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The Red Storm-developed Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six may have sparked a new line of big-budget tactical shooters following its launch in 1998, but that initial title came from some very modest roots.

May 18, 2012

3 Min Read

[Gamasutra Classics is a weekly article that flashes back to content published years ago, because the most valuable lessons grow better with age. This week, we look back at the origin of the long-running Tom Clancy series, just days before the new Ghost Recon: Future Soldier hits store shelves.] January 21, 2000 -- The Red Storm-developed Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six may have already sparked a new line of big-budget tactical shooters following its launch in 1998, but that initial title came from some very modest roots. "Originally, the Rainbow Six team consisted of me and one other programmer," writes Brian Upton, Red Storm's director of production and design in a new postmortem on Gamasutra. "Red Storm started development on four titles straight out of the gate [in 1996], and all the teams were woefully understaffed for the first few months," Upton says. With only a couple developers working on Rainbow Six, each team member had to bear lots of extra responsibility to get the game out the door. Not only did this small head count slow down production, it led to some real problems down the line. "The first Rainbow Six artist didn’t come on board until the spring of 1997, with a full-time producer following shortly after. With such a small group, progress was slow. During that first winter and spring, all that we had time to do was throw together a rough framework for what was to follow. This lack of resources up front would come back to haunt us later," Upton says. "Our crisis came in October of 1997. We’d been working hard all summer, but (although we refused to admit it) we were slipping further and further behind in our schedule." With the game's target launch data rapidly approaching, Upton -- as the project lead -- tried to fill the gaps and fix the game's myriad problems, but that only left him unprepared to perform his duties as both a producer and a manager. "I badly overestimated my own abilities," he writes. "For Red Storm’s first year, I was working four jobs: VP of engineering, lead engineer on Rainbow Six, designer on Rainbow Six, and programmer. Any one of these could have been a full-time position. In trying to cover all four, I spent all my time racing from one crisis to the next instead of actually getting real work done. "And because I was acting as my own manager, there was no one to audit my performance. If one of the other leads was shirking his scheduling duties or blowing his milestones, I’d call him on it. But on my own project, I could always explain away what should have been clear warning signs of trouble." It wasn't until roughly a year of development that Red Storm pulled together the resources to bolster its staff and smooth out the wrinkles in Rainbow Six's production cycle. "In early November 1997, we put together a crisis plan. We pumped additional manpower into the team... The original schedule, which called for the product to ship in the spring, was pushed back four months. The artists went through several rounds of production pipeline streamlining until they could finally produce levels fast enough to meet the new ship date." The game finally launched to warm critical reception on August 21, 1998, and already the Tom Clancy series has spawned a new Rainbow Six expansion pack, as well as a full sequel, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. Much more about the development of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six is available in Upton's full postmortem, now live on Gamasutra (no registration required).

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