Ubisoft today unveils the gameplay for its new Rainbow Six Victory operators at the Esports event Six Major in Paris. They are part of the new version "Operation Grim Sky" for the five-year-old Rainbow Six Siege, which counts more than 30 million players.
Ubisoft has further strengthened the game through eSports contests and regular updates of new games characters, maps and weapons. The game has become a model for how hardcore games can turn franchise companies into their audiences over a long period of time.
I played some rounds of Grim Sky with Ubisoft's team and some San Francisco journalists before the start. The expansion has new characters like Maverick, an attacker with a blowtorch that can melt walls, and Clash, a defender with an impenetrable police shield. Then I interviewed Alex Karpazis, presentation director for the game at Ubisoft.
I have a few videos embedded with hands-on gameplay by Grim Sky. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Could you brush up on what's new in this season?
Alex Karpazis: With Grim Sky we have our map, which is a reworking of Hereford. It's a new card, a fresh coat of paint. That looks great. The layout is a little different, so it's different. This is to make sure that it is competitive and entertaining. The original version was our first card. It came out when the game started. And even then it was the first gray card. We are now in the third year.
Our new operators are Clash and Maverick. Maverick is the new hardbreacher and Clash is the first defender with the shield. Then we have improvements in weapon alignment, introduction of mute capabilities, introduction of a new hatch. There is a lot of content in this.
GamesBeat: How did the graphics get so much better? Is this just optimization?
Karpazis: We are constantly improving the game. One huge thing – if you notice Before and After with Hereford, the old Hereford was made with our old lighting system. We have now put a lot of work into our lighting system. Visually, it looks much better. We have learned a lot in our texturing and optimization. Over time, when we learn what it takes to make maps, we get a lot better when they look good.
GamesBeat: Clash seemed a bit of a weird character. "Let's see if we can shoot this one!" Two of us joined them and we could not beat them.
Karpazis: That's her bag of tricks. Usually, it's good to be a distraction and pull people away from and on the bomb side. That's a valid strategy with her, absolutely.
GamesBeat: You're obsessed with killing them.
Karpazis: Right! You see someone and you just think, "I'm going for you!" But sometimes it is best to simply leave them in their corner and flank them elsewhere. But if your back is exposed – you can not assume she will not come back with a gun if she disappears behind a corner.
GamesBeat: Still, when I watched them, I still felt that they were just playing with me.
Karpazis: There are ways – it's new, with the defender and a shield. The best way to take them out is to get close to them. You sleep her. She is unprotected. Normally, you do not want to get close to anyone in this game, but with it, it's another way to counteract an operator.
GamesBeat: Maverick brought me through a hole. He got the drop on me.
Karpazis: That's what he does best. You do not see it coming. Then you realize that there is a hole in the wall and bullets fly through them.
GamesBeat: It sounded like you wanted to make it easier for people to call a place. "They are of such and such."
Karpazis: With the changes in the map? Yes. Previously, the card had only one tone and one theme. We wanted to make sure every single floor has a different look and feel so you can see where you are. You can call it. They are in the blue room, or they are in the loft or the distillery below. It helps with communication and orientation. As you move through these spaces, it's good to have something recognizable, like an old car on blocks or a huge wine barrel in the basement. These are things that help you to learn the card easier.
GamesBeat: I moved to the stairs. I could say, "I'm on the stairs!"
Karpazis: That's right. Although we do not just have a staircase here, that was a problem with the previous map. It was a bottleneck. Now we have a few steps to give you more flexibility in turning and moving. We also have the new hatches that you can destroy.
GamesBeat: Can you explain the weapon alignment?
Karpazis: It fixes a problem where you were not quite shooting where you should be when there was a recoil on the weapon.
GamesBeat: I thought I was just a bad shot.
Karpazis: [laughs] It may be that too!
GamesBeat: What do you notice when really good people start playing this content?
Karpazis: We get feedback from the pros and start seeing them in a really interesting way. You begin to realize that you can open many lines of sight on the map that help the attackers move into a room. I'm curious how they'll use Clash to gather information while keeping it safe. The big thing with professionals is that they are good at communication. If you have a clash that feeds team intelligence, then you'll see the best team game. She is relatively safe out there.
GamesBeat: On Maverick's side, how do you see how they use him?
Karpazis: With Hereford, we have increased the destructability surface on the map, which means you can do some tricky stuff with it. Not only to drill holes in walls, I would also see how professionals use the floors and open the floors to attack from above or below. That's even bigger. I can see that they take into account the verticality of a map, not just the horizontal plane.
GamesBeat: When I see them playing, it's a careful movement around the corners.
Karpazis: This is one of the biggest elements to learn in the game, to learn where to look, where the line of sight should be. They try to minimize the amount of body you expose, while maximizing the space you can shoot at any given time. That requires a lot of practice.
GamesBeat: And you do not want to flock around the bomb.
Karpazis: No, there are many surgeons who can take advantage of this? Even a Fuze, when you all sit in one room together, when he fuses it and throws his grenades, you'll all go up in the air. It's a delicate balance in the game. We have the concept of Roamer, people disappearing from the bomb shelters and chasing the attackers, and then we have anchors, people who can stay on the bomb site and protect them. You have to make sure that your eggs are not all in one basket.
GamesBeat: Usually my goal is just to stay out of the way and not fight friendly Fire
Karpazis: These are also good goals! Everyone has their own list of what to achieve.
GamesBeat: I can be the distraction, right? Come after me and you will not go to someone else.
Karpazis: Killing time is also a big part of the game. That is very valid. Clash is a great operator to learn something like that. Once you are in your safe little shield, you can start learning the card. You can learn how the other operators work. As you feel more and more comfortable, you can start switching to and taking part in your weapon. But yes, she is also a fantastic Intel collector.
GamesBeat: Do you design a character in some way to make the game more accessible?
Karpazis: Absolutely. Each operator has a different accessibility. Maverick might be at the other end of the spectrum, where if you really know the game, if you have great map skills, you can benefit from it with his kit. Clash, someone can jump in and do something immediately.
GamesBeat: What are you looking forward to at upcoming eSports events?
Karpazis: It's great fun seeing these teams become more and more competitive. The level of the game is very close. You get a more exciting match. Each area begins to really understand how each other area plays. When you see them at the Paris Major or at the Invitational Games, you get a lot of really close matches. The level of the game will be the same.
Bring in someone like Maverick, who's getting bigger – we've got two tough Breacher's now, and he's the third. There is more variety. Clash, who is completely new – nobody has a sign on the defending side – to see what they do with these operators is really exciting. Each time it upsets the meta, it continues to evolve.
GamesBeat: How did you decide how much fuel Maverick has?
Karpazis: It is a balancing act. For us, Maverick was not like the other Breacher we wanted him to have much flexibility in the forms he does. We also wanted to make sure that he can not just make huge holes in the walls that everyone can drive through and do over and over again. It was a good balance to tune him to pay more attention to peering and creating an interesting drone access rather than making big holes to move between spaces. Here the balance of his fuel came into play.
GamesBeat: And Clash's lack of offensive ability balances-
Karpazis: Yes, it does offset the fact that it is naturally defensive. A shield on a defensive character makes her strong. Her ability to fire or fire at the same time was a balancing move to make sure she was not too aggressive with her gear.
GamesBeat: If you're going to tie them up, you have to have someone with a gun to shoot them, it seems? There is a short time between the melee and its exposure.
Karpazis: Yes, it is a small window. But if you have a shotgun, she'll kill her in one fell swoop. Besides, as you said, if you have the extra partner with whom you spend time, that's different. Capitao, once you've played him, he has the fire arrow that makes her either run away or take damage slowly. There are a few counters for that.
GamesBeat: The characters play this game Scissors-Stone-Scissors with each other.
Karpazis: There is this balance – this operator has a counter for this operator. They try to build a team of characters that complement each other, what they can do for you.
GamesBeat: Clash can simply park in front of the hole Maverick has made, in style.
Karpazis: Yes, exactly. That's a perfect example. This season we have this type of element in the game.