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DevBlog: Influence

Hello Anno fans! My name is Erwin, and I work on the game design of Anno 1800. As a player myself, I have a fairly competitive mindset. I love attempting to gain an edge over other players or the AI where I can, especially when I am given the freedom in how I gain this edge. For this reason, I am very excited to talk to you today about a new feature we are introducing with Anno 1800: Influence!

Anno is many things to many different players: it’s a city builder, an economic simulation, tense naval engagements against both human and AI opponents- and that is only scratching the surface in terms of Anno’s unique gameplay mix.
Anno players love to tinker around with all these features, creating their own strategies, tactics and setting their own challenges for themselves through various handicaps. What goals will you set for yourselves? Will you attract more residents than anyone else? Do you plan to exploit your workers and production lines to their fullest? Or maybe you will reach just one more company level before it is time to go to bed? And if all else is too easy for you, you can of course always stack the deck against yourself with a crazy challenging map and game setup.

Tying into this freedom of choosing your own playstyle and what challenges you want to tackle is the Influence system. With this feature, we want to both challenge grizzled veterans who are looking for interesting new ways to play, while helping to ease new players into the complex gameplay systems of the age of industrialization. It also encourages and incentivizes players to experiment with different gameplay styles, adding to the game’s overall replayability (which is a high priority for the team).

Influence: A resource that defines your playstyle
Influence is a new global resource, which you can invest depending on your playstyle, for example by raising the production limits on certain buildings or units. This allows players to go all in on certain aspects of the game. Do you have ambitions of becoming a feared warmonger, fielding the largest fleet of mighty dreadnaughts the world has ever seen? You can- just be prepared that you will not be as successful a trader as another player will who instead choses to focus his influence in that area.

When setting the initial construction limits for buildings and units, we take the community feedback we have seen on the Anno Union and our forums into account. It is important that you as the player should never feel too restricted, even if you chose to invest all of your influence in just one area. That is why you will be able to dabble on all areas of the game a little bit; it is only after you reach a certain threshold that you will need to invest influence points. The goal here is clear: the system should feel empowering to the player, asking them to make interesting gameplay decisions without feeling too restricted.

When you start a new match, you will have a set amount of influence that will slowly grow over time as your company level increases. A familiar system for many Anno players, the company level is a representation of the players overall success, determined by the total population of residents on your islands. So whether it is growing your main island or expanding across the world, the growth of your empire will provide you will additional influence that you can invest.

Unlike gold, influence as a currency does not deplete; it is instead a pool of available points that you can allocate freely in the various categories. Think of it as an investment: If for example your trade fleet is not delivering results as hoped, you can remove some of the influence used by it and instead allocate it in another area such as harbor defenses. With this kind if freedom, it is also crucial that players never feel punished for making “the wrong choice”. It also adds a lot of dynamics and meta-narrative to your games, allowing you to react to aggressive moves by an AI opponent or the unpredictable actions for your human multiplayer opponents.

Investing influence in a certain category will grant you titles, which both work to help other’s in the game known what they are facing (someone with a military title is likely not planning to keep things entirely peaceful) and to provide you with useful global buffs.

How it all works in the game

By now, you are probably very curious of how the system works during the moment to moment gameplay. As discussed, you will be able to freely use your available influence points in a variety of categories, each of which is related to and supporting a different kind of playstyle.

Currently, we are planning to have six such categories: Propaganda, Trade, Military Power, Optimization, Culture, and Expansion. However, please keep in mind that the feature is still heavily under development and everything might be subject to change, as we try to allow interesting customization options while still keeping categories meaningful and not convoluted.

On a base level, investing Influence points in one category allows you to expand your building, unit, and module limit. But here comes the catch: If you spend enough influence in one category, such as 50% of all your points, you will get a global buff, which additionally empowers and enhances your playstyle. We also want to support hybrid playstyles, which would allow you to not only rely on one big global buff but also give you the option to split influence on different categories to gain several smaller bonuses. That opens the gates for really interesting strategic combinations.

To give you an idea, investing in Optimization will allow you to expand your public building limit, which is currently three buildings. By investing points, you can easily add many additional items to your guildhalls and harbor offices to optimize your economy further. If you invest the majority of your points into optimization, the title granted will further buff the effectiveness of your public buildings. Investing in Expansion will allow you to settle on more islands and affects the amount of routes you can create to move your workforce between settlements.

A giant armada or enough public buildings to boost your whole city
The categories themselves are also divided into different sections. For the Military category, you can either spend influence to expand the maximum number of warships or defensive structures. This allows some interesting combinations; for example if you spend all your influence on warships, you will not only be able to create a huge fleet but your global buff will make your ships even more powerful. On the flipside, it would leave your islands defenseless apart from these ships, as you would need to rely on a smaller number of coastal defenses. You could also split it up equally, allowing you a decent fleet of ships and strong harbor defensed. Alternatively, you just invest a crazy amount of points into military defense or split it with other categories, to be able to defend yourself while also optimizing your economy. As you see, completely specializing makes you a force to be reckoned with, but cleverly splitting your investment on the various categories makes you a true jack of all traits.

Culture will allow you to invest in projects like the zoo, which will allow you to increase the number of modules and push your attractiveness when you spent enough points to benefit from the global buff. To give you a better idea what we are talking about in numbers, we are currently planning with around 10 free modules before investing influence. We think that this is a high enough number to allow players to create a varied and great looking zoo; if however you want to create an entire zoo island with dozens of modules (“Welcome to Anno Park”, anyone?), you should be able to do this with your influence. And before you ask: Ornamental structures will be free, as we think that the space they take up on your island is investment enough.

Influence becomes more and more relevant, especially during the end game of an Anno 1800 match. However, Influence is not limited to expanding unit or building limitations.
Propaganda will allow you to influence and manipulate the populace in various ways. But as it is tied to another new feature, we cannot talk about it in detail right now. We think that this additional new feature deserves its own dedicated DevBlog further down the road.

So what do you think?
Influence is still heavily work in progress, so the balancing is of course still far from final. However, the Anno Union will come in handy to balance the game, especially some of your larger future focus tests.
We are looking forward to your feedback about the new Influence feature, so let us know in the comments below!

18 Comments

  1. ETbyrne ETbyrne

    I realize this is a really old article, but I have a question after seeing some video series on the closed beta: changing the newspaper uses influence points, but can those be recovered?

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  2. dogolbintolol dogolbintolol

    Ships in Anno 1800 vs 2070

    I have some questions and considerations about ship in Anno 1800 because ships are the most important element in the game.

    In Anno 2070, there is a wide variety of different ships. They serve economic (cargo ship), and whe warship as well. Players are able to control certain units. Most units can be build by the players. This mode is equal with the 1404; we need to build a shipyards to create a ship. Ships damage during combat are easily repaired by the repair craine.

    The most interesting things in Anno 2070 is we can freely upgraded each unit by developing the technology. For examples we can enhanced ship speed by booster or even enhance the cargo holder (e.g. by the cognomaster software).
    Thus each unit can be functionally as it’s roles in the game.

    The Lack of Anno 2205

    In Anno 2205, there is no shipyard, and the only way to acquire ships is by advancing in corporate rank. Most ships in Anno 2205 are only in the military but unfortunatelly we cannot build our ship since there is no shipyard in the sector.

    The cargo ships that the player would normally be built by the players are not available. In this game Intra-sector transportation is no longer necessary as resources are no longer based on a single island and trading with other NPCs accurs instantly.
    In my opinion this is the lack of Anno 2205 since the players are not able their own ship. I am curious how it will work in 1800 but if it is following this rules; the game play will become boring.

    Consider the bugs on air unit repairement (if any).

    Aircraft are mainly the military units used in Anno 2070. They are built at the Airport, the damage aircraft can be also be repaired on Airport or the air fields.

    For example in diplomacy Dr. Tori Bartock offeres Repair Service of air craft. The Repair Service allows us repair ships to be repaired in her ports; but somehow there is a bugs on Anno 2070 that caused we are not able to repair our aircraft at her airport or airfields. I’m just wondering why the hijacked air units from the enemy are also cannot be repaird or landing? 😀

    I do not know what happened in 1800? Please consider this bugs when you testing the game. Is there any air craft in Anno 1800? Are we going to create Oil refinary, produce Kerosine to fuel the air units? The first oil exploration was invented in 19 century at Bulgaria (CMIIW), so I thing it will be grateful if we could also having this kind of interesting things.

    Please advise and thanks.

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  3. Luka10z20 Luka10z20

    Great devblog! Thanks for all this insight.

    I am wary about influence; I hope it will have plenty of thought put into it. Firstly, I really would enjoy if it was possible to eventually max out (or at least re-allocate) all your influence points; it would upset me if things as basic as “number of islands” was locked behind something I needed to sacrifice. Secondly, and I doubt this will be addressed but, I really, really hope influence is not something which is planning to be monetized through microtransactions. I’m always wary of secondary currencies.

    And as for ornamental structures, I’m actually mixed on this. I completely understand and appreciate the reasoning, but maybe I’m just a little old school in that I always enjoyed the prestige associated with the actual cost of building grand palaces. But a lot of that is tedium perhaps; you just wait until you have extra resources.

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  4. Alexisfr52 Alexisfr52

    The thing of the influence is interesting. But, i don’t think we can link a company level to a progression in your game, i mean, I have build a big city of worker for a mission in 2070.. More than 3000 workers, but that stay workers. Your population is not a absolute representation of your advancement in a anno game.

    And, it is not a usual concept for all anno users, for those who played 2205, yes, but the hardcore fan that bypass it because it was too much casual for the old, don’t know this concept…

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  5. gfrewqpoiu gfrewqpoiu

    I will add my take to this feature. I really like the idea but I am opposed to the idea to have it limit the amounts of islands that can be settled. This only makes sense at the beginning of the game to prevent players from pre allocating all the good islands to themselves. But later in the game they might want to settle all islands, and have a big fleet and use their items. this needs to be balanced very precisely and I hope that we will get an option at the start of each game to set the amount of influence that everyone starts with, just like licenses in Anno 2070. This would make the system either a non issue for those that really don’t like it (when they start with a large amount) or it can make the game much more challenging for those that seek this. But I strongly suggest testing and balancing the heck out of it, as well as thinking again about the island limit, if it really needs to be included maybe remove it once the player has built the monument or reached another end game goal. This would free up the player to focus on other things with their limited points.

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  6. HannesDS HannesDS

    Very nice. This adds a lot of depth and strategy. Also great that you can move your influence to other categories.

    But think about this:

    If I invest my influence in expansion. I have 10 Islands, but then I realise I need a bigger fleet and change my influence. Would the sea swallow 4 Islands, and spit them out with all buildings gone? Or vice versa. I have a fleet of 25 ships but then I notice my people are turning into illiterate barbarians because of a lack of culture. Would the Kraken be released and sink 10 ships, when I cange the influence?

    But altogether, it’s a really nice change to the game which will help you to anticipate the opponents moves.

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  7. banan1996.1996 banan1996.1996

    So a few things make a comeback from Anno 2205 but in a different form. Sounds interesting.

    I think that company level should depend not only on the total population but also on a population tier. Having 1000 farmers is totally different than having 1000 investors. I think that higher tiers should contribute more towards the company level. It can be that each farmer gives 1 point but each investor gives 5 points. So that when having the same population the player with more developed population has a higher company level – also having more influence to use. I don’t want a situation where I have the same influence pool as other player while having the same population but with more investors and engineers than the other player.

    Influence seems to work a bit like expertise in Anno 2205 – we have fixed pool to use and we can spend points on certain upgrades divided into categories. The difference is that in 2205 we had to build an orbital station and in 1800 it’s based on the population.

    I like that I can freely change my mind and change the upgrades I want to use. What I love the most about this feature is that I can easily know what other players invested their influence into. I really love that idea.

    Those buffs gained after investing certain amount of influence in one category reminds me of voting in 2205 where enough votes provided players with certain bonuses from the winning company. It’s also a good way to encourage investment in one specific category or just a few of them.

    Generally I like those categories besides one: expansion. There will be a limit for islands we can settle? I really don’t like it, this worries me the most. I like having freedom when settling the islands. I understand that maybe you want to avoid the situation when players settle all islands and block AIs expansion (which could be considered as an issue in 1404 and 2070). I hope it will not restrain my playstyle too much. I also hope that expansion category has an impact only on routes for transferring workforce but not goods.

    During AnnoCast 04 we were told that zoo can have as many modules as we want. So do you mean that first 10 modules are for free and next ones will cost money? Or does it mean that we can actually build only 10 modules – but more modules only using the influence?

    Propaganda being tied to a new feature? It kind of sounds like new feature might be tied to propaganda, working conditions, population happiness and two yet unexplained categories of attractiveness feature. Am I right?

    Overall the influence feature seems like a good way of customising our Anno world and supporting different playstyles. But it also feels like this feature might be too important and dominant – especially if it really limits the number of islands a player can settle. It really needs to be balanced well, I just hope that players testing it will provide you with good feedback.

    According to my playstyle, I will probably use trade and optimisation categories the most (and expansion if I really need it to expand to other islands). And maybe culture if it turns out useful.

    PS: Do you especially like the number 6? We have 6 categories here and 6 categories in the attractiveness feature…

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  8. olblf olblf

    In Anno 1404 people were carrying boxes and rolling barrels between storage buildings and warehouses. This meant that if you wanted a busy harbour you just placed a storage building furthest away on a pier and people would be walking around.

    I missed this feature in 2070 and in the screenshots in this blog it seems that this game will also have very empty harbours. 🙁

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