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Majin Goo

Balance, Value, and Realization

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How's it going TCG Top Tier. Artificat has recently updated and while small in size, brings a significant change in how develop plans to go forward. Originally, Valve was intent on keeping Artifact as close to a physical TCG as they could. However, it seems they've realized that a digital card game presents unique opportunities that TCG's do must go to great lengths to accomplish otherwise. Your buddy Majin Goo is going to go over a few important points and provide my opinion on the subject.

The first thing to note is that the update adds in account levels and skill ratings. The skill ratings are separate between constructed and draft. Account leveling will show your experience, essentially track how much you actually play the game, while providing you tickets and packs as you advance. This is a minor addition as most games today have content like this and it's important that valve continue to add features that give players a reason to play the game.

The major part of this update is their change in design philosophy. Originally, Valve had committed to the idea of not changing cards and using bans as a last resort. From their prospective, this would ensure card value and build consumer confidence in the marketplace. While I applaud the idea and love the marketplace, balance and competitive progression is what keeps players buying cards and pushing their limits. Valve has done a lot in regards to listening to their player-base and realized the problems that come with such an issue. Much of their concerns had aligned with my own and I'm glad to see them adapting to the environment. Stale Meta focused around power cards are incredibly difficult to build around and deal with, this will allow them an opportunity to ensure previous sets will not hinder future development and creativity. There thoughts on the subject can be read:

  • "Further consideration also made us realize it was the wrong approach from the development side. An extremely high bar for making iterations will indirectly cause future set development to be worse off. Long term set creativity will suffer if we are reluctant to try new ideas because of fears around not being able to make adjustments."

Now this brings up the question, "What about the cards I bought that will lose value due to balance?" This is a good question, one that valve was prepared for. While it doesn't do much to help players that bought cards early on when they were their peak, it does show they are concerned with the success of the marketplace. Valve has decided to buyback any singles you bought in the marketplace that were changed in this update. They will give what the market peak was up to 24 hours prior to the announcement of the changes going live. 

While traditional TCG players are no strangers to balance affecting a card's value, I assume newer players to the model will have concern. The key here is to remember that it is more important in the long run for card value if you have buyers. As people leave because balance is ignored, it will become harder for you to sell as the demand drops. In the long run I believe this will help the overall value of Artifact cards.

Now, let's talk about the changes. Not many cards were changed and the changes are not crippling. In fact, from what I can see, more cards were buffed than nerfed which is good to hear. There were 6 buffs and 2 nerfs to be exact. The notable nerf being to the card that held the top spot for value for some time, Axe. As someone that plays an Axe/Tinker deck, I've always felt Axe gave you too much for nothing. Not only is his signature card good, but he is capable of providing aggressive board presence for several turns. This can make it difficult for slower decks to really get going. Axe was adjusted from a 7/2/11 (Atk, Armor, Life) to 6/2/10. While the change is minor, it does make him slightly easier to deal with. The key here is that his armor remained 2. Armor in Artifact provides an "actual" change to damage. What I mean by this is that if armor is positive it reduces the damage, if it is negative however, it will increase how much damage the unit takes. Think of armor as not just equipment, but state of health. A unit with negative armor could be seen as poisoned, sick, or weakened, so they take more damage. While a unit with positive armor could be seen as well equipped, in extraordinary health, or made stronger by magical enhancements, so they take less damage. What makes Axe powerful is the natural 2 armor that he starts with, essentially making it to where champions themselves need to deal with him and even then he has the advantage in the first 2 to 3 turns. If he continues to shape the meta I could see the Armor being changed in the future. 

Let me know what you think and make sure to comment below so we can have a good discussion about the changes going forward. Lets talk about your favorite changes and what you think could make the game more appealing to a larger audience. Remember as indicated by Valve, they are listening to us and discussing our ideas and our concerns:

  • "Since the release of Artifact, there have been a lot of discussions surrounding this topic. Input came in many forms, some from online discussions, some from direct feedback with players, and some through discussions among our own team members. This caused us to take a step back and spend a bunch of time debating the merits of the different arguments presented."

Full information can be found at: Skill Rating, Leveling, and Balance Update

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Hey @Majin Goo, I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I was curious what your current feelings for Artifact were at present? I've seen a few stories and forum posts around online claiming that the game is struggling, and borderline dead, but I've not really seen any explorations of that, or really any evidence to support that.

I'm also kind of curious; What would you say the game state is like at present?

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@Denithan If you look at steam charts, the game hovers around about around 1200 - 1800 players each day. This doesn't mean the game is struggling or dying. Valve doesn't have to pay themselves to keep their game going nor do they have to pay themselves fees for any money they make. The game is still fun, a lot more in depth than competing games, and has options for play the others don't. 

With that said it could be doing better. Most of its problems is the perception of players. Consumers that have only known the Video Game market were culture shocked and this had a much greater impact then expected. You would assume, that once people realized that Tier 1 decks would be possible for less than $100 compared to other digital free to play games that either take several hundreds to get the deck you want or hundreds of hours to finally collect them, the perception would slowly change. It however didn't, and very few players outside of the ones experienced with paper card games were willing to grasp that a secondary market controlled by the players both provides a better ownership over the cards and an easier entry point. 

The next issue though comes down to Valve. The lack of OP. A game with this distribution method has to have OP or it will not survive well. One thing that really turned players off was that there was little return on playing the game and while they've added progression and some free stuff for playing, it would go a long way to have regular events with good payouts. Since their primary method for making money is selling packs and collecting the market fees, they can't rely on a system that gives away a moderate to a large amount of cards as a return factor. So there needs to be something people can spend their tickets on and this would have been a great opportunity for Valve to push live tournaments and events. 

I think this game is suffering from a combination of where consumers weren't sure and won't try and Valve thinking that having the engine up and their name on it would have been enough to get people to just blindly buy packs. I think they grossly underestimated how many players on free 2 play games stay free 2 play or spend very little money.

With that said, a 1000 average players a day for a trading card game that you always have access to is technically successful for a TCG. As long as Valve can keep that game from dropping below a monthly average of 1000 and make changes to add more ways to play and try to add large events, I think it can still continue to exist and possibly thrive. As TCG players we know how important OP is in models like this. Look at how well PanZ did despite some issues, it was because the team dove head first and delivered OP even when they weren't ready. BanSuper, OP is what is making it successful. MetaX... Dying, not necessarily due to bad game play or subjectively shit IP's, but because an OP that was promised is not only late, but MIA.

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