Daring to Be Different: Looking Back At The First Year of Rainbow Six Siege
If you have been following me at all over the past year you’re probably aware that I have played a lot of Rainbow Six Siege. By all accounts, Siege is a much different game from the norm that’s found in the AAA shooter market. It’s slow, methodical and, outside of casual matches, requires communication and coordination to win.
Ubisoft Montreal dared to be different with Rainbow Six Siege, and a year after release the game is still growing. I recently sent some questions over to the Siege development team to get some insight about the game and its growth over the past year.
You might be surprised to hear that the development team of Rainbow Six Siege doesn’t necessarily consider the game “hardcore.” When Siege was first announced, I’m not sure how many actually thought the game would find mainstream appeal following a long hiatus for the series after Rainbow Six Vegas 2. I asked the developers if they had reservations about how many people would actually play the game due to its more hardcore appeal.
“[We’re] not sure that “hardcore” is the right word to describe Rainbow Six Siege; it has its own strengths and distinct identity,” a member of the development team said. “If anything, our game is intense. You’ll feel it when playing: the difference in pacing, slow and tense; the importance of sound, which is key to locate your enemy; and the overall power of the firefights, with our one-shot-one-kill lethality.
Rainbow Six has 17 years of history, of legacy. The core elements of its iterations, team play, and tactics are the foundations of our game. Rainbow has a special place in the shooter genre, as it is the father of tactical shooters.
All of us hoped for success – it’s probably necessary to have a positive outlook when you’re working on a game. It’s what gets you through the tougher days. But of course, I don’t think any of us imagined this much success.”
Siege has continued to increase its player count since the game was released back at the tail-end of 2015, largely in part due to word of mouth promotion of the game. The DLC model for the game has also kept players coming back, as Ubisoft has done a fantastic job of supporting the game. Since its release, four expansions have been released, all of which can be purchased using in-game currency. The development team has also continually published balance updates and bug fixing patches.
“Longevity was very important to us,” a member of the development team said. “Since we started building the game, we kept thinking about how it would evolve over time with our support and the community. We’re committed to supporting and sustaining the game for as long as the community keeps enjoying it.
Since our game is made for the long-term, we wanted to keep evolving with our players and how they use our Operators. This is the reason why we introduced the “Mid-Season Reinforcements.” We are constantly bringing new features, improvements, and bug fixes.
We’re very pleased with the current results. The growing numbers from our community is encouraging.”
KEEPING IT UPDATED
With the amount of changes that are consistently introduced to the game, I asked the development team to try and describe what that process is like. Since I know very little about the actual development of video games, I had originally assumed developing balance updates was mostly a process of trial and error. Turns out that is not the case at all.
“It is an intense and fun process, but it’s certainly not trial and error,” explained the development team. “It is a long, iterative work that requires a lot of analysis, creativity, and debate.
Changes are based on a couple of factors: Data, analysis of the meta-game, and community feedback. First and foremost we look at the data with our analysts and examine the pick rates, win rates, and overall efficiency of the operators, gadgets, and weapons. For example, if we see a big discrepancy in terms of pick rate and win rate for a certain operator, we try to see if there is a simple solution to nudge him in the right direction. If not, he becomes a candidate for the operator rework of a mid-season reinforcement.
Then we take a look at how the game is played, both in the regular pick-up games and the pro-league. We try to promote strategic diversity, so if an operator is always picked we try to nerf him or make other operators stronger so the players have to make real choices. Then, of course, we read Reddit every day and also have a private sub-reddit with our pro-league players where we have discussions about game balance.
All of this requires a lot of time and is cause of great discussion between the designers. We try to think about the possible consequences of every change and hardly ever take a blind shot at something.”
One of the biggest things that the development team has learned while developing Rainbow Six Siege was the fact that you “can’t rush new features or changes to the game.” People who play games want things updated right away, but in a game like Siege where one seemingly simple change can affect the entirety of the game, it’s better to be patient and make sure you get it right the first time.
The Siege development team has a number of features they want to release for the game, and at one point had planned on shipping them very quickly, but later decided that “was not the way to go.”
With the popularity of Rainbow Six Siege at an all-time high, it’s probably safe to assume that other developers in the shooter market have taken note and will use Siege as an inspiration for their own titles in the coming years. We previously covered one of those titles already over at OnlySP.
The Siege development team would like to see more developers in the shooter market “think outside the box” and take the challenge of building “new technology from the ground up to create uniqueness.”
“Siege dares to be different with groundbreaking technologies,” the development team told me. “The sound propagation and the destruction system gives Siege an absolutely unique feel… First person shooters had become quite stale in their design and [we] think Rainbow Six Siege gave a breath of fresh air to the game genre.”
Speaking of fresh air, we talked about what’s arguably the most important aspect of Rainbow Six Siege: the community. In all my time playing the game, which is an amount I’d like to keep private (it’s a lot), I’ve hardly encountered the types of people you get while playing other titles with more infamous communities.
It’s not uncommon in Rainbow Six Siege to join a stranger’s party on Xbox Live or PSN and have a generally positive experience. To this day, I still play with some random people I met online when the game first launched, something that almost seemed alien to me after years of playing titles like Call of Duty or other competitive shooters.
As I previously mentioned, teamwork is a cornerstone of Siege’s gameplay and Ubisoft Montreal consciously makes design decisions to promote communication between players which in turn fosters a surprisingly positive online environment.
“We want to incite players to talk to each other and help their team,” a member of the Siege development team explained. “Many of the design decisions are meant to promote co-operation and communication between players. We think it drives team spirit and ultimately creates a friendly atmosphere within a team. In Siege, you rarely win games by playing alone; you overcome as a unit. This is a unique aspect of the game’s greatness, and the community understands that.”
Ubisoft Montreal has recently announced Year 2 for Rainbow Six Siege and will continue to deliver new content to the game over the course of this year. The first piece of new DLC has already been announced as Operation Velvet Shell. As you’d expect, two new operators and a new map will be introduced to the game.
Year 2 will deliver “8 new operators, 4 free new maps playable in PVP and PVE, new primary and secondary weapons, new features and improvements, new cosmetic items, and various bug fixes,” according to the development team.
Of course, we can’t conduct an interview about Rainbow Six Siege without asking about the fate of Rainbow Six Patriots.
According to the development team, “Patriots was stopped as the design and technology of the game were not compatible with the new generation of consoles that were about to launch.”
Late 2012, a brand new team of 25 devs were mandated to reinvent Rainbow Six. “All of us were fans of First Person Shooter games, and quickly came up with our main direction for the game: the Siege. We wanted an asymmetrical confrontation between attackers and defenders featuring destruction as the main gameplay component.
The competitive aspects quickly grew to become key drivers throughout the development process of Rainbow Six Siege.”
In the question I had sent to the development team, I did ask if Ubisoft Montreal ever planned to revisit Rainbow Six Patriots. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any sort of answer on that front, so take that as you will. One of the biggest complaints about Rainbow Six Siege was the lack of an actual single player campaign, so we’ll see if Ubisoft Montreal addresses that in the inevitable sequel to Siege.
Regardless, Siege has an exciting Year 2 ahead of it, and I certainly have plans to speak to the development team again about the status of the game at the start of next year.
Thanks to the Ubisoft Montreal development team for taking the time to answer our questions. We were not provided with the names of the actual members of the team who answered the questions, if you’re curious about our attribution style in this piece.