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Why Rainbow Six Siege Year 4 “is going to be insane”

Game director Leroy Athanasoff breaks down the changes coming to Ubisoft's tactical shooter

rainbow six siege burnt horizon review

Rainbow Six Siege’s developers describe their last year as a period of experimentation. Year 3 pushed operators who broke with the established meta, season after season, whether that was Lion and Finka’s controversial global abilities, the defending team getting access to an LMG and Shield, or the introduction of new mechanics like knockback. So what does the team hope to achieve this year?

Judging from the Rainbow Six Siege Year 4 roadmap reveal, consolidation is the aim for the next four seasons of the game, both in terms of content and the structure of the development team. The team is scaling back from four new maps to just one new and three reworked maps. Similarly, both of the new Burnt Horizon operators – Mozzie and Gridlock – reinforce pre-existing roles rather than adding new ones.

Most significantly in the long-term, the roadmap revealed that three distinct teams have been set up to address everything from playlist changes and player behaviour to operator balancing – so you can forget about another Operation Health.

We spoke with game director Leroy Athanasoff at the Six Invitational 2019, who walked us through the upcoming changes due to arrive in Operation Burnt Horizon and throughout Year 4.

PCGN: Why cut down the amount of new maps for Year 4?

Leroy Athanassoff: The more we expand the map pool, the more we add to the complexity and what people need to learn to become good and enjoy the game. If you think about it, it’s the same direction we’re taking for the rest of Year 4, the fact that we’re dropping the prices of operators. We are in our fourth year and now we’re looking at what it means for someone to start Rainbow Six Siege today: how many maps, how many operators, how many guns? We don’t want to be a game where the more that time goes by the more it becomes complicated for people to start. So we believe that by [reworking] maps that are underused and under-played because they have flaws with navigation and flow is a way to keep the game fresh, bring new content for our content creators and pros, and still manage the number of things you need to know and learn.

So we can expect fewer maps going forward but more emphasis on rebuilding old content?

Exactly that. We are not keen about changing one window or door each time, but we are talking about reworking maps like Kanal so they feel new again.

We also heard about some of the operator reworks, could you talk us through the thinking with Lion in particular?

So with Lion it was really complicated because in terms of pure power balance he was not what we would call an OP operator. He has some issues, especially in Pro League with certain strategies. If you look at the game overall, even in high ranked he is not an overpowered operator, but still he creates a lot of frustration with his ability to live-track full operator silhouette. One of the big things we learnt from Lion is that we will never again have live-tracking silhouettes, we may still use things like last known position and stuff like that, but the wall-hacking won’t happen ever again.

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The Lion rework is still interesting to play with, but the activation timer is much faster, you still only catch enemies that are moving, but since the timer is smaller you have more chance of catching defenders as they have less time to react. Instead of the full, dynamic silhouette you now just have the ping, which feels much more fair for the defender.

What’s the reaction been like from pro players?

So far they like it, but they feel that perhaps he moved to the other side [of the meta] where he feels kind of useless. There will be some strategy to using Lion, but that’s why we’re going to put him on the Technical Test Server first. We don’t to force these changes on people – we took our time for this [rework] and created a quarantine for it. We don’t want to rush, we just want to show that we are taking those problems seriously and that we’re working on them. So, he will go onto test servers, we will look at the reaction, and if he needs more adaptation then we do it.

And what do you want to change about Glaz?

We love the gameplay of the thermal scope and feel it has a lot of value, but Glaz is currently too good at too many things. He was originally a sniper who could use smoke to provide cover, but currently he’s the guy actually pushing through the smoke as he could see through it, giving him the edge in a fight. This was not exactly what we wanted for this character – so he will be less good at many things and focused on one thing that he does well. We also wanted to keep the fantasy of sniping, so basically, as soon as you move he starts to lose focus through the thermal vision. You can’t throw a smoke and push through it, but you can still provide cover to your teammates.

For the defenders it’s just a matter of not exposing yourself to the smoke, whereas currently you can’t do anything because Glaz was pushing through the smoke. Hopefully, this will be more balanced.

Are you still looking to rework Frost?

We are not happy with her trap. We believe it doesn’t offer very interesting gameplay. If her trap triggers then the attacker is as good as dead, or you’ll catch nothing with her, and that experience is not very exciting. She’s one of the operators that we are looking at now for reworks.

What was it about Dokkaebi and Capitao that you wanted to address?

Of course we are reworking Dokkaebi’s interaction with Mute, but also we are making it so that her phone hangs up automatically after 18 seconds. Before it would just ring forever, and that was frustrating, which is bad design.

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For Capitao, we started with a technical intention as he was causing some issues with performance. By reworking it we have changed the gameplay to make it much more interesting, so it will avoid clipping. For example, you could shoot it at a Black Mirror and it would impact the player on the other side – this will never happen again. We now have proper propagation, so that if you shoot the [Asphyxiating] Bolt into a room and there is a hole in the wall then it will affect both sides. The area of effect is much larger, too, so overall it’s a buff to Capitao.

You also announced you were removing the ACOG from Ash’s R4-C, which is the first time you’ve done this for an attacker – how do you hope it will change her?

There’s a first time for everything. We want to offer the player options, but right now in the case of Ash it’s a no-brainer: everyone takes the R4-C. By removing the ACOG from the R4-C it forces players to adapt their style of play. If you want the quality of the R4-C and to play as an entry fragger, you should not be able to also take long angles. If you want to win those long-range battles as Ash then you need to take the G36C, but that might make you a worse entry fragger. We don’t like having one weapon option that does everything.

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Talk us through the new design of the Deployable Shield…

The new Deployable Shield is insane. Basically, there are two main aspects of it. The first one is the way you deploy it: now you have the ability to snap it to a door frame so there is no line of sight through the side and you will be much more protected. But also we added a series of small one-way mirrors, so that when you are behind the shield you can see who is coming. You can’t shoot through it, unlike a Black Mirror, but now it offers you more tactical choices and decisions. It’s much more interesting.

With the older shields, you were not able to do much as you could basically just hide behind it, at which point the attackers destroy it and you die. With this one, you can use it to quickly aim at your targets, and that’s much more interesting. This is our current will, to not just rework operators, but also rework every aspect of the game, including secondary gadgets.

In addition, we are reworking the Breach Charge, which is a buff that’s coming in Season 1. Before, Breach charges would create a big explosion on your side, which we have almost removed so you can stay really close to it and enter immediately after exploding it. We have also increased the damage of the Breach Charge on the other side, and halved the time for the deployment animation. They will be much, much faster.

rainbow six siege burnt horizon review gameplay

What did you want to add with Mozzie?

The drive for us was counterintelligence. Right now we have drone gameplay which is super interesting for the attackers, but that we felt was a bit brainless – as the worst that could happen to you as an attacker is that your drone is shot. I think we have too many cases where the player will alt-tab or doesn’t care if their drone is shot, but with Mozzie you have to be much more cautious and think about what you’re doing and why you are using your drone. It’s one thing to have your drone destroyed, after all the attackers have ten – but it’s another thing to gift three drones to Mozzie because it will help them massively.

And what about Gridlock?

Right at the very start when we were creating Siege we had a game that was much simpler than it is today, especially in the fourth year of Pro League. It was a game where defenders defend a room, and attackers attack a room. That was it.

Over these past years, we saw the need of the attacking team to control other rooms outside of the objective area, so that they could set up their final push. We saw how the Claymore became key to attacking teams so they could deny flanking moves by the defenders. So we decided that, if this is such an important role, then we should create an operator who is dedicated to that instead of just having a secondary gadget. So that was the starting point for Gridlock.

How does that differ from Nomad’s role?

You could say that Nomad was already driving in that direction. In Nomad we wanted the same flank denial as the Claymore, but distilled in a trap that surprises the enemy. With Gridlock the gadget is not very discreet, it’s more a matter of giving you control and preventing the defenders from sneaking up on you, or forcing them to commit by making noise.

The community has been asking about a potential Operation Health 2…

And I have some good news for you: it’s already happened. Let me explain: Year 4 is going to be insane because we had a lot of change in terms of the production of the game and how it is structured. Technically, this is Operation Health, but for the team, not for the game. We used to be this huge production team with mono-focus, which meant we were working on only one thing and then immediately switching to something else if it was a higher priority. Now we are sharpening the way we organise and creating cells with dedicated topics, not one designer. They are full production teams from conception to delivery. Those people are secured to do that and only that job.

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We have the playlist team who only work on playlists. We have the player behaviour team, who work only on player behaviour. And of course we have the operator team who are working only on the operators. What this does is let us tackle multiple priorities at the same time. If I take the playlist team as an example, in Season 1 you will have the Newcomer playlist, the rework of casual, and in Season 2 you will have the new ranked, with no beta tag. So in six months you will have more in terms of playlist content than what you had in three years.

What kind of scale are you looking at for Mid-Season events? Are they comparable to Outbreak?

No, I think Outbreak was a very specific example with its own operation and new type of gameplay. But if you look at the Mad House and Road to S.I. events, what Xavier [Marquis] wants, and I think he is right, is to have these events act as a laboratory where we can experiment. You can expect these events to have more and more gameplay modifiers, and some cool and different experiences.

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Mad House was a reskin of a map with some operator cosmetics and tweaked rules, but you can expect more gameplay changes from these Mid-Season events. I don’t want to go into specifics, but think of them more like new game modes that will give us the opportunity to test and toy with concepts to see if they’re fun or so bad that we should never experiment with them again.