DevBlog: Multiplayer

Whether it is teaming up with friends to end Alonso Graves’ reign of terror or taking on three other players to see who will be the last man building- playing Anno 1800 alongside and against your fellow human players can make for tense adventures.

So today, we want to talk about Anno 1800’s multiplayer mode, what options it gives players and also give you some interesting insights into how we make it possible to run an enormous simulation with more than one player.

Multiplayer – conquering the world with friends(?)
In Anno 1800’s multiplayer mode, up to four players can join a match to settle and conquer islands in an alliance or in a race against each other to reach the victory conditions first. Players can freely trade among each other, and with the possibility of trading any goods, they can decide if they want to start a trading conglomerate with specialized production on each side. And should you find yourself short of a full set of human players to stage a naval battle to rival Tsushima Strait, you can always fill any open slots with an AI character of your choice. This choice of how to approach the multiplayer is very important to us, no matter if you want to go for an ultra-competitive race to be the first to construct a battlecruiser squadron, or if you want to play a relaxed Sunday afternoon match with some old friends.

And since this is a question that came up many times in the past: Yes, the multiplayer mode supports the full range of gameplay options in Anno 1800, including the second session in the New World! So will be the first to settle a tropical island?

Starting and victory conditions
There are several game modifier which allows you to set the stage for the game experience.
Alliance with shared victory conditions – You can start the match with an active alliance pact between all players and shared victory conditions. This allows for a truly collaborative effort for players who want to work together as a team.
Alliance without shared victory conditions – This game mode enforces peaceful matches between players while encouraging economic competition thanks to the personal victory conditions.
Free-for-all – A free-for-all, with no shared victory conditions and no active trading or alliance treaties. In this mode, it is solely up to you how the world (and your fellow players) will remember you.

And while it can be fun to build and expand for hours on end, we know that some players prefer a more defined game experienced with a clear goal. That is why we have the same set of victory conditions as in the Sandbox mode, such as being the first to construct a monument, reaching X amount of investors of generating a positive revenue of X. You will also be able to select whether players have to reach one or all of these goals to emerge victorious from your online match.

Custom sessions and the new quick match mode
Anno 1800 will offer two game modes to set up games, either allowing you to invite friends into your custom sessions, or to be paired up with random players via matchmaking.

You can either create or join a custom made multiplayer match, where the creator of the session can take full advantage of all custom settings of the classic sandbox experience. Once you set your various parameters and decided which AI should populate your island space, you can invite up to three players from your friend list to your match. And if there is this one friend of a friend who wants to join you, players who join also have the rights to invite players from their friend list. The game mode supports a maximum amount of 4 players in total, which also includes AI opponents who can fill the ranks of missing players.

Our new Quick Match mode will match you with random players around the world in preset multiplayer sessions. The presets allow you to look either for a match with two, three or four players or alternatively just look with “Random” where a slot is available in any of the three presets. Unlike in custom matches, you won’t have any non-player characters in Quick Match other than NPC traders and every game mode comes with preset victory conditions.

Under the hood – large scale multiplayer simulation
Simulating a vast and complex strategy game like Anno 1800 in a multiplayer match is quite a challenging task. To make it possible, we make use of a “lock-step” mechanism, a system which allows simulating the whole game state on every single PC and as a result of that minimizes the amount of data traffic between the players.

In case the game states of the players will differ at some point in time, the game will detect it (we call it a desync) and immediately provide a simple one-click solution to repair the game state with automatic synchronization of all parties participating in a match.

You will be able to save the state of the game to continue the match with your friends at another time or to switch hosts if the initial creator of the session is not available. This also means that when you are creating a session from a previous multiplayer savegame, players in the lobby can decide which island to control during the game. And if you cannot remember the party of friends from your last session anymore, we will display the players which played with you before.

This large-scale simulation and synchronization process is also the reason why fast-forward is not available in multiplayer sessions. Speeding up the simulation would have a big performance impact on the CPU of each player. However, you will be able to pause a multiplayer game to allow everyone to take a break or get a refill of your favorite beverage.

Build an empire together
While the Anno multiplayer experience always had its vocal fans across the years, we hope that with Anno 1800, more players will team up to experience the game together. We received a lot of valuable feedback during the technical test and Closed beta, giving us ample data we currently use to improve the multiplayer experience for the launch of the game.

And as your feedback is always important to us: While there won’t be a classic Co-Op mode in the game at launch, we will add it as part of our post-launch plans for Anno 1800.

Union Update: Conquer together

Welcome to another Union Update, with our latest news from our Anno communities as well as an outlook on this week’s content.

Upcoming DevBlog: Multiplayer
For some a neat extra while for others vital for the gameplay experience – playing with your friends in Anno 1800’s multiplayer mode can add countless hours of fun when competing over islands or going on a joint venture to end the regime of the tyrant Alonso Graves. The classic multiplayer experience celebrates a return to the series and we want to give you insights how the system works, what options and game modes we will provide while also give you a brief outlook on the future.

Community Roundtable AmA happens this Wednesday!
It is time for the next round of our Anno Union Community Roundtable. The Roundtable is a Community AmA where we, the Community Developer and Community Team, answer your most burning questions, hosted by our Annoverse Discord fan community. Everyone is welcome to join us and to ask questions about Anno 1800 and the Anno Union in chat.

To allow everyone to participate, we will have two sessions Wednesday evening, one in German and one in English. The German session will start at 18:30 GMT while the English panel begins at 19:30 GMT.

When:  Wednesday, 27th of February
German session: 18:30 GMT
English session: 19:30 GMT

Where: Annoverse Discord

We will take a short break from live streaming this week but do not worry, we will return as early as next week with more live streams from our Community team.

The Anno Union started as an idea and grew to a huge platform providing tons of Anno relevant information and details for players and fans out there. Is there anything you would like to see more in future or is there anything you miss on the Anno Union and specifically the Union Updates?

As always, we are eager to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Union Update: Community Roundtable & Livestreams

A quick update this week, we’ll have a new Community Roundtable, the Anno Afternoon returns and a Community Spotlight.

Community Roundtable in the Annoverse
Next week on the 27th, we’ll have another Anno Union Community Roundtable, where the Community Team will answer your questions live. As with the last times, we’ll hold this in the Annoverse Discord. For a better overview, this time we’ll take questions from chat and answer them on voice.

This roundtable will be held on English at 19:30 GMT, but if you are able to understand and/or speak German, then you can start at 18:30 GMT already. Join us and ask your questions!

When: Wednesday, 27th of February
Where: Annoverse Discord.

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AnnoAfternoon – Full Steam Ahead
This week we’ll have another AnnoAfternoon, this time with Guddy and John, who will continue our existing Anno 1800 savegame. This week, we’ll reckon they reach the Artisans and maybe even the New World?

When: Friday, 22nd of February, 16:00 GMT

Community Spotlight – Norkhey
On reddit we recently found this cool megacity build in Anno 2070. User Norkhey expanded the island a bit with a mod and the result looks astonishing. Do you have screenshots of your most gorgeous cities from older Anno games?

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That’s it for this week! We’ll be back next week with a new Blog!

DevBlog: City Incidents

Working from dusk till dawn, skin tanned from the smoldering heat of molten steel, just enough time to swipe the sweat out of your eyes. The Baron demands his guns and there is no time to breathe or room for compassion. And in one misfortunate moment of exhaustion, a hand slips and the massive calciner first starts to sway, before seconds later, its scorching load burns its way through the factory.

Incidents such as blazing firestorms bring tension when managing a sprawling metropolis and they also mimic the realism of catastrophes which can throw life out of balance. You are the major in charge of the fate of your citizen, as you have to strike the balance between relentless progress and the glooming danger that one catastrophe might be enough to throw your city into chaos.

City Incidents in Anno 1800
For the seventh title in the series, we decided to expand on the city incidents from the fan favorite Anno 1404. The rule is that incidents can happen at any time while the likeliness is determined by several factors. Working conditions and happiness of your residents, as an example, affect the chance of a strike to happen while your heavy industrial districts have a higher risk of a fire breaking out. While every incident has its own chance of dying down on its own after a while, the chance of a fire spreading wildly through your streets is way more likely, especially in cramped residential districts.
You won’t be able to disable city incidents completely, as they are intertwined with different game systems, but if you like a more relaxed experience, you can turn the likeliness of them happen significantly down. Or if you like a real challenge, how about scaling them all the way up to the max?
In total, Anno 1800 will have three different types of city incidents to keep you on your toes.

Fire: Blazing heat and explosions, what’s not to like?
Fire is not only the most traditional incident, as firestorms eating through rooftops of a densely populated cities are a primal nightmare since mankind erected the first cities.
In older Anno titles, fire could only appear and spread in residential areas but now, they will be also able to attack your production buildings, with your modern factories especially being a welcome target for the flames. To expand that system further, different production chains have a higher chance of catching fire than others, representing the brutal industrial expansion and workshops growing to enormous factories.
A factor influencing the chance of a fire appearing are the working condition slider, as pushing your workers into overworking themselves might boost your productivity but also raise the chance of an unfortunate incident happening. An increasing problem during late game, as oil production chains and the electricity feature, which can boost some production above and beyond, provide great benefits but are a real safety hazard.
While other incidents such as sickness can spread even faster than fire, the flames are way faster in shutting down buildings, which means cutting you off from taxes and workforce from the affected area.

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Wait a moment, you said….EXPLOSIONS?!
As fire isn’t enough of a hazard, there is now a chance for some production buildings to explode. Dynamite might be the best example, but every building which makes use of heavy machinery and chemicals can literally blow up. If a production buildings explodes, it will immediately put the building in ruined state but if that wasn’t enough of a problem, burning debris fly around and might set nearby buildings on fire. There are various factors for the likeliness of an explosion to happen:

  • Type of the production (dynamite has a very high risk, Schnapps or Motor factories significantly lower)
  • Working conditions and production output (high production output raises the chance)
  • If the building is on fire (will raise the chance of explosion for these buildings significantly)

Imagine a rare chain reaction such as a schnapps facility burning down, bursting into spitting debris, sets more schnapps distilleries on fire causing a nightmarish chain reaction.

Illness: Big city life
The chance of a sickness spreading through your cramped metropolis is affected by two elements, working conditions and pollution from nearby production buildings.
Different than fire, illness is targets only residential districts. This way, it will still affect your available workforce but you won’t need to build hospitals close to your factories.
Once a sickness breaks out, residents will stay home until they have recovered, which functions as a temporary de-buff to workforce and taxes provided.
But beware: in the overcrowded and sooth blackened cities of the 19th century, an illness can spread rather fast and you will probably never underestimate the danger of a outgrown plague ever again once it hit a large amount of your population. And if you thought your outposts or getaway islands are safe – sickness can even jump over to your or ships from other parties to spread across islands or even travel to another session.

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Riots: The birth of the social movement!
The workers movement marched through the 19th century and was the most influential factor to change the society as we know it today. Riots can affect residential and production buildings of your city, although with a different reasons why people go on the streets or lay down their tools.
In residential areas, the chance of a riot is affected by the general happiness of your people while in production districts, working conditions are the biggest cause for a strike.
That means that if you overwork your people, they might stop working and go on a strike even if the folks in the residential area are happy and vice versa. It goes that far that it can even affect specific production chains as you are able to alter the working conditions for each production separately.
A strike can start small, just affecting one specific building but might erupt to a general strike which can cripple a whole type of production chain.
Strikes can further spread as people will gather together, shouting their demands and sprawling through the streets on the look for sympathizer and fellow comrades.
Don’t underestimate the frustration of the populous, when a situation goes out of control, a strike can become a grown movement including heated arguments, raising fists and Molotov cocktails.

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City Institutions
Traditionally, there are ways to mitigate the situation or even to take immediate action, namely city institutions such as the fire brigade which will reduce the likeliness of a fire in their influence radius.

There are three different buildings for each incident (remember, explosions are a part of the fire incident): the fire brigade, the hospital and the police station.
The fire brigade is the first building to unlock, has a medium influence range but also don’t needs as much constructions space. You might want ensure that your residential as well as production facilities are covered by enough fire brigades or additionally boost their effect with specialists items in your city hall. The hospital has higher upkeep and construction cost, but makes up for it with a higher influence radius and a general lower chance of illness spreading compared to a fire.
To avoid strikes, you could become a man of the people or you can make sure that enough police force has a watchful eye on streets and neighborhoods. Police stations reduce the chance of a riot in residential and production areas and if things get out of hand (or you just prefer the stick rather than the carrot), you can mobilize your force to put the revolter in their place.

Keep in mind that similar to the transport of goods, the street distance affects the time a Red Cross volunteer or police cart needs to get to their place of action.

City institution have a limited amount of units which they can send out to fight the incidents. However, you can activate their ability to mobilize additional units in case of emergency: you can call happy residents into civil service, from Red Cross volunteers, neighborhood watch and civil firefighters.
Using that ability will spawn more of the specific healing unit and its cooldown is determined by the happiness of your population. Remember: Don’t count volunteers if people are too busy throwing eggs at your counterfeit, if your residents hate you, the cooldown will completely freeze.

Another interesting counter to incidents happening in your overcrowded late game metropolis and power economy are items, which you can slot in guild halls to either affect the likeliness of incidents happening in production buildings or specialists like very effective and renown police constables in your city hall to make your institutions more effective.

From riots to explosions, we build on the complexity of the incidents feature while working conditions or the use of items leave players the agency to let the benefits outweigh the risks or to minimize the chance of catastrophes to happen. What do you think of the new system and is the thrill of a full grown emergency situation part of the fun or do you prefer a more relaxed approach?

Union Talk: Looking back to the Beta

In October we had our first Union Talk, a video where we talked a bit about the development of Anno 1800. Today, we’ll have a new one ready for you, where Dirk Riegert, Marcel Hatam and Bastian Thun discuss their Closed Beta impressions. Additionally, we’ll give you a look at the things to come this week.

Union Talk – Closed Beta

As usual: Let us know what you think of the Union Talk format and which topics you want to see covered.

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Anno 1800 Vinyl Soundtrack
Ubisoft Blue Byte and Black Screen Records are excited to announce the official Soundtrack to Anno 1800™ on audiophile 180g double vinyl in April.
The symphonic soundtrack was composed by an experienced team around Tilman Sillescu (Dynamedion), recorded by a 70-member-ensemble of the Brandenburg State Orchestra and will come in a beautiful gatefold sleeve with original artwork by Karakter Design Studio.

Get a first taste of the soundtrack here.
And if we got your attention, audiophile Anno 1800 fans can pre-order the soundtrack here:

Fire and Sickness – City Incidents
The promised City Incidents Blog will come this week. You’ll get to see, what can happen in your city, when you don’t pay attention. And more importantly: What to do when the fire breaks out and how to prepare for some of them.

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Community Corner with Bastian
On Thursday, we invite you to our first Community Corner, a livestream with Community Developer Bastian Thun, where you can ask questions regarding the development of Anno 1800, while he tries to build a city in Anno 1800.

When: Thursday, 14. February, 3:00PM GMT

Screenshot Challenge: Our Winners!

Annoholics all over the world were able to get their hands on Anno 1800 during our big Closed Beta event. Beside the huge amount of valuable feedback, many of you decided to take your camera with you on your trip to the new world. With hundreds of beautiful entries for our Screenshot Challenge, we had a hard time to pick the best three entries for the gaming hardware price from our friends at CORSAIR.

But we had to make a choice, and here are our top three entries:

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1. Place goes to: Bassjeroen

Bassjeroen surprised us with not only a wide-screen shot, but also a surprisingly thoughtful composition which convinced even our Executive Producer that “This screenshot would make a brilliant desktop wallpaper”.

And here the well deserved CORSAIR loot for Bassjeroen:

  • K70 RGB MK.2 Keyboard (Cherry MX Red switches)
  • MM800 RGB Cloth Edition Mousepad
  • VOID PRO RGB Wireless Headset
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2. Place goes to: katerkrank
There is something to the color filter and the overall angle in which this scenic island outpost was captured. This screenshot invited us as much into the scenery as it gave us almost a feeling of a glooming threat appearing from the horizon. Maybe there is danger in paradise?

Katerkrank’s loot table:

  • STRAFE RGB MK.2 Keyboard (Cherry MX Silent switches)
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3. Place: Neel
This wonderful panorama looks almost right from the pack shot of Anno 1800. The de-saturated look of the large settlement takes you right back into the 19th century and demonstrates how beautiful Anno 1800 can look like.

And for Neel, the expedition vessel brought back:

  • MM800 Mousepad

As we had so many great entries, we have two additional honorable mentions. The two will also get a small Anno surprise for their entries.

Domo with his “peak on the new world”

Antonius Haase with his wonderful island paradise

We will now contact all winners to send them their well earned loot and as we loved the content so much, would you love to see more community creations contests in future?

Union Update: Closed Beta and a special Announcement

In today’s Union Update, we reflect on the Closed Beta. Plus, make sure to read all the way to the end for a special announcement!

Thank for making our Closed Beta a full success
Wow, what a week it has been for all of us on the Anno Dev Team! So, where to start? First by saying “Thank you” to every single one of you who has participated in our Closed Beta- you managed to not only help us reach, but actually crush our expectations for this test. From the number of players, to how often you came back and how long you played during these few days, we were truly humbled by your dedication to helping us test Anno 1800.

We also want to thank everyone who created content for the game, be it live streaming, videos, screenshots or even creating the first cheat sheets and tools to calculate the most efficient production chains. Many of us on the team were glued to our various screens to watch streams and videos throughout the test, and we have to be honest with you: seeing “our baby” reach the #5 spot for most viewed games on Twitch on Friday night was more than just a little bit surreal. Fair to say that you all made our day(s), and that seeing all this excitement will be a great morale boost for the team as we tackle the feedback reports in the weeks to come.

But of course, it is not just about making us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Watching so many different players of all experience and skill levels was also very helpful for our game and UX designers as they were able to check many of our assumptions and guesses how players would behave as they get familiar with Anno 1800 against real player behavior.

Your Feedback, and how we will act on it
Which brings us to your feedback. Not surprisingly, we have received plenty of feedback from you, ranging from crash reports to bugs, wishes for improvements and praise for new gameplay elements you love (like the blueprint mode).

While we will not be able to comment on all of them, there are a few hot topics for Closed Beta testers:

  • Game Balance: As you know, we recently made the difficult decision to delay Anno 1800 to April 16. Between these additional weeks of development and all the feedback from our testers, you can safely assume that nothing you have seen balance-wise should be considered final. This is also true for the influence system (more on that in a second).
  • Desyncs: First, a big thank you to everyone who helped test the multiplayer mode. A test at the scale of this Closed Beta is immensely helpful for us when it comes to testing multiplayer functionality, as having so many players (on many different ISPs, routers etc.) out in the wild helps to find lots of issues we would never come across in our internal testing. Thanks to your help, we have received a lot of valuable data to improve the multiplayer experience at launch. One thing to keep in mind here is that a lot of different behind the scenes issues can result in a desync error for the player (for example, you could still experience desyncs after our Closed Beta Update 1 fixed several different issues causing them, though we managed to dramatically decrease their frequency).
  • Performance: Another topic that we saw many questions around was in-game performance. This is another aspect of the game where we are hard at work optimizing and improving to ensure that as many people as possible can enjoy playing Anno 1800. This large-scale test helped us to get much more insight into the plethora of system configurations in our community.
  • Influence: We addressed this topic in our notes for the Update from Friday, but want to reiterate our points here. We know that your experience with the influence system during the Closed Beta was not optimal, for a variety of reasons. Three of them are especially noteworthy.
    • As you know, the game is still in development, and this is especially true of the influence system. The current balance you have seen in the Closed Beta is not final, and we will keep iterating on it, as we get closer to launch. You have already seen some live changes to that during the test.
    • One important aspect to keep in mind when evaluating the influence system in the Closed Beta is that due to the content being limited to tiers 1-3 and lacking the endgame, the player behavior was artificially changed from normal play patterns. Watching players engage with the full content, they are more likely to try to make vertical progress by reaching tier 4, rather than spending many hours creating their own endgame on tier 3. To give you an idea about the influence balancing in the full game: The fifths residential tier, the Investors, will provide a huge boost to your influence pool which will allow players to customize their experience way more freely in the late game of Anno 1800.
    • We absolutely agree with your feedback that the game needs to do a better job giving players the right information and context to make educated decisions on how to invest their influence points. Internally, we have already made some improvements here with better tooltips, though they sadly did not make it into the CB build in time.

Announcing the Anno 1800 Open Beta
With all that said, we want to leave you all with a special treat to show our appreciation- the Anno 1800 Open Beta, coming April 12th-14th. So what does Open Beta mean? Just what it says on the cover- it will be open to anyone interested in testing the game prior to launch! No need to sign up, no need to cross your fingers to receive a key- just download the Open Beta client, and start playing once it goes live on the 12th.

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AnnoAfternoon – The Age of Steam – February 8th 4PM GMT
Save the date once more, as our Community Team takes to Twitch again to play Anno 1800 with you. We’re going through the Closed Beta Build and will be happy to follow suggestions from the community as to how we should build.

When: February 8th, 4PM GMT

And that’s it for this week’s Union Update. Thank you, and se… oh, you want one last final teaser? Okay then: the Open Beta will give you access to some new content that was not playable in either the Technical Test or Closed Beta.