Media Event 2: Electric Bugaloo seems to be in full effect, as we got another release of new Artifact content, this time including an interview with Dr. Garfield and Jeep Barnett! My analysis of yesterday's Rock Paper Shotgun article seemed to be fairly popular, so I am just going to run it back today.
First, let’s talk about the gameplay video quickly.
It was a very similar video to what we have seen before: two rounds of playing the blue green deck against the red black deck. There were a few cards that we saw here that might not have been shown previously, but nothing stood out to me from the gameplay that was fantastically “new”. I should note that creeps appeared to generate 1 gold, not 2, which contradicts the RPS article from yesterday, but is in keeping with all previous videos/reports.
It should also be noted that they mention that pack openings would contribute to e-sports in some ways. GabeN mentioned this in his presentation from March as well, and it is a cool wrinkle to the competitive scene that I look forward to see how it is implemented.
Dr. Garfield and Jeep-Senpai Interview
There is a lot more meat here. I am going to go through things front-to-back.
First off, I just want to point out Jeep-senpai being in another interview. Garfield says in the interview that he is not working on Artifact full time right now, which means that Jeep is very likely going to be more involved in the long term maintenance of the game than Garfield. Garfield is obviously very involved with how the game will work at launch, but Jeep could be more important moving into the future. When people inevitably complain about balance a year from now just remember that it is Jeep's fault, not Garfield's fault.
One of the first questions asked how long Garfield had been working on Artifact, and the answer was “basically since I made Magic.” It is really interesting to me that it took this long to be able to make the game. I would be very interesting to hear Dr. Garfield speak about this more. I wonder if the revelation of the hero-mana system was some major breakthrough to get Artifact made.
As I mentioned above, Dr. Garfield talks about his involvement being most intense during the initial design. It should be mentioned that Dr. Garfield also references Skaff Elias being involved in Artifact, which is interesting. Skaff is a lesser known figure, who was involved with MTG’s early years, and is a long time friend and co-worker with Richard. I was able to find an interview with Skaff if you want to learn more about him.
The Eurogamer journalist asked a question about lore, and Jeep gave a huge info dump! Great background on the conflict between the Red Mist, the Bronze Legion, and the Vhoul. I am not going to comment much on this, since I don’t know enough about DOTA lore. Hopefully someone better versed in the subject can give a run down on what is new versus what is established in existing material from Jeep's run-down. The fact that Artifact cards are a real thing in the DOTA universe, and that they matter for some reason, is very interesting. Within the Warcraft universe Hearthstone cards are seen as a game that Warcraft characters play and have no deeper meaning, but it seems that Artifact cards have some additional relevance in the DOTA universe. Very curious.
One question that has come up multiple times on the Reddit has been about hero cards going into the future. There are clearly a lot of DOTA heroes, but there are not infinite heroes, and given the typical content release schedules of card games I imagine Artifact would run out of new heroes pretty quickly. In this interview Jeep confirms that new versions of hero cards will be released over time. This is an interesting bit of information when thinking about the long term health of the game, and theory-crafting about possible future designs. We might see new versions of popular heroes with every rotation. Will there be some naming convention to distinguish between the different versions of the heroes? Or if there will ever be a time that multiple of the same hero are legal in a format at once? These are obviously not pressing questions for the time being, but certainly something I am curious to learn more about when the time is right!
There were some comments that compared elements of Artifact to Hearthstone. The theme of “no limits” came up, which has been mentioned many times in previous releases. It is actually interesting to think about how many limits there are in Hearthstone; cards in hand, units on the board, cards in deck, etc. It was also mentioned how the board will not be constantly cleared, as is the case in Hearthstone. Given the combat system and mana system of Artifact that makes a lot of sense, since players need access to heroes for their decks to function.
Jeep specifically mentions combo decks, which must be very exciting for dedicated combo players. I know there are many of you who just live for the experience of going off with dank combos, so it seems like combo addicts will have a place in Artifact. Obviously there are no promises yet on how competitive combo decks are, but at least it seems like Valve is not avoiding the archetype all together.
The reporter asks a bit about RNG in Artifact, to which Dr. Garfield gives a very Dr. Garfield answer. I talk about this in my “Gaming According to Garfield” article and video, so check those out of you haven’t. You can also watch this talk that he gave about randomness in games, which I found very insightful.
One element of the randomness philosophy of Artifact that was new related to controlling randomness. At one point Jeep said “For anything that is randomized, there is a way to mitigate or control that randomness”. He uses the example of a hero that allows you to choose to which lane creeps are deployed (any guess who this would be? It must be a green hero, but I’m not sure who from DOTA fits that feel). The idea of allowing players to trade off between power and control is really fascinating to me, and could have massive implications in the strategy and deck building of the game. I am very curious to see exactly how this is all implemented, since this make me so anxious to get my hands on the cards. You can imagine heroes that control other types of randomness, such as giving you additional options at the store, or allow you to position your units within a lane rather than having them enter in random positions.
To close things out, Dr. Garfield gave us some background to the philosophy behind Artifact’s economy. He started off by explaining that Artifact is pay-to-win in the same sense that golf is pay-to-win; more expensive clubs are helpful, but they can only do so much. Would you bet on an amateur golfer with a $5000 set of clubs, or Tiger Woods with a $500 set of clubs?
In GabeN’s presentation from last March he did talk about how price should not equal power level, and while that is a great sentiment, I didn’t feel like it was entirely fair. Someone who has access to every card is always going to have an advantage over someone who does not! As long as some of the rare cards are better than common cards some of the time then there is a competitive advantage to having access to those rare cards. I felt like Dr. Garfield’s explanation was more honest and thoughtful. Yes, there is some advantage when you have access to all the cards, but the impact of this should be fairly limited. Dumping more money into the game is not going to lead to progress if you are a bad player.
I don’t think we have any confirmation yet on how rarity will work in Artifact. Listening to this interview I am very much under the impression that rarity is a thing in Artifact, but we need a lot more information. I mean, we generally need more information on everything about the economy, but the fact that we haven’t even received confirmation about rarity is pretty neat.
That’s it for today’s news dump! Be sure to check out the article from yesterday about the Rock Paper Shotgun piece. Hopefully the flow of news continues, so I can see you all real soon!