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Category: General

1701 Anniversary: Share your memories!

The Anno series first bustled onto gamer’s screens nearly two decades ago, and next week marks he 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

34 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!

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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!

27 Comments

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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Jump aboard the Anno Union

The Anno Union sets sail and we need you in Anno’s new community initiative.

Join the team at Ubisoft Blue Byte here in picturesque Mainz in the creation of Anno 1800. Get the latest news, development insights, behind the scenes content and help us shape the future of the franchise, as we regularly invite gamers to share their feedback, vote on features, create content and test the game during its development.

You are not only at the right place to get all Anno 1800 information and updates to come, we also will actively look out for your input in order to use the vast knowledge of our Anno Union member to shape and test our game. Our most dedicated and active Anno Union member will get the chance to play the game as early as 2017, one year before our release.

While there is still a vast ocean to cross before the release, we decided to invite you early. We want to create the ultimate Anno experience together, because your passion is what always drove us. With the long history of the Anno franchise, taking the next step side by side with our veteran players and new strategy fans alike was the logical step to create the game both we and our fans want.

Keep in mind that all the material we will share in the upcoming weeks and months are of a game in a very early development state. We are currently in so called Pre-Alpha and with upcoming blogs, we will update you on the current state of the game as well as explaining what the lifecycle of a game in development actually means.

More details will follow soon, so keep a keen and sharp eye on new content on the Anno Union and jump right away in our comment section to share your thoughts, questions and ideas!

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Anno 1800 announcement

Choose your strategy for victory! Welcome to the next installment in the beloved PC-exclusive strategy city-building franchise.

This is the dawn of the industrial age and the path you choose will define your world. Are you renovator or exploiter? Suppressor or liberator? It’s up to you how the world will remember your name.

In Anno 1800, players will take charge of their own fortune as they navigate the rapidly evolving technological and malicious political landscape of the 19century in their quest to build an empire that will stand the test of time.

Combining beloved features with innovative gameplay in a memorable new setting, Anno 1800 marks the beginning of a new era for the Anno series.

23 Comments