Some thoughts on Artifact; microtransactions and unmoderated live chat

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Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

Having escaped the clutches of both the Dota 2 and Hearthstone, two games which have collectively soaked up thousands of hours of my life, not to mention hundreds of dollars from my bank vault, the news that Valve was making a card game that seemed similar to Hearthstone but using the dota 2 characters and aesthetic was something that I was vaguely interested in but determined to ignore.

A couple of days ago however, gamesindustry.biz released this insightful interview with Jeep Barnett and Richard Garfield, the game's lead programmer and designer respectively, and I couldn't help but take a peek. I'm going to summarise a lot of the key points they make if you can't be bothered to read it, and highlight some things which deserve to be talked about. Some of them are... worrying.

First and foremost, each developer goes to great pains to separate Artifact from Hearthstone, though without any real explanation as to what the differences in gameplay are. To anyone who's ever read an interview with a developer attempting to hype up their game, it's standard PR stuff;

"When Artifact was announced, the obvious and most immediate comparison many made was to Hearthstone. At absolute surface-level, it's a fair one. After all, Hearthstone's popularity both as a casual game and a competitive title have been thus far unmatched by anything else in the genre, so any up and coming online card game will naturally be compared to it. However, as I found out from demoing the game, the simple fact that both are games you play with cards is about where the similarities end. Barnett and Garfield seem to agree with that separation."

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Fine. Stay tuned, I guess. What came next was pretty surprising though:

Beyond the actual gameplay, Artifact has something else that makes it incredibly unique: its monetization style. The game will cost $20 at launch, which will get players two starter decks (everyone gets the same ones) and ten packs of random cards. From that, there is absolutely no way for players to earn more packs by playing the game. Everything more must either be bought with real money, or traded for on the game's market

The heavy dependence on microtransactions, and the fact that in order to compete at a high level required you to spend hundreds of dollars per expansion, was the main reason I quit Hearthstone, even with it's ingame currency and ability to craft, recycle and unlock new cards organically. The fact that Artifact aims to skip this and jump straight to a purely microtransaction-based card economy is, for me at least, an instant red-flag; I'm not interested in supporting that business model. Beyond that, it seems extremely shortsighted to disregard the relatively recent backlash consumers have had over microtransactions and loot crates in other games. I guess this is going to come down to the pricing strategy of packs, and drop rate of the best cards - however taking into account the way that valve has monetized content in Dota 2, I fully expect this to be aggressive. The article even goes as far as to say:

A marketplace on its own may create the potential for an interesting in-game economy, but it sounds as though Artifact all but requires a constant cash flow from its participants. At launch, there is no way to earn packs through play, and in fact there is no single-player campaign, ranking system, or really anything to Artifact other than playing the game with someone else for fun. "It's not pay to win," Garfield said. "It's pay to participate. Any hobby you have, you have to invest something. If you play tennis, you buy a racket. So here, we've got a model where you can put in a very modest amount and be competitive. We can control that in the sense that common cards in this game are very powerful. We expect top-tier play to include a lot of common cards. We also make sure that rare cards that are there are not so rare they drag prices up.

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The next highlight is also concerning, though for different reasons:

The game will also feature live chat that allows players to communicate with one another during a match - even strangers. I asked how that chat and the community in general would be moderated to discourage bad behavior, but neither Barnett nor Garfield could offer any specific idea of tools that would help someone avoid a random internet stranger hurling insults at them during an Artifact match.

At this point I had to briefly stop reading for a while. The words "shortsighted" and "naive" pirouetted across my mind as I blinked at the wall.

"Psychologically, we find that people misbehave when there is somebody else to observe them misbehaving," Barnett said. "When it's a one-on-one game, what is my motivation for saying something awful? But when you're in a game with a bunch of other people and you say something, a bunch of other people laugh at you, so something happened. We tend to see people behave very differently in one-on-one situations."

Haha! Oh wait, they're serious. Hmm. Well, I know a lot of people look back with a fondness for the original Uno release on Xbox 360 and it's live webcam interactions (I specifically remember Jeff talking about his match against a room full of dudes racking up lines of cocaine as they played Uno, which is pretty intense), but as someone who has spent many years on the internet, and interacting with other human beings on a daily basis in the real world, not to mention the 7+ years I've spent moderating this website, and taking into account the current level of openly vitriolic lawlessness both on the Steam forums and within the communities of existing steam games (I'm looking at you, Dota), the idea that people will play nicely among themselves simply because they're not playing for an audience (unless they're streaming I suppose, but that'll never catch on, right?) is the icing on the "we're completely out of touch" cake that Valve seems to be baking.

More importantly though. it's irresponsible; these developers are essentially opening up another avenue for people to be harassed, and for the people that seek to harass to do so without punishment. As white men they may not be as sensitive to the kind of casual offhand abuse that women/LGBT+/non cis/non-white people have to deal with on a daily basis, but it's bizarrely insouciant of them not to acknowledge that harassment and trolling is a common 21st century problem, that game communities are often plagued by casual sexism, homophobia and racism, and that others might not have the same painless experience as they themselves did on their internal test server; Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but to not pre-emptively have a system in place to deal with that inevitability seems either extremely negligent or extremely sheltered.

EDIT: I initially misinterpreted the article and assumed this "live chat" would be in video form, though upon review that was apparently a hallucination on my part. While a regular text chat certainly limits the potential for misuse, it's still remarkably naive of Valve to assume that no moderation would be required and, as such, I stand by my original criticisms but have removed my dumb joke about unsolicited solitaire dicks. Thanks.

Anyway, I'm sure you can disable the live chat, and I'm sure you can mute or disable all chat completely (as per Hearthstone) but if you're going to include those things even as an option then you can't simply leave it unmoderated; I'm fed up with developers creating platforms for abuse and then not taking responsibility for the behavior of the players who use them. Valve in particular has a terrible track record when it comes to moderation (readers of my blog will know that their terrible automated moderation system is one of the reasons I stopped playing Dota), and this interview gives the impression that they not only have no interest in addressing it, but don't even consider it an issue worthy of their attention.

I appreciate it's still early, and there's no sense in writing a game off long before its release, but it's hard to stay optimistic in light of this information. I'm sure there are people out there who have more patience than I do and/or find those random online interactions entertaining, but personally it's not worth the risk.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

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#1 Posted by PaulKemp (218 posts) -

Great write up! Nicely formatted and with pictures and everything, good work. While I personaly dont agree to every point, its interesting to hear your thoughts and points on this.

I am under the general impression that when a game costs moeny, the monetization model is by default less agressive than that of a free game. Worst case is of course; the game costs money AND has an agressive payment model. Best case is: money up front, and get more of the game. In many f2p games on phone and PC, I have though; "Why didnt this game just cost 15$?" I have a friend who still plays HS competitively, and he uses around 60-70$ per expansion. That is 240$ anually. People argue that HS is free to play, but if you like to play ranked, you better get som packs. And I know there are budget decks that reach high rankings, but that are from pro players who play a lot.

Artifact will have cosmetics, like Dota. This is not talked about yet, but foild cards, card backs, announcers, art etc is guaranteed to come down the line.

Fully tradable cards, with a global marketplace, like Artifact will have down the line, will lead to cheap cards and I belive it is a good idea. This is something that is fundamently lacking in Hearthstone with only dust and gold grinding. Just the idea of being able to trade cards with the whole steam marketplace is appealing to me. I've maybe invested around 50$ in Hearthstone, a couple of years ago, and are now not able to do anything with those cards or funds. At least on the table with Artifact, I might get some of that money back by selling cards on the marketplace.

I dont know, I am postive. For 20$ you get a complex card game, with 2 pre made decks and you can play with your friends. You get around 228 of 280 cards of the base set (81% o ftotal cards) and access to a marketplace where you can buy the rest of neede cards from pack opening whales.

I agree with you on the chat! Fingers crossed this will be sorted out in the beta!

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#2 Edited by dgtlty (1147 posts) -

Didn't Ben Pack say on the Bombcast this week you could earn or unlock cards by playing the game?

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#3 Posted by Bollard (8078 posts) -

If you aren't willing to spend money on packs to get cards I do have to wonder if a TCG is for you. I think the fact that there is no way to get packs without spending money is quite possibly one of the best things about Artifact. Don't get me wrong, if they didn't have the marketplace it would be absolutely terrible but the whole point here is they're recreating the economy of a physical TCG where cards can retain some value that you can later cash in on if you want to do something different. And at some point I can totally see packs being a reward for winning limited/draft modes (but also you will probably have to buy ~3 packs to play the mode much like in Magic).

It's worth noting that the statement that the game "all but requires a constant cash flow from its participants" is a complete fallacy, since once you buy a deck you own it and can always later on sell it to buy a new one if you want to change strategy. I'd much rather sell my deck for cash at a 15% loss on the marketplace than dust my deck for a minimum of 75% loss in Heathstone. If it's referring to the fact when new expansions come out you will need to buy new cards to remain competitive, well, that's how card games work. It's no different in HearthStone even with the free packs (you always have to dump cash in).

I guess the point I'm trying to make is they're making a digital card game for fans of card games, not casual players. The choices to make the game paid and not allow free packs are to allow for a card economy that will (hopefully) ensure player's investments aren't devalued, but obviously require the player to actually buy in to play. As a fan of Magic I see this only as a good thing, provided the game is actually deep and fun.

Regarding the chat though, their current stance is definitely short sighted. I have to hope at a bare minimum you can turn it off by default (which I will definitely be doing), but in that case why even include it in the first place.

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#4 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@bollard said:

If you aren't willing to spend money on packs to get cards I do have to wonder if a TCG is for you. I think the fact that there is no way to get packs without spending money is quite possibly one of the best things about Artifact. Don't get me wrong, if they didn't have the marketplace it would be absolutely terrible but the whole point here is they're recreating the economy of a physical TCG where cards can retain some value that you can later cash in on if you want to do something different. And at some point I can totally see packs being a reward for winning limited/draft modes (but also you will probably have to buy ~3 packs to play the mode much like in Magic).

It's worth noting that the statement that the game "all but requires a constant cash flow from its participants" is a complete fallacy, since once you buy a deck you own it and can always later on sell it to buy a new one if you want to change strategy. I'd much rather sell my deck for cash at a 15% loss on the marketplace than dust my deck for a minimum of 75% loss in Heathstone. If it's referring to the fact when new expansions come out you will need to buy new cards to remain competitive, well, that's how card games work. It's no different in HearthStone even with the free packs (you always have to dump cash in).

I guess the point I'm trying to make is they're making a digital card game for fans of card games, not casual players. The choices to make the game paid and not allow free packs are to allow for a card economy that will (hopefully) ensure player's investments aren't devalued, but obviously require the player to actually buy in to play. As a fan of Magic I see this only as a good thing, provided the game is actually deep and fun.

You say

the statement that the game "all but requires a constant cash flow from its participants" is a complete fallacy

but then extensively detail how it's completely true; If you're selling cards at a loss and buying new ones, that's a cash flow. The fact that you can justify it on a personal economic level is besides the point - money is changing hands and the game is dependent upon that. We can expect new cards to periodically be released, and for the meta to evolve, which means there's always going to be something to buy, because that's how they do. You either pay more money to keep up or all the money you've invested already becomes redundant. That's a cycle I broke out of and I'm keen to avoid, especially after Hearthstone, which I realised I was playing more out of habit than enjoyment.

If you're going to dismiss my criticisms as that of a "casual player" (seriously dude? That kind of elitism really doesn't belong here) then, well, I'm sorry for not being hardcore enough to mindlessly throw money at something just so I can keep up with the meta.

If the argument here is "that's how card games work" then fine. Plenty of people are cool to exchange large quantities of money for virtual cards (and physical ones), and that's fine too. For years I was one of them. But I'm over it now - I was over it in a game where I wasn't required to "pay to participate", so I'm especially over it in one where you are. That's not a criticism of card games, that's just something I've realised about myself. Which is why this is a blog, not an article :P

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#5 Posted by Savage (770 posts) -

I think Artifact's monetization model sounds significantly more player-friendly and less expensive than Hearthstone's.

Facts of comparison:

  • Hearthstone's card packs, containing 5 cards each, at the maximum bulk discount rate of 60 packs for $70, come to $0.23/card. Every pack includes at least 1 card of third-highest rarity (tier 3 out of 4).
  • Artifact's card packs, containing 12 cards each, at the sole price of 1 pack for $2, come to $0.16/card. Every pack includes at least 1 card of maximum rarity (tier 1 out of 3).

Conclusions:

  • Artifact's cards are cheaper on a generic 1-to-1 basis.
  • Artifact's packs come with at least one maximum rarity card every time, so each pack is more valuable.
  • Artifact doesn't use bulk pricing ("best value!"), which is nothing but a manipulative anti-consumer practice when it comes to digital goods.

Biggest of all, Artifact is the first digital card game to replicate what all physical card games enjoy: players being able to freely trade their cards. This enables your cards to hold value as a commodity. If you want to try a new deck, but don't have all the cards to make it, you can trade some of your existing cards from your old deck to get the new cards you want. When you receive duplicate cards in your card packs, you can take advantage of their inherent value by trading them with other players for exactly which cards you do want. Your cards are not a sunk cost once they enter your possession. If you decide to quit playing Artifact one day, you can cash out by selling all your cards to retrieve value from them.

Hearthstone (and all other digital card games) only permit you to acquire cards directly from the company, which obviously has zero interest in ever giving you back money for your cards, since your cards are worth nothing to them. Your cards have no redeemable value. If you decide to quit Hearthstone one day, you can do nothing but try your best not to thinking about the hundreds of dollars you sank.

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#6 Posted by Bollard (8078 posts) -
@sweep said:

the statement that the game "all but requires a constant cash flow from its participants" is a complete fallacy

but then extensively detail how it's completely true; If you're selling cards at a loss and buying new ones, that's a cash flow. The fact that you can justify it on a personal economic level is besides the point - money is changing hands and the game is dependent upon that. We can expect new cards to periodically be released, and for the meta to evolve, which means there's always going to be something to buy, because that's how they do. You either pay more money to keep up or all the money you've invested already becomes redundant. That's a cycle I broke out of and I'm keen to avoid, especially after Hearthstone, which I realised I was playing more out of habit than enjoyment.

The problem I have with that quote is its implying that Artifact is somehow different from any other card game in that regard, and that in fact if you just buy a constructed deck and play with it it's hardly a "constant cash flow" if you can just once every expansion sell and re-invest a small amount to get the new cards you need, if you so wish. Constant implies I need to be drip feeding money in every time I play, just because I don't get 1 free pack.

@sweep said:
If you're going to dismiss my criticisms as that of a "casual player" (seriously dude? That kind of elitism really doesn't belong here) then, well, I'm sorry for not being hardcore enough to mindlessly throw money at something just so I can keep up with the meta.

That comment was in no way intended to be directed at you (or to be dismissive or hostile), I just couldn't think of a more accurate term for people who only have a passing interest in the genre (e.g. those that have got in in the recent boom of digital card games).

@sweep said:
If the argument here is "that's how card games work" then fine. Plenty of people are cool to exchange large quantities of money for virtual cards (and physical ones), and that's fine too. For years I was one of them. But I'm over it now - I was over it in a game where I wasn't required to "pay to participate", so I'm especially over it in one where you are. That's not a criticism of card games, that's just something I've realised about myself. Which is why this is a blog, not an article :P

That's fair enough, and a perfectly valid reason to be turned off of Artifact and that kind of payment model in general. I've seen a lot of people who are saying the game will fail and dismissing it based on its economy alone, or even misinterpreting how this kind of economy can in fact be less exploitative than that of HearthStone or it's competitors and it's hard to separate those kind of criticisms from someone just distancing themselves from microtransactions.

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#7 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@savage said:

I think Artifact's monetization model sounds significantly more player-friendly and less expensive than Hearthstone's.

Facts of comparison:

  • Hearthstone's card packs, containing 5 cards each, at the maximum bulk discount rate of 60 packs for $70, come to $0.23/card. Every pack includes at least 1 card of third-highest rarity (tier 3 out of 4).
  • Artifact's card packs, containing 12 cards each, at the sole price of 1 pack for $2, come to $0.16/card. Every pack includes at least 1 card of maximum rarity (tier 1 out of 3).

Conclusions:

  • Artifact's cards are cheaper on a generic 1-to-1 basis.
  • Artifact's packs come with at least one maximum rarity card every time, so each pack is more valuable.
  • Artifact doesn't use bulk pricing ("best value!"), which is nothing but a manipulative anti-consumer practice when it comes to digital goods.

Biggest of all, Artifact is the first digital card game to replicate what all physical card games enjoy: players being able to freely trade their cards. This enables your cards to hold value as a commodity. If you want to try a new deck, but don't have all the cards to make it, you can trade some of your existing cards from your old deck to get the new cards you want. When you receive duplicate cards in your card packs, you can take advantage of their inherent value by trading them with other players for exactly which cards you do want. Your cards are not a sunk cost once they enter your possession. If you decide to quit playing Artifact one day, you can cash out by selling all your cards to retrieve value from them.

Hearthstone (and all other digital card games) only permit you to acquire cards directly from the company, which obviously has zero interest in ever giving you back money for your cards, since your cards are worth nothing to them. Your cards have no redeemable value. If you decide to quit Hearthstone one day, you can do nothing but try your best not to thinking about the hundreds of dollars you sank.

This is a much more compelling counter-argument. I'll admit, the cheaper pricing structure is a positive aspect of the game - but it's going to come down to how the market behaves. If one card is market as essential for the majority of decks but has a low drop rate, the price on the market would still be high. And the ability to resell your cards is also dependent on how favourable they are - certain cards being nerfed could massively undercut their value, which could leave players feeling pretty unhappy.

It's going to be interesting to watch, at the very least.

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#8 Posted by TheHT (15721 posts) -

Geez, the idea that people mostly behave poorly when they have an audience probably has some truth to it when you conider how they might behave when they're completely alone. One versus one is still one goddamn other person to witness their shit.

I really enjoyed this write-up. The formating and pace really kept my interest, and made it a pleasure to read. I'm not sure where I fall on how aggressive the monetization is, after reading some of the counter-posts here. I'm not big on TCGs myself, but always knew them to require constant investment. I played Hearthstone a little bit, but kinda lost interest when I saw other cards that wrecked my shit and then didn't wanna spend money buying packs or time grinding out more (as much as I appreciated the option). I don't know if a marketplace where I can maybe buy a few packs, put together a deck I like, and then sell the stuff I'm not interested in, would be enough to really bring me in deep on one of these sorts of games, but it does sound like a more reasonable ask in terms of that investment.

Besides, the "T" in "TCG" is trading right? It's neat that they're putting an effort into translating that aspect over to their digital TCG. I do remember getting some enjoyment out of buying and selling Steam cards back when they were a new thing, for whatever that comparison's worth lol. We'll see how the market pans out I guess.

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#9 Edited by BBAlpert (2863 posts) -

@dgtlty said:

Didn't Ben Pack say on the Bombcast this week you could earn or unlock cards by playing the game?

He did, but but said that like 45 minutes before the story went up. They make a correction later in the cast, right after the get back from the commercial break, right before the news section.

"Psychologically, we find that people misbehave when there is somebody else to observe them misbehaving," Barnett said. "When it's a one-on-one game, what is my motivation for saying something awful? But when you're in a game with a bunch of other people and you say something, a bunch of other people laugh at you, so something happened. We tend to see people behave very differently in one-on-one situations."

This is such a garbage position for Valve to take for (at least) 2 major reasons:

  1. It makes the willfully naive assumption that people will behave themselves if they think nobody is watching them
  2. Even if the idea that people will only misbehave if they have an audience wasn't bullshit, using it as a justification not to moderate chat doesn't even address that issue because it is a fucking one-on-one game where there is always an audience of the other player. Toxic assholes don't act out because they're being watched by moderators, they act out because they're being watched by THE OTHER PLAYERS.
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#11 Edited by Lazyimperial (486 posts) -

@sweep said:

These developers are both white men, ie from a group that's never been subjected to the kind of casual offhand harassment that women/LGBT+/non cis people have to deal with on a daily basis, but it's painfully ignorant of them to assume that others might not have the same painless experience as they themselves did on their internal test server;

I agree with Artifact looks questionable and that the developers seem out of touch with human nature, but your implication (well, overt assertion) that they're out of touch because they're white (presumably straight) men is pretty biased, prejudiced, and lame. The internet picks on any difference, regardless of race. I'm a white straight male. I've been harassed because of the sound of my voice (I have a speech impediment and a decade of training in my teens has made it sound like a faux-British accent. Best I could do, really), because of stereotypes regarding what my political views and beliefs apparently must be, because of my ancestors and what they must have done in the past (they didn't, but thanks Internet), because of my crooked nose when/if video gets involved (I look traditionally German-Jewish, have a Jewish sounding name, and I work in accounting & finance. It's... an adventure sometimes, Sweep), and for anything else the Internet can think of. My "group," as you've so uncharitably lumped every straight male of European ancestry into, is subjected to casual offhand harassment frequently too. We aren't super-privileged ogres that live on giant ivory towers, heaping abuse down on those below while receiving none ourselves.

Now if you want to say white straight men aren't subjected to daily harassment at as high a frequency as women and the LGBT+ community, fine. But never with regards to harassment in general? Never? That's an interesting absolute. I guess I must have just been imagining all the trash talk directed at me and my fellow "group" members as some kind of fantasy victim complex, eh? :-/

I'm going to throw out a non-racial theory here: developers of all races and creeds tend to err on the side of optimism when it comes to their player communities. They build systems that make perfect sense to their mind's eye and work great within their developer-circle and pretty well with QA teams and professional testers too... but often forget what effects zero real consequences and relative-anonymity have on the behavior of the general populace. "Rubber meets road" kind of stuff. This is why Ultima Online worked great on test servers with full pvp and pick-pocketing active... but proved terrible when the game went live and no one trusted each other enough to even stand near each other at the bank (because someone could pick-pocket you, throw it in their bank before the guard killed them as punishment, and giggle at taking your stuff). This is why Sea of Pirates worked very well on test servers and with QA peeps, but was brutal upon release since people would camp towns and murder anyone trying to turn in a quest for booty. What developers envision their communities' average player behavior to be is seldom the reality. This is a "developers have relatively painless experiences that seem to provide evidence supporting their optimism but really don't" moment, not an "oblivious white dudes just don't understand others" one.

For example, I think Todd Howard is a bit naive to think that Fallout 76 won't have problems with harassment and griefing. Not naive because he's a white straight man and therefore apparently lacks any understanding of true harassment or abuse, mind you, but rather because he's picturing Fallout 76 with Bethesda employees and hired QA peeps playing it. Upon release though, it'll be a multiplayer game open to the general populace and the real life consequence for someone following you around and mucking up every encounter and activity you do will be relatively nothing. It'll happen, and teleporting away will only do so much good if every other person is behaving just as badly (also, what is so fun about having to ditch everything you're doing and teleporting half the map away in order to avoid being treated like garbage?). They'll have to eventually correct. Valve will have to eventually correct. "Hope springs eternal until 1337gam3r discovers how to lead trains of deathclaws to your player-base" and all that jazz.

But yeah... I appreciate your blog. Not the disheartening bias, but I had never heard of Artifact before this thread. I'll have to look it up.

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#12 Edited by Ares42 (4159 posts) -

@paulkemp: If you do daily quests and play fairly regularly you can easily keep up with the release schedule of HS without paying, I have for the last 2-3 years. The problem is that you start at a negative. You have to get up to par on the base collection first, and if you never do that you're in a constant state of catch-up. I got my brother into the game about 2 years ago, and after a few months of reaching the gold limit almost every day he was at a point where he could stay competitive as well without investing.

As for the original article, they seem completely oblivious to the benefits of f2p and how it's been essential for games like HS and Fortnite to become successful. The whole "it's not pay to win, it's pay to participate" quote just illustrates a complete misunderstanding of the concept. That's not to say the game won't see any success, but in a market where every other competitor (even Magic at this point) is f2p it's hard to imagine Artifact will be able to compete in any real way.

@bollard said:

If you aren't willing to spend money on packs to get cards I do have to wonder if a TCG is for you.

This is an old school way of thinking at this point. The success of these types of card games rely on the fact that there's a big active user base. Being f2p is a requirement to sustain this. Magic has tried for years and years to compete in the digital market with it's traditional model, and it's only now finally with Magic Arena that it's starting to make some headway. Can you even imagine if other multiplayer games implemented this sort of approach ? Their user base would whittle and die in months, if not weeks. We've already seen how detrimental segregating the user base with DLC can be. On the other hand you see a game like Elder Scrolls Legends going from being a complete failure to somewhat a somewhat sustainable product purely by going to mobile thus increasing its user base.

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#13 Posted by Gundato (42 posts) -

@ares42: I actually disagree with respect to monetized TCGs being old school.

The issue with a lot of F2P games is that most balance time vs money. Microtransactions are The Devil, but they are also a way for people with less time to still have fun.

With TCGs you are inherently playing against other people (Hearthstone has a lot of SP content though). That tends to strongly favor high school kids with part time jobs (or allowances (or fiscally irresponsible parents)) as they have both time AND money. I know that I pretty much don't play competitive F2P games because I'll never have the time to sink in to the game and would rather waste my money on Overwatch skins or something else stupid.

By getting rid of the time cost/option things can go either way: Maybe you discourage folk from buying and have fairly slow league changes and this is a great casual card game. Something you play when you are burned out on DOTA. Or maybe you turn it into a mad dash that favors "grown ups" who have more time than money.

Personally? I don't like the idea of buying a game where I need to pay to win (with loot boxes at that...). But I also can't fucking stand Fortnite. So what do I know about what people actually want to play?

As for the idea of monetization killing a TCG: Just look at Hearthstone. That has more and more shifted to the idea that you are expected to blow a fair amount of cash on booster packs at the start of any given season. Or look at Magic the Gathering where you ONLY blow money on booster packs and decks at the start of each... generation?

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#14 Posted by Ares42 (4159 posts) -

@gundato:The problem is that the traditional card game model is neither f2p nor traditional multiplayer, they're both. With a game like Overwatch you pay an initial fee and that's everything that's required. If you want to spend more money that's fine, but if you don't you can still keep playing and be competitive. That allows the user base to stay fairly fresh as old players don't constantly meet a paywall and new players don't need to invest a bunch of money to catch up. The traditional card game model both requires old players to constantly keep reinvesting in the product and new players have a gigantic initial investment requirement just to get through the door. Both of these together is just murder for player retention.

If Artifact was just pay $60 play as much as you want with all the cards that would be fine, but then they'd lose out on the whole card economy which is arguably the entire point of the genre. If you want to keep the card economy you're pretty much required to drop the initial investment to keep the user base healthy and sustainable. Basically, card games were already operating fairly similarly to f2p games, but they were f2p games with a heavy initial investment (like a $60 AAA game with micro-trans). Removing that investment allowed them to reap benefits of being f2p. By implementing the old model again all you accomplish is to go back to when card games were still struggling to gain any real traction.

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#15 Posted by Gundato (42 posts) -

@ares42: Well, Ovewatch is not a TCG (and is much better for it).

And again, this isn't murder for retention: It is the common model that has demonstrated its utility. I am not saying every game can suddenly start up and be successful. But if you take a snapshot of a general gaming board/newsgroup at any time you'll see people freaking out and saying subscription model MMOs can never work. And Everquest and then WoW dominated the market for decades and even most F2P games are adopting monthly subscriptions due to player interest.

As for the idea that they are losing the benefits of being an F2P game: That may even be the point. It is the idea of staying at a Marriott instead of a Holiday Inn. The rooms are almost exactly the same (actually, Holiday Inns tend to be better in my experience) but Marriott has prestige and it makes you think you won't be in the room next to a bunch of crackheads having an orgy. By making it clear that Artifact is a "premium" game where you are expected to spend money, Valve is hoping they get a "higher class" of players (I am interested to see how that plays out).

I am not saying Artifact is the game for you or even me. I know it isn't the game for me and I suspect you also know it isn't for you. But there is definitely a market for it, and it isn't that crazy of a business model when you consider that market.

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#16 Posted by Fezrock (663 posts) -

@ares42: Theoretically, Valve could've had Artifact be a $20 or $40 or $60 game, where that was the only monetary cost. But still have card packs that are obtainable in game (e.g. daily quests, defeating other players, etc.) and not available for purchase; no microtransactions whatsoever. There's no reason a game without f2p mechanics couldn't still have a player marketplace. In fact, the lack of microtransactions could allow the game to have high enough drop rates of the card packs themselves that players get to regularly feel rewarded, while still keep the drop rates of certain specific cards low enough that there would be interest in a player marketplace.

Of course, that's leaving money on the table, so there's no way Valve would do it. But it is possible.

And if Valve truly felt the need for additional revenue streams they could even have a one-time purchase cost for each expansion.

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#17 Posted by Ares42 (4159 posts) -
@gundato said:

And again, this isn't murder for retention: It is the common model that has demonstrated its utility.

It hasn't though. There's been a few exceptions to the rule, but the vast vast vast majority of games trying to replicate this system has crumbled and failed due to the inherent difficulties of keeping players involved. If Valve wants Artifact to be a "premium" product that's fine. As I already said, I'm sure they'll find some success to a certain degree. I'm just not seeing how they'll be able to compete and make it into the major success they're probably aiming for it to be.
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#18 Posted by Gundato (42 posts) -

@ares42: The vast majority of GAMES have crashed and burned. No matter what monetization model you pick there are more failures than successes

But the top TCGs all have models similar to this, and games like Hearthstone have converged on this model. There is definitely something to "trying something new", but there is also something to be said about doing what works.

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#19 Posted by PaulKemp (218 posts) -

I just dont get the f2p bias that I see around. Personally I'd much rather pay a highter initial cost, and have inherently less grinding in the game. F2p games has to have an higher, or rather, a more agressive way to get their development cost back. Somethign that, at least on paper, a game with an initial cost does not. We seem to forget that Valve actually figured out the f2p+cosmetics model with TF2. Now we can argue what is good vs what is bad.

Additional things that comes with an initial cost of a game, is that cards retain their value. If unlimited people can grind unlimited time, all cards would eventually be worth very little. GabeN makes this point in the initial Artifact video from April below. Another benefit of the "pay to participate" model is that the player has invested something in the game, and then tends to play that game more, since the money investment already has been made. I for example, have tried and stopped playing Faeria (free) - but continued playing Slay the Spire (15$). Maybe because I felt I had to give it a more thurough try, since I've already paid for it.

Also there is the argument of played vs money spent. I have 600 hours of Overwatch, and has spent around 100$ on that game including boxes. Do that math, this is cheap fun. Still, I feel that I owe Blizzard something. I am the winning part of that bargain. I feel I have gotten more than I paid for.

Paid games from Valve, tends to be cheap. Look at Portal, HL, Left 4 dead etc.
Free games tends to be agressive on the cosmetics and extras; CSGO, Dota.

This actually makes me happy that Artifact costs 20$

Loading Video...

Aslo: This thread f**king rocks! Keep it up good people! Civil and good discussions. GB community best community.

No Caption Provided

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#20 Edited by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@lazyimperial: So... You're not denying harassment of other groups exists, but your argument is that white men also deal with harassment and therefore that cannot be the reason for this cavalier stance on moderation? I'm not denying that occasionally white men have to deal with some shit too, but to suggest the levels (not only frequency, severity too) of abuse and harassment are at all comparable is bananas. If that were true (it's not, and it's dangerous to even suggest that it is) then that makes the decision to leave this service unmoderated even more negligent.

Regardless of who the developers are I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a base level of awareness of the multiple hate groups that are videogames adjacent, or the #meToo movement, or general human shittiness that existed long before any of them. There are nazis on TV now - ignorance of this shit is inexcusable. Optimism from the developers is fine, but to not have a plan B is at best irresponsible and at worst compliant.

Anyway, I've edited that paragraph to be less aggressive, and appreciate the discussion about it.

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#21 Posted by Savage (770 posts) -

How do we know that there are webcams being involved here? The article at the top only mentions "live chat" with no further clarification. I read "chat" to mean text or voice and "live" to mean enabled or on-by-default. This is not uncommon in multiplayer games, while cam sharing is extremely rare. I don't see any reason to think this game is going to be a 'webcam service'.

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#22 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@savage: You... are actually completely right. Huh. When I first read it I could have sworn I saw mention of video chat but maybe I dreamed that?

Alright, apparently I've misinterpreted the article. I'll update my blog to reflect that. Thanks.

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#23 Posted by AdamALC (260 posts) -

@sweep: I think at the end of the day generalizing anyone's experiences based on the color of their skin or their sexuality is counterproductive.

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#24 Posted by indure (104 posts) -

In terms of the worrying over chat moderation, IMO the best moderation is the ability to turn it off if you don't want to see or hear it. This isn't a team game where communication is needed for success, you don't need to talk to your opponent to play.

In terms of the buy-only monetization system I think people are only focusing on the value not on the community/game implications. Games need natural progression systems to feel rewarding long term, skill progression alone is not enough. If you can't earn cards what are the long term hooks and incentives to get people to play this game actively for years? Also without the ability to naturally earn cards overtime through playing, how do you experiment with decks? It feels like a system designed around going online looking up the meta and buying the cards you need to do it, there is little to no incentive in experimenting.

The other part of this game that has me concern is amount of luck that exists. It's far more than just turn and draw order, your first 3 heroes are automatically assigned random lanes and are hard to move once placed; creeps randomly spawn in all 3 lanes and in the smaller areas of lanes; attacking priority is somewhat random; some spells are hero-specific so can't be used when needed; items are random. Some amount of luck is healthy for replayability, but too much will make this game uncompetitive.

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#25 Posted by Gundato (42 posts) -

@indure: With respect to chat moderation

As someone who has been turning off voice chat since Tribes 2, I agree. As an individual, the best solution is to just disable it and not deal with that crap

But, as an experiment, I think mandatory chat (just turn on a big fucking microphone whenever you play) could make a long term difference. Combine that with the ongoing commendation/report system and I think "toxic gamers" could be resolved in order years. You'll always have the assholes, but when the average person is concerned about their magic social gamer score they'll be more likely to at least bite their tongue and act like they are in public. The addition of achievements made "completionist" mindsets a lot more popular, so clearly we are easily manipulated.

Now, mandatory chat is obviously not a viable solution and people are more likely to drop the game than deal with the social gamer score. And this sounds like something an insidious organization/government would do. But, barring the complete lack of feasibility, I think it would make a big difference. And who knows? In four or five years we might be so comfortable with our google homes and the like that people don't mind an always on microphone when they game (and I invest in some pillows and duct tape).

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#26 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@indure: part of what's so worrying about this whole thing is a fundamental shortsightedness when it comes to bad losers and griefing online. Even in hearthstone, a game with the bare minimum of interactions, you can BM an opponent by dragging out the match as long as possible even when one player has clearly already won.

@adamalc: that only works if the people attacking others online don't generalise by those perameters either.

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#27 Posted by AdamALC (260 posts) -

@sweep:

@sweep said:

@indure: part of what's so worrying about this whole thing is a fundamental shortsightedness when it comes to bad losers and griefing online. Even in hearthstone, a game with the bare minimum of interactions, you can BM an opponent by dragging out the match as long as possible even when one player has clearly already won.

@adamalc: that only works if the people attacking others online don't generalise by those perameters either.

I don't think I understand your comment, are you saying it is ok to generalize and stereotype people, as long as other people are generalizing and stereotyping people first?

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#28 Posted by Slag (8121 posts) -

Yeah

Yeah, I think you got this whole thing nailed pretty well @sweep.

Artifact sounds more and more like a massive bummer to me. Hard pass.

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#29 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@adamalc: Sorry, I replied on my phone early in the morning so that came out wrong, I'll rephrase.

You say:

generalizing anyone's experiences based on the color of their skin or their sexuality is counterproductive.

I wasn't attempting to say that, being white, these men have had painless lives, merely that they don't fit the demographic of people who are most frequently subject to abuse online. That was speculation as to why they may not be sympathetic to the need for strict moderation, which is ultimately my goal here, not to try and make white people feel guilty; if you have an alternative suggestion then I'd genuinely be interested to hear it.

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#30 Edited by Ares42 (4159 posts) -

@sweep: I don't think anyone is trying to argue that there aren't differences in the abuse people get on the internet, merely that even as a white male you have to be completely ignorant to not realize that it's a problem (and if they've spent any significant time playing games online even they should have enough personal experiences with online abuse to understand it). The only reason they would come to the conclusion that there's no need for moderation is purely because they're out of touch with internet culture.

Re-reading the quote I'm left wondering where they got their data from. Like, the idea that people play to the audience is a somewhat reasonable theory, but do they have any actual data to back this up ?

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#32 Posted by PaulKemp (218 posts) -

But we really wanted to focus on players being able to play with their group of friends and with their communities. And for those communities to build other mode types, where they play classic mode where it’s only the first set, or we want to play with just the common cards, or they build cubes that you draft from.

The people at Valve have been playing the same set of cards since the beginning and they still want to play them. If new cards come out, that’ll be exciting, but there’s a lot of play value there. So you want to release cards in such a way that you don’t confuse the fact that you’ve really got this evergreen game, but at the same time provide ongoing interesting strategic shifts.

RG: With the expansion pacing, it’s a balancing act, because people want to see new things. But on the other hand, you can play the original cards essentially indefinitely. That sounds kind of surprising for a trading card game, most people think you need new blood going in, but you don’t.

So you get the kitchen table Magic play analogue, where people can play with their own sets of rules and their own level of seriousness. And the analogue of cube drafts, or Commander Magic, or something like that, where a lot of play in Magic is driven by the players, because they’ve got the cards. We want to give people the capability of doing that with Artifact as well.

Haters gonna hate, but this game sounds like is the bomb! In a good way, like a giant bomb. They are doing some really interesting stuff here.

Source: IGN | The full Artifact interview – the future of Valve’s card game

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#34 Edited by Painkiller80 (65 posts) -

@sweep said:

I wasn't attempting to say that, being white, these men have had painless lives, merely that they don't fit the demographic of people who are most frequently subject to abuse online. That was speculation as to why they may not be sympathetic to the need for strict moderation, which is ultimately my goal here, not to try and make white people feel guilty; if you have an alternative suggestion then I'd genuinely be interested to hear it.

WOW you are being kind of offensive. You are acting like being a white male gives you some kind of magical armor that protects them from harassment or you some how receive less is just CRAZY. and since when can people see the color of your skin online?

I am from the south so I talk like I am from the south. I also play dota2 I have 7k hours in that game. Do you know how many times I have played a game talked in chat and say "I have wards for top" and have gotten called the N word or stupid redneck? I am a white male married to a women of color with interracial children so these things they say are very offensive to me. But Valve give me a feature to deal with these people and its called MUTE.

The sad thing is this stereotype is acceptable and if you replace the words white male with any other color/race you would likely have had your post deleted or ban.

*edit* I almost forget this was about Artifact I was reading this... and started seeing red.

I know one of the TI talents and he got a few of beta codes he gave out to his dota friends. I dont want to say much because of the NDA but the first season of Artifact is not going to be pay to win. You get most of the cards when you first start, like 90% of the cards.

The game feels finished I have not seen any bugs. But they are doing a lot of card balancing it gets updated a lot and the stats on the cards change a lot. This is BY FAR thebest card game i have played and in my top 5 for GOTY for this year so far. cant wait to see more poeple playing and talking about it.

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#35 Edited by teo22 (70 posts) -

I have three thousand hours of Dota 2 on Steam. I played hearthstone before its initial release and off and on during the early seasons.

On a scale from one to ten my anticipation for this game was zero.

@sweep said:

The game will cost $20 at launch, which will get players two starter decks (everyone gets the same ones) and ten packs of random cards. From that, there is absolutely no way for players to earn more packs by playing the game. Everything more must either be bought with real money, or traded for on the game's market

When I read this my expectations were somehow even lowered. I apologize for commenting without having read your post all the way to the end, but there really isn't any point in doing so. It's like Valve is taking what was "hot" in gaming 5 years ago and applying the most cancerous business model imaginable to it. It won't matter if it ends up being the best card game in the history of mankind, with a pitch like this I won't even be giving it a shot. There's a reason I've clocked those thousands of hours into Dota, yet never even installed League of Legends. It's called business model. Nothing I've heard has suggested League's gameplay to be flawed, but it has never come to that since I already know there to be a deal breaker without having tried it.

I'd hope for it to crash and burn so that they could move on to another project as quickly as possible, but at this point I'm past expecting Valve to ever release a decent video game again. In my eyes Valve has become the Walmart of the video gaming industry. Even if I could save 50 cents by shopping there I'll gladly support any alternative.

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#36 Edited by teo22 (70 posts) -

@bbalpert said:
@dgtlty said:

Didn't Ben Pack say on the Bombcast this week you could earn or unlock cards by playing the game?

He did, but but said that like 45 minutes before the story went up. They make a correction later in the cast, right after the get back from the commercial break, right before the news section.

"Psychologically, we find that people misbehave when there is somebody else to observe them misbehaving," Barnett said. "When it's a one-on-one game, what is my motivation for saying something awful? But when you're in a game with a bunch of other people and you say something, a bunch of other people laugh at you, so something happened. We tend to see people behave very differently in one-on-one situations."

This is such a garbage position for Valve to take for (at least) 2 major reasons:

  1. It makes the willfully naive assumption that people will behave themselves if they think nobody is watching them
  2. Even if the idea that people will only misbehave if they have an audience wasn't bullshit, using it as a justification not to moderate chat doesn't even address that issue because it is a fucking one-on-one game where there is always an audience of the other player. Toxic assholes don't act out because they're being watched by moderators, they act out because they're being watched by THE OTHER PLAYERS.

I'm sure there will be a mute function, so what's the problem? Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I can't imagine a reason I would want anyone to moderate my 1-on-1 chat. That's the only positive news I've heard of this game so far.

I absolutely despise this trend of forcing players to communicate through obscure emotes or a handful of pre-selected phrases. What it will hurt the most is constructive, meaningful communication. It doesn't matter how vanilla and PC you make your system, there will always be something people can spam to annoy their opponents. If my opponent wishes me "Good game" five times after my every move I have a hard time believing he's genuinely wishing me to have a good time. The only thing it truly limits is intelligent discussion since you can't type out anything more complex than a generic statement.

@sweep said:

More importantly though. it's irresponsible; these developers are essentially opening up another avenue for people to be harassed, and for the people that seek to harass to do so without punishment. As white men they may not be as sensitive to the kind of casual offhand abuse that women/LGBT+/non cis/non-white people have to deal with on a daily basis, but it's bizarrely insouciant of them not to acknowledge that harassment and trolling is a common 21st century problem, that game communities are often plagued by casual sexism, homophobia and racism, and that others might not have the same painless experience as they themselves did on their internal test server; Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but to not pre-emptively have a system in place to deal with that inevitability seems either extremely negligent or extremely sheltered.

Anyway, I'm sure you can disable the live chat, and I'm sure you can mute or disable all chat completely (as per Hearthstone) but if you're going to include those things even as an option then you can't simply leave it unmoderated; I'm fed up with developers creating platforms for abuse and then not taking responsibility for the behavior of the players who use them.

This is like saying the telephone was a terrible invention for allowing people to say mean things over long distances. No shit, everything can be abused. That doesn't mean we should limit everybody in the fear that someone will use the feature in an unwanted manner.

Hearthstone only has a handful of phrases to select from, and I mute my opponent every game since I know there will never ever be anything worthwhile coming out of their mouth. In Dota and CS:GO I'm allowed to freely interact with fellow players, and I end up muting less than 10% of them. There have been countless occasions where I had something genuine to ask my opponent that could've taught me something new about the game or made us both enjoy the session more, and perhaps even more imporantly it would've made us feel human rather than two AI bots battling each other. Apparently in your mind no one in this world is mature enough to be allowed to interact with another person without supervision.

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#37 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@teo22 said:
@sweep said:

More importantly though. it's irresponsible; these developers are essentially opening up another avenue for people to be harassed, and for the people that seek to harass to do so without punishment. As white men they may not be as sensitive to the kind of casual offhand abuse that women/LGBT+/non cis/non-white people have to deal with on a daily basis, but it's bizarrely insouciant of them not to acknowledge that harassment and trolling is a common 21st century problem, that game communities are often plagued by casual sexism, homophobia and racism, and that others might not have the same painless experience as they themselves did on their internal test server; Maybe I'm just a cynical bastard, but to not pre-emptively have a system in place to deal with that inevitability seems either extremely negligent or extremely sheltered.

Anyway, I'm sure you can disable the live chat, and I'm sure you can mute or disable all chat completely (as per Hearthstone) but if you're going to include those things even as an option then you can't simply leave it unmoderated; I'm fed up with developers creating platforms for abuse and then not taking responsibility for the behavior of the players who use them.

This is like saying the telephone was a terrible invention for allowing people to say mean things over long distances. No shit, everything can be abused. That doesn't mean we should limit everybody in the fear that someone will use the feature in an unwanted manner.

If you call someone up on the telephone and act like an asshole then there are still repercussions for that. A mute doesn't solve the problem, it just means that person will go on to harass someone else instead. I'm not saying limit the chat functionality, merely that it needs to be moderated, and that people who abuse the system should be removed from it (instead of expecting the player to simply ignore it). I don't think that's unreasonable?

@sweep said:

I wasn't attempting to say that, being white, these men have had painless lives, merely that they don't fit the demographic of people who are most frequently subject to abuse online. That was speculation as to why they may not be sympathetic to the need for strict moderation, which is ultimately my goal here, not to try and make white people feel guilty; if you have an alternative suggestion then I'd genuinely be interested to hear it.

WOW you are being kind of offensive. You are acting like being a white male gives you some kind of magical armor that protects them from harassment or you some how receive less is just CRAZY. and since when can people see the color of your skin online?

You're putting words in my mouth - I never said any of those things. I suggest you read my comment again.

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#38 Edited by Mike (17959 posts) -

@teo22 said:

The only thing it truly limits is intelligent discussion since you can't type out anything more complex than a generic statement.

Well this is just straight up wrong. We all know that an emote system actually does limit players saying offensive and rude things to others, don't pretend it doesn't. And just because you don't have a problem with this type of behavior doesn't mean it isn't a problem.

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#39 Edited by Undeadpool (6722 posts) -

The monetization certainly rubs me the wrong way, and yes: card games have required a buy-in since their inception, but then you HAD ACTUAL CARDS. Physical goods. I'll say that there IS a kind of savage honesty to it, though. They don't pretend the ramp to earn cards free will be painless and "just as valid" as people who dump hundreds of dollars into it, they're straight up saying you gotta pay to play. So at least you know what you're getting into.

As far as the chat, I honestly think saying that Valve is "naive" and "shortsighted" is to give them far, far too much credit. Despite not having shareholders, they're still very cagey about what they do and don't put out in the public eye, but there's no way the company behind such welcoming and inclusive communities as we see with DotA2, CS: GO, and TF2 have any illusions about what chat can be like. They simply don't want to expend the resources to moderate. Anything. Not this game's chat, not team games' chat, not their storefront that sells rancid meat alongside filet mignon. They've repeatedly come up with any number of excuses, but they all lead back to: 'we simply do not want to expend the resources to.' This also isn't to come down on you for giving them said credit, I've just got no more optimism for companies that engage in behavior like this.

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#40 Edited by teo22 (70 posts) -

@mike said:
@teo22 said:

The only thing it truly limits is intelligent discussion since you can't type out anything more complex than a generic statement.

Well this is just straight up wrong. We all know that an emote system actually does limit players saying offensive and rude things to others, don't pretend it doesn't. And just because you don't have a problem with this type of behavior doesn't mean it isn't a problem.

You can always find another way to be obnoxious. It's impossible to find an in-game alternative to helpful dicussion if you limit the players to a chatwheel.

@sweep said:
@teo22 said:

This is like saying the telephone was a terrible invention for allowing people to say mean things over long distances. No shit, everything can be abused. That doesn't mean we should limit everybody in the fear that someone will use the feature in an unwanted manner.

If you call someone up on the telephone and act like an asshole then there are still repercussions for that. A mute doesn't solve the problem, it just means that person will go on to harass someone else instead.

Yeah the other person will hang up, which is exactly the same as muting them. There won't be any further repercussions if you pick a random telephone number to dial and say some mean words. Any legal action would require persistent harassment which isn't really feasible in a matchmaking-type environment. The phone company won't care either unless the police/lawyers get involved.

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#41 Posted by Sweep (10507 posts) -

@teo22 said:
@mike said:
@teo22 said:

The only thing it truly limits is intelligent discussion since you can't type out anything more complex than a generic statement.

Well this is just straight up wrong. We all know that an emote system actually does limit players saying offensive and rude things to others, don't pretend it doesn't. And just because you don't have a problem with this type of behavior doesn't mean it isn't a problem.

You can always find another way to be obnoxious. It's impossible to find an in-game alternative to helpful dicussion if you limit the players to a chatwheel.

@sweep said:
@teo22 said:

This is like saying the telephone was a terrible invention for allowing people to say mean things over long distances. No shit, everything can be abused. That doesn't mean we should limit everybody in the fear that someone will use the feature in an unwanted manner.

If you call someone up on the telephone and act like an asshole then there are still repercussions for that. A mute doesn't solve the problem, it just means that person will go on to harass someone else instead.

Yeah the other person will hang up, which is exactly the same as muting them. There won't be any further repercussions if you pick a random telephone number to dial and say some mean words. Any legal action would require persistent harassment which isn't really feasible in a matchmaking-type environment. The phone company won't care either unless the police/lawyers get involved.

Just to be clear, using phone conversations as an analogy for insulting random people wasn't my idea and I don't have any real interest in playing it out.

The point is that in a game where you're matched against another player who has a username and account number and is using a service with a registered email - there is very easily the potential to hold people to account for being assholes on that service. You need a "report this player button" and then you need someone to review it, which in a short text-based interaction should be pretty straightforward. The reason they don't is either laziness or lack of interest or lack of funding (which in Valve's case doesn't seem realistic) or as suggested in my blog, a mindblowing lack of awareness.

What I'm suggesting in terms of moderation is no different to how this website is moderated and regardless of how you feel about our rules or our moderators, we keep toxic behavior under wraps and as a result the net experience of our user-base improves.

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#42 Posted by soulcake (2424 posts) -

I wonder if this game is ever gonna come out in Belgium with our new Lootboxes are gambling policy, which i totally agree with and even contacted the gambling law association about. And CardPacks are kind off a different shaped lootbox. So you weird times if your trying to bring FTP style micro-transaction games to Belgium.

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#43 Posted by CJduke (1029 posts) -

I think their idea of "people will be less mean in a 1 v 1 game" is completely insane. Have they ever played starcraft 2? People have said some absolutely outrageous things to me in that game over the years, just because I beat them. Its also maybe the only game where people have kept harassing me through whispers after the game is over.

In team games, people are awful to their teammates because it gives them someone to blame for their own bad play and for losing. In starcraft you have no one else to blame for losing but yourself, so people get angry at their opponent because they did a strategy they deem broken, OP, or cheesy. They can blame their opponent for the way they play, telling themselves if only the opponent played "normal" or "fair" or "didn't play that bs OP race" then they would win.

I can only imagine the kind of shit talk that would come from players if they could chat in Hearthstone. All of those rush Warlock and spell Mage decks from back in the day...the chat would have been absolutely disgusting. To think people will be nice to each other in Artifact is crazy.

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#44 Posted by acharlie1377 (49 posts) -

I don't want to get all conspiracy-theory, but it seems like Richard Garfield has been designing games that are a little... greedy. If anyone here follows board game news, they might have heard of a game called Keyforge: Call of the Archons (yes, that's the full name), also designed by Garfield. The game reportedly has similar mechanics to Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone, but the unique hook of the game is that players don't actually craft their own decks. Instead, players buy pre-made decks that have been procedurally generated, and then have to either play with that deck or buy new decks. Each deck has a unique name and QR code to prevent deck-building, and while all the decks are designed to be roughly equally competitive, interviews and articles make it seem like some decks will naturally be stronger than others. I have a huge problem with this structure, as it hugely incentivizes competitive players to spend more and more money on decks in order to find the ultimate deck, but removes a lot of what makes CCGs fun by stripping players of the ability to craft their own decks. Casual players also suffer, as they are limited in how much of the game they can actually enjoy, unless they spend more and more money on one game.

Artifact seems to have a lot of the same problems. Garfield describes the card pack structure as "pay-to-participate," but the 20 dollar price tag is already "pay-to-participate," only because players can't earn card packs in-game, it's really just "pay to participate a little bit, but if you want to get more play time than just a few decks, you need to spend more money." For players who want to make this game into a hobby it isn't so bad, since Hearthstone hobbyists tend to spend hundreds of dollars a month anyways, but for casual players it seems greedily restrictive. If I buy Artifact for 20 dollars and like it, and would like to play once or twice a week and maybe come back for expansions or just to fiddle with decks, I can't unless I want to spend more money on more cards. Artifact wants me to spend 20 dollars to be able to experience it, that's fine--but then if I like it, I'm punished by having to pay more money just to see the game? It feels like they're releasing an Artifact demo, only the demo costs 20 dollars, and how enjoyable the demo is varies on how strong the cards you get are.

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