Of course, we also talked a lot about Artifact and the tournament. We just couldn’t skip the topics like the monetization of the game, cancer decks from Swim, and the new-player experience as well as the future of Artifact as esports.
Hey! Please, tell a bit about yourself.
I’m Swim. Everyone knows me from Gwent. It’s the first game I streamed. I’ve played Dota a lot. Played Overwatch competitively in Season 1. I was on a fairly high-rated team.
I’ve been playing card games my entire life. Hearthstone, Magic, Duelist, Shadowverse. I played basically every card game.
I really enjoy the strategic aspect of card games. Particularly, deck building. In Gwent, I was known for creating cancer decks. My strength is analyzing beforehand. Right now, making the right plays in a moment is something I need to work on. I’m better at the theory of games. With Artifact’s timer, there are many things to consider. If I could get better on execution, I would be a top pro player.
Speaking about the timer, what do you think about the games players lost to the clock at the tournament?
That happened to me! Not in such a situation. This is not the last time we are going to see such an outcome. You see roping in a lot of other games, and there are mistakes the players make to ropes. Of course, it is not an auto-lose on the spot, but a lot of those mistakes do end up costing players their game. It is more common than you might think. Time is a resource, and it is important to make the right decision.
In Artifact, it is even more of a resource. In other games, you aren’t pressured as much as in Artifact.
Exactly! You have a lot to think about. In Hearthstone, you think about maybe two different plays. In Artifact, you think about four and more potential plays. There are so many considerations. It is definitely the most complex card game.
As a person who is casting/analyzing the tournament, how’s Artifact for you compared to Gwent?
I think I like it better these days. I don’t know. Gwent is a game I fell in love with. This represents something that’s core to my identity. I fell in love with Gwent because, at heart, I’m a deck builder. Gwent is a game that’s more around deck building.
Artifact is the opposite. Artifact is much more around the idea of piloting. Archetypes don’t exist in Artifact quite as defined. They are still there a bit. For example, even when you play Agro, you play Agro on one lane but you try to slow down on another lane. Due to that, decks in Artifact end up becoming build more towards Mid-range. They are more flexible.
I’d like to think about Artifact as a game where you almost build your deck as you play. You build a deck with different options and then you’ve got three different games going on at the same time. You have to deck-build each lane while you are playing.
I think this way, Valve managed to capture the essence of Dota. In Dota, it is the same. You have the idea how are you going to play and draft, but as the game progresses, you need to adapt.
Absolutely! Dota is probably my biggest game. I wasn’t known for Dota because I didn’t stream back in the day. For four years of my life, Dota was my life. Literally, wake up, Dota, sleep.
Yeah, that’s part of the reason why Artifact has such an appeal to me. I’m astonished how well Valve captured Dota’s essence in Artifact.
When I first started playing Artifact, I had a bad first impression of the game before I understood all the complexity. I felt the RNG was high, I didn’t like a lot of the design choices. As I’ve played more, the game has grown on me more. Actually, so much that I love it!
I’d like to mention to anybody reading this that has a bad impression of the game, it is important to give Artifact a chance. My initial impression was bad too.
How complex you think the game is?
The game has a really poor new-player experience in terms of complexity, daily quests, price. This is all true. I can’t deny any of that. It is really important to understand “the poor” new-player experience, will differ from person to person, is not a mistake. It is built into the game by design. The steep learning curve and a higher degree of complexity, they make the experience worse for newer players that might get intimidated and turned off by it. But those same things make the game great!
Once you enjoy the game, it is almost impossible to play another card game.
Just like Dota!
Exactly! The game is complex for new players, but once you understand it and hooked, card games don’t feel the same anymore.
I and Mogwai, we both played Gwent. We needed to play Artifact to prepare for a tournament. When we tried to go back to Gwent, it felt flat and bland. I like Gwent, but after playing Artifact, the decision making it is so out there. It is on a different level.
I talked with SUNSfan, and he also says he doesn’t like the new-player experience.
I want to talk about this more. It is really important to understand you can’t have it both ways.
I’ve played a lot of Blizzard games, such as Hearthstone and Overwatch. Blizzard does the reverse. Blizzard has an absolutely phenomenal new-player experience! Everything that caters towards new players is there. Their games are simple to pick up. Art and characters are amazing. Visuals are perfect. As well as Aesthetics. Everything is perfect for the new-player experience, but the games are sort of shallow.
With depth, there’s a price you pay. Other players will look at Artifact and think its poor new-player experience is a flaw. I think in a way, it is its greatest strength. The gameplay is so satisfying once you understand it. It really is!
I’m not saying Valve’s approach is better than Blizzard’s. I think they are different. When you play Hearthstone or Overwatch, there’s a point were you sunk thousands of hours in these games. Most players at that point feel like the developers aren’t designing the game for them. That’s a bad feeling.
I like those games still, but when devs make patch notes or changes, you think “this isn’t for me. I’m not really their customer. I’m peripheral”. Again, it is not good or bad. Those are two different approaches to game design.
Compared to Hearthstone and Gwent, what do you think the future holds for Artifact as esports?
I think the esports scene will be big. It will definitely be bigger than Gwent. It is hard to compare to Hearthstone. Obviously, Hearthstone has a bigger viewership. Honestly, I think it will always have a bigger Twitch viewership. Games that have a better new-player experience are easier to spectate.
League of Legends is more popular than Dota. Fortnite is more popular than PUBG. So esports is about viewership. It is a spectator sport. It is more likely Artifact won’t overtake Hearthstone.
Let me put it this way. If you’re a Hearthstone pro player there may be a bigger viewership for the tournaments, but you’ll have more fun and be more challenged as an Artifact pro player. We will have to see how the tournaments will end up going. We don’t know at this point.
This tournament is a part of the series of tournaments. There are going to be two more tournaments next year.
Yes, and I plan to participate in those tournaments. I’ve recently been picked up by Evil Geniuses. The organization is starting an Artifact team, and I don’t want to just be a caster. It was very fun casting the events. I learned a lot doing it, but I really want to compete.
Maybe some time down the road, I see myself getting back to casting. I’m not sure. I’d like to find the balance. I’d probably prefer to be more player and less caster.
I think casting role fits you. Maybe you should consider doing both.
It is hard. The player role fits me too. I could see myself doing both. That happened in Gwent. As I mentioned before, I’m better at a theory of deck building rather than actually piloting a deck.
I could see myself being more of a caster in the future. I want to prove myself. I want to get into the arena.
In Gwent, you are known for cancer decks…
Yeah, this was the case earlier on, mostly Closed Beta. Every patch, for 8 patches in a row, I would come up with some cool ideas that nobody was doing before.
I love that feeling. I’m a good deck builder, but the reason I was able to do that is Gwent had a smaller player base. Definitely, some of the decks I came up with could be done by other players if Gwent was a bigger game. I really enjoyed that time of my life. I was just able to be creative.
Gwent really enabled that because it is the game about deck building and cool combos.
How many cancer decks could we see from you in Artifact?
That’s harder to do in Artifact. There’s more challenge for me.
Most of my cancer decks in Gwent were build around the idea of a combo. Deck building in Gwent is very mathematical. In the past, during closed and open beta of Gwent, you could come up with some creative combo that would do very, very well without building an optimized pile of stats.
In Artifact, it is definitely going to be harder. I’d like to do the same thing, and just make a crazy deck every patch. But in Artifact, you build the deck while you play. This makes deck building more simple in a way. The real deck building is in the playing the game. If that makes sense.
I’m going to have to shift my mentality. It is not the same as in Gwent.
In between the matches, there’s this feature video that shows 5 of you…
Could you elaborate on that a bit?
That was a feature film we shot. You won’t believe how long it took to shoot. So we were there for the full day of shooting. Really hilarious. We were moving boxes around all day. It felt like being a mover. They would just have us re-shoot everything.
“Pick up that box. Put it over there. Oh, yeah. Let’s take 3 more times.”
It was an exhausting day. But it was kind of fun to do.
The guys at WePlay! wanted this to be a surprise for you 🙂
Ha, ha, ha. Yeah, we were not expecting it. I was very memorable.
Let’s talk about the monetization of Artifact. There’s a heated debate whether or not the monetization is done right.
When people heard Artifact costs $20, they were mostly ok with the price until they realized more payments are needed. Monetization is not necessarily the one I’m on board with. Artifact is an expensive game. It is important to wait a bit. Prices for cards are too high right now. They aren’t going to stay that high. Prices are going to crash.
It is like a stock market.
The axe market is completely substantiated by people that are hoarding it. They think the prices are only going to go up. In reality, as soon as someone starts selling, everyone else would sell. Then, the price will crash just like a bubble in the economy.
Right now, Axe costs more than the game itself.
Axe is very good. It is more about the color than anything else. Drow is probably a stronger hero, but Axe represents the stronger color. Red is stronger than Green.
I don’t think the monetization needs tweaks. I’m not an expert on what should be changed. I’d like to see some progression for playing, cosmetics drops. I would love cosmetic drops in the game for playing overtime. Just like in Dota.
It is an obvious step for Valve to do.
Valve loves cosmetics. I think cosmetics are actually a great way to monetize. You can have so much if you’re Valve. You have a marketplace. You can have card backs, special card arts.
Hearthstone has just premium cards. Gwent has premium cards, and they are nicer, but It is still all it has. You can do so much. You can do custom boards, hats for your imps, anything. I’d like to see them tap into monetization in that way instead of trying to make the game as expensive as it is.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Dota announcer in Artifact?
Yeah, absolutely! You kill four heroes and you hear “Ultra Kill”.100%. You can have special voices, like custom announcers. Back in the day, there was Stanley Parable and Rick and Morty announcers. That’s good. That’s so much flavored customization that doesn’t impact gameplay.
How is casting with SUNSfan?
People said we are very good and have a great dynamic. It is cool to be working with him. I played Dota for so long. My stream has grown big in the last couple of years, but I’m still new to the scene. It is cool to be able to meet all those people I’ve known from Dota.
A few days ago there were a lot of draw results in the tournament.
Draws are going to be much more common in Artifact compared to Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering. Draws in those games are very rare. I don’t think it’s going to be too common. Maybe like 5% of the games or so. At very very most. It is fine if it happens every once in a while.
Season 1 in Overwatch had a huge draw rate. It was ridiculous. About half of the games ended up being draws, which was a horrible system. The developers had to change it. If the draw rate is 3% or 5%, it’s totally fine.
Compared to other card games, Artifact has a lot of new mechanics, mainly inspired by Dota’s gameplay. Do you like them?
I love almost everything about Artifact. Some things could be changed. The shop is a bit weird, the way how you buy items could see some change. Right now, you just put the same items in your shop.
In terms of the fundamental rules, the three lanes, the initiative system, one card per turn – I love all of those. They all make the game a great experience. The initiative system is phenomenal. It is simple but makes the game dynamic and ads so much skill to the game. It is the backbone of the game. I really love the idea.
Do you think the game requires balance changes?
Obviously, there shouldn’t be auto-include heroes. Drow, Axe. and Legion Commander are problematic. Overall, the game has too much of stats disparity between heroes. The week heroes have too low stats and strong heroes have too high stats. Look at Axe vs Crystal Maiden. Axe has 3 times the stats of Crystal Maiden (CM), maybe even 4. Armor’s quite efficient. CM is not the weakest hero in the game, but she definitely feels week.
The developers should rethink how they want to balance stats. One of the problems with Red is that there is this triangle of heroes – Axe, Legion Commander, and sometimes Bristleback – and their signature cards work too well with each other. “Duel” is good with any of those heroes since their stats are strong. “Berserkers Call” is just another “Duel”. They are too good together.
That is an unhealthy situation for the game’s balance. There are other good Red heroes, but they are underused.
Have you seen any decks or plays that surprised you at the tournament?
I’m surprised there is not much Green/Blue. Green/Blue is extremely strong. Hyped has one of the strongest decks brought to the tournament. The only optimized version of Green/Blue so far. Every other Green/Blue deck at the tournament is worse. Those decks had a good showing with flashy plays, but they are more counterable.
What is your top 3 of the tournament?
Lifecoach, StanCifka, and Hyped.
I think Lifecoach is the strongest player in the game. He’s extremely analytical. I really respect him as a player. Stan is strong. He’s got a good prep group. I like the way he builds decks as well. And Hyped is, well, it is all kind of the same reasons honestly. They all kind of analytical players that I think come to the right conclusion, and have experience performing under pressure.
People always forget there’s so much pressure. When there’s a prize pool, you are going to make mistakes, and experience being under pressure matters.
Let’s wrap up the interview. The final word is yours.
Anyone who wants to check my content, I stream every day for an unreasonable amount of time. You guys ask me how come I have so much energy to cast the tournament. I stream 13 hours a day and 7 days a week. I stream a lot. I’m used to working these long days.
You can check me out on my Twitch channel. I have a YouTube channel as well, featuring helpful videos. I like to say that I maintain a very educational stream while simultaneously following none of my own advice.
Ha, ha, ha 🙂
Yeah, I want to focus my streams to help players of all calibers.
Okay, thank you for making this interview possible and taking time. I wish you the best of luck in the upcoming tournaments! I hope to see you again in Kiev even though I know it is too cold for you.
If there’s a business here, like events, LANs, cast, or something, I’ll do it. I’ll visit the studios. It is probably going to be a WePlay! event if I’m here. Absolutely man.
Be sure to check KeenGamer this/next week for more interviews from the event. I’ve also interviewed CHARM3R, Mogwai and Panda, and SUNSfan as well as key people behind WePlay!. Check out my interview with the co-founder of WePlay!.