Rainbow Six Siege was a phoenix from the ashes, a stellar FPS game that missed its audience upon its December 2015 release, but was subsequently “discovered”, with the amount of concurrent players rising with each update, and a slow increase in the number of people playing near constant.
There are two factors for this: firstly, and most obviously, Rainbow Six Siege is genuinely a very good game. The Siege mechanic, asymmetrical gameplay where one team has to dig in and build a defence around an objective, and the other has to come in and kick those defences over with heavy firepower.
The second factor is a little more subtle. Ubisoft Montreal have worked tirelessly on the game, growing their development and community team and showing their thoughtful side as they layer new features onto a package that was already very strong.
It paid off. Rainbow Six Siege was Kotaku UK’s game of 2016, the year after it released. In February this year they also held a large tournament, the Rainbow 6 Invitational, taking over an arena in Montreal to hold their world finals.
Recently, Ubisoft Montreal announced that instead of the Hong Kong operators that were expected in Season 2 of the second year, they’ll be running Operation Health instead. No new characters, no balance changes and no new content. This season is going to be all about making things better for the community and fixing long-term community complaints like hit-registration and spawn-killing.
It’s day 1 of Operation Health today. So we spoke to Alexandre Remy, Rainbow Six Siege’s brand director to dig into the core of Operation Health. Why an entire season of fixes?
“We were not satisfied” said Remy. “We’ve been working diligently on improving the health of the game, but we weren’t content with the pace at which we could deliver major improvements and fixes.”
“That’s why we’re dedicating an entire Season both to eliminating the highest priority concerns, but also to restructure for a more sustainable update pipeline so we can deploy fixes and patches that have the highest possible impact without undue pressure on our development team to deliver both gameplay content and major game improvements. This season, health is our sole priority.”
It was a tough call to delay new content, but for Remy and the team, they’re looking at the long tail: plans are in place for several years of Rainbow Six Siege support, and as it gets more and more successful, the team need to put systems in place ready for the future.
“When the population (of a game) reaches a certain level, some of the systems on matchmaking and connectivity are making the connection not as solid as you wish. Operation Health will also let us invest in several areas to make sure we can scale a much higher load of people. It’ll help us to be sustainable in the long term.” said Remy.
“The idea is that we are here to stay, and when you put it like that, this is an investment for many years to come.”
What about right now though? Remy has said that the focus will be on three key areas.
“The biggest one, the most important, is about the tech and online improvements. We are introducing one-step matchmaking, we’re upgrading to faster and better servers and finally we are removing all peer to peer elements so that 100% of the game will be hosted on server side.”
“The second pillar of operation health is how the dev team will deploy future content and features. We are adding “safety nets”, making sure that tech features reach all platform as solid as possible and introducing fewer regressions when releasing new content.”
“Finally we will troubleshoot some of the issues or bugs. Instead of going with a huge list of bugs that we try to fix in one shot, we’re going to go to smaller and shorter sprints in bug fixing, trying to troubleshoot five to ten bugs each time. Only when we’ve fixed them and we know we’ve not introduced any regression, then we switch to the second sprint of bug fixing.”
The biggest challenge, for Remy, is to make the game as stable as it can possibly be, and he says that the team’s greatest wish is to guarantee that stability for years to come.
“Siege’s ever-growing, supporting community has been the key to its success so we want to turn the game into something that’s scalable for the future, so that the game will continue to deliver them for years.”
However, the trade off is that in the short-term, there will be no additional content or balance tweaks for the length of Operation Health. This means that for the community, many of whom are upset at the percieved dominance of Russian sniper Glaz in the meta, this dominance will continue.
Remy isn’t concerned, and references several other dominant metas that the community declared as the end of the game’s competitive scene including the Pulse Meta when Pulse was termed unbeatable, the Blackbeard dominance where Blackbeard actually was nearly unkillable until he received several nerfs, and the community’s pushback against shields, which were complained about widely until the community learnt to use explosives.
After the age of shields came to an end, of course, the community then claimed the uselessless of shields in the face of explosives also made the game unplayable. Faced with several other large crisis the community has claimed will be a deathblow for Rainbow Six Siege, it’s easy to see why Remy isn’t too phased.
“The Meta tweaking is a never ending process that we are always working on.” says Remy There will be always a “Meta” because at any given time competitive players will always find a Min-Max optimum. Our goal over each season is to take weak operators and try to make them playable and take strong operators and try to bring them closer to average. The Perfect Balance (each character with the same winrate and pickrate) while being an important goal to aim at, is also an unreachable goal.”
For Remy and Ubisoft Montreal, Operation Health is essential for the game’s continued survival in the tough market of competitive first person shooters. For the players, it’s a relief to know that Ubisoft Montreal are planning to be around for the long haul.