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Category: UnionUpdate

Union Update: First focus-test has concluded

This week in the Anno Union, we return to the life of your factory workers and explain how your power over their working conditions can not only impact the productivity of your economy, but also the happiness of your residents. More residential tier DevBlog’s are on the way in the future, accompanied by more details about Anno 1800’s feature set as it opens up during your gameplay progress.

The first Anno Union focus-test has concluded
Over the course of the last two weeks, we gave a dozen Union Members the chance to test the development version of Anno 1800. The dedication and effort all of our Union testers put into their reports and detailed observations was astounding, providing dozens of pages with valuable data for our team.
But it’s not only about additional learnings for the game’s improvements; knowing when a feature works as intended and if the gameplay flow feels rewarding and satisfying is easily as important to us as new ideas. In theory, you can develop a game for decades, continuously improving and adding features and as a result, never getting the product ready for the release. For that reason, positive feedback helps us to know if we are on the right track with the game and its existing list of features.

So what is next? The first thing we need to do is to create an aggregated report, combining all the feedback from the playtest, which then needs to get discussed to identify action points to further improve or develop.
The success of the first test demonstrated that the combination of feedback collected via the Union, events and playtests creates an effective synergy of data to work with.
As it was only the beginning, we will continue to leverage the knowledge from our community with future Anno Union focus tests. As always, we will keep you in the loop and updated as soon as we are about to open the second focus test group.

Anno Cast 03 this week Thursday, March 22nd, 4.30pm CET
Anno Cast 03 goes live this week, break a leg! This Thursday, we will discuss some current and past development of the game, how the Union feedback helps us in all stages of development and of course, show you Anno 1800 in action again. As with previous episodes, we will also answer some questions, some of them previously gathered in the comments (so keep asking) and others during the actual show.

As always, we will publish a blog this Thursday to watch the stream live on the Anno Union.


Union Update: A postcard from the world fair

Welcome to our latest Community Update! Before we move over to this week’s content, do not forget to vote for the community island in the voting box to the right. Many of you are curious about the size difference between each island but do not worry, we saved a spot among the larger island no matter which one makes first place.

This weeks DevBlog: Residential Tier II – workers
With our next DevBlog, we will leave our charming farming village and take a cab to the brick stone city suburbs, where the working folks find some rest after a long day in our smouldering factories. More and more pieces coming together and the second residential tier is the big first step into the industrial revolution.

Anno Cast 03 will air next Thursday, 22nd of March at 4.30pm CET on:
Due to sickness, we sadly have to postpone the third episode of our AnnoCast livestream by a week. It will be a great chance for us to show you a few of the previously tackled topics in detail and to answer questions from our community. If you won’t be able to make it to the live-stream, feel free to drop questions in the comment section below or in the live-stream blog, which will go up shortly before the stream starts next Thursday.

But before we end todays update, we want to share something with you. Inspired by your great entries to the story contest and previous Union votes, here comes a letter from a visitor of the monumental world fair and admirer of the “Architectural Wonders” exhibition:

Dear, beloved committee,

It is no exaggeration to say your exhibition “Architectural Wonders” was for my friends and I, not merely a great exhibition, but a life-altering one!
Upon hearing a World’s Fair was come to Bright Sands, we booked our cruises, and jammed our portmanteaus to the gills with the finest hats and dresses. A long and expensive trip it was sure to be, but as we would discover, one thoroughly worthwhile.
As our ship puffed into the bay, there was considerable excitement – we tourists are not altogether so hard to please – for the city that unfolded before us was mesmerising! A beautiful bustling skyline that would grace any postal card. Already in high spirits, we wondered what scintillations must await us at the World’s Fair itself.

“A miscellany of modern farming equipment?” someone suggested. “Oh what a dreary thought!” we all laughed. “I heard it might be ship fixings…” said another, “…and I think we have seen quite enough of those!” This of course, tickled us so greatly, it all became rather embarrassing!
But when we saw the city turned out in their best clothes, chests bursting with pride, we soon struck the crinkles from our crinoline. After all, we were the honoured guests, participants in a global celebration of the age. This was something we may never chance to see again in our lifetimes.

 As we stepped into the hall, great gasps rose to the glass-iron canopy. Never in our lives had we seen such innovation, such bewildering and copious inspiration. Ornaments of modern form and style, hitherto inconceivable, bedecked the galleries and walkways. Master masons and sculptors chiselled expertly in pure white stone. From a soapbox, the esteemed Mr Burnett declaimed his genius, demonstrating precisely how the modern bridge might be engineered and erected. Vast books of plans and patterns fascinated with their particulars.

Before long we were quite spent, and so were our purses! We all spent more than ever we had planned, but such an unforgettable visit merited every shiny penny. We all agreed to return at the drop of a hat, should another such exhibition ever take place in Bright Sands, which I’m certain you, as the organisers, will be most delighted to hear.

Ever yours,

Your glowing admirers.


Union Update: A message to our community

In this week’s Community Update, we want to appreciate the driving force behind the Anno Union: You, our Fans and Union members who give us valuable feedback, support us and – not to forget – share your creative energy with us.

We were blown away by not only the amount of entries, but also by the many different creative takes on the contest such as letters, newspapers, stage plays and many more.
You might imagine that it was not easy for us to pick our three favorites out of so many great entries. And for that reason, we decided to honor five entries for the third and two entries for the second place. Our big “thanks” to everyone who participated and we hope that you enjoyed writing these entries as much as we enjoyed reading them.

Without further ado, congratulation to all the winners:

1st Place – Velerios1 1701 Collector’s Edition signed by the team
2nd Place – Aleera_Gorvan, Sermo2010 – Not exactly a surprise 1701 Goodiebag J
3nd Place– DiruKamachi,, Chris.666, Bellasinya, RayoOyar – A signed copy of a previous Anno game (we let you know between which games you can choose)
As mentioned, we will get in contact with you to sort out all the details.

And there is more to come this week: the next stage of our island contest, plus some mail from a visitor of our world fair exhibition.

Focus Test:
The first group of testers have been invited, so you can expect small updates about the playtests in the weeks to come. If you did not make it into the first test, no worries: we will have several tests throughout the year and will let the Union know when we are about to open new focus groups.

Anno Cast is returning March 15th
Our stream will finally return in 2018 with its first episode airing March 15th 4:30pm. As ongoing construction work in our studio forced us to move the streaming room temporarily, the scenery might look a little bit different. We will share more details about the show next week Monday!


Union Update: Workforce and production isles?

A turbulent month is coming to its end, as quite a few new features were introduced, and we are currently busy tying up a few loose strands from before.
We will send out the focus test invitations for the first group of testers pretty soon, so keep an eye on your mailbox. For the playtest, we had to do some additional polishing on our development version of the game, which lead to a slight delay to early March.

We plan to bring you the long awaited update regarding the writing contest next week; in addition, we will present you the finalists for the upcoming island voting. It was not an easy task for us to select the finalists from over 100 amazing entries!
After our big introduction to Anno’s residential tier system, this week’s DevBlog will bring the stars of the first tier to the stage: enter the farmers of Anno 1800.
To see that the blog resonated with so many of you made us happy and we are looking forward to showing you some of the features in action in the next AnnoCast.

But before we tease too much about the upcoming month, let’s move over to this week’s community C&A:

Community QnA

Community Many of you are curious how exactly the trade routes work between sessions.
Sebastian: As many of you assumed correctly, it will take some time until a ship reaches another session. Here an example:
We have an island in session A, which produces a good currently needed in Session B. We start with creating a route to send the ship to pick up the goods in session A. When loaded, it will travel to the border of the map in order to leave session A. It will now take some travel time until it finally at the map border of session B. I cannot give you more specific details about the exact length of the travel time as of yet, as we are still working on the right mixture between realism and good gameplay flow. Ships should need some time to travel across the ocean but it should not take too long to affect the gameplay negatively.

fabian_eiter Will I need to create residential buildings on every isle separately in order to generate the needed workforce for my production?
The short answer: No. The more detailed explanation: Generally speaking, you will always need residential buildings to generate workforce, like farmers taking care of the crops. However, it will be the case that some of your islands do not need your entire workforce. You will be able to transfer such workforce overhead to your production isles.
It is up to you whether you want to generate your workforce on your production islands or to transfer them within your empire. We will provide more in depth details about the workforce system in a future blog.

Annorevolution The high tier residential buildings from early screenshots seem to be 3×6 in size. Does that mean that these kinds of buildings will not be in the release version of the game? How do you plan to create an organic looking cityscape?
Basti: Higher tier residential buildings will connect to create dense house facades, similar to the system from Anno 1404. That allows us to create the look of connected big housing complexes based on several smaller units. The screenshots, which show a modern metropolis in the 19th century, are representative of the look we aim for with the release version of the game.

Gxy12 Will the new workforce system require that you use lower tier residents in higher tier production buildings, or even buildings which rely only from workers from lower tiers?
Workforce will not be limited to their specific tier, so you will be able to utilize your lower tier workforce for some production buildings from a higher tier. For more details about the workforce system, keep an eye on future DevBlogs on the Union, as this topic will get some more coverage in near future.

otacon2002: What is going on with the trains? Do you have any information how trains will work?
Basti: We are working on it to tackle some of the most burning topics in near future. We wouldn’t do the bigger features a favour if we would just drop some details in a community Q&A. We hope that we will soon be ready to give you some insights on Anno 1800s trains, a topic where the team is really curious about feedback from the Anno Union.


Union Update: Islands galore and community Q&A

It might be the coldest month of the year, but neither the development nor the Anno Union suffers from the winter blues. As announced, we will relentlessly bring you weekly DevBlog’s about fundamental core mechanics of the series. This week, you can look forward to the start of a whole series about Anno 1800’s residential tiers. We will highlight the artistic vision behind their design, their importance for the setting and their importance for Anno’s gameplay!

Talking about passionate topics: we want to say thanks for everyone participating in the island contest. We got flooded with a crazy amount of amazing entries and our team is currently going through every single one of them in order to present you the finalists as soon as possible. A big thumbs up from the team!

Some time has passed and we will announce the winners of or previous writing contest soon. We made our choice already and had a cool idea how we could properly present the winning stories. This caused a slight delay but rest assured, we lift the curtain in an upcoming Union Update.

Another update about the next AnnoCast and the Community Roundtable is on the horizon. We got plenty of feedback about the first roundtable and we guess that many of you look forward to another evening chat between the Anno Union and the development team?

Before we head over to the community Q&A part of the update, we like to give you some general information about the focus playtest: We all know that you can’t wait to hear more about the tests, specifically their exact starting date. Please keep in mind that the tests are under a strict NDA, and therefore, we won’t provide full coverage on the tests. However, we will briefly talk about the focus-playtests in blog articles and let you all know when they invitations for the first group are out.

Community Q&A

Resources are important for almost all strategic elements of the game, so please give us adaptable and varied settings when generating an endless-match. Why shouldn’t it be possible to just define the amount of resources? “Unlimited – high – low” would be sufficient to create a rich variety of scenarios and end the endless discussions about the pros and cons of unlimited lodes.
Sebastian: Limited lodes would make the flow of the game much more convoluted and interrupt the gameplay, especially in the already more complicated late game portion of a match. Furthermore, you will be able to claim a high amount of islands across different sessions in Anno 1800. Micro managing every single one of them could end up being quite a daunting task.
Let’s say we have limited lode capacity, that means we would need to create interesting systems to refill the resource lodes.  Just using “a bit of cash” to refill them would not be enough, because think about it: how wants to be frequently reminded that one of your dozen mines depleted just to press a simple button. That is neither challenging nor fun.
We would be able to create a nice system around it, but it would cost us time developing said feature. Even if it looks like a minor feature, we would need allocate time from other content to realize it. Up to this point, the feature just was not that important for us in order to push something else back. The plenty of feedback we got in the last DevBlog made us realize how important a complex lode system is for the community. For that reason, our team will start an internal discussion based on your feedback.

It might be worth to think about making content, which is matter of controversy in the community, just an optional part of the game. That would allow everyone to create his or her individual game experience. In that case, you would also need to be careful to not make the customization options too complicated but still offer enough to allow for an exciting variety.
Basti: We always need to keep the overall scope of the development in mind. We want to give you a broad variety of game options, as replay-ability is for the community and for us an important aspect of an Anno game. As you mentioned it already, we need to be careful to not overwhelm players with too many options, as just “adding more” is not always beneficial for the quality of a game. Here comes the Anno Union into play, as the program allows us to present you features to get detailed feedback from our communities.


I hope that you will be able to see steam powered machines used in production buildings, as it was the time where steam became a part of agriculture and heavy industry alike.
Basti: As mentioned in the last stream, the technological advancements of that era will be represented in the game in various ways. Keep an eye on the blogs of the upcoming weeks, as we will walk you through the core elements of the game and through the advancements of the 19th century. With Anno 1800, progression should feel like a journey through the century.

So far, blogs got always released on a Monday or Thursday and between these days, I check the website only on occasionally. How about the option to opt in for a newsletter, which informs you when a new blog is online?
We usually aim for the same frequency of days to publish our blogs but sometimes, the amount of blogs or even the publishing date can varys. We got some good feedback about that during our community roundtable and we plan to bring you a chance to subscribe to the blog with the next web update. It probably will not be a classic newsletter though, as we want to reserve that for important events and topics.

I heard that people who work in Ubisoft usually have a Degree (University Degree), but what kind of education people who work in Quality Assurance team exactly have?
Dorina: There is no special “tester degree”. We have very different background in QA. Political scientists, Geographers, Sociologists, Media Designers and Computer Specialists. This is important, as these allows us to have a diversified expert view on the product. The different mindsets are incredibly valuable when identifying issues. Beside this, the company permits the testers to get their ISTQB-Certificate (specific software testing certificate).

I am curious how you can get into game development yourself, especially how you can land a job in QA or QC?
Dorina: Many colleagues in our QA department started in a temporary position and during their time here, they demonstrated their skills and passion for the project.  That leads to many QA tester starting as career jumper or newcomer to game development.

schwubbe1980, Squ4wk, Oldsmobile1963, DiruKamachi
About difficult issues and the amount of bugs during development….
Dorina: It really depends on the scope, size and the lifecycle of a project. During the various development stages of a game, you encounter a high amount of bugs, which also absolute normal state for every project. Think about it, before a game comes together during Alpha, it is a bare framework of features, which are not fully integrated into the game yet. Bugs are prioritized by the impact on the game and how long it will take to solve them. Based on that evaluation, every issue has an estimate of workhours it will cost to solve it. The real bug hunting becomes interesting in the later stages of the game, when many if of the features get implemented into the client as we come closer to the final release version of the game.


Union Update: Island creation contest

What an exciting week it has been thanks to the big announcement of the upcoming Union focus-playtests and a passionate look inside in the work of our level art team.
This week, it is time for the next DevBlog in our logistic series, where we will demonstrate how we bring back both complexity and freedom of choice with Anno 1800’s trading routes.

While you will hear back about the story contest winners soon, today we want to fuel your creativity once more:

The Union Island creation contest
Islands design has been a matter of passionate community discussions for a long time now and you shared plenty of interesting ideas and suggestions in last week’s DevBlog.
While we love to take inspiration from your ideas, there is also a creative power in the Anno Union, and we want to use that energy to its fullest potential- so we decided to give our Union the chance to bring a true community created map into the game.

We kick off our official Union island creation contest today and we are looking for your interesting takes on the Anno island formula. The best entries get the chance to become something truly special, as we will put the best maps up for a vote on the Anno Union and the winning island shape will get implemented into the game.

Here are the details:
– The deadline for the contest is Thursday, February 15th and you can post your entry here: Island Creation Contest
– You design your own island shape, you can either do it digitally or send us a scan of your drawn image. – Your island should be a clearly visible island shape shown in top down view.
– Your shape should include terrain elements such as mountains and hills as well as marked spaces for beaches. Keep in mind: if something is not marked as a beach, it is counted as a cliff-side.
– Finally , but very importantly, add interesting details and obstacles. We are curious about your interesting ideas but make sure that things do not get too crazy.
– A picture of your island is mandatory but you can post a short description and the gameplay ideas behind your concept in the forum as well.

Here is an example of shape and drawn areas. 

Focus Playtest requirements and questions

We got plenty of detailed and well thought out applications but we also know that there are some burning questions regarding the focus playtests. Instead of answering every single question in the QnA part separately, we decided to provide some extended details on the playtest and will overhaul the FAQ on the playtest page this week.

Deadlines and do I need to apply again for future playtests?
The application process has no deadline attached and you won’t need to apply for each test separately. Several test sessions will run over the course of the year and we will pick testers always from an aggregated list of applicants, which we will frequently update over time.

If I am invited once, will I be able to play on every future focus test?
You won’t – while we might invite people more than once, we want a variety feedback from different players and for that reason, we will change testers for every focus group. Later tests might require data from bigger groups, so just keep an eye on the Union for future information on that matter.

What are the exact system requirements?
Many of you were curious about the time requirements of the first test. While we aim to provide many options to customize your experience for the final game, our early development version is not optimized yet. That means that performance is subject to change and that the hardware requirements are not representative. It is hard for us to tell right now, but you will most likely need a PC which runs 2205 with at least recommended specs.

Why do I need to be 18+?
We are aware that there are many younger Anno fans out there. The minimum age is a legal requirement as the playtest will be subject of a strict NDA. Remember that we give players access to the in-development version of the game. The NDA requirements might change in a later stage of development and we will keep you updated in future Union Updates.

I can’t play one hour every day, why is it not possible to play just 14 hours over the weekend?
We are aware that at least one hour a day over the course of two weeks is a lot of commitment and not feasible for everyone. Future playtests can vary in length, but for the moment we need detailed feedback on a daily basis from testers.
The one hour is a minimum requirement and as mentioned, you can play as long as you have time during the focus test. We will monitor bugs, might perform changes and fixes to the client as well as ask for specific feedback about certain game elements on a daily basis. Because of that, playing the minimum daily time altogether on a weekend is unfortunately not possible.

Will Uplay be required to test the game?
Yes, Uplay will be a requirement for the focus tests.

I am disappointed that activity in the Union was not taking into account for the application process!
As mentioned on the playtest page, constructive behavior is a requirement to be eligible for playtesting. It makes no sense for us to ask you how active you are in the Anno Union or the Ubisoft forum, as we can gather these data on our own. Activity as well as other community engagement is an absolute plus.

How do feedback and bug reports work, will I have someone to talk to if I encounter problems during the focus test?
We will offer support from a dedicated testing team to all testers. We will provide the exact details if you get invited to a test but rest assured that we have a process and the needed tools for feedback collections and reports.

Community QnA

Do all islands have only a small amount of beaches? Is it the rule that mountains surround islands rather than rising from the middle?
Simon: The beaches are the only spots allowing access to your island. However, you will usually have several beach slots available, depending on the size of an island.
Mountains are not limited to the borders of the playing area, and there will be islands in the game where hills and mountains ascend from the center. We want a variety gameplay challenges and scenarios, and the placement of a mountains and other terrain has a strong influence on the difficulty.

We are curious how many tiles the island shown in the blog has? When you work on the surface details, it seems that you work on one big object, and that before you structure the sectors of the island. How are you doing that? Additionally, I would like to know what kind of textures you use? And how do you ensure that your textures don’t look like repeating tiles? 80 hours of work for one island, I guess that more than one person works on one island?
Simon: Our islands are one big 3D element, which we are able to completely modify and edit as a whole. It is not segmented by separate elements. Our tools allow us to define the construction space while we work on the object. There are several methods and ways of handling textures, such as “Seamless Textures” or “Tint Maps”, which can prevent unwanted tiling effects. But that is a complex topic in itself and like always, often a combination of different techniques. The 80 hours for an island are the average time spent but we share the workload with several team members.

I have one question, did this thing that it can take 80 hours map time become in 1800, 2205 or was it already in early games like 2070?
Simon: In fact, we optimized our workflow a bit since then, which means we need slightly less time than we needed for an average island in 2205.

How many islands would be created for the entire game? Are any of them created via a scripting tool or is it all done manually?
Simon: We don’t want to reveal the final amount of islands for the game as of yet. We use the tool World Machine to create a basic layout for the map which we than alter and polish by hand.

One question, as a Level Artist, are there performance constraints that go into what you can do with the design of an island? Is there a limit to the number of “features” on each island for the sake of engine performance?
Simon: Level artists usually care about making a level visually stunning but we also have to keep performance in mind especially when it comes to placeable objects or complex vegetation, as these can take up a lot of performance if you aren’t careful.



Union Update: Playtest coming soon!

This week on the Anno Union, we continue our behind the scenes insights and demonstrate how we create islands from scratch, share our verdict on the first community roundtable and provide details about the upcoming Anno 1800 focus playtests.

Islands are as much part of Anno’s feeling and personality as the design and animations of our buildings. Since almost 20 years, players begin their journey with a small settlement on newly conquered islands, before they expand their empire and claim new land across the sea. This week, we will show you how we create your future island paradise and as usual, expect many interesting insights about the daily work of a level artist.
While not the conclusion of the behind the scenes series, we will take a short break in order to focus on gameplay features and content in the next couple of weeks. Anno 1800 is quite a feature rich game and there are many important core mechanics to talk about, before we can cover the more advanced features of the game. That means that the Union can look forward to a big push of feature DevBlogs in the next couple of weeks.

Our first community roundtable
Our first community roundtable was a blast! Over 150 fans joined our community team to talk about all things Anno Union last week Wednesday. We had as much fun as you guys and the chance to have a real dialogue with the community gave us a lot of insightful feedback and pushed the Union to the next level.

Here a rough overview over the topics we discussed during the roundtable:
We started the roundtable with a feedback discussion around the Anno Union, where we talked about how we perceived the journey from reveal to the end of 2017 while sharing thoughts and ideas for the future. There was especially one thing you liked and would love to continue in future: transparent development and communication.
We will continue to bring you DevBlogs, insights and news about Anno 1800 while leveraging your feedback for the development, streams and events such as the roundtable should further improve interaction between the Anno Union and us.
We also talked about how much commitment from the team it takes to bring you weekly insights about the development and to discuss features with you in such an early state of the game.

Not surprising that we also got many curious questions about certain features and content of the game. As you might imagine, Union blogs and streams are the right place for us to show content but where able to provide some insights why we might not want or be able to talk about a specific topics right now. First off, we have to get many core features out of the way before diving into the more extended content. The logistics blog was a good example for that, as some core functionalities will allow you to give us spot-on feedback when we talk about the content built around these features. Of course, 2017 was also a test run for ourselves and you can expect a heavy emphasize on feature blogs, streams and playtests this year.

Another topic was general community support and if you think that programs like the Anno Union have an impact on Anno communities out there. We want to push that further by providing a dedicated community space for fansites, content creations and any other efforts from our communities out there. Asking you questions was as important as provide answers, we would like to know from you how we all can grow and support Anno communities out there in the comments below.

The first Anno 1800 focus-playtests
It is happening: our Anno 1800 Union playtests will start as early as this February. Throughout the year, we will give more and more Annoholics in the Union the chance to help us improve the game, as we need as much valuable feedback as possible. For the first tests, we call on Anno experts who are willing to provide us detailed daily feedback in a two-week long test session.

Application process
The idea for an application process was actually brought up by the Union itself and we think it is a good way to get useful information about our potential testers. “So how do I apply?”, you may shout at your screen.
We created a dedicated Union Playtest page, where you can find all details needed about the playtesting and application process.

Just head over to the Anno Union playtest page for further information how you can apply for a seat in one of our focus playtest: Playtest Page

Keep in mind that the application process has no deadline, as we will run several focus playtest this year and will choose players from the pool we continue to build up with the application process.

We bet that there are many questions and we will make sure that we answer as many as possible in the comments or next community QnA, which will come with the next community update.


Union Update: Story contest has ended!

Welcome to our latest Union Update, where we give you a glimpse of this week’s Union content and things headed your way in the near future.

As you might have noticed, the Anno Union suffered an issue last week, which prevented players from accessing the website. We are sorry for the inconvenience and can you tell that we found the culprit; everything should be back to normal now. While we have further plans to improve our website further, the downtime was not caused by a secretively rolled out update, as some Union members presumed. Not that we don’t like sneaking in updates from time to time…

Announcement: The writing contest is closed!
Thanks for all your contribution- we received some great stories and some really cool creative takes on the given task. We will announce the lucky winners in a future update but we can already say that picking the best story will not be an easy task for us. So please join us in a general round of applause for the creative Union task force!
If you liked our writing contest and would love to see more support for community creations such as contests, highlights and other nice ideas to push content creation, share it with us in the comments below!

3D Animation

In this week’s DevBlog, we continue the journey of a 3D asset during creation. Yes, a lot of handiwork went into the asset already but we are far from done here. You were always curious how we create that lively feeling in Anno, where you metropolis is brimming with life and small stories to discover?
Well in that case, you should not miss out this week’s DevBlog, when we give you an exclusive look how we create visual feedback and animation work for Anno 1800.

Let’s come together!
Also coming up this week is our first Union Community Roundtable.
Join the Community team this Wednesday evening for a cozy meetup and chat with us about the Anno Union where we are sure to have answers to one or two questions and discussions ready for you.
The English session will start at 9pm CET – Everyone is welcome! >Annoverse Discord<

While we are using a voice chat for communication, microphones are not mandatory. So feel free to ask us questions in the chat or just listen to the discussion.

What’s next?
We asked you a few questions during our update last week and got a ton of recommendations for future topics you would like to see tackled in the future. We picked some of your ideas and started to shuffle them into our ongoing content plan.

The best things often come at the end, right? We have some news for you that might get you pretty excited. During our last AnnoCast, we talked about our Alpha milestone and that now is the time where we need as much and as varied player feedback as possible. To make that possible, we are currently planning to kick off our online playtest studies in February.

For the first test groups, we need Anno experts who know the series inside out and are willing to provide us valuable reports and tons of data! As suggested by the community previously, we will give everyone a chance to apply for the focus studies with an application form, which should open in the coming weeks.

Well that is something to look forward to; many more things to come and we are – as always – looking forward to your feedback.


Union Update: Outlook on the new year!

We are back from our winter break; time to roll up our sleeves and to give you a glimpse of the journey ahead.

Upcoming Union Content
We bet that you are curious about our upcoming content. With last month’s logistics blog as our foundation, we will dive deeper into the economic motor of Anno 1800. With more details about the economy revealed and explained, it will allow us to talk about important parts of that machine like the harbor system and trading routes. Features, which are furthermore important if we want to talk about possible functionality and impact of the train feature.
There are plenty of more features we have not shared many details yet. What are your top 5 Anno 1800 features, where you would love to get more information on?

Furthermore, we will continue to bring you behind the scene DevBlogs; next up we will dive into animations for our previously showcased 3D assets. You will get to learn much more about all the brimming details and stories happening in your metropole.
We know that you are also curious about non-visual features, such as the audio design of Anno 1800. As the possibilities are plenty, share your top three wished for behind the scenes topics in the comments below!

There is also new voting coming up and while we cannot lift the curtain right now, we can tell that we want to funnel your creative energy once again. We all know how settling back into work after the Holidays can take some time, so expect the DevBlogs to be back to their regular cadence next week.

Union Website and community creations
As you already noticed, some improvements to the website were made and we will continue to improve the Union in usability and functionality. However, it is not only about moderator flairs or improvements to the comment section; we want to expand the general content on the website for anything that might not fit into the classic blog format, such as a dedicated space for community creations or a media library to save our Twitch streams.

It is great to see how much creative energy went into our story contest and it shows how much room there is to fill the world of Anno with your narration and other fan creations.
With the deadline hitting on Monday 15th there is still a week’s time left to unleash your creativity. Besides some neat prices to win for the contest, we also think that your works deserve to be appropriately spotlighted on the Anno Union page.

We received some great feedback on our last episode of the Anno Cast and with upcoming episodes, you can look forward to more gameplay content. While we know that many of you would love to see Anno 1800 being presented in a lengthy Let’s Play format, we need to save that idea for later as we just hit our Alpha milestone. One thing is for sure though; we will continue to show you more gameplay elements of the game while we give you insights about its ongoing development.
Anniversary Let’s Plays or other special episodes give us a bit more freedom and possibilities for different styles and formats. If you have ideas for specials or other streaming formats or videos outside the regular Anno Cast, feel free to share them with us!

Community roundtable
Since the reveal of Anno 1800, you supported us with thousands of comments on the Union and Anno 1800 forum. Seeing both Anno veterans and new enthusiasts coming together is something truly special for us on the team, and we once again want to thank you all for that. To further this feeling of all coming together at one table, we want to invite you to an Anno Union voice chat session with the Community Team to talk about the Union, the game and its fans. We are sure there will be plenty of questions and ideas, and everyone should feel more than welcome to join our roundtable next week Wednesday, January 17th in a Discord voice chat provided by our Annoverse Community: >Annoverse Discord<

To allow as many of you as possible to participate, we will divide the session into two slots, one in English and one on German. The German session will start at 7.30pm and the English one will follow at 9.00pm CET.

Community QnA

Let’s say a play test is planned for January 23, and I were to be invited. When could I expect to receive an invite, so I would have enough time to check with my boss if I can take the day off? And while we are on the topic, do you have to be a legal adult to be invited?

Basti: We will send the invitations a few weeks in advance, as we also want to have a bit of leeway if we need to find a replacement if someone will not be able to make it. To be of legal age is not a strict requirement but if someone is under age, we will get in contact with the person to discuss the details (regarding the NDA, for example).

Something that would be very helpful in the future would be a basic blog explaining the DNA of the Anno brand, to give us users a better idea of how your decision-making processes work. What makes something Anno, or not? I think having this filter explained for users would allow for discussions that are more meaningful.

Basti: Talking about the brand DNA sounds like a great topic to cover in the Union, I put it on the list and I am sure we can get some really cool background information together. With the Vision Devblog and details we shared in other blogs, we also wanted to give you a chance to learn something about the reality of game development. We usually receive a huge amount of great suggestions and ideas, but they often lack some missing background information why some of these ideas would not work or why they would be too hard or simply not feasible to develop. Designing game features means often a middle ground or taking the quintessential idea and feedback to work with. That is why we want to get a little bit more into details on our decision-making process in future DevBlogs and comments.

I quite liked the entertaining Twitch streams, and look forward to see more of Anno 1800. Perhaps you could show some footage from play tests in the future.

Basti: We will show more gameplay in upcoming episodes of the AnnoCast and over time, it will further allow us to share more gameplay material in the Anno Union in general. Playtests will be the big topic this year, and we will cover some of the playtests and share content from them in the Union.

How big was the island in the stream? Small, medium or a big one? It didn’t seem much larger than main islands in Anno 1404. Will there be enough space to build a metropolis? Or can buildings house more citizens than in the past?

Basti: The Island from the stream is a big one, but not the largest in the game. In fact the Island shown in during the stream has more grids than the large Isle in 1404 and with that, more buildings space available. It is important for us that you will have enough place to create breathtaking cities. Residential houses have the same dimensions as in previous titles but some of the public or production buildings can take up more space. Having a bit more realistic proportions for a steel factory as an example is a great way to bring that extra bit of realism to the series. Again, it is all about the right balance: we want vast cityscapes but also provide a puzzle challenge, as clever planning of the available construction space is also part of the challenge and fun.

Will it be possible to freely rotate the buildings?

Basti: Construction space in Anno is partitioned into a grid-based system (like e checkerboard) and as in previous games, you will be able to rotate and place buildings freely on the grid.

The carts and carriages will be sent by the production facilities, which sounds like a good decision. I assume that required gods will also be picked up if they are not being delivered- and this is where things get a bit unclear for me. Would the coal producer deliver his goods to the steel factory, or would the steel factory send someone to pick up the coal. Or maybe both happens, but how would the game decide that?

Christian: The rule of thumb is that production buildings always send goods to other production facilities. While production facilities cannot request goods from another production building, they can get resources stored in the warehouse if needed. The warehouse itself has no own transport units, so the carts always come from the production building to pick up or deliver goods from the warehouse. The facility decides on its own if it is more effective to wait for the delivery from a different production building or to get the needed resources from a warehouse instead. As travel distance on streets is the deciding factor for that, players can have an impact with clever city planning. With that, it allows you to create optimized economic districts.

Will sea-based trading have an AI to pick the most efficient route based on wind?

Christian: Trading routes will not consider wind (which can also change). You will however be able to create your own routes with manual waypoints to improve its efficiency and to avoid hostile ships.

Hearing that all warehouses will have mirrored storage has me a bit worried. I would prefer if you could manually assign which wares individual warehouses should accept or block. My other question would be whether the mirrored goods affect the overall storage capacity of the warehouses.

In fact, every single Anno title had mirrored storages, so it is a part of the classic as well as newer Anno experience. The return of physical goods will bring some management complexity back into the game. We have experimented with different scenarios, but not mirroring the wares just resulted in an extremely high need to constantly micromanage that dominated gameplay and drew the player’s attention away from other aspects of the game. Things like storage capacity are an ongoing balancing topic and we need to see if it would hurt or benefit the game flow if additional warehouses would also ramp up the storage limit. In the current version of the game, this is only the case with the kontor and the depot.

I really like that you are going back to the physical goods, similar to older games such as Anno 1404.
I have just one question: Will you always need a road connection? Or do some parts also work without road connection? For example, in Anno 2070 upgraded warehouses and depots had a flying unit that could pick up goods without a road connection.

Basti: All buildings will require a road connection. As we stated in our logistics blog, streets will have a bigger impact on your logistics than before and as such planning the ideal street layout will be important when planning your perfect metropolis.


Union Update: That was 2017!

Looking back on our journey, the last four month were an incredibly exciting and sometimes tense journey. The Anno Union started with a vision and like the great explorers of old, we always believed in our idea but nobody could foresee where the journey would lead us along the way.
The Anno Union is still sailing strong and we are confident that our fleet is on the right track, thanks to all the amazing support from our Anno fans.

We want to close the first chapter of the Anno union and the year 2017 with a short recap of everything that has happened so far. This was just the beginning, and we hope that you are as excited for 2018 as we are!  We will be back with new content for you all in January, and however you spend the festive season, we hope you will have a great time!

The great Gamescom Announcement
How would it turn out? We were confident that our fans would enjoy the 19th century setting of our new game, but the Anno Union was still a big experiment for us. And yes, I can tell you that seeing the positive reactions to the surprise announcements of Anno 1800 and the Union were quite the rush for all of us. However, it was only the opening salvo, and over the following weeks and months, we worked with you all to shape the Anno union into what it is today.

The spirit of the Union
To start things off, we had a lot of ground work to cover. Game development is a complex science, and even game ideas that are great on their own ill not necessarily result in a great game when combines with hundreds of others. Reacting to your questions, feedback and even skepticism was our answer and helped us to improve the program. It is an ongoing journey, where we listen and improve, while you react and inspire. As we are getting closer to our release, let us all push the Union forward together to become a great community hub even beyond the launch of Anno 1800.

DevBlogs – a look behind the curtain
Having exclusive looks behind the scenes is surely exciting but that was not our only intent. Game development is a complex task and an Anno title is a collaborative effort of a big development team. We have seen countless great ideas from our community but adding all of them to a game would end up in a development process, which would probably never end. So we decided to give you insights, explain how we set up our development roadmap, how we evaluate your feedback and even gave you a detailed look on the production processes.
From concept art to logistics, we will continue to give you more artistic and informative insights into Anno 1800 and its features. Of course, this important foundation will also give you the needed knowledge to impact development and it enables us to ask you, true Anno experts and veterans, for very specific feedback on certain game elements.

Alpha Cake! We got to treat ourselves sometimes, right?

Votes, Feedback and Improvements
With the Anno Union, we promised to give you exclusive insights in the development process while your feedback should help us to shape the game during development.
Not surprisingly, you definitely knew how to deliver on your end. In the first week alone, we received countless comments and feedback on our game direction and the Union. But how would your feedback actually improve the game?
With our first Vote, we had you decide about the last AI character in the game, while additional development votes would be our weapon of choice to let you have the final word on specific aspects of the game. As such, the first Union vote was only the kick-off, as we soon after decided to let you have more creative impact with the voting for the world fair event.
So Mr. Gasparov was first and it is safe to say that the visionary architect appreciates that you decided that the Urbanism Exhibition will be the fourth event for our world fair monument!

In the future, we want to mix things up further, ranging from votes where you help us decide on certain content to having an impact and influence on future votings.
With our blogs, you gave us constant quality feedback in our comments and started further discussions in our forums. Since then, that feedback has fueled our development meetings, from the production team discussing your ideas up to Union sentiment becoming constant topic in our big milestone and other team meetings.
While the Union greatly benefited the game from the get go, we will utilize that power in our communities even further with upcoming playtests and future improvements to the Union program.

The first stream
The idea for a stream was born in the early days of the Union but building the streaming room, working on a concept and finding ideas how we can talk about the development and show you the game was not always an easy task. There is one thing I have learned over the years: no matter how many times you setup a streaming room and prepare a show, something can and probably will go wrong.
But break a leg, the first AnnoCast was a well-received success and we knew that there is potential to talk about the state of the development and to show you the progress we made. This year was a test-run and with the latest reveal of gameplay, we look forward to upcoming episodes and further production updates. Besides the AnnoCast, we will also continue to celebrate anniversaries of a game series, which will already turn 20 in the upcoming year. There might be the one or another idea for a special episode?

Did you miss our big gameplay reveal stream? We got you covered!

Alpha and Union Playtest
Showing the state of the game is one thing but to let you actually play the game allows us to get pinpoint feedback on the game experience. And as we just achieved Alpha status with the game, we are ready to use that feedback to its full potential. Over the course of the next year, we will continue to utilize community feedback via the Union, forum, votes or surveys but the Alpha is also the time when feedback from Union playtests matter. So keep an eye on the Union for future updates about upcoming playtests and other events.

More to come…
The year 2017 already felt like a tour de force but things will get even more exciting next year, as every month will bring us closer to the long awaited launch. Beside continuous DevBlogs, streams and playtests, we want to improve existing formats and bring you new content to the Union. More support for fan projects, more ways for you to interact with us and to let your creative energy loose. The great entries to our story contest alone shows us that there is so much potential for great creations in the Union.

And in the spirit in the Union, where we all work together to create a true Anno game for the fans, what are your wishes and ideas for the Union in 2018? What was your favorite Union moment, what would you like to see us doing more or is there something we could improve or even which is currently missing? Share your thoughts about the start of our journey and things to come with us and we cannot wait to come back to you after the holiday season!

Happy Holidays,
Your Anno Team