I wrote a short piece about Artifact taking on Hearthstone last month, and, unfortunately, we still don’t have any new information about the game. Valve has set up a Twitter account for Artifact, however, so it looks like they’re getting pretty serious about the game’s ongoing development.
What are we hoping for from Artifact?
Well, what we know right now is that it’s going to be based on the heroes of Dota and involve three boards, probably meant to represent the three lanes on the Dota Battleground. Valve has a lot of potential to do great things with the card art and text in Artifact. Dota is known for having intriguing lore and well-designed heroes, and we’re hoping that Artifact’s aesthetic isn’t too much of a departure from what we’re used to.
Valve also has the opportunity to throw in a bunch of easter eggs and other fun nods to the community at large, much like they did with Pocket Riki. The addition of a couple of community jokes in the card text or abilities would capture the interest of Dota’s existing playerbase. It might not impact gameplay, but it’s a nice way to connect the two games.
An answer to Dota’s accessibility problems
Dota isn’t an accessible game. It’s unbelievably complex and requires five people to cooperate, which puts it outside the reach of some younger kids. Artifact should be a good way to get young gamers interested in the Dota franchise before they’re ready to enter the chaos of a multiplayer MOBA. A card game that doesn’t require tuned reflexes or coordination is an easy way to make Dota more accessible to the masses.
Artifact stands a decent shot at being a great game for casuals, too. Everything about Dota is fun – learning about hero abilities, backstories, and new mechanics. But actually playing Dota can be a chore, especially for busy people. When you’re locked into ~40+ minute games at a time, it means that improvement takes serious dedication and time. If you only have the chance to play a full game of Dota occasionally, you’re pretty much destined to suck at it. Artifact might just be the answer for people like me who want to scratch the Dota itch but don’t always have enough free time.
If Valve designs Artifact to serve as a “primer” for actual Dota, they would probably see a huge upswing in player numbers. Dota can be conceptually difficult–it’s hard to get total newbies interested in watching professional games because broadcasts are difficult to follow. If Artifact teaches the basic rules, strategy, and mechanics of Dota, the game could easily give a boost to Dota’s player (and viewer) counts.
Is Artifact ready to be an esport?
As Jungroan discussed last week, a few conditions need to be met in order to make an esport out of a game. Since Artifact is based off Dota, Valve is basically going into easy-mode–most of the hard work has already been taken care of. Much like the Pokemon franchise features the TCG Championships as well as in-game battle championships, Valve could offer Dota 2 and Artifact competitions, thus doubling their number of profitable events. I’d like to see Valve at least give the competitive aspect of Artifact a try, even if it’s just a showmatch at TI8. It might take a while before Artifact develops a pro scene, but given Valve’s track record with Dota and CS:GO, it’s almost inevitable.
Promotional tie-in possibilities
Offering two related titles gives developers a lot of cross-marketability. Once Artifact is launched, Valve could offer exclusive hero sets tied to Artifact or special card unlocks tied to Dota or the Battle Pass. The hat-marketing options are endless.
Ultimately, what I’m hoping for most with Artifact is a well-thought out game that’s not pay-to-win like Hearthstone and has balanced and intriguing cards. Beautiful card art would be a bonus, but it really boils down to the core gameplay. Give me a game that I can play for an hour a few nights a week, don’t have to invest tons of money into, and lets me enjoy the vibrant world of Dota.