If you’ve avoided hearing about Valve’s upcoming digital card game, Artifact, you might want to take a look at the latest interview from GameIndustry.biz with programmer Jeep Barnett and legendary card game designer Richard Garfield. (Mr. Garfield is best known for designing Magic: the Gathering, better known as the game every other digital game is aping to some degree.) The interview features both designers taking pains to stress that they are not trying to copy Hearthstone whilst making it clear that they have avoided learning absolutely any lessons from Hearthstone’s success.
For example, do you like earning cards through play in that game? There will be none of that in Artifact. In addition to having a box price, the absolute only way to get new cards for your deck will be buying them, thereby “removing the grind” by adding in the exact same imbalance as has existed in Magic: the Gathering for years. Early on, MtG was designed this way because it was assumed no one would spend enough money on the game for it to matter; there is years of evidence proving this is not the case.
“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.”
The game will also feature chat between players, and to the surprise of absolutely no one who has been paying the slightest attention to Valve over the past few years, it will be entirely unmoderated.
“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?”
It is left as an exercise for the reader to spend a few moments perusing the history of other card games to see if there is any history of nasty behavior in one-on-one games, a question which the more cynical might point out could be entirely answered in form of .GIF files in which Magic: the Gathering players literally flip over tables on their opponents. And that’s with physical cards which can actually be damaged, which the Artifact cards are not; you just have to pay for them as if they are.