SUNSfan has been a part of the gaming community for a long time. I discovered him during the Dota times. It was really interesting for me to hear his thoughts on the new-player experience in Artifact.
Hello) I know you from Dota, but could you please tell a bit about yourself for people that aren't familiar with you?
My name is Sunsfan. I come from the Dota universe. I'm a content creator.
You are mostly known for content connected with new-player experience in Dota.
Yeah, that's the original thing people knew me for.
How do you like this tournament?
It has been eye-opening for me.
I'm one of the first invited players into the game. At first, I was overwhelmed. I've never casted a card game before. Panda, Mogwai, Swim, and CHARM3R, they casted a lot of games. I thought I was beyond terrible on the first day.
The one thing I always bring to the table is I lighten the mood a bit. I've noticed that, especially for Dota tournaments in the past, panels are always stiff and not interesting. So, I bring something that can spice that up a bit. For this tournament, I've played the game a lot, but talking about it is a different story. I got carried hard in all my casts. I've definitely learned a lot. That's my perspective of course.
The tournament itself has been pretty cool. There hasn't been a lot of constructed tournaments in Beta. For the past five months, the tournaments have all been Draft mode. It is nice to see people bring new things.
I'm looking for the next couple of months when players start to fine-tuning their decks. At the tournament, not only the decks could use improvement, but a lot of players aren't that experienced yet, which is understandable since it is a new game.
What struck you the most at the tournament?
The first thing surprised was the guys lost on timeout. I can't believe that's really possible. I'm the one playing really fast, and it makes me really mad when people play slow. I'm on the other side of that.
Hoej and his deck, they really impressed me. He brought something new to the table that I haven't tried yet. I'm happy he started using "Phased Boots" based on my suggestion. Makes me feel pretty good 🙂 Hope that works out for him. Hopefully, his deck slays the storm decks we have been seeing too much throughout the tournament.
Hoej's and Xixo's Argo decks have been very entertaining. They are so much different than everything else, plus they follow the playstyle I like.
Are there any suggestions you have about the tournament?
I would change the format to Draft mode. It is more interesting but brings a question of how to show drafting. I think the drafting process is the most interesting part of the game. You would have to show the process for every player. It would make the tournament longer but more interesting. Perhaps a tournament with fewer players can accomplish that.
Obviously, constructed tournaments are going to get interesting with new cards, expansions, and so on.
Everything connected with the production has been as flawless as possible. I was very surprised. This has been very impressive.
Besides Axe, Legion Commander, Drow Ranger, and Cheating Death, do you think there are more things that need tweaks?
Axe could use one less Attack. It would make a big difference. Legion Commander – maybe "Duel" should be 3 Mana instead of 2. "Gust" should be 6 Mana card. Silencing items is a huge deal.
I would love to see "Cheating Death" removed from the game.
What about Multicast?
I don't see a problem with the card. The only time the card becomes absurd is when it is combined with Selemene. That deck is very frustrating to play against. The idea of not being able to counterplay is not great.
I'm pretty sure the next expansion with new cards will fix all the existing problems. Valve doesn't even need to nerf the cards. Just come up with some hard counters.
I do love the game a lot. I think there's a lot of unexplored potential within the game. People really haven't figured it out yet. We just have a small sample size. The game just launched. Storm is the hero I think have been unexplored.
I'm looking forward to seeing innovation with the current set.
Outworld Devourer should probably get some love.
That one – no! That one is easily the worst hero in the game. Right now, there are some obviously weak heroes.
I'd really like to talk with you about the new-player experience in Artifact.
Obviously, a lot of people are worried about the monetization. I think it is way too early to understand it fully. Valve are very smart at how they do things. They have a long-term plan. It definitely hurts the game that the initial reaction was not what everyone was hoping for.
The new-player experience is better than it was in Dota. The problem is, Dota had a bigger following to start with. The experience can be improved. There are a lot of things the developers can do. Different modes can come out and make the game more interesting for newer players. Maybe, there could be a free-to-play mode that's limited in some fashion.
I do like the idea of allowing you to choose what you want to do with the game. If you want to play constructed, then you need to buy the cards. If you want to play Phantom Draft, then you buy the game and can play it all you want. Depends on the type of player you are. If you want to play tournaments with friends – it is all free.
A lot of people are turned off since the game has no "grinding rewards", daily quests, like Hearthstone or any other game. I know that Valve didn't like the idea of doing that.
I'm interested to see how the situation unfolds. The idea of doing in-house tournaments on a mass scale is pretty cool to think about. It takes us back to another era, from before the grinding started. I don't know if most people like grinding, but they do it. I'm not one of those people. I can't relate.
I totally understand you. I remember those wonderful times of Dota 1 when we had local tournaments. Even though there were no huge prizes or rewards, a lot of people participated in them, and it was a great experience. In my experience, it was on LAN, but you could do the same on the Internet.
It is much more convenient! It has a nostalgia effect for me, for sure. I do remember the LAN days.
You guys had a filming day…
How was it?
It was an experience. It was definitely long. It took the entire day and ended up being only a minute of footage. We had no idea what the storyline was or anything. I was very impressed with the production. Doing it was pretty hard.
In Dota, I work with SirActionSlacks. He'll do tons of little content pieces. They are really bad in terms of production but funny. That's the goal. He can pump tons and tons of videos during the event.
This one – we spent the entire day on one video, but it is super high production. I was very impressed.
I've talked with WePlay!'s producer. He says most of the guys in the production crew come from the movie and theater backgrounds.
Makes sense. I was worried my bad acting would come across, but it was such a short clip, so you can't really tell that much.
I like the idea of costumes. I'm one of those guys that hates wearing suits to events. Esports tournaments are losing their identity over time by trying to copy traditional sports. For example, all our tournaments from Dota. We wear wigs and look ridiculous. I'm definitely into the idea of costumes.
How do you like WePlay! studio?
From the outside, I didn't know what to expect. I was like "Okay, this is just some random building in the middle of nowhere. There's snow everywhere." You come inside. This is unbelievable! This is one of the best studios I've been to.
A lot of the studios I've been to are makeshift. They are set up temporarily.
WePlay!'s studio is the biggest one I've been to so far. Three stories with a lot of personal, plus the coolest lounge I've been to – Super Mario theme is nostalgic. I'm very impressed with the studio.
Yeah, and there's a corner for the press. That's where we are 🙂 How's your experience casting in the studio?
Been really good. The production has been amazing. The show has been as mistake-free as possible, very fluid, and dynamic. From the talent side, I think I'm behind. A lot of that has to do with the style of how you cast card games. My experience so far, doing anything within the studio has been very, very positive.
No one knows how to cast Artifact since it is a new game, and it is more dynamic and complex compared to other card games.
True. It is pretty evident that it is much more complex.
I keep making a comparison to Dota, and there's a reason. It is very, very similar for casters. If I watch any game, casters can critique exactly what's going on, tell what's a mistake and what's not. For Dota or Artifact, there's such a deep level of understanding needed to realize what's actually going on. An action that seems like a mistake could actually be a completely viable play that's thought through a few steps ahead.
That's the struggle of casting Dota or Artifact. This tournament might be a bit of exception since there were a lot of mechanical missplays, and the level of players is different due to the game being new. As we move forward, people are going to see even more comparisons to Dota.
How's your casting experience with others?
They all bring something different to the table. Obviously, they are all very knowledgeable and have more experience with card game casting, but it has been a lot of fun working with these guys.
The most important thing to casting, apart from not being mechanically bad, is being able to hold the conversation, make it interesting and less about everything you see on the screen and more about the personality or the player.
That's what I bring. I'm good at making a conversation more interesting, especially in casting.
Don't you think that people are trying to be too professional, like in traditional sports? Don't you think that casting video games should be more fun, with jokes and non-traditional atmosphere?
Yes, I feel very passionate about the topic. I really dislike the precedent that some studios or games have been making, where they need to make it super professional. Wearing a tie and jacket. You can't show any personality. The black and white approach to casting or covering an event is very, very boring.
Of course, part of that has to do with a very politically-correct world we are living in. This sets up the line that can't be crossed. For people like myself even, it is hard to understand what's appropriate anymore, especially depending on what country you are in. But if you can find that balance, then it is important to create a bit of personality.
In America, there's a show that wins awards every year, NBA on TNT. It has always been lighthearted and very joke-oriented. They wear suits, which is a standard in traditional sports, but the personalities come through and make it fun. Any time I try to create a show plan or tournament coverage, I look to them for inspiration to find the balance of fun and informative.
I just don't understand why we need to copy traditional sports. There used to be a time when esports was small, so you wanted to be like traditional sports. But now when esports is so huge, we don't need to even be on TV anymore. We're creating our own identity and have a huge following. So taking some inspiration from traditional sports is fine, but necessarily copying them is not great.
An argument you can bring to the table about suits is sponsors expect them. However, sponsors try to cater to our demographic, but we don't wear suits. We're not that professional. We just need to embrace it more and realize where our roots come from.
How was the historical tour around the city?
Now that I've been to so many countries, around 40 countries, one of my biggest regrets is I've barely done any tours. I really regret it. I'll probably not going back to a lot of these countries. Seeing a little bit of a history of Ukraine is pretty awesome.
The weather definitely hindered the experience. It would've been better if it was a different season, but we can't control that. I did enjoy the tour. Seeing the everyday life, smelling the bread it was enjoyable. I liked it.
What about the hotel?
The hotel's great. That's the one thing that's interesting. Every event I've been to, the hotel is always nice. I've never been to a bad hotel for any event.
Okay, thank you for taking your time to make this interview possible.
I can come off as negative at times, but I really do believe in this game, the direction it is heading. Obviously, there are a lot of questions connected to monetization and all that stuff. But the very base game, the mechanics, and the way you play – Artifact is one of the most fun games I've ever played! Very addicting.
Once you put enough time and understand enough about the game to become even semi-successful, you'll become attached and it is a very rewarding experience.
You can follow SUNSfan on Twitter and watch him playing Artifact on Twitch.
Be sure to check KeenGamer for more interviews from the event. I've also interviewed CHARM3R, Swim, and Panda and Mogwai as well as key people behind WePlay!. Check out my interview with the co-founder of WePlay!.