Thoughts on Artifact

I would like to start this article by saying as far as core game engines go – I personally kind of like Artifact. As someone with a strong math and technical background, the type of game play Artifact generates feels like it has potential to me.

That being said – the point of this article is talk about about things I do not like about Artifact currently and why I’m not logging in until they get things figured out. I’d encourage you to keep in mind while you read this, that I am writing an opinion piece here. These words are my feelings on these topics and are not facts. If you feel differently, great! This piece here today is about how I feel though.

Game Play: Amazing for Some, Terrible for Many

A random review of Artifact that I read at one point described Artifact as a “10 for the players who like it, and a 2 for everyone else” and I think this description hits the nail on the head pretty firmly.

Playing Artifact feels like taking a competitive math test. You and your opponent sit there and play cards to impact the math equation sitting in the center of the board and then, once you both agree, the math equation resolves. As someone who has taught math at varying levels over the years, I feel like while this is really going to capture a subset of people like me, it alienates a lot of people who really don’t care for math as a subject.

Balance: They are still figuring this out

I certainly didn’t play enough pre-patch to know if things were balanced or not, but based on them rebalancing a number of things I am guessing they weren’t happy with the balance they had. The thing is though – it shouldn’t take 80%+ of your player base leaving to have things change. I know people who were in the closed beta who were giving them feedback on things like Ax and Cheating Death months ago and nothing happened with them aside from Cheating Death moving from a 3 cost to a 5 cost.

Game design is hard. Creating new, complex games like Artifact is hard. That being said – a mass player exodus shouldn’t be what triggers trying to fix things.

Economy: Playing Sub Games to play a game sucks

As someone who once upon a time campaigned for secondary markets in digital TCGs – I am happy to admit when I am wrong – I think they suck. Secondary markets require people to play a finance “sub game” or feel bad about spending extra money they maybe did not have to.

Take me for example – I’ve spent $175 on Artifact over the couple of weeks that I played it working on building new decks. I have most of the staple Blue and Green cards, but I don’t really have much from Red or Black. Right now you can buy a full playset of every card in Artifact for approximately $169.23 according to this site as I write this.

This means for less money than I spent to build a couple of decks, I could now have everything. In essence I feel like I was punished for wanting to play the games of Artifact when I wanted to play them.

I’m not a stranger to TCG finance having played Magic for decades. I know that cards are always going to cost more at release and I understand that I paid a premium to play when I wanted to play. You basically get two choices with a secondary market when cards release:

You pay through the nose to play with the cards when you want to play with them
You wait and don’t actually play the game you want to play till all hype is gone

As much as Hearthstone and MTGA are not perfect systems, it is nice knowing that a Legendary or Mythic card always costs the same, regardless of it is at set release or just after the card was in a Pro Tour winning decklist.

Finally – you top all of this off with the fact that there isn’t an easy and direct way to cash out of Steam wallet money. This makes me feel like we’ve lost the big appeal for having a secondary market. With paper Magic or MTGO when I am done with cards I can give them all to a vendor and get cash right away. With the way Steam works I need to jump through hoops to try and get anything out.

Content: This game makes for terrible background noise

For those who might not be familiar with me – I have been streaming Magic the Gathering full time on Twitch for all of 2018 and streamed various card games part time off and on for the better part of the last 5 years now.

Making Artifact video content is a struggle for a few reasons. The first is that there is just so much going on. Not only because of how many game boards there are, but also because of how many cards player often have in hand. It is very difficult to jump into the middle of a game of Artifact on stream and quickly assess what is going on and who is winning.

This is a big problem because, in my experience, the number of people who are watching card game content on Twitch as their primary activity is a very small number. Many people who watch digital card games on Twitch either have it on at work as their background noise – turning their attention to it when an interesting situation pops up – or are watching a stream while playing a game themselves.

This means from a content creator perspective it is likely going to be hard to have good numbers on Twitch with Artifact – and that is coming from someone who has spent lots of hours streaming MTGO.

Wrapping Up

While I don’t see myself dipping back into Artifact right away, I will likely keep tabs on it as it progresses. When we get details on how to qualify for their big cash events or when their second set drops I’ll probably poke my head back in and see how things look.

At any rate, hope you found this interesting and informative. It is something I had been wanting to write for a bit, but just hadn’t had the time to do.

Happy Holidays folks!