In February, at the Six Invitational, Ubisoft Montreal announced a milestone: 27 million players. Two months later, that number was at 30 million. In June, that number had jumped to 35 million. In fairness, this number includes those who’ve purchased Rainbow Six Siege and those who have tested it on free weekends.
Still, there’s no denying those are impressive figures. The player base is growing so much Ubisoft Montreal has ditched the incremental updates and the next number you’ll hear about is 40 million. Expect that to happen in the not-so-distant future. As for what comes after the immediate beyond, there’s a lot to look forward to. With every quarterly content drop Siege’s content expands, like the recently released Operation Grim Sky. Every midpoint between those quarterly content drops, the core game is rebalanced.
It’s a lot for the dedicated fan base to take on board, with the introduction of operators that greatly upset the established meta and balancing changes that disrupt the meta all over again. But this means it looms even larger in terms of the all-important intimidation factor for newcomers to Siege. This is something that Ubisoft Montreal is keenly aware of.
“Onboarding is clearly one of the biggest questions we’re facing now,” says brand director Alexandre Remy. “We are more than tuning, we are starting to see some very promising ideas on how we’re going to approach onboarding. I can’t, unfortunately, tell you a lot or commit to any sort of date, but it’s a clear question that we have identified that’s clearly on our roadmap to address.
“Being able to take someone by the hand, help them learn at least the first steps of Rainbow in the proper way, means happier players, someone who sticks around for longer. Fewer toxic players as well, likely. For us, it has all of the potential benefits.”
This notion isn’t just about new players, either; it’s also a concentrated effort to encourage Siege newbies to watch the game played at its highest level in streamed tournaments. “[Here’s] an example of what we will do in the future; you will see when,” says esports director François-Xavier Deniele. “I’m really a fan of what DOTA is doing, the ‘noob stream’ at The International. They have different streamers for the community of viewers and the stream for the new players. It’s something that can happen for Rainbow Six.”
While Siege newcomers will no doubt appreciate a “noob stream” in the future, there are immediate concerns for the recently introduced Maverick among pro players. Ex-player and Fnatic’s coach Jayden “Dizzle” Saunders expressed his predictive concerns for how Maverick may well make it even tougher to defend in the esports Pro League.
“It has to do with operators,” says Dizzle. “There’s not a lot of overlap on defenders. There is no supplement for Jäger. There’s no supplement for Mira. If you ban Valkyrie or Echo, you take away intel. You struggle as a defender because default cams get killed straight away. IQ can find all your gadgets if they want to.”
“We don’t really have a counter for Glaz or Ying, so you make do with the best that you can in the situation that you’ve got, whereas the attackers can overlap. Dokkaebi and Lion force you to stand still and Jackal can find you, so there’s three that kind of overlap. Glaz is difficult to deal with. Ying you can’t see when she flashes you.
“The attackers have this plethora of operators they can bring in and out of their line-up that all sort of overlap, whereas defenders, Bandit and Mute have just become obsolete with [Maverick]. Mira and Jäger still don’t have an overlap. Clash is a little bit, but not really. So that’s probably the reason why, the attackers seem to be given so much utility and the defenders don’t have anything to counter or deal with it, and they haven’t for a while now.”
Outside of the incremental balancing of existing operators, the main fix for that is new operators. In terms of so-called “hard breachers,” like Thermite and Hibana, you shouldn’t expect Maverick to be the last to join this category.
“We decided to add Maverick to the game because we knew the hard breaching – the interaction with destruction and reinforced walls – is something that is core and key in the game,” says Game Director Leroy Athanassoff. “Once a year, we are maybe going to have a new operator who interacts with the destruction just to be sure we have enough opposition and not always Thermite and Hibana.
“This is one of the important roles for attackers and only two of them being available was not enough for us. At the end of this year, three if we hadn’t shipped Maverick, it would have been a line-up of a full new operator and Hibana and all of the others.”
On the topic of destruction, the tweaks to procedural reinforced hatch destruction beyond Grim Sky are set to be expanded, too. “We had an issue [with the destructibility of hatches], says Athanassoff. “If I shoot a [destructible] wall, it’s procedural and systemic. If I do that on hatches, is it opened or closed? If I shoot a shotgun at the wall, I don’t make a rotation hole right away. I have to shoot multiple rounds. On hatches, one shotgun shell, the hatch is open.”
“We want same action, same output. That brings the hatch into the system of the destruction. Same goes with the disable state. We’re moving state by state because it’s a huge system. Our ultimate goal is to have every electronic device being disabled by Thatcher’s EMP, not destroyed. First step was with Bulletproof Camera and the Maestro device. Now with this season [Grim Sky] there are cameras. Expect that we will go further with Mute’s jammer and any kind of electronic device.”
Pick and Permaban
In terms of the competitive scene, Athanassoff hopes that the introduction of Clash will stop the seemingly automatic ban of Mira on most maps. “We hope that the arriving of Clash in the meta might free the ban of Mira because maybe they will have to ban Clash instead, or maybe have a juggle between them and not having to permaban Mira,” says Athanassoff.
“And then see, depending on context and map, which one is the best to ban. This is something that we continue to improve and do in the future that every time we bring an operator into the meta. We want to free other operators in terms of pick rate and in terms of ban rate.”
On the topic of operator bans, which made their inaugural appearance at the Paris Major, there are plans to move the system beyond the Pro League circuit. “Expect in the near future to also have the ban system being integrated into Ranked,” says Athanassoff. “Expect maybe to also have the round rotation – attack, attack, attack; defend, defend, defend – coming in to Ranked, maybe even Casual.
“We have strong feelings about the fact we think it’s the best experience of Siege to have this attack, attack, attack, then defend, defend, defend, especially for newcomers because it’s easier to learn the map with multiple times in a role. You spawn not necessarily in the same room, but at least in the same side of the map, inside. ‘Okay, first I moved here, and I got killed. ‘Okay, second time I spawn here, so I know last time I was killed here, maybe I try a different option.’
“Right now, the alternating rounds—attack, defence, attack, defence—it’s really hard for newcomers because you start to get a sense, ‘Oh, I’m outside, now I’m inside,’ so we feel for experienced players and newcomers, it’s not the best option.”
Another new Grim Sky feature is the inclusion of a randomly selected operator if you don’t choose one in time, instead of being punished with the default recruit. When asked about plans to change the selection from random to something more meaningful to a team’s composition, Athanassoff points to other issues that have to be addressed first for such a system to work.
“First of all, in order to do that, we need to be clear that this is the work that we’ve started to do: the categorisation of our operators and what is different, what is efficient. I don’t think we are different from a MOBA, for example. You need to have a support, for example, you need to have a carry.
“Even, for example, a jungler, I don’t think Rainbow Six is that close in terms of that. You can still win without a breacher, so it would probably be a system that might advise you, ‘By the way, your line-up is lacking a hard breacher,’ but then adding the step of, we randomly select you one if you aren’t there. We’ll see. It’s something that we need to discuss and prototype and test.”
Whether you’re yet to try Siege, still green or a Diamond-rank player gunning for Pro League glory, one thing’s clear: Ubisoft Montreal is keen to make big changes to cater to both worlds.