By Mark ‘”Petrify'” Fittipaldi – 25/09/2018
Digital card games have been around since the late 1990s, but none can hold a candle to Artifact when it comes to functionality. One would imagine that in the space of 20 years, functionality would be a solved aspect of card games, yet no CCG I’ve played to date has had all of the quality of life features I expect. Artifact changes that.
For this article, we’ll ignore mechanics and game design and focus on why Artifact is objectively the most functional digital card game (DCG) to date. Below is a list of features Artifact has at launch:
- Replays. This is a vital feature for any competitive card game player. Being able to watch a replay of your game and pinpoint mistakes or see what your opponent’s options were in certain situations is incredible and is something I’ve been dying to see in Gwent and Magic Arena. In Hearthstone, meanwhile, replays are supported, but only by a third party. We have it at launch in Artifact. One benefit of replays is that they facilitate content creation, as well. Enabling content creators is an awesome way to draw them to the game and keep them there. Nothing is more frustrating than a content drought, and replays go a long way to preventing that.
- Deck tracker. Once again, this is an incredibly important tool for any serious DCG player. Knowing what your outs are and calculating the best plays is pivotal to increasing your win percentage. Simply press F2 to activate the deck tracker in Artifact, and in Gauntlet you can press F3 to see your opponent’s deck so you don’t lose to a surprise Annihilation. In the vast majority of DCGs, deck trackers are supported only via third parties. Valve says, “Third parties? Who needs ’em?”
- Friends and spectator mode. I won’t deny that Artifact has an enormous advantage immediately by virtue of the fact that it’s developed by Valve and is thus integrated beautifully with Steam’s friend list. With a spectator mode, on the other hand, Valve is at no advantage, yet they’re delivering it at launch, whereas other DCGs deep into their lifecycles don’t have a spectator mode or have an extremely buggy one. A benefit of having a spectator mode at launch means third-party tournaments are instantly enabled, which helps foster a great competitive scene.
- Deck importing and exporting. Netdeckers rejoice! At launch in Artifact, you can simply and easily load into your deck builder and press Control + C to get a code for your deck. When you have a deck code you want to import, simply press Control + V to import it. Once again, this feature usually comes into DCGs post launch and a few expansions deep, and it still hasn’t been implemented in some DCGs.
- Post-game stats. If you’re a fiend for stats like I am, you’re going to love the end-match screen in Artifact. Immediately after the game, you’re able to identify turning points, areas in which you’ve had a positive game, and areas in which your game has been weak. This enables players to focus on areas for improvement, and never has a defeat screen been so satisfying. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no card game has ever provided this many stats about individual games—let alone from the very beginning.
- In-game chat and emotes. This is definitely a divisive feature. Some games choose to have an in-game chat, some don’t. In the closed beta, the in-game chat has been used awesomely to help teach people how to play, point out mistakes, or just have a laugh. I’m not sure if it will remain that way, however. While I’m optimistic that people will initially use it to help one another, I’m not optimistic that it’ll still be used positively one year into the game. Emotes, on the other hand, are incredible. You can emote by hovering over a hero or tower and pressing Y. This includes custom emotes, meaning you can make your cards say whatever you want. I love how flavourful a lot of the emotes are, and I’m very glad they’re in the game.
- In-client tournaments. The beta testing tournaments have all been run in-client. However, it remains to be seen whether these tournaments are going to be around at launch. If Artifact offers this feature at launch, it’s another huge advantage for the game, and I can’t imagine a world where the functionality doesn’t make the transition from closed beta to launch.
- Marketplace for trading cards. Another huge benefit of Steam is that Artifact gets to be a trading card game. Being able to swap cards you don’t want for cards you do want is something I’ve wanted in a DCG for forever. We get it at launch! You can simply drag and drop cards from the deck builder screen to put them into a buy or sell section.
- Reconnect feature. In the days of early access and quick to-market strategies, it’s not unreasonable to forgo a reconnect feature at launch. Even though this feature is, in my Australian internet sufferer’s opinion, a quintessential element of any online game, most DCGs do not offer it at launch. Once again, Artifact nails it.
These nine features give Artifact a significant edge over other DCGs, even those several years into development. I firmly believe that Artifact will gain serious traction at launch simply by virtue of these features.