Artifact had a rough reveal at The International 2017, Valve’s largest annual tournament for its MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) Dota 2. Fans in attendance saw its debut via a video. You can hear their excitement build as they understand Valve is about to unveil its first new game since Dota 2 came out in 2013 (not counting The Lab, which was more of a VR experiment). Then you can hear that excitement fade when they learn that the new game, Artifact, is a digital card game based on Dota 2 that’s coming out for PC later in 2018.
Valve was once known for strong single-player experiences like Half-Life and Portal along with its multiplayer games. Today, its gaming endeavors focus on live-service titles like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Seeing the studio’s new game follow a current market trend (started by Blizzard’s hit Hearthstone) was clearly a disappointment to fans hoping for either a sequel to another Valve franchise or an original game.
When I played Artifact at Valve’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington last week, I asked the Artifact team about the reaction to the game’s debut. I wanted to know if the groans bothered them. But Valve took it as a challenge.
“All the people we have in the beta right now have come from the Dota community,” Valve’s Jeep Barnett told GamesBeat. “They start out asking us why we’re making this game, and after they’ve played a few rounds they’re just so into it. It’s one of the most gratifying things for me as a game creator, to see somebody change their mind about a game. Just getting people hands-on with the game has shown that we’re making something people enjoy.”
That certainly reflects my own experience with Artifact. I was skeptical of Valve being able to stand out with another digital card game, but Artifact’s complexity captured my attention and imagination.