Spellbreak Interview with Seth Sivak - Proletariat CEO and Creative Leadby Adam Dileva
XboxAddict.com (XBA) Interview with Seth Sivak, CEO of Proletariat, the developer of Spellbreak (Spellbreak)
**Editor's Note: We're aware of the audio in the gameplay videos and have attemped to normalize the levels and is not indicitive of the final product**
(XBA): Thank you for taking the time to answer our burning Spellbreak questions, so let’s just get right into it! For those that haven’t seen or played Spellbreak previously, could you give them the quick elevator pitch as to why they should play Spellbreak on Xbox One once it releases and what makes it so unique?
(SPELLBREAK): Spellbreak is a multiplayer action-spellcasting game where you unleash your inner battlemage. You master elemental magic to fit your playstyle and cast powerful spell combinations to dominate other players in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting called the Hollow Lands. While most of the battle royale games out there are all about guns, Spellbreak is about equipping magic gauntlets, skills, abilities, and runes and then fighting it out to become the ultimate battlemage.
(XBA): Having had some Alpha and Betas on PC previously, how has the feedback been primarily? What are players enjoying most about Spellbreak? Was there any suggestions or changes players have heavily requested that took you by surprise?
(SPELLBREAK): So far, feedback has been tremendously positive. We find that players really like the fact that it’s taking a mode like battle royale that everyone is familiar with and adding some unique innovations so that it feels completely fresh. As a studio, we believe in transparent development with our community and are always listening to their feedback. There haven’t been too many surprises from the players, but they have pushed us to keep our focus on fast, skill-based combat and providing a variety of viable playstyles. Easily the most asked for new feature is a Dark Magic gauntlet, but we don’t have any new gauntlet announcements to talk about yet.
(XBA): You recently announced that Spellbreak will finally be coming to other consoles, specifically Xbox One, which is awesome! Was this always in the pipeline for a platform release, or was there other reasons the release and announcement has been staggered?
(SPELLBREAK): Our vision for Spellbreak was focused on allowing players to play whenever they want, on any platform they want. As it is with a lot of game development, the process of platform development doesn’t always mean each version is being developed at the same time or the same pace compared to another. Naturally, we’ve been working on the Xbox One version for some time, but wanted to make sure development was solid and on track before we announced it.
(XBA): Speaking about the Xbox release specifically, will Spellbreak be Xbox One X enhanced? The new generation with Xbox Series X is also around the corner. Has any thought gone into developing for XSX enhancements, or maybe Smart Delivery for owners that purchase it on Xbox One?
(SPELLBREAK): We are excited to be bringing Spellbreak to the Xbox One X at launch and will be taking full advantage of the technical capabilities available, but there are no specific features that we exclusively built for the One X. As for the Xbox Series X, we’re really looking forward to its launch, but we’re focused on the current generation of platforms and ensuring that our fans have the best experience possible right now.
(XBA): What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned for Spellbreak, specifically developing for console? Are there any large hurdles or anything drastically different when developing for the console version compared to the PC version?
(SPELLBREAK): From a development standpoint, the biggest lessons were on input design and performance. Spellbreak’s combat is unique and forced us to rethink a lot of common conventions used in console shooters. We feel we have found a great starting point with the controls for Spellbreak and we hope to get more feedback from Xbox players once the game fully launches. On performance, we found that consoles are easier to design towards since the hardware isn’t as varied as what you see on the PC; however, a lot of work had to go into making sure we have the performance we expect for Spellbreak, alongside ensuring we maintained our visual style.
(XBA): What’s some of the biggest surprises you’ve found when comparing console players to PC? Do console players play in completely different ways with the same content? Do they play for longer or shorter times? Does controller based gameplay differ drastically from keyboard and mouse? Will the Xbox One version support keyboard and mouse natively?
(SPELLBREAK): We’ve been fortunate enough to learn quite a bit during our Beta from both our console and PC players. We are excited to see a fairly even win-rate balance across platforms. This is exciting because balancing a fun experience across all platforms is always difficult and to see both console and PC players having relatively equal success is exactly what we want. Outside of the normal input differences, the experience for players on keyboard and mouse or controller remain the same. We love the keyboard and mouse functionality of the Xbox One, but that support is still in the works and we are looking forward to rolling it out down the road.
(XBA): It’s no secret that in the last few months our world has changed quite dramatically. How has your team adapted to development in a post-Covid world? Have the recent world events with Covid had any major development hurdles at the studio or the schedule for upcoming future content? Do you see this as a chance to reel in new players since many people are staying at home looking for new games to play?
(SPELLBREAK): As far as development goes, we’re really proud of having been able to pivot to a very different kind of work environment and process while still keeping development of the game on track and on schedule. So far we’ve seen no major delays, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way. People being home more than usual definitely makes it more interesting for us in terms of potential audience for the game. However, we want the game’s quality, experience, and community to be the main driving factors in attracting new players.
(XBA): I got to admit, watching a few videos of Spellbreak gameplay was a lot to take in. Combat seems very chaotic but deliberate and calculated. How would you best describe Spellbreak’s magic based combat? Also, given that there is a lot of verticality in player movement, was this a challenge designing the world to play in such a way as well?
(SPELLBREAK): There’s a lot of careful control amidst that chaos! I think I’d best describe combat as a mix of precision and power. Like you said, combat can be very deliberate and calculated. If you want to pick-off enemies from a distance and long for that sniper-esque experience, you’ll find yourself drawn to the Frostborn class. But maybe you just want to be able to slam the battlefield with attacks that are less reliant on accuracy and have the potential for splash damage. If that’s the case, you’ll love playing as a Pyromancer. We knew we wanted verticality to play a major role in combat from the start, so designing the world has always taken that factor into account. Mastering combat is a fun mix of not only knowing what attacks fit what situation, but also knowing how to make your way through the environment and having the spatial awareness to keep tabs on your competition. Spellbreak’s combat was inspired by old school first-person shooters. All the spells are projectiles and you have very high movement speed with multiple movement abilities. This has the vibes of an Unreal Tournament or Quake but made more modern because we can have a massive open map and way more players.
(XBA): It seems that the Battle Royale mode is your main feature currently. How do you plan on differentiating yourself from the big players in the genre like Fortnite and Apex? Are there any concrete plans for other modes in the future that are currently being worked on?
(SPELLBREAK): We definitely have plans to add more content, modes, maps, and more. Last December, during our first beta phase, we tested a mode called Clash that was a 9v9 team deathmatch of sorts. That is one new mode we hope to bring back but unfortunately, right now, I can’t spill the beans on any more specifics.
(XBA): Given the current Battle Royale landscape, do you see Spellbreak gaining a following for e-sports in the future? If so, have you had internal conversations about how you would support this, such as prizing or support?
(SPELLBREAK): Absolutely. Any kind of multiplayer game is going to have speculation around it and we’re confident Spellbreak is the kind of experience that would fit well into a competitive gaming situation. But, any kind of plans around that are in the future, not the present. We’re working hard to make sure we get the game finished on schedule and that it’s the best possible experience it can be. We will look to the community to see what sort of competitive interest they have post-launch and will decide our next steps from there.
(XBA): Watching the trailers and a bunch of streams for Spellbreak, I got to say, I really enjoy the distinct artistic style. It has a Fortnite-esque look to it, but it’s different in its own way. How did you decide upon this aesthetic? Did the magic based gameplay play a role in the visual design?
(SPELLBREAK): The art style comes from blending the hand drawn look of 90s anime, advances in modern real-time lighting, and the goal of creating something totally unique to games. We were inspired by films from places like Studio Ghibli and looked to recreate the painterly detail in an interactive environment. The world, characters, and visual effects are all things we’re very proud of.
(XBA): Spellbreak utilizes classes, powers, abilities and elemental combos. How do you balance all of these mechanics and systems? Have you had to make any major adjustments with any of the elements based on feedback, or are you pretty happy with how things are currently balanced?
(SPELLBREAK): We use three main tools to balance Spellbreak: player feedback, game metrics, and internal playtesting. We weigh all of these together when deciding on how to balance something. We’ve made some pretty large changes to the balance of the game during beta, both as a response to feedback from players, but also as new mechanics and systems come online. We’re largely happy with the game’s balance at the moment, but since we’re planning on constantly evolving Spellbreak with new content post-launch, balance will continue to be an on-going task.
(XBA): You always need a carrot to dangle in front of players to entice them not only to play, but to continue to play long term. Can you quickly explain the progression system in Spellbreak and let players know why they’ll want to stick with it long term and what they can work towards?
(SPELLBREAK): There are two primary forms of progression in Spellbreak: quests, which can give the players short and medium-term goals that let them explore and uncover the story of Spellbreak and class mastery, which allows a player to level up a class simply by playing it (though they’ll level up faster by playing well and finishing quests!). Quests can reward different story-themed cosmetics as they’re completed. By leveling up a class, players can earn not only class-specific cosmetics, but also gameplay-affecting talents that can be equipped on any class to further customize your playstyle from match to match.
(XBA): It’s no secret that most Battle Royale games thrive on its free-to-play model, enticing players to spend money on microtransactions such as cosmetics, season or battle passes in lieu of spending money upfront. While I’ve been unable to find any concrete info on Spellbreak’s monetization plans, is there anything you are able to tell us today of what players can expect on what they’ll be able to purchase, such as skins, passes or founder packs for Xbox One?
(SPELLBREAK): We recently announced that Spellbreak will be free-to-play at launch across all platforms. Currently, we have Founder Packs available for PC (they were previously available also on PS4), each of which contains a mix of in-game outfits, currency, and other goodies. As for other in-game purchase options, we’ll be divulging info around those sometime in the near future.
(XBA): There’s currently a beta happening on PC and PS4 as of the time of this writing. When Spellbreak does release for Xbox One, will there be a beta for us as well, or will that be its full release?
(SPELLBREAK): The beta for PS4 and PC actually just ended and we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of valuable feedback and input from our community. Currently, we don’t have any plans to have a beta on Xbox One.
(XBA): Have you published any long-term roadmap of what players can expect in future updates? What’s the most exciting features and additions you are looking forward to players experiencing for themselves? Also, what do you think the biggest improvement or addition has been recently?
(SPELLBREAK): We are excited to talk more about our post-launch roadmap soon and a lot of our future plans will go up on our official blog, which you can visit at playspellbreak.com/blog. We also spend time with our community in the Spellbreak Discord discord.gg/spellbreak talking about our upcoming releases.
(XBA): Obviously things change over time, and now that Spellbreak is out in the wild for players in Beta and being streamed, we’re wondering what the original vision and goal for Spellbreak was on console compared to now? Now that there is much more competition with Battle Royale’s on console, have your goals stayed the same, or do you see the competition and take notice of what they are doing and see what works and doesn’t?
(SPELLBREAK): Overall, we’re focused on making sure Spellbreak is the best experience it can be no matter what platform you’re playing it on. It’s a slippery slope during development if you’re constantly being pulled and influenced by what else is being released. Obviously, we’re all gamers and we play a ton of battle royale games to see what they’re doing and what they’re all about. But at the end of the day, we’re focused on just making sure Spellbreak is a great game and is built to foster and grow a great community.
(XBA): Thank you again for your time and being able to answer our questions. We look forward to the Xbox One launch and will absolutely be checking it out!
(SPELLBREAK): Thank you, too. We’re really excited for Spellbreak to hit the Xbox One and we’ll see you in the game!