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The New Game From Valve

By Shamus
on Wednesday Aug 9, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games


My reaction to the recent news went something like this…

Valve is releasing a new…

Oh boy! Something new from Valve!


Shit. Nevermind.


Yeah. Whatever.

…card game.

Forget it. I literally stopped caring three words ago.

Valve always leaves me in a tough position. I know I spend a lot of time complaining about publishers. But while I accuse outfits like Ubisoft and EA of being mis-managed due to ignorance of their audience, I grudgingly admit that Valve is really good at figuring out what the public wants. Sure, they make mistakes. Like any company run by human beings they’re prone to occasional bouts of carelessness, myopia, and bad timing, but their failings are usually understandable as the result of human frailty and not systemic management cluelessness.

When EA does something I don’t like, it’s usually because they have no idea what the public wants. When Valve does something I don’t like, it’s usually because they have a really good idea what the public wants and it just happens to displease me.

Which is to say, I’m sure this new game from Valve will be a quality title with lots of fans. It will make money. In fact, I’m willing to bet it will offer a far better return on investment than Half-Life 3 would. I might really want them to make HL3, but I can’t make a business case for it. I can only ask that they do it out of the goodness of their hearts. That usually makes for a lousy pitch.

Here is the announcement trailer for their new DOTA (ugh) collectible (yuck) card game (eye roll) titled “Artifact”…

Link (YouTube)

As an aside, I can’t blame the people who got momentarily hyped that this was going to be some sort of Half-Life announcement. The music in the trailer is obviously the work of Kelly Bailey, using many of the same stylistic markers found in Half-Life 2 tracks. This trailer sounds Half-Lifey. If I hadn’t known what it was before hitting “play”, I might have made the same mistake.

While I’m sad we’re not getting more Half-Life, it’s probably for the best at this point. As someone pointed out on Twitter, there are no longer any writers (that we know of) working at Valve. Their entire creative culture has changed. Even if they suddenly decided it would make financial sense to make the game, it’s entirely possible it would lack the magic ingredients that made the series so popular. We could end up with a Mass Effect 3 type situation where the final installment of the story doesn’t fit, doesn’t lead to a satisfying conclusion, and feels tonally or thematically disconnected from what came before.

Is that better or worse than leaving us hanging forever? I honestly don’t know.

Comments (107)

  1. Infinitron says:

    the story doesn't fit, doesn't lead to a satisfying conclusion, and feels tonally or thematically disconnected from what came before

    So, like Half-Life 2? :troll:

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Not quite a troll though.Hl2 was disconnected from its predecessor.Thankfully,not as much as me2 compared to me1 though.

      • Fade2Gray says:

        I somehow managed to miss HL1 back in the day so I went back a played it after HL2. I spent most of that play-through think “This is fun, but it really isn’t what I was expecting.”

      • `Retsam says:

        I’d actually argue HL2 was more disconnected than ME2, it’s just that HL2 was a more beloved game, and HL worked more as a self-contained story than ME1, which was obviously just the first chapter in a longer story.

  2. Droid says:

    Clickbait title! Low quality content! Horrible!

    But seriously, you just made me go through exactly the bait-and-switch you described in the article, since I didn’t know what Artifact was beforehand.

  3. Matt Downie says:

    The business case for HL3 is:
    (1) Even if it doesn’t make as much money as other games, it is likely to make a profit, since it will be practically a compulsory purchase for core gamers.
    (2) Valve’s failure to finish Half-Life makes us think badly of them. Valve is on a perceptual knife-edge between, “The people who provide that convenient Steam service, who also made cool stuff like Portal,” and, “That creepy monopoly that used to make real games but now just does greedy Free-To-Play stuff.” Unpopularity is bad for business.

    • Taellosse says:

      Counterpoint: it has been 13 years since HL2 was released – 10 since Ep2. A significant fraction of the gaming population has grown up by this point without ever really caring about Half-Life, aside from popular internet memes.

      • Duke Nukem Forever is a prime example. The game itself was “OK” and if released like half a decade to a decade sooner would have been pretty good, but it fell way short at the tie it was released.

        Half-Life 3 would face the same issue. It would be an OK game, but it would not do that well. If it was released 5 years ago it would have been really good. But 5 years from now? It would be a disappointment.

        A full reboot might make more sense at this point. But… Would it stand out today? A Half-Life reboot would probably be very similar to the Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mankind Divided.
        Actually Mankind Divided felt very similar to HL2. Eastern european streets. And like HL2 it had oppressive forces, oppressed citizens, a resistance.

        What Valve could do is make a short point and click adventure “HL3” to finish off the story and bring closure to Freeman and Alyx etc. And release it as a freebie to Steam users as an exclusive.

        Valve is not able to make HL3 any more.

        If Valve was still making games today (like they used to with HL1 and HL2). they’d be basically be like CD Projekt Red is today.

        Now Valve are a publisher platform first, publisher second, and technology company thirdly, and then a game company lastly.

        CD Project Red avoided the same “trap” by making GOG separate from the game company.

        • Olivier FAURE says:

          And this is why there will never, ever be a popular, critically acclaimed installment of the DOOM franchise any more.

          OH WAIT. :P

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The game itself was “OK” and if released like half a decade to a decade sooner would have been pretty good, but it fell way short at the tie it was released.

          Not true.The only thing that the delayed release affected was the graphics.But the game itself was dull,full of unfunny jokes,lame levels,meh weapons,boring mechanics,etc,etc.

          Which is precisely the reason valve stopped working on hl3:They had no innovative core to bring to the genre,so they just decided to noth bother rethreading old ground.The only thing that surprises me is that they didnt try to make half life 3 with vr,because that would totally fit the trend they had with the previous two.

        • MarcellusMagnus says:

          What Valve could do is make a short point and click adventure “HL3″ to finish off the story and bring closure to Freeman and Alyx etc. And release it as a freebie to Steam users as an exclusive.

          Someone call Telltale Games, we have their next project right here!

          • Fade2Gray says:

            I can’t decide if that would be a brilliant move and a dream come true or a deeply disappointing nightmare come to life.

          • lucky7 says:

            You play as Gordon Freeman, and all of your dialogue options are silence.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              – Doctor freeman,thank god!We need to storm that outpost over there.Do you have any ideas as to how we should do it?

              1) Stare silently
              2) Say nothing
              3) Remain quiet

              – Of course!Excellent choice doctor freeman!We will do it right away.

              1) Dont move a muscle
              2) Pretend you arent even there

              – Exactly my thoughts,doctor

              • Fade2Gray says:

                Alyx: “I’m so sorry Gordon. I just heard to news. I still can’t believe the G-Man is your father!”

                1) Continue listening intently.
                2) Jump in place continuously.
                3) Throw a chair with the gravity gun and try to catch it before it hits the ground.

                Depending on previous story choices, option 3 could be replaced with:

                3) Throw the garden gnome with the gravity gun and try to catch it before it hits the ground.

        • LCF says:

          “What Valve could do is make a short point and click adventure “HL3″ to finish off the story”

          Alternatively, if they wanted to make an actual FPS, they could set it in the Half-life universe far away from the events of HL1 and 2.
          You’re not playing Freeman, you probably won’t see him, you may not even know who he is.
          They could release a couple of titles happening between HL1 and HL2, for instance. They could show some other pawns of the G-Man and show more of his Grand Plan.
          That would be interesting, people would buy (BUSINESS CASE RIGHT HERE!) and there would be far less pressure since it’s not HL3. Further, a game or three like these would help rebuild their game-making capacity. Also, it’s not like they had no means to promote it en masse.

    • Joshua says:

      #1 is the issue I have with people saying it’s not as profitable as their current Steam platform. Unless anyone thinks it’s going to lose money, it’s just incremental profits that shouldn’t take away from their existing revenue streams. Now, there are business cases to be made that companies shouldn’t stray too far away from their core competencies despite positive net income (say Coca-Cola was to start selling tires), but making games isn’t exactly way outside of their core experience.

      • Tizzy says:

        It’s more complicated than that: there’s also a ressource allocation problem here. Presumably, the people who would make the game are busy doing other profitable ventures. So exactly how much return you get on your investment can matter.

        • Joshua says:

          People are leaving Valve. A good portion of those resources are no longer tied up there. I’m also hesitant to accept that the type of people that you would need to make a good HL sequel are too busy with making hats and other skins for DLC, as Valve seems to have no other game projects going on as far as the public knows. That’s a very specific level of committed resources.

  4. Matt Downie says:

    Playing The Lab in VR made me think Valve still has good writers. Is this no longer the case?

  5. Mokap says:

    They showed the trailer at the DOTA International, and it doesn’t sound like the DOTA fans wanted it either: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR4jPtrDCLo

      • Echo Tango says:

        That’s hilarious! :D

      • KarmaTheAlligator says:

        I like the “some people who like DOTA but don’t have time to play DOTA”. Yeah, because of course they have time for a freaking card game in that case.

        • Awetugiw says:

          To be fair, card games like this do tend to be a lot quicker per game than a DOTA game. For some people that does matter.

          That doesn’t necessarily mean the new game is non-silly, of course.

          • Mistwraithe says:

            Furthermore playing Dota reasonably requires in depth knowledge of all the 100+ heroes. Getting any more than superficial knowledge requires actually playing the heroes because dying 10 times in a row to a hero doesn’t really tell you exactly how they are killing you. So at a minimum you need to play 100 games, while ideally you would have played at least half a dozen games with each hero. You’re talking a serious time investment just to get to the point where your ranking is held back by your skills (or lack thereof) rather than just the inability to tell how your opponent is next going to kill you.

            Card games require a similar investment to reach the very top level but they tend to be way more forgiving at the lower levels. At a minimum you can at least read your opponents cards as they are played and you get more than a split second to react to their play.

        • Parkhorse says:

          I’m guessing they were hinting that there’s going to be a mobile version, but they really didn’t say that well.

  6. Ysen says:

    “…Is that better or worse than leaving us hanging forever?”

    Are many people honestly still hanging for Half-Life 3? I think it’s been obvious for years that Valve has moved on to other things.

    Even if it did come out, I don’t think people would be satisfied with it. What would they actually do to distinguish it from all the other shooters that have been released in the 13 years since HL2?

    • Geebs says:

      Like many fans of Half-Life 2*, I’m not even hanging for Half-Life 3. I’m hanging for Half-Life 2 Episode 3.

      (*Looking at the voting on the trailer’s YouTube page, it seems as if about 4 out of every 5 Valve fans agree with me….)

      • Joshua says:

        If Valve had never made a HL2, it would have been fine. HL ended on a relatively satisfied story note. If Valve had never made HL2 Ep 1, it would also have been fine, as HL2 ended on the same type of “this story has been resolved, but we’re leaving the door open for future installments” note.

        However, since they ended on the cliff-hanger that was Ep 2, not making another HL leaves the series on a sour note. It also hasn’t helped that for years afterwards they were telling their fans, “Simmer down, we ARE working on the next HL game”. Oh, I guess they’re not.

      • MelTorefas says:

        I was thinking exactly this while reading the comments. I don’t *want* HL3. I I don’t *want* new mechanics or graphics or gameplay. I just want a resolution to the story of the HL2 episodes, which ended on a bloody cliffhanger. At this point I’d accept an official comic. >.>

        • Ander says:

          And they could do that. They make comics. Unfortunately, the latent displeasure created by doing nothing is not as bad as the flaming that will occur with whatever they end up doing, esp. if it isn’t a shooter. Storytelling integrity and respect for the fans would be ignored in favor of the PR trade-off.

  7. Steve C says:

    This trailer currently has 1443 likes, and 6535 dislikes. A 22% like ratio. All the Youtube comments are negative. (Well, more negative than normal for Youtube comments.)

    I don’t think you are the only one to be unimpressed by this announcement Shamus.

    • Joshua says:

      My favorite:
      “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain… RIP Valve”

      • Ander says:

        Maybe if they weren’t so late to the party it’d be different. DOTA broke ground early with the MOBA genre. Now, there are several Hearthstone clones, there’s Gwent, there are physical collectible card games, and, oh yeah, *there’s Hearthstone*. Blizzard has taken the hero shooter genre; they have a faster-paced MOBA, too. I’d think this announcement was a joke if I could work up the confidence.

        • Echo Tango says:

          This is actually a pretty good point – Valve doesn’t really seem to be innovating any more, and even when they’re doing something “safe”, it’s actually a game in a flooded area of the market. I’m actually worried about Valve…and therefore a large portion of my collection of games is also at risk. :S

          • Fade2Gray says:

            I’m fairly confident at this point that the fate of Steam has little to do with Valve’s success as a game developer. Steam basically just prints money these days. It’s a self perpetuating service. Even if Valve were to shutter their game studio, Steam would keep chugging along.

            • Echo Tango says:

              They don’t need games to keep Steam alive, but Shamus had an article just recently, pointing out all the annoying things with Steam. They’re currently on top because everyone else’s game-/web-store is even worse, and they’ve got a good backlog, and a network effect with the friends list stuff. To me, Valve is seeming a bit like EA or Activision in the past – stumbling a bit, and making a few bad calls here and there, but not pervasively doing horrible things…yet. I’m worried that Valve is starting to get poor management (people, structures) in place.

              • Fade2Gray says:

                The way I see it, the name Steam is so synonymous with digital game distribution with so much content and such a large install base that, even if they somehow fell on hard financial times, someone somewhere would step in to buy them out and keep the platform alive. I do hope that other platforms like GOG continue to grow and give Steam a run for it’s money, but Valve would have to make some monumentally bad decisions before I would have any fear for Steam’s continued existence.

          • guy says:

            To be fair, they have stepped into the VR arena. Sure, they’re not the first, but they still stepped in when it’s not altogether clear VR will be a lasting thing. Though I guess you could argue that’s precisely the worst time to step in; if VR turns out to be a passing fad they’ve wasted a ton of money, and if it lasts they’re playing catchup.

            • Richard says:

              To be fair, the Valve/HTC Vive is a step change in VR capability compared to the others.

              So they are pretty much in at the beginning with something that is, for the moment, objectively the best consumer VR platform by quite a long way.

              On the other hand, it is also not as polished as the competition. It remains to be seen whether that matters.

      • Fade2Gray says:

        Here’s another good one:

        You took 30% of all the profits from Steam and made a card game.

    • Durican says:

      Holy wow! I haven’t seen this much one-sided negativity since the announcement trailer for Metroid Prime Federation Force.

  8. Lars says:

    I grudgingly admit that Valve is really good at figuring out what the public wants
    Not with yet another Free2Play/Pay2Win Trading Card Game. They are beaten by Blizzard, Bethesda and CD Project Red. Oh and Wizards of the Coast. Who needs another one of those?
    For HL3: I don’t care. I never liked the first two installments, but a new Portal. That would be fantastic.

    • They did not really “make” Portal. A team at DigiPen did, and Valve hired the entire team to and they remade their game.

      Valve made Half-Life an Half-Life 2.
      Valve hired the entire team that did the original “Portal” and had them make Portal.
      Valve hired the team that did the original “Team Fortress” to make Team Fortress.
      Same with Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat, Left 4 Dead (valve bought the studio that was making it).
      Alien Swarm same.

      Half-Life: Opposing Force and Blueshift was made by Gearbox.

      The list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Valve_Corporation_video_games is pretty long.

      I guess “The Lab” counts as a Valve original but that was just tech demo stuff really.

      They certainly gathered a lot of talented developers. Makes you wonder what they are working on.

      Did they fire a bunch of people? IF not what are they doing? Certainly not curating steam *laughs*.

      Either they are working all in on some VR game or they are working on 2-3 other games long term, or they simply aren’t “making” games any more.

      Valve seems to have been either smart or lucky (or both) as far as business decisions go though. They are also very secretive.

      My guess is that this card game thing is just something they jumped on after seeing how popular Gwent became, and perhaps to show they “are” working on stuff.

      So if Valve is working on new games what would it be? With no writers I’m guessing some multi-player team based game. The people they hired over the years seems to have skills in those areas.

      • Richard says:

        From the outside, it seems that Valve is now entirely staffed by people making “pet projects”.
        Some of those probably could be absolutely amazingly awesome – after all, the best games have always been somebody’s pet project.

        However, if I ran Valve I would be worried that there’s nobody turning the tech demos and game skeletons into actual games that people want to play, and nobody fixing the problems with Steam.

        Steam is a cash cow, but it has a lot of really, really annoying issues.
        If another company works out how to resolve them, Steam could indeed die as a sales platform.

        After all, who remembers MySpace?

    • EmmEnnEff says:

      The same argument could have been made about Hearthstone, DOTA 2, or Overwatch. Who needs another collectible card game/MOBA/class-based team shooter?

      Nobody, but if you execute well, you make a lot of money. If you execute poorly, you get Heroes of Neworth, or Battleborne.

  9. Zekiel says:

    For a while Valve were my favourite developer because I love single-player games and they made some really excellent ones (Half-Life, HL2, Eps 1 & 2, Portal, Portal 2). Now…. not so much.

  10. Christopher says:

    The live reaction to the announcement was absolutely priceless. I think the exact same sound effect was used for failing Event Matches in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

    Edit: Ah crap Mokap beat me to it and I didn’t notice.

  11. Matthew says:

    This announcement is meaningless to me. I was never a big half-life fan (by chance, just never really ended up playing it). Tried DOTA and wasn’t impressed. Hate collectible card games with a passion, but there does seem to be a key audience that enjoys them. That said, if you wanted to do something interesting and appear to the collectible card game fans, and your name is Valve, you already have all the pieces you need to do something interesting, creative, and competitive.

    You make a free-to-play collectible card game based on your Steam achievements in other games. ALL of them (or as many as you can get the development teams to agree to participate and/or pay, depending on what your lawyers and accountants require of you). You build your “deck” by buying and playing games and getting achievements. Instead of making a separate game engine, you build the game into the steam client itself and you let people play it on a casual basis while in waiting rooms for other games to start or with people on their friend lists.

    They already have most of the pieces, it just needs to be systematized and given some pretty “ding” noises. And it would make some people really chase those achievements.

    Instead, they did this.

    • Agammamon says:

      You make a free-to-play collectible card game based on your Steam achievements in other games. ALL of them (or as many as you can get the development teams to agree to participate and/or pay, depending on what your lawyers and accountants require of you). You build your “deck” by buying and playing games and getting achievements. Instead of making a separate game engine, you build the game into the steam client itself and you let people play it on a casual basis while in waiting rooms for other games to start or with people on their friend lists.

      They’ll get there soon. Its the next iteration for achievement hunters – buy a game so you can get achievements that will let you play another game.

      And people wonder why I feel achievements are ruining gaming.

    • Syal says:

      You build your “deck” by buying and playing games and getting achievements.

      Oof, talk about Pay to Win.

      …remember, sleazy anime cards give debuffs to the most common attack values. If you flood the board with porn you can nerf the shootbro decks to complete uselessness.

  12. Agammamon says:

    When EA does something I don't like, it's usually because they have no idea what the public wants. When Valve does something I don't like, it's usually because they have a really good idea what the public wants and it just happens to displease me.

    Which is to say, I'm sure this new game from Valve will be a quality title with lots of fans. It will make money.

    I would like to point out that Ubisoft/EA/et al still have a lot of fans and make money. Lot’s of money.

    And that when EA does something to displease you its just like Valve – they know what their customers want and they give it to them (good and hard). Its just not what *you* want.

    Not that I don’t agree with you that they’re taking gaming in a direction I don’t like. Its just that I don’t think they’re making a mistake in doing it. They’re very carefully chasing down their target audience, its just that people like you and me (and most everyone else here) just aren’t that audience. There are fewer and fewer of us relative to the mass-market and so we get catered to less and less.

    Yes, quality is certainly going down, but it can afford to. The people playing these game itself as only a small part of a larger package – there’s the anticipatory hype period, the day or two of heavy playing for the sake of playing, then a couple months of concerted achievement hunting. The game itself is almost an afterthought nowadays. Its all about the marketing hype and its the achievements that keep people playing long after they’ve lost interest in the game itself.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except there have been plenty of times when ea and ubisoft did something so stupid that even the most diehard fans hated it.Most notably:YOUR MOM WILL HATE THIS GAME.And lets not even talk about uplay.There is a reason why ea got elected as the worst company in the usa.Twice.

      Im no fanboy of valve,because of how they are treating steam and customer support,but when it comes to image,they have the right idea.

      • Agammamon says:

        Yeeeeet – it didn’t actually hurt their sales. Because the people who were upset about ‘yer mum’ weren’t the target audience. The target audience still bought the games. Still buys the games.

        Yeah, sure, they get elected ‘worst company’ – and these people are still paying for their product *despite* (unlike Comcast customers) actually having a large choice of competitors.

        EA is a shit company to you and me. EA is the company that made ME3 – which I’m reliably told is ‘an awesome game and I should just shut the fuck up about the story’.

        EA and Ubisoft are giving their customers what they want – the customers just don’t like to openly admit that. But when someone *says* one thing and then does a different thing with their wallet – I believe what their wallet is saying.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          If boneheaded ideas like that did not hurt the company,then why did they work so hard to get away from such an image?

          And,as Shamus(and numerous others) talked about previously:Just because a huge company is making money does not mean its successful.What does it matter if a company makes a billion and one dollars if it had to invest a billion dollars to achieve that?

        • Richard says:

          It did hurt their sales.

          The fact is that once a company gets above a certain size, they can continue to make a profit despite, not because of their actions.

          However, eventually continued and/or repeated mistakes reach critical mass and suddenly you’re Kodak.
          Or Nokia’s mobile phone handset division – tied to a burning platform.

    • Daimbert says:

      I would like to point out that Ubisoft/EA/et al still have a lot of fans and make money. Lot's of money.

      And that when EA does something to displease you its just like Valve ““ they know what their customers want and they give it to them (good and hard). Its just not what *you* want.

      But is that really the case? Take something like Origin, which Shamus dislikes. It’s also not popular and clearly not what people want, and it only gets used at all because EA has attached things that people DO want to it — certain games that you can only get there, at least electronically — and people are willing to put up with the annoyance to get those games. So, sure, they make money on the games and still make money, and through creative accounting could even claim that ORIGIN makes money, but it is, in fact, not what their customers want. They still make money because of OTHER things that their customers want that they can use to leverage and hide the consequences of those bad decisions.

      And this might well be the case for most of the decisions that they are making. How much of EA’s or Ubisoft’s success comes from franchises or games that are developed by other studios that they then bought into and which still generate money for them DESPITE their mismanagement of other franchises and studios? The argument is not that EA and Ubisoft never manage to do anything right, but that they don’t seem to understand their customers that well so that all of what seem to be their obvious missteps seem to be things that their customers clearly don’t want, or are things that look good from the perspective of the company but not from the perspective of the actual customer. That they are still making money anyway isn’t any sort of argument against that impression; as said before, they make money IN SPITE of their nonsensical decisions, not BECAUSE of them.

      • Agammamon says:

        The thing is, I don’t see most people actually complaining about Origin.

        People like us do – but we’re really a niche group that is not only into ‘core-gaming’ but have a ton of experience with media of multiple types, PC gaming in general, and are fans of critiques that go beyond the ‘look! I can staple cows to lamposts with this grappling hook!’ videos.

        The mainstream gamers seem just fine with it. Very much because they don’t have the experience to know how much better it could be.

        But my basic point is that EA, et al are spending their development dollars where the punters want the dollars spent – flashy graphics and whatnot – and not spending money in the areas that these guys don’t seem to care too much about – like Origin, *story*, etc.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The mainstream gamers seem just fine with it. Very much because they don't have the experience to know how much better it could be.

          If that were the case,we wouldve seen a massive migration from steam to origin,and the most praise it got from the press wouldnt have been “It used to be shit,but its functional now”

        • Daimbert says:

          The thing is, I don't see most people actually complaining about Origin.

          The mainstream gamers seem just fine with it. Very much because they don't have the experience to know how much better it could be.

          I’m far closer to whatever you think a “mainstream gamer” is than I am to a core gamer, and I can tell you that the reason “mainstream gamers” don’t complain about Origin is far more likely to be that they, in fact, don’t use it. Or, rather, that they only use it when they absolutely have to and it isn’t annoying enough to ruin their experience. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the claim that EA is giving them what they want, especially since many of them are almost certainly actually using Steam.

          That’s ultimately the problem with your argument. Yes, people will buy the things that EA puts out because they are good enough to make it worthwhile, but they’ll ALSO tend to rush to buy things that actually give them what they want. EA focuses on, as you said, graphics even though there are a number of games with lesser graphics that do remarkably well by focusing on things like story or gameplay. That people find it to be worth their dollars DOESN’T mean that it’s ultimately what they want or that EA gives them what they REALLY want, but that they give them things that are “good enough” to be worth buying. Hence the criticism that if EA knew or cared about what customers actually want they’d be more successful. Origin would be an actual competitor to Steam. They’d have some of those odd hits out before the smaller studios do. And so on.

          So, no, the fact that EA makes money DOESN’T indicate that they know what their customers really want. All it means is that they do well enough for people to buy it, but might well be missing out lots of opportunities if they could only figure out what their customers really want and give it to them before someone else does.

    • guy says:

      I’ve looked at EA financials for previous iterations of this debate. They may have turned things around since, but back around SimCity they were barely making money and even lost money in some quarters. Relative to all the highly valuable IP they’ve got, they really weren’t doing that well at all.

    • Bubble181 says:

      They still have a lot of fans, but they’re *not* good at treating their customers to what they want.

      A car company knows and realizes the buying public for a small city car is different from the ones interested in a large pick up truck. They mgiht be the same *person* (because, you know, you can want a car to do your city shopping and another for hauling your canoe around, I guess), but they’ll be looking for different things. It’s the same market, but a different segment.
      The same is true of games. I’m not looking for the same experience in SimCity: Bottleneck Simulator that I am in ShooterMcShooterFace 2: Shoot Harder. Even within a genre people can want different things from different titles. Understanding your IPs and what people are looking for, without just retreading old ground, is an art.

      I am 100% convinced that C&C could still be a “big” name in RTS circles, if C&C4 hadn’t completely destroyed the story, the multiplayer, any good will anyone had, and pretty much killed off the IP. And I’m not even saying C&C4 was a bad game – it just wasn’t anything close to what I, or any C&C fan, wanted.
      Shamus has written about it before – shoehorning “what seems popular today” in in all of your IPs and genres is a recipe for failure, not success. Myst doesn’t need multiplayer, Mario doesn’t need photorealism, et cetera.

  13. MadTinkerer says:

    I have a question: are Steam Trading Cards going to be involved in some way?

    That would make it exciting to me, because I don’t care about DOTA lore, but there are a lot of other games that I do care about and happen to have Steam Trading Cards for. If even a few of the biggest Indies were involved, and I could play a Undertale deck vs. my brother’s Super Meat Boy deck (as just one possible example), then that would make Artifact a killer app for me.

    And if not… Well it’s just another post-Portal 2 Valve game that doesn’t really matter to me and I my time is better spent playing the hundreds of games on Steam I actually like.

    • Daimbert says:

      That would be an interesting move, and in board games the Legendary card game has had some success with that, where you can mix and match the Legendary Marvel Superhero games with the Firefly, Aliens, Predator and Big Trouble in Little China games (with a little tweaking because the rules are slightly different) to create crossovers in the universes if you happen to like both. And what fan hasn’t wanted to cross over some of their favourite franchises?

  14. Jordan says:

    Unmistakeably Kelly Bailey? Pretty sure he hasn’t worked at Valve for a *long* time now (around 6 years ago), and their go-to composer has been Mike Morasky.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t care about Half-Life 3. I’ve never been able to play a Half-Life game after the first one, so I don’t feel like I was left hanging, but I would have liked them to do something… new. Something interesting. But a collectible card game? Based on a popular franchise of them?

    I mean, yeah, you could make the case that we don’t know enough about it to make an argument for it being just a lazy idea. After all, first person puzzle games existed before Portal and that game was innovative and fun. But see, that game had competent writers, which Valve has no more of, and it’s clear that “collectible card” is a much more precise genre than “puzzle”.

    Yes, the game could still end up being very innovative, but I can’t shake the feeling that, like Nintendo, Valve used to be a trend setter and now it’s a trend follower. They used to bring new ideas and innovation to the table and now they seem to just follow the money. I don’t know, I hope I’m proven wrong, but for now my interest in this is strictly set in the negative numbers.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Valve is also not making full use of its games / properties, which could make decent money. For example, there was a lot of people begging Valve on the forums, to release more levels for Alien Swarm (2010), and they were even willing to pay money for them as DLC packs[1]. Valve did nothing for a while, then 5 years later (2015) another company released HELLDIVERS which is basically just a bigger, better version of Alien Swarm. Another company had time to make an entire game themselves, when Valve handn’t even made some relatively easy new guns, levels, or ammo (they had an existing game engine / game).

      I just learned today that Valve has finally released (two years later again, in April this year) a bigger, better version of Alien Swarm. So, technically they’re still trend-following, but for a trend where they were originally the people who made the trend. After another company filled the hole that Valve had left.

      I feel like Valve don’t know how to make games anymore.

      [1] This is back when DLC was still pretty universally bad, skeezy, overpriced – generally insulting to the customer. Nowadays, DLC is something that could be good or bad, but back then, to have people actually willing to put up with this normally-bad business practice, just as a way to get more content for a game they liked – that’s a pretty good sign that there’s a hole in the market that needs filling.

  16. John says:

    The Buddhists say that attachment is suffering (or maybe it’s the Jedi who say that) and at times like these I think that the Buddhists may be on to something. I played the first Half Life a long, long time ago and liked it pretty well up until the first-person platforming bits in Xen. I never finished the game. Half Life was an impressively constructed game, but it didn’t have much in the way of compelling characters or a unique and interesting world. In other words, Half Life didn’t grab me enough to make me want to play Half Life 2. It’s just as well, because my computer at the time probably couldn’t have handled it anyway and, hey, now I’m not pining for Half Life 3. It looks like I dodged a metaphorical bullet. Valve could never release another game and I wouldn’t care. Or Valve could release a million games, each with a “You are never getting Half Life 3, suckers” splash screen at the beginning and I also wouldn’t care.

    I wish I had something more helpful to say or some kind of moral to offer. If I did, it would probably be something along the lines of “the games that some company makes–or doesn’t make–don’t really have anything to do with me personally and there’s no sense getting worked up over their decision to make or not make them.” But I can’t even take my own advice. There are too many games (and books, and movies, and so on) where I am attached and I do suffer and it’s not like I can just make myself stop caring.

    • Droid says:

      I have the same thing for ASOIAF. I only cared for the show until the very moment I bought the books, then read them, and kinda stopped caring right then. I really liked them and all, but I feel GRRMs stories have a kind of “history” feel to them, and like in history, I feel it’s natural that it never really “ends”. I don’t desperately need closure, anyway.

      • Echo Tango says:

        You should probably not use acronyms unless they’re universally accepted, or you define them earlier in the paragraph, or whatever you’re writing. You’ll end up wasting more time for people needing to look them up, than saved by not typing out the full words. Similarly for real life / talking – acronyms aren’t universally a good thing.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          To be fair,Bob has regular (for him) posts about game of thrones here,so its not false to assume that most people here would recognize a song of ice and fire.

          • Echo Tango says:

            That assumes that:
            1) a lot of people following the gaming posts follow the Game of Thrones (GoT) posts here[1]
            2) That those people are also familiar with the original books.
            3) So familiar, that they are willing to use an acronym for them.

            [1] I know I personally skip all of the GoT posts, but I could well be an outlier. (I stopped caring after season 2 or 3, when I realized that the characters and stories were all nonsense, so the posts don’t add anything for me – they’re just elaborating further, for extra reasons for me not to care about the TV show which I already don’t care about.)

            • Droid says:

              You also assume that I cater to every single person’s individual whims instead of writing something that the majority of people will be able to understand. I really don’t see a difference between using an acronym and using a word or idiom not everyone is familiar with, like “to despair of someone”.

              I agree with you that acronyms are sometimes bad and overused. Yet, they are words like every other, and continued use is what makes them recognizable to a lot of people who then can use them actively or passively in conversation. There was a first time you saw the word DOTA, as well.

              Would you have had the same reaction if I had used an archaic word or idiom that you’d have to learn by googling?

            • Agammamon says:

              I don’t watch the show, have never even *seen* the cover of one of the books, let alone read it – and I still know the acronym.

    • Gordon says:

      I don’t think I agree that “don’t get attached” is the right way to go for this. If you don’t get attached, you can’t love something as completely, even if you avoid the anxiety of sequels. Letting go is important, as I’m all too painfully learning now, but as the saying goes, better to have loved and lost…

  17. syal says:

    So they said the card game has lanes? I guess cards can only attack or defend in their lane, probably need to spend a turn to move a card from one to the next, AoE only affects one lane of three. That might be an interesting twist. Probably not very interesting, since in normal games flying is already its own second lane for the most part. But maybe.

    • Galad says:

      Wow, grats on being the first person here actually being *potentially interested* in this game :P

    • John says:

      I am given to understand that the Elder Scrolls CCG also has lanes, albeit only two. Make of that what you will.

      • Syal says:

        Looks like it. Looks like the Elder Scrolls version also does the Hearthstone “attacking player controls what gets hit” thing, which makes you wonder what the point of separate lanes would be since defenders are already weaker than attackers.

    • Ander says:

      Pixel Tactics. All cards are on a 3×3 grid (each player with their own grid) and perform different moves and can attack different cards based on position (relative and absolute). It can cause major analysis paralysis, but boy does it give options. Moving a card takes an action. More options does not necessarily make for more compelling play, but I agree that card movement/positioning can add a lot. At least there will be more of those kinds of options than there are in Hearthstone.

  18. dumas el champo says:

    DOTA… meh
    Card game.. gross
    valve… fuck you

    Doesn’t bother me that it’s not half-life, that ship sailed for me a long time ago, but this is almost as bad as ricochet 2.

    Also Shamus, I disagree with your premise that Valve somehow understand the industry and audience better than anyone else.


  19. Jirin says:

    I don’t really get all the derision around free to play card games. In my experience, game designers *love* card games. Also, you can make them with a much smaller team than something like Half Life 3 would require. I’m not at all surprised that so many companies are trying their hand at one.

    It feels like every time one of these games get announced, people start immediately making Hearthstone comparisons and rolling their eyes. It’s like saying “Doom exists, so FPSes are done now”. It doesn’t make sense; the possible design space for these things is huge, and we haven’t nearly run out of ideas yet. Duelyst plays very differently to Hearthstone. Gwent is very different to Hearthstone. (Elder Scrolls: Legends sounds pretty similar, but eh.) Hearthstone might have been the catalyst by proving these games can make a lot of money, but so what? It’s not like they’re bad games. I guess this is a bit like the MMO glut following WoW, but at least these games are cheaper to make (and try out, being generally free).

    (As a side note, I’ve seen someone list Magic Duels in a list of ‘failed Hearthstone clones’, even though it’s just the latest Duel of the Planeswalkers iteration and those have been around for ages, without even getting into the fact that Magic is where the bulk of Hearthstone’s mechanics come from in the first place. Drives me up the wall.)

    It all kind of comes across as people complaining about genres they don’t play. I understand disinterest, and even disappointment in this particular case, but I really don’t get the mockery.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I don't really get all the derision around free to play card games.

      There are two reasons for that.The first is because of free to play.Its a system that 99% of the time leads to pay to win stuff.This is especially the case in ccgs where you have to get a plethora of packs in order to get the best cards.

      The second reason is rng.Because these are shuffled cards,you always have chances to not draw the cards you want in that situation.This is why the win/loss percentage even for the best players is so low.And some ccgs add rng effects on top of this because…..its easy to code,I guess.

    • MaxEd says:

      Personally, I love CCGs. I fell in love with them with Magic: The Gathering, and I still love to play them and work on them. CCG, if done right, offer incredibly varied and interesting combat mechanics that are not possible in any other combat, even turn-based one. Since you abstract away all the realism behind the cards, you can make cards do anything. It’s super-cool. I’ve never seen combat system as good as MTG in any other game.

      It’s very liberating to design new features for a CCG, because you have so much possibilities. In usual games, you just have direct damage, damage over time, various stuns and maybe one or two other effects. If the game is really advances, summons. But in CCG, I can make a card that grows stronger with every turn, or phases in and out of the game, or makes all other cards stronger, I can place quite complex conditions on it – it’s so much fun! AND it is possible for a player to keep track of all this stuff, because not only the game is turn-based, but it also offers all information in easy-to-read UI instead of taking up a lot of screen estate with beautiful, but ultimately irrelevant (to mechanic) 3d models of characters. CCGs are also fun to code (for me), because I love coding game mechanics and AI.

      BUT. There is a ‘but’. I love CCGs, but I hate multiplayer. It’s not even about F2P – I just don’t want to play against other players, never. I want CCG with a story. Or an open-world one, where I go around some fantasy country, collect cards and fight AI monsters, Pokemon-style. Just… don’t make me fight other living people endlessly in senseless combats without an end goal. Unfortunately, most modern CCGs are geared toward multiplayer. Sure, Hearthstone has a single-player campaign, but it costs a lot, and isn’t that long. So far, I found two good CCGs on PC: Card Hunter (which is a perfect model of a good F2P game – I finished the main storyline without having to pay a cent, and I loved it so much I bought completely unnecessary items to pay the creators for the fun I had) and System Crash (which is completely single-player, very beautiful and “pay once”).

      • CoyoteSans says:

        My favorite card game video game remains the Pokemon:TCG game for the Gameboy Color: a single-player, character and story-driven (well, by CG standards, it’s still pretty light on those by game standards, even compared to the original Pokemon Red/Blue) TCG video game that, by nature of its system, only has multiplayer as a completely optional side thing. The only real bad thing about it was the system of grinding for booster packs, and any TCG game that isn’t a F2P scheme will have that problem.

        • Axehurdle says:

          I would like to highly recommend the Magic The Gathering Micropose game known as Shandalar if anyone is interested in a single player TCG RPG type game. Card City Nights is also A good one but the gameplay is a little thin.

  20. PPX14 says:

    When EA does something I don't like, it's usually because they have no idea what the public wants. When Valve does something I don't like, it's usually because they have a really good idea what the public wants and it just happens to displease me.

    Hmm. I feel like in many ways they both produce the latter. Stupid microtransactions, intrusive drm and such egregious EAbisoft practices being more a knowledge of how to make the most money from consumers. They don’t necessarily know what the public really wants but they do know what the public is willing to spend money on, and in that sense, wants. That being often the elements that displeases people like those on this forum.

  21. Um Shamus, those collectible card games on tablets and Steam are actually sort of addicting if you play them longer then an hour, or if your enticed by worthless competition.

    • Rack says:

      Honestly that’s what I find worst about them. They aren’t enjoyable, engaging, interesting, fun, challenging or competitive but they ARE addictive.

      Worst of all possible worlds.

      • Axehurdle says:

        As someone who LOVES card games I have to agree most of them are pretty bad.

        I’ve tried a lot of these things and honestly I think the only good ones I’ve played that weren’t originally paper card games are Hearthstone and Shadowverse. I hate Shadowverse but the gameplay is alright. I have hope for Eternal as well since it has a great team behind it and I’m looking forward to this DOTA thing.

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