- History Collection
DevBlog: Anno 1602 History Edition
Hey Anno Community,
Last month we announced the release of the Anno History Collection arriving June 25, which will update the beloved first four games in the Anno series to take better advantage of modern PCs, while maintaining the gameplay we all know and love. As promised at the announcement, we will have a separate blog post for each of the games to not only talk about the new improvements, but also about the games and their place in Anno history themselves. As this is the first blog, we will take this opportunity to talk a bit about the History Collection in general, before diving right into Anno 1602 History Edition!
Our goals for the History Collection
The first question that came to many minds upon our announcement was of course “why?”, so let us start with that. As you know, Anno 1800 has been a huge success for the team, becoming the fastest-selling Anno game right out of the gate, and attracting more than a million players within its first nine months on the market. Many of these players have been discovering the Anno series for the first time with 1800, and we have been seeing more and more questions about the older games. Of course, it is also possible that many of our international players have played an Anno game in the past, and simply did not realize! You see, the games industry was quite different one or two decades ago.
In the case of Anno, the history in non-German-speaking markets has been a curious one. The first four games that are part of the collection all had different publishers and distribution partners in different countries, which also resulted in all of them having different names in various regions! Turns out that the 1602 A.D. or Dawn of Discovery games you played in your youth were Anno games! In fact, it was not until the series took a trip into the future with Anno 2070 that the series’ name would be used globally. In this sense, the collection presents a good way to get our entire community on the same page. You may have also noticed that the artworks for the History Editions of the games have new logos that are closer in style to Anno 1800’s, unifying the branding of the series going forward to make sure that you will immediately recognize anything Anno when you see it (don’t worry- we went with the classic logos inside the games for nostalgia’s sake!).
Of course, that is only part of our reasoning- the much more important aspect is enabling players to enjoy these games without issues and tinkering on their modern PCs and operating systems. Both the gaming industry and technology have undergone some huge changes since these games first saw the light of day (keep in mind that even Anno 1404 as the newest of these titles is more than a decade old), which have led to some of these games being harder to play on current PCs and their multiplayer becoming inaccessible. So, when we started discussing the possibility of releasing such a collection, we defined three key goals:
- Make them easy to run well on modern PCs. No more fiddling with legacy Windows settings or struggling with hard- and software incompatibilities!
- Bring back multiplayer and make it easy to use. Each of the old games used a different multiplayer setup, using either deprecated internal solutions or middleware that no longer exists such as Gamespy.
- Above all else, we wanted to maintain the gameplay the community loves, while seeing if we can make some smaller quality of life changes that make playing these games a smoother experience.
Let us go through these step by step!
Porting all games to 64-bit
Given that they were released between 11 and 22 years ago, all the older Anno games were released as 32-bit software (whereas Anno 2205 or 1800 are 64-bit software only). While that was normal at the time (with 64-bit operating systems and processors only becoming widely used much later), it also comes with some inherent problems that the games share with all 32-bit software. The most obvious being the fact that 32-bit software can only address 4GB of RAM in your system, due to a hard limit on the number of RAM bytes the software can address. In other words- no matter how much RAM you may have in your modern PC, these old games can only use less than 4GB of it.
With this in mind, it was a priority for us to port the games to 64-bit, to make sure your growing empires can make full use of all your available resources. You will also note other general improvements to performance and stability, making playing these classics all-around much smoother (this is especially true for the oldest games, Anno 1602 and 1503).
The other big topic on the tech side was of course the graphics, seeing how a resolution of 1024×768 would have already been opulent beyond belief when Anno 1602 first came out. Here we again want to strike a balance between preserving beloved games and making playing them a smooth experience in 2020 and beyond. That is why we have kept all the original game assets intact but have changed the games to properly support widescreen formats and resolutions all the way up to 4k. And yes, full 4k support of course means that the UI will scale with the higher resolution to make sure that you can comfortably play the game! In the case of Anno 1602, you will have the option to freely choose between three different UI sizes at any time during the game.
Bringing back and improving multiplayer functionality
As mentioned above, time has not been kind to the multiplayer functionality of the classic Anno games, forcing many of them offline due to their previously used infrastructure and middleware becoming outdated or even deprecated. To ensure that you can relive your memories of past battles and will be able to play all four games for years to come, we have ported all of their multiplayer functionality to Uplay, with a feature set similar to what we use for Anno 1800. Regarding graphics, we are ensuring that all the previously available gameplay options and features stay the same, but are in addition to custom lobbies, including matchmaking for quickmatches. In the case of a de-sync (game state of clients differs), we have introduced a comfortable recovery to reduce the impact of such incidents to a minimum (except for 1602 since it uses a different synchronization technique).
With the technical jargon out of the way, let’s talk Anno 1602!
Placing the cornerstone with Anno 1602
The question what makes Anno 1602 special is of course an easy one to answer: Being the first game in the series, there would have not been an Anno 1503, 1404 or 1800 if Anno 1602 had not been an instant hit, and gone on to become one of the most successful PC games ever in Germany. Originally released in Spring 1998 by Austrian developer MAX Design and German publisher Sunflowers, the game immediately became a major contender in the then-crowded city-building genre. Even then, all the hallmarks of Anno were already in evidence: gamers enjoyed highly detailed 2D graphics as they tried to satisfy their citizens’ increasing demands, unlocking ever more complex production chains in the process.
As with all classic Anno games, 1602 would eventually get an expansion called “New Islands, New Adventures”, which not only added dozens of new scenarios and islands, but also improvements to the core gameplay. All this content is of course also part of the History Edition release.
Building upon a classic
As mentioned, it was crucial for us to preserve this classic gameplay, so new players can see how Anno started out. To this end, we are introducing a few quality-of-life improvements, which are entirely optional (so if you want to play with just one mouse button, be our guest!). These improvements are:
- Modern controls: Anno 1602 used a very retro control scheme, employing just the left mouse button for all actions. We have implemented the option to switch to modern Anno controls, using the right mouse button for navigation and to order your ships.
- To go alongside that, there is also a new mouse cursor to replace the classic Windows-esque look
- You can now use the mouse wheel for zooming (this one is a permanent change). Fun fact- back then, many mice did not even have mouse wheels!
- Borderless window mode, making both streaming and task-switching to look up your favorite guides more convenient. This is of course in addition to full-screen and windowed modes.
- Given their extremely low resolution, you can now opt to have the beloved cutscenes that play when you find a new resource etc. show in the minimap window instead, allowing you to keep building while you indulge in the nostalgia
We have also implemented a new in-game menu where you can change these settings at any time and added a new overview screen of all the keyboard shortcuts.
Another especially important feature is save game compatibility, allowing you to take your old saves from previous versions of the game, and to keep building those empires in this History Edition! Even better, this support also extends to user-generated content! Not only have we updated the Anno 1602 Editor to work with the new enhancements, but you will also be able to load up any previously generated user scenarios!
Finally, we need to address languages, with the Anno 1602 History Edition supporting the following languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Polish.
With these improvements, we hope to strike an ideal balance between presenting classic gameplay as it was intended by its original developer, while giving players some optional improvements to make playing Anno 1602 easier than ever for a modern audience.
Finally, we want to throw in some additional goodies to thank you all for your support of Anno over the years. To this end, we have asked our friends at Dynamedion (the masterminds behind Anno 1800’s orchestral soundtrack) to arrange a new History Collection Suite combining elements of all four games’ main themes, which has been added to the game’s playlist. Other digital bonus content includes the Anno 1602 soundtrack, a special new wallpaper commemorating the game, and a new 1602-themed company logo for use in Anno 1800. Let us know if you have any additional questions about the Anno 1602 History Edition and see you soon for a look at Anno 1701!