Skip to content

Tag: Feedback

DevBlog: Have it your way

Anno 1800 will offer builders a wide range of features, from time-honored proven favorites to all new additions to the series. One thing that is unchanged, however, is the ability to sink hundreds of hours into the game, and a big part of that is the ability for the players to set up their very own customized sessions, which has always been a cornerstone of the experience. We know that Anno fans love to be able to tailor the game’s challenges to their own (or their friend’s, of course) specifications and needs. So today, we want to give those veterans and newcomers like the first look at some of the customization options you will get to enjoy in Anno 1800.

Create your own island paradise, or meet a brutal challenge!
We have three basic difficulty levels in Anno 1800, ranging from Normal to Expert; they do not only affect the difficulty of your AI opponents but also include a set of predetermined rules regulating everything from the income you generate to the cost of relocating buildings. While we hope that the Expert setting should pose a challenge for even the most experienced players, we also allow you to tailor your own rule set and to select which (if any) AI characters you want to share your virtual world with. So if you want to create an unrelentingly brutal map with aggressive enemies and sparse resources- be our guest 😉

Similar to some previous Anno games, a dynamic difficulty bar that will give you a better feeling for how big of an impact your rule adjustments will have on the overall challenge.

Let’s start with the settings that will directly affect your game world:

Start World Size – A small archipelago for a quick match or a huge sandbox to play around in? This setting determines the actual size of your session.
Island Difficulty – A pancake will not provide a proper challenge for a true Anno veteran! Harder islands will challenge your city planning with a higher density of mountains, smaller beaches, and rivers.
Island Size – Some players might prefer many small islands for outposts or large-scale landmasses to give their cities enough space to grow.
Raw Materials – You said there isn’t enough copper on your island? A high amount of raw materials will not force you to expand as quickly and will, therefore, make the game easier.
Fertilities – Dictates how much of a factor the various fertilities your island can (not) have.

Next up are the various starting conditions, which can have a big impact on the speed and overall challenge of your game:

Starting ships – Is your flagship enough or would you prefer a small fleet of trading vessels? Or how about a fleet of warships? After all, there is nothing wrong with a good naval rush among friends!
Starting Capital – Money makes the world go round. The more money you have at the start of a game, the easier it is to establish your economy before getting into financial trouble.
Starting Harbor -> Do you want to start with an already settled island (maybe even fully stocked with some starting construction materials), or do you prefer to establish your first Imperial Harbor on an island of your choice?
Revealed Map – Being able to follow the moves of your enemies or friends in multiplayer can speed up things quite a bit.

After setting world and starting conditions, you also have some options to change the game’s rules:

Income – Defines the ratio of how much money your residents generate.
Refund of Construction Costs – If you destroy buildings to make space for your new leisure park area, do you want to get some previously used materials?
Building relocation – Decide whether you want to be allowed to freely move buildings around, or if there should be an attached cost.  
Trading Post Restocking
– Influences how quickly third-party characters will restock their trade goods on offer.
City Incidents – Some people want to see the world burn while others prefer a peaceful building experience without disturbing fires or riots.
Inactive Upkeep – Turning off building upkeep costs will make the game significantly easier.
Quest Frequency – If quests tickle your fancy, you can boost the rate of quests generated by AI opponents or neutral factions for you to undertake.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Anno game without a distinctive cast of characters and the freedom to decide if you would rather compete with the visionary (albeit slightly megalomaniac) architect Gasparov or would prefer for some easier going fellas to join your beauty building extravaganza match. As always, you will be able to choose up to three second-party AI characters as well as neutral factions such as traders or even those pesky pirates. Keep in mind that each character comes with their own personality, which also gives them their own difficulty rating.

And if you really like the world you find yourself in and want to share it with your friends, make sure that you note down the unique match seed code to recreate your experience at any time. You will of course also be able to have the game generate a random seed for you to get the proper feeling of venturing out into the unknown.

With custom game rules being a time-honored tradition of the Anno series, we’d love to hear from you. Do you have a set of standard rules you always go for or do you change the setup based on your current mood? And do you have any great war stories or tips for newcomers to share with the class? Take to the comments to let us know!

20 Comments

Union Update: Like busy bees

In today’s Union Update blog, we want to give you a brief Anno 1800 production update and provide some additional answers to questions inspired by some of our recent blogs. Later this week, you can look forward to a DevBlog on some of the game’s customization options for sandbox games. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Production Update
As our February 26 release date looms large and inches ever so closer, we have been busy little bees and made some great progress. We recently finished another milestone, so let us check in with our Production Team to get an update on was has been happening these past few weeks. Keep in mind that these are just two notable highlights, but by no means a comprehensive list of everything we have worked on, as all the disciplines and teams (like Art, Game Design, Game Programming etc.) have their own separate goals for each milestone.

  • All Guns blazing
    We know that many of you are very curious – or should I say burning – to learn more about our naval combat. Which is why we want to make sure that when we show it to you, it will all be live and in action inside the game, rather than with a lot of text and mock-up images. Which is why you will be happy to hear that we have made great progress with the polishing of the naval battles during the last milestone, laying the foundation we need for an in-depth look in the future.
  • Sights, meet the sounds
    We are also right in the middle of our localization and audio efforts for the game. During the month of September, we recorded all the English voice acting for the various AI characters and the cast of our story-based campaign. At the same time, with all the game text now largely finalized, we are also busy working with the respective teams to translate it into all the other languages we will support (some of which will have localized voice recordings as well). We are happy to say that we will be supporting localized text in more languages than ever before in an Anno game, giving all new audiences the opportunity to immerse themselves in the 19th century in the language of their choice.

We are also analyzing the feedback from the recently concluded playtest to see which items need to be addressed. Given this late stage of development, we have to always consider what changes are feasible, and how they may affect development of other features to make sure that we make the best use of our remaining time. With that said, the feedback from our play testers is still highly valuable for us, especially as we will focus more and more on nailing the game’s balancing. This is also where the data from our upcoming larger-scale test will come in handy to give us insights from a big group of players.

Reminder: Our Expedition Contest ends next week
A reminder for all you writers and expedition event designer out there: the expedition contest submission deadline ends next week on October 22.10 so make sure that you hand in your event ideas until next Monday. And if you have any questions regarding the contest, we will try to answer them in the comment section of today’s update.
You can find the contest details here.

Vienna calling: Play Anno 1800 at Game City Vienna
For any of you who live in or visit Vienna this week, our game will be playable at the Game City event in the city hall. You can find all (German language) information here: http://www.game-city.at/

Community Questions and Answers

Hexagon19
I like that products from the old world will be required in the new world, so my ships won’t have to make the return trip with empty loading bays. Talking of which, the production chains shown in the blog include wood. Could this also be imported from the old world?
Answer: Yes, you will be able to just import goods from your Old World to use them in your production chains in the second session and vice versa.

Phyllus1
Will it be possible to save blueprints for future use, for example to save entire production chains as templates, which could then be quickly placed in the future?
Answer: It won’t be possible to save whole layouts as this would require a lot of work on UI and UX, as we would need to develop a whole interface for that feature including menus, possibilities to save and to sort your layouts. However, we like that feature and closely watch how players will make use of the blueprint mode and how much feedback we get regarding that feature after launch.

Mr.Beko80
You mentioned a botanical garden in the blog. I already suggested this when you first revealed the zoo, so I was wondering if there is still a chance to see such a garden in the game?
Answer: At release, Anno 1800 will come with the Zoo and the Museum as large building projects supporting the new city attractiveness feature. Both projects come with a huge amount of assets, from modules, animations and dozens of items each. As always, we will watch feedback closely and see what the post-release future may hold for Anno 1800.

BlueBreath
So the small stuff in your exhibition you can only see as icons, isn’t there some form of a magnifying glass to show you what is inside? Like when you click the building , the roof get’s stripped off and you could see what’s inside but magnified a bit?
Answer: Small items will all have their own artwork for their actual icon but with the huge amount of museum items alone in mind, this would mean that we would have to model 80 3D assets just for the museum alone and also find ways to display small pieces like a necklace inside a building. We just implemented a nice overview window accessible from the zoo or museum entrance that will allow you to check how many items from which set you own.
The museum wing buildings in combination with the amount of huge open-air exhibition pieces will nonetheless offer a lot of visual variety to express your inner museum curator to your heart’s content.

Viper_R.K.O
Will I always get the same results when I do an expedition again and pick the same option, or is there a random numbers generator at work behind the scenes that will allow for different results? And will there be rewards for nice and beneficial decisions, or only if you act mercilessly and reckless?
Answer: Every decision you make has a chance of success based on a general difficulty and the skill ratings of the items and characters you brought along. In addition, some items will offer unique additional decision options on specific events and some combinations even guarantee a success. If an event fails, there are various outcomes for the story to progress. As you might have seen during the various instances of our Love Island presentations (RIP Captain, Comedian and Bishop).
The type of decisions you make won’t have an influence on the final reward pool of items during an expedition, even though special decisions and events can reward you with items from the event pool.

7 Comments

Union Update: Something big is coming

We are knee-deep in the de… the final development phase of Anno 1800, and while the big event season with the likes of gamescom and EGX lies behind us, there is still plenty happening in the Anno Union world. Another Union focus test round just concluded and we are working to finalize our content roadmap for those all-important last few months prior to the release of the game. Due to that workload, it can happen that some content might suffer a slight delay, as some of you might have already noticed, but we are working hard to ensure you are well entertained leading up to the big launch date.

To give you a glimpse at our upcoming content: We plan to host Livestreams more frequently, will provide fan material such as wallpapers, highlight your community projects and will tackle important outstanding topics such as naval combat or multiplayer in detail. And not to forget, we will also open the floodgates of our focus playtesting to allow more Union members than ever before to test the game.

While we are on the playtest subject: we need to talk!
The players of the latest focus test provided us once again with a large amount of incredibly helpful feedback and we are still going through the extensive test reports. But we are confident to say that the latest results show that Anno 1800 is on the right track to deliver a game Anno fans can get excited about, even though there is still a lot of work to do prior to the release in February.

In order to make sure that we get as much feedback and data as possible, we want to invite a significantly higher amount of Union members for the next phase of the focus test. This huge test will happen as early as this year and will be exclusive to members of the Anno Union. So if you are just a reader on our page, make sure that you register on the Anno Union page with your Uplay account as soon as possible to secure your chance at being invited.

And to give you some visual impressions from the latest test, here are a few screenshots from our testers (we won’t publish the names as the test is still covered by an NDA).

AnnoUnion_Focustest_ComShot_FarmsEverywhere
Okay this guy won’t have any issues with Tier 1 workforce anytime soon!
Parasite problems? EWWWW
Hey that’s what I call a teaser!

Keyword feedback: We have not missed your comments regarding the Ship Design Contest in last weeks Union Update. Because of that feedback, we will make sure that for future votes, we give you a chance to vote on a final selection on entries to determine the winner. When talking about the skill regarding the execution of these submissions, the idea behind an entry is as important for us as the actual craftsmanship of the community member, be it a drawing, writing or any other submission (even though we are often amazed by the true display of skills in some of your work).
When we are talking about content that is supposed to be added to the game, keep in mind that we also have to check if an idea is feasible within our production pipeline.

Notwithstanding the above, we want to honor exceptional creative takes and creations with a proper showcase on our Anno Union channels.

And with that, we are already at the end of today’s Union Update. Don’t forget to share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback in the comments below. Moreover, we are always eager to get your ideas for the Anno Union and the Union Updates.

24 Comments

DevBlog: Let’s go on an adventure

By the dawn of the 19th century, the majority of the globe had been accessed by various trade conglomerates and empires, but there were still curious adventurers willing to conquer our world’s final frontiers and history’s last big secrets. From the journeys of Charles Darwin and Alexander Humboldt to various novellas and tales about curiosity, bravery, and hardship – we had plenty of material to inspire Anno 1800’s new Expedition feature.

Expeditions allow us to experience the world of Anno from a completely different perspective from our usual view through the lens of an architect. From dangerous scientific expeditions to the arctic regions, exploring the heritage of old civilizations hidden in dense jungles or the hunt for infamous freebooters, playing through these exciting stories will reward you with precious and rare items. These can be anything ranging from exotic animals for your zoo or artifacts to be displayed in your newly opened museum to specialists who can boost your productivity, accompany you on future expeditions or even lead your flagships as seasoned naval veterans.

However, these undertakings were never without risk, and many scientists and explorers paid the ultimate price to follow their dreams; similarly, some of these dangerous ventures may pose a grave threat to your ship and crew.

Let me take you on an adventure
The new Expedition feature adds “choose your own adventure” style quests to Anno 1800, where you send a ship and it’s crew on a journey with an uncertain outcome. During that adventure, your crew will encounter scenarios based on the type of expedition, and you have to choose wisely how to tackle these events to guarantee a safe and rewarding outcome. There will be a variety of expedition types, such as archeological, zoological, rescue missions or even bounty hunting pirates.

Available at the third residential tier, these adventures will become available in your expedition menu and as a marker on your world map. Here, you can also see the title, type and difficulty indicator for each expedition. Naturally, lengthier and more dangerous expeditions will offer higher rewards for the risks you have to undertake. There will be many different stories with a variety of events to play through and you will be able to run several expeditions at the same time. Once you have decided which journey you want to undergo, you first have to prepare your ship.

The moral bar of your expedition serves as a health bar during the long journey into uncharted waters. The moral bar is a combination of the ship’s basic morale rating as well as the various items on your ship, including rations, goods that provide special abilities and any specialists who join your crew. The general rule: the higher the morale, the more likely it is that your expedition will be successful.

Your seasoned naval advisor provides you with information about an expedition, such as potential rewards and the types of encounters you may face. And there will be plenty of those- from foreign cultures which require diplomatic tactfulness, to diseases which can befall your crew to superstitious rumors about stranger things which befell the last unlucky souls who sailed through that mysterious passage, our expeditions can get pretty eventful. If items are a good fit for the challenges you can expect on an expedition, they will provide a significant boost to your morale bar.
Specialists with diplomatic experience might help you out with foreign encounters, canons or an experienced cannoneer will help against hostile ships and extra rations will help to endure the month long trips on the high seas.

As soon as you loaded up your ship with specialists and other items based on the Captains recommendation, you are ready to send the brave crew on to their journey and your ship will leave your session in real-time until entering the world map. There, it will travel to the expedition’s destination, indicated by a marker and a line showing the ship’s course.

Events – Captain, there is land on the horizon!
During their journey, which will take time based on the distance to the destination, events will happen, which are more frequently and challenging based on the expedition’s difficulty rating. These events will each have their own story and different stages, based on the decisions you make and their outcome. The key here is that almost every encounter has multiple possible outcomes, both joyful and negative. The decisions you make and even the items you brought with you can have an impact on the said outcome. The chance of success is affected by the quality of your items, as your specialists, the ship itself and other items and goods have their own skills and modifiers.

Let’s look at the example. Your ship took serious damage during a gruesome storm, but a carpenter might be able to repair it with his skills and some wooden planks. You have neither the needed material nor the craftsman to fix the damage? It might be worth taking the risk to ask for help on the mysterious island on the horizon. You may even boldly decide to ignore the damage altogether and just venture forth, even if your crew’s morale will take a heavy hit from travelling on a damaged ship.

As mentioned, Characters can have special traits, such as an anthropologist who can help you when encountering foreign cultures, which might lead to unique decision options based on the traits of said specialist.

Example: We have an event in which your crew makes landfall on an island in search of potable water and while doing so, meets a native tribe who currently performs a sacred ritual. A tricky situation as you don’t want to antagonize the inhabitants of the islands. Luckily, as your Anthropologist spent years studying foreign customs, he can show respect for the tribe by joining their ritual, which will reward you with a special item if successful.

Sometimes, you might have the perfect item to solve a tricky situation, which will enable a special decision with a guaranteed chance of success. But even some basic goods can help you through certain scenarios; for example, soap gives a bonus to medicine, wooden planks help if you need to repair your ship during an event and the trusty parrot gives you a bonus on faith when “pining for the fjords”.

Risks? There are always risks
In the spirit of the great scientific journeys of the 19th century, there is always something at stake but a higher skill rating can weight the odds dds when making decisions. Failing events or ignoring them when you are missing needed materials and skills will cause a hit to the morale of your expedition.
On our “Love Island” expedition shown at gamescom, an encounter with a tribe’s chieftain could lead to various outcomes: if you are lucky (or well prepared), one of the tribesmen might join your crew as a specialist but if Lady Luck is not smiling upon you that day, an ill-timed “knock knock joke” could even cost your comedian her life. Space is also precious on your ship, as you might need to leave someone behind or throw goods overboard in order to make space for that rare reward which you managed to catch during an event.

Going through events during an expedition costs morale (even during events with positive outcomes). All food and drink related goods you have on your ship count as rations, and after every event, you will be able to spend extra rations to lose less morale. The morale will sink over time or even suffer greatly when facing grim circumstances. If the morale bar falls to zero before you finish your adventure, the expedition is lost – including your ship, your crew, the precious schnapps, and even any trusty parrots you had with you.
But you are at the helm of your ship and if you feel that the risk is too high or that an expedition may take an unfortunate turn, you can always recall your ship from an active expedition.

Fortune favors the bold- and so do the rewards
When finishing an expedition, you will be rewarded with several rare or even legendary items. Every expedition has its own loot table based on the difficulty and the type of the venture, such as archaeological expeditions giving you a guaranteed cultural artifact if you succeed. Furthermore, individual encounters can also have their own loot tables or grant fixed items for specific outcomes, which are separate from the rewards for finishing the overall expedition. The rewards for finishing an expedition can be rich and plentiful, and we are looking forward to reports on your adventures and players comparing their rare items.

Besides items you can get from the event encounters themselves, expedition loot will not take up any space on your ship to make sure that you receive the deserved loot for the efforts you went through. After finishing the expedition, your ship will return to your main island and dutifully unload your spoils into your imperial harbor.

And so our story ends… for now

Expeditions are an exciting new feature that allows you to enhance your city-building experience with opportunities to get deeper immersed in the world of Anno 1800, while being able to snag some helpful items and specialists along the way. As a team, we can’t wait to hear your thoughts, and to read the first tall tales of players relay their expedition (mis)fortunes and what spoils they managed to bring back home to their islands!
What do you think of the expeditions? What stories and adventures do you want to see? And what kind of rations are the best for long expeditions? Let us know in the comments what you think.

5 Comments

DevBlog: Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the New World
The idea of splitting the game world into the orient and occident quickly became a fan-favorite feature in Anno 1404. With Anno 2205, we expanded on the idea of different biomes and created the multi session system, which allowed us to ramp up the scale of Anno’s world with separate and vastly different new habitats to colonize. With Anno 1800, we will combine the best of these two worlds: a new biome and culture brimming with details on a large separate map on which your empire and your opponents can compete over new islands and resources. Welcome to the New World!

This new fascinating archipelago will both challenge your skills as a city planner and allow you to exciting new characters; who knows, you may even be able to help them in their struggle for independence as part of Anno 1800’s campaign! But keep in mind that characters from the Old World will also follow your new trade routes and bring your existing feuds or alliances into this lush new world.

This is the first DevBlog in a two-piece series, covering the “New World” session in Anno 1800. Today, we show you the scale of the second session including the setting and gameplay elements. In a future second blog, we will focus on the new production chains as well as the new residential tiers you will find on this new continent.

Enter the jungle – armed with square and compass
At the dawn of a new industrial era, which would eventually pave the way for our modern globalized world, people craved for anything new and rare from continents they’ve only heard of in their local newspapers. The rise of the working class and private entrepreneurs fueled not only a craving for luxurious goods but was also fertile soil for the curiosity first sowed during the Age of Enlightenment.

But getting your hands on goods like cotton, tobacco or precious gold is a bold venture, as your competitors never sleep, and the islands at the coasts of the new continent are covered in dense jungles interlaced with rivers and rocky ridges.

However, the New World will not only present a welcome visual change to the familiar European style environment of the Old World, as the second session will also spice up the gameplay with often challenging islands layouts. If you manage to establish your empire in an area, which seems inaccessible at first glance, you will be rewarded with a gorgeously scenic settlement surrounded by lush forests and colorful animals.

To immerse you in that completely different hemisphere, we created two new residential tiers (both of which come with unique production chains!), new characters to interact and new sets of flora and fauna, which will populate the densely covered islands.

The two residential tiers are inspired by 19th century South America, including unique portraits, visual feedback as well as new third party characters like Isabella Sarmento, who are coming with their own islands, storylines, and quests for players to undertake. And while we can’t go into this topic too much yet, we can tell that Isabella’s fight for independence will play a focal role in Anno 1800’s campaign.

Seamless multisession and world map
But how will it exactly work? As previously mentioned, the new session is the best of two worlds: the Anno 2205 multisession system and the visual and gameplay variety from Anno 1404’s orient and occident.

As soon as you reach tier 3 (Artisans) in the old world, a discovery mission for a new route to the New World will become available. After your brave crew manages to open the new trading route across the great ocean, you will be given free access the new session as you please – seamlessly and without lengthy loading times, which is something we had received a lot of feedback on.

From there on, you can jump back and forth, managing your empire in the Old World while changing to the New World in the blink of an eye to check on your newly established settlements.
When sending ships between both sessions, they will leave the map in real time before entering the world map, which allows you to keep track of your trading ships traveling between sessions or your expedition vessels on their way into unknown waters. When establishing trade routes between sessions, you also have to take into account that your ship will take some time to cross the ocean.

While the New World will offer exciting new production chains, you can decide for yourself when and with how much dedication you want to tackle this new adventure. AI opponents of the Old World will follow your new trade route but will not discover it by themselves. That means that you can decide when it is time to branch out without being afraid that you are too late to the party. Then it is up to you if you want to spread your empire extensively into the new territory or if you just want to establish a small romantic settlement to stay in contact with local characters.
Many new Third Party characters are eager to trade their new goods with you, naturally, and for a price reflecting their considerable expenditures. But word is that Madame Kahina in the Old World has extensive contacts to the new continent and might strike a deal with you if you need some of the goods from these far away lads.

Especially your higher tier residents in the Old World love to get their hands on luxurious goods from the second session while your residents in the new lands in turn favor imported goods from your first session. Furthermore, the New World will be the main source for oil, and a steady supply of the fossil fuel from the second session comes in handy when you want to run a big electricity business. But more about production chains and goods in the second part of the New World blog.
How your feedback influenced the New World
Now that we have revealed the New World, we can also tell you how player feedback was crucial into turning it into the version you will see at launch. Our initial concept for South America was very different and definitely smaller in scale, but the strong, constructive feedback from our Ann o union testers in our previous playtests convinced us to expand our plans for the New World significantly: a lush new world of challenging islands with two separate citizen tiers with all-new production chains. This has been a truly collaborative effort between our team and our playtesters, and we are grateful both to them, as well as to all the other Union members who shared their wishes and suggestions for the second session and its gameplay with us online.
And while we are on the topic of your feedback- we are happy to announce that after we put some additional work in, you will be able to access both sessions in your multiplayer matches, giving you and your competitors access to the full breadth of Anno 1800’s world when facing off.

In the next episode of our New World blog, we will show you the two residential tiers and their production chains in action. A lot of feedback and a great amount of work went into that feature and we hope that it will provide you with many hours of exciting new content. So what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

13 Comments

DevBlog: Audio Design

To create an atmosphere of a lively metropolis in Anno 1800, we not only makes use of an high amount of detailed visual feedback, audio design plays also an important role to breathe life into the world of the 19th century. Today, we invite you into our audio studio, where we show you how our audio team creates dynamic sound landscapes with an ear for detail and of modern technology. We strongly recommend grabbing your headphones for this week’s Devblov, as this one is for all audiophile Annoholic’s out there.

8 Comments

DevBlog: Happiness

Hi guys, my name is Jan Dungel and I am the Lead Game Designer on Anno 1800. I worked on many different games in the past but Anno 1800 is an especially exciting project for me. Even compared to other strategy games, the incredibly large feature list of intertwined systems makes you realize how everything in Anno’s grand scheme is deeply connected. The setting in the era of the industrial revolutions with its many social changes is just an added cherry on top: Anno 1800 educates you, encourages smart thinking and breathes creativity.

Will you be remembered as a liberator or robber baron?
Happiness as a gameplay mechanic is nothing new to Anno fans, but as with many other features in Anno 1800, we refined the system to make it more meaningful than in any previous title in the series. But before we go into the details, let’s break down what that actually means for you.

Happiness tracks how satisfied the residents on your island are. And as freedom of choice is one of our design philosophies, you will be able to decide if your residents will remember you as a saint or robber baron, with both approaches being a valid playstyle. That means that an altruistic approach is as much of a valid strategy as exploiting your residents. To make that possible, we changed one important rule in the Anno formula: It is no longer necessary that your residents are happy in order to advance to the next tier.

With that requirement out of the way, we went ahead and re-designed residential happiness. The needs of your residents are now separated, with one part being relevant for happiness and the other being relevant for the population of your residential buildings. That allows you to just fulfill the bare minimum of subsistence needs to push your population while ignoring the satisfaction of your residents. Think about the rise of the working class, where people moved into the big cities to work in the modern factories, while often being forced to live a simplistic life, lacking any form of luxury. And still, the big cities were expanding at a rapid speed, having a hard time to catch up with the needed living space to host thousands of newly arriving residents.

Let’s look at an example. The first farmers come in because you provide a marketplace. But if you want to attract more farmers, you have to provide the different population needs such as fish or woolen smocks, which will stack up until you have the maximum amount of 10 farmers in one building in order to advance. Schnapps and a pub will surely make them happy, but they are not required in order to become part of the working class, as luxury needs won’t attract more people to your residential buildings.

Push them hard or lend them your hand
But what are the gains if you treat your residents mercilessly, or should you even care about your populace just for the peace of mind? As you are now able to advance your people based on population needs alone, you are not forced to provide luxury goods, which will save you production space and money. Imagine you want to establish a smaller production island, where you decide to maximize the profit and outcome while keeping construction space and investment as low as possible. Or maybe you have to quickly establish a working infrastructure to provide your main city with some urgently needed goods. You also might engage in large scale economic or military warfare and therefore want to concentrate your actions effectively in order to not lose the lead against the competition.

Neither happiness nor population needs are a global stat, which means that the artisans on one island can celebrate you as their savior while they desperately wait for better times to come to the next one. Remember: You can further impact the happiness of your residents when changing their workforce conditions. They won’t be pleased if you force them to harder work but on the other hand, loosening the reigns on their working conditions will make them happier at their working place.

The exact dynamics of revolting residents will be highlighted in a future blog but for now, keep in mind that happiness is separated by islands, residential tiers and even the living areas and workplaces of your population. Why should an engineer care about the exploited working class? Besides the fulfillment of happiness relevant needs and working conditions, there are other factors which might have an impact on Happiness, such as the in the Influence blog mentioned propaganda or being in a state of war with other parties.

This concept video shows the different extremes of your citizen’s happiness

Workers on strike who put your steel production on hold or farmers rallying through the streets might be an obvious downside, but how about the benefits of your satisfied citizens? Not only are happy residents are less likely to start a riot, their loyalty towards you will make them more willing to stand behind their governor’s reign when an enemy fleet besieges your island. But there is more to that- if your folks like you, they might reward you for your service with small quests or even direct rewards. If you manage to become a true hero of the people, they might even start festivities to celebrate you as a leader, which will not only affect your city attractiveness greatly but also reward you with truly exciting visual feedback. Your happy residents will also give something back to society, such helping you out with a neighborhood watch or amateur fire squads.

The different faces of happiness
Your residents have different states which show how satisfied they are with their living standards and you as a ruler. These states range from absolutely euphoric to rage against the machine, with five different states in total: Angry, Unhappy, Content, Happy and Euphoric.

A familiar element for Annoholics is the residential tiers info layer, which you can easily access by clicking on one of the residential buildings and which will tell you about their current mood. It will show you the current state and a rating how happy they are (an important stat to know how far you can go before their mood changes). The residents will also talk to you, telling you how they feel and what’s on their mind. For that, we make use of voice lines and text but also of animated portraits. By looking in their face, you should immediately get an idea how they feel, and whether they are currently happy with you or if they are concerned or angry. Besides being an important visual information layer for you as a player, it also allows us to give the people inhabiting the world of Anno 1800 some real personality:

This mock-up gives you an idea of how the Happiness UI could function in the game

You write your own story
The new Happiness system adds a few more wheels to the complex machinery and together with other features such items for specific public buildings, influence or working conditions, which make Anno 1800 to a real sandbox experience. What do you think about the changes, are you looking forward to play around with the many different systems, do you have questions or feedback with us to share?

 

10 Comments

DevBlog: Investors

What do you give the guy who has everything?

Maybe he was born into wealth, maybe he wasn’t – it doesn’t matter. Money means upper class now. The Investor is an industrial dynamo, a believer in hard work, who is simultaneously charismatic and ruthless. He is a new breed of breeding; one that is rich for a reason.

His is a life of member’s clubs, champagne and pimped steam carriages. His expectations are unequalled, for both quantity and quality. Nothing is ever enough. More, more, more!
Once the servants have cleared breakfast, he snaps open the morning newspaper. Falling stocks and shares, a scandal involving a society girl eloping with a postman. He feels empty.

What his life needs is some meaning. Something to stay the terror that grips his conscience. Charity, philanthropy! A big project to make things right; to gain him fame and profile, and most importantly, to milk the fat cash cow.

So when he stumps up the cash for your next big idea, don’t do something boring. He won’t tolerate it, not a jot.

A time of change, where soldiers of fortune build world-spanning conglomerates overnight, competing with an old aristocracy, which refused to lose their grip on dwindling empires.
Power build on century old family ties, all of a sudden threatened by the autonomy of striving companies or the progressive and social thinking of a newly arisen social class; for us a rich time with plenty of inspirations and stories to work with.
Our fifth residential tier, the investors, incorporate many of these fascinating elements. They are the old monarchs, fascinated and threatened alike by the modernizing world. But they are also the new wealth aristocracy, who are willing to take any risk on their hunt for the next big deal and their thirst for reputation and influence. The 19th century was a race about investment, stocks and bonds where the new money and if you were not able to keep up with the pace, you could lose everything in a heartbeat.

Designing a society driven by blood ties and modern economics
Our investors are a snapshot of the wealthy elite of that time, with the focus on the monarchs and especially the new financial aristocracy. The wheels of modern economics turned fast and not even the old counts and kings could allow themselves to just lay back and enjoy their wealthy inheritance.
When designing the portrait and feedback units of the investors, we wanted to convey the self-esteem of the ruling people, the serious etiquette of the time but also the extraordinary lifestyle of the upper class. In a sense, they like to insist on their dignity (if build on heritance or by making a fortune with wits and their bare hands) as well as being something greater, standing above the populace. At the end, the rise of the working class not only modernized our society, it also fueled the conflict between the classes itself.

When it comes to their residential buildings, we aimed for clean and almost marble like appearance, using only a few accents which help them to pop out in your cityscape. The green rooftops creating a great contrast, red highlights convey that feeling of luxury and royalty.
While Engineers and Artisans like to enjoy themselves in a cabaret or other easy to reach amenities, investors are more likely to take their marvelous new steam carriage to fancy restaurant or a dinner party at the clubhouse. Pompous apartment blocks, posh public buildings and sublime parks should feel like crown jewel of your metropolis.
Let the future entertain us – Gameplay
How can you please someone who has more money than you could ever spend, who buys fleets of ships filled with the most precious goods, before overnight, throwing everything overboard and investing in modern factories? In a world of the wonders and scares of modern economics, investors want to savor to the fullest and to collect only the most extraordinaire pieces, to show them to their rich friends and business partners in their fancy smoking rooms. What demonstrates your prosperity more than drinking Champaign while enjoying your rare collection of high-tech toys?
Tier 5 production chains reflect their craving for the most exclusive of all goods: from finest jewelry, to wonderfully designed gramophones or astounding new technology like steam cars.
While some of their beginning needs might start moderate, later production chains reflect their big investment and become an intricate challenge for a player.

The future is here and money loses as fast its worth as a rotting shipment of exotic fruits – You have to demonstrate power in that shark basin full of rival companies. A monopoly on menacing weaponry or stellar reputation as a host of truly marvelous events might impress opponents, allies and populace alike. The tier 5 production chains are only one element that reflects the investors influence on technological advancements. Investors become are a substantial part in the mechanic revolving around Anno 1800’s big monument, the world fair. As they are the patrons of your monument, they provide the investment capital to host exhibitions and having enough influential supports can decide how fast and often you can run the exhibition events (and reap the harvest from your stellar event).

Here the gramophone production chain in moving pictures. You island neighbor mentioned that his steam-car production is way more impressive and complex to look at.

From humble beginnings to a world spanning company
The residential tiers are a picturesque tour through the classes and reflect the changes of that time. With the last residential tier, we close the brief look over Anno 1800’s high-level progression. Starting traditionally with the farmers, every tier will make production chains more modern, complex and will unlock exciting features. On your journey to the end game, gameplay will more and more open up and when reaching the last tier, provide you with all the tools to allow the replay-ability and complexity Anno fans have asked for.

As always, your elaborate feedback was very insightful for our team. Thanks to blog comments and the focus test, we were already able to improve many aspects of the game, such as complexity, balance and even whole production chains. As always, we are looking for your feedback, from expectations, suggestions or even a confirmation that our take on the last residential tier of Anno 1800 is something that resonates with you. Please let us know in the comments below!

On a different note, we have another AnnoAfternoon Community live stream this Sunday at 5pm CEST. Join Chris and John from our Community team once again when they continue their journey through the fan favorite Anno 1404. Watch it as always on twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

5 Comments

DevBlog: User Interface

Hi Annoholics, my name is Khajag Jabaghchourian, and I am one of the UI Designers working on Anno 1800’s user interface. When I joined Ubisoft Blue Byte’s UI team six months ago, it was just in time to get ready for our big UI overhaul project. During the last episode of the AnnoCast, I had the pleasure to chat with you about the style and functionality of our user interface and why that is especially tricky and important when it comes to strategy games such as Anno. Since then, we received some feedback regarding the UI from our community- a great opportunity to invite you all to have a look at the daily work of a UI Designer.

UI and UX in a nutshell
I bet that most of you have heard the term UI before and what seems simple at first glance, is the result of a fairly intricate design process. The UI (short for user interface) is, to put it simply, the first thing a player encounters when interacting with Anno 1800. It consists all of the interface elements of the game, such as buttons, menu windows, and contextual info layers.
The first thing which comes to your mind is probably a variety of colored boxes and icons. This visual layer on top of your gameplay screen hosts all information a player needs in order to understand what is happening and in the next step, enables you to interact with the game via your input commands.
You can say that the UI enables communication between the player and the game, translating the game language for the user and making the players input understandable for the game.

Especially a management game like Anno needs to convey huge amounts of information to the player.
The user experience (UX) ensures the usability and readability of our UI, as we need to make sure that it is easy to understand, gives clear feedback and takes the least possible effort to achieve a task. Think about Anno’s construction menu, where you want to be able to build complex production lines, consisting of many different buildings and materials, with the smallest amount of clicks (interaction) possible. We want you to be able to focus on your gameplay strategy and not distract you with busywork such as browsing through too many windows to figure out which buildings are connected to what production line. The UX basically serves as a blueprint map, defining the steps you need to take until you reach your goal, while the UI consists of all visual elements which accompany you on your journey.

Why is UI/UX design special or important in an Anno game?
For a complex strategy game like Anno 1800, a good UI and UX design can be the maker or breaker when it comes to ensuring a smooth gameplay experience. While units like ships utilize direct interaction with the player, many other interactions happen between the player and the UI.
If you compare it to a typical action game, most interaction usually happens through direct input to an avatar and it’s interaction with its environment. Here, the avatar reacts to your direct controller input such as a quick press of a button to cast a spell. In a strategy game like Anno, it would mean that you have UI elements such as buttons to command the avatar to perform that action.

But it is the huge scale of the management and building aspect what we all love about Anno, right?

One of the challenges is to find an easy solution for understanding the complex information -> as an example: trade routes (loading, unloading, a big list of items, islands, ships etc.). Without functional design, controlling a complex strategy game can easily overwhelm the player rather than providing an exciting gameplay experience.

And to achieve that goal, we have to prioritize functional design over the artistic touch. As our form follows the function, we can reduce the cognitive and physical workload for the player.

The Anno 1800 UI design
For Anno 1800, we decided on a clean design, including only a minimal amount of ornamentation, materials, and textures. Our focus was on preserving the functionality in our designs, aiming for a more contemporary and refined look that fits our “industrial revolution” setting. We want it to be easy on the eyes of the player, allowing fast access to all needed information. If there are too many visual elements, the UI itself would start competing with the actual game for the player’s attention; such distractions that quickly start hurting the gameplay flow. Talking about the colors, we decided for darker colors for the HUD (heads-up display). As the HUD is constantly visible, bright and flashy color schemes could quickly become tiring for the eyes and also steal too much attention from the actual gameplay screen.
For pop up information or notifications windows, on the other hand, we picked a brighter color to draw the immediate attention of the player.

Let’s start creating
Okay, so far so good, but how do we actually create our UI and UX design? When we start working on a new UI element, Game Design provides us all the gameplay information and details about the game logic we need to make accessible for the player. We discuss which details are the most important information the player needs to know and what tasks they need to be able to perform within the interface element. The trade route menu is again a really good example, as you need to be able to see all the needed information about your ships, the routes, goods, islands and what kind of orders you can give on the different destinations.

In the next step, we grab a pen and some paper and start sketching out so called wireframes, which serve as a blueprint. This wireframe holds all information about the functionality and the flow of the menus, which further allows us to create interactive prototypes to actually test the UX.
When we are confident that the wireframes are working, we can start on the actual visual UI elements. This means creating mock-ups, defining the text and color style as well as the shapes we want to use. Concept Art from our art department serves here as an inspiration and a visual guideline. The UI team has also dedicated Icon Designers, who support us by designing and producing the icons we need for our UI. That can be something simple like a specific button or something complex like the tourist ferry timer we have shown during the last stream.

From mockups to final assets, we usually use programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop as well as After Effects for animations.

Once we have a functional wireframe, including all the boxes and visual elements we need, it’s implementation time! For that, we will discuss the technical requirements with our programming team.
They will then go ahead and build a working skeleton for our UI. In the final step, we make final preparations for the design and then apply it on the skeleton, to implement our UI into the game.

We need your input!
We hope we were able to give you a good understanding of Anno’s intricate UI/UX design, and why it is of such importance for strategy games. Up to the release of the game, we will continue to work and improve our interface but one of our challenges is a lack of community feedback, as the UI is something many players take as a given but rarely discuss in detail.

And here is where the Anno Union comes into play: we would love to get your feedback on our current state of the UI, as seen in the stream and on this blog. Is the overall look satisfying? Is there something from previous Anno games you especially liked about the UI? What is of most importance to you for an exciting and functional Anno 1800 user interface?

Our team is looking forward to your feedback!

15 Comments

Union Update: How we make decisions

The impact of the Anno Union on our development decisions
In the past, we have often talked how cooperating with the community is an immense help for us in the development of Anno 1800. Given some of the reactions to last week’s DevBlog, we want to talk about this a bit more today.

Thanks to everyone here on the dev team at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz working together, we have so far been able to share close to 70 blogs, as well as streams and events with you all since we kicked off the Anno Union- which is a very rare level of information for a game so early in development. In turn, your reactions and comments to these blogs provide us with a large pool of feedback to work with. It is not uncommon for some of these suggestions to make it right onto our Development Roadmap.

Sometimes we are looking for concrete focused answers to our questions, while at other times we are seeking a large amount of more unfiltered thoughts from the community. By inviting community members to the studio, we get an additional spotlight and point of view on certain situations. Sadly, some commenters reacting to our last DevBog read this as the comments in the Anno Union being less relevant- we want to absolutely emphasize that this is not the case. We received hundreds of comments with ideas and suggestions on the topic of land-based combat, all of which we filed for reports that were presented to the team for analysis. Personal discussions and focus groups with Union members are an additional feedback loop beyond – not instead of – online comments for us. We also try to ensure that we have a good variety of player types and age groups for such discussions, to give us a good range of opinions on the topics.

We consider community feedback for all of our decisions; however, in most cases it cannot be the sole deciding factor, especially when it comes to features that based on their complexity would affect countless other aspects of the game. With the Anno Union, we are inviting players to become part of our team, and to influence certain game content and features through their feedback and votes. However, a project of this size and logistical complexity cannot be realized without some decision makers who bear the responsibility in the end. To succeed, we have to carefully balance many creative aspects with the realities of their associated production costs and timelines. The hardest decisions are of course always those where we know that they will disappoint some of our fans. Unfortunately, implementing all the feedback and especially the many all-new ideas and suggestions from the community is simply not feasible within a realistic timeframe and budget.

Was land-based combat never considered before and how are you not able to find a working design?
Since the beginning of the project, we have considered different ways to integrate land-based combat to the game as an enriching addition to the gameplay. Despite our efforts, we had to realize that fully developing this part of the game would not be possible to integrate without necessitating steep cuts to other parts of the game. The early decision to cut out land-based combat allowed us to create a more refined naval combat system and to expand on many other features of Anno 1800’s core gameplay and content.
After last fall’s announcement and the resulting feedback, our team started to work on several concepts based on our experience and expectations from our communities. Creating a working design concept is only one thing; the accompanying production effort and ressources are an entirely different beast. Even if we would technically be able to just copy the land-based combat from Anno 1701 or 1404, it would still result in a major effort to adapt the system for Anno 1800. We are not talking about balancing of the production chains and creating the underlying game logic for the combat system, we would need to spend major resources on coding, creation of assets, animating of units as well as changing all system, which are affected by the land-based combat.

Where’s the information on the naval battles?
After the introduction of our basic concepts back in November, it has been our goal that the next update on the naval battles will not just describe them in words, but also shows it in action. Videos and screenshots will ensure that the next DevBlog on the naval battles will not only put you in the right mood, but will also give you a proper understanding of the feature. Despite this, it was very important to us to be transparent with the community, and to share the news on the omission of land-based combat as soon as possible.

Similar to the classic Anno games, naval battles will take place In the middle of your colonized game world and will offer enough complexity and tactical variety to ensure that both battles on the high seas, and around your harbors are exciting and varied. We have to ask you for a little more patience until we can give you a detailed look at how all of this will work in Anno 1800. Your many comments have already given us some very valuable feedback, and some suggestions and ideas are already being implemented into the naval battles.

21 Comments