This weekend saw Artifact make its biggest public appearance yet, in the form of a preview tournament that was streamed on Steam.tv and Twitch. Despite the inclusion of many friendly faces from other CCG games, it felt like the audience found Artifact's triple-lane gameplay a little tricky to follow. Which isn't a huge surprise, given the nuclear-grade headache I had after my first experience. More recently I took another beating at the hands of Valve's designers, and came away impressed by the game's depth but also somewhat daunted by it.
Meeting at Valve: "What's the best way to introduce our complex new game to a wider audience? I know, let's let people host a tournament for pro players with a 6-month head-start who play super fast, hosted by casters who pretend like everyone already knows how it all works."November 10, 2018
You know what this Artifact stream has taught me? That there are many things that Blizzard does well, and it's easy to take them for granted.November 10, 2018
It's worth noting that the authors of both those tweets are invested in the Hearthstone scene, but regardless, I would say Valve has a tricky job to do explaining the game to the huddled masses who are used to fighting on a single board. To help that process, over the weekend Valve updated its FAQ page with more information on Artifact's launch and beyond. I'm unclear exactly which sections were added, but we do now know what the $19.99 pre-order will get you: 10 booster packs, 5 event tickets (which grant access to 'Gauntlets' that you'd otherwise need to pay for because they grant prizes), and two starter decks: Red/Green 'Brawler' and Blue/Black 'Control'.
What's less clear at this point is whether pre-ordering will grant you access to the next phase of the beta which begins on 19 November, just over a week before the full release on 28 November, thus making it more of a demo. In the absence of that info, or any sense of what benefits pre-ordering confers, it makes even more sense than usual to wait and see.
Elsewhere in the FAQ Valve breaks down the cost and contents of booster packs. Each is priced $1.99 and contains 12 cards from the starting 'Call to Arms' set, one of which is guaranteed to be a hero. As we already knew, unwanted cards can be sold on the Steam Marketplace via Artifact's card collection manager.
Things get a little trickier to follow when it comes to the explanation of how Gauntlet events work. For Phantom and Draft gauntlets, your goal is to win five games before receiving two losses, with the reward structure working as follows:
Expert Constructed/Phantom draft: 1 ticket entry fee
3 Wins = 1 event ticket reward
4 Wins = 1 event ticket + 1 pack reward
5 Wins = 1 event ticket + 2 packs reward
Keeper draft: 2 event tickets + 5 packs entry fee
3 Wins = 2 event tickets + 1 pack
4 Wins = 2 event tickets + 2 packs
5 Wins: 2 event tickets + 3 packs
The difference between Expert Constructed and Phantom Draft is that the former uses your card collection and tracks your win streak, ending the run after a single loss, whilst the latter has you opening packs to draft a deck. Oh, and if the rewards from the Keeper draft seem uneconomic, that's because you actually get to keep all the cards from initial five packs that are part of the entry fee: Hence, keeper.
Away from the paid-for events, players will also be able to create their own tournaments, including Swiss and single-elimination formats, but these won't support entry fees or prizes at launch. All that may change down the line, though. The impression from the FAQ is that any of this stuff may be altered depending on player reception. Speaking of which, despite the update there still seems to be quite a bit of concern about how much you'll need to spend in order to maintain a competitive collection. Again, that's really only likely to become clear once we see what cards are selling for on the Marketplace.
The NDA on Artifact's current closed beta will end on 17 November, at which point you can expect a slew of impressions videos, deck guides, and other introductory tips from the content creators who've been participating. I imagine we'll have something for you too. Meanwhile, Artifact is the cover star of the latest issue of PC Gamer, which goes on sale Thursday 12 November in the UK and 4 December in the US. You can also check out a game from the tournament below and see if you can wrap you head around it. I wonder how effective going face in all three lanes is going to be.