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.
Players will quit over issues they see in a game, even when in actuality those are non -issues.
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.
What does this mean?
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.
There are two aspects to playing a collectable card game - 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.
 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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were bugs affecting game play in the 30mm TI9
Just a symbol of their lack of attention to basic staff.
But the they (and this particular one you listed) are not as critical as you make it sound.
I recall there are others, and happens in Ti8 as well.
Value was dubed the vacation company in Chinese dota2 community.
CCG player stockholm syndrome is why we can't have nice things.
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.
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.
Players don't see a game's economic model in its ideal state, they see the economic model as implemented.
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.
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.
Most gamers aren't pros either.
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.
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'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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very low player numbers (126 peak within the last day): https://steamcharts.com/app/583950
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.
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.
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.