Last week, we opened the doors of our studio in Mainz to eight Union members, giving them the chance to play an in-development version of Anno 1800, in order to provide us early feedback on the current state of the game. All the great discussions in the Anno Union non-withstanding, these playtests are an important tool for us to check small details, analyze the game flow and observe the play behavior of our veterans.
That brings up the question how such playtest events actually work, and how they can help us during development.
It is not only a matter of observance, experience and analysis of Union comments; instead, the devil is in the details. Exactly these details are important for us to see if the game flow is working and if we can identify blockers, which might sour the gameplay experience.
To get a feeling if we are on the right track or need to work more on certain aspects of the game, we utilize various forms of feedback- from soft data or community sentiment such as Union comments all the way up to metrics providing hard data or reports from our playtests. While the Anno Union is a great way for us to tell how the community feels about the state of the game or to gather ideas from Anno veterans, playtests allow us to have very precise observations.
During last week’s playtests, our guests played an early version of Anno 1800 for several hours and shared their evaluation of the game in extensive feedback interviews.
Playtesters enjoying the session
Detailed examination and interviews
Even before the interview part, we started to observe our players pretty closely. While our GamesLab team recorded the sessions and preserved the savegame for further analysis, they also took many notes and asked them very specific questions. Small tasks, such as showing if they can find a game element, are time tracked to get a feeling if our UI and UX design are working as intended. However, our testers had also many comments and findings during the sessions, which not only piqued the interest of our GamesLab team, but also that of our Game Designer Christian, who watched their play behavior closely.
After the play session, our Union testers had the chance to give a detailed evaluation of the different game elements and told us how they liked the experience and evaluated if we are on the right track.
Even more data!
After the event, our GamesLab team provides us with a report, so we can sit together to discuss and analyze the results and feedback and furthermore, compare them with our own observations and previous data. That is why a number of playtests are necessary, as one play test alone is not enough to get the full picture- we need further stats, results, Union sentiment and of course more playtests. While the Anno Union allows us an excellent overview of the community sentiment, on-side playtests and Close Alpha studies provide us with detailed observations (when did players reach a certain point of progression, what do to they like to build etc.).
And it was only the beginning…
The outcome of those observations sometimes result in immediate action, while others might need further evaluation. If we see that a specific UI element is not working, we can give that directly to the UI team to review the issue. If there is something not right about balancing of a unit or production chain, our Game Design can start to work on a solution for that issue. You can replicate that process on various elements of the game, from coding, bugs, which have to be reproduced by our QA team or visual elements, which still need some work.
Sadly, not every problem is as easy to identify as a harbor district, which has a habit of frequently burning down for no good reason. Gameplay or content changes can have quite an impact on the various game elements and we need to get an idea how much work hours would be needed in production to work on an A or B solution.
So rest assured that this playtest was only the beginning and we will continue to get as much feedback as possible from you all in order to create the Anno 1800 you all deserve.
So as always, keep a close eye on announcements about further playtests in the upcoming year.
An exclusive look behind the scenes – the studio tour was a special highlight during the day.
We are currently preparing the next episode of our Anno Cast, which will take place this Thursday with a real world premiere: For the first time ever, we will show Anno 1800 live and in action!
So keep a cup of coffee ready and tune in this Thursday, 16:30 CET on: twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte
We will also provide a blog article with the embed stream, as usual.
As some of you might be already aware of, our community has moved to a new Discord channel. So let’s out the spotlight on Medaurus, Admin of the Annoverse fan Discord:
Hi all, we are Annoverse!
We are an English and German speaking Discord server, and our goal is to be a platform where Anno fans can discuss and connect. Our focus is not only on the newer Anno titles, as we have also many active fans of the classics Anno games. Here you can meet up for multiplayer sessions, share your works and achievements or work with other fans on solutions for any Anno relevant topic.
Other than Anno chatter, there is surely also space to talk about anything our community is also interested in.
You can find us under the following link: https://discord.gg/V4xhZ8Z