Few games come under as much scrutiny as Rainbow Six Siege. The tactical shooter boasts one of the most active, creative, and protective communities in PC gaming – its playerbase adore the game and meet all proposed changes with equal parts anticipation and scepticism.
All of these qualities and sentiments are laid bare across the Rainbow Six subreddit, and it’s up to community developers like Craig Robinson – or ItsEpi as he’s known across Reddit and social media – to relay all of that feedback to the game’s designers, communicate game changes back to the audience, and quash misunderstandings wherever they spring up.
As with any highly competitive multiplayer FPS, the Rainbow Six Siege community is plagued with toxicity and cheaters – issues that have been at the forefront of Robinson’s efforts in recent months. This is especially the case with the arrival of new systems in the game that go towards battling against these unwelcome parts of the community. Continue reading to find out how the team are finding the campaign to tackle these issues and to hear Robinson’s thoughts on the state of the Rainbow Six community.
PCGamesN: How would you describe the Rainbow Six community?
Craig Robinson: The Rainbow Six community is very passionate and very devoted to the game. It’s a great source of exciting content. We love heading into the subreddit and seeing players share their art or their awesome plays and we see that as a barometer for a very healthy community. We also just love hearing their thoughts on the game, because they’re so passionate and have this emotional investment in the game.
We love hearing what they think about the changes we make, even if they don’t always agree, and that’s ok, because we like to think that we’ve worked together with our players to bring Siege to where it is. We balance their qualitative feedback with the data that we have on our team and try to find a happy medium where that all fits together.
How’s your job changed over the three years of Siege?
CR: Well, I started off as a community manager, and now I’m a community developer. As community developers, myself and Justin [Kruger] have made a very conscious effort to be very open with our players. We share more blogs about what the team is working on, we’re more transparent about the things we’re looking to do in the future, and our progress in general.
The anti-cheat initiative we’ve had recently is a big thing that we’ve been talking with our players about. We came out and we said what we were going to be working on – three weeks later we gave them an update on it all, three weeks after that we gave them another update. Sharing these things with our players, we see it as a sign that we respect them and want them to understand where we’re coming from and have this knowledge.
Then having our players consume new content and engage with it is very rewarding for us because it helps us understand where they’re coming from and helps us get to know our community as a whole better.
How do you feel the battle against toxicity is going?
CR: It’s an ongoing process. There’s no silver bullet that’s ever going to just fix toxicity in online gaming, and it’s one of those things where we’ve been working on and will continue work on. We’ve got additional features coming with Operation Grim Sky that are going to make it better, but it’s a long-term project and it’s something that we’re dedicated to continue to work on and improve for years to come.
How was auto-ban for text chat received?
CR: The reaction from our players was a little mixed. Some were very excited to see that and to see us taking a firm stance against racial and homophobic slurs, some players didn’t feel like that was necessary. We as a dev team and Ubisoft as a whole take a very firm stance when it comes to harassment and toxicity, so we feel very strongly that racial and homophobic slurs do not belong in Rainbow Six Siege. We’re totally ok with players that disagree with us, that’s absolutely their right, but we’re not going to shy away from what we feel is right and our vision for Rainbow Six.
Is the 30-minute temporary ban staying or are you thinking of developing it further?
CR: We don’t automatically permanently ban anyone for toxicity and any permanent bans for that are done through manual review. We do have people who go through and review players who receive multiple bans for this and see what’s going on and if it’s deserving of a permanent ban.
We have other things like a chat filter that we’ve mentioned in previous toxicity communications that we’re working on. A chat filter supersedes an auto-ban because if a message is never sent then there’s no need to ban someone for it. We have longer term things that we’re working towards that could potentially make the auto-ban for toxicity feature obsolete. We don’t know yet but we’ll see how that develops.
And how about dealing with hackers?
CR: Anti-cheat, much like toxicity, is an evolving process that we’re going to continue working on. We don’t see two-step verification for ranked as a solution for cheating, but what it will do is make the ranked environment more pure, so to speak. It’s not the only thing we’re working on: in addition to the two-step verification requirement for ranked, we’re working on things like gaining back any MMR lost when you play against a cheater, and we’re also increasing our penetration testing efforts internally.
So we’re finding hacks and potential exploits in the game before others, which is huge when it comes to anti-cheat efforts. We’re stepping up how often and how regularly we’re working on that, we have a few other ideas kicking around, but we can’t talk about it because anti-cheat is such a sensitive subject and we don’t want to share too much on it. Those three things are going to have a pretty big impact, especially the penetration testing and patching out those vulnerabilities.
Could you talk us through the two new operators?
CR: We have Clash, who is the first defender to carry a shield. She’s from the Metropolitan Police Service, she’s from the UK, and personally I think she’s really exciting. She can fulfill two unique roles very capably, either going out to meet attackers at the entrance of the building and delay them, or she can hold back and delay their push as they get near the objective. With those two things in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how she plays out in the meta and where players find her best fit is.
For Maverick, the ability to create small murder holes through reinforced walls is going to be awesome. This will probably never happen, but imagine if an attacking team comes into a bomb site, they take the site, the defenders are pushing to retake, but the attacking team puts some murder holes next to a Mira window… now that Mira window is way more deadly than it was before. I think Maverick is going to have a huge impact on the overall meta and how the game is played, both horizontally and vertically, and I’m really excited to see how our pros and all of the other players use him in different ways.
How do you balance for so many levels of skill when introducing new operators?
CR: Our balancing team take both qualitative feedback from the community at large, they take feedback from our pro players through a private Discord server, we have pro player test sessions where we bring professional players into the studio and they play pre-alpha versions of these operators and give their feedback. We build these operators with this feedback. We also look at the data, the quantitative side, and we make adjustments based on that as well.
We balance the game for high-level play, and the reason we do that is because the highest level of play is the most stable meta. The lower skills and ranks are where players are catching up with the high-level play over a period of weeks, so we will see something happen in Pro League that’s a complete shift in the meta, and then we’ll see that trickle down to Diamond rank within days, then Silver and Gold after a week or two, and then even below that after a few weeks. So by balancing the game at the highest level, we’re able to see the trickle down effect of that and how it affects all levels of play. Even if Copper and Bronze players aren’t pro players, they’re still able to learn from those players and figure out different ways to apply what they’re doing to their gameplay.
When the first teasers for new operators are released and you see everyone saying they’ll be OP, what’s that like from a community developer’s perspective?
CR: One thing that we try and remind players of is to be patient and see how the new ops will play out. There are times where our players will have a very aggressive reaction to the concept of a new operator – and we’ve seen it, it’s a cycle, and it happens almost every season. Our players hear about what an operator could be, they see the first teaser, and some players immediately go to the worst case scenario. That’s ok, it’s part of not having the full picture, so we understand that.
We’re very happy with how our balancing team has been working on our DLC operators more recently. We had some really great findings from Ela and Lion about how early [the balancing team] need to be involved in the process, so we’re starting to apply that to all of our operators now. I think Alibi and Maestro are really good examples of that – they came out and they could have been extremely strong, but they’re actually pretty balanced. We’re starting to get more confident about introducing new operators to the meta, and so when our players react really strongly to [new operators], we know that everything will be alright in a few days when they see the full reveal.
So that feedback doesn’t really have a negative impact on us, but we do look at that feedback, share it, and if we see some very well-constructed feedback on a feature or gadget then we go to our balance team and show them what the players are saying. The nice thing about having this open platform is that we can talk to them all about it, talk them through what the players are thinking, and then figure out how best to bring everyone to a mutual understanding of our goals and desires. I think that our designers’ notes that we’re releasing twice a season are a result of that. In the past when we released changes, we didn’t always explain it and what our reasoning for that was, and we saw players get frustrated by that because they didn’t understand why we were making changes.
Overall, it’s a positive process and we totally understand why some players get concerned, but we’re pretty happy with how our operators are releasing balance wise.