Peter Kieltyka on how Sequence is making web3 games more accessible, secure and creative
In the latest episode of his Blockchain Gaming World podcast, editor-in-chief Jon Jordan talks to Peter Kieltyka, the CEO of Canadian outfit Horizon Blockchain Games, which operates the TCG Skyweaver and its blockchain infrastructure and wallet solution Sequence.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you give us some background about how you got into blockchain and games?
Peter Kieltyka: I’ve been a gamer my whole life. That’s what got me into computers and then coding in the first place. I wanted a Nintendo and I told my dad and he said, ‘No, we have a computer’. I was literally six years old so I don’t know what he’s talking about. I just said, ‘Give me the games’. So I just played the games.
Then I started learning how to code and fell in love very, very much with programming. It was the one thing that was the most interesting thing to me ever. So I’ve always loved coding, love infrastructure, specifically open source infrastructure which is something I’ve been very passionate about. In a lot of my previous companies, I’ve been the CTO. This is the first time I’ve been doing the CEO gig. It’s a hard gig but it’s a lot of fun.
When I discovered blockchain, it was because blockchain had interesting properties. It was like a public distributed system. It was this public infrastructure with the properties of cryptography and economics that hold it all together. I thought it was an incredible discovery and I wanted to develop something. I thought it’s an opportunity for me to be able to develop something that normal people could use.
There was also a lot of opportunity on the business side because it’s a new frontier and gaming made a lot of sense to me because gaming has a huge market around virtual goods and virtual items. Games are free, yet they monetize through virtual good sales. It’s very interesting. So my question was what do you do with this intersection? How does blockchain advance this stuff?
I got down the rabbit hole and years later, here I am, still plugging away and still waking up every day very excited.
What was the plan when you started Horizon Blockchain Games?
We started ideating in the summer of 2017 and then it was January 2018 when we got everything ready to go. The team was assembled. The first concept was a game. We wanted to get something out quick and awesome and break new ground, do things that had never been done before. That’s where the fun is.
Also whenever I’m developing, if I have an opportunity to open source something, I always do. I have a very extensive open source portfolio on GitHub. One project is called Chi, another one is called WebRPC. My project Chi has 16,000 stars. It’s used by thousands of internet companies. It was really important for me when I was growing up. I wanted to create distinguished open source work that makes an impact in the ecosystem.
When we were developing Skyweaver, the thought was if we need to make a platform first and then finally get them to make the game, it’s going to take too long. I thought ‘No, I’m going to go blitz through it, and I’m going to solve any problems that come in my way as it relates to meeting our goals’, which is making a game anyone can play and anyone can participate in while preserving the integrity of web3.
That took us on a deep journey, a lot of research and experimentation, while open sourcing a lot of components. There are many components of Sequence that are open sourced, actually. All the core is, and we’ll keep doing that. It’s an important part.
In some ways I find wallets like Metamask simpler to use because I get a seed phrase, I look after the seed phrase and I always have control. What’s the advantage of your approach with Sequence?
It’s a really good question and I guess plays back to a continuation of achieving our goals. Our goals were that anyone should be able to use web3 just like we do with the internet via the web browser. So we were exploring many different things – what part of a game belongs on a blockchain? What are the benefits of blockchain with gaming? One of the key conduits was that users who interface with the blockchain, it’s the wallet. The wallet is the thing that interfaces them with blockchain.
It’s the key conduit to allow them to access these things, so it was very clear to us that in order to solve the experience problem and to make this accessible, we had to design a wallet such that anybody could use it in a way that feels very natural.
You have to figure out the infrastructure. How do you do key management and how can you read data off a blockchain? How can you have reliable node access? How can you actually deliver transactions when you don’t even have the underlying gas token? All of these infrastructure problems are what create the friction. So that’s what we focused on. You solve the infrastructure problem and it enables the ability to have seamless user experience.
For example, if you look at Metamask, I’m not going to shit on Metamask because it’s an excellent wallet. It’s been around for a long time and it continues to do well. It’s just that it’s a very simple wallet. It’s very primitive. It’s close to the metal, close to the blockchain in terms of how you interface with it.
And that’s there’s all these things that feel very raw, that the user has to take on. What’s the gas estimation, what price should I pay? Should I cancel or wait for this to get mined? How do I get the underlying gas token?
It’s an excellent wallet because it does all the things really, really well at that level close to the metal. So we have just built other abstractions on top of that. For example, Metamask uses the single private key. It’s an externally owned account. with a public private key pair. It’s really cool but it’s a difficult thing to handle. You’re handling this very sensitive material.
We were exploring other possibilities of wallet design so back in 2019 we started developing a smart contract wallet, which is what Sequence is. It’s a different type of account primitive, which is very popular now in 2023.
It means you can have multiple different keys and they can be given different weightings. You can even evict them and rotate them. But to build something that’s fully compatible with any blockchain, that low cost, that secure is really difficult. And the wallet is just one of the primitives we have created. We have all this other stuff that builds on top of it. But basically, it’s all about infrastructure solving UX.
What’s the USP of Sequence for game developers?
When we started our company we recognized a few key problems. Blockchains have problems scaling and blockchains don’t have enough things to do on them. There’s not enough content out there. They are also hard to develop on for developers. It’s really difficult to make the content in the first place. Then for users, it’s really difficult to use. Everything is a problem. The blockchain has got a problem. The developers have a problem. The users have a problem.
We set out, you know, crazily, we’re kind of stepping into all of those things. Because we wanted to make a game that anyone could use on a blockchain
So Sequence is really focused on the consumer aspect as well as helping the developers equip their systems to be more seamless and bring the users in through that conduit. We want to see people loving the things that they’re doing on web3, showing up and having a great time with all the different content that they get to experience. For any platform, the content is the key to create utility.
Our whole job is to create this so we’ve built out this middleware infrastructure called Sequence that consists of the wallet, the node gateway, the index or the relayer, the SDKs and this is so we can enable the application layer. And the application layer enables developers to remove technical obstacles so they can be creative in the ways they want to use this technology without being experts.
This is the recipe. This is the path of Sequence. This is what we’re doing and we’re really excited. We’ve just launched Sequence Builder and we’re going to be releasing Sequence-as-a-service in 2024 to accelerate the creation of content.
And this is the advantage of having an all-in-one stack. It’s all our infrastructure and it all works really well together. As a result, there’s a lot of benefits, because the developer experience is consistent. There’s one SDK. You don’t have to Frankenstein things together. We’re going to be shipping analytics soon so you’re gonna have an analytics tab, automatic analytics for everything you’re doing.
But I think what’s unique is we also built Skyweaver which has hundreds of thousands of players and shows us what the challenges are in terms of how you monetize a game and how you get into the app store and find users. These are the things that we keep building into Sequence. And as we work with more partners, we serve their needs, which are critical to us because the only way we’re going to be successful is if our partners are successful.
Also, because we own all the infrastructure, we have more flexibility in our business model in terms of how we price these things, because you can now have a basket of these things versus spending a thousand bucks a pop on all of these different service providers. We bundle it together.
Final question, how do you think 2024 is going to pan out?
I’m really excited about 2024. It’s gonna be a very important year. It takes a long time to make this stuff but the gaming ecosystem has come a long way. There’s so many great projects.
It’s our job to support as many of them as we can in all the different modular ways that we can. But, in general, it’s going to be a rising tide. And what I’m excited about is the first gen web3 games were close to the medal. Maybe they were too much about financialization and hard to use but a lot of the games now are web2.5 or web2.7 games. Anyone can use them and have ownership, use markets. Maybe we get evolving NFTs, user-generated content, extraction shooters like Shrapnel, which is frigging really cool.
You’ll see tons of people exploring this design space in different ways, making the content, interfacing into blockchain in ways that can be sustainable to the studio and a benefit and exciting to the player. That’s why our team is, we’re motoring, we’re working very, very hard.