We’re celebrating the official release of Streamlabs Desktop V1 by interviewing one of the most influential people to work on the project. Andy Creeth is the Head of Frontend Engineering on the Streamlabs Desktop team. He has been with the team for around 4 years and has been instrumental in the design, implementation, and creation of Streamlabs Desktop. In this blog, we sat down with Andy to discuss the development of Streamlabs Desktop over the years, how it’s changed, and some of the features he is most proud of.
One of the first things people will want to know is what’s new in the latest release and what’s the reason for releasing V1 now?
The main thing we focused on for this release was expanded VST plugin support and stability. There are also a bunch of under-the-hood tweaks, performance, and stability fixes. We also upgraded Electron, the desktop framework that powers our app.
Obviously, from a feature perspective, this isn’t the huge sweeping set of changes some people might expect from a 1.0 release. Nearly four years ago, we launched Streamlabs Desktop with a V0 version number to reflect the fact that it was beta software, and that there might be some bugs we still needed to squash, and some features might be incomplete or missing. We put our heads down and got to work fixing bugs, improving performance, adding new features, and continually shipping new updates. Four years later we had millions of streamers relying on our software, had plugged most of the missing feature gaps, grown our theme library to thousands of themes, and added an App Store for 3rd party devs to expand functionality. It quickly became apparent that the V0 version number didn’t really match the reality of where we are today.
Streaming has really taken off in the last few years, and many new people have taken up the hobby. I think many people would be surprised to learn that Streamlabs didn’t always have streaming software. Can you explain the history of Streamlabs, what we were before we built Streamlabs Desktop and how Twitch Alerts became Streamlabs?
Yeah, it’s incredible how much live streaming has grown over the years. Twitch Alerts is the core of Streamlabs that everything else was built around. It was an alert and donations service for Twitch streamers. Vulcan acquired Twitch Alerts in the Fall of 2015, quickly rebranded as Streamlabs and immediately got to work seeing how we could expand functionality and cater to all the needs of a Twitch streamer. It eventually became clear that we could do so much more if the service was fully integrated into the streaming software. That was the idea that led to Streamlabs Desktop.
What inspired the team to take on the massive task of creating your own version of streaming software?
It seemed clear to us that there was a gap in the streaming software market for a really powerful, yet approachable all-in-one solution. There were plenty of extremely powerful applications out there, including the amazing open-source OBS Studio, on which Streamlabs Desktop is based. The problem with a lot of these applications is that they can be tricky to pick up and get started with because there’s so much functionality. On the other hand, you had a lot of quick and easy streaming apps which were great for getting started, but most streamers would quickly outgrow them. Our goal with Streamlabs Desktop was always to create an approachable app that you could log in and go live with a few clicks but had enough advanced functionality that you would never outgrow it.
How many people contribute to the development of Streamlabs Desktop now compared to when you first started working on it?
When we first started, there were 2 of us working on the project. Fast forward to today and we have a full-time team of 6 engineers and 1 dedicated QA person. We’ve certainly grown, but it’s honestly a pretty small team compared to the scope of the project. But everyone on the team works hard and is passionate about what we’re building, so we’re able to get a lot done.
What do you think makes Streamlabs Desktop stand out compared to other software?
It’s a one-stop shop. Streamlabs Desktop will set up your stream key, get you started with some scenes and a theme, give you some stream-cleared music, and integrate your chat and recent events all in one place. You just need to show up and go live.
What is the feature that you are most proud of, and why?
It’s a simple thing, but I think our expandable chat dock is a critical piece of the Streamlabs Desktop experience. It became clear to us early on that chat is your lifeline to your viewers. We felt this was so important that we took it completely outside of the navigation hierarchy of the rest of the app. No matter where you go in the Streamlabs Desktop, your chat and your viewers will follow you.
From a technical perspective, undo/redo was really challenging to build. Streamlabs Desktop wasn’t designed with undo functionality from the beginning, and it’s something that’s really tough to add after the fact. Ultimately we felt it was a critical missing piece and we had to add it. It was a fun challenge to work through, and I think it probably saved a lot of people’s mistakes over the years.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from developing Streamlabs Desktop?
Honestly, to just build the software you would want to use. In the early days of Streamlabs Desktop, we were spending hours streaming games to zero viewers on Twitch. A lot of our early design decisions were based on what would have made our own experiences more enjoyable. Your best work will always come from building something that solves a problem you understand and can empathize with.
Lastly, the industry is growing rapidly. Streaming used to be very gaming-centric, but we’ve seen other verticals embrace streaming as an alternative way to stay connected with people, especially since the lockdown. How do you think the streaming industry will continue to evolve, and what do you think some of the biggest changes to the industry will be in the next 2–3 years?
I think we’re at the cusp of an explosion of live streaming. Gaming is relatively unique because it happens in an environment that’s easy to capture, with reliable internet access, which makes it easy to stream. But technology is rapidly enabling streaming from anywhere with faster cell networks, better mobile cameras, and generally lower cost equipment. We’ve seen this with an explosion in non-gaming categories on Twitch, as well as other non-gaming focused streaming platforms massively growing. It’s an exciting time to work in live streaming, for sure.
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You can download Streamlabs Desktop here.
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