'Rainbow Six Siege' Reworks Tachanka, But Devs Want Him to Keep "Meme Status"

In the modern age of "games as a service," a project is never truly finished. With constant updates, patches and content being released to keep players (and their wallets) invested, developers continuously churn out new creations to keep interest from waning. Because these games never need to end, older content tends to stand out when positioned alongside its shinier counterparts.

tachanka rework 2020 rainbow six siege
Tachanka holding his new LMG weapon Ubisoft

After years of stagnating in the meta, characters like Aatrox from League of Legends and Symmetra from Overwatch stand out like sore thumbs in a field of fancy particle effects and overtuned abilities. To bring these characters in line with the modern vision of their respective games, they are given complete overhauls to their looks and abilities, known as reworks. For any good rework, its main goal is to maintain longtime players while introducing new ones to a more modern experience.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege is entering its fifth year of post-release development and just announced its first Operator rework for Tachanka. The boisterous Russian, whose name comes from a horse-drawn machine gun used in the early 20th century, was one of the original 20 playable characters available at launch.

"Everybody loves Tachanka, but not everybody loves to play Tachanka."

"Siege has evolved and grown with the community," Game Director Leroy Athanassoff told Newsweek at a recent preview event. "Everyone on the team was new to games as a service, and we learned along the way. When we designed Tachanka, we thought he was going to be in a good place."

(Re)Building a Meme

Since his debut, Tachanka has been one of the most underused Operators in Siege history. His main gadget, an LMG on a turret, requires players to stand still in a game that emphasizes constant motion and momentum. He is currently played in half a percentage of ranked games according to op.gg and is genuinely seen as a subpar choice for team composition. According to Athanassoff, the goal wasn't just "to solve his issues" but rather to "create a fun, interesting, strong and playable character."

Over the past year, Ubisoft has streamlined Siege's development pipeline, creating individual "cells that work on different projects while lowering the number of Operators released each year. This change in mindset freed up developer bandwidth to work on other projects, including the much-needed, and demanded, Tachanka rework.

Discussions about Tachanka started in September 2019, with the developers nailing down the best way to approach his issues. The largest change previously given to an existing operator was Glaz, who got the ability to see through walls. The team had to come up with a totally new philosophy for reworks. "Changes affect the experience of everyone," Athanassoff said. "Instead of releasing a new Operator that is affecting only the people who play them, changing Tachanka affects the experience of everyone who's already owned him. It's like a house renovation."

An affinity for World War II-era weaponry and old armaments were crucial aspects of the identity of Tachanka. His LMG was taken off the stand, which, according to Athanassoff, was how Tachanka was designed before launch but developers deemed the weaponry "too overpowered." A fire grenade launcher was added to his arsenal, taking inspiration from Demoman of Team Fortress 2, which added a bouncing bomb never before seen in Siege. With more mobility and a counter to gadgets, grenades and Operators that use smoke, the new Tachanka offers such an interesting alternative that Athanassoff believes the character "will never be in the same place before, where nobody picks him."

Community members from inside Ubisoft have been invited to test out the latest Tachanka build, allowing the team to gather data for proper balancing.

(Re)Designing Lord Tachanka

When meetings about Tachanka's rework began, there were many questions that needed answers. How do we get players to take him seriously? Should he look the same? Will he take off his mask and reveal his face?

"Everybody loves Tachanka," Art Director for Rainbow Six Siege Alexander Karpazis said, "but not everybody loves to play Tachanka."

tachanka rework 2020 rainbow six siege
Tachanka is going to get a fire grenade launcher gadget in the new rework Ubisoft

The rework's goal was to keep "his overwhelming presence and attitude in a match" without getting rid of how well he blends in with other Russian Operators. His look will stay mostly the same, keeping his core and identity fairly intact, while giving him a brand-new grenade launcher with an upgraded aesthetic. His mysterious backstory, as well his humorous coping mechanisms remain, with updated lore describing how he obtained his new arsenal.

"People fall in love with an Operator because of the way they look sometimes, and, for Tachanka, we wanted to keep that fairly the same," Karpazis noted. "The opportunity here is to make him work with the game now, make it so players want to play him, and then later on we have room to explore more about his background."

(Re)Working the Future

Tachanka is merely the first Operator to receive a rework, with more coming in the future. His release date remains unknown, but it is planned for sometime in 2020. "In the beginning we wanted to reach a point where there are enough Operators to create interesting metas and options," Athanassoff said. "Now we've reached that number, so we can slow down the pace."

That doesn't mean no new Operators are being developed, however. The latest Void Edge event introduced battering ram Operator Oryx and the scientist Iana. For reworks of pre-existing characters, it's important to tell their story without muddling their identity. Creators have the opportunity to build on an existing narrative, explaining why a character is changing and describing where that change comes from.

"For us, a rework is like creating a new Operator," Athanassoff described. "Tachanka will never be in the same place or in a spot where nobody picks him. We are confident we managed to keep his nature and lore intact for the guy who wants to bring World War II-era weapons into modern warfare."

For Tachanka things will never be the same. But he may never stop being the meme lord.