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Category: General

Union Update: Studio playtest in Mainz

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.

Communtiy Update
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.

Community Spotlight
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

 

6 Comments

DevBlog: Of 3D Architects and Construction Workers

Take a second, close your eyes and think about Anno. What is the first image that comes to your mind? Probably hundreds of detailed buildings, swarmed by citizens following their daily life and a majestic view over a formerly untouched island paradise. But how do we create all of this, and how does it come together as a detailed panorama of a model city? In today’s Devblog, our 3D Artist Rolf Bertz will show you how we create the detailed world of Anno, starting with nothing but many ideas and a few simple shapes.

Hi, my name is Rolf, and I am a 3D artist working on Anno 1800, after having joined the team almost five years ago. My first job was as a Concept Artist on Might and Magic Heroes: Online for half a year, before a personal dream came true and I moved over to the Anno side of things. During my work on Anno 2205 I slowly transitioned over to 3D art and becoming a character artist. These days, I enjoy creating lots of buildings for Anno 1800.

First Steps / General understanding 3D Assets
You probably remember our first behind the scenes art blog about the work of our concept artists, which already gave you a first glimpse at the first 3D work, which we create for new assets. But before I start exploring the whole process of 3D asset creation, we need to explain an important thing: what is the job of a 3D artist, and is it all just about buildings?

Strictly speaking, a 3D artist creates three-dimensional assets, but things are a bit more complex when creating a big strategic city-builder like Anno. While there are 2D graphics such as UI elements, the majority of them are made out of polygons. To be able to manage such a big library of 3D objects, many of our artists are specialized in certain types of 3D asset or production processes. We still talk about an Anno game, so many of our 3D artists are of course mainly busy creating buildings as they make up a huge part of our total asset library, but there are also artists responsible for vegetation, islands, wildlife or special effects. Creating all these other elements might be an interesting topic for the future, but with this first 3D blog, we want to focus on what takes up the majority of our time. Without further ado, let us see how we build an Anno building from scratch.

Step 1: Where do we start?
Let us talk about that 3D mockup from the concept art DevBlog for a second. The first 3D step in a creation process plays an important role in the decision process and helps to shape the final concept art, which will later serves us well when creating the final building in 3D.
Building that 3D mockup starts when we get the scribble from our concept art team. Based on that concept, we will start to block out the shape and overall look of the asset. While the process is simple at this point, as we are not wasting time with too many details, the mockup helps to get a feeling for the overall look and proportions of the building and with that, see if the concept fits with the overall art-style or blends well in to our cityscape. Our goal: the building needs to blend in while the player still needs to be able to identify its purpose in the blink of an eye.

Step 2: Now the real fun begins
The next step starts when the design receives its final approval and we get the finished concept art to start creating a high polygon asset of the building. There is a common saying between 3D artists that at this point, you become architect and construction worker at the same time. At the beginning, you have to decide which basic shape seems to be the most prominent in the concept. For buildings, that is mostly likely going to be a cube. With our newly spawned cube, we start to alter its shape systematically. During that alteration process, you add more details and other shapes, which you then merge into the object, until it resembles the basic form and shape of the building you want to create.

When your structural work is done (including walls, rooftop and all the other necessary parts), it’s time for the detail work. With a high polygon asset, that means a ton of details: from the smallest bits like shingles on the roof up to every crack in the wall and from brickwork up to grain on wooden beams. At this point, our assets consist of sometimes over a million polygons (as mentioned, ALL the bricks, cracks and so on). Imagine you build your city out of hundreds of these highly detailed buildings, consisting of millions of polygons each. Sounds like a rough ride for your PC hardware.

Luckily, there is help on the horizon, which ensures that we will have nice looking details in the game while not tanking the performance of your PC into the ground.
So what we do now is to take the high polygon model and create a low polygon version of it, where we reconstruct the high detailed shape in a simpler version. To get an idea, one grid in Anno has a limitation of 250 polygons and a texture resolution of 256 pixels. That also means that we have a bit more leeway with bigger buildings, which have more grid space available.
With our newly created low polygon asset, it is time to quite literally skin the high polygon version of the building in a process called UV unwrapping.
To keep it simple, the surface of a 3D model is actually a flat 2D plane. In order to create that “skin”, we cut the 3D object at the edges, open it like a cardboard house and put everything flat on the ground. As a result, we get kind of a skin or blueprint map of your 3D asset, which we will need in the next step.

An example what a typical Anno building looks like as a Blueprint Map

Step 3: Baking, anyone?
The next step is called baking and has, unfortunately, nothing to do with cake. In order to get our “skin” with the high poly details on the low polygon building, we have to “bake” the high definition shape on it. Imagine putting a highly detailed skin on a low detailed model underneath, where we keep the simple polygon groundwork but the surface will gain depth and detail. The result of that baking procedure is called a “normal map” where all detail and even lighting to a degree is embossed into the skin to create the illusion of depth. It is like staring at a wall and seeing all its holes, bumps and unevenness while in reality, it is a completely flat surface.

Step by step, a high poly model is turned into a textured Anno building

Step 4: Let’s bring in the textures
We are getting closer to the final asset and now it is time for some shader work. With the use of shaders, we can define the various materials, which our building consists of. As an example, we define what is wood or metal and even how the surface reacts, like if it is shiny or worn down surface. After we defined the substance of each part of the asset, it is time to paint it. For that, we have to do some research in advance, as we need to know how materials like burned brick look up close or what would be a fitting color for a rooftop in that age. Metal can be especially tricky, as we have to consider reflections. The best way to explain that is probably gold, as its natural color is actually a yellow tone and the reflections gives it the metal shiny look we are so familiar with.

As with concept art, we use inspirations of that time while our assets still need to convey that special Anno feeling and look. We also have to check how the colors and texture look when you watch your city zoomed out. Keep in mind that an Anno player spends most of the time watching his city from a bird’s eye view and we have to ensure that they look great and harmonize at a larger scale while still looking good when you watch your city up close.

Examples of the different texture maps, which affect things like the perceived depth or shadows

And this is what we do
Our asset is now a detailed, textured and nice looking building, but we are not quite done yet. There is still a lot of work to do, from alterations based on feedback, fixing smaller and even bigger issues and – not to forget – bringing the asset to life with animation work. Nevertheless, we now have a nicely detailed and optimized asset and that might be enough for today, especially as the next steps are a job for one of my colleagues. So how about a second part where 3D Artist Carsten explains how he breathes that crowded living feeling into the world of Anno?

So what do you think? Do you like zooming in on your cities to see all the little details we put into our buildings’ textures, animations and of course the citizens, or do you spend most of your playtime zoomed out as far as possible to keep an eye on your entire city? Let us know in a comment, and until next time,

Rolf

11 Comments

Union Update: October and things to come


Before we dive into todays Union Update, here a chance to watch or rewatch the Anno 1701 Anniversary stream.

More time has passed, and the month of October is already ending. With 10 blogs in October alone and over 1000 comments in one month, we were almost as busy creating content as all of you in the Anno union were engaging. As this week will be somewhat short for us here at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz (we have two bank holidays coming up), we will today share a quick recap of previous content and a look at some of the things you can expect in November before we return to our regularly scheduled content next week.

Union Updates and Devblog
We started October with a small throwback to our announcement at gamescom and with the Concept Art DevBlog, kicking off a new series of blogs to give you more insights into the various disciplines here in the studio. You seemed to like it, so we definitely want to continue with these blogs. There was also some talk about a very important topic: fishing huts. With our “So where is the fish?” DevBlog, we wanted to show you how player feedback has already affected the game’s development and how varied feedback collection can be. Finally, we started our second vote, allowing Anno Union members to vote on the third exhibition event for our monument, based on community suggestions.

Livestreaming and Anniversary content
It was also the month of our first livestream, as the AnnoCast had its first test-run for our podcast format where we share insights about the current development of the game. And our second show aired just two weeks after, as part of our Anno 1701 anniversary week. During that week, we highlighted an old classic, sharing memories and giving insights into the development of an older Anno titles. The streaming room is still a work-in-progress, so expect the layout and decorations to change for some of the future shows. We are of course also planning to show you Anno 1800 live and in action, but cannot share an exact date for this yet.

What is coming in November?
As teased before, we want to talk about a topic that we know is very near and dear for many of you: the military aspect of the game. You can expect a meaty blog similar to the recent Multisession DevBlog where we will dive into this topic and our philosophy for it. We also saw that you enjoyed learning about concept art, so we will continue where that blog left off with a look at the work of our 3d artists. In addition, the Visionary has not been idling since winning our first community vote, so you can expect to hear more from him soon as well. There is also the upcoming Anniversary of Anno 2070, and we would like to hear from you what you would like to see in celebration of it.

We are still working on some updates to the website, so rest assured that this topic has not been forgotten. Finally, we are still panning to invite a few lucky Anno union members for a playtest before the end of the year, so definitely keep an eye out for that.

But what do you think?
We received great comments during the AnnoCast and the Anno 1701 Let’s Play and we are curious about further feedback regarding streams and anniversary content. Do you like the shows? Is there something you would like to see more of? And how do you feel in general about content highlighting some of our older titles?

15 Comments

1701 Anniversary: Share your memories!

The Anno series first bustled onto gamer’s screens nearly two decades ago, and next week marks the anniversary for one of the biggest milestones in the history of the Anno series.

The release of Anno 1701 in the year 2006 was a big step for the series, an evolution from the first two 2D isometric titles into the third dimension of gaming. It is also a very special game for us here at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz, as it was the first time that we (under our original name Related Designs) got our hands on the steering wheel of this storied franchise.

Many of those developers are still a part of the team today and they incorporate their experiences into the development of the upcoming Anno 1800. We love to reminisce in memories about the development of the older games and what they have contributed to the series as a whole.
And with these trips down memory lane, we remembered that many of you guys where already a part of our community  back then while newer fans might have also interesting experiences when going back to try out one of the older Anno games.

And here comes the call to action:
Share your Anno 1701 memories, anecdotes or creations such as videos, screenshots or fan art!

What was the first things you did or remembered when starting to play Anno 1701? How about some funny or beloved memories you connect with the first Anno in 3D and why is Anno 1701 still an important game for you as a fan of the series?
We hope that you have plenty of comments or creations to share with the union. You can also post videos, screenshots, stories and other fan art in our Ubisoft fan creation topic:  http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/1760804-Moving-Pictures-We-are-looking-for-Fanvideos-and-streams!

The best entries will get their own spotlight during next week’s Anno 1701 anniversary celebrations. We are curious and excited and wish you all a great weekend!

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DevBlog: So where is the fish?

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

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

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

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

Willkommen in Mainz!

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

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

It’s hands-on time

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

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

Hear me out!

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

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

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

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

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

So the moral of this story…

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

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

Marcel

41 Comments

A journey through the history of Anno

The Anno Union is about the journey of Anno 1800 and future Anno titles, but sometimes it feels good to just lean back and take a look what made the previous Anno games so beloved for so many players. To start you all off into the weekend, come and join us on a trip down memory lane.

It all started in 1998 with the cornerstone of the franchise, Anno 1602. This classic established all the key ingredients of the Anno gameplay formula that we still adhere to, from the humble beginnings with just a ship full of goods and an empty island, to your first few fishing and woodcutting huts and finally, after many hours (and the occasional bankruptcy and restart) a flourishing city.

And while a lot has changed since (hello, third dimension!), we still adhere to many of those core tenets today in the development of Anno 1800.

Fans had to wait four long years for the next evolution in the series, with Anno 1503 releasing in fall 2002. As a classic sequel, 1503 offered fans more of the beloved Anno gameplay, while improving it and adding more complexity to many aspects. Players were now able to discover varied climate zones, interact with several new cultures, and use a larger variety of military units to settle any disputes. Of course, we couldn’t talk about Anno 1503 without mentioning the multiplayer controversy, with the initially promised mode being delayed and ultimately cancelled- in fact, those events are one of the reasons why we already announced that Anno 1800 will have multiplayer from day one!

The next game in the series, Anno 1701, is very special to us here at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz, as it was the first game in the series that our team (under its original name Related Designs) developed. In fact, many of the members of the 1701 team are still with us, and are now some of the key members of the Anno 1800 team -including our Executive Producer, Creative Director, Art Director and our Technical Directors! So what was new in Anno 1701 besides the developer? The biggest difference was of course the jump to 3D graphics, bringing your islands to life in an all-new dimension. By the time the game released in 2006, the step to 3D was overdue, especially given the series’ tradition of being on the cutting edge for strategy game visuals. Needless to say that this is a tradition that lives on to this day, as we definitely hope that Anno 1800 will be a great looking game by the time it releases in Winter 2018.


The new team here in Mainz were able to follow up their Anno debut with one of the most beloved entries in the series when they released Anno 1404 in 2009. Building on the three previous games, 1404 combined deep gameplay, great graphics and a lengthy campaign to become the pinnacle (and to date last) of the historic Anno games. It also introduced a Diplomacy system, which will return in Anno 1800 to give you many options when it comes to interacting with your fellow rulers.

Following that came a bold move with the announcement of Anno 2070. For the first time, players would go to the future, as we replaced beloved series staples like aforementioned fishing hut and instead allowed players to build huge futuristic metropolises on land, and even under the sea. Another element unique to Anno 2070 was the choice between which factions you wanted to align yourself with – Ecos, Tycoons or Techs – and the central role that topics like ecology and pollution played, challenging players to decide which path they wanted to follow.

So where do you go next after you built a futuristic underwater city? To space, obviously! With 2015’s Anno 2205, we decided that “the world is not enough”, as we allowed players to leave mother earth’s familiar embrace behind to colonize the moon. One big new feature in 2205 was the Session-based gameplay- instead of just building on one map, players could in parallel build in several different sectors across the globe and moon, and seamlessly switch between them. We are not going into too many details yet, but rest assured that this session-based gameplay is making a big return in Anno 1800. Where will you be able to settle? Well, that is a topic for another day…

Which brings us to the end of our little excursion through the history of Anno. We hope you have a great weekend, and please let us know in the comments what kind of throwback content you would love to see here on the Anno Union. Blog posts, old photos, Let’s Play streams of older games- we want to hear from you!

27 Comments

Let’s talk about feedback!

To be honest: the vast amount of detailed feedback with the start of the Anno Union blew us away. We knew that you would be as passionate as resourceful but we underestimated the extent of your passion.

While we work to improve the final bits of the website and prepare ourselves to share videos and streams with you guys, we decided to answer some of your first comments at the same. For that, we pulled Creative Director Dirk Riegert and Community Developer Bastion Thun out of their offices and gave them a printed version of your comments. The weight of the ideas, comments and suggestions was breathtaking.

With over 1000 comments in the Anno Union already, it wasn’t easy to pick a first set of comments. As we will explain development relevant topics in near future, we decided to concentrate on a few general questions about the Anno Union and Anno 1800. We will to react to your feedback more frequently in near future.

t_picklock
The Anno Union is a good idea in general.
But I think that the focus on communication via comments is not really optimal.

Basti: We got some feedback regarding the comment section. We will implement a few improvements soon and in addition, will offer different ways and formats to keep discussions going and to collect your feedback. From the general comments to voting’s, questionnaires, the Ubisoft forum and media content such as live streams and video updates. There is always room for improvement so keep the ideas coming.

xTopsy
I am with the previous comment: Please don’t make it too easy. I think it is an important part of Anno that you have to pay for mistakes being made and that one click shouldn’t be an easy way out to revert everything.

Dirk: We are aware that Anno 2205 did not met all the expectations of our players. Especially the missing of some key features, which were relevant for the long-time motivation, was a problem for some of you. We analyzed exactly that feedback and checked all internal factors which lead to that situation. For that reason, we will set the focus for Anno 1800 on the essential elements of the game, such as a multiplayer mode or AI characters. Furthermore, it is of very importance for us that the game experience is as flexible as possible to ensure that new players are not lost in the sea of possibilities, while experienced players have a variety of options, ways to configure the game and freedom to create their perfect Anno experience.

jdredd62
Please dear developers, you have a vast amount of options but please don’t forget new players in such games.

Dirk: The Anno series has many passionate fans, some of them sunk hundreds of hours in every single title. We want to bring a satisfying experience to all of them. But it is also important for us to win new players over to the Anno series. Especially Anno 2205 had, when we are talking about an easy first step into the game, excellent features but we want to improve that further. But it is important to say that we don’t want to cut down the depth of the game for that.

yeti1962
This blog reminds me about the various „forumblogs“ in AO, where they ensured us that they read every comment, but feedback to the suggestions came rarely, even less in the form of direct answers.
With that in mind, a frequent „Questions and Suggestions“ would be a big improvement. At least I am allowed to dream here.
  

Basti: We will do our best to meet your expectations. But at the end of the day, actions will be more important than promises. Give us just a bit of time to catch up with everything. With nearly 1000 comments on the Anno Union alone, our team had a lot of work to through all Union comments, forum posts and other reactions on channels such as Twitter and Facebook. We cannot promise that we will be able to catch and answer everything. But our whole team is incredibly interested about your feedback. Nearly every day, co-workers stop by at my desk and ask for the current state of the union and read posts on their own during breaks. We want to use anything possible to get in contact with you. For that reason, will bring as many interactive formats as possible, from hangout feedback sessions to livestreams. While we cannot talk about the cadence of each content yet, we want to ensure that we are in a constant dialogue with our Union members.

Dorimil
Surprising announcement of a new Anno and even a new website. Seems like that Ubi/BB learned a lesson thanks to 2205. I hope that you take is serious and will follow that path tot he end (sorry but too many not fullfilled promises in the last years…)

Basti: We understand that you guys are skeptical. But we also hope that the future and our current activities for the Anno Union initiative show our passion and commitment, as we share the same passion for the Anno series as you. With the 2205 frontier DLC, we had the chance to invite players before the actual release of the content and the result was incredibly valuable feedback. For that reason, we want to get player feedback as early as possible. And we want that feedback for Anno 1800 as well as the Anno Union. So please, feel free to share all your thoughts and ideas with us.

Annothek
A small suggestions for the comments.
Wouldn’t it be better to limit the amount of comments to maybe 10 per page before the Site creates another page? Currently, we are spending a lot of time scrolling on the page.

Basti: We understand that it is a too much scrolling right now and will perform ongoing improvement on the site such as limiting the comment section. We will try out several options for page size until we find the one that works best.

eroark79
I am the owner of ALL the Ubisoft Anno games starting with 1602. These games are AWESOME!!!!!! I would love to be in the Alpha and Beta testing phases of the game. I cannot wait til this one is released

Basti: Playtesting is a crucial part of the Anno Union initiative. These playtests are an important part to test the game in an early stage. With that said, if you are an active member of the Anno Union and if you share your feedback frequently, there will be a good chance that you get to test the game early!

philriggin
I read on Game Spot that “Winter” means first quarter 2018. So not too far off!

Dirk: That was a misunderstanding. We are not talking about this winter as more about the winter coming next year. It wouldn’t make sense to invite players to join us becoming a part of the long-term development of the game if it would be almost finished. 6 month up to the final release wouldn’t give us enough time to take your feedback into account. We are more than one year away from the final release and Anno 1800 is currently in the so-called “Pre-Alpha” state, where the various game elements getting build to come later together as a complete game. We have enough time to check your feedback, share our progress and to discuss about the game itself.

Bre2d

Waiting for it.
Like the other.
My first ship will be called Titanic.

Dirk: Titanic? Then we are lucky that there are no icebergs in the game!

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Vote your favorite NPC into the game!

It’s about time to kick off our first Anno Union community vote. When creating a game, tons of creative ideas are flying around the studio but during the development process, we have to make hard decisions. That means some ideas have to go on hold, and eventually go out in order to ensure that the best one goes big.

A diverse cast of AI Characters has been an important part of Anno games for a long time. They help to immerse yourself in our game world and are your ally achieving victory or your bitter opponent during a session. With that said, we would like to introduce you to six interesting candidates for our last AI character for our NPC roster, and it is up to you who will make it on the ship when Anno1800 sets sail.

Find a short description below to make your choice easier, or maybe even harder. You will be able to vote for one of the characters (yes, only one) in the big voting highlighted at the right side of the Anno Union page. We will keep the voting up for a while and when it is time to make the decision of which character we will further develop, we will make that choice based on your actions.

Furthermore, we want to give you the chance to become a part of the characters journey. That means that with weeks and month to come, we will give you frequent updates about the development, from final artwork to 3D animation, classic Anno style.

A) Artur Gasparov – The Visionary
Descending from a noble bloodline, Artur studied mathematics, art and architecture to become the single most influential architect of the Empire. Artur strives for perfection. His works are breathtaking, sometimes even provocative. He dreams of creating the perfect utopian metropolis one day. Many call him the greatest visionary of modern times, still some voices question his inability to compromise, and point out Artur’s highly neurotic nature.

B) Hafsa Sultan – The Ambassador
A hookah pipe-smoking princess of the near-east, Hafsa revels in her wealth – loving jewelry and clothes best of all. She is a talented, enigmatic lioness, yet finds her duties as ambassador lack challenge. She only seems to have a vague interest in keeping her family dynasty alive, despite the fact it crumbles at home. Nevertheless, through her charm an ulterior plan appears, a plan she is keeping extremely secret.

C) Jacob “Jake” Turner – The Gambler
Regardless of his razorblade smile and shiny suits Jake is in desperate need of money. Always. He is extremely charming, wasting his talent on being a notorious gambler, con artist and dazzler. His enterprises are as expensive as they are risky, and in the end a lot of people lose a lot of money. Maybe that’s the reason why Jake, as he calls himself nowadays, changes his face like other people change their underwear.

D) Florence Morel – The Occultist
Florence Morel began her fascination with the occult as a morbid little girl, when she claimed to have found a mirror between worlds. Inheriting a vast fortune, her gothic search for truth now unfolds on a grander scale. Her army of acolytes seem bewitched, letting no one and no thing obstruct their leader. They say it is Morel’s destiny to set loose universal mysteries – for good or ill – and in doing so, change humankind forever.

E) Silas Grendel – The Mobster
Grendel is a vicious and ruthless racketeer, commanding his army of rats to get things done. He began running cutthroat carnivals, until his was the only circus in every town. Now his brutal concern only grows, with him king elect of the underworld. With dark nexus behind him, grander schemes are afoot; a man like Grendel wants to tattoo his name into the forearm of history.

F) Dr. Hugo Mercier – The Anarchist
Dr. Mercier did not spend five years reading politics at a great University just to toe the party line. No, his grand vision is anarchy – absolute freedom for everyone! It was a mistake of the Empire then, to think Dr. Mercier might make a suitable ‘governor’. Only in hindsight is it clear he is the definition of rebellion – a man with such conviction in his beliefs, he is willing to die for them.

42 Comments

Come and see Anno 1800 at gamescom 2017!

Visiting gamescom 2017? You can be among the first in the world to see Anno 1800! Being based in Germany, the team at Ubisoft Blue Byte has always loved gamescom, as it gives us a chance to meet face-to-face with our players, and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to show some of you attending the show this year an early first glimpse at the game in action.

Three times a day, our Community Developer Bastian will be in the Ubisoft Lounge at the Ubisoft booth (Hall 6.1, booth B20) for an hour to present the game to you, and answer some of your most pressing questions.

When?

Seats are limited and strictly first come, first serve- so make sure to be there on time!

What we are showing

So what are we gonna show you during these presentations? As the game is still in an very early pre-aplpha phase (keep in mind that we are aiming for a launch in Winter 2018), it will be a hands-off presentation very similar to what we show press and partners behind closed doors in the Business Area, so it’s a cool opportunity for players to take a look behind the curtain. We will explain our reasons for picking the 19th century as our setting, our goal to deliver the ultimate Anno experience, and how you – the communities out there – can help us make this the best possible game!

Afterwards, we will have around twenty minutes set aside for your questions (if we can already answer them), and to chat.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Cologne this week!

 

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