Rainbow Six: Siege may have launched at the end of 2015, but as we approach its five-year anniversary, the game just keeps growing.
After a huge amount of seasonal updates, all stacked up on top of excellent shooting mechanics and a demand for tactical thinking and flexibility, Siege is now played by over 60 million players (according to stats in May).
With the game set to celebrate its first World Cup competition in 2021, we sat down with Aurelie Debant, Game Designer, while Leroy Athanassof (Creative Director), Jane Gonchar (Associate Producer) and Emilien Lomet (Game Designer) from Ubisoft also joined us to give their take on Rainbow Six Siege's long-running success.
Five Years, Not Out
With the game entering its fifth year of support, and with dozens of Operators joining the roster plus numerous map reworks and gameplay features in the pipes too, the team has the unenviable task of balancing the plates it already spins while adding more with each season.
"We are not focused on creating new things strictly speaking," Debant tells me. "[The team's focus] is more on how to improve the existing. We have a lot of features and systems that we can play with to create new things and new experiences. We are trying to give more tools to the players to create and adapt their strategy."
One of the biggest additions in the current season, Operation Shadow Legacy, has been the addition of Hard Breach Charges to every Operator's toolkit.
This allows players to tear through even toughened walls, opening up new play opportunities regardless of character class.
"Before, almost all attack compositions are forced to bring at least 1 operator who's specialized in hard breaching," Debant explains. "We designed this gadget to open the possibility to bring compositions with no hard breacher on the bomb sites, where hard breaching is less important for attackers’ plan."
The idea is to open up more "exotic" operators for more players to enjoy, and Sam Fisher of Splinter Cell fame certainly fits that bill.
Out of the Shadows
"I think he is definitely a viable operator" NaVI's Rainbow Six Pro, Kendrew, explains. "I can see him being used for holding flanks, and his four cameras, that can be shot through soft walls/windows can be really strong for holding all rotations on the map"._
Adding a beloved character like Sam Fisher to the game was undoubtedly no easy task though, as Emilien Lomet, Game Designer, explains.
"That was the core challenge for us: to find an ability that was definitively Sam Fisher, but would work within Siege's gameplay," he explains.
"The camera's ability to zap enemy gadgets was inspired by the gameplay in Splinter Cell. In those games, when watching those cams, the player is waiting for the AI to move into a certain position to act. By adding a visible, noisy laser, we wanted the player to have to consider timing the use of the ability."
Building A Soldier
An Operator's creation comes down to either a requirement for an alternative or counter to an existing character, or a chance at a fresh gameplay approach.
"For example, Wamai's original mandate was to provide an alternative to Jager.", Debant explains. "This was a strong request for the community, because Jager had a massive pick rate that needed to be addressed. If we don’t need an alternative, we explore how to give new way to play the game and new tools."
Those new ways to play have included the likes of Oryx in recent seasons, a man-mountain capable of busting through walls like the Kool-Aid Man.
"We wanted to focus on an ability, not on a gadget, and to return to one of the bases of Siege which is navigation. We brainstormed around the idea of map control and mobility – that means also to play with the verticality. It opened new ways to move around, roam and flank."
Those more surprising character additions may have seemed off the wall back in 2015, but the team is pleased to be moving in a more exciting direction.
"On our side, we can't imagine releasing some of our Legacy Operators today!" Debant explains. "To give an example, to have a Hard counter like Thatcher which destroys all electronic gadgets in his range, without any LOS, is not very interesting."
"Soft counters create more gameplay opportunities and require more skill - so now in the new season, Thatcher’s EMP doesn’t destroy electronic gadgets but disables them temporarily."
"Defenders get a chance to protect their gadgets by holding position or picking them back up and, for Attackers, this leads for more interesting interactions around Thatcher. It makes using the EMP grenade properly becomes more demanding and requires more coordination with teammates."
Remodelling Your Home
Fisher isn't the only big addition in Operation Shadow Legacy, however, as one of the game's most long-serving maps, Chalet, has received an overhaul that's sure to make it feel a little less comfortable for players.
Ubisoft has set a cadence of updating maps in line with the game's ever-shifting meta, and it's undoubtedly working well.
"A rework was needed," MnM's head coach Sparxo admits. "[Chalet] was outgrown by the meta and wasn’t viable at any level. The map is much better now with the Master and Trophy side changes making it much easier to hold and less of a "kill zone".
"The map definitely has potential for some interesting strategies and plays."
Siege continues to receive quality-of-life additions, too. The current season adds Ping 2.0, a contextual communication method triggered with a button press, as well as a pool of defensive reinforcements, rather than individual allocations.
"The Ping 2.0 system is also a good example on how we can improve our current tool to give more tools to the player," Debant explains. "The sharing pool [of reinforcements] was, among other things, to give more flexibility on the role of each player."
Scope For Improvements
Then there are the game's scopes, which have been completely overhauled and regimented into varying zoom levels.
"You can now choose between a plethora of sights, coloured reticles, and sensitivities, and games like CS:GO have made this the norm by giving the players the ability to choose the way they want to play and give them the comfort they want", Kendrew explains.
"For individual players, the sensitivity change will help a lot with feeling comfortable on different types of scopes," Sparxo adds. "The different scopes are a good idea and will add a more in-depth way of balancing out certain operators rather than just removing ACOG or not. Some adjustments to balancing need to be made to fit around competitive play but on the whole, it’s pretty good."
Jane Gonchar, Associate Producer, noted that accessibility was also a key focus for the scope changes, allowing for new colours to improve player comfort.
"We started defining best what good looks like in terms of player comfort, accessibility and tech available. To find the maximum impact spec for the feature. It was the Color Change - Flexibility of Colors. Ease of use customization & be base for upcoming accessibility color solutions. Also, we took into consideration the quality of the reticle forms in low resolutions."
As a big fan of Splinter Cell, I had to ask about the possibility of another crossover.
“We can’t comment on other games. The addition of Sam Fisher to R6S roster feels very coherent as both franchises have a lot in common," Creative Director Leroy Athanassof revealed. "The team is open to crossovers if it fits with the game gameplay and atmosphere, but we don’t have more to share at this time.”
Never say never to the Rabbids, then.