Opinion | What Rainbow Six: Siege Can Learn from Rocket League

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While R6 Esports is continuing to grow, it is not without its problems. Here's what I think the scene can learn from Rocket League.

To preface this article, I'd like to say that I am not a huge Rocket League fan. I watch one game every few months, watch a few videos about the scene, and that's my fill. Keeping that in mind, I may get some intricate details wrong, but this should not change the overall take away from this piece.

If you're unsure what Rocket League is, it's a racing x sports game in which you play as rocket-fueled cars in a 3v3 football (or soccer) game. The game was released six months before Siege, from the Indie studio Psyonix, and became a runaway success for the company. Despite its earlier launch, Psyonix didn't jump straight into esports, waiting just under a year to launch the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) in April 2016 -- just a month after the first Pro League game in Siege.

Although the two games have completely different genres, the games do share many similarities in their growth through the esports scene, such as multiple Tier 1 orgs investing in the scene in the last year, a currently dominant EU team with a cocky team captain, a formerly dominant NA team looking to regain its place, both games are preparing to launch in China (although I’m unsure what the plans for esports expansion into the region are for either games), and for a while both Pro League and RLCS had a similar viewer count.

This weekend saw the RLCS Season 6 finals hosted in Las Vegas, at the Orleans Arena (only a 10 minute drive from the Penn and Teller theatre where the R6S US Nationals will be hosted in December). The finals brought four teams from NA, four teams from EU and two teams from Oceania (ANZ equivalent) together to play across three days in a double elimination bracket.

Now we're all caught up, let's look at what Ubisoft should be paying attention to:

Esports Related Content

Whilst Psyonix seems to have dialled back a little bit on some of the content they have been providing for the esports scene, I think what they have offered historically has been amazing.

Whilst the show is sadly now cancelled, there was an official podcast for the league called RLCS Overtime. To begin with, the studio is beautiful -- far better than any kind of set Siege has seen. The hosts seem to have had great chemistry between each other, and in the episode linked above, the hosts even have some good back-and-forth with production over technical issues rather than either trying to ignore it.

The other great content the developers put out was player spotlights. Siege has done something similar with their documentaries but, for me, they didn't scratch the same itch. The organisation Evil Geniuses (EG) premiered a player spotlight on one of their players ‘CorruptedG’, which was shown over the LAN weekend. The video touches on how he got into gaming, his transition into esports, and even interviews his friends and family to get their thoughts about his career.

Obviously, I would like SiegeGG to fill this gap in the Siege market, with the Debrief podcast ,and Pre/Post shows being the counterpart of Overtime, as well as the SiegeGG MiniDoc series. However, I think the more content like this we get out there the better for the fanbase to get a stronger connection with the pros.

Production Value

RLCS has had very good production since it's launch. In terms of viewing experience, it's very basic compared to Siege, and Psyonix also have a game built from the ground up rather than on a recycled Assassin’s Creed engine. This combined stacks the odds heavily in Rocket League's favour and there is a lot Ubisoft can learn, even when ignoring the obvious things such as demos and a freecam.

When the stream went down for a few minutes during a game on Saturday, the analysts bought it up after the game had ended and then replayed the section that was missed during the time the stream was down. While sometimes the stream going down in Siege will be mentioned, the gameplay that was missed is never shown.

The stream has statistics from the online games on all graphics, with some interesting facts about the players given alongside them too. These stats allow you to understand the role of each player, as well as get a full oversight of the matches. For someone who doesn't watch every game, it really aids me in understanding who is expected to win and why.

The analysts also select an MVP for the day, where they display that pro's stats from that day. They make predictions on who is going to win the next game, and the stream has its own graphics for this when they are discussing their predictions. A small feature which I really like is a Twitter feed for viewers to tweet in with a hashtag. I must admit the hashtag for this RLCS final was not amazing (#LANVegas), but that's neither here nor there. The tweets are then selected by Psyonix and are displayed as rolling text at the bottom of the screen.

Something else I would like to see Pro League doing, even if it’s just for LAN events, is more content during the breaks. I talked earlier about the player spotlight, but at this RLCS LAN final, Rocket League were also showing sponsorship ads and (my personal favourite) tip and tutorials from the pros working with State Farm, one of the RLCS sponsors.

Another thing shown on the analyst desk are listen-ins. I’ve discussed this before and they have been controversial. The issue is that pros don't want any strategies to be leaked, or any negative comments they make about their opponents to be shared, which is understandable.  I feel like RLCS provides a good balance, only using listen-ins in replays, allowing them to be checked for any “lively” language, as well as strat call outs, making sure those are not broadcasted.

I recognise that the last point for production is probably unimportant to most people and would agree it's not incredibly important, however the stage entrances, in the very least for the RLCS Season 6 finals, have been much better than for Siege. I find that the stage entrances in recent Siege events have been fairly awkward. It feels as if the team gets called onto the stage and then they walk in and awkwardly stand in a line for 10 seconds, then walk off. I don't blame the pros for this, as I believe for Season 3 and the Six Invitational 2017, the pro players walking through the crowd gave a much better vibe than what we have currently.

In the Rocket League event this weekend, the players didn't walk through the crowd, but instead walked out to music from the game, and some had little performances similar to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). A member of EG came out and ripped up their opposing member's (and their ex-team's) jersey. An Australian team came out with one player dressed as a Kangaroo, and the other dressed sort of like Steve Irwin and wrestled an inflatable crocodile. Some may find these cheesy, and I would lean towards that too, but at least these are memorable when compared to awkwardly standing on a Stage with a few people dabbing.

Format

These points are controversial for some in the scene right now. RLCS brings 10 teams from three regions to play over three days in a double elimination bracket. This format is by far superior to that of the Pro League finals, which feels archaic in comparison. The format allows for more games, gives the pro players a better chance, and makes their bracket draws less of a death sentence for some teams. More teams playing also creates a greater chance for upsets and keeps orgs interested, as well as allowing greater interactions with fans. I really believe it’s time for Siege to move onto more teams at LAN finals, especially after a six-month season.

The second point is that the bottom two teams must play for their spot in the league and there is no auto relegation. The auto relegation discussion requires its own article, so I won't dive too deep into it here, but I believe auto relegation in a league of eight teams and an unsupported second-tier league (the Challenger League) is completely uncompetitive and incredibly bad for the scene.

Prize Pool

Rocket League has had a combined prize pool of $1,600,000 over 2018 whereas Pro League/Majors have had a prizepool of $1,400,000 in 2018 -- and that's only the prizepool. These figures does not take into account spending on production and getting the extra teams sent out. Although it's created by an Indie studio, Rocket League’s prize pool this year has been $200,000 larger than Rainbow Six Siege’s, and it’s worth keeping in mind that Siege supports three regions and four subregions where as Rocket League only supports two regions and one subregion.

As a result of the extra prize pool money and less regions, there is a much better split amongst the teams. From what I understand, in Siege if you make top-two in the online season, you don't actually win any money, as you will be going to LAN and your result there will be your winnings. This system isn't awful, but does skew the numbers against them. In Rocket League the 1st Seed in the online season will take home $20,500 and the team in 8th will take home $10,000. Compare this to Siege where the 3rd will take home only $6,000 and the team in 8th place will take home $3,000. This means that placing last in RLCS will get you more money than finishing 3rd in the Rainbow Six Pro League.

In addition to this, if you go to the finals and make MVP you earn a bonus in RLCS, and Rocket League payments will only be split between a team of three whereas Siege has to be split between 5 players. The investment from Ubisoft, which is a much bigger company does seem to be lacking. However, Ubisoft recently reported that they had exceeded their predicted sales in the second quarter of this year -- an achievement the CEO of Ubisoft Yves Guillemot gave credit in part to Rainbow Six Siege esports. With this revelation, I am hopeful for a bigger investment back into the game for Year 4.

A counterpoint to a better prize pool distribution would be asking if having a higher prize pool actually benefits anyone other than the pros themselves. Without context I think this would be a difficult question to answer, but taking into account that some pros won't be playing the game full time because of the low payout (for some teams), I do think it can be a hindrance in the game's competitiveness at the very least in this stage.

Advertisement

Advertising the competitive scene to casual players has always been a challenge for any developer. It's something we've seen most developers struggle with in most of the esports scenes that have arrived in the last 3 years. Rocket League does by far the best job out of the newcomers in advertising in-game. Blizzard can easily throw a load of money at Twitch ads, but Ubisoft doesn't really seem to do anything similar for Siege. Also, Rocket League puts in a lot of creative effort into their advertising.

When playing the game you will notice banners around the entirety of the arena advertising the league finals with the location, prizepool, and dates on them. Most, if not all, maps have these banners, meaning it's hard to miss even if you don't pay attention to the esports scene. One map even has a giant billboard outside of the arena with the same details. A few weeks ago while playing, I noticed the sign and stopped chasing the ball to try and get a good look at what it said. I think Ubisoft could take a similar stance on a lot of the maps as long as the advertisements were mainly kept to the outside edges of the map, such as the the flyers around the police spawn on Consulate. This is a fun and interesting way to advertise, it doesn’t rely on paid advertising services, and is hard to miss for all active players.

Advertisements around the arena, and billboard advertisement in the distance.
Esports option at the top of the menu, as well as a tab in the news section.

The other way Rocket League advertises is a dedicate esports section on the home page which when clicked will take you to RocketLeagueEsports.com. Another great feature that I love is that the game will have a notifier for when a tournament is live. If you are playing the game while an esports match is taking place, there will be a tab on the homepage with a bright red light, and an advertisement above it about Twitch rewards. If you click this tab it will then load the Twitch livestream -- a great way to pique people's interests, but also to make sure people aren't missing the game.

While we see Rocket League having almost 3x the views that Siege does on a normal play day, but the Pro League Finals have almost double the views that a RLCS finals have. This could be because of two points, firstly the Pro League finals get advertised more than normal play days (though still not enough), but it also could be because they announce the content drops at the finals which could boost the numbers.

This weekend, the analysts also used the down time as an opportunity to advertise smaller upcoming LANs. This would be a perfect strategy for Siege to use for the USN LAN and DreamHack Winter, you wouldn't even need the casters to advertise it you could simply use a video advert during the countdown for the next game.

Twitch Drops

As discussed above, Rocket League has a very high number of average views across both NA and EU. I've already discussed that this could be due to format, and better advertisement, however one explanation could be loot drops that Rocket League provide. I'm not entirely familiar with how the Rocket League award system works, I signed up for this weekend's LAN and from what I can tell, I got 4 random items for watching the entire days steam.

The Siege reward system works slightly differently, firstly items are unlocked at different ‘hours watched’ milestones, and these are just retextures of the same item. Something which I don't want to get side tracked by, but I am utterly bored of Ubisoft just retexturing and then republishing the same items as something new, especially when it comes to esports. I think a reward for watching the entire LAN should havve its own reward in Siege -- a charm to show off your dedication to the scene is something good for everyone. However for Pro League match days and finals I'd recommend viewers should get an alpha pack for every 3 hours watched and this should equal about 4 a week for the online season and only if you watch each of the main channels streams.

When it comes to the Majors, we should see dedicated in-game events, similar to what we've seen with the Outbreak/Summer/Halloween packs. Aside from this, we should have a dedicated menu and loading screen for the Majors just like we did for the 2017 Invitationals.

Former in-game loading screen advertising the 2017 Invitationals.

Crowd

This point isn't really down to Ubisoft and while I think it's something they can help with but ultimately it isn't in their control. The crowds of Rocket League seem to have a lot more passion and energy compared to those of Siege. They have their own chants for different players and teams as well as holding up signs and cut outs of the players' faces and even shouting out “what a save” when the in game commentator shouts it.

In comparison, Siege doesn't really have a single unique chant, funny signs haven't really been a thing since the 2017 Invitationals, and the one chant you will hear is “LET’S GO {EG/G2/NA/EU}” which is the most boring, unimaginative chant that exists in the history of chants. What I'd like to see Ubi do is introduce some competitions to come up with the best sign, and another for the best chant. Something like this will hopefully allow a lot of good community content to come out and create some history in the scene.

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The Rocket League Championship Season 6 Finals will end today (Sunday 11th November), and will be streamed on twitch.tv/RocketLeague. The games will start at 7pm GMT (12pm PDT, 5am AEST).

The Rainbow Six Siege Season 8 finals will take place in Rio next weekend (Saturday 17th November) and will be streamed in English on twitch.tv/Rainbow6 and the Rainbow Six Esports YouTube channel. The first game, FaZe Clan vs Mock-it Esports, will start at 1pm GMT (6am PDT, 10am BRT, 11pm AEST).