Artifact - Turns out Valve's still making video games

Hey so remember that card game Valve announced which made a bunch of people who, for some reason, were still waiting for Half-Life 3, real mad? They just did their biggest release of information about it since the announcement at TI7 last year. Lots of artwork, screenshots and a press event.

I don’t know if I’m necessarily excited for this game, but as someone who is tired about so many aspects of Hearthstone, I am very interested to see if Valve can make this work given their insinuations about its limitations (card collection and RNG), though the whole joint sounds much too complex to be a direct competitor. I’m fairly suspicious of how the card market will function, however.

Couple of articles about the game and background:

Stand out points:

  • "Valve wants Artifact to do for card games what Half-Life 2 did for singleplayer action games. "
  • It will NOT be free-to-play, and is explicitly a trading (as opposed to collectable) card game.
  • Cards will have individual monetary value, and may be bought and traded from the Steam marketplace.
  • Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering, has been working with Valve since 2014.
  • It’ll be out in late 2018 (Valve time not withstanding), and will be the first Source 2 game on mobile devices in 2019.
  • There’s gonna be a USD$1m tournament in 2019.
  • There are 3 boards, an unlimited hand size, and an unlimited amount of units per board? There’s a shopping round, where you can buy items to upgrade your heroes, who have abilities? I think?
  • There are cute lil imps which sit on your decks
  • There’s a better summary post about the game itself over on r/Artifact

Some quotes from Gabe Newell:

“From a really high level perspective, we really want to stay away from pay-to-win. We think that that actually has a pernicious impact on the design of the game and the evolution of the community over time… There are plenty of very common cards that are going to be super powerful. The whole point is to steer away from pay-to-win and that kind of approach. We always want to reward investment. You always want to feel like, as a player, that the more time you spend on it, you’re getting better and you’re enjoying it more. We’ve all played plenty of games where you put in the hundred hours and you really are done.”

“If time is free, or an account is free, or if cards are free, anything that has a mathematical relationship to those things ends up becoming devalued over time, whether it’s the player’s time and you just make people pay to grind for thousands of hours for minor trivial improvements, or the asset values of the cards or whatever, that’s a consequence.”

Also: here’s an extremely normal picture of Clockwerk:

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I’m…intrigued, especially after hearing Richard Garfield is attached to the project. The whole thing sounds interesting, but I already know I’m not going to get terribly invested because of how they’re modeling their economy. Thats not necessarily a knock against the model, but I’ll probably spend my money elsewhere.

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Yep, I love the sentiment (that there will be killer commons) but the reality is that the meta will involve rares, those rares will price bubble (as they are both uncommon and so scarce in the economy and in high demand as they comprise the current meta as the best card for a certain job in the dominant play style), and that’s ugly and bad (and P2W).

It’s intrinsic to the trading cards system. This is where I throw out a huge “prove me wrong” because I would like nothing better than the be proved wrong but unfortunately I’m yet to see a company run away from all the money involved with a design that ends up this way (or even a smart idea how to avoid it beyond just making a game a deck-builder where all players get access to infinite copies of all cards in the current pool - which obviously means you’re not making a trading or collectable card game - you’re making a deckbuilding game).

I have so much fun with the many ways you can play these sort of games: jumping into a booster draft and having to come up with a deck on the fly from random drafting; carefully building out a few decks that match a style I enjoy (and maybe even directly counter a few styles I know my friends enjoy); etc. But when a “full” game (the point where you can play any game of it without additional purchases) involves accumulating so many cards that it costs thousands (and so, rather than limiting your selection via a game mode or mechanics, it limits you via the size of your wallet) then it feels like an exploitative design. I’ll have a bit of fun with some casual booster drafts and maybe even build a few actual decks (with help from friends who are sucked into the habit and have boxes of spares) but I’d never get into more serious play because I know the design is fundamentally partially P2W.

I really hoped that the move to digital would push down this artificial scarcity stuff and create a huge range of games doing things differently (as is easy to do with digital stuff) but it seems like so many games are tied to the monetisation of trading and collecting rather than the interesting game design of deck building (be that random/draft or from a full pool - both being fun game modes and neither requiring players to pay money for virtual cards).


The artificial scarcity is just, extremely frustrating because there’s no excuses like printing and distro behind it. Its just a naked lootbox business model, full stop. And, that’s how a lot of physical card games have been, but I had also wished the advent of the digital card game would have…expanded or replaced that model. :frowning:

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As someone who loves dota and apparently card games now i’m kinda interested in where artifact’s going, but at the same time maaaaan that business model suuuuuucks

I’ll be less frustrated with it if it turns out the rarity are just foil and every card is the same base value or whatever, but knowing valve it definitely won’t be this

PS eternal and gwent have very good F2P structures play those card games

This game is going to rule. I’m ready for a new valve game by the guy who created MTG

Yeah. They say they’re conscious of this, and that they’re trying to make it not happen, but it seems mathematically impossible.

Maybe once you get wheels on your desk and free money from a monopoly, you start to think you can play with real world money the same way you can play with anything, not really understanding or caring about the details.

The gameplay video is pretty crazy. It’s literally Dota meets Magic. I don’t think it actually looks good …

I do wonder how they intend to control card prices, if at all - would they put price caps on them, or maybe flood the market with expensive cards at low prices?


I mean, maybe they’re just going to set up a marketplace that says “this card costs this much money flat”, either through selling singles themselves or just automating the prices? I can’t think of any more hands-off ways of controlling the market prices.

I am extremely cynical about this.

My initial impression is that Artifact is a game designed around driving people to the Steam Marketplace so that Valve can take a cut of transactions as people buy and sell cards.

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If you say you’re against P2W, and you don’t adopt a Living Card Game model, I’m going to be very hesitant that believe anything you say about game monatization. Say what you will about the mechanical design of something like Android: Netrunner, but it sure doesn’t have pricey chase rares.

I’m not sure I really want to invest in ANOTHER loot driven, loot box based game. I really just want a normal game.


I don’t know what “trading (as opposed to collectible)” means here, and a quick internet search hasn’t helped. Can anyone help me out and explain what this means?
I hope it’s a good game, but the pricing quotes make me wonder if this won’t be another counterstrike/tf2-type speculative marketplace for valve to skim off of

While largely collectible card games and trading card games are more or less synonymous for a lot of marketing, especially in the 90s, I think it’s important to make the distinction now. Games like Hearthstone would be considered collectible card games, I think; games where you have a collection of cards, but trading isn’t possible. While a game like Magic the Gathering is trading is possible and encouraged.

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This art looks dope but I don’t care about card games and I’m not interested in giving Valve more money for phoning it in on a blatant cash grab.

This secondary market is the difference between collectable and trading. i picture Valve making a lot of money getting a percentage of every graphics and voiceover-enhanced limited megarare card’s change of hands for 200 dollars.

(allegedly) having virtually instant access to any card for pennies is, arguably, better than a living card game because, while you’re not chasing rares in a living card game, you still end up with a bunch of cards you don’t need when you buy a Netrunner data pack for $15.


Oh it most definitely is. Valve’s Steam Market place makes them a ton of money on transaction fees and if they released data that showed they have made more money from CSGO in that then actual sales of the game it would not surprise me. If you are taking a 15% cut of a $200 transaction on a virtual knife skin you are making twice as much as the actual base cost of the game.

What especially sucks though is that they don’t even bother to verify the art is owned by the uploader when it comes to skins they just take you on your word. It has also led to some really questionable actions such as groups of people putting their names on everyone in the groups work so that if one persons item gets added then they all get that sweet Valve contract that pretty much guarantees you will get preference picked in the future.


I think that’s true. It’s just, how many cards are going to stay that cheap when people want to play them, right?

That’s why I say “allegedly”.

From the PC Gamer article:

“If a card has got a [top pro’s] signature on it, and there’s only one of those in existence, and that player won a major tournament, then it might have some value, and that is fine. But as far as the unsigned normal versions of that card, over the years we’ve developed a lot of tools in order to make sure that we’re keeping those prices in a reasonable range.” Reinhart also referred to a point Newell made about the power level of cards not being correlated to their rarity, and noted that common cards are going to cost “pennies”.

It’ll get more problematic if they don’t take an active role in either controlling prices on cards or aggressively re-balancing cards that are blowing up the meta and driving up prices.

Valve’s habit of getting super excited about something on Steam and then leaving it to rot even when things get toxic means people are right to be heavily skeptical of anything “marketplace” related but as far as how they treat their games, they’re not bad. This’ll be the first time Steam will have a direct impact on the game, so it’ll be very interesting to see how it shakes out.