Despite James' glowing review, Rainbow Six Siege was criticised by some players at launch for having too few playable Operators—not to mention some occasionally dodgy matchmaking and balancing. After a considerable amount of nips and tucks, though, it's since become one of the best online shooters out there and recently surpassed 20 million registered players. This prompted product director Nicolas Lefebvre to affirm Siege is "here to stay".
With this in mind, I caught up with brand director Alexandre Remy at Gamescom to talk about Siege's past, it's Operation Blood Orchid present, and where it's headed into the future.
PC Gamer: When Siege was first released, it received a relatively mixed response—criticisms were levied at the game's balancing, matchmaking, and the fact that there wasn't enough Operators as they'd perhaps hoped. At launch, do you think Siege was still trying to find its place within the online shooter spectrum?
Alexandre Remy: I totally get what those mixed feelings, receptions and reviews about the game came from—they were within reason. You mentioned the matchmaking, and it was maybe not on par with what it is today. In short: the reception of the game we launched in 2015 was deserved. Then again, a year and a half on and we are in a very different place. The game has grown two to three times, we hit 20 million unique players a couple of weeks ago, we have to every day 2.5 million players that are playing—so it's in a very different place now.
When we conceived the game, we knew we were building a game that was growing in terms of its number of operators, maps, meta, balancing. We knew, or hoped, that as it matured it was going to get better, but, then again, we had to remind players to be patient. The game is like a good bottle of Bordeaux, which is to say if you let it age a little longer it should get better.
Again, Siege is on much firmer footing now than it was at launch. But was there ever a point where you were unsure if its growth was going to come?
You can never be sure about anything, I suppose. We had wishes, we had dreams about how the game would develop into the future. We knew in terms of design and content what we wanted to do. We wondered if the game was going to be played by enough people, and in turn whether or not it'd be worth continued investment. Today, I feel pleased and appeased because we have much more players now than we had in the past but also now we can play ahead into the future with much more serenity. It's easier now to say: what do we want in the next two, three years. I think it gives us a degree of long-term serenity to deploy the vision.
You said recently that Siege is now here to stay.
Oh yeah, we are looking at developing the game with 100 Operators—I'll let you do the math and work out how many years that does. There's no reason for us to stop there.
How has Operation Health panned out for you so far?
Operation Health is a big statement in the sense that we are clearly saying that quality of service, the quality of the game comes first. This is why we had to postpone the seasonal content that we usually roll out: to make space and prioritise online improvements, to employ a new content strategy where we put featured content on test servers and then, when it's ready, deploy it to other platforms.
Through all of this I'm really pleased with the results because almost all of the planned online improvements are going to be deployed by the end of Operation Health—one-step matchmaking, new servers and a number of other things. This is just a start, it's placing the foundations so that now we can look to the future and keep on building to improve the quality of the game. Expect a game that is going to grow and get better and better. Again, this of course means players must be patient. We can't flip a switch and make everything 100 percent perfect, it's an iterative process.
Speaking to that process, it seems Siege has suffered leaks at almost every turn of development. Is this part of the process; does it act as free marketing? How do you deal with it?
It feels now that it's part of the process. We have these premature leaks every season. To be honest, even though we understand why and how leaks can be a problem. But I think in the case of Rainbow, it's a nuisance but it's not a huge issue. I feel like we are trying to avoid but when you have a game that's live in testing phases, once it hits thousands of people you have to accept the fact that some of the content is going to find a way out.
You can fight it, you can try to restrict it but it's a trade-off. We, as the developer, want the game to be played and tested first and that's of paramount importance. I might be wrong, but I don't think leaks have impacted the community too much, they still seem to get excited. Maybe for the press it can be, so far as embargoes are concerned but it's part of the life cycle, I guess.
For me, one of the most interesting things about Siege is how it turned the recognised series formula on its head, while at the same time has its central tenets—not least teamwork and competitive play—down to a tee.
If you look what the Rainbow Six brand stands for in terms of player experience and emotion, we said: OK, we want to make a game that lives up to this. I think sometimes people pay too much attention to the content and not the emotions that are associated with games like these and the player's experience. Siege isn't a solo game, or co-op versus the AI, it's a game that puts tactics first and combines that with team play. You then look at the ingredients that contribute most to those two pillars.
Multiplayer five-versus-five was important to us, as was destruction as something that creates more choices for the players, and the Operator—I think this is the epitome of Siege. Here your choice of player is a unique pick. The moment someone picks an Operator sends a message the rest of the team as to what their intentions are in the upcoming game. This was an obvious yet equally difficult choice.
And so onto the future: the long lasting appeal of Siege is something you guys seem keen to highlight. Its esports scene seems to be on the rise— how important is that to the game's longevity?
Esports is a key component. When we refer to the game internally in terms of development, we say: hey, we're developing a competitive game. Obviously esports is part of that direction. Esports is demanding from a design and technology perspective, too. To cater to those players who are stress-testing the game to its limits, that presents a lot of dilemmas and demands for developers.