Seth Sivak Interview: CEO of Proletariat Inc.

Nov 11, 2016

Esports Edition was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to interview Seth Sivak, CEO of Proletariat Inc., regarding their newest game, Streamline. We also had a chance to play Streamline, you can find our review of Streamline here.

Streamline Poster Banner

Let’s start with a bit about yourself. How did you end up as CEO of Proletariat Inc?

Seth: I started in the game industry back in 2009 and I was doing sort of gameplay engineering. I was doing a bit of design and engineering. The company I was working at was a small startup that made social music games for the web and it was later acquired by Zynga. After that, we grew the Zynga studio from about 12 people to 65 within 9 months and released the game, Indiana Jones Adventure World, which I was the lead designer on that project. I moved onto another project as the executive producer and then Zynga closed the studio. Two weeks later – we started Proletariat with five founders and that’s how we came to be. We’re coming up on our fourth birthday rather quickly!

As CEO do you still continue to some of the engineering or design work?

I didn’t do that much on Streamline but I did do a large amount of engineering work on our previous game, World Zombination. My day to day is closer to executive producer and creative director role. I spend a lot of my time doing product design focused stuff and spend a lot of time overseeing the level design work.

At Esports Edition we had an opportunity to play Streamline and we felt that it was a very community focused game. Where did the inspiration to create a game like Streamline come from?

The idea of Streamline came out of the question, “what would the perfect game for streaming look like?” We knew we wanted to make a game that was fun and engaging to watch that would allow broadcasters to create great content that would engage viewers in new ways. We built a prototype for it and people started to have some fun with it and it became one of those things that just got more fun each week so we decided to keep working on it. It started as an experiment initially or palate cleanser as we were between projects but it ended up being an opportunity to do something very new and different.

Streamline is still in Early Access and features two game modes currently: tag and elimination. Are there future plans for additional game modes?

We really want to implement a team mode, whether that’s team elimination or something else. We’ve played a few proto-types and it’s pretty cool. What we really want to do is create a mode that is truly stream versus stream.

What’s the ideal position for Streamline as it leaves early access?

In the ideal scenario we would see a variety of different broadcasters playing the game as well as a lot of players. We’ve started to see a strong increase of people playing it outside of streaming which is really cool – the game is fundamentally meant to be a fun multiplayer game on its own. Currently there are alot of opportunities for players to jump into a game that is being live-streamed. What I would really like to see is a handful of new maps, a couple of new game modes, and a whole lot of community feedback on what needs to go into [Streamline] to really bring the idea of a Steamer focused game into its own. I’m quite excited to see how far we can take it even after the official launch.

How do you guys keep the conversation open with your community?

We keep an eye on our Steam forums and do multiple live play-tests during the week. We host them Thursdays and Fridays at 12PM PST for about two hours. We also a play the game ourselves and try to pull feedback from people we play with as we are playing it.

Have you guys ever received feedback that created that light +bulb moment or a ‘how did we miss that?’ moment?

So one of the things that happen in the game are all of these rules that occur. Like ‘Floor is Lava’ and ‘Crabcore’. Crabcore was one of the early ones. We all hated it when we implemented it because it lasted 60 seconds and as a player it’s really not that fun, but as a viewer it’s hilarious. We wanted to rip it out but there was a large push back so we made a compromise to make it occur less often and for shorter lengths of time. The compromises are what’s most challenging because you have to find that balance. This way it was still funny and the viewers would laugh every time. We also receive some important feedback on how interactions work for the viewers and what they enjoy most.

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Let’s elaborate on the balance a little more because Streamline has to appeal to both the streamer and the viewer.

Its actually more of a three-way problem here. You want to make sure that the broadcaster is having a lot of fun and there is a lot of pressure when a broadcaster is playing with their viewers because the viewers will attempt to grief them whenever possible. And, Broadcasters don’t really want to get beat by their viewers all that often. That’s one of the reasons why elimination is structured the way it is – the person playing as the hunter doesn’t actually compete to give a bit more balance to both sides. We want to make it as fun as possible for the Streamer because that lets them put on a good show and create good content. What we found from our experience in building this up is what makes good content is involving the viewers with shout outs. What broadcasters really deal in is recognition. That’s how they interact and make their viewers feel good. That’s only one piece! Another piece is the player. You have to make sure the game is good and fun for every player – not gimmicky. The last one is the viewer. There is sort of a misunderstanding with these types of games that viewers want to be players like Twitch-Plays-Pokemon style but that’s not true. The viewers have their own role in this and their own things that they care about. If they wanted to play, they would play.

Streamline and Twitch look to have a bit of a partnership that is very Streamer focused in terms of tools (Streamote) and financial benefits. Who’s idea was this?

The bounty program was put together by Twitch. They’re interested in trying to get the game out there in interesting ways. They wanted to see what would happen if you allowed a customer to reward a broadcaster by purchasing the game from their stream. That stuff is separate from Streamote, the bounty program came in well after the development of the game.

Is there anything the current and future players should be looking forward to in the near future?

Definitely the coolest thing coming is the team game mode. I think that it will be a lot of fun to see the stream versus stream stuff come in. The big thing for the readers to take from this is that there is a whole new genre of game here. You’re going to see a whole lot more games built specifically for the live streaming experience because it’s such a unique sort of entertainment. The true magic of a game like Streamline happens when you are a player, playing with a broadcaster that you really like, in front of an audience of people that know you. It reminds me a lot of being on a couch with my brother playing even just a single player game just passing the controller back and forth. Or, being at an arcade waiting to play the next person in line at Street Fighter. Its that sort of thing but now we can do it on the scale of Twitch. I’m very excited for what’s to come and what new things we can do.

We would like to give Seth a special thanks for taking the time to provide Esports Edition with an interview in addition to an opportunity to play the game. We look forward to the future of Streamline and the future of this new genre of games. If you have any questions about our Ethics Policy as it pertains to our relationship with game developers, receiving copies of games, or other issues, please feel free to contact us.

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Phischer Stanley
Phischer spends much of his time at his computer investing hours into League of Legends. Whether its playing, following the competitive scene or doing analysis, he always finds enjoyment in eSports.
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