Las Vegas - a city synonymous with Hollywood glamour, Elvis, casinos, the Rat Pack and endless dodgy escort/contact magazines promoted by unfortunate illegal immigrants. America's gambling paradise, however, is an unlikely setting for a notoriously hardcore tactical shooter with a squad that has to take on a band of particularly brutal South American terrorists. Ubisoft Montreal's game designer Steven Masters huddles in Canada's -14-degree big-freeze to give us a warm insight into the making of Rainbow Six: Vegas...
Rainbow Six: Mexico?
Steven Masters: We began the game in Mexico, largely for narrative reasons and to tell the story of the terrorist organisation, but we were trying to do a few things too. We wanted to introduce the team to the player and then take it away again - we wanted that to be an emotional experience. Second, we wanted to make a really distinct contrast between the dusty streets of Mexico and the glitzy glamour of Vegas. I think perhaps, the Mexican missions went on a little longer than we intended, but we also wanted the player to explore and get used to the game before they got to the 'money shot', as it were.
Steven Masters: Rainbow Six has traditionally been about multiple teams of four, so it was a tough decision to reduce that to just three guys. We wanted to improve their characterisation, to make them feel like humans, and having only two team-mates made that a lot easier, and let us put a lot more into their AI. The context-sensitive command system was a huge effort right across the team - just from the programming side, we had one guy from start to finish developing all the info we'd need in the game to allow us to do that. We went through half a dozen different iterations, trying again and again until we got something we were happy with.
Viva Las Vegas
Steven Masters: We sent three of our artists down there for a week, and they took thousands of photos and gave us really amazing reference material that the level designers could work from. Las Vegas is a very well publicised place - people know what it looks like. We could use the exteriors of the buildings - the shape of them - but we couldn't use the names of the casinos and hotels, or anything copyrighted. However, a lot of what you see is what's actually there in Vegas, apart from the stuff we blow up, which is our own invention.
Good for the Health
Steven Masters: The heart of the Rainbow Six experience is that it's super-brutal and unforgiving, so moving to the new health system was a tough sell. The real driving factor was that we were producing this 24-esque continuous experience where you spend the night in Vegas, and to do that with only three health points wasn't really feasible - it would've made the game extraordinarily hardcore. There was no way we were going back to the health pack mentality, so we went with the idea of the bullet just grazing you rather than hitting you in the heart, and it proved the best solution. It also leads to some really intense moments, when you've got your screen darkened out and you're under fire.
Steven Masters: This actually happened really early in development. Two-and-a-half years ago we decided to have this cover system, and from then it was just what it was going to be and how flexible it was. There was a lot of fear from fans earlier on, especially the multiplayer crowd, that it wasn't going to allow for balanced games and so forth. We were looking at forums and they were saying 'It'll destroy Rainbow Six!', but we were like, 'Don't worry - it's all under control'!'