Valve has U-turned on Artifact card balance after complaints from the game's community called for tweaks.
Valve had employed a no-messing with the cards approach to Artifact, the Dota card game, preferring instead to keep balance changes as a last resort "in large part because we thought players valued immutability very highly".
But since Artifact launched, players have called for Valve to tweak the way some cards work in the game. This feedback, in combination with discussion among the development team, sparked a rethink.
"The average player mainly wants the game quality to be high above all other considerations," Valve explained in a post on Steam.
"Players who focus a lot on deck building would prefer a more diverse and engaging meta to play around. While some card collectors enjoy having a small number of really valuable cards, many others are happier in a world where the full set value isn't overly dominated by one or two cards."
Valve added it was also worried that setting a high bar for making iterations would cause future set development to be worse off.
"Long term set creativity will suffer if we are reluctant to try new ideas because of fears around not being able to make adjustments," Valve said.
So, Valve has issued a round of balancing for Artifact as part of an update called Build Your Legend. And it won't stop there.
"Starting with today's update, we will be taking an incremental approach to balancing, with the primary goal being to improve the gameplay quality over time," Valve said.
"New set expansions will undoubtedly cause bigger meta shifts, but we'll use incremental balancing between sets as a way to make sure that gameplay quality is as good as it can be.
"We think player activity and demand is by far the biggest factor for overall card value, so we expect this to be a net positive for everyone over the long term."
One side-effect of Valve's change of heart is that some cards will go down in value and others will go up.
Artifact plugs into Steam's marketplace, allowing players to buy and sell cards for real-world money. There's a superb takedown of the economy of the game - as well as Valve itself - in this feature on Waypoint.
In short, with this update, cards players had a reasonable expectation would hold their value will not. Aware this would cause upset among those who've invested cash into cards, Valve has launched a one-time buyback exception for the next two weeks. It means any player who previously bought today's changed cards from the marketplace can sell the cards directly back to Valve for their peak selling price in the 24 hours prior to the update's announcement.
The update also makes meaningful changes to the game in that it adds independent skill ratings for constructed and draft games, and an account leveling system that tracks your overall experience with the game, letting you unlock level icons and a set number of tickets and packs. This means you can earn tickets and packs just from playing the game, which is welcome. All in all, this update amounts to a complete rethink on Valve's part for the way Artifact works.
Artifact launched with a decent amount of interest but it quickly lost a substantial portion of its playerbase. At the time of publication it's got 10,000 concurrent players, and sits behind Black Desert Online but above The Witcher 3 in Steam's top 100 games by current player count list.
It'll be interesting to see whether this update sparks an upturn in fortunes for Artifact.
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