Rival Peak: The First MILE is the Hardest

Jacob Navok
5 min readMar 24, 2021

RIVAL PEAK released on December 2nd 2020. It was the first-ever “MILE”, or Massive Interactive Live Event, and aired live and 24/7 for thirteen consecutive weeks, finishing on March 3rd 2021. Each week culminated in a contestant elimination and twist, and was recapped by our companion series, RIVAL SPEAK, hosted by Wil Wheaton.

RIVAL PEAK came from Genvid Technologies in partnership with Pipeworks, DJ2 Entertainment and Facebook, and it had four goals.¹

Goal #1: To create something audiences would love. This was the most important goal, but also the hardest. RIVAL PEAK was brand-new IP and all of our creative decisions were based on hypothesis. After all, there weren’t any best-practices for MILEs — they didn’t yet exist!

We think we delivered on this first goal. Cumulatively, RIVAL PEAK achieved more than one hundred million minutes watched. In week four, weekly viewership was up 200%. In our final week, we were up 5400% as compared to week one. On several occasions, we achieved tens of thousands of concurrent viewers — nearly 50,000 at peak. There were over 200m engagements (likes/comments/shares) on RIVAL PEAK content.

Goal #2: To learn how to make a MILE. RIVAL PEAK worked on any platform Facebook works on, anywhere in the world. Millions of players participated in Rival Peak’s streams across 70 countries, with top markets including the United States, India, Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines. The vast majority of participants were on mobile devices, with Android dominating, followed by iPhone, and the remainder on desktop. This meant an incredibly large amount of data, sometimes proving, but more often disproving, our original hypotheses. This led to change.

For example: interaction is the core of RIVAL PEAK, with each click by a viewer affecting character’s score and/or the overall plot. We thought the most popular interaction would be contestant voting (i.e. to save someone from elimination) — but this ended up being the least common. Instead, viewers were most interested in reading more character dialogues and immersing themselves deeper in Rival Peak’s mysterious lore.

We also learned that despite the fact that the characters were just AI, what drove some of the most affinity for characters were their most human aspects, such as romantic relationships that developed between two pairs of contestants,² and of course, what audiences chose required us to adjust our storyline, content, and companion show on a weekly basis.

Hacker-X Week’s viewer client²

As a result of our learnings, RIVAL PEAK ended up looking (and functioning) very different from its launch.³ We shipped multiple new features every week including but not limited to achievements, interactive maps, leaderboards, possession (a mini game where you had to prevent a character from being possessed), tributes (a mini game where you contributed to the fan favorite), memory and match-3 puzzles, and being able to watch Rival Speak (the companion TV series) inside the app.⁴ We also massively overhauled our UI/X, especially for the onboarding experience. These enhancements helped us increase weekly viewership so enormously.

Goal #3: To learn how to technically operate a MILE. When we began preproduction in April 2020 we had to scope out the system architectures without knowing the full design capabilities. As you’re building, of course you don’t just manage your production architecture. With over 150 people working on different parts of RIVAL PEAK and RIVAL SPEAK, we needed to create complex flows to handle development, QA, art, UI/UX, sound, network, and design. We had 8 different environments each with over a dozen GPUs and hundreds of other CPU servers; at one point we ran out of GPU servers available on AWS!

We smoothed out a lot of the systems, creating conductors to turn the show on and off, auto-restarters to handle stream degradation, and alerting and data feeds to ensure that our 24/7 NOC (Network Operations Center) could not only manage the hundreds of streams we were running in various environments but also ensure the rigorous SLAs we were aiming for. And Rival Peak has not only been stable in its 99.9% uptime, it’s now able to run with minimal human oversight once the content is loaded into it.

Our winner!

Goal #4: To prove the MILE concept at large. Almost a year ago, RIVAL PEAK Producer Matthew Ball and I first outlined the MILE vision publicly. We believed that cloud-based simulations would enable the creation of an altogether new content category — one that would (eventually) unite the best of lean-back TV + lean-in TV + game livestreams + video games, while also blending aspects of reality TV with scripted dramas. We think we succeed. And many others agree.

Genvid Technologies is now in conversations with world-leading IP owners to adapt their fictional worlds and characters to the MILE genre. We see RIVAL PEAK as our “Ingress,” the title that preceded the hugely successful, polished, major IP-led “Pokémon Go” for Niantic, and now we’re excited to put all our learnings towards making what comes next. (Come join us — Genvid is hiring at https://www.genvidtech.com.)

— Jacob Navok, CEO and Co-Founder Genvid Technologies

¹ I’m grateful to the incredible teams at Pipeworks Studios who produced the simulation and its art and game design, to the teams at DJ2 Entertainment who developed the RIVAL SPEAK companion series and wrote the dialog for the RIVALPEAK simulation, to Wil Wheaton for being an incredible host, to the actors and voice actors of RIVAL SPEAK, and to the Facebook teams that supported us, including but not limited to Matthew Henick, Vivek Sharma, Jason Rubin, Mina Lefevre, Christopher Anderson, Vinayak Rao, Emily Ford, Jeffrey Rich and David Tran. It would not have been possible without you.

² We truly had no idea who would win or get eliminated each week. I was personally surprised that Australia’s Saabun was the final winner.

³ We also shipped a bonus week of content, Hacker-X week, coming between Week 10 and Week 11 of the experience, where one of the real-world characters from Rival Speak crossed into the Rival Peak streams, hacked it, and changed the history of the simulation. This event, which was put together in four days due to COVID-19 shooting complications, was unplanned, but added to the lore and was folded into the storyline

⁴ We used the rerun technology we built during Hacker-X to keep the simulation online today; it’s now running in an indefinite “rerun” so you can experience Rival Peak as it happened. You can still read the story (much of which only plays out in the sim, not in Rival Speak) and play the minigames, but the outcomes are as the audience determined them during the original run. We’ll soon be adding additional features to rerun mode, including being able to watch all of Rival Peak’s cutscenes from the app, and a more convenient way to catch up on the story dialogs.



Jacob Navok

CEO @ Genvid Tech, formerly Shinra Tech and Square Enix