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Artifact: What Went Wrong? (thezvi.wordpress.com)
130 points by Ariarule 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

Some things that weren't covered in this article.

The beta players said that Valve largely ignored their feedback, and only made trivial changes. Richard Garfield said in an interview that people consistently didn't like some aspects of Artifact, but that him and his team knew what was best for the game, so they mostly disregarded complaints about RNG and some cards being frustrating to play against.

There were unrealistic expectations about Artifact. Some of the people in the beta couldn't stop singing its praises, calling it the best game ever made. After launch, one of the other beta testers said that a lot of the people publicly praising the game had privately said that they were trying to use the hype around a new Valve game to launch a twitch/youtube career, and they didn't actually like the game. There were also features present in the beta that had been silently cut before release, and some game breaking bugs that were present in the beta, and never got fixed.

A while ago, while talking to a friend about game design, I had the realization:

Players will quit over issues they see in a game, even when in actuality those are non -issues.

That's the thing, you can't ignore how a game feels to the players. In Artifact's case, it has a lot of very up front RNG, but on paper, it's balanced. It just feels unbalanced because people mainly remember when they lost because of bad RNG, not when they won because of it. One of the designers for MtG talked about it, and said that trying to fight human nature in game never works. It doesn't matter how many stats and formulas the designers have that shows that the game is balanced, if it makes players feel bad, they overwhelmingly won't like it.

I think Jeff Kaplan said something about that, maybe in a GDC conference? About how even perceived imbalance should be fixed even if the numbers show things are balanced. I think players just don’t have the words to describe what is bothering them, so its just “broken”, “unbalanced”, etc

Never played the beta I do think it's the best card game I've ever experienced.

There’s something missing here. The insiders club created by the closed beta. Only famous personalities were allowed access.

Enormous hype leading up to the launch was wasted by gating the majority of players into watching streams.

This led to the creation and widespread awareness of a meta game before non-casual players could even touch the game. Arguably, one of the most fun times to play a game is during launch, before spikes know what to netdeck and most are clowning around.

> before spikes know what to netdeck and most are clowning around

What does this mean?

Spikes = players who are highly competitive and keep up with the current meta-gaming ideas

Netdecking = pejorative term for creating a deck based on meta-game archetypes researched online/from more experienced players instead of solely through personal trial and error.

why is it considered pejorative? Learning off better players is a smart strategy imho.

Netdecking isn't really about learning from other players. It's like calling someone a script-kiddy rather than a hacker. Someone netdecking would not be able to craft that deck on their own, and is not looking to learn the skills to do so from it. They just want something with a stable winrate that someone else has researched.

>why is it considered pejorative?

There are two aspects to playing a collectable card game[1] - building a deck (done on your own), and 'driving' the deck (playing your deck against other people). They generally correspond to strategic and tactical thinking; one tries to solve the problem of "how to win", the other looks to "what is the correct play in this particular instance".

Generally speaking, building a deck is considered _much_ harder to do, because the problem space is so much bigger. Coming up with lines (avenues of play that let you win the game), understanding the mechanics that create synergy, understanding how your deck interacts with other decks and how it answers (or ignores) various types of threats, how it addresses common issues (card draw, mana curves, late game vs early game strategies, etc), what to sideboard - these are hard things to do, especially in a game like Magic where there's a non-trivial number of cards rotating in and out of Standard. It's actually even harder than that, because there are multiple ways to win, so you have to add another layer above that.

Netdeckers focus exclusively on the mechanics of playing the game using a deck list someone else has come up with. It's a pejorative because a lot of times these players don't understand what they're doing, they just know "person x used this deck to win tournament y, and I watched a stream where they talked about how to play it". This is a bigger problem when playing in the Real World, because these players don't have an understanding of the rules/mechanics of the game that makes the deck "good", which is very frustrating to play with. They outsource a lot of the strategic thought and understanding of the game to someone else. They play very deterministically and don't know how to read the table/how to get a sense of what their opponent's deck is trying to do. You can get pretty far piloting a good deck, but you're never going to be _good_ at the game.

[1] I'm going to focus on Magic the Gathering because it's the most well known/popular of these, and is the most copied...because they've spent a long time learning these lessons the hard way.

It's mostly an attitude held by more casual players who don't want to spend money buying specific cards to play along with the current metagame. They see netdecking as either paying to win, which in some sense it is, in Magic: the Gathering at least, or just 'cheating' when someone assembles a deck from a list they found online.

People who play magic more competitively definitely do not have this attitude and spend a lot of time experimenting with the meta, and reading about it and the deck archetypes for the format(s) they play in. Including tournament winning deck-lists.

Because it only leeches from the collective pool of knowledge / experiments, instead of experimenting and trying different things which could lead to diversity. Some people won't have the time to pull off experimenting though, and it is also possible to get inspired by someone else their deck. It is also a form of jealousy/spite by those who do spend time; as they see other people who spend (far) less time in the game, to overcome challenges.

For me, I am a former MtG player (mostly end 90s), and the game is 100% P2W, as is Hearthstone. I enjoyed the orig. SWCCG a lot as it was very different, but it also was more... weird and roleplayish like. Other than that, Micropose's 1997 MtG was buggy (hehe and put off turbo button to make game speed go down) but at least also somewhat fun, and allowed players to play with old cards for not much money. The only other CCGs which are not P2W are Netrunner and Slay The Spire (inspired by Netrunner and not really a _C_CG but rather a card game with rogue-like element; it does have the arena/deck building aspect to it though!).

Because everyone running the exact same meta is a very boring game. Instead of each game being it's own unique battle, it's the same battle ad infinitum.

It's more of a "You're not good enough to do anything but copy others" sort of thing. Tracing a Picasso will give you a pretty piece of art, but it doesn't make you a legendary artist.

Most people don't care that much, but you can also see issues if the community is mostly all copying the same 3-5 people's strategy, since that makes the game feel samey and boring.

In chess the beginning of the game is called opening. Its a set of pre-calculated/analyzed moves that lead game into different type of positions (styles of play).

It would be madness to call people who use 'openings' lazy etc.

It's literally how the skill levels of given game are improved. If something works, use it, then improve it/evolve it and lift the skill cap of the game up.

As a huge CCG buff (top 10-100 finishes in YGO, Hearthstone, MTGA), I tried to get into Artifact for ~80hrs. There are some really great things buried in the game:

1. The heroes add a bit of consistency to draw RNG. The equipment to upgrade them was also pretty cool.

2. The three lanes set up can create some crazy mind gaming / outplay comebacks.

3. The draft experience was fantastic. The color restrictions of the heroes was a bit less punishing than MTG but still required some thought.


Unfortunately there were WAY too many issues for the game to survive:

1. Expense was way too high to play constructed. No one is going to pay ~$60 for a single deck in an unproven game.

2. The RNG was too obvious. It doesn't matter how skill based the game actually was when a significant portion of games were decided by coin flip attacks. The frustration will drive people away.

3. Game length. 20 minutes is just too long to spend with Artifacts simple mechanics and RNG losses.

4. Progression. There was no meaningful rewards for playing. Keeper drafts were prohibitively expensive. Getting packs naturally was just too slow to feel like you'd ever be able to make a decent deck. Competitive ranking was non-existent at release.

I actually think an Artifact re-launch could be successful.

The common comparison with Artifact is with Dota 2, as it's the IP that Artifact was based off of.

They're also both 'complex' games. Complex in the sense of having lots of intricate mechanics that make up the game state. Dota 2 has its reliable vs. unreliable gold mechanics, while Artifact has its nuanced system of keywords and three lanes.

However, I would argue that having high complexity in a game is fine. What's more important in games like these is feedback on every individual decision.

In Dota 2, there are clear mini-success and mini-fail states that build up over the course of a game. Destroy a tower, kill a hero, eliminate a Rax. These are clear moments of feedback that unequivocally gives Players an advantage.

But in Artifact, these same decisions all had to be interpreted. Only the language between the games was the same. For instance, killing a Hero or a Tower wouldn't necessarily be the correct decision. Even typically simple decisions like 'buffing a Hero' or 'winning a combat trade' had to be weighed against everything else happening in the game. Every board state resisted simple answers.

This ambiguity was both Artifact's greatest strength and its greatest downfall. At its best, Artifact was a game in its own class. No easy answers and a high volume of meaningful decision making made for a really unique card game. It was the game that ruined Hearthstone and MTG for me, as they started to feel too 'slow' in comparison.

But, good luck introducing anyone to the game. Good luck trying to get better at it either. If every decision has to be interpreted (especially when the results of decisions can be delayed for multiple turns), how is any player realistically going to get better at the game? It's no wonder that so many people bounced off the game.

I enjoyed the point about tutorials. As far as tutorials go, it was maybe the best I've seen. At some point though, no matter if I know I can take 1 of 10 actions, I still have to make a decision and I had no idea which one to make or how to model my thinking to help me.

I think if you look at a comparison like Dota or League, whenever a new player is being given an explanation of the game, they are told to just "last-hit" the minions for gold. This is sort of mini-game within the game and allows players to feel like they are achieving something while also improving their skills. It creates simple gameplay in a complex game. Without simple actions or choices to improve at the game starts complex and remains that way throughout. This creates a high barrier to an intuitive understanding of the game, and I think intuitively people understand whether a game is fun or not.

It seems like the common wisdom in Artifact is that the economic model was bad. I think Zvi is correct in saying, Artifact was just not a good enough game.

Personally, I enjoy fairly complex games, and I’m willing to spend money to try games out. But I just found that Artifact was way too complicated to be enjoyable. It is hard to follow what’s going on while watching a stream on Twitch.

If Artifact was fun but expensive, it could have found a core that loved playing it. But no, there are more people streaming and watching the indie card game Slay the Spire (which isn’t free to play) nowadays on Twitch, than there are people watching Artifact.

So I don’t think the biggest problem was the price; the biggest problem was the gameplay.

Worth noting that Slay the Spire is one of the best deck builder games and arguably the one that started the recent craze.

It's also a rogue-lite, which are the most streamable types of games.

Games where you're winning up until the point of losing (Slay the spire, Fortnite) are easy for a person watching to answer, "Is this person winning?" because they answer is always yes.

Tuning into someone playing Dota, CSGO or a cardgame that is harder to answer, because they have to know enough about the current game-state (often both visible and hidden) including past states to make that judgement.

Slay the spire has fun amounts of randomness with a seriously challenging top-end difficulty. (The world's best have a ~30% win rate against A20 hearts).

But STS is also single player, and it's not really a card game in the pure sense. The player is playing cards but critically, and this is key to the balance and fun of STS, the opponent is not.

The computer never tries to play cards, which means it never tries and fails to be good at playing cards. The enemies movesets have almost nothing to do with card playing which has leant the developers the freedom to explore some really unique and fun enemies such as the reptomancer which spawns more and more minions or the spaghetti monster which can add curses (negative cards) to the player deck permanently, or the transient smoke monster where you're not supposed to kill it's 999hp because it runs away after a few turns anyway.

That wouldn't be possible in a game where the enemies were designed to use the actual cards, because it would risk that power creeping into the player, which would inevitably eventually win.

This form of deck-builder where it's only the player playing a card game is the real breakthrough that STS made, it breaks all the rules of deck builders but still works.

That combined with the streambility means that it supports a few streamers who stream almost uniquely slay the spire.

I recently started playing Mythgard - it seems a bit like artifact _done right_. It has the same ups artifact: grid-like play, satisfying combinations and outcomes, clever sacrifices and distractions, but doesn't rid the player of control: you can select what to attack and when to attack, most cards don't have any delays and the whole game feels like "you are playing" it.

The biggest issue with Artifact was that it wasn't an enjoyable game for big majority - it felt that you're sitting in the back seat while the game unrolls and often you don't get any useful feedback. The absurd amount of RNG, eventhough managable, made people feel bad and unsatisfied.

At the end of the day no one wants to play a game which isn't satisfying and Artifact was exactly that.

This article captures a lot of the issues that I had with Artifact. I ~really~ wanted to like it; I've very fond of other Garfield games like Magic, Android Netrunner, and Keyforge and had a friend that was very excited about the game. But in the end, it didn't hook me.

The issues that stuck out to me:

1. The complexity, particularly when watching a stream/game where you're not intimately familiar with the decks in use.

2. Lack of a budget format.

3. Valve failed to move in the right direction when there were problems. Games have recovered from much worse launches, but Valve responded too little, too late to the issues.

Valve is known for not forcing their employees to work crazy hours, but that might have hurt their ability to keep people playing. Less than a month after Artifact launched, everyone went on Christmas/New Years vacation, leaving a 3 week gap with no updates or communication from the devs. They lost over half the remaining players over those 3 weeks, partly because nobody was sure about the future of the game, causing a "prisoner's dilemma" with who was going to sell their card before the value tanked.

I have played 5 different collectible card games and I'm big on board games. But even watching different people explain Artifact on video I couldn't grasp it. It's borderline unwatchable and streaming is a huge part of these games' communities.

Valve habitually ignored needed update on dota2

There were bugs affecting game play in the 30mm TI9

Just a symbol of their lack of attention to basic staff.

Dota 2 has hundreds if not thousands of bugs.

But the they (and this particular one you listed) are not as critical as you make it sound.

Well it's 30MM on stake, and 3X more already in valves pocket. I don't think it's tolerable to see bugs in this event.

Any software has bugs, more so for games.

Can you elaborate on the bugs that affected TI9? Any that affected outcomes? I watched many of the games and didn't see anything amiss, but I'm far from a pro.


I recall there are others, and happens in Ti8 as well.

Value was dubed the vacation company in Chinese dota2 community.

> Artifact had in effect a perfectly reasonable economic model, but players did not see it that way.

CCG player stockholm syndrome is why we can't have nice things.

>> Artifact had in effect a perfectly reasonable economic model, but players did not see it that way.

I don't think it really did though. Artifact took Magic the Gathering's payment model verbatim (pay for a starter set, pay for booster packs, pay for entrance any activities where you might win more cards) but removed the thing that makes that work for Magic the Gathering: face to face interaction with other human beings at your Local Game Store. If we compare it vs. it's more direct competition (digital CCGs) it's a worse proposition for the average non/low spending player, but even if we do the kindest thing and compare it against what it's directly copying it's still a strictly worse deal.

It's easier to pay for a physical product, especially one where you can employ the doctrine of first sale and reuse them in any way you choose.

With Artifact you couldn't even sell your deck without paying Valve again. Fuck. That. Card games are already expensive, you didn't need to make it worse.

Yeah, I think this is one of the biggest points: they were marketing to the wrong demographic. Dota players like to laugh at League players for having to buy heros, so even if a competitive deck is only $200 which is really good compared to other CCGs, that price is super high to a video game player steeped in the philosophy that "mtx should be cosmetic only, anything else is pay to win."

On the other hand, look at the article's point 7: the economic model was fundamentally flawed through oppressive transaction fees plus a conception of cards as both valuable (resale) and free (via card rewards).

Players don't see a game's economic model in its ideal state, they see the economic model as implemented.

I don't think the economic model is why Artifact failed. The reason Artifact failed is that it's not fun.

Well, I for one didn't want to pay $20 to get a game i might not like where I have to pay ~~$100ish to test-out a deck I might end up not liking.

Seriously, when compared to Hearthstone (biggest, well establish competitor) free to try, can grind the cards, side modes, single player 'adventure' expansions etc. Valve throws Artifact as competition, unpolished product that wants your money upfront.

Valve needs to unstuck their head from the rearend, cuz they are no longer beloved internet darling.

I think Reason 2 really hits the nail on the head. Very few multiplayer get away with properly rewarding player skill. The new Quake seems to have the same problem. Most of the population consists of veterans, which makes it so that new players have a hard time getting opponents at their level, thus creating a nasty feedback loop. Getting into Artifact today would probably be a similar experience. I think it is a peculiar trend, as single player games seems to be going in the opposite direction with titles like Dark Souls, the plethoras of insanely difficult indie titles and speedrunning like practices growing more popular by the day.

The most efficient way to adress this "problem", while still keeping the qualities of a high skill ceiling, seems to be scale and strict matchmaking. With that in mind, it is sad that Artifact never got off. The evenly matched games that I had during the first week of release where some of the most exciting experiences I have had.

The world is full of games that properly reward skill and some people really enjoy them. But the mass market (including me) prefer entertainment to challenge. This is why gambling is much more popular than chess. The alchemy is to create a game with enough luck that a casual / unskilled player is occasionally rewarded, but skill ultimately dominates. Like poker for example. Pure skill games tend to have small audiences.

I would say in general I agree with your point, but there are many pure skill games that have large audiences. Like most sports have incredibly low RNG compared to something like poker, but have giant audiences.

True. Gymnastics, for example, is very popular but it is a pure skill competition. The problem is that the world doesn't need a lot of new pure skill competitions because competitions for most natural skills already exist. And they often have big audiences. But the business of games is usually selling entertainment to participants.

Conflating audience with participant? There are a miniscule number of sports participants compared to the sports audience.

Professional players maybe, but how many millions and millions of recreational players?

Most gamers aren't pros either.

I'd bet civilian/recreational players are also a tiny minority. Depends upon where you are of course. But hard to reconcile the 'obese American' with the image of a nation of sportspeople, for instance.

They probably are a minority, but how does that relate? There are still millions of people participating in the game, having more spectators doesn't negate the participants. If anything I think that would reinforce it being a good game.

> Dota 2 takes dozens of hours before one is able to play the game as anything other than a training exercise

Hundreds even before it is consistently fun. But people have been playing Dota for well over a decade and it's pretty common for newbies to have fun because they have someone good on their team that carries to the point where the new player gets to feel the magic of being OP in Dota. I think that's a big part of the complexity problem with Artifact - everyone I've ever seen get into Dota 2 without having played Dota 1 had a friend who was good enough to make the games fun.

Personally I could never get into dota until it freed itself from the UX restrictions of being a custom map for another game. With matchmaking you get even games even at low skill levels, I certainly didn't find that I had to sink 100s of hours into it before it got fun (I don't think I've played more than 100 yet).

That's good. Maybe matchmaking has improved because when I was starting out I had a ton of games where I was against a duo-queue and the high skill player just dominated the game.

Oh it's definitely not perfect, you still get plenty of games where you're poorly matched. But it's good enough to be fun if you're willing to take a beating sometimes, and make judicious use of the ignore function.

For me it was the economic model.

I play Magic the Gathering (Arena) regularly and own and enjoy Slay the Spire as well. I was really interested in Artifact, but it seemed cost-prohibitive to play it casually so I never tried it.

I played roughly 150 hours of Artifact, almost entirely the free draft mode. Gameplay is more interactive and interesting than MTG or Netrunner, which are in turn better than Hearthstone. Artifact automates the small stuff for you leaving you to play this lovely resource-balancing bluffing game. For a metaphor, playing MTG feels like writing code to spec, while playing Artifact feels like architecturing a complex system. Same decisions but more abstracted, with greater chances for failure or brilliance.

I'm sad the game died. I agree with this article's post-mortem, it's largely Valve's failure to test the "outer loop". I hope we get a worthy successor eventually. (STS is great but single-player only)

I personally found the disparity between my individual opinion and the crowd consensus was really interesting. It seemed to be a great game that fixed all of my gripes with hearthstone and magic. There was just this tidal wave of negative opinion that seemed to come in large part from people that didn't understand or in some cases never played the game themselves.

To borrow the board game analogy from the article. If you've been led to believe you're getting an updated Settlers of Catan and instead get Advanced Civilization, you're going to have a negative opinion of the game, even if Advanced Civilization is actually a great game with lots of fans.

I’m a magic and hearthstone player and it just didn’t look appealing to me at all. I watched a couple of game play demos even Richard Garfield playing it, and I struggled to find where the ‘fun’ was supposed to be. It just looked so complicated and serious.

I liked Artifact quite a bit, but I'll admit that it wasn't "fun" at all to me. I played it for the challenge, similar to how people will go to the gym, do puzzles, or do difficult hikes. They marketed it as a fun game for everyone, but in reality it was designed for people who wanted to play competitively.

I've been playing magic for more than 20 years, I played a lot of Hearthstone when it first came out and I've played hundreds of hours of Elder Scrolls Legends (which I liked a lot more than Hearthstone, but nowhere near as much as Magic).

I really wanted to be drawn in by Artifact, but every time I read about the basic concepts, the rules or strategies it never sounded fun and appealing. So, in the end I didn't buy it.

For me the business model was the biggest turn-off.

If I wanted some big CCG company to take my lunch money, I could always invest in an established platform already, like Hearthstone.

What I'd consider an interesting alternative, would be a less greedy game with an initial AAA entry fee ($60), and then nothing else. Just, nothing else. It's financially viable, if a giant production like The Witcher 3 can profit this way, any card game can.

If they really wanted, they could introduce maybe some cosmetic card back covers, announcers, avatars etc. in a silly gem shop I'll never visit anyway, but the game loop and the outer loop of getting new cards and deck building should be free. In fact, for such competitive games, it should offer no pay2win option at all. Let me play the game, win and get stuff after every match, feel that I'm progressing through the game without ever having to worry about my IRL wallet. If I win, I win, if I lose, I know that I lost fair and square and I must improve.

There are enough venues in this world for pissing contests over money already, why would I ever want to concern myself over real money in a virtual world. For most genres of games paywalling the progression is pretty much unheard of (except for maybe (bi-)yearly expansion packs), yet for CCGs this is considered normal, and no company ever tries to flip the table.

Maybe there was no demand for yet another money-grabbing CCG.

>> if a giant production like The Witcher 3 can profit this way, any card game can.

In theory yes, but in practice a CCG needs to be updated a lot and for years to be viable, while a game like Witcher doesn't. Would you pay $60 for the CCG game where you can't add new cards? Charging as you go seems to fit the model of player activity and developer activity.

You can charge for expansions directly, though. Just pay and get all the new cards.

There are many other online & well-updated games though, there's an entire genre of them: MMORPGs, yet they came up with quite sensible/much less predatory business models, at least compared to CCGs.

Some have buy2play with bi-yearly expansions & cosmetic shops, some have subscription-based models, and others, mostly asian fp2 ones have a more a la carte approach, yet even those would pale in comparison to CCG greed. Those games get entire new gameplay modes, quests, worlds added via updates, yet they can manage. I see no reason why a CCG can't.

What went wrong? Valve released a soulless cash-in trying to capitalize on the card-game-with-kid-friendly-aesthetics trend, a day late and a dollar short. The market responded accordingly.

Valve released a soulless cash-in

I haven't played it, but this what the author of the article wrote in his review:

"Artifact is an amazing game. Artifact is gorgeous, immersive and flavorful, hilarious, innovative, exciting, suspenseful, skill testing, strategically complex and rewarding. The execution is bug-free and flawless. It is the most fun I have had playing a game in a long time."

That certainly doesn't sound like soulless cash-in. It sounds more like the designed a very lovingly crafted, very niche, game and then had no idea what to do with it.

The fundamental big mistake was having 3 boards at once.

I have no idea how they thought that would be an acceptable design given that nowadays it's well known that mainstream people are unwilling to learn any interface that is even slightly complex.

That's a very long article without even a single sentence about what Artifact is.

The guy was (is?) a top level Magic: the Gathering Player, I figure it was written for his blog audience (who would know what Artifact is) and not for a more general audience.

Well, yes. It's a blog post on a blog focused on, among other things, game design and economics, with a focus on MtG and Artifact. Readers are presumed to be at least passingly familiar with the subject - HN is not the target audience.

I would celebrate to see more of this sort of content on HN - while it may require some research, I find that these sorts of articles by people passionate about a topic are often more accurate, insightful, and interesting than a traditional journalistic overview.

What is it?

A card game designed by Richard Garfield (creator of Magic: The Gathering) and Valve. It was super hyped up pre-release, then became a massive failure due to Valve ignoring tons of negative feedback and thinking that they know better than the people playing. They say they are still working on it, but the last time it got an update was January 28th, 2 months after release.

That was the last actual update, but I think the last time they said anything about the game was this "Towards a Better Artifact" post on March 29: https://playartifact.com/news/1819924505115920089

It says they were going to focus on addressing the larger issues instead of continuing to update it, but it's just been complete silence for over 6 months since then. Like Zvi says at the end of the article, at this point there's no longer any significant time pressure, because everyone's already given up on it. If they do plan to try and re-launch it (and I don't think that's a certainty), they might as well take as long as they need to make sure it's done right the second time.

I can't imagine anyone being hyped for it. What will always stick out in my mind is the immediate reaction to the games announcement, by Valves own core fans.


A card game made by Valve: https://store.steampowered.com/app/583950/Artifact/

Very low player numbers (126 peak within the last day): https://steamcharts.com/app/583950

IMHO there are some parallels to the MMO Wildstar here. Both are products aimed directly at the most hardcore fans, but architected such that you need a reasonably large playerbase to sustain the game. The developers refused to water down the game mechanics for the filthy casuals, and as a result made a game that was absolutely perfect for a niche of game players too tiny to maintain multiplayer critical mass. Shortly after release the game implodes.

I hope that Artifact isn't abandoned by Valve and they spend time to update (refactor?) the game to make it more enjoyable. I never even had the chance to play because the narrative surrounding the game was so murky and then everything fell apart.

I was and still am excited to play it but not until it's ready. On the other hand Valve's team making Underlords is doing a very good job. Valve still has passion and talent.

"Randy Buehler reported it took him about two weeks to start understanding things well enough to begin having fun."

When someone like him has such trouble understanding and enjoying the game, reaching and captivating a broad enough audience for profitability is a tall order.

Especially when you have a fairly steep up-front cost discouraging new players from trying it out, plus the promise of a lot more cash sinks if you want to keep playing.

IMHO Valve priced itself right out of the market. Multiplayer games require a critical mass of players to stay alive but Valve was running it like a niche hobby.

almost off topic - i think every card game fan should take at least 15 minutes to look at prismata: https://prismata.net/

An interesting perspective would have been to compare it with the relative success of autochess, even though to my eye it looks also complex and confusing.

TBH I saw this coming at the reveal premiere when everyone was boo'ing at it.

They didn't know how to present and to what people.

Yeah, but does it really matter? Blizzard in contrast knows very well how to present their stuff and they (should at least) know their audience well. Well, and then they presented Diablo Immortal ...

I'm convinced that the problem is the economic model. F2P is just such an overwhelmingly positive and casual friendly model that any other failures may be attributed to that. It may be that the other points have some merit, but there is no way to know if they do until the paywall is removed.

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