- History Collection
DevBlog: Anno 1503 History Edition
Hey Anno Community,
Welcome to the third part of our series of DevBlogs covering the four classic Anno games included in the upcoming Anno History Collection. This time, we will cover Anno 1503, and a black mark on the Anno franchise that we are incredibly happy to finally erase after 18 years! If you did not get a chance to check out our two previous blogs yet, we would encourage you to do so before reading on (especially the first one):
Classic gameplay on modern PCs
As outlined before, our priority with this collection and the four games included (the History Editions of Anno 1602, 1503, 1701 and 1404) was to maintain the classic gameplay that we have all grown to love over the past two decades, while ensuring that playing these games on your current PCs is smooth and hassle-free. This is of course also true for Anno 1503 History Edition:
The game has been completely ported to be 64-bit only, meaning it can now take full advantage of the RAM in your PC, which helps improve performance and stability.
As with the other three games, Anno 1503 HE will support screen resolutions all the way up to stunning 4k. As with Anno 1602 HE, you will be able to manually select a UI scale to ensure that the UI remains comfortable to use even at 4k.
“Now hold on a minute”, we can hear you shout, “what about the improved multiplayer?”. Well…why don’t you grab a cold (or warm) drink of your choice, get comfortable, and we dive into another history lesson together?
Anno 1503: A great sequel with a glaring omission
While small Austrian developer MAX Design had developed several decently successful games like Oldtimer before, nothing could have prepared them for the meteoric success of Anno 1602 when they first released it in Spring 1998. Between rave reviews and stellar sales in German-speaking markets, Anno did right out of the gate become a heavy hitter in the then-burgeoning PC strategy market. Of course, with great success comes great expectations, so when it was time for the team to plot a course for their next game, they had to do so with the newfound burden of developing a sequel to Germany’s best-selling PC game of the year.
With that in mind, it should not be too surprising that Anno 1503’s development took unusually long for its time, coming out more than four years later in Fall 2002. When it finally did come out, it not only offered a plethora of new content (such as several different biomes and hundreds of building models), but also some big shake-ups to 1602’s tried-and-true gameplay.
For example, rulers in Anno 1503 could no longer rely on taxes from their citizenry to fill their coffers. Instead, the game followed a more mercantile setup where players had to build market stalls where they sold wares to residents to finance their empire. While some of these changes proved highly controversial, no one could accuse MAX Design of playing to safe with their 1602 follow-up! More impactful changes that first made their way into the series were different cultures such as Venetians or Inuit and the fact that some traders now had their own island rather than just a periodically visiting ship.
While the execution of course varies, you can still see many of these ideas living on in Anno 1800, with our geographically varied sessions and traders like Madame Kahina or the Inuit in “The Passage”. And of course, Anno 1503 stayed true to the form established with 1602 by being a stunningly beautiful game, with highly detailed 2D graphics that were filled with small details that brought the world to life. Much like its predecessor, the game also became an instant success in Germany, immediately topping the charts and becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. In other words, everything could have been perfect for MAX Design, Sunflowers and Anno 1503… if not for that pesky multiplayer mode.
During development, it was promised that Anno 1503 would come with a multiplayer mode that would allow players to compete for resources as they built their empires. However, it turned out that with this promise the companies involved may have bitten off more than they could chew, as they struggled throughout development to get the multiplayer mode to be stable with the amount of data being sent back and forth between players. Come release, players found that the “Multiplayer” button in the main menu was greyed out, with a promise of it coming later down the road as a free update. Weeks became months, and when even the game’s expansion pack “Treasures, Monsters & Pirates” (which is of course part of the History Edition) was released without the promised multiplayer, Sunflowers had a proper scandal on its hands.
In the end, it was announced that work on the multiplayer mode was scrapped roughly 1 ½ years after Anno 1503’s release, bringing the inglorious saga to a sad ending. Despite all the work and even a beta test, the team were unable to reach the level of performance and stability required to release the multiplayer mode officially, instead opting to remove the previously greyed-out button from the menu. The resourceful Anno community eventually made the mode available via mods and fan patches, but the black mark of the long-promised and ultimately cancelled multiplayer mode has stuck with the game and the Anno series ever since, to the point where people still brought it up when Anno 1800 was announced more than a decade later by a completely different developer and publisher!
When we started talking about doing the Anno History Collection, this quickly became the crucial point- could we finally erase the black mark and officially release the Anno 1503 multiplayer mode after all these years? If not, there would be no point in doing this collection, so the first step for our programmers was to dive into the old source code to see if we had everything needed. Once we managed to get it running and performing well, we knew that we could offer long-time Anno fans special surprise with the History Collection.
As with the other games, Anno 1503 History Edition’s mode will be powered by Uplay and have not only all the originally envisioned features, but also a quickmatch mode and desync recovery. In addition, we even created all-new content in the form of three additional multiplayer scenarios, to round out the two from the original developers!
Other improvements to Anno 1503 History Edition include:
Three new optional mouse cursors to pick from in addition to the original style
Borderless Window mode, in addition to Fullscreen and Windowed
Optional multi-placement of residential buildings, to make painting down new housing for your citizens quick and painless
Optional mouse-scrolling for smoother movement across the map
We fixed a graphical glitch that would appear on coastlines; as with the other improvements, this is entirely optional, in case you prefer to see how things looked back in the day
All these improvements can be select from a new options menu, which also offers an overview of all hotkey bindings.
Finally, we fixed an old issue that put a hard limit on the number of available units in the game(the so-called “FIG value), which would result in a crash once that number was reached. That means that record builders will no longer be limited by this issue and can once again start the race for new citizen records!
The 1503 HE will of course also have save game compatibility, meaning that you will be able to take your old save games and pick up playing where you last stopped.
There is some bad news, however. We sadly will not be releasing an updated version of the Anno 1503 editor, as it was only released in German previously, and issues with the source code prevent us from localizing it. You can however still use scenarios that were made in the original editor in the History Edition. Also, three tracks from the original game’s soundtrack will not be coming back, due to licensing reasons.
Finally, languages. Anno 1503 History Edition will support English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch languages.
As mentioned in the Anno 1602 HE blog, we have asked Dynamedion to compose a new History Edition Suite encompassing the main themes of all four games, which you can of course also enjoy with Anno 1503 HE, alongside the rest of the digital soundtrack. Beyond that, buyers of this version can look forward to a special commemorative Anno 1503 wallpaper, and a company logo for use in Anno 1800. Keep in mind that anyone who buys the full Anno History Collection on Uplay will also get an additional fifth company logo, plus a special ornament for use in Anno 1800.
And that is it for today! Let us know about your favorite Anno 1503 memories in the comments and join us soon for our look at the History Editions crown jewel, Anno 1404.