Nearly four years in, Rainbow Six Siege still doesn’t have a colorblind mode. Of the recurring requests I see on the Siege subreddit, none are more passionate than those from colorblind fans asking Ubisoft for help to enjoy their game. Colorblind players have been sharing their struggles since Siege’s launch in December 2015, but Ubisoft has been very slow to react.
This month, Ubisoft broke a year of silence on the topic with a response on the subreddit to a colorblind player who writes a new post every season hoping for accomodations. Ubi said that while there are no current plans for a colorblind mode, it’s something that the development team “wants to look into for the future.”
That would be encouraging, except it’s not the first time Ubi has made that promise. Over a year ago, community developer Craig Robinson wrote a similar message to a colorblind player, going as far to say that the developer was “working towards correcting it.” Considering the feature has now been downgraded to “want to do,” it looks like that work was never done.
According to the National Eye Institute, around 8 percent of males (that’s 1 in 12) and 0.5 percent of women of Northern European ancestry have a form of red-green color blindness, the most common type. As accessibility becomes more of a focus in game development, colorblind modes have become common across AAA games. Siege is one of the few multiplayer juggernauts that has zero accommodations whatsoever.
Siege would benefit from colorblind modes more than most games. It’s extremely visually demanding—players need to be able to identify and call out all 48 operators and spot hazards through the tightest angles. Color plays a huge role. Sometimes the enemy I’m shooting at is so miniscule that I only see them because of a subtle change in color through a bullet-sized hole in a wall.
Now imagine that scenario, except you have Tritanopia, a rare form of color blindness that interprets the world in mostly shades of white, pink, and light blue. That’s the world that Ben Silverman, the author of the post that Ubi recently responded to, lives in. With over 1000 hours in Siege, he’s familiar with the various ways his Tritanopia puts him at a disadvantage.
He has trouble discerning the green reticle of Siege’s reflex sight from the sky and walls around him. The orange and blue lights of cameras and drones are also difficult to differentiate, making it harder to know if an enemy is watching him through them. The red laser tripwires of claymores often disappear in front of the pink-shaded walls around him.
Siege’s lacking accommodations have diminished Silverman’s urge to play over time. After a long wait, he’s not holding his breath for things to improve. “I've talked to them six times on the subreddit, 10-15 times on Twitter and even brought it to their attention face to face at [an esports event] last year,” Silverman told me over email.
Tuning colorblind modes can be tricky for a competitive shooter like Siege. In a singleplayer game like SimCity (video above), developers can shift the basic color language of the game with only the player in mind. In a PvP game, developers have to be careful to maintain balance for everyone. If it was discovered that turning on a color filter made it easier for non-colorblind players to see enemies from far away, it could be misused and throw off the balance. Though, almost every big multiplayer game has successful colorblind modes. “There are certainly ways to avoid [balancing issues],” Silverman said. He points to Overwatch, Fortnite, and (for the most part) PUBG as good examples. Sometimes that means changing the smaller things, like the color of blood in PUBG.
In the case of Overwatch, color filters helped colorblind players better differentiate heroes from the environment, but they had the side effect of making friendly blue outlines look similar to red enemy outlines. That was worse than no filter at all. Doing it right required more than just a filter. Blizzard’s solution was a 2018 update that gave players new tools to customize the individual colors of outlines and the HUD. Now, you can now try a variety of colors and pick what works best. “This is, honestly, the best update that has ever come to Overwatch for me,” said colorblind YouTuber AndrewJRT in a video after the new features released. “I’m just happy about it.”
The comparison between Overwatch and Siege isn’t perfect, but players aren’t asking for features that most other games don’t have. They mostly want the little things, like color options for HUD and weapon sights. More than anything, they’re asking Ubisoft to care.
In the reply to his Reddit post, Ubisoft told Silverman that it’s “not unaware” of the difficulties he faces. The developer wants to “make [Rainbow Six Siege] as comfortable and enjoyable for everyone as possible” and “respects” his persistence on the subject.
Silverman is appreciative of the encouragement, but wary that it’s just more lip service. On Siege’s regularly updated list of top issues and community concerns, colorblind modes aren’t mentioned at all.