Union Update: Island creation contest

What an exciting week it has been thanks to the big announcement of the upcoming Union focus-playtests and a passionate look inside in the work of our level art team.
This week, it is time for the next DevBlog in our logistic series, where we will demonstrate how we bring back both complexity and freedom of choice with Anno 1800’s trading routes.

While you will hear back about the story contest winners soon, today we want to fuel your creativity once more:

The Union Island creation contest
Islands design has been a matter of passionate community discussions for a long time now and you shared plenty of interesting ideas and suggestions in last week’s DevBlog.
While we love to take inspiration from your ideas, there is also a creative power in the Anno Union, and we want to use that energy to its fullest potential- so we decided to give our Union the chance to bring a true community created map into the game.

We kick off our official Union island creation contest today and we are looking for your interesting takes on the Anno island formula. The best entries get the chance to become something truly special, as we will put the best maps up for a vote on the Anno Union and the winning island shape will get implemented into the game.

Here are the details:
– The deadline for the contest is Thursday, February 15th and you can post your entry here: Island Creation Contest
– You design your own island shape, you can either do it digitally or send us a scan of your drawn image. – Your island should be a clearly visible island shape shown in top down view.
– Your shape should include terrain elements such as mountains and hills as well as marked spaces for beaches. Keep in mind: if something is not marked as a beach, it is counted as a cliff-side.
– Finally , but very importantly, add interesting details and obstacles. We are curious about your interesting ideas but make sure that things do not get too crazy.
– A picture of your island is mandatory but you can post a short description and the gameplay ideas behind your concept in the forum as well.

Here is an example of shape and drawn areas. 

Focus Playtest requirements and questions

We got plenty of detailed and well thought out applications but we also know that there are some burning questions regarding the focus playtests. Instead of answering every single question in the QnA part separately, we decided to provide some extended details on the playtest and will overhaul the FAQ on the playtest page this week.

Deadlines and do I need to apply again for future playtests?
The application process has no deadline attached and you won’t need to apply for each test separately. Several test sessions will run over the course of the year and we will pick testers always from an aggregated list of applicants, which we will frequently update over time.

If I am invited once, will I be able to play on every future focus test?
You won’t – while we might invite people more than once, we want a variety feedback from different players and for that reason, we will change testers for every focus group. Later tests might require data from bigger groups, so just keep an eye on the Union for future information on that matter.

What are the exact system requirements?
Many of you were curious about the time requirements of the first test. While we aim to provide many options to customize your experience for the final game, our early development version is not optimized yet. That means that performance is subject to change and that the hardware requirements are not representative. It is hard for us to tell right now, but you will most likely need a PC which runs 2205 with at least recommended specs.

Why do I need to be 18+?
We are aware that there are many younger Anno fans out there. The minimum age is a legal requirement as the playtest will be subject of a strict NDA. Remember that we give players access to the in-development version of the game. The NDA requirements might change in a later stage of development and we will keep you updated in future Union Updates.

I can’t play one hour every day, why is it not possible to play just 14 hours over the weekend?
We are aware that at least one hour a day over the course of two weeks is a lot of commitment and not feasible for everyone. Future playtests can vary in length, but for the moment we need detailed feedback on a daily basis from testers.
The one hour is a minimum requirement and as mentioned, you can play as long as you have time during the focus test. We will monitor bugs, might perform changes and fixes to the client as well as ask for specific feedback about certain game elements on a daily basis. Because of that, playing the minimum daily time altogether on a weekend is unfortunately not possible.

Will Uplay be required to test the game?
Yes, Uplay will be a requirement for the focus tests.

I am disappointed that activity in the Union was not taking into account for the application process!
As mentioned on the playtest page, constructive behavior is a requirement to be eligible for playtesting. It makes no sense for us to ask you how active you are in the Anno Union or the Ubisoft forum, as we can gather these data on our own. Activity as well as other community engagement is an absolute plus.

How do feedback and bug reports work, will I have someone to talk to if I encounter problems during the focus test?
We will offer support from a dedicated testing team to all testers. We will provide the exact details if you get invited to a test but rest assured that we have a process and the needed tools for feedback collections and reports.

Community QnA

Do all islands have only a small amount of beaches? Is it the rule that mountains surround islands rather than rising from the middle?
Simon: The beaches are the only spots allowing access to your island. However, you will usually have several beach slots available, depending on the size of an island.
Mountains are not limited to the borders of the playing area, and there will be islands in the game where hills and mountains ascend from the center. We want a variety gameplay challenges and scenarios, and the placement of a mountains and other terrain has a strong influence on the difficulty.

We are curious how many tiles the island shown in the blog has? When you work on the surface details, it seems that you work on one big object, and that before you structure the sectors of the island. How are you doing that? Additionally, I would like to know what kind of textures you use? And how do you ensure that your textures don’t look like repeating tiles? 80 hours of work for one island, I guess that more than one person works on one island?
Simon: Our islands are one big 3D element, which we are able to completely modify and edit as a whole. It is not segmented by separate elements. Our tools allow us to define the construction space while we work on the object. There are several methods and ways of handling textures, such as “Seamless Textures” or “Tint Maps”, which can prevent unwanted tiling effects. But that is a complex topic in itself and like always, often a combination of different techniques. The 80 hours for an island are the average time spent but we share the workload with several team members.

I have one question, did this thing that it can take 80 hours map time become in 1800, 2205 or was it already in early games like 2070?
Simon: In fact, we optimized our workflow a bit since then, which means we need slightly less time than we needed for an average island in 2205.

How many islands would be created for the entire game? Are any of them created via a scripting tool or is it all done manually?
Simon: We don’t want to reveal the final amount of islands for the game as of yet. We use the tool World Machine to create a basic layout for the map which we than alter and polish by hand.

One question, as a Level Artist, are there performance constraints that go into what you can do with the design of an island? Is there a limit to the number of “features” on each island for the sake of engine performance?
Simon: Level artists usually care about making a level visually stunning but we also have to keep performance in mind especially when it comes to placeable objects or complex vegetation, as these can take up a lot of performance if you aren’t careful.


DevBlog: Island creation

Hi, my Name is Simon Wolf and I am a Level Artist on Anno 1800. I joined the team here in Mainz roughly a year ago and today, I would like to give you some insights into my job- both what motivates me and how us Level Artists shape the world of Anno, one island at a time.

At its heart, Anno is about vast cityscapes, ships on high waters or citizens roaming through narrow streets. But at one point in any discussion about the series, you will be able to hear players talking about another really important element of the game: the islands themselves.

Islands are both the playground to let your creative energy loose and the challenge which stands between your goals, such as expanding your city’s population by just a few thousands citizens.

The importance of your game world
Playing a game is more than progressing in the campaign or advancing your city. Becoming an explorer of the game worlds around me, always on the hunt for hidden secrets and stories, fueled my passion and creative investment in videogames since I was a kid. Questions like, “is there something hidden behind that mountain?” or “look at that landslide, is there a story why it collapsed?” was probably even the driving factor for me to become a level artist.

That enthusiasm allowed me to experience games beyond gaming. I started to play around with level editors to create my own levels and with that, to become the writer of my own environmental stories.

Anno 1800 is in fact the first strategy game I’ve worked on. In the game, islands are more than just a blank space, islands have personality, add to the feeling of the game and even create gameplay challenges, as players have to work within the given space.

It’s a creative puzzle you need to solve as you alter and shape the game world surround you.

Islands in Anno come in various shapes and sizes, some of them making it easy to expand and to grow your city while others have a higher difficulty, challenging the player to optimize and deal with the situation at hand. The specific features and difficulty level of an island has a strong impact on the gameplay. We call that “Creative Constraints”, where limitations result in solutions and interesting designs in order to overcome that challenge. Overcoming that limitations feels rewarding and often results in a more organic and beautiful city layout.

The creation of an island
Okay, let us see how our level team actually creates and shapes that playground for you.

It all starts with a shape!

It usually starts with a shape: Ideas for the look and form of an island come often from different sources, sometimes just creative brainstorming in the team full of crazy ideas but we also spend time researching satellite data or photos from real islands as an inspiration.
We are always on the hunt for the right middle ground between interesting shapes, a good challenge and gameplay freedom.It also depends on the type of island currently needed for the game. Do we need a few larger but easier islands or are we talking about a design which should test the skills of our veteran players? Beginner islands should not have overly complex structures, mountains or other obstructing details as these terrain elements can determine the difficulty level.

The first concepts for island shapes often include color-coding, where we block out construction areas, mountains and other obstacles. When defining these areas, we usually check back with the Game Design team for their requirements such as the size of a beach or mining resources, but how we implement that is usually up to us. We always have to keep one thing in mind: from the beaches to mountainsides, the layout will have an impact on your future city layout, such as having the choice of two beaches allows you to decide where to build your harbor and start your city.

Tools of an level artist
When our shape got a thumbs up from game design or other stakeholders, we can start to work on the actual 3D model. In our daily work, we make use of various tools fitting the needs of the different steps we are working on. While we spend a lot of time in our actual engine, handy tools such as World Machine, allow us to create a basic preset terrain based on various parameters (ground land mass, cliffs, plateaus, mountains, beaches, erosion etc.). The resulting model is a perfect foundation for the next steps.

When we are happy with the three dimensional form of the asset, we implement the island in our engine. In this first iteration of our future island, we will bring it to a playable state. That means basic texturing, defining construction and harbor areas, placing obstacles, mining slots, basic vegetation and more. The next step is a feedback process where we will decide if everyone is cool with the design or if we have to change something
And here the final work piece, you can see blocked out areas and basic level of terrain.

Environmental Storytelling and future steps
And now it’s time to bring some individual character to our island in the so-called “visual stage.”
In this stage, we take our time to make it look natural yet interesting by texturing, placing decorative objects, vegetation and sculpting. While our engine does offers some neat sculpting tools, we often take a piece of terrain to a sculpting tool called Mudbox to work on the fine details.

With the visual stage completed the island is about 80% done, with further polishing work to be done for the release version of the game.

On average, a large island takes roughly 80 working hours to complete. In the polishing phase, which usually comes a bit later in development, we will add the smallest visual details and include even some environmental stories, such as landslides or other unique things to discover. Keep that in mind when examining screenshots or discussing the footage seen during a stream, as the polishing phase will have an impact on the final visual fidelity of the islands.

It is all about ideas, inspiration and handicraft
I hope this blog about the daily work of a level artist on Anno 1800 gave you some interesting insights. The next time you play an Anno game, you may want to hunt down all the handcrafted details and secrets we love to hide in a level.

I know that you started many discussions about your favorite islands types already. To shake things up a bit, I would like to hear your ideas about small visual elements, remembered from previous titles that could make up for great environmental stories in Anno 1800. You can share your inspiring ideas with the level art team in the comments below.

Union Update: Playtest coming soon!

This week on the Anno Union, we continue our behind the scenes insights and demonstrate how we create islands from scratch, share our verdict on the first community roundtable and provide details about the upcoming Anno 1800 focus playtests.

Islands are as much part of Anno’s feeling and personality as the design and animations of our buildings. Since almost 20 years, players begin their journey with a small settlement on newly conquered islands, before they expand their empire and claim new land across the sea. This week, we will show you how we create your future island paradise and as usual, expect many interesting insights about the daily work of a level artist.
While not the conclusion of the behind the scenes series, we will take a short break in order to focus on gameplay features and content in the next couple of weeks. Anno 1800 is quite a feature rich game and there are many important core mechanics to talk about, before we can cover the more advanced features of the game. That means that the Union can look forward to a big push of feature DevBlogs in the next couple of weeks.

Our first community roundtable
Our first community roundtable was a blast! Over 150 fans joined our community team to talk about all things Anno Union last week Wednesday. We had as much fun as you guys and the chance to have a real dialogue with the community gave us a lot of insightful feedback and pushed the Union to the next level.

Here a rough overview over the topics we discussed during the roundtable:
We started the roundtable with a feedback discussion around the Anno Union, where we talked about how we perceived the journey from reveal to the end of 2017 while sharing thoughts and ideas for the future. There was especially one thing you liked and would love to continue in future: transparent development and communication.
We will continue to bring you DevBlogs, insights and news about Anno 1800 while leveraging your feedback for the development, streams and events such as the roundtable should further improve interaction between the Anno Union and us.
We also talked about how much commitment from the team it takes to bring you weekly insights about the development and to discuss features with you in such an early state of the game.

Not surprising that we also got many curious questions about certain features and content of the game. As you might imagine, Union blogs and streams are the right place for us to show content but where able to provide some insights why we might not want or be able to talk about a specific topics right now. First off, we have to get many core features out of the way before diving into the more extended content. The logistics blog was a good example for that, as some core functionalities will allow you to give us spot-on feedback when we talk about the content built around these features. Of course, 2017 was also a test run for ourselves and you can expect a heavy emphasize on feature blogs, streams and playtests this year.

Another topic was general community support and if you think that programs like the Anno Union have an impact on Anno communities out there. We want to push that further by providing a dedicated community space for fansites, content creations and any other efforts from our communities out there. Asking you questions was as important as provide answers, we would like to know from you how we all can grow and support Anno communities out there in the comments below.

The first Anno 1800 focus-playtests
It is happening: our Anno 1800 Union playtests will start as early as this February. Throughout the year, we will give more and more Annoholics in the Union the chance to help us improve the game, as we need as much valuable feedback as possible. For the first tests, we call on Anno experts who are willing to provide us detailed daily feedback in a two-week long test session.

Application process
The idea for an application process was actually brought up by the Union itself and we think it is a good way to get useful information about our potential testers. “So how do I apply?”, you may shout at your screen.
We created a dedicated Union Playtest page, where you can find all details needed about the playtesting and application process.

Just head over to the Anno Union playtest page for further information how you can apply for a seat in one of our focus playtest: Playtest Page

Keep in mind that the application process has no deadline, as we will run several focus playtest this year and will choose players from the pool we continue to build up with the application process.

We bet that there are many questions and we will make sure that we answer as many as possible in the comments or next community QnA, which will come with the next community update.

DevBlog: Visual Feedback

Hi, my name is Carsten Eckhardt and I am a senior 3D artist at Ubisoft Blue Byte Mainz. I am a part of the company for almost 15 years now and as a result, worked on almost all Anno titles in the past. My main responsibilities are 3D environment art (houses, terrain elements etc.).

Going from the initial idea and the first concept art up to the final version of a 3D asset can be a long and winding road. Developers across many disciplines are involved in that process in order to bring the brimming era of the industrial revolution to life in Anno 1800.

The last time, we invited you to watch and learn how our 3D designers work as digital architects, so this time we will add visual feedback and animations to breathe life into our future 19th century buildings.

Visual feedback
Do you remember the final version of the brick factory from the last 3D Art DevBlog? Well, sadly I have to break it to you that there are even further steps to take until it reaches the level of quality and the appropriate Anno feeling we want for our game.
Before we start to get things (literally!) moving, our building needs to get implemented into our game engine. This will add our object to the asset library, which enables us to place it in the game, block out clipping areas and add visual feedback such as actors, effects and much more. As soon as the building has been imported into the library, we can start adding visual feedback.

“Hold on”, you may say, “what exactly is visual feedback, and why do you keep talking about it?”
Visual feedback helps the player to have a better understanding what is currently going on in their metropolis while also making the game world more believable. While you can inform players about nearly every aspect of the game with contextual menus, actually seeing what is going on makes everything easier and faster to grasp, not to mention way more enjoyable to watch.
For Anno, it is not surprising that we make use of a lot of general and event based animations for the variety of buildings, such as moving steel kettles, smoking chimneys or special effects work like sparkling fire.

But it is not only for the sake of the atmosphere. As mentioned, visual feedback also gives you an indicator whether a building is currently productive, idling or affected by events like a blazing fire spreading through your residential district. For that, some buildings have different animation states. A factory as an example needs a state which defines if it is currently producing (workers being productive, machines working) and one where the factory is currently in idle state (effects like smoke and fire toned down or removed).

he BoB and Feedback editor
To create and modify the visual feedback elements, we developed our own tools internally, one with the thrilling name BoB (Bombastic Object Builder) and the other one rather pragmatically titled “Feedback Editor”. Originally developed for Anno 1701, the BoB’s main purpose is to block movable areas; it defines the space where units and actors (such as unloading carts or the workers of the building) can move as well as construction areas to ensure that buildings do not clip into each other (the size the unit needs on the construction grid). Furthermore, BoB allows us to place ornamental objects on existing assets in order to bring a bit more variation and life to them.

The feedback editor on the other hand allows us to give buildings feedback trigger to coordinate the movement sequences of units on the previously in BoB defined movable area.
If that sounds a little bit abstract for you, how about a small example: We all love the small stories we encounter when watching our city up close. If you observe your bakery, you can watch the baker going around minding his business, maybe even slacking off from work once a while. Or how about animals enjoying the day on a green meadow of a farm or even cat and dog chasing scene on the market place. Flying animals or other wildlife are an exception as they are not part of the eventful story we create for a specific building and more part of the actual game world.

Enough explanation, let’s see the system in action
Okay, I bet you have a pretty good understanding what we are talking about right now, so let’s start working. The first step is a straightforward process: in BoB, we define movable and inaccessible areas of the building, as we need to tell the engine on what area of the building units are allowed to move. Imagine that we paint the different parts and areas of a brick factory in different colors. The courtyard should be a movable area while we do not want that the workers clip through the walls or take a stroll on the rooftop.
The next step is to use the BoB to place effects, such as smoke for chimneys (hey we are in the industrial revolution; smoke galore!) and to place props like streetlights, crates and various kinds of vegetation.
Once done with that step, we have to define so called 3D selection areas, which ensures that players can actually target a building with a mouse click. A small, but important detail to keep in mind.

Here we define movable areas and use hitboxes as a blocker on our Pub asset.

But enough of BoB for now, it is time for the Feedback Editor to shine. Here, we first have to think about what kind of movement behavior for units would make sense for this specific building. There is for example a lot of lively stuff going on with the pub or the market place, such as a marching band, guests etc.
In case of a steel beam factory, it is more about bustling workers operating industrial machines.
That is the magic trick and crucial part of creating the crowded and lively feeling which Anno games are beloved and known for.
To catch your attention and keep you excited when you observe your industrial district, we want there to always be something exciting going on or that you can take a break while enjoying special eye catchers like the zoo or the crowded market place.
Quite some work can go into that process, and a building with many and complex units, such as the market place, can take a whole work day to finish. As we also we like to hide small details for the explorers out there, I strongly recommend to keep a keen eye on your city life.

Okay we are nice here and provide these fellas a path because they seem a bit lost right now 🙂

Let’s make that a bit more random
As you all are familiar with Anno, you know that there is way more than one thing going on at a time and that there is a surprising variety of visual feedback. Our animations will not play out the same any time, due to the good portion of randomization parameter we add to a building. The Feedback editor also ensures that we have randomization in the movement areas going on, as we do not want the units doing the same stuff on the same spot repeatedly.
From the baker, the farmhands on the field or the innkeeper of a pub, the so called actors use a building as a stage to perform a show for the player. We can set variables how often an actor shows up, duration of their performance before they leaves, usually using a variation of a set path. An actor on the market place could enter the scene from the entrance of the market before leaving through a door or as a variation, entering the market hall. The movement of a unit or in this case an actor is usually defined by dummies or splines; imagine a variation of rails, which it can use to move through the scenery.

Okay you might get the idea what we mean when we say “there is a ton of work and detail hidden in every asset”

Final thoughts
As you can see, a lot of handiwork goes into that one building, from the previous steps from game design, concept art up to our 3D art team. We are now ready to let our asset lose on the world, the last final bits, like defining hit points and other game parameters is usually a job for our programming and game design team. While not every building you might see on the stream or clips has all its animation or even detail right now, all buildings get the same treatment for the release version of the game.

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the journey an Anno 1800 3D asset takes during its creation and I am curious about your most favorite visual feedback, from small stories going to animation from previous Anno titles.

The comment section is right below and shoot if you have any questions, as we might have the chance to answer some of them in an upcoming community QNA.

Union Update: Story contest has ended!

Welcome to our latest Union Update, where we give you a glimpse of this week’s Union content and things headed your way in the near future.

As you might have noticed, the Anno Union suffered an issue last week, which prevented players from accessing the website. We are sorry for the inconvenience and can you tell that we found the culprit; everything should be back to normal now. While we have further plans to improve our website further, the downtime was not caused by a secretively rolled out update, as some Union members presumed. Not that we don’t like sneaking in updates from time to time…

Announcement: The writing contest is closed!
Thanks for all your contribution- we received some great stories and some really cool creative takes on the given task. We will announce the lucky winners in a future update but we can already say that picking the best story will not be an easy task for us. So please join us in a general round of applause for the creative Union task force!
If you liked our writing contest and would love to see more support for community creations such as contests, highlights and other nice ideas to push content creation, share it with us in the comments below!

3D Animation

In this week’s DevBlog, we continue the journey of a 3D asset during creation. Yes, a lot of handiwork went into the asset already but we are far from done here. You were always curious how we create that lively feeling in Anno, where you metropolis is brimming with life and small stories to discover?
Well in that case, you should not miss out this week’s DevBlog, when we give you an exclusive look how we create visual feedback and animation work for Anno 1800.

Let’s come together!
Also coming up this week is our first Union Community Roundtable.
Join the Community team this Wednesday evening for a cozy meetup and chat with us about the Anno Union where we are sure to have answers to one or two questions and discussions ready for you.
The English session will start at 9pm CET – Everyone is welcome! >Annoverse Discord<

While we are using a voice chat for communication, microphones are not mandatory. So feel free to ask us questions in the chat or just listen to the discussion.

What’s next?
We asked you a few questions during our update last week and got a ton of recommendations for future topics you would like to see tackled in the future. We picked some of your ideas and started to shuffle them into our ongoing content plan.

The best things often come at the end, right? We have some news for you that might get you pretty excited. During our last AnnoCast, we talked about our Alpha milestone and that now is the time where we need as much and as varied player feedback as possible. To make that possible, we are currently planning to kick off our online playtest studies in February.

For the first test groups, we need Anno experts who know the series inside out and are willing to provide us valuable reports and tons of data! As suggested by the community previously, we will give everyone a chance to apply for the focus studies with an application form, which should open in the coming weeks.

Well that is something to look forward to; many more things to come and we are – as always – looking forward to your feedback.

Union Update: Outlook on the new year!

We are back from our winter break; time to roll up our sleeves and to give you a glimpse of the journey ahead.

Upcoming Union Content
We bet that you are curious about our upcoming content. With last month’s logistics blog as our foundation, we will dive deeper into the economic motor of Anno 1800. With more details about the economy revealed and explained, it will allow us to talk about important parts of that machine like the harbor system and trading routes. Features, which are furthermore important if we want to talk about possible functionality and impact of the train feature.
There are plenty of more features we have not shared many details yet. What are your top 5 Anno 1800 features, where you would love to get more information on?

Furthermore, we will continue to bring you behind the scene DevBlogs; next up we will dive into animations for our previously showcased 3D assets. You will get to learn much more about all the brimming details and stories happening in your metropole.
We know that you are also curious about non-visual features, such as the audio design of Anno 1800. As the possibilities are plenty, share your top three wished for behind the scenes topics in the comments below!

There is also new voting coming up and while we cannot lift the curtain right now, we can tell that we want to funnel your creative energy once again. We all know how settling back into work after the Holidays can take some time, so expect the DevBlogs to be back to their regular cadence next week.

Union Website and community creations
As you already noticed, some improvements to the website were made and we will continue to improve the Union in usability and functionality. However, it is not only about moderator flairs or improvements to the comment section; we want to expand the general content on the website for anything that might not fit into the classic blog format, such as a dedicated space for community creations or a media library to save our Twitch streams.

It is great to see how much creative energy went into our story contest and it shows how much room there is to fill the world of Anno with your narration and other fan creations.
With the deadline hitting on Monday 15th there is still a week’s time left to unleash your creativity. Besides some neat prices to win for the contest, we also think that your works deserve to be appropriately spotlighted on the Anno Union page.

We received some great feedback on our last episode of the Anno Cast and with upcoming episodes, you can look forward to more gameplay content. While we know that many of you would love to see Anno 1800 being presented in a lengthy Let’s Play format, we need to save that idea for later as we just hit our Alpha milestone. One thing is for sure though; we will continue to show you more gameplay elements of the game while we give you insights about its ongoing development.
Anniversary Let’s Plays or other special episodes give us a bit more freedom and possibilities for different styles and formats. If you have ideas for specials or other streaming formats or videos outside the regular Anno Cast, feel free to share them with us!

Community roundtable
Since the reveal of Anno 1800, you supported us with thousands of comments on the Union and Anno 1800 forum. Seeing both Anno veterans and new enthusiasts coming together is something truly special for us on the team, and we once again want to thank you all for that. To further this feeling of all coming together at one table, we want to invite you to an Anno Union voice chat session with the Community Team to talk about the Union, the game and its fans. We are sure there will be plenty of questions and ideas, and everyone should feel more than welcome to join our roundtable next week Wednesday, January 17th in a Discord voice chat provided by our Annoverse Community: >Annoverse Discord<

To allow as many of you as possible to participate, we will divide the session into two slots, one in English and one on German. The German session will start at 7.30pm and the English one will follow at 9.00pm CET.

Community QnA

Let’s say a play test is planned for January 23, and I were to be invited. When could I expect to receive an invite, so I would have enough time to check with my boss if I can take the day off? And while we are on the topic, do you have to be a legal adult to be invited?

Basti: We will send the invitations a few weeks in advance, as we also want to have a bit of leeway if we need to find a replacement if someone will not be able to make it. To be of legal age is not a strict requirement but if someone is under age, we will get in contact with the person to discuss the details (regarding the NDA, for example).

Something that would be very helpful in the future would be a basic blog explaining the DNA of the Anno brand, to give us users a better idea of how your decision-making processes work. What makes something Anno, or not? I think having this filter explained for users would allow for discussions that are more meaningful.

Basti: Talking about the brand DNA sounds like a great topic to cover in the Union, I put it on the list and I am sure we can get some really cool background information together. With the Vision Devblog and details we shared in other blogs, we also wanted to give you a chance to learn something about the reality of game development. We usually receive a huge amount of great suggestions and ideas, but they often lack some missing background information why some of these ideas would not work or why they would be too hard or simply not feasible to develop. Designing game features means often a middle ground or taking the quintessential idea and feedback to work with. That is why we want to get a little bit more into details on our decision-making process in future DevBlogs and comments.

I quite liked the entertaining Twitch streams, and look forward to see more of Anno 1800. Perhaps you could show some footage from play tests in the future.

Basti: We will show more gameplay in upcoming episodes of the AnnoCast and over time, it will further allow us to share more gameplay material in the Anno Union in general. Playtests will be the big topic this year, and we will cover some of the playtests and share content from them in the Union.

How big was the island in the stream? Small, medium or a big one? It didn’t seem much larger than main islands in Anno 1404. Will there be enough space to build a metropolis? Or can buildings house more citizens than in the past?

Basti: The Island from the stream is a big one, but not the largest in the game. In fact the Island shown in during the stream has more grids than the large Isle in 1404 and with that, more buildings space available. It is important for us that you will have enough place to create breathtaking cities. Residential houses have the same dimensions as in previous titles but some of the public or production buildings can take up more space. Having a bit more realistic proportions for a steel factory as an example is a great way to bring that extra bit of realism to the series. Again, it is all about the right balance: we want vast cityscapes but also provide a puzzle challenge, as clever planning of the available construction space is also part of the challenge and fun.

Will it be possible to freely rotate the buildings?

Basti: Construction space in Anno is partitioned into a grid-based system (like e checkerboard) and as in previous games, you will be able to rotate and place buildings freely on the grid.

The carts and carriages will be sent by the production facilities, which sounds like a good decision. I assume that required gods will also be picked up if they are not being delivered- and this is where things get a bit unclear for me. Would the coal producer deliver his goods to the steel factory, or would the steel factory send someone to pick up the coal. Or maybe both happens, but how would the game decide that?

Christian: The rule of thumb is that production buildings always send goods to other production facilities. While production facilities cannot request goods from another production building, they can get resources stored in the warehouse if needed. The warehouse itself has no own transport units, so the carts always come from the production building to pick up or deliver goods from the warehouse. The facility decides on its own if it is more effective to wait for the delivery from a different production building or to get the needed resources from a warehouse instead. As travel distance on streets is the deciding factor for that, players can have an impact with clever city planning. With that, it allows you to create optimized economic districts.

Will sea-based trading have an AI to pick the most efficient route based on wind?

Christian: Trading routes will not consider wind (which can also change). You will however be able to create your own routes with manual waypoints to improve its efficiency and to avoid hostile ships.

Hearing that all warehouses will have mirrored storage has me a bit worried. I would prefer if you could manually assign which wares individual warehouses should accept or block. My other question would be whether the mirrored goods affect the overall storage capacity of the warehouses.

In fact, every single Anno title had mirrored storages, so it is a part of the classic as well as newer Anno experience. The return of physical goods will bring some management complexity back into the game. We have experimented with different scenarios, but not mirroring the wares just resulted in an extremely high need to constantly micromanage that dominated gameplay and drew the player’s attention away from other aspects of the game. Things like storage capacity are an ongoing balancing topic and we need to see if it would hurt or benefit the game flow if additional warehouses would also ramp up the storage limit. In the current version of the game, this is only the case with the kontor and the depot.

I really like that you are going back to the physical goods, similar to older games such as Anno 1404.
I have just one question: Will you always need a road connection? Or do some parts also work without road connection? For example, in Anno 2070 upgraded warehouses and depots had a flying unit that could pick up goods without a road connection.

Basti: All buildings will require a road connection. As we stated in our logistics blog, streets will have a bigger impact on your logistics than before and as such planning the ideal street layout will be important when planning your perfect metropolis.