It might have taken them two years, but Rainbow Six Siege is soon to be celebrating its 25th million player. For a game that was being considered dead-on-arrival at launch, that is an incredible result. It is a game with long-term ambitions, something evidenced by its seasonal content refreshes and fully backed esports scene - this is Ubisoft's first service game, and the rest of the industry could learn a lot from how its growth has been managed.
Interested in Season 4? Check out all the new Rainbow Six Siege operators.
Part of that is not resting on their laurels. Year 2 saw a major upset with the announcement of Operation Health, which put content plans on hold for an entire season, but the game is better for it with faster matchmaking, a smoother user experience, the introduction of test servers, and better in-game performance. It was a huge step to take, but it worked and the players have stuck with the game. Two seasons later and the team are poised to launch Operation White Noise, a bumper season of content with three new operators (one Polish, two South Korean) and an ambitious new map set in an observation tower overlooking Seoul. However, it is the announcements about Year 3 that show Ubisoft Montreal still have plenty of ideas for the tactical multiplayer shooter.
We sat down with Rainbow Six Siege brand director Alexandre Remy to find out more about White Noise and everything that is coming to the game in Year 3.
PCGamesN: Talk us through Operation White Noise.
Alexandre Remy: I think White Noise is going to be a very different season from the others. The two new operators, Dokkaebi and Vigil, are amazing, they are gamechangers. The design and its intentions this time, it is about changing what you know about the observation phase. The usage of drones and cameras is going to be very, very different. Those two operators are agents of deception, agents of hacking, so you will see it on both defence and attack, how these two operators will be changing all of the observation phase that is very critical at the beginning of the game.
Can you tell us more about Mission Outbreak?
With Outbreak it is absolutely an event, meaning that it is limited in time. The idea for us was how do we launch Year 3? We are announcing the full commitment, the full new seasons, the eight operators, and new features - so how do we surprise players and change their habits? That is where the idea of doing a co-op event came from. I can’t tell you what it is about yet, but you will discover this later.
Will players be able to earn event rewards during Outbreak?
Yes, that is part of the idea: to introduce, alongside the special event, a collection of customisation options with the same sort of philosophy that we have had in the past, where we want to make sure that people get access to that collection and can unlock it.
Why are you going back to Russia and France for Year 3 Season 1?
Because of Mission Outbreak, which we are going to be releasing then, it is not your traditional season. So in order to stress that it is a bit different we wanted to have those binational operators, so that is why in Year 3 Season 1 you see one Russian and one French operator. We are also doing the same if you look at Season 3, it is also breaking the mould a little bit as well. Instead of having one country, two operators, and a map, we are changing the rules a little bit with two new operators that are from two different nations, and while we are not adding a new map, we are completely reworking a map.
Now that we are reaching the point of having 20 maps in the overall rotation pool, we are feeling that we have a lot of content. So, in order to keep that content always good, always balanced, and fresh, we are taking the maps that people have played and love, but that need a rework to be competitive. The idea is that we are going to take a map out of the rotation for a moment, tweak them, rework a lot of their areas, and then put them back.
Does that mean we could see some casual maps moving over to the ranked playlist?
With ranked and casual we are starting to have much more management of our playlists. We feel that when it comes to playing, people need to have a large pool of maps so as not to get bored, but when it comes to ranked, which is more competitive, we only have the maps that are more competitive. The plan is that we have the nine most competitive maps, plus the map of the season. With reworks we can have a faster rotation between those map pools, so a map that may not be as competitive before will come back to the competitive map pool.
There is overall a whole plan for Year 3 where we are going to be working and tweaking a lot of the different playlists, and most likely introducing new playlists as well, to make your first steps as a newcomer and your later steps as a competitive player something that is a more defined and refined experience.
What nations make up the rest of Year 3?
So we have Season 2, which is Italy, then we switch to England and the US again, which is when we do the map rework. Finally, we go to Morocco for the last season, with a new map in Morocco as well.
Morocco will be the first African map, why did you decide to head there?
When we select a country for a season there is always a wish add a new map in that location, new operators from that location, and we take the player and make them travel to that destination. We have been to North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, so it is only fair and logical to now travel to Africa. North Africa felt very logical, the Rainbow Six Siege community there is very, very small for the moment, but we hope that with a season in Africa it will potentially activate and make those people more excited about the game. For every player regardless, having the ability to travel to a country like Morocco is going to be very different and very exotic.
Is it safe to say we should not expect another Rainbow Six game any time soon?
Clearly, when it comes to Rainbow Six - and we dreamt about it - we designed Rainbow Six Siege to be a game that would last for as long as possible, we have a number of operators in mind, we want 100 operators. We know that in terms of design and meta that 100 is the magic number so that you have so many team combinations and team synergies possible that it makes the meta always intense and always fresh. For the brand, for Rainbow Six, clearly that is the idea: to keep on building, keep sustaining the game for the longest time possible.
Talking of the meta, is there a risk that Zofia’s ability will make Ash obsolete?
I think that for a lot of the operators that we have introduced, starting with Buck, there has always been the perception that some of the operators were OP, and some of them were. We have have always had the same intentions to not be OP and not break the game. We test it, we play test it, and we bring in pro players to the studio to test it. We are pretty confident that Zofia is going to be balanced. Of course, we will look at the data and the feedback from the community and if she is OP then we will balance, whether that is her damage, weapon values, or even the loadout.
After the rocky launch of Blood Orchid, what is being done to ensure White Noise goes smoothly?
You have seen with Blood Orchid, and I absolutely agree with you, there are a lot of bugs and regression when we launch a new season. Already for the next season that is coming, White Noise, we have elongated the test server period to two weeks instead of one, which gives us more time to monitor, get all of the data, and fix what is wrong. We are really trying to make sure that when the season is live for everyone that it is as free of bugs as possible - that is our philosophy moving forward.
Why is ranked still in beta as we enter the game’s third year?
Ranked is still in beta because we still believe that it is missing some compulsory features that would make it a final and truly refined experience. We have had Operation Health, but also a lot of content to push so those different priorities are moving around a bit as we progress. The idea is to finish and release a final version of ranked next year.
At the other end of the scale, are lore and background stories becoming more important to Rainbow Six Siege?
It is always something that we knew we had by going with a shooter with heroes and characters. When we started the game with 20 operators they were nobodies to players: they were abilities, they were a weapon, they were a gadget, they were utilitarian.
As you grow fond of the game and keep playing the game, then most likely you will have a roster of favourite characters, then those characters start to have a bit more personality. We know for the moment that we have been absolutely barebones about giving out details about those personalities, their background, where they come from, their profile. So the idea is that now we are reaching a little bit more experience and growth within the dev team, we can build our characters even more. We want to and people are asking for it as well, so that should be a continuous move for us going forward.
Are you concerned that some fans may be deterred as you move away from realism with operator stories and gadgets?
I think for every player, hopefully the story and the background is good news. Knowing more about the character and their background, if you are a fan of Rainbow Six Siege, it is always a plus. For the abilities it is always a balance between what is realistic and what are the abilities that we actually want, but as well abilities that are creating interesting gameplay.
Finding the right balance is a difficult exercise and as we move forward we want to explore territories that are more interesting in gameplay even if that comes at the detriment of realism. You have seen the new operators, one of them, Vigil, being able to cloak himself to drones of the attackers. Is that realistic? Not really. It is based on pseudo technologies that exist, but the idea is to create an experience that is meaningful and that brings something new to the game. In the end, we will always be favouring gameplay over realism. Rainbow Six is not a simulation, it is a game.
Blood Orchid became known as the trap meta, what will White Noise be known for?
I hope White Noise will be remembered as the season that changes how observation works in the game. By disrupting observation and the way you are accustomed to it, we are absolutely turning it upside down. I am super excited to see how it is going to be played, I think we are going to see some amazing plays with Dokkaebi and Vigil. I am also very excited to see these two new operators jump into a new type of gameplay that is not traps, or damage, or other things we have been accustomed to, and start to charter wider territories of gameplay. We have always looked at Rainbow Six Siege as a game that is the combination of skill and tactics, tactics for us being the ability to think and communicate about positioning and strategies - the White Noise operators make you rethink all of your assumptions about the game when it comes to observation devices.
How much of White Noise was inspired by the tactics used in Rainbow Six Pro League?
I think esports today is one of the channels we are looking at the most when it comes to balancing and testing, the reason for this is that those pro players are going much faster than the others towards the potential exploit or disbalance of an operator’s gadget or weapon. So by looking at and monitoring those players, having them test the new content, we are going faster towards finding the potential issues - obviously, not all of them - with new content. Esports was not the reason for why we made those operators, the main reason is that by growing we really want to discover new gameplay ideas, find out what are those new abilities that are as dense and meaty as possible.
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