Union Update: Stream Summary May

In today’s update, we will give you a summary of our last AnnoCast developer stream with Game Designer Natacha and UI Designer Jack. Grab a seat and see our completely overhauled UI, the City Attractiveness feature and the Zoo in action!

Thanks to everyone who joined our last AnnoCast , it is awesome to see how engaged Union members discuss and chat with us during our livestream. Our game developer streams provide a great opportunity to show you gameplay from the development version of Anno 1800 and this time, we put our big UI overhaul and the City Attractiveness feature in the limelight. A perfect moment for Game Designer Natacha to give us a tour through the zoo and to demonstrate how the new attractiveness feather offers a major gameplay addition to the Anno series.

Here is a quick overview:

Streaming Room and Community Creations
Even before our first episode of the AnnoCast, we asked you for screenshots and other community creations in order to decorate the streaming room. With the new streaming room, which was literally finished one day before we went live with AnnoCast 04, we can finally use your great screenshots and fan arts to decorate our wall.

Community Island
Speaking of community creations: as some very perceptive viewers accurately noticed, the island which we used for our stream is indeed the Community Island from GMExpresso! You can find out more details about the island here.

UI overhaul and traderoute menu
Since our last episode, Anno 1800’s UI went through a major overhaul. Our UI Designer Khajag “Jack” Jabaghchourian not only demonstrated the new UI, he also talked about the relevance of a good UI design and why it is so important in a strategy game like Anno 1800.
Being a major topic of AnnoCast 03, the traderoute menu was the perfect candidate to show you the visual improvements we added to the latest iteration of the UI. What do you think about the new UI overhaul and our artistic direction? Is Anno 1800’s UI and UX design something where you would like to share feedback or to learn more about in general?

If you want to compare the new and old UI for yourself, you can check out AnnoCast 03 HERE.

City Attractiveness
The Zoo is one of the huge construction projects for Anno 1800’s new City Attractiveness feature. Natacha Hentzien gave us not only a tour through her beautifully crafted tourist paradise, she also went with us to the zoo, showing of some of the common wildlife but also exotic species from far away. While you can sink hours in the highly customizable buildings, we also talked about ornaments, city hotspots and the new visitor harbour. Serving as the drop off point for tourists who want to explore your city, we also had to take care of a special visitor who decided to take root in our city.
But there is a flipside to the industrial revolution, the soot blackened factories are not really something you would call a marvellous vista for tourists. Did you like the smoke effect of our factories? Are you a fan of the tourist visual feedback and the zoo project?

Community Q&A

Rivers and small lakes in the island would be awesome!
Answer: We are currently working on it and hope to share some impressions pretty soon!

Is the purple colour on the menu a players choice or is it always the same?
Answer: There are currently no plans for a customizable UI colour scheme. However, the state of the UI shown during the stream still includes some older elements. The game UI is an ongoing project and with that, still subject to change for the next couple of month. We are really curious about any feedback regarding the UI so keep your questions and feedback coming!

Is it possible to move buildings?
Answer: Shouldn’t be that hard, right? We give you an update on that matter soon 🙂

The zoo is still missing a fence, are there any plans to add a fence to it?
Answer: While there is currently no fence, we got a lot of feedback from the community and see what we can do!

What does the Currency in the Public Moorings Interface mean?
Answer: That is the current income earned by tourists visiting your city.

re we forced to make a pretty city and get tourists if we want the best modules/people?
Answer: We will provide many different options to get new items. Attractiveness is only one way to get them and some are specific to the way you can acquire items. So don’t worry, you don’t have to aim for a high City Attractiveness rating to get your hands on the precious specialists.

What happens when I suddenly tear down my zoo? Will people protest?
Answer: The number of tourists visiting your city is determined by the attractiveness rating of your city. If it drops (because you reduce the modules in your zoo, swap out interesting for boring animals or create a new industrial district), a part of them will go back to the harbour and wait for the ferry to leave your island. They might change their mind if you provide new attractions, though.

What is the max capacity for animals at the zoo? Or can I make the zoo as big as I want?
Answer: With the zoo, customizability and creative freedom are of highest importance. You will be able to freely build and place as many modules as you like, display a variety of different animals and biomes and make use of city ornaments between the animal enclosures.

How does it work with the rating for festivities and celebrations? I can’t see any points in that category on your island?
Answer: If the overall happiness of your residence raises, they might return you the favour with celebrations. Furthermore, there are other events which can push your happiness greatly for a short amount of time, which also might result in your residence organizing festivities in your city.

ill we be able to place every ornament, tree, etc individually (like in 1404) or is it random like in 2205(hope not) where u just draw a rectangle and the game places everything for u?
Answer: You will have full control over what kind of ornament you want to place in your city.

Anno Afternoon #1

On Sunday, the 20th of May, we also had the premiere of our new Anno community stream:  AnnoAfternoon! Anno community team member Seraxia and O5ighter decided to challenge their skills with an old classic and fan favourite: Anno 1404. They even managed to reach a sizeable population of patricians in their town Wolfshafen, as it was named by our community.
In honour of most important trading partner, our first oriental settlement now bears the name “Al’s Summer Home” (since “Al Zahirs Summer Mansion” is a bit too long). A lot of questionable decisions – aside from naming conventions – were made, like placing a church in the oriental settlement instead of a mosque, as there was the hope that the Nomads would be happy with the choice.

We were having a lot of fun with you guys and we plan to continue where we have left in the next episode of AnnoAfternoon, coming next month from our re-decorated streaming room in Newcastle! (Probably not needing months in the process like our dear developers in Mainz :D)
Have you watched the community stream? Feel free to discuss our new community show, share your thoughts and don’t forget to let us know if you would like to see more formats like this in the future.

That was it for today’s community update, there is still a lot of work to do before some of our team members will find some well deserved rest during the upcoming bank holiday weekend in Germany. We will be back next week with a new DevBlog and further Union updates.

DevBlog: Eli Bleakworth

Hope is the most coveted, yet rarest of goods on the dreary rock called Wormways Prison, home for the worst of the worst. And of course for those unfortunate souls who dared to question or defy the absolutely authority of its warden, Eli Bleakworth. He is equal parts cruel taskmaster and calculating bookkeeper, mercilessly ruling his godforsaken rock under the dutiful guise of a faithful servant of the empire.

Eli Bleakworth, the Governor of Wormway Prison is just one part of our diverse cast of supporting third party characters in Anno 1800. He might style himself a dutiful servant, but the truth is that his honor and compassion have long since withered away, alongside his youth. Beneath his lawful façade, he secretly enjoys his power over his prisoners. After all, they would not be on his island if they were not scum that defied the empire’s laws, would they.

Introduced with Anno 1701, third parties quickly became an integral part of the Anno series. The feature has come a long way since then; what started as a collection of free traders has turned into a varied cast of important characters that breathe color and life into the world of Anno 1800. While they are neither direct allies nor competitors, they are an important part of the look and feel of the game world, and offer a variety of gameplay options and challenges.

The role of Wormway Prison in Anno 1800 – Atmosphere / Gameplay
His prison is not only an atmospheric snapshot of the more unruly and hapless elements of 19th century society; the island also offers different gameplay opportunities to the player. For starters, it is not just a prison, but also a business made profitable by its barely existent employment cost. Every day, under a merciless ocean sun, the prisoners toil in the island’s coalmines. Coal is in high demand during the industrial revolution and Eli offers a quick solution for the hungry blast furnaces of your factories.

But there is not only profit, there are also dependencies. Labor might be cheap on Wormway Island, but it’s Governor still need to provide basic good such as food and soap for his involuntary workers. Players should always look out if specific goods are in high demand by AI characters, as trade for sought-after goods might be the better bargain than paying in cold hard cash to bunker coal.

You could also overhear the prison guards mumbling about some their employer’s special interests, which might come in handy if you want to strike a good deal with the Governor.

The island is not only a great location to fill your trading ships’ holds with coal; Eli is also always on the lookout for business partners who are willing to lend the empire a hand in matters of the highest importance. If you decide to help him with his chores, he will provide you with a variety of rewarding bounty quests. There is always demand for work as the gatekeeper, but during challenging times like these, even hell itself can get overcrowded. It is worthwhile to visit his island occasionally to see whether Eli might be willing to restore the freedom of one of his special guests- always contingent, of course, on your willingness to pay their bond, as well as a paltry fee for his corrective services. Gameplay freedom is a core pillar of Anno 1800, so third-party characters present one opportunity where players that are less interested in luring tourists into their attractive cities can get their hands on some specialist characters. Who knows what kind of special talents one could acquire from the more or less guilty souls trapped in Wormways prison.

Transition into the end of the blog: Third party in Anno 1800
Eli will not be the only third party character to offer his stock of resources to the willing buyer. The cast of third party characters in Anno 1800 will not only represent a colorful variety (including some… less law-abiding citizens), but every one of them will allow for different player interactions based on their background and personality. From pirates and traders to curiosities, what kind of third party character would you like to encounter in Anno 1800?

Union Update: Livestream week

This week, it’s all about the upcoming next episode of our Anno 1800 development live-stream. AnnoCast 04 will be the most ambitious episode as of yet, as we not only show the latest state of the development but also present the city attractiveness system in action.

Our first guest, UI Designer Khajag Jabaghchourian, will demonstrate our big UI overhaul, as also provide insights about the importance of a well thought UI design for Anno 1800. A perfect chance for Anno enthusiasts and future game developer to learn something about intricate UI designs for complex management and city building games.
Our second guest might be familiar from our Monument and City Attractiveness blog. Game Designer Natacha Hentzien will take you to a small trip to our island paradise, when we follow our tourists through our panoramic city including a nice trip to the zoo but also not ignoring the smoking dark side of your modern industry.

As always, you will be able to watch the stream on our twitch channel twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte as well as on our Anno Union website. We will make the blog including the video player available by Thursday noon, to give you enough time to share your questions in the comment function.

AnnoCast Episode 04 – A trip to the zoo
Thursday May 17th at 5pm CEST / 1 AM ET / 8 AM PT
Follow us on: twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

Other than that, it will be the first time we use our new streaming room. Expect a new look while we will continue to improve decoration and a few other elements in the upcoming episodes.
As there is another bank holiday coming up, we will do a short break from our regular Union Updates, which will not affect next week’s DevBlog.

But before we leave it to this week’s community Q&A part, we have another small announcement to make. Our Ubisoft community team taking care of Anno, among them some familiar names such as O5ighter and Seraxia, will host a new streaming show on our channel. Join them this Sunday, when they dive into old classic Anno games in our new Anno Afternoon Community stream. Feel free to watch and comment – backseat gaming is welcome!

AnnoAfternoon #01 – Anno 1404: Maiden Voyage
Sunday May 20th at 5pm CEST / 1 AM ET / 8 AM PT
Also on: twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

Community Question and Answer

Is it possible to merge different enclosures to larger modules into each other, so that I can create a big elephant enclosure if I connect two of them?
Answer: Allowing the enclosures to merge into bigger compounds leads to different issues to tackle, such as what happens if you unequipped one of two elephant items or how do you expand visual feedback, as animals and visitors heavily rely on pathfinding. One solution would be to develop preset modules in different sizes, but that would also ramp up the workload to create said assets. The various different and free to place enclosures offer many customization options for your zoo project. As it is a vast feature already, we think that we are doing the zoo a favor if we invest that development time into quality and variety of the different animals.

Will Anno 1800 have a mobile companion app like Anno 2205?
Answer: There are currently no plans for an companion app for Anno 1800.

In the devblog about artisans glass was produced by workers and here it is produced by artisans. Did you change your mind about it or is it a mistake?
Answer: During development, we continuously work on the balancing, from small bits and pieces up to the re-work of whole production chains. Just recently, we reworked some of the production chains, which are one of the biggest balancing points for an Anno game. Rebalancing, as well as minor and major changes to the game, will continue for a while, often fueled by feedback gathered by the Anno Union blogs and especially playtests.

How much impact had the last playtest, did you made any major changes based on player feedback?
Answer: The playtest gave us a lot of important feedback on the current state on the game. Every feature has its own “player stories” note in our development plan. The “Player Stories” are insights and findings we gathered from blog and forum comments as well as from our playtest groups. That feedback will be gathered in reports, which are then being discussed in the team. The last playtest lead to a lot of smaller and even some minor changes to the game, from pure balancing to altering content. We are looking forward to the next test, which is planned to start in June. From that on, we will run further focus playtests throughout the year.

DevBlog: Engineers

The Engineer is the original nerd. Educated and privileged, she is most content in the attic, high above the disorder of the street. This lofty cocoon, with its bubbling flasks and unstable isotopes is “quite chaotic enough!” she might be heard to say, pursing her lips, and briskly adjusting her spectacles.

She is blessed with a remarkable weapon – a willingness, a desire even, to be contradicted by her observations of nature. Previously, social and emotional factors had long-plagued accurate interpretations of reality. Proud scholars declaimed flawed theories made plausible only by cherry-picked facts, or their concealment behind fortifications of logical rhetoric (fake news – imagine that).

Thus with her impartiality and thorough method, the Engineer best represents the new century, one of singular progress. She has the dedication of Curie, the curiosity of Mary Anning, and the output of Brunel. She will not jump to conclusions about your capability as governor, but form them gradually, gathering evidence here and there, until she has a portfolio of objections to present. “I shall let the facts speak for themselves!”

If you find her list of wants and needs far less frugal than she has led you to believe, remember the greatness of her commitment and contribution. Long nights resolving equations just whizzing by! 

“My zeal for breaking everything into its constituent parts has itself mutated,” she says softly, with a hint of scandal, “into an obsession.”

That sensation when all small parts finally come together, you pull the heavy lever and with the sound of pressurized steam, the steel machine starts moving. What’s wicked magic for the simple folk and the antiquated aristocrats, is relentless progress for you. You do not believe in dusty religious concepts, as the law of nature and physics are the great mystery you have sworn an oath to solve. Years of hard study during the day and countless nights tinkering on your new concepts, you never rest mastering the art of mechanics and fighting against dated ideas. The progression from workshops to factories was only the first wave leading to the modernized age, the second wave followed soon, with intellectual force and technological glory.

Designing progress
Our Engineers are the educational elite in a time, where new technology inspired millions. It gave wings to even the craziest ideas, as nouveau rich investors happily opened their pockets for anyone ambitious and bold enough. And this elite has dreams: visions of technological revolution and fame, being the one who changes the world forever. The 19th century is the time of big business, where companies know that getting ahead of the competition is all or nothing. There was a high demand for capable engineers and all of a sudden, the new intellectual class inhabited the rich inner city districts and old aristocratic money and blood ties slowly lost its century’s old relevance.
It is the design of the fourth tier where it becomes apparent that the world is inexorably moving towards the 20th century. The look of the engineers is as modern as their inventions and their sophisticated lifestyle wants to get rid of the musty concepts of old. With that in mind, we wanted that the engineers transmit that intellectual self-esteem of a class, who enjoys the wealthy fruit of their labor but never shy away from getting their hands covered in oil or falling asleep over their blueprints. The mind does not like to chain itself with antiquated ideas; their open-minded nature favored genius over discrimination and gender.

Because of that thinking, that humankind is destined for greater things, we decided that a female representation of the fourth tier would be the perfect fit for their progressive nature. While the workers rolled up the sleeves to stand up for their rights, it was the new intellectual elite, which enabled people to open their mind and strive for something bigger.

Their buildings are havens for the new elite, a sanctum for the precious spare hours after hard days in your office or nights improving the machines in your client’s factories. Some of them are even of humble origins; they make sure to enjoy their precious spare time in an apartment full of modern amenities.
The look of their residential buildings is clean, not too playful and show how much time has changed over the last decades. While the noble folks still prefer to live in their ornamental mansions in the countryside, you want to be in the heart of the city-life, close to your work, watching how your hometown slowly evolves into a metropolis. The avid collectors are not font of wasting any space – engineer housing will merge to impressive residential blocks, which will give a districts a distinctive modernized flair.
The second industrial revolution at your fingertips
Sleep is for the weak, you have to live your dream. The push into the fourth tier will be the big leap into the modern age. While technological advancements like the steel beam where apparent in earlier tiers, the second wave of the industrial revolution will offer new materials and challenge Annoholics with the complex needs of a technology affine class. They are the technology nerds of the 19th century and they like to surround themselve with fine crafts, from pocket watches up to steam-powered machinery.

Other than that, they expect all modern amenities in there accommodation, because who wants to live like in the candle lit Middle Ages?

They will not consider themselves satisfied with constructions made of brick stones and wood, the refined composite cement will allow reaching for the sky with the biggest constructions and buildings to impress residents and tourists alike. Bring that new construction material to good use when building your first steam factories and when you convinced yourself of its supreme qualities, start to put tons of them aside in your depository for ambitious future projects.
Modernized production processes bring filigree filament for light bulbs and astounding steam machines, which are not only satisfying the needs of your tech affine class as also are important goods in your just opened steam shipyard. Allow yourself a short break when enjoying a true achievement for your company:  your watch the first steam-powered ship leaving the dock!
The revolution might have paved the way for better working and living conditions but it was not all to benefit the need of the many. Old lords and new ruler saw the immediate potential to tighten the grip of their power with advanced weaponry and colossal battleships, bristling with canons and layered in inches thick steel.

The industrial revolution will have impact on your production, as steam machines and electricity allowed not only to push productivity to the limit; the second wave was the groundwork for modern automated factories. We want that you feel that progress when taking on the challenge of the industrial revolution. When reaching the fourth tier, you had enough time to learn the ropes and now it’s up to your skill to master the needs of your intellectual elite and the complex production chains. Be smart and make use of all the tools available, the competition is not sleeping in the technological race: take the lead with clever infrastructure and the use of items, workforce and modern marvels such as steam ships and electricity.

Towards the end of a century and the dawn of a new age
It was a time where wonders happened almost on a daily basis, leaving people startled but also inspired.  We want that the engineers transmit that sense of enthusiasm and passion for progress. They might be not the last tier, but their complex needs and production chains will surely put you to the test. Challenging and rewarding alike, we can’t wait to show you the fourth tier in action and when we can share details on how electricity and some other features work.

There is more to come in near future, so stay tuned on future DevBlogs.

In the meantime, what do you think about our decision and depiction of the fourth residential tier? How important is the feeling of moving towards a new century, making progress and changing society as we knew it?


Union Update: outlook for this month

In our last few DevBlogs, we tackled some big new feature additions to Anno 1800, but that was just a glimpse at what’s to come. This week, it is time to take the next progressive step with the fourth residential tier.

But there is of course more to come this month: The next Episode of the AnnoCast will air Thursday the 17th of May, 5pm CEST!

In our fourth episode, we will show you some visual improvements of the game (we mentioned the UI overhaul, didn’t we?) and use the chance to show you our visitor and zoo features live and in action!
As always, we will share a blog with the embed livestream before it goes live and you can leave your questions for the Q&A part of the stream below.

Feel free to follow to our twitch channel, where we stream development updates about Anno 1800, celebrate anniversaries of older Anno titles and have plans for some additional upcoming shows: twitch.tv/ubisoftbluebyte

The Union feedback on these big features such as city attractiveness and projects like the zoo was once again incredibly valuable for us. It gives us a first indicator whether we are going into the right direction and additionally helps us to make changes based on your thoughts.

But there is only so much you can do with a blog or a live stream, and that is where our Anno Union playtests come into play. We are currently making the final preparations for the next round of the tests, where Anno Union members get the chance to play and provide detailed feedback for the development team.
We will share some details soon but one reminder for you all: If you have applied in the past but have updated your hardware setup, please send us an update (best would be a response to your initial application to union-playtest@bluebyte.com) of your rig, including your Uplay/Union display name.

If you haven’t applied for the focus tests yet or even never heard about our Union tester program, you can check out all the details here: https://www.anno-union.com/playtest/

Community Q&A

Will it be possible to catch animals on your island just by clicking on them?
Answer: There are many different ways to acquire animals and other items. Catching animals will be one option but it will be more than just clicking on wildlife grazing on your island. We are still working on a few details but can say that some specialists will offer their wildlife-related skills to you.

Oh boy, the kitties surely had a bit too much in their food bowl. A bit less food and it wouldn’t be less obvious that the enclosers for zoo animals are a tad too small ;D
Answer: Thankfully, our feline predators seem to prosper even in captivity! The size of the zoo animals is not final and we are still working on the right proportions. As you know, the proportions in Anno are adjusted to the bird’s eye view, which is what player’s spend most of their playtime in.

Is there a maximum limit for modules or will I be able to expand my zoo as much as I like?
Answer: There won’t be a maximum limitation for zoo modules. Construction space is an important resource in Anno and that alone is a well thought investment if you expand your zoo. Hey, maybe marvelous outsourced zoo islands become a thing in Anno 1800?

The entrance seem to the anchor point for all modules, which sounds for me that they don’t need a street connection on their own. Does that mean that we can design the form of our zoo freely and do not need to stick to the square form as shown in the video?
Answer: Zoo modules need to connect by one tile, which leaves you a lot of freedom to create a zoo layout of your liking and to leave construction space for ornaments. We placed a few ornamental objects in the zoo for our video example.

Will the game have some sort of hotel system to house the tourists that come to the island, or will they come to see the island and then leave?
Tourists surely bring financial benefits but will they have their own needs such as hunger or craving for luxury items etc.?
Answer: Tourist will land with a ferry, travel around the island and leave after a while with the same ship. With the city attractiveness, we introduce a complex new feature to the series. We tried to add some deeper management layers to the visitors but figured out that the micromanagement aspects gets easily out of hand, especially considering all other management aspects of Anno in the larger picture. As visitors are a crucial, but by no means only, part of the city attractiveness feature, we decided to go for a working albeit a bit simpler implementation. As usual, the Anno Union gave us a lot of interesting feedback and we are open for the idea to enhance the feature if we find a concept, which is not falling into the same complexity trap and which is not too time consuming for us to develop.

I really like that beauty building is now meaningful, that part was always missing in previous titles. Will the city attractiveness have actual impact on the reputation of the player?
Answer: Your city attractiveness level, the positive or negative rating of some of your attractiveness criteria as well as the different ornaments and attractiveness relevant buildings will have an influence on your standing with other characters. If you build a zoo, there will be certain AI characters who will react to that very excited and friendly while others might think that you do not have the necessary edge to lead a big company, as you are just toying around in a kid’s sandbox. If and how they care about such things like your parks or the pollution on your island will depend on each characters distinctive nature and backstory. We can’t wait to share more details about the illustrious cast of Anno 1800 second and third party characters. Who knows, maybe one of the next big topics in the Anno Union?

You described that there are basically three buildings which can slot items. How big is the influence radius of each building? How many items will they be able to slot?
The three buildings (town hall, guild house and harbor office) will be able to carry more than one item, but we are still playing around with the exact number of slots. When it comes to the size of the influence radius, balancing plays a big role. We want that you can specialize your districts and for that, we need to make sure that things like overlapping radii won’t cause an issue.

DevBlog: A trip to the zoo!

Dear Grand-mama,

We are spoiled something rotten. A Zoological Gardens has opened in Bright Sands!

Of course, we girls had no expectation of being allowed in, but impetuous curiosity led me to peek through a breach in the perimeter hedge. I gasped, glimpsing a flash of some living creature, carrot pink. “What can it possibly be?” I said aloud.
“That madam, would be a flamingo,” a kind-faced gentleman interjected, ushering us toward an arched entrance-way. “Are we to be allowed inside?” I startled. “This is no royal sideshow,” he said, “no gift from a King to his Queen, for her eyes alone. These natural wonders are for the pleasure and wonder of us all.”

We’d have parted with every penny we had to cross into that secret garden, and those first few moments within were among the most wondrous of my short life. “What long necks!”, “Over there, with the tusks!”, “How much larger they are in person!” we exclaimed, heads swimming with the novelty of so many creatures, bright and bold.

It was with Blake’s poem in mind that we cautiously approached the house of the tiger. “Are any of these animals… dangerous?” I said, to which our wicked guide replied, “oh, all the best ones.”
Remarkably the zoo even keeps Seagulls— forgive me, Herring Gulls (our guide was most insistent on that topic). To see common vermin under the microscope made me think twice. All living things can be both beautiful and interesting!

Save for the unspeakable bottoms of the baboons (forgive me grand-mama), the zoo is quite possibly the most attractive feature of this already magnificent city. Henceforth, I should be very surprised if visitors do not begin to arrive from the Bright Sands ferries in their thousands.

More postcards sure to follow!

Your little tourist.

Cities in Anno used to consist of a limited number of building types: residences, farms, production buildings, monuments and a few public edifices. Since the islands are bigger in Anno 1800, we want to ensure that cities are not be dominated by repetitive patterns of buildings and that they also reflect all aspects of life in the 19th century. With the rise of the working class as one of the defining factors in this dawn of the modern age, this shifting society discovered a new lust for knowledge, culture and entertainment. In our second DevBlog about the new city attractiveness feature, our tourist guide and game designer Natacha will take you on a trip to the zoo.

We briefly touched on the concept of visitors in our last two DevBlogs. This time, we want to give these highly welcome guests to our island paradise a bit more attention. But before you can open your city gates for curious visitants, you first have to construct an all-new building in Anno 1800: the visitor’s harbor (congratulations to those Union members wo speculated about the addition of such a building in the comments on our previous blog!). The visitor harbor is unlocked with the Artisan tier, providing not only s scenic addition to your shoreline, but also an ideal destination for visitor ferries. Whenever one of these special ships decides to lower anchor at your island, a group of excitement-craving tourists will depart the ship and swarm your island; their exact number is both dependent on your city’s attractiveness, as well as the size of the ship, as bigger ferries can  naturally carry more visitors. This follows the simple rules of supply and demand; the more attractive your city is, the more visitors will want to come and see it, leading to larger ships arriving at your harbor.

Besides this regular cadence of visits, certain special events – like the grand opening of the world fair – will lead to additional ferries dropping by. And who could blame them for not wanting to miss such a spectacular occasion in your metropolis?
Once on land, visitors will start strolling around your city and flock to the available attractions. While taking in the sights and breathing the atmosphere of your city, they will also be more than happy to part with some of their cash, making for a profitable business for the city.

If your city’s attractiveness level drops, visitors may decide to leave again. If they are especially disappointed with how your city turned out, they may gather in a spot complain and make it abundantly clear to you what they really think of your island. As you know, we are big fans of having visual feedback delivered to you right inside the game world. This visual feedback is not just eye candy, but also helpful for you to see which parts of your town attract the most visitors.

But there is yet more! Ferries can also bring special visitors to your island. Original drawn in by your reputation as a cultural sanctum or an entertainment hot spot, they may decide to permanently settle and offer their services to you. A high city attractiveness level has therefore a chance to give you access to some exceptional specialist characters (as covered in last week’s DevBlog).

Can we go to the zoo now?
One of our core goals when we first started thinking about the city attractiveness feature was to support beauty builders with satisfying and meaningful gameplay mechanics. We know that many of our Annoholics love to channel their creative energy into some of the cultural buildings, like the palace in Anno 1404. So it was obvious that we would need some large-scale objects in Anno 1800 that players could sink their teeth and creativity into.

Our first idea was to provide a new type of cultural building, which still had to be a true eye catcher in your city. We developed a shortlist of criteria these buildings would have to fulfill: they had to capture the spirit and atmosphere of the 19th century, should be highly customizable to allow players freedom in how they use them, incorporate our items and, most importantly, should be satisfying to see in your city

Not only did the Zoo check all these boxes, but it would also provide a real hotspot for activity and visual feedback inside your city. The mix of open spaces for visitors and various animal enclosures are perfectly suited for a modular building approach, and could offer a lot of visual variety to builders taking their time to craft a unique looking zoo.
Our zoo opens its gates
The zoo will become available to players during the Artisan tier. As a first step, you will have to build the zoo’s entrance gates; given the zoo’s highly modular approach, you should make sure to safe enough space for later expansions. With the gate constructed, you can start placing the first animal enclosures. These can be freely placed, as long as they are connected to the gate, or another enclosure. In the spirit of beauty building, you should also make sure to leave some space for ornament and decorations between them!

Each enclosure can hold one type of animal, and the module will not only update with a visual feedback representation of the slotted item, but the whole enclosure module will visually change, fitting its respective inhabitant. This goes beyond biomes such as meadows or desert landscapes, with certain animals instead being housed in specific buildings or water basins. Of course, your citizens and visitors alike will flock to the most exotic animals on display, as tigers are naturally more exciting to watch than sheep. Here you will once again be able to use the visual feedback to see what visitors find most appealing about your zoo.

Gotta catch them all
On your hunt for the most exotic of animals, you might end up with quite a collection of different specimen. The gate building serves as a general zoo menu, giving you an overview of all currently equipped items/ animals.

There are some additional functionalities with the entrance buildings, such as the ability to create item sets out of specific types of animals, which once completed and equipped will provide certain buffs for your zoo. Furthermore, some items will provide specific titles for your zoo but we will also allow you to choose a name of your liking. Natasha’s National Zoo has a nice ring to it, right?

We are curious!
The visitors and the zoo building are a visually rewarding addition to the game, which is also embedded into the core gameplay in various ways. But as we like to end on a speculative note: the zoo won’t be the only large scale project to give your island a very personal touch. Beside the world exhibition, we are working on a second project, which will make use of modules, items and the attractiveness feature. We want to keep some secrets for later, so we will just say that it will reflect another area of great interest to the people of the 19th century.  

As always, we would like to get as much feedback about the visitor and zoo features as possible. City attractiveness is a vast feature with many different intertwining elements but also something new to the series, so we are curious about your feedback and suggestions in the comments below.