We chatted with the Rainbow Six Siege director about Operator love and Outbreak's upcoming monster bash


'To build the core of this game we had to fight, even internally'

With Rainbow Six Siege currently boasting over 25 million players across three formats, the squad-based shooter is preparing to deliver a third year of content. Not bad for a game whose suspiciously inaccurate E3 introduction saw it become a bit of a punching bag for gamers worldwide. Siege has since come back from those controversies to become not only a hugely popular online game, but also one of the most finely-tuned shooters of all time.

At the recent Six Invitational tournament in Montreal, I had the opportunity to sit down with Siege's Director, Leroy Athanassoff, to discuss the current state of play, the origins of the upcoming Outbreak event, and the surprising obsession the community has with the game's roster of straight-laced heroes and anti-heroes.

Leroy spoke with me in a room full of milling journos and PR types, many vying for his time. Despite this, he was very accommodating and very happy, clearly energised by the crowd, the event and his own pride in the game. Asked how he's holding up, Leroy said "I'm so pumped because of the people, because of the energy. I really love our game, so we love spending time with you guys."

I opened by asking Leroy what he thought of the state of Siege right now. He was very confident that the scene has never been better. "Today we are at the Six Invitational," Leroy began in a warm, French accent. "I think we are at our highest peak, we have never been in such good shape. Now, we have the opportunity to deliver more content, with better quality. That's super-exciting and we can't wait to see this year (play out)."

I told Leroy that I had only been playing Siege for a few months, and although I was finding the game tough, I was pretty hooked. I said that the game was stealing hours away from the only other team-shooter I play, Blizzard's Overwatch, and that the two games were locked in a battle for my spare time.

"The good thing with Siege, is that it's not a jealous game," smiled Leroy. "You can play other games, but when you come back, Siege will always be there for you. That is part of the secret to its success. It is a game you can rely on. You can leave, come back in three months and it will be even better. So, it's okay, you can play other games. At some point you will come back, we will be super-happy to have you back."

On the topic of difficulty, I asked about whether the team were concerned that a game as tough as Siege, with its unforgiving gameplay, is locking out as many players as it attracts. Leroy said that this was a concern, one they continued to focus on going forward, but that it was vitally important that the gameplay remained as it is. Leroy stated that it was important to the team that Siege keeps its focus, and that they hold that aspect in higher regard to attracting new players.

I questioned whether the higher-ups at Ubisoft would agree with him, and whether the publisher pushes the team to make the game "easier." Leroy was quite candid about this. "Siege was clearly standing out from the usual Ubisoft game. We had to fight, exactly like you say. Ubi said 'You should try with respawn option to see how it plays.' We could respawn, but it doesn't play the same. Being sharp, being focused, y'know? One shot can kill you. As soon as you have another chance, you're not approaching the situation the same way. If you have respawn, then you run into the room, 'Meh, I died'. To really build the core of this game, we had to fight, even internally."

One of my favourite aspects of the game is the roster of Operators. In particular, I'm fascinated by how fans have taken these relatively blank slates and developed cult fandoms around them. I made the comparison to Leroy with Overwatch, where fans have gotten behind the colourful, loud, happy-go-lucky roster of eccentric looking characters. Then asked how Siege has managed to pull in the same sort of community love with its dour, scowling military technicians They're all dressed down in black fatigues, many of whom have their faces hidden entirely.

"To us, that is really one of the insane surprises that we had," replied Leroy. "I don't know if you played previous Rainbow games. Can you name one of the characters?"

"Only one," I said. "Ding Chavez!" pulling some long forgotten name out of my youth.

"Ding Chavez! Aside of him, there are no names that stand out. With Siege, we've managed to create a deep universe with strong character and we were super-surprised how the community took those personalities, and now (the game is) all about the Operators. As soon as you make unique operators, unique abilities, unique gameplay, you connect them to your playstyle. It's no longer a game about weapons, it's a game about characters and abilities."

I referenced the huge amount of fan-art, fan fiction, cosplay, and head canon the Siege community have created for the game, citing a wonderful fan-art gallery which was adorning the walls of the venue.

"The amount of content that was provided by the community, they make videos, they make pictures, we were like [*gasps*]," continued Leroy. "Outbreak allows us the opportunity to give them back a bit of this love, because we're unfolding the story of some of the Operators, which in turn lets the fans create new videos, new pictures. We will be super-delighted to see that. Yes, it's insane. Really insane."

Given the fan's interest in the universe, I asked about the possibility for Siege to transition to another media, such as a TV series, or a comic book. Leroy commented that, to his knowledge, there were no such plans currently, but that he believed they had the material to potentially adapt Siege in other forms in the future.

Asked who his personal favourite Operator is, Leroy beamed and proudly opened his jacket to reveal a shirt of everyone's favourite window-maker, Mira. "So clearly to me, it's Mira. What I love with Mira is she's very accessible. But she has a lot of technique. In the hands of good players, scenes that seem undefendable become defendable, because of Mira. Maps that were not super great, become great, because of Mira. Mira is quite accessible to new players, but she has a lot of depth in where you choose to deploy her ability. To me, she's one of the best Operators we've ever released."

On the topic of upcoming event, Outbreak, I was keen to hear how the idea for putting monsters and aliens in a shooter such as Siege came about, and whether there had been plans for this type of mode all along. Leroy explained that the root of Outbreak lies in a (very) early abandoned concept that would see a mission take place in Area 51. There was an initial idea to have a scenario where Rainbow are sent out to the mythological site after communications break down. Although Leroy had no further info on whether aliens were to be encountered, the heart of Outbreak lies in this abandoned "Area 51" concept.

Outbreak's themes are completely left-field of the main game's focus on counter-terrorism, stealth tactics, and realism. I put to Leroy that some fans may feel a zombie-shooting mode is a step too far from the Siege universe that they're acquainted with, and whether that was a concern for the team.

"As we spoke (about) earlier, we are in a very interesting place right now with our Operators. What is really unique about this game is not the 'counter-terrorism' aspect of it, it is the Operators. What is interesting is (for example) Ash. What is important for the players who're excited about Outbreak is to learn more about Ash, or Tachanka, or Doc. So now, we have an opportunity to do, y'know, Ash at the beach? Ash with aliens? Ash with zombies? It's more like comics. For Spider-Man, there is original Spider-Man, there is Spider-Man of the future. What matters is the Operator, not so much the context. I love the idea of going where we were never allowed to go before."

"So, you feel you have introduced this roster of characters," I replied, "and you can now take them out of their own timeline, or context, and place them into any number of situations. Then, where do we go from here? Siege in Space?"

"Totally!" Leroy laughed. "Siege in the past? You see we did the Elite costumes that refer to WWI and WWII? We could even go to the very beginning of Rainbow. What was the very first Rainbow mission? We are totally free. From here, we can go [*throws up hands*] anywhere!"

"And, if you go back to the very beginning," I offered. "You can bring back Ding Chavez!"

Leroy laughed. "Exactly! Maybe we will have Ding Chavez. That would be cool!"

Rainbow Six Siege is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC. The Outbreak event begins March 6.

[Travel to this event was provided by Ubisoft.]

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Chris Moyse
Chris MoyseSenior Editor   gamer profile

Chris has been playing video games since video games began... still terrible at them. Former Saturday Night Slam Master, rambles nostalgically like Abe Simpson. I ain't here to fight, so let's no... more + disclosures



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