Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege: Operation Grim Sky interview

August content drop reveal, report by Paul Davies

Two new Operators. One reworked map. It may not seem like much on the surface, but as Rainbow Six veterans have grown to appreciate from Siege, there’s a big bunch of reasons to get excited about the arrival of Operation Grim Sky.

Sitting somewhere between Overwatch and Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six Siege has cultivated its own robust esports-friendly community over the past three years. 35 million players, as the saying goes, cannot be wrong. The low latency, 60fps, clinically input-driven experience has counted for an awful lot of the game’s success. Its consistently enriching and community vetted updates have also ensured that credibility has grown. It’s time to shake things up a little, or so it seems. Both Clash (Defender) and Maverick (Attacker) are game-changers in their own right. And Ubisoft has forged a terrific new stomping ground to debut alongside.

Hurricanes hardly ever happen

Let’s take a look at the revitalised Hereford map, first of all. It’s pretty much everything that Ubisoft has learned by listening to its community and finessing its own product based upon that valuable feedback. It’s also kind of a celebration, pointing to a very successful formula. It looks completely different for one thing, with the modern dry-wall appearance thrown out to make way for a World War II, industrial, red-brick facility. It’s not a fabricated kill house any more. It feels more grittily real. Ubisoft says that each floor now boasts a larger surface area and that these floors have a distinct flavour to aid recognition. The flow of the game has been managed, increasing the viability of routes so that there is improved movement between floors. It’s more vertical. More competitive. And a lot of what we’re seeing in ‘New Hereford’ is a direct result of Ubisoft’s dialogue with the community.

I fought the law…

Ubisoft fully intentionally is upsetting the meta momentum with Clash, the new Defender. Her electrified riot shield is visually spectacular, but having a shield bearer on the Defender side is what’s creating all the fuss. This shield is Clash’s primary weapon, her secondary being a simple pistol or machine pistol. It’s designed to slow down and bait enemies and to help Defenders control the pace of the game in general. Out of the two new Operators, Clash is the easiest to have fun with, though it’s likely that her role will be highly prized by the best players in your team, so get good with her quick to stake your claim. We like that Clash is officially described as, “loyal, sharp-witted, arrogant, and resolute.” This suits her role very well, indeed.

Maverick, the new Attacker, seems glamorous at first glance, but he may not prove as popular as Clash, simply because he needs a team of ‘brain surgeons’ to capitalise on his gadgets and skills. Maverick is supposedly “solemn, pensive, isolated, and analytical,” all of which suggest a cool-headed presence on the battlefield. This is exactly the type of player you need in command of Maverick, who realises that working with others is the strongest possible tactic before further tactics have been agreed. Snipers and CQB guys alike will find a lot to like about Maverick, with his blow-torch creating the smallest of holes for lines of sight, and smoke grenades to cover soldiers going in. You really wouldn’t want your Maverick to be roaming on his own, though it’s great that he handles an AR-15 or M4 to control the middle distance.

We caught up with Ubisoft Montreal Community Developer, Craig Robinson, to learn more about the thinking behind Operation Grim Sky. While we were at it, we asked about those blessed Azure servers too:

SA Gamer: Grim Sky brings with it a new defensive operator, Clash, who has a riot shield with a taser built into it. Will there be any limitations as to how many defenders with shields can be used in a team with the likes of Recruit having a shield as well?
Craig Robinson: We don’t have any plans for introducing a limitation like that at the moment. When we first released the game, in Pro League especially, we know that there were requests for that. We made a conscious decision to not put a limit on that.
SAG: The attacking operator, Maverick, from what we can see in the image reveal of Grim Sky, has a blow torch as part of his inventory. Will this be used to tear down reinforced walls or to combat shield wielding defenders?
CR: It won’t destroy another Operator’s shield. It puts holes in reinforced walls. It’s particularly effective at placing pathways through walls. It’s much more designed for creating lines of sight and murder holes. It’ll either be lots of small murder holes, or lots of players are going to make lines to get good visibility on an entire room. The issue with smaller holes is if there is something behind that, the enemy has a very small target to hit you. Whereas, if you have a large line, they don’t know where you fall on that. So, it’s a
much more defendable position.
SAG: Do you consider synergy with other Operators when introducing new characters? Who synergises well with Clash and Maverick?
CR: It depends on how a team wants to play, right? Clash can be used in two very different ways: she can be used as a sort of roamer/intel-gathering role. In that role, she’s going to be supported by other roamers, like Ela. Or, she can be used in more of an anchor role too – once the attackers get to the site – to slow their attack and hold them there. In which case, she’s going to work really well with an Operator like Doc, who also typically anchors. For Maverick, because he’s able to create these holes in reinforced walls, he pairs extremely well with Glaz. He’s mostly made for pushing, so potentially an Operator like Ash would also be really effective.

SAG: With the new operators incoming, can we expect a rebalance across all the operators?
CR: We have a dedicated team, within the dev team, and all that they work on is balancing. We’re constantly pushing out changes and tweaks, to a lot of different Operators — in a way to keep the gameplay fresh, and also bring different Operators more into balance. One of [the team’s] main objectives is to not reduce the fun of Operators; they bring them into balance while making sure they’re still fun to play. For these Operators specifically, and for any of our DLC Operators really, we bring in professional players to the studio months in advance. We gather their feedback multiple times throughout the development process. So, we’re able to take this feedback and make tweaks and adjustments pre-launch. Which helps
us avoid issues like Ela and Lion, because they were both released in a very strong state, and we had to nerf them afterwards. Now we’re taking a much more proactive approach.
SAG: Is there any progress on the Azure servers for South Africa?
CR: We don’t have an ETA for when the servers go live in South Africa. It’s something that we are very aware that our players in South Africa want. It’s something that we did make a commitment to during the Six Invitational. We’re still working towards that. We just don’t have a firm date set yet.
SAG: Is there any reason behind the rework of the Hereford Base map instead of a brand spanking new map?
CR: Hereford is one of the most iconic maps. It was one of the first maps that our team started having competitive matches on when it was still in ‘grey block’. It means so much to our development team. And the fact that our level designers were able to go back in time and make the changes based on the things we have learned in the last three years – it means a lot to them as developers. To be able to, essentially, give this iconic Rainbow Six map new life is a really exciting opportunity for us. I think that a lot of players who are familiar with the original Hereford are going to jump into this new Hereford, and they’re going to realise that it plays pretty much like a new map. We’ve had a lot of comments lately from people who’ve been trying it out. To them, it very much feels like a new map. Even if they played the old map for 100s of hours, they’re still getting lost on the new version.
SAG: Does Operation Grim Sky point the way forward in many ways?
CR: We have a lot of ideas for future Operators going forward, and we have a lot of new concepts that are constantly coming in. One of the things that we really hold dear is our agility, and our ability to take what we have, understand what it is, and make adjustments and tweaks to both existing Operators, existing maps, future maps, and apply things that we’ve learned – since launch – to those things. An example is Tachanka: before we launched the game, we thought he would be the most powerful Operator we had, because he had a huge machine gun, and he had a lot of bullets, and once we launched the game we realised that it played out differently than we had anticipated. It’s a really interesting opportunity for us to really learn from our players, because they teach us a lot about our own game, and it’s really exciting. So, going back to Tachanka, pre-launch we thought he would be the strongest Operator we had, post-launch he is… by far the worst Operator we have. It’s interesting to have players teach us things about our own game.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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