Olivier “Lion” Flament is a French service member who’s special ability involves using a drone to survey hostile areas and detect movement. Unfortunately, the way this works involves a red aura around opponents that some players won’t be able to see.
Part of Rainbow Six Siege’s Operation Chimera update arriving March 6, Lion will be one of two new characters players can unlock. His EE-One-D drone can move around and tag everyone in the vicinity so that after a short countdown they’ll appear for a short while on the offensive team’s screens as red outlines if they’re moving. As one player brought up in the game’s subreddit, however, this ability won’t be much use to people with certain forms of color blindness. “The lack of a colorblind mode has been an issue completely ignored by Ubisoft since the beginning of the game, but it is going to really hit us colorblind folk hard after this update,” said the player. “The game is still playable without red dot sights, but an entire ability based on a red outline? I don’t even know if I will be able to play Lion because of it. Please Ubi, if you ever even consider allowing a colorblind mode, at least do it for Lion’s ability.”
A community representative for Ubisoft responded to the thread saying the would flag this particular issue and see where the team was on it. Meanwhile, Ubisoft said the following when contacted for comment by Kotaku:
“The development team is aware of this issue and actively pursuing it, there is no timeline we can commit to at this time, but we have hope for positive results in the future.”
Addressing the needs of players with certain visual impairments has been an ongoing issue in games. The Witness included some puzzles which couldn’t be completed by players with hearing impairments or color blindness, for example. Sometimes it can be as simple as having certain bits of highlight text bleed together, as with Borderlands 2's weapon descriptions which have certain parts of weapon descriptions in various colors ranging from red, green, and yellow to teal and purple. For someone with colorblindness, this text can become an unreadable mess.
It’s also a problem that some developers are slowly becoming more sensitive to, however. The card game Uno is notoriously a color-coordinated affair, but has been continually updating its design to solve that shortcoming. A Microsoft app from a couple years back called Color Binoculars actually tried to color correct images for those with color blindness so the natural effects could still be conveyed. EnChroma’s glasses specially designed to address color blindness are another example.
During a keynote address at DICE 2018 yesterday the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, made an impassioned call for the industry to pursue greater inclusivity in gaming, part of which includes making games accessible for everyone. Destiny 2 had improved subtitling for deaf players compared to the first game for instance, although more progress could still be made. Meanwhile, PUBG includes colorblind settings on PC but not on Xbox One at the moment.
Given Rainbow Six Siege’s continually growing player base, especially around the release of new updates, it would be shame if some of them weren’t able to take advantage of its newest operator because his ability were locked to an arbitrary visual cue. On the flip-side, it might also be what leads Ubisoft to finally implement colorblind settings across the rest of the game in general.