the jungle – armed with square and compass
At the dawn of a new industrial era, which would eventually pave the way for our modern globalized world, people craved for anything new and rare from continents they’ve only heard of in their local newspapers. The rise of the working class and private entrepreneurs fueled not only a craving for luxurious goods but was also fertile soil for the curiosity first sowed during the Age of Enlightenment.

But getting your hands on goods like cotton, tobacco or precious gold is a bold venture, as your competitors never sleep, and the islands at the coasts of the new continent are covered in dense jungles interlaced with rivers and rocky ridges.

However, the New World will not only present a welcome visual change to the familiar European style environment of the Old World, as the second session will also spice up the gameplay with often challenging islands layouts. If you manage to establish your empire in an area, which seems inaccessible at first glance, you will be rewarded with a gorgeously scenic settlement surrounded by lush forests and colorful animals.

To immerse you in that completely different hemisphere, we created two new residential tiers (both of which come with unique production chains!), new characters to interact and new sets of flora and fauna, which will populate the densely covered islands.

The two residential tiers are inspired by 19th century South America, including unique portraits, visual feedback as well as new third party characters like Isabella Sarmento, who are coming with their own islands, storylines, and quests for players to undertake. And while we can’t go into this topic too much yet, we can tell that Isabella’s fight for independence will play a focal role in Anno 1800’s campaign.

Seamless multisession and world map
But how will it exactly work? As previously mentioned, the new session is the best of two worlds: the Anno 2205 multisession system and the visual and gameplay variety from Anno 1404’s orient and occident.

As soon as you reach tier 3 (Artisans) in the old world, a discovery mission for a new route to the New World will become available. After your brave crew manages to open the new trading route across the great ocean, you will be given free access the new session as you please – seamlessly and without lengthy loading times, which is something we had received a lot of feedback on.

From there on, you can jump back and forth, managing your empire in the Old World while changing to the New World in the blink of an eye to check on your newly established settlements.
When sending ships between both sessions, they will leave the map in real time before entering the world map, which allows you to keep track of your trading ships traveling between sessions or your expedition vessels on their way into unknown waters. When establishing trade routes between sessions, you also have to take into account that your ship will take some time to cross the ocean.

While the New World will offer exciting new production chains, you can decide for yourself when and with how much dedication you want to tackle this new adventure. AI opponents of the Old World will follow your new trade route but will not discover it by themselves. That means that you can decide when it is time to branch out without being afraid that you are too late to the party. Then it is up to you if you want to spread your empire extensively into the new territory or if you just want to establish a small romantic settlement to stay in contact with local characters.
Many new Third Party characters are eager to trade their new goods with you, naturally, and for a price reflecting their considerable expenditures. But word is that Madame Kahina in the Old World has extensive contacts to the new continent and might strike a deal with you if you need some of the goods from these far away lads.

Especially your higher tier residents in the Old World love to get their hands on luxurious goods from the second session while your residents in the new lands in turn favor imported goods from your first session. Furthermore, the New World will be the main source for oil, and a steady supply of the fossil fuel from the second session comes in handy when you want to run a big electricity business. But more about production chains and goods in the second part of the New World blog.
How your feedback influenced the New World
Now that we have revealed the New World, we can also tell you how player feedback was crucial into turning it into the version you will see at launch. Our initial concept for South America was very different and definitely smaller in scale, but the strong, constructive feedback from our Ann o union testers in our previous playtests convinced us to expand our plans for the New World significantly: a lush new world of challenging islands with two separate citizen tiers with all-new production chains. This has been a truly collaborative effort between our team and our playtesters, and we are grateful both to them, as well as to all the other Union members who shared their wishes and suggestions for the second session and its gameplay with us online.
And while we are on the topic of your feedback- we are happy to announce that after we put some additional work in, you will be able to access both sessions in your multiplayer matches, giving you and your competitors access to the full breadth of Anno 1800’s world when facing off.

In the next episode of our New World blog, we will show you the two residential tiers and their production chains in action. A lot of feedback and a great amount of work went into that feature and we hope that it will provide you with many hours of exciting new content. So what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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Devblog: New features at gc2018

Today, we want to give you a brief look over four new features shown at gamescom 2018. While only a glimpse at the content we present in Cologne, the new features will get their own dedicated and detailed blogs in the weeks ahead.


Travel the world for fame on a fortune with expeditions
Expeditions are an exciting new addition to the series that will bring your Anno world to life like never before. Send ships crewed with specialist characters out on a variety of adventures as they seek fame and fortune, with gameplay that is a throwback to classic “choose your own adventure” books. Will your zoological expedition return with an exciting new addition to your zoo’s menagerie, or will your crew succumb to one of the many perils they will face on their journey?


Welcome to a new world
Once your European industrial revolution is in full swing, you will soon be able to expand your growing empire to the lush jungles of South America, where all new challenges await. Discover separate resident tiers, master new production chains and race your opponents as you seek to secure the gold and oil reserves needed to power your industrial arms race.


Welcome to the era of archeology!
Listen up beauty builder and explorer; a museum opened its doors in town. With the second big cultural project, the museum will allow you to display the wonders of the world, from fossil findings to artifacts from times long gone. As with the zoo, the museum allows you to place various modules to display your rare items, which your adventures acquired from expeditions to lands far away or from trading deals with other characters.


Blueprints – plan your utopia
With the blueprint mode, you will be able to plan your city layout ahead to create your truly visionary metropolis. With the toggle of a button, you can place buildings before actual construction, which makes it easier to map out your city center or industrial districts before investing your construction material.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to the new features and what is your favorite of all four?

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DevBlog: Audio Design

To create an atmosphere of a lively metropolis in Anno 1800, we not only makes use of an high amount of detailed visual feedback, audio design plays also an important role to breathe life into the world of the 19th century. Today, we invite you into our audio studio, where we show you how our audio team creates dynamic sound landscapes with an ear for detail and of modern technology. We strongly recommend grabbing your headphones for this week’s Devblov, as this one is for all audiophile Annoholic’s out there.

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DevBlog: Construction AI

We are Jonas (the fella with the glasses) and Johannes (Mr. Smirk) and we work as Gameplay Programmers on Anno 1800. Together we are 53 years young and have worked for roughly 9 years at Ubisoft Blue Byte. What we did the 44 years before that, you ask? We played Anno, of course!
But today, we’d like to give you some insights into a feature which has kept us both busy for many months now: the construction AI.

Teaching bits and bytes something about human behavior
For many Annoholics, sinking dozens of hours into trying to find the perfect city layout is a big part of the game’s draw. How can I make the best use of these last few remaining spaces, and is there any possible way I could fit my zoo in there?

Another fundamental part of the Anno experience is playing alongside and against computer-controlled – or as we say AI (artificial intelligence) – opponents. However, creating a believable AI is quite the task, as the AI views things through very different eyes than human players; that’s why it falls to us to teach it how to construct functional and believable cities in a language the program can understand.

Anno 1800 will go back to the roots of older Anno titles such as 1404, where the second party AI (the characters settling and building on islands) follows largely the same rules as the player. Hidden under the hood of the so-called construction AI system are algorithms, which mimic the behavior of a player. Similarly to the player, your AI neighbor will need to generate money from taxes, produce resources to construct buildings and to fulfill the needs of the population to make them happy or to advance into the next tier. The number one rule when working on the AI system is that your friendly, aggressive or even quirky AI controlled players should behave like, and follow the same rules as, the player.

Anno is a real beast when it comes to the sheer amount of features the game has to offer. Among them are some gameplay systems, which are too complex for the AI to use but still are important to compete with the player. To give you an example, it is not possible for AI characters to take on and finish quests and therefore, they cannot gain any items from this or similar systems. To avoid that the second party has to suffer a major handicap because of that restriction, we will provide ways to enable the AI to get other access to needed items.

Quite the character – a personal touch for every opponent.
By nature, programs like to calculate, compute and optimize things in split seconds, but transforming the AI into memorable characters like the envious robber baron von Malching is quite a task. We want that every second party character is memorable, from their diplomatic preferences to city layouts or what they focus on economically. All of these should be reflected in their construction behavior and result in a personal touch when observing their cities.

Every character will follow a specific strategy, which defines things like whether they invest more money and resources into the culture or prefer a strong military fleet. Furthermore, this deeply layered system also differentiates between their preferred types of military ships, investment in defensive structures or what kind of cultural buildings they prefer.
If a very rural looking island with plenty of golden fields of wheat fit a character, we will set parameters that the AI creates an overhead production in certain categories. In the case of the exploitative nature of von Malching, he will not show much love for vistas in his city and rather concentrate on mercilessly expanding his industry.

The way they build street networks and plan residential areas is also taken into account, as each AI simply building the same artificially optimized layout would feel cold and unnatural. That customization goes as far as even allowing AI characters to prefer specific types of ornaments.

In this simulation, we just let our AI build a city with unlimited resources (the green plots are ornaments)

This personal touch, behavior, and difficulty of a second party character depends on many different parameters which enable the AI to make decisions. These parameters define things like the general construction speed, which determines how many resource-producing buildings a character builds to generate construction materials or the previously mentioned fleet or defense construction.

To illustrate it better, we want to give you a few examples for some construction AI parameters:
– Difficult second parties will make use of construction materials as soon as they become available.
– Easier opponents will wait with their decision what to build, even if the material is available.
– We can decide what types of ships an AI favors for trading or military fleets.
– How fast will the AI expand? Will it try to capture a new island quickly or wait before the main island is well developed?

How to make decisions: location scores
While parameters are the general behavior rules, the AI also needs more specialized systems to be able to make a decision such as where is a good spot to place a building. While finding the right place to construct a production building might be trivial for us, an AI relies on various criteria to be able to make decisions, as it cannot rely on intuition as we do.

Let’s give you an example where the AI wants to construct a windmill for its bread production. Firstly the AI rates possible spots by the following criteria:
– Try to avoid wasting construction space on the island, by not leaving small empty plots between production buildings or street layouts.
– The windmill should be within the influence radius of a warehouse.
– It should be close to other buildings of the same production chain.
– As the windmill is a production building, it should be outside of the residential city center.

The system will now check the whole grid and will assign scores based on these criteria. Location scores tell the AI where the best, acceptable or bad places are to place the building. There might also be scenarios where the island is so densely populated, that the AI has to rely on acceptable but not perfect areas. But there are additional factors to consider when deciding where to place a building- for example, what happens if the AI has several islands? Could it make more sense to outsource certain productions within the controlled archipelago, or perhaps even to a different session?
Here you see the score system through the eyes of our AI.

Programmers: Teacher and problem solver
Such a complex system is neither done in a week nor can it be completed in the early stages of development. The programming team needs to tell our AI to react to constantly changing development builds and newly implemented features.
When Game Design implements something new, the AI simply does not know how to deal with it, so we need to help it to adapt to the new situation. Imagine fire incidents were just implemented and the AI has no idea how to deal with the inferno as we need to tell it to construct fire stations beforehand. Without this criteria or knowledge so to speak, the AI would just have to watch its city turning into a cinder.

There is another good recent example, which shows how a new feature can create seemingly unsolvable issues for the construction AI.
We just implemented rivers into the game, which adds a completely new construction layer for bridges but blocks other constructions. As our AI has no clue what the new system is all about, it might try to place buildings into the river or completely ignore the landmass on the other side. Our job here is to teach the program why and when it needs a bridge, and where to place it. What sounds easy in theory is creating a new simulation including a lot of working hours and code work.

In our job, we always chase after the latest feature implementations to keep the AI up to date and allow the AI to use all the available game features to compete against you, the player.

This gif visualizes how the AI maps out construction space, determining where it can be build, which areas are blocked and the distances between them 

The sum of its parts
When you think about the ton of intertwining features in Anno, creating a believable AI is an enormous task where every new content might interfere with something else. Construction AI is obviously only one aspect to create a lively and challenging second party, among many others such as military behavior or diplomacy.
When setting the scope for our Anno 1800 construction AI, we had a lot of feedback from our community to work with. We hope that we are not only in a good way to deliver a believable but also fair and charming construction AI.

We hope that we were able to give you some interesting insight into our work and looking forward to your feedback, as the construction AI is a joint effort between our experience and feedback from our fans.

 

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DevBlog: Electricity

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

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

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

Get things rollin! Not all assets are final.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DevBlog: Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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DevBlog: Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How it all works in the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

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