Ubisoft has announced its next major mobile venture: Rainbow Six Mobile, a full port of 5v5 multiplayer first-person shooter Rainbow Six Siege.
The core format of Siege–the 5v5, attackers versus defenders format featuring unique operators on each side–will be Rainbow Six Mobile’s core gameplay experience. The team is hoping for 18 to 22 operators available at launch, while only the Bank and Border maps have been confirmed so far.
Rainbow Six Mobile will also retain Siege’s environmental destruction mechanics, allowing players to employ the same types of strategies in the mobile version of the game that they would in the full console experience. Players interested in trying out this mobile Siege experience can sign up for a chance to be part of upcoming tests at the game’s official website.
The default HUD for the new Rainbow Six Mobile.
Ubisoft says the game has been “optimized for mobile platforms,” citing things like customizable control schemes as key features. To learn more, GameSpot recently spoke with two key members of the game’s development team, lead game designer Oliver Albarracin and creative director Justin Swan, about what makes Siege fit on iOS and Android.
We spent time discussing technical aspects that needed to be considered, the lengths the team has gone to preserve the core Siege experience, and how the team is choosing which operators and maps to bring to Rainbow Six Mobile first. We also touched on the mobile scene itself, specifically how the shooter genre may see a renaissance on mobile similar to another shooter boom over 20 years ago.
This interview was conducted via video conferencing and edited for readability and clarity.
What would you say is the biggest hurdle in porting Rainbow Six: Siege to mobile? Based on the video it’s a very close representation, but what was the biggest challenge?
Albarracin: There were a lot of challenges to bringing Siege to mobile, and our philosophy was to stay true to what the core Siege experience is, but adapt the controls and the systems for the mobile experience. We weren’t trying to remove any of the core console/PC features, but instead find a way for them to be more natural to execute on mobile.
In terms of specific challenges, there’s so many different mobile devices, we have to account for things like screen sizes and aspect ratios. However, we knew the core aspects of Siege are complex, with things like gathering intel before the fight begins, so we used session length as one of the pillars of our thought process. Using that, it allowed us to balance the game, tighten the Siege experience, while also improving animations, reload times, movement speed, etc. Overall this game experience is faster, and that helps us find that Siege experience since players want to jump into a quick game and get out first. In 8-12 minutes you’ll have a full Siege match.
Swan: This has been a very complicated process because Siege is such a complicated game in so many directions: the design direction as far as all of the complex interactions, the challenge of bringing a new player onboard, teaching them how to play, and having them be excited to play, etc. We put a lot of effort into that onboarding process, bringing in things like the Siege Academy to teach “classes” on how to play.
The technical side had huge hurdles as well, starting with bringing Siege’s signature world destruction to the game. One decision we made early on is we can’t do pre-defined destruction, which does happen in most games especially on mobile. If there’s things a player can destroy, it’s predetermined that they will break into the same size pieces in the same places. That’s not how Siege works; doing that would take a lot away from the strategy and creativity of the game. Because of this, we have full procedural destruction in the game.
It’s also an “inside game,” a lot of the game takes place in close-quarters combat so you’re always close to the walls in indoor environments. When you hug the walls, you see the textures really up close rather than being outside in open air not paying as much attention to the environment. That means, of course, that you have to have really high texture density, which of course costs memory. If you have destructible walls, ten different operators all with their own abilities and animation systems, huge maps with high pixel densities, there’s so much going on and we’re thankful we have a genius tech team who have been creating miracles.
In fact one was just created today; we got our full facial rig into the game so operators are smirking and smiling and other expressions you don’t really see on mobile yet. We’re building a lot of the tech that you see even in the open world games, where it’s not drawing something that can’t be seen (called “culling”) or like as you get closer to an object its polygon count goes up and therefore the detail of that object goes up too. There’s so much stuff going on under the hood, it’s a super challenging game and I could go on forever, but I’m really proud of it. There’s not many companies that can put this much effort forward to bring an experience like this to mobile. Now that we’re here and we have something we feel good about, it’s also extremely rewarding.
Hearing 8-12 minutes for a Siege match is astounding. What went into the thought process of making sure matches go by faster?
Albarracin: We were talking about a best-of-three format at one point, but we also came to the reality that people are going to play games on their phones in short bursts, like riding a train or on their break. We wanted to make sure they get that highly-tactical shooter in a short amount of time. To do that, we’ve made spawn points closer to the buildings so attackers can move in quicker, small adjustments like that. It’s still all balanced, so it still feels like the authentic Siege experience.
How much of Siege’s content is coming to mobile at launch?
Albarracin: I can’t say exactly how much will be on the mobile version when we launch, but I can say that the game will have two maps: Border and Bank. Also, we have a lot of usage and popularity data on operators both internally and through the community, so we’ll use that in our thought process for which operators we’ll bring to Rainbow 6: Mobile.
Swan: We definitely know our opening roster, and those two maps will be part of our closed beta test coming up in the next couple of months. We’re aiming for more maps when we launch worldwide. This is a really interesting topic in Siege, as it doesn’t behoove you to have too much. There’s so much strategy and tactics built into every map and every operator interaction, too much content is very easily going to overwhelm a new player.
When I was first learning Siege, my favorite thing to do was play on one map and learn every single thing about it, and Siege Mobile will be the same way with Bank and Border. We actually ended up with the debate of “how many should we ship” versus “how many could we ship.”
We’re looking into 18-22 Operations when we launch, with more to come via battle passes and other updates.
Do you have a time window yet of how long your battle passes will run?
Swan: We’re going a bit crazy with this one: we’re thinking six weeks for each one. We have really been fleshing out our content pipeline, because we know people consume mobile game content they’re into at a really fast pace, so we want to make sure we have what the people want when they come. We’ve been really working a lot with all of our worldwide partners and all of the tech to make a content pipeline like that work.
With these battle passes, we’re going to be digging into the lore of Rainbow Six: Siege a lot more. Our fanbase loves it when we give them some lore, but we don’t deal out too much, so we’re really looking into what we can get into these battle passes, like the side comic-book storylines, interactions between Operators, things like that.
When you say “exploring the lore,” what sort of items will do that?
Swan: We have a digital comic where you unlock panels as you proceed through the battle pass. As you level up you’ll gain panels that will digitize the game. I can’t spoil the story obviously, but that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to do.
Once Rainbow Six: Mobile launches and the games are running concurrently, most of the time operators will come from Siege to mobile. Would you ever consider debuting a new Operator in Mobile and then porting them to Siege?
Swan: This is something we’ve definitely talked a lot about. There’s so much meat on the bone when it comes to Siege operators, that we have a lot to work on there. What’s nice too is, those guys are geniuses. The stuff they come up with, the effort and thought they put into making new operators, honestly it’s intimidating to think of making our own operator. We’re super excited about the idea to do it, but we have to figure out when the time is right, as we have a lot of catching up to do first.
Do you have a timeframe on getting caught up, or do you have a target on when you want everything from console/PC Siege into R6 Mobile?
Swan: I could do the math if I really wanted to, but I haven’t really thought about that yet. There’s so much there, I think if you look at how many operators we’ll have at launch, you look at Siege and how often they add operators versus our battle pass cadence, you could land on a date, but I’m not even sure what that date is.
When adapting the control scheme to a touchscreen, was there a certain mechanic that was difficult to port from consoles to PC, or did everything seem to fit where it should?
Albarracin: We really wanted it to be easy to focus on making it easy to execute actions. For one example, we’ve added auto-sprinting and auto-vaulting. On consoles and PCs, if you’re going to walk, run, and vault over an object, that’s three separate inputs you have to consider. On mobile, that action would be just a flick of the thumb. Of course, if players wanted those settings, we have a ton of customizable settings, including a customizable HUD with moveable input areas, to make controlling the game much easier for me.
We also have more innovative features like a lean slider, where you slide your finger left or right the character will start to lean like you do in Siege, if you double-tap the screen you’ll do a melee attack, I’m missing a lot more but these are the main ones.
Seeing how robust the Siege esports scene is, is Rainbow Six Mobile esports something the team is considering?
Swan: We’d certainly love to, getting into the esports space is good for any game, but for us we’re really just focused on making the best game possible, not just a game that can be an esport. We’re looking at smooth and fluid 60 FPS gameplay, stable connections that hold that framerate, server-authoritative PvP to deter cheaters and hackers, and things like that. What we’re focused on the most is making and shipping a game that, at some point, can be an esport, but is the best gaming experience it can be for all players right when it launches.
Finally, some players may hear the word “mobile” and turn up their noses, playing the old hits like “mobile is just crushing candies” or “mobile is just gacha games that take your money.” What would you say to those players about how this game is different?
Swan: First off, just take a look at the market of full experience mobile games right now. People are having rich experiences right on their phones and tablets, and they’re able to bring those experiences with them wherever they go. You can see pretty easily that the market is maturing a lot.
For shooters specifically I think we’re in a really interesting place. If you go back to what Bungie did with Halo; before the days of Xbox no one took console shooters seriously. You had games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which were both great, but those were games you played split-screen against your brother or sister or friends and they weren’t taken seriously. Bungie comes along with so many cool innovations like snap-to-aim, sticky reticle, making the maps a lot smaller with more close quarter combat, and suddenly shooters had finally happened on console.
Now, 20 years later, it’s the biggest genre in gaming. I think we’re starting to see some similar breakthroughs in the mobile market, and that’s why we’ve invested so much time in prototyping, making breakthroughs, etc. I think we’re there, just give it a try, put some time into it, and I think you’ll see it’s a really complete and solid experience.
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