Just days from now, Artifact will be published. Valve’s card game enters the digital card game arena looking to find its place amongst established titles such as Magic: The Gathering, Gwent, and, king of the genre: Hearthstone.
After a long private beta, Artifact’s public beta went live on November 19th for the people lucky enough to acquire a beta key. So far, the beta has gone pretty well. Valve swiftly addressed people’s concerns regarding the limited amount of free-to-play modes (in a game you pay $20 for) and even introduced a way for duplicate cards to be recycled. The backlash storm has calmed since, and the game is sailing towards its launch relatively smoothly.
Since Valve seems very receptive to feedback, we wondered: What else can be done to further improve the game? How do you make a good game better? We asked card game legends Stanislav “StanCifka” Cifka, Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen, Muzahidul “Muzzy” Islam and Radu “Rdu” Dima what they thought would improve the game, now that they have spent many hours with Artifact.
All four players mentioned that a couple of cards should really be tweaked. Nerfed, specifically. It’s a concern heard many times before on social media. In Artifact’s Constructed mode, you won’t win if you don’t have hero X. In Draft, Rdu says “it’s a problem a problem if there are some heroes that are completely unplayable and strictly worse from any point of view, compared to others."
The heroes mentioned most often are Axe, Drow Ranger, and Legion Commander. Noting that there currently is a very uninteractive OTK in Constructed, Muzzy says: “If you’re playing green (...) you will pretty much be required to play Drow Ranger because of her signature card’s strength. If you’re playing red, the two heroes you’ll put into your deck every time are Axe and Legion Commander.”
"Valve has tweeted that a progression
system is their highest priority post-launch,"
StanCifka and Hoej also address the card Cheating Death -- a green card that gives all friendly units in a lane a 50% chance to survive any lethal damage for as long as Cheating Death is in play.
“It’s a really frustrating card to play against and to play with. Both players get that bad feeling when they don’t hit a good 50/50,” Hoej remarks, “They could redesign it so that you know which unit will survive and which one won’t, so you can play around it.” StanCifka adds: “I understand why it is in the game, and I don’t mind RNG, but this feels like a little too much.”
In an interview with Game Informer, Richard Garfield already said that nerfs in Artifact will be kept to a minimum: “The only reason to nerf a card is in the unlikely situation where everyone has to play this card or they’ll lose.”
Progression & Rankings
This is kicking in an open door a bit -- Valve has tweeted that a progression system is their highest priority post-launch. Rightfully so, by the way. While the first days of trying out a new game players will come back to play just because the new experience is that much fun, eventually that charm wears off. Giving players objectives to work towards can be an incredibly effective method to keep them enthralled and engaged.
"A progression system would be good for the new player base,” Muzzy notes. “My priorities are a bit different, since I’m interested in playing competitively and at high levels.”
An unsurprising request from competitive-oriented players is a way to rank players, to see who is the absolute best in Artifact. Another tough feature to make perfect, design-wise. Most competitive games have a ladder system, which can get notoriously grindy.
“I think it’s super important to have some kind of a ladder system, because as a competitor you will find Draft and Constructed boring really fast if the only progress you can make is achieving ‘perfect runs’, Hoej says. He explains that Magic: The Gathering Online used an MMR system based on tournament performances, but that too has its flaws: “I’m pretty sure they will have some kind of ranked system, otherwise I’m only going to play Artifact whenever a tournament comes up.”
Quality of Life
Lastly, there changes and additions the pros would like to see to improve the experience when interacting with the game itself. For Muzzy, one specific change tops all his other requests: “The #1 most important point, I think, is that Draft mode should have a permanently included deck tracker. When I first started playing the game, a deck tracker was included and showed your opponent’s entire list.”
He adds that it helped him learn the game when he was first in, but also gave him more room to think strategically. Hoej agrees: “In my opinion it increases the skill level, since you can play around cards.”
Hoej makes another suggestion: improving Artifact’s in-game ‘history’ function. “It could be nice if they had an overview of plays, (...) where you can look what your opponent did if you go and make some coffee or just look at something else.” Indeed, it requires all of your attention to follow exactly what your opponent is doing in a game of Artifact. “You can only look at the last-played card, and it also doesn’t say how the card was used.”
StanCifka cites more options for in-game tournaments: “The tournament mode and its set-up options are amazing, but there are still some features that could be added. Mainly, the option to change tournament settings even if it has already begun.”
But StanCifka’s biggest pet peeve has to do with the deck builder’s filter options: “When you filter your collection for green cards, your deck will also only show green cards. If you’re building a red-green draft, and want to look for one last green card to add to your deck, all the red cards also disappear from your deck.”
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.