Ten Reasons why Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever
Written by Michael "rokman" Weldon
! Before I get into the meat of the article, I thought I’d introduce myself. My card game experience comes from the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I started collecting and playing way back in the nineties. After nearly a decade playing casually, I ended up moving toward the competitive scene for a handful of years. I had a few big tournament wins and a lot of success playing the game. There was even a point that I was a paid writer for a Pokemon Trading Card Game website known as SixPrizes, you can see my articles here
Within the eSports world, I have worked in the production side of things at a few major tournaments. As a Production Assistant and Camera operator, I worked at IGN Pro League 3 in Atlantic City (Here’s a picture of me and Idra
), as well as IGN Pro League 5 in Las Vegas (Here’s a photo before we opened the main stage
). Live eSports events are so unbelievable to witness, as a fan. Twitch is convenient, but it is just not the same. Being there, LIVE, with people who share your interest, who will shout and scream with you when your favorite team wins? There is nothing like it. You have to go to a live event for your favorite game, if you haven’t already.
The last thing about myself I’d like to cover is what drew me to Artifact. I’ve always been a fan of the RTS genre. DotA, Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends, you name it. If you played HoN, you might remember that “Too Bad it’s Me, Blacksmith” meme
? Yeah, that was me. Sorry! Ha!
Truth be told, I’ve had an off-and-on relationship with all of these games. Going from riding a high of winstreaks to the inevitable burning out when paired with casual players who are playing to have fun and goof around. Who even plays games to have fun? Totally insane, right? Sheesh!
So finally, there’s Artifact, a game that I can only blame myself when I lose. One versus one in an RTS style game, based around trading cards, it’s basically the exact type of game I’ve been looking for my entire life. That’s why I’m writing this article on reddit, and that’s why I know Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever. Here’s ten reasons that’s going to happen --
Valve has such an incredible track record of PC titles. Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Portal, Left for Dead, DotA 2, it’s actually unbelievable. And when Artifact was announced at the DotA International 7, it wasn’t received well
. But that’s because those people in the crowd were just plain ignorant. (Yeah, I said it!) They were thinking Valve was piggy-backing off of Hearthstone’s success.
I guess you can’t blame them for thinking that, many developers have entered the genre of digital trading card games, but none of them have had Hearthstone’s financial success. And damn, Hearthstone has been an extremely profitable title. In the most recent Financial report from Activision Blizzard
, the company was reporting that pre-orders for the Boomsday Project were exceeding any previous expansion. That’s actually off the charts, because Hearthstone has been around for over FOUR YEARS now!
But there’s a few things Hearthstone hasn’t done right, from a competitive standpoint. And now that I think about it, has Blizzard ever handled eSports correctly? If you ask me, they’ve only ever been interested in making games that are popular, which is fine, and clearly worked for them as a business model. But that doesn't translate into a competitive eSport.
But Valve though? Get out of town! They’ve been a major player in eSports for many years. Just take a look at the DotA International’s prize support! Here’s a list of the Top Games awarding prize money across all tournaments
. DotA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are the top games. But get this, after adding up ALL of the prize support between the next THIRTY games on this list, you STILL don’t exceed the total prize support from DotA 2 and CS:GO. That’s BONKERS!
I know what you’re going to say, and I agree, prize support isn’t everything. But it’s definitely a massive part of a game’s success (And by extension, the developer of that game). Think about all the people involved when a game is successful, other than players. Production crew at live events (I was one of those guys!), camera crews, media companies, eSports organizations, even a company like Twitch, which live streams events. All of this infrastructure keeps the whole thing in motion, so having massive prize support for players is the very reason all of these other companies have spawned underneath a video game title.
And that’s why Valve is the number one reason I think Artifact is going to take over eSports. They know what they are doing. They organize these events. They create the prize pool for the DotA International. And they do that by offering all players the ability to buy cosmetics, with a portion of their purchases funding the actual tournament.
I put all my faith in GabeN and Valve to do this right. They’re the best in the business when it comes to this type of thing. But that’s not the only thing you need to take over eSports. You KIND OF need a good game, right? Well, let me introduce you to --
- Dr. Richard Garfield
Is there really anything else I need to say? The man himself, the CREATOR of the modern collectible card game. If the out-of-this-world success of Magic the Gathering isn’t enough to convince you, his understanding of skill versus luck in a game should do the trick. This is an hour long presentation he gave
. If you haven’t listened to it, you should do so immediately.
Many of the following reasons on my list will reference some of the concepts Dr. Garfield covers in his presentation. Also many mechanics in Artifact are built on these concepts presented here, and because of that, there isn’t much more I need to elaborate on, for now.
If you weren’t aware, Magic the Gathering is the biggest card game, ever. Despite the current drama taking place
, Magic the Gathering has been the premier card game to play if you were looking to make a career out of cards. While it isn’t always a profitable career path, there are a small group of players that have raked in quite a bit of prize winnings over the years. Take a look at the Top 200 All-Time Money Leaderboards
. That’s some eye-popping dollar signs, if you ask me.
But Dr. Richard Garfield doesn’t only want to cater to that tiny small percent of players, working toward big paychecks, and Magic the Gathering has recognized the different archetypes of players, known as Timmy, Johnny, and Spike
. Dr. Garfield has even explained that he builds all kinds of cards, with these different player archetypes in mind.
I’d even say some of the core strategies amongst the four colors in Artifact embody a lot of the Timmy/Johnny/Spike concepts. This is important to mention because it means Dr. Garfield will cater to various playstyles in Artifact, which will allow people to be creative with their decklists, tailored to their individual style. And if you ask me, that is a recipe for some very exciting Artifact games!
So, looking at where we are now, we’ve got Valve developing a game designed by Dr. Richard Garfield. Already, that should be enough for you to believe in this game’s success. But I’m going to break it down even further. For a game to be the number one eSport, I think the most important thing has got to be the most obvious, a --
- High Skill Ceiling
Let’s take a look at Basketball. There’s many levels of basketball, from friendly pickup games on the street, to community leagues at the local recreation center, to high school, to college, to professional foreign markets, to the very top at professional NBA basketball. In each of these levels, you would imagine anyone in one level could take on a person in a level below theirs, and beat them greater than 99% of the time. While that isn’t always the case (Haven’t you heard of The Professor?
) it clearly shows the extremely high skill ceiling of Basketball, just because it can facilitate so many different levels of expertise. This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp, I just wanted to go over it briefly.
For a video game title to completely dominate the eSport world, it has to have an extremely high skill ceiling. And this is a broad concept to cover, so I’m only going to cover one aspect of it, which is the one I think defines it the greatest… Decision making.
In Artifact, the number of decisions you make, and their future impact is one of the biggest elements that separate Artifact from other card games. Within the umbrella of decision making, are concepts like Hero deployment, spending resources in one lane over another, when to give up a lane, and many other specific examples like these. (I’ll probably cover this topic directly in it’s own article at another time.)
Comparing Artifact to Hearthstone, the average number of decisions per game has to be an astronomically different number. Unfortunately, I’m not able to play Artifact currently so I can’t give you these statistics. But I’m basing this assumption off of PAX West game videos that I watched. And I think a lot of people can agree with my assumption here. If not, go ahead and tell my why you disagree in the comments.
By having so many instances where players have to make decisions, even in a perceived simple concept like initiative, your game will automatically open itself up to a high skill ceiling. Bare with me here, I’m going to break this down, as simple as I can…
- Assumption one, Artifact is a game that forces players to make MORE decisions over the course of a single game, when compared to other card games.
- Assumption two, when faced with those decisions, the higher skilled player will make BETTER choices over the course of a game, giving them a higher percentage chance to win.
Similarly to basketball, you would assume that 99% of the time, the higher skilled player will win? Obviously the numbers won’t be that high. Nobody can say for sure what that number is for Artifact, but many experts believe that in Magic the Gathering, the higher skilled player has somewhere around 60 and 70% of winning. Let’s hope Artifact is above that number.
Now let’s take a look at the opposite of skill. That pesky thing that everyone says is the worst part of Artifact. And the one thing I think they are all dead wrong about, of course it’s --
How many different possible unique games of Tic-Tac-Toe are there? The answer is 255,168.
That’s every single unique series of plays you can make in Tic-Tac-Toe, period. But how many unique games of Dota 2 are there? Well, before the game even begins there over two quadrillion possible team compositions. (I don’t do math. These guys did though
) And that’s before the games even begun!
What about professional sports, like Baseball? I’d say it’s essentially infinite, when taking into consideration so many variables about the athlete's body, different flights of the ball on a pitch, various types of swings, and if the bat makes contact, the nearly infinite points of contact that a baseball could land in a stadium, and that’s not even taking into consideration random things like a player tripping, or a fan in the audience interrupting the play
. You get the idea.
This is an incredibly important detail when considering how successful a game can be in the eSports space. Card games are at a massive disadvantage, there’s only so many possible things that can happen, it’s actually a fairly small finite number of unique games, when compared to something like DotA 2.
So what’s the deal with adding in paths in front of creeps? What about the RNG Flop at the beginning of the game? These things are SO INCREDIBLY good for the game, it honestly perturbs me how many people following Artifact are unsure of this design choice. By adding in these variables into the possible unique games of Artifact, it increases the number by a HUGE MARGIN. I would argue this makes Artifact the number one card game, when it comes to the number of possible unique games. But why is this a good thing? Two reasons --
- One, it makes the game more fun to play.
Even with a small deck of forty cards, you’ll have tons of unique games, even when facing opponent decks that are all the same decklist. Each game can be very different based on the minute RNG built into the game! That means you won’t get burn out playing the same decklist. Meta is stale and boring? At least your games will play out slightly different!
- Two, it makes the game so much more interesting to spectate.
How does a player react to certain possible Flops? How does a player recover from poor creep spawns during redeployment phases? These variables create a much more exciting spectating experience! Which brings us to the next point --
- Spectator eSport
, and fwosh
did such an amazing job commentating games during the PAX West live streams
. If you haven’t had a chance to watch them, I’d highly recommend it. During the commentary, in many situations, the commentators would talk about potential lines of play from the Challengers on stage. In almost every scenario, there were multiple plays to choose from, and many of them were fairly equal in perceived value.
In many other card games, there is a clear best play from your hand, every turn, and any other line would be called a “misplay”. But in Artifact, that line separating a viable play and a misplay is quite blurry. Without knowing future creep deployments, some plays could end up being better than others, even when they aren’t necessarily the number one best option at face value. This creates a scenario where commentators have A LOT to talk about during matches, sometimes too much.
On YouTube, you can find a guy making videos named Jackson Walters
. I highly recommend his videos and would like to mention him for one specific reason. He uses a program to draw on the screen when he does his gameplay commentary. If you’ve ever seen an NFL broadcast, you would know this is a common feature during a replay. A yellow line, drawing over a freeze frame of the last play.
No other video game I know of uses this type of technology, and Artifact is absolutely an AMAZING candidate to take advantage of it. There is so much going on, when choosing a lane for a hero to go to, when choosing a spot for a creep to spawn in lane, potential pathing of units, all of these examples would make this technology great for commentators to relay pertinent information to the audience.
But those two things aren’t the only thing that makes Artifact a great spectator eSport. And this is a topic that is debated frequently amongst the community. Is Artifact going to have good “streamability” on Twitch? My answer is a resounding YES. Because Valve has done such an unbelievably good job designing the User Interface, a lot of things are clearly displayed to the audience.
Even to people who have very little knowledge of the game, just understanding the basics, they’ll be able to recognize when a player is put in a bad position (Here’s a hint -- there’s giant red X’s all over his units!) and the audience can understand when a player is forced to make a big play to turn things around.
Furthermore, with the UI clearly labeling Tower health and incoming Tower damage, the audience is given obvious indicators for “points” or a way to keep track of the “score” in the game. Which actually isn’t that common amongst many popular eSports titles. Speaking of eSports titles, let’s talk about the biggest thing Artifact has, that other card games don’t --
“Valve is even working on a deck sharing system that will let you lend a deck to a friend for a match just like you would in a physical card game.”
- Deck sharing
Excuse me? I actually can’t believe this! I know a lot of you young people won’t appreciate how awesome of a concept like this really is, but I’m going to break it down for you.
Before the internet existed and everyone had everyone’s decklist, people actually had to work out decks on their own, and with their friends. I personally have spent hundreds of hours “solitairing” decks against no opponent, testing a deck’s consistency and working kinks out of the list. With the current state of electronic card games, people can get detailed statistics of all the top deck lists in the game, what the best players are using on ladder, and so on and so forth. Even in some games, at top tournaments, everyone’s deck list is public knowledge before it begins!
This is not how things have always been. Back in my day, people could go to major tournaments and whip out a completely unknown, Secret.dec, that no one has seen before. That player and his group of friends have already tested it a thousand games against the most popular decks in the meta. When things like this happened, people LOST their freaking minds. And to be honest, this is how some stars were born within some trading card game circles.
With Artifact’s Deck Sharing, Players will be able to put multiple decks together and give them to their friends, without them needing to invest money in the game, bring them in and use them as exclusive testing partners. While this might understandably sound a bit insane, I can see small groups of friends using this feature for testing purposes.
Other than the obvious, it being a gigantic tool to bring more players to Artifact, I’m looking at it from the competitive perspective. I could even solitaire games against myself, playing both decks simultaneously! Nice!
While this feature is great at bringing new players in and keeping the cost of entry low, there is something else Artifact has already taken into consideration, you guessed it --
- Card accessibility
Black Lotus $6,500.
Ancestral Recall $3,363.
Time Walk $2,628.
Yikes. This is the exact reason Valve has gone on record stating that they don’t want this to happen.
Their first step in preventing this, at least in the first set, which releases on November 28th, is only having three rarities of cards. Common, Uncommon, and Rare. Also guaranteeing that one of the twelve cards included in each two dollar pack is a Rare.
They’re going to take things even further for an electronic trading card game, and allow players to buy and sell cards on the steam marketplace. Looking at it from a business standpoint, how genius is that? They not only sell every card pack in client, but they ALSO get a cut of every transaction made on the secondary market! Absolutely genius! (~15% of all secondary market sales goes right into Valve’s pocket!!!)
As of now, nobody can predict the average costs of cards, or the average cost to create a popular meta deck. But one thing is certain, we won’t have to buy hundreds of booster packs hoping to open some specific super-rare necessary-for-laddering “legendary cards” that can’t be resold in a secondary market! Yeah, I’m looking right at you, Hearthstone!
So we’ve got a situation where the game is designed by Richard Garfield, developed by Valve, has a high skill ceiling, with RNG that makes things interesting, great for spectating, allows deck sharing, and will have accessible cards? What’s even missing in something so amazing like that? Oh, I know, SirActionSlacks favorite topic --
- The Lore
Let’s say the 482,000 average players of DotA 2
won’t be interested in the amazing game I just described above. Well, I’d call them crazy, but let’s go with this for a moment. What is the one other thing that could potentially make them want to at least open the game and poke around? Yeah, it’s all those interesting characters they’ve known for years, it’s that universe they have spent thousands of hours playing in. A massive chunk of that playerbase might be interested in Artifact, just for the LORE.
And if you haven’t seen it already, definitely check out SirActionSlacks Loregasm videos on youtube
. I had no idea how much lore was actually in the DotA universe, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the game I spent many hours playing.
From the bits and pieces I’ve been able to piece together during the card reveals, inspecting the artwork and reading the flavor text in the tweet’s on the official Artifact Twitter page
, it seems to me that the first set will be based around the Bronze Legion
and the Red Mist Army
There’s plenty of great lore to explore there, but it might even give us some clues about the first expansion set for Artifact? Maybe an Abyssal Horde
expansion? Or even just a straight up Roseleaf
Expansion? Only time will tell…
Even though I covered this subject briefly before, I’d like to mention it again, in it’s own bullet point --
- Prize support
Remember when I linked the Top 200 All-time Money leaders
from Magic the Gathering? Number one on the list is Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, with total winnings of $497,785. That’s quite a bit of money playing a card game! Well, that is until someone is crowned victor of the first Artifact Tournament, slated for the first quarter of 2019. First place gets a cool $1,000,000. That’s more than DOUBLE any Magic the Gathering player has made... in all of it’s 25 year history! Yikes!
None of the details have been released yet, but if you play close attention to the Artifact website
and the Official twitter @PlayArtifact
, they’ll be announcing it soon, hopefully. Many players hoping to take a stab at that prize pool are anxiously waiting to hear how they could potentially qualify for the big tournament, myself included.
But as I’ve mentioned before, a giant prize pool isn’t the only key to success as an eSport, it’s many other things. What I would like you to remember, is how many industries can be supported when a prize pool gets that large. But money doesn’t just bring in a bunch of companies underneath it, it also brings in SPONSORS!
Sponsors support all those gaming organizations, that sign pro players to represent them, and allows for such a competitive space to become an eSport. This in turn creates an environment where many people can provide for their families, support each other, and their communities, all from a video game. If that doesn’t get you excited, then you’re truly dead inside. Or your a hundred years old and don’t know what a video game is.
And finally, the above nine things would make a pretty great game, but there’s still one last thing that makes all the difference. In my opinion, it’s the most important piece of success for a video game title to be the number one eSport...
- Content creators
Here’s a list of some of the best content creators out there right now, making amazing content for Artifact. If you aren’t already following all of these guys, I highly recommend you do so immediately, not just because what they’re making is awesome, but also because they are giving away beta keys! Artifaction
The Artifaction podcast is hosted by SUNSfanTV and SirActionSlacks. They just held a massive create-a-card competition for 2 beta keys! If you missed it, that’s unfortunate, because it was great watching how miserable these two were after they reviewed over a thousand cards on stream (Which was only half of the submissions!). BTS Podcast
Hosted by LuminousInverse and Hotbid. One of my favorite podcasts out there right now, these guys are great. Hotbid is a natural talent for keeping the podcast moving and making sure everyone on mic stays opinionated, taking hard stances. That’s what creates discussion, that’s what makes a podcast interesting. Creating debates. I can’t recommend these guys enough! Artificer’s Guild
This is an all encompassing youtube channel, covering news, card releases, reviews, lore, it’s a great channel to have on subscribe. Check out their videos, they come out every few days! RobAJG
What a great twitch channel this guy is running! He’s offering gameplay reviews, interviews, card reveals, as well as personal commentary. He does stream a lot of games other than Artifact, but when he streams Artifact, he can bring the house down. Jackson Walters
While a newer content creator for Artifact (he’s only got three videos up), these videos are absolutely PACKED with amazing information you can break down. He is on another level when it comes to breaking down some pinpoint decision making moments in games. If you want to play on a high level in Artifact, definitely watch his videos. Swim
Swim is a top Gwent streamer and dabbling with the idea of moving to Artifact. Personally, I think he’d be an amazing addition to the Artifact community and he’s got only one video up currently, breaking down the Black cards and revealing his own card, Slay. Make sure you give him plenty of love because he is a great creator!
Lastly, I’d like to include myself in this list of content creators. You can check out my twitter here
I’m looking to write more articles like this in the future (If you guys enjoyed it, that is) Some of the topics I’ll be covering are going to be pretty heavy, like this article, but also decklists, analyzing metas and tournament results, maybe patch notes (if Valve decides to patch Artifact and change cards), interviews, pro scene topics, maybe even tracking cards on the marketplace, and predicting future meta shifts! I’d also like to do a card reveal, if Valve is interested in spreading the love. Seriously, Valve, I’d die if you sent me a card reveal...
In conclusion, because of the ten reasons stated above, I believe Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever. I’d love to hear why you agree or disagree, so comment below! Also, one last thing, I do have a beta key to give away
, if you follow me on twitter @rokmanfilms
, I might do something fun to give the key away. I know you fiends are only motivated by the chance of winning a key! Ha!
Thanks for reading! I’ll be posting again soon… ONE LAST THING -- I am interested in being a writer for a publication or website. If you’re interested in adding a writer like me to your team, you can Direct Message me on twitter, message me on Discord at rokman#5483, or message me here on Reddit! Sorry, not sorry, for the shameless plug!