Rainbow Six: Siege and Online Playgrounds

Rainbow Six: Siege was my most played game of 2017 by a long shot, which to me at least, is shocking. Before Siege I was more or less a casual shooter player. I’ve picked up almost every Call of Duty since Modern Warfare, I grabbed Overwatch on launch, and got Titanfall 2 at the peak of its buzz in 2016. None of those games have grabbed me like Siege has. Somewhere around October of last year, Siege took over my life.  It has become a daily affair and an experience I crave. The highs Siege offers are so intense and unique that an hour rarely goes by that I’m not thinking about playing more. As big budget releases have harnessed the power of current gen consoles to move toward complex and interactive open worlds, I believe Siege is the first multiplayer game to realize what current technology can offer competitive shooters.  

Siege’s rise to prominence is a smashing success story, and a testament to the good that can come from a publisher having faith in its developers. At launch Siege was, like many multiplayer or “service-based” games these days, an incomplete mess. The shell of what would become the final product was in place: a diverse roster of heroes with cascading synergies and counters, well thought-out map design, and perhaps most importantly, the environmental destruction engine. But these pillars were all built upon a ramshackle foundation of awful netcode, poor matchmaking, and an incredibly steep learning curve; all serving to cripple the experience out of the gate. Unlike recent notable online multiplayer failures like Lawbreakers, Battleborn, or For Honor, Siege’s core experience and crack dev team were strong enough to pull the game back from the brink. After two years of constant patching and consistent community engagement, Ubisoft has successfully cultivated a booming playerbase. At the end of 2017, Siege’s install-base reached 25 Million players worldwide, only 5 million less than Overwatch. At the start of 2018 Siege is in the best place it’s ever been. It still has some growing pains to overcome — the UI and marketplace being the most egregious offenders — but with a core experience that is, in my opinion, one of the best ever crafted, Siege is finally flourishing.

Siege is the first multiplayer game to attain the “No match plays the same” quote that has been used to sell online experiences for decades. Built with the bones of a MOBA and the musculature of Counter Strike, Siege corners a share of the multiplayer space just to the left of titans like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. Siege’s tight focus on hide-and-seek style infiltrations and defenses, combined with a near-instant “time-to-kill” (TTK) make every quick 4 minute match (3 minutes in Ranked) blisteringly fast and intense. Where games like Overwatch can reach brutal stalemates as attacking and defending teams find themselves throwing bodies at a point for 10-15 minutes, Siege’s strict time limits and single-life rounds encourage efficiency, planning, and intentionality in every action.giphy Every step, every bullet fired, every hero-power used, has instant visible and audible feedback in Siege. The invisible language the game uses to communicate to players is so beautifully crafted as to make anyone with an interest in game design blush. The audio suite on display is masterclass, as anyone with more than a few hours in the game will begin to understand the wealth of information available to them even if they were to close their eyes. The subtle whirring of the attacker’s drones when they are nearby, the startling bang of Glaz’s DMR, the crackle of Mute’s jammers, the clomping boots of Doc as he runs to heal a teammate, the whoosh of the rope as attackers rappel up the side of the building, push the player’s immersion deeper into the rabbit hole of each game. This is to say nothing of Siege’s crown jewel, the environmental destruction engine. Each map has a variable degree of destructibility — from the mostly wooden walls and floors of “House,” to the impenetrable marble walls on “Coastline,” — that have a profound effect on team composition for both Attackers and Defenders. Do you choose to kit your team for long sightlines which you carve yourself as you choke out the defenders? Do you equip your defenders with Shotguns and SMGs in anticipation of close-quarters firefights? Do you bring characters like Kapkan or Frost to lay traps on the long walks attackers will take to the point? Do you favor lightly armored, but lightning fast characters for a rush, or bulky shield characters for a more surgical, methodical pace? Players are empowered to build an Attack or Defense strategy from a deep, cascading pool of characters, abilities, guns, tactical or lethal gadgets create such a massive possibility-space that propels the meta into constantly new and compelling directions.

Taking a tour through a map after the final seconds of any round of Siege tells a unique story. The match was a savage, calculated rush from the attacking team: Shock and awe tactics from Ash and Zofia have ripped the walls on the point wide open, catching the anchoring Rook off guard. He doesn’t last long. Cartoonish amounts of bright red blood splatter the walls where Blackbeard sprayed down Jager and Ela as they sprint back to retake the point from their roaming positions on the flank. Ying, the only casualty on the attacking team, lies dead in a welcome mat on the door of the point – her flash/infiltration strategy thwarted by a cheeky trap from Frost. The match is 2 vs 4, feeling confident in his advantage, Blackbeard enters the point from his rappelling position on the side of the building but without the cover of Ying’s smoke grenades Frost catches him with a headshot through the hatch from the floor above. Defuser down, the match is 2 vs 3, the defenders can pull this off but with an agonizing 2 minutes left in the round, time isn’t on their side yet. Her position given away, Frost has to make a run for it but she’s too late. Buck takes her head off with a narrow sight-line he created by shotgunning through two consecutive walls. 1 vs 3, a minute left on the clock. From across the map, the final defender, Valkyrie, checks through her hidden camera feeds — she gets a bead on Buck, who is camping the angle on hatch to ensure Ash or Zofia can get a safe diffuser plant. Valkyrie creeps toward Buck, careful to not give her position away by sprinting. He doesn’t hear her coming and is taken out by a well placed headshot from her silenced assault rifle. On his death, Buck calls out Valkyrie’s position to his teammates. Zofia plants the diffuser as Ash uses her advanced speed to try and rush the Valkyrie who is still playing on the second floor. Valkyrie uses her C4 to cover her flank as she waits for the light tapping sounds from the room below indicating a plant. Ash sees Valkyrie’s arm from a tight angle, pops a few shots, hits. Valkyrie hugs the wall, compromising Ash’s sightline, trying to bait Ash into a push and hopefully into the C4. On the point, Zofia goes for the diffuser and begins to plant. Valkyrie runs for the hatch. Ash catches her with a few hits to the body but the extra armor afforded by Rook’s power at the beginning of the round allow her to survive. Valkyrie drops, blowing her C4 charge in mid-air, killing Ash before landing a final spray into Zofia as she plants. Defenders win.

This kind of story can happen in any given match. When the destructibility, character synergies and counters, individual player skill and map knowledge all combine to pull a clutch victory — the experience is one of the most pure and intense experiences you can have in the medium.

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