In 2011, the face of the Anno series changed with a giant leap into the future. With Anno 2070, we changed our sails with high tech ferries and were ready to explore the world of the future, where global warming changed the planet and caused the sea to conquer the continents.
With the futuristic setting came not only drastically changed visuals for the series, but also an expansion of the Anno formula, as it was now possible to explore the deep sea and settle on the ocean floor. As this week marks the 6th birthday of Anno 2070, we would like to share a few memories of our developers and the Anno union with all of you.
Anniversary Stream this Friday
Tune in this Friday to join our Anno 2070 anniversary stream. Based on your feedback to the last anniversary event, we decided to ramp up the difficulty level a bit to keep the tension high. The stream will go live this Friday, 17th November at 4pm CEST, as usual on our Ubisoft Blue Byte Twitch channel:
Dirk Riegert, Creative Director
I remember as if it was yesterday, when we set the first corner stones for the development of Anno 2070. It was shortly before the release of Anno 1404. Our publisher (back then, Related Designs was not a full part of the Ubisoft network) wanted the fifth installment of the series to be a bigger step and an interesting iteration of the franchise. They wanted us to inject a fresh new take into the franchise and it was on us to bring up ideas for a new setting.
But what should be the new time period for the next Anno? Which solution would work with the traditional game elements of the series but would also offer something unexpected? When the Ubisoft delegation arrived in our office in November 2008, we were prepared with a presentation, including all of our combined ideas for the game with the working title »Anno 5«. We had considered all kinds of sensible and crazy time periods, and spent a lot of time with the ones which made most sense for the series, with options such as Anno 1305 or wild ideas like Anno Vikings. We ended up with five concepts for our setting: Anno 117, Anno 1602, Anno 1800 (yes, we thought about that quite a while ago), Anno 2160 and Anno 3006.
For the Anno 2160 concept, we noted down that it was »probably too crazy«. However, we still wanted to explore that idea for a setting as we saw the potential for many interesting possibilities for the look and the design of the game. We had the first ideas after watching the movie »Deep Blue« and reading an article regarding the possible economic use of the deep sea. What if the fifth Anno would allow players to not only build their settlements on islands above the sea level, but also on plateaus deep beneath it? That idea was fascinating to us. To our surprise, 2160 was the idea which excited Ubisoft most when we presented our five proposals for the next setting. That they were willing to take a bet on a completely new setting astonished us in the same way it made us happy. It did not took much time to discuss the next step and shortly after, we were able to start working on the game, which would go on to become Anno 2070.
At the end, the risk was worth taking. Up to this day, Anno 2070 is the commercially most successful title of the entire series. Besides the advances to digital distribution, which allowed us to expand to international markets, this was surely also due to the bold move to a fresh new setting.
Christian Rösch, Software Developer
If you followed our last anniversary blog, you might know how much can go wrong when working on the movement of units. With 2070, we introduced air units to the series and with that, we had a lot of crazy ideas to try out. Ships travel across the see and might meet each other along the way, sometimes, a bit too close which might lead to a crash on high waters. That is different with air units as they can alter their altitude. For us a lucky situation to be in, because we were finally able to avoid that annoying collision. I started to work on some kind of a virtual air traffic controller, who had always an eye on the flight routes of air units. If the controller noticed that two planes are on a collision course, he took action and ordered them take a different altitude. A great system which worked out well, not even the cart pusher got weirdly affected compared to the last time. But there was a catch to it, this time the isometric perspective of the human perception. If you watched the airplanes moving, you had a hard time to grasp those planes would fly up and down as your brain always expect that they just move south or north. Often, it seemed that they planes crash and clip through each other while in reality they, just passed by under each other. As it just looked confusing, we decided that all units still get the same altitude to move in order to avoid confusion and that they would only loose altitude when landing.
Carsten Eckhardt, Senior 3D Artist
During the last steps of Anno 2070’s development, most 3D work was done and we, as 3D designer, helped out creating icons for the game. The icons in 2070 were apparently not drawn; each one of them was a small 3D icon, which we created for the game. It usually took some time to find the right lighting and position in order to display the icon to its advantage. As icons are fairly small, you need to focus on the essentials and cannot really tell a complex story compared to a more detailed picture. The players must understand the meaning and function of the item from the get go. Moreover, icons must be distinctive from each other to avoid confusion. Leveldesign was working on the campaign and for that, they needed an icon once a while, mostly for items which got transported or used by the player. One day, we got an icon request from our level design team including a description of the gameplay purpose of the item. I did a few icons before that but this time; I could tell that this request was somewhat special. This request should proof itself as quite a challenge. The description was a spy camera, which the player should use in an underwater mission, but before that, he had to smuggle it on board of a science station. The catch was that as a smuggling good, the icon should look like the spy camera and like an alga at the same time. Congratulations, I just got the request to create a camera, which should like an alga. Luckily enough, I was able to convince the responsible level designer that it might not be the best idea to have so many information in one simple and small icon. At the end, we could agree on the camera looking like an UBS stick in two states, one version with and the other without the secret information on it.
Anno2070 ….for the first time a futuristic setting. And it was dark… pretty dark, at least for the tone we are used in Anno games. The multiplayer was awesome, I remember how I picked a friend of mine to only take care of the military aspects. I managed the residents and resources to produce weapons while he was battling the pirates. I am a fairly peaceful Anno player, he likes warfare, the perfect combination!
During the last new year’s eve, we schemed the plan to just play through the whole night with Anno and a few other games. As you might imagine, it was a bad idea to play any other game when the first game on the list is Anno. We played nothing else during that night. As we were experienced players, we managed to build and advance our settlements with ease. It did not took too long for us to be at war with the AI and the last remaining free islands, as I never had enough corn to get along with the eco guys. And with that, I played through the whole night and it was around 10am, when I heard a loud snoring noise coming from my friend through the Teamspeak channel. I was able to wake him up but some shouting was involved. It was that moment when we both realized, that we had played Anno for over 12 hours without a noticing it. This night is one of my best gaming memories of all time.
My probably most memorable experience was the „Alwinic Anion Catalyst – Moment“. We played in a group of three and by that time, had spent hours in that one match already. I was looking for the prototype for quite a while, so you might imagine that I was quite euphoric when the Trenchcoat had it finally in its stock. The result was that I was very vocal about to my dear players, and they reacted: One of them threatened my with a change of the offer and the other one just bought it in front of my eyes (and gifted it at the end to me, which saved myself 900 licenses). All in all, I love to think back to this time and it’s many, many moments of joy *sheds a tear*