Before it was reconfigured as a tactical shooter spin-off, Rainbow Six Quarantine was a zero-gravity exploration game. Pioneer, as it was known then, was about overcoming realistic problems on simulated space stations.
During its development, Pioneer director Alex Hutchinson was fresh from Far Cry 4, and keen to repurpose its unpredictable interactions. “We were trying to build on the learnings of how people engage with systems,” he tells me. “It was a non-violent, player-driven, zero-g space exploration game, is probably all I can say about it.
“You’re in this world where you can navigate in true 3D space, in smaller environments, more detailed environments.”
Ultimately, Ubisoft passed on Pioneer – perhaps unsurprisingly, given how far the concept sits outside their oeuvre. But some of its elements became part of Journey to the Savage Planet, the rather good indie game Hutchinson made with Typhoon Studios.
“We got pretty far [with Pioneer], we got to a pretty good point, I thought,” Hutchinson says. “It was right on the line, whether it would go or not. And then in the end, the studio went in a different direction. Unfortunately, one of those lost projects.”
Mostly lost, that is. You might actually remember Pioneer from its cameo in Watch Dogs 2. In one mission, DedSec broke into Ubisoft’s San Francisco division to leak a trailer: real footage from the demos Hutchinson and his team had produced.
“We were like, ‘people want to let us do it’, but no,” Hutchinson says. “At least it died an honourable death.”
Kotaku reported tensions between Hutchinson and other staff, and in late 2016 Ubisoft replaced Pioneer’s project leads. By the time the game showed up in Watch Dogs 2 its future was already under question, and eventually it became Rainbow Six Quarantine, ditching the non-violent premise.
Last week, Rainbow Six Quarantine was delayed until the next fiscal year, which means it won’t come out before April 2021. What’s a few more months after several years of project reboots?