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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

39 Comments

  1. TerraCrab

    Instead of having canned Fish, perhaps have Canned Food. Using different sources of low tier resources to create Canned food. With this process islands could have rarer resources or be affected by higher tier with more Pollution.
    Example island ‘A’ can only produce fish and island ‘B’ can only produce Beans.
    Island ‘A’ is polluted due to higher tier industrialisation and no longer can harvest fish. So use island ‘B’ with Beans to produce Canned Food.

  2. Hannover8

    The fishery looks awesome so far. I also like the color variation added, it is something that spices up city-building games. A model variation would be ideal as well, though we understand it takes up a lot of work. Danke!

  3. sp556

    I really like the direction you are taking the game. I didn’t mind the modern Anno’s but I very much prefer the more historical games. I liked the whales/oil and tools chains as well. My favourites come from 1404. As some materials could be used in multiple chains. Which could be a benefit or a curse. Top favs would be clothing chains. Another part I enjoyed in older versions was building the palace. Might not be something for this Anno but thought just mention it.

  4. TehUndeadLenin

    It’s a shame people don’t want to have more complex chains. Is there going to be the option for people who would have likes a more complex solution? The idea of having a cannery that handles multiple products or just fish sounds way more fun and involved then just one fish hut.

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  5. HannesDS

    The ability to Upgrade production buildings, and using fish in other production chains is something I would really like.

  6. Johnnymac34

    Greetings from Canada!

    I always loved the whaling / oil chain from 1503. It was one of the few reasons to explore the artic climate but once you had it, it was an awesome income earner.

    Very excited about this game. 2205 had its moments and was a solid game but very happy you are taking us back to older times. The modern stuff was cool but didn’t quite feel right.

    I one day hope to see 1503 remade with a modern game engine (not a browser remake). Loved all the games but there was just something about that entry in the series.

    So jealous you all get to make these games for a living. Must be awesome! I can’t draw or program so not much use to a game company but love the creative / imaginitive side of story telling and overall ideas, so very glad as a long term fan I can help vote on its future.

    Take care, John

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  7. Mr_Boatyface

    Maybe the fish resource could be used for two goods.

    In the early game, raw fish can be a basic good, used to satisfy the need for food of the lower classes. Later on, there could be a production chain for canned fish, that is used to satisfy the need for food in the higher classes, where canned fish replaces raw fish.

    It is just an idea that is pretty much stolen from the article, but, to put it like this: ‘Why not both if the two can exist together?’

    If I look through the comments and the statistics of the poll, I can see why people don’t want fishermans’ huts because they take up a lot of space altogether and the idea is old. However, I think this building is a bit of a staple in the early Anno-game, and the concept art is a bit too good to throw away! 😉 Increasing the production speed of the plant is always an option to have your fish production not take up all of your beautiful coast.

  8. Ruzimo

    I like the idea of expanding the fish resource very much so! I also like the idea that fish must be an easy resource to obtain early in the game, as much as meat can be as well.

    What came up in my mind while reading the blog, and what many comments also stated, is to use fish also in a later Tier of civilisation, but in the form of smoked and/or canned fish. It will require the cannery to use fish and either coal (smoked fish) and/or iron (canned fish) to produce later stage food items. This way, both our demand for early game fish and your idea for a production chain on fish are met.

    In addition to prduction chains and upgrades, as is mentioned in the comments, I would like to see learning institutions once again in ANNO. They are used to upgrade existing buildings to higher production rates and to develop new ways of acquiring certain resources, such as fishing trawlers as an additional supply for fish production. So not only do learning institutions provide education to inhabitatants (passive use), they would also serve as a means of innovating existing ways of production (active use). One could think of the following concerning fish production:
    – Upgrade fishing hut’s supply rate from 1.0 > 1.5 (avoiding mass construction of this building late game, preventing a plentiful sight of huts on the shorelines);
    – Increase catchment area;
    – Unlock fishing trawler (as mentioned by others) at the wharf, requiring a pier to unload fish at (a means to avoid players being able to build an unlimited army of trawlers to supply fish to an island, rendering the fishing hut nearly redundant).

    Note that all these upgrades are optional and thus aren’t necessary per se.

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  9. jemalooo

    what were the books about on the table int he livestream? i would like to know more about them >.<

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  10. timhageman

    Having fishing huts as first food item makes sense since t is an Anno game. However, as other people also mentioned here, having this as first food item means all coast area gets filled with fishing huts. What would be interesting is to keep both the initial food fishing hut, and the mentioned late game canned fish. These can then be linked to the same need, with either requiring a lot of fish (and thus fishing huts) or a smaller amount of canned fish (and thus saving coast space). This will keep the easy to get early game food resource, but will also add depth and more elaborate production chains for those optimizing for coast space efficiency (as will probably be required for larger cities).

  11. DarkStar_Prime

    What I would like to see is fish as a starting food source, however there should be something to compensate for late game requirements as stuffing the coastal area with fisheries hampers alot of other stuff. However instead of building them on coastal areas only why not allow us to place the fisheries on quay walls (like in Anno 2070) with the ability to construct roads on the quay walls. That way alot of fisheries can be build on coastal areas without having to compromise the entire shore line.

  12. jemalooo

    The conservative Anno players stick with the fishy tradition :p

  13. diddle783

    i like the fish huts, would be lovely if they can be expanded in a later stage with lager boats to fish and make different stages, like canned fish or even a smokery for fish 😉

    Further on i love the wine production chain in 1404, and the chocolate in anno 1701 😉 (who does not love chocolate)

  14. Knochentroke

    I like the nostalgic feel with fish as first food. But the idea of an more industralized spin sounds also intersting. How about being able to build a “better” fishing hut at the end of the game, so that we can replace the town fishing hut with a industralized version that produce more and cost more. So that we can up the production without building entire coasts of fishing huts and getting the feeling of an evolution of our economy. Maybe adding a fabric for caned fish would be needed for the better fishing hut so that we have a more complex production at higher tiers that gets us more fish per fishing hut, but requires a bigger production chain.

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  15. Boldzmann

    How do you like the idea of building a fishing trawler in the shipyard? Will be available at a high level of development. Sails to the specified place in the sea and catches fish. He could replace several fisherman’s huts. A lot of them will not occupy the coast.

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  16. Twidlledee

    I like the idea to stick with the fishing hut. I would enjoy the complexity to be greater in this game. But keeping a simple start is also very realistic and makes rushing to that war sustaining populace more viable. I would like to see the last few bits of the game be very very complex. Much like glasses and candles in 1404. I enjoyed the ferrying of goods all over the place and it is so much like how they did things back in those times as well.

  17. banan1996.1996

    I was always the one who craved for complexity so I wouldn’t mind having to build a whole production chain to feed my stage one people. Fisheries are fine but like the others I didn’t like the need to cover most of the coast with them.

    On the forums I wrote about the idea of having to provide food to our people while deciding which types of the food we want to produce, it would be similar to Anno 1701. But I would also like if people of higher tiers needed more diverse food – tier one needs only one type of food like fish and tier two needs two types of food like fish and bread. I think that the need for food and drinks should work that way. In the end you wouldn’t need that many fisheries while still producing fish and having enough food for your population. You can always add the option to change between this system and the normal one when creating the game but maybe it could be a bit too confusing for new players.

    And sausages… really? I would prefer to simply produce meat or pork if we are to have more types of meat. It may have an icon of sausage but I would prefer meat or pork as the name of the good.

    As I love complexity my favourite production chains are usually the most complex ones. In Anno 1404 it would be wine because of the need to actually produce barrels for that, not only grapes. In Anno 2070 it would be bionic suits for the most complex production chain and the need of all factions to cooperate. In Anno 2205 it probably would be quantum computers because I love science and because you included the need of cooling system into the production chain 🙂

  18. joseAnn2033

    I agree that fish is the main meal at the beginning of the game, but like other people, I think over the course of time many fish are needed

    perhaps this fish construction could be improved and with this improvement, large vessels would fish in the ocean and would obtain large quantities of fish

  19. Dawnreaver

    I think one of the beauties of Anno 1602 ( this shows my age right now) was, that with careful planning, you could make your start resources (tools) last you till you could set up your own tool production, without having to buy any … but this is just a side note.

    I think one of the nicest production chains in Anno 1404, was the production of books as a property for patricians. It captured the spirit and value of such an item at that time in a very good way. I assume something like it e.g. newspapers could be done in a similar fashion to fit Anno 1800.

    But as with every production chain, there is nothing more satisfying than a production chain that runs as smooth as silk.

  20. BlueBreath

    Nice work, shallow water is beautifully detailed.
    Just one question: If the banner on top of the building is meant as a visual aid for the player shouldn’t it be seen in the back also?

  21. Olinater

    Production of beer 😀
    Or, on a more serious note, I also liked the production of bread. Seeing the grain fields and the mills cover the landscape makes it really beautiful.
    Or a more industrial production line like production of tools and weapons.

    Btw, you guys could also make some high tier fish production line which upgrades the lower tier ones. This helps you if your city becomes bigger and needs more fisheries. In older Anno versions I had to build a lot of fisheries on the beaches (covering the whole beach) because I couldn’t keep up with demand. Maybe a more industrial production line later in the game could prevent this. It could also be applied to other tier 1 or 2 production lines.

  22. Soulridder

    I think the idea with the canned fish is nice. I personally wouldn’t
    bother to start a complete production chain at the beginning of the
    Game (as I have to do so in some other Games, modded or not), but I
    guess you can still add your canned fish without the requirment to
    start a complete production chain at the beginning, let me explain:

    1. Let fish be the first food source and a “one-building” source.
    2. Later on, introduce the canned fish to the player.

    I always found it annoying in older Anno games that huge cities required a lot of
    fish.. so there was not much of the coast left as I had big harbours and lots of fishing huts.

    Thus I came up with this idea:

    You could make it optional. Either you go with fish till the end or you start at one point with advancing the fish production.

    Iron Production –>
    –> canned fish production
    Fish Production –>

    Ofcourse there could still be a building to produce the cans for the fish.
    The canned fish could give some kind of bonus, for example people require 2 xfish, but only 1x canned fish each X ticks. Or maybe 4x fish + x iron or iron cans = 2x canned fish or something like this.

    Let me know what you think about this idea. 😉

    —————————————

    My favourite production chains from previuos Anno games:

    Gameplay aspects:
    – the Noria, as I always find it cool when something needs to be refilled at a point in time, especially when you can optimize it by placing it in a specific way or at a specific position etc. And for all oriental islands with a desert on them, the Noria is the beginning of most production chains.
    – Other than that, probably the tool production. Thought I found it annoying to always had to build more tools for one more building to finish my tool production, but starting with less resources and then optimizing the start to the max. point is quite enjoying, I guess.
    – The Robot Factory in Anno 2070 is also quite enjoying.

    In short: As more you can optimize, especially when it it harder, it is more enjoying for me. Build one production chain in one hour, optimize it for the next 6 hours, thats what makes the most fun besides fighting.

  23. iruet

    Maybe you can still use the idea for canned fish, and keep the fish itself in the beginning in the game. Maybe you can use the canned fish for higher tier inhabitants, and the fish is needed for all 🙂

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  24. Com-mu-nism

    Sausages later in the game, as a production cycle?

    That is really german.

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