Valve has laid off a number of designers from its Artifact team, including Skaff Elias and lead designer Richard Garfield. Both were considered contractors under their consulting firm Three Donkeys. In an email exchange with Artifact fan site Artibuff, Garfield said the decision made sense.
“We weren’t surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was, the team was enthusiastic about the game and were confident that they had a good product but it became clear it wasn’t going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it,” he said. “The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons.”
Garfield said that now that the game has released, a smaller team may be able to respond to feedback more nimbly, and the expertise from his own consulting firm is less valuable after having already been on the project for so long. But, he also said both he and Skaff have offered to continue giving feedback as the game goes forward.
“We enjoyed working with Valve and I was impressed with their relentless focus on the quality of the game and experience being offered to the player,” he said.
These layoffs do not necessarily mean that Valve’s outlook for Artifact has changed in any significant way. Garfield’s contracting company was brought on for its expertise in making collectible card games, as he’s also the creator of the extremely popular Magic: The Gathering card game. Since the game is now released, Valve may have simply felt that he fulfilled his role. Still, Garfield openly mentioning the game’s rocky launch, paired with its relatively low player count, could mean trouble for the game. GameSpot has contacted Valve, but has not received comment as of time of publishing.
Artifact was conceptualized as a CCG set in the Dota 2 universe, so it borrows mechanics from that genre including distinct lanes of battle. Our review praised its unique take on card game mechanics, while warning that its pricing structure might turn off some players.
“Artifact is a capable reimagining of modern trading card games,” critic Daniel Starkey wrote. “It plays quite a bit differently than just about any of its contemporaries–digital or not–and while the marketplace is volatile to say the least, there’s little evidence that the pricing is straight-up predatory. Just note, however, that the game is not free-to-play and be prepared to spend some additional bit of money coming in. It would be nice to see some more extensive options for those wanting to play by themselves or in non-competitive settings, but beyond that, Artifact is a great showing.”