DevBlog: Pushing carts
Anno is about building an empire, starting with just a handful of coins in your pocket and a few buildings in your newly founded settlement. It is a long road with many challenges to overcome but with skillful management, you will soon grow your city into an impressive metropolis. Seasoned Anno players might already know this of course, but efficient logistics is the key to a successful economy.
Today, our Senior Game Designer Christian opens his ledgers and gives you an exclusive look at the logistics system in Anno 1800, including interesting insights for both experienced economists and new players taking their first steps into the world of Anno alike.
Hi my name is Christian and I am Game Designer for Anno 1800. I joined the team for the production of Anno 2070 and have since then worked on all following Anno titles. My job is to work on the core economical parts of Anno 1800 and I am excited to give you a little glimpse into our logistics system!
Your economy’s pounding heart
If you break it down to a very basic level, logistics is the system of transportation of goods. In Anno, it is a complex system of interacting cogs in a wheel, powering your economy in order to build, maintain, and expand your city.
Whether you are the min-maxing perfectionist or a beauty builder who wants to create the most picturesque cities, meeting your citizens’ ever-increasing demands for goods and resources is at the very heart of the Anno gameplay formula.
Of course, many of our players want to go beyond simply meeting those demands and instead take pride in perfecting their logistics to build massive empires with huge production lines and dozens of trade routes. That just shows what a massive and complex topic logistics is in an Anno game, so we will focus on the transportation of goods on your main island for today’s DevBlog. Of course, trade routes will play an important role in Anno 1800 as well, but we will save that topic for another day.
Let’s get visual, the returning of physical goods
In the last Anno game, the position of the goods on the map or their distance to the next production building was largely irrelevant. This will drastically change with Anno 1800, as physical goods celebrate their comeback to the series, and in doing so bumping up the complexity of gameplay that many of you have asked for.
To make that possible, the game needs to be able to measure the distance to a building and other targets, while taking the current location of the goods into account. This is once again all visually represented in the game world, allowing you to follow your wares’ cart journey from production to warehouse; this helps to immerse players in the world, but also to make logistics easier to grasp through visualization. And of course, it really adds to that crowded and lively feeling that you expect from a flourishing Anno city!
Cart pushers, carriages and smart decisions
In order to optimize your economy, you have to keep a keen eye on your production chain to ensure that all goods find their way through your thoughtfully created street layout. We all know that this can be a rather demanding task; building a complex production chain, ensuring that all goods find their destination and identifying blockers when there is a sudden shortcoming of resources.
To explain some of these concepts better, let us look at a typical production chain in Anno 1800: steel production.
Our newly built smelter is ready for production but in order to fuel our steel industry, we need to ensure that it gets a steady supply of coal and iron ore. Luckily, a charcoal burner is close by and cart pushers ensure that the coal finds its way directly to the smelter.
If the smelter is sufficiently stocked with coal, or if there is a general overhead production of coal, it will instead direct the goods to the warehouse for storage (unless there is some other immediate demand for it in the vicinity). This is where horse-drawn carriages come into play. While it is the job of a cart pusher to deliver resources from one production building to another, the carriages loads up excess production to bring it to a warehouse for storage.
As mentioned before, our logistics system checks the shortest way between a supplier and your production buildings. The basic rule for efficient delivery is that – in order to reduce bottlenecks – emptying your storage has the highest priority. In our given example, the charcoal burner detects that there is a demand for coal nearby and sends a cart pusher to the smelter instead to the nearest warehouse. The game will also decide if it sends out goods before the cart is fully loaded to fulfill demands or if it would be more efficient to wait until it has loaded more before sending the delivery.
So what are these decisions based on? Deliveries are prioritized by the necessary travel distance on streets. To help with planning, you can see a building’s “reach” on the map. Upgrading your streets from a muddy path to proper cobblestone will increase speed, which furthermore means that a production building might be capable of reaching facilities in corners that may have been too far away to reach previously.
Wonders of the industrial revolution (pre-alpha)
Warehouse and queue management
Our goal is to give you more options when designing your city, from optimized street layouts to the decisions on where to put your manufacturing districts.
We added a new layer to the warehouse itself, which now has a loading and delivery bay. As more transporters try to access the warehouse, it will get crowded outside, which can lead to a delay of the loading process. When too many carriages try to store resources and goods in the same warehouse, you will be able to see how they queue up in front of the loading bay. However, don’t worry about traffic jams on your streets, as this will only affect the warehouse gates.
Transporters also check the nearby warehouses and might prioritize a warehouse with less traffic, if it would result in an overall shorter delivery time.
This will all be represented in the warehouse menu, where you can see detailed information about delivery and loading processes, as well as the actual goods in storage. As your progress through the game, you will also be able to upgrade your warehouse to increase the number of loading bays, allowing more carts to be serviced, simultaneously.
Depots will further increase the islands storage limit but will not have an effect on loading and delivery. These will come in handy when you expand your empire and establish trade routes. Warehouses themselves share one island bound storage, where all stored resources on your island will be accessible from any of your warehouses. This is still an experimental new feature we are working on, but we are so far quite happy with it and hope the additional visual feedback not only makes it easier to understand, but also adds some additional entertainment.
With Anno 1800, we want to create a complex logistics system while enhancing the visibility and readability. Added options will be a welcome addition for Anno veterans while making it stays comprehensible even for new players.
Somebody should tell them how to queue up properly (pre-alpha)
What’s the deal with trains?
We also know that there is one specific topic where you are thirsty for details: the trains, relentless steel horses of the industrial revolution. The train feature is not 100% set in stone yet, and we are currently evaluating some possible design scenarios for how trains could work in Anno 1800.
We have many ideas on how we could implement trains into the game and we want trains to reflect the advancement of the industrial age. Trains presented a reliable new way to transport tons of goods over long distances, overcoming one of the major hurdles that threatened the progress of the industrial revolution.
It is a complex topic and of course, we want feedback from you, the Anno Union. With this logistics DevBlog, it was also our intention to explain some of our underlying systems in order to give you the knowledge to give feedback on potential train gameplay designs.
We are looking forward to reading your comments and are curious to see what you think of the logistics in Anno 1800.