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Rainbow Six Siege interview: Bringing Sam Fisher to Operation Shadow Legacy

Rainbow Six Siege players have heard the news by now. Sam Fisher is coming soon as Specialist Zero. Shacknews spoke to Lead Game Designer Jean-Baptiste Halle to learn how Ubisoft Montreal made this happen.

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Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege is in the middle of its fifth year, but it's entering some uncharted territory with its latest update. While Ubisoft Montreal's tactical shooter has received a series of new Operators over the past several years, Operation Shadow Legacy will be the first update to feature a guest character. After embarking on several missions and starring in multiple games, Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher is now transitioning into life as a Rainbow Six Siege Operator.

Now going by the moniker Zero, Sam Fisher fits right in with the rest of the Rainbow Six Siege roster. To learn more about how he made his way into the game, Shacknews spoke with Lead Game Designer Jean-Baptiste Halle. We asked about how this collaboration came about, why Sam Fisher is such a good fit for Siege, whether Siege is open to more guest characters, and everything else related to Operation Shadow Legacy.

Shacknews: Just to start with a general question, how has the pandemic affected day-to-day operations for the team? What has been the biggest challenge in keeping up with the projected roadmap for Siege?

Jean-Baptiste Halle, Rainbow Six Siege Lead Game Designer: I think it's the same kind of challenge that every kind of company has faced. I think we're doing pretty good. I've been really surprised by how well we've been able to adapt. Things that are challenges, of course, are keeping the team involved, keeping people talking often enough. We needed to find new rituals, a new way to share information, to be together, to feel like a team. But I've been very impressed by how well we've adapted so far.

Shacknews: What was the creative process involved in deciding to introduce Sam Fisher as Specialist Zero?

Halle: I want to be honest, I can't remember exactly where the original idea and push came from. I know it was internal. It was us [at Ubisoft Montreal] wanting to do that. Of course, we always take our time in conceptions to do our Operators. We give ourselves the freedom to try some things, try a prototype or a bunch of prototypes, and then reevaluate whether it's a good fit or not with what we had in mind for what would feel like a legit Sam Fisher. After a while, we played something that was very similar to what you played today, just a lot less polished and a lot more buggy. But it was already giving this idea of drilling cameras that could swap between the two sides. And we felt very quickly that this was just him. It really felt like Sam Fisher.

It went really smoothly and, of course, we had to have some internal discussions with Ubisoft at-large to be sure that we wouldn't step on anyone's toes, because it's a Ubisoft license. But it was surprisingly easy and smooth to do that. There was a lot of internal enthusiasm with the idea of bringing him to the Rainbow Six roster. Honestly, it went really fine and it's been a pleasure to work on Sam.

Shacknews: What makes Sam Fisher a good fit for Rainbow Six Siege?

Halle: I think if you've played Splinter Cell games, of course you know that he's a stealthy kind of super Operator who's able to deal with tons of different kinds of situations. I think he's the right fit because we do have this importance of stealth and intel in Siege. Of course, it's a very different game. It's focused on quick-shooting and it's much faster than your typical Splinter Cell games. We still felt like it would be absolutely doable to find a way to make him fit and I think if you've played him today, you saw just how good those cameras can be, if you find the right place to position them, and how naturally he fits within the Attackers roster. You see how efficiently he can get intel inside a room faster than you would with a drone. There's a lot of things in the intel loop that makes him fit naturally within the Rainbow Six roster.

Shacknews: How would you describe Zero's play style?

Halle: I think it's a thinking play style. You have to take your time. If you position your cameras in the wrong place or if you position them in a place that's too obvious for Defenders, you're just going to waste your resources. And if you just focus on running and gunning, chances are that you're not going to make the most out of the Opeator. I think he's someone, and I think that reflects who Sam Fisher is in the Splinter Cell games, he's really someone you want to take your time with. Place your camers, have a good image of where the Defenders are positioned, and then start your execution.

Shacknews: What are some of the other major changes that players can expect to see in Operation Shadow Legacy?

Halle: We have our map rework, which is Chalet. It's a really important one. Chalet was one of our favorite maps in the past and it really needed some love, so we're super happy that it's being reworked.

We have an update with the ping system. You're able to pinpoint the position of enemy gadgets or your own gadgets if they're deployed in the world. You have this little icon showing to your teammate what you just pinged. That's a really neat comfort feature and you can even do it now from your observation tools. So you can use your drone, for instance, to spot a trap and warn your teammate not to jump through that window.

We have the Map Ban, which is going to let you vote on the map you don't want to play during public matchmaking. So you're going to have a lot more control of which maps you play and which you don't.

We have the Match Replay that is coming to the Test Server. You probably didn't get a chance to test that one, because it's only going to be deployed on the TS. It's our first big test, but it's really important for this feature. It's a huge feature we've been working on for a very long time.

We have a new secondary gadget that does hard breaching. The Hard Breach Charge is a very big change. It's a very important gadget for the Attackers composition. We hope it'll bring some new diversity in the Attackers composition, allowing you to select a little less often people like Thermite or Hibana.

We have a huge rework on optics for guns. We're going to add more optics and we're going to change the logic that we use to distribute the optics throughout the Operators roster.

We're going to have a new option to customize side colors. For all our players who are color blind, we hope to make their life a lot easier, because of course, they'll be able to select colors that they can see better. For most people, it'll be a neat comfort feature where you're always going to be able to customize the color of your optics.

We have the reinforcement pool, which is a really nice tool. Instead of having two reinforcements per player, we're going to have ten reinforcements for the whole team. If one player doesn't know where to put his reinforcements, it can be done by either person on the team. It's a common pool for the whole team.

We have big, big changes coming to Thatcher, who is going to be modified a lot and potentially nerfed. Basically, today in the game, he's disabling some gadgets like cameras, but he's also destroying other electronic gadgets. With this update, he'll only temporarily disable all the gadgets that he affects. Any gadgets effected will be disabled for 15 seconds, but they'll come back online. Thatcher will have to be played much more carefully and much more in coordination with the rest of the team.

Shacknews: We've seen outfit pieces that pay homage to other characters in games. We saw the Lara Croft outfit back at the Six Invitational. But with Zero, this is the first time that Rainbow Six Siege has gotten an actual guest character. Are there other guest characters from other games that are being considered as future Operators? Or is there anyone on your wishlist?

Halle: I can't be specific, but it's the first time that we've done this. If the experience is positive and if we see that the community reacts well to that and that it works well, of course we're interested in doing that with other cameos. We have a lot of fans of a lot of different things, a lot of different games, and a lot of different universes in our development team. So of course, we believe there is room for a lot more guests on the Rainbow Six Siege roster as long as they make sense and as long as they fit with the Rainbow Six Siege lore. So yes, we're looking into this, for sure.


Operation Shadow Legacy is available today in the Rainbow Six Siege PC Test Server. Look for the final version to hit all Rainbow Six Siege platforms in the weeks ahead. And if you want to try Rainbow Six Siege out for yourself, you can play it for free from August 27 through September 4 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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