Gamescom is a swirling maelstrom of noise at the best of times, but the crowd here for Rainbow Six Siege’s Pro League finals is louder still, a cacophony of noise drowning out other booths at an event known for its sound and fury.
Rainbow Six Siege has come a long way as an esport in the last 18 months, with ever growing crowds at larger and larger venues. In February, the team will hold its second Rainbow Six Invitational, bringing players from around the world to compete for the title of world champions, get their hands on new content, and come together and celebrate the Rainbow Six Siege community.
We spoke with game director Alexandre Remy at Gamescom to talk about where Rainbow Six Siege is now, in the run up to expansion Blood Orchid, which launched this week.
“We recently hit 20m players, with 2.5m daily active users.” Remy says, with a broad smile. “So the game is still growing, and it’s getting more and more popular.”
Esports Pro also talked to Remy ahead of Operation Health, a three month stint of development where the team would polish and fix existing issues instead of trying to add new content, and Remy described the program as essential for Rainbow Six Siege’s long time survival. Now development is wrapped up and the team is back to the quick cadence of regular updates and new content, how does he feel it’s gone?
“I’m happy,” Remy said, plainly. “I feel extremely happy by the amount of work that has been done by the dev team and, in particular, about two or three main components in Operation Health.”
“First about our one-step matchmaking, that's been deployed already, and secondly about our new servers that are coming very soon to PC and then console. Finally, I’m excited about switching our deployment process from everything at the same time on every platform to one that lets us trial new features on the PC first, using our technical test servers. This means we can push it to all platforms as soon as it feels ready, rather than as soon as we can.”
“This shift in mindset is already a huge improvement and it’s changing the way we’re going to ship content in the future, with a focus on making sure things that go into the game are properly tested and have the support of our community.”
Remy says that while the team was expecting a dip in players because of Operation Health, no new content should mean, Remy reasoned, that there wasn’t a big spike in players eager to try out the new content. They’d have to take the hit and hope to win fans back.
“Before Operation Health started, we were expecting the activity to go down, right? What we've seen instead is not only steady activity, but it's been growing over the last three months which a very promising thing to see. We’re bringing players in with the gameplay and not just deep sales or new content.”
Talking of new content, Remy says that while the new operators are bound to change the balance of the game, that’s his preference. “This is something we embrace, it’s what we want,” says Remy. “When you deliver a new piece of content that is important every three months, it has to change how a player is going to play the game, but also how we approach it.”
The challenge, Remy notes, is that you need to make each change feel important, but also well balanced. Things need to feel fair, even if your team decide they want to play their favourite operators, and not necessarily the best composition in the meta right now.
“There's obviously a lot of attention when it comes to designing and testing. Today, with the new deployment process, we are putting the content of the season on test servers so that is an extra step to make sure the content is as clean as possible, but also to look at some of the balancing element so we can address it before launch if it’s needed.”
Blood Orchid has launched with a raft of changes, the biggest patch for the game ever in terms of content and improvements, the result of Operation Health’s extended focus.
Remy mentions that in some cases, these improvements were about accepting that players need a fair environment to compete in and that gameplay had to trump realism not just in the gameplay, which was already a given, but also in the visuals.
“At the end of Operation Health there was a huge pass on lighting. One of the main issues we had was lighting in the game. One issue, we ship the game with photorealistic lighting, it's very realistic. But some of the techniques we’ve used, in some instances, whether I’m inside looking out or inside looking in, you couldn’t see anything. This seemed unfair, and the playerbase wanted a change. So, we’ve fixed it so that doesn’t happen now. I think we are trading a little bit of the graphic fidelity, that graphic beauty to something that is much fairer, more gameplay oriented.”
Remy says that future years will probably follow the same pattern as the operator seasons currently seen in Rainbow Six Siege. “The frequency to our updates, new content that arrives every few months, is something that we have seen is working. Each time there's a new season, people are coming back, new players are attracted by that as well.”
“I think it's important to keep that seasonal aspect, every three months or better, new content or operators, improvements, new features and fixtures that are coming.
“It’s super important to us to set that pacing and arrange that rendezvous with the players. This is something that we are very happy with this year and will be keeping with and doing for the next years.”
Remy hints at a few things for the future: 100+ operators, the reworking of maps that are viewed as less popular (this has already started, with Yacht and Favela being removed from the game’s multiplayer playlists for a rework) and several years of esports tournaments and support.
Finally, Remy has a clear message for a community that’s growing increasingly loud, increasingly more devoted.
“Thank you so much for sticking with us, for showing the level of patience and passion for the game.” Remy says. “I'm very conscious that it's been a bumpy road sometimes. And there will be some more rocks on the road, obviously, but thanks for your support, and I hope you stay with us and keep playing. We're looking at that game with a very long term horizon and it's going to keep building into a better game over the years ahead of us.”