Garfield is no longer at Valve
Valve laid off 13 Employees and Contractors
Back in 2013, Endgadget received a statement from Gabe Newell, addressing layoffs. In Gabe Newell’s statement, he acknowledges that Valve does not typically address personnel matters, but because of the unusual amount of speculation, he wanted to clear the air. He blatantly states that no projects are going to be cancelled, the layoffs are not going to directly impact any particular game, and that he is not going to specify why or why not employees were affected. This seems to have been a rare occasion where Valve addressed layoffs directly.
UploadVR's article from March 7th, 2019 mentions that a portion of the 13 Full time employees impacted by the recent layoffs were working in Hardware development. While this isn’t necessarily alarming, as layoffs happen all the time, many people were concerned about Valve’s upcoming releases, particularly one related to a Half-Life Prequel VR game, that is rumored to be releasing later this year. What intrigued me the most was one line in the official statement from Valve, stating that a portion of the company’s contract agreements were terminated.
And then this image started circulating on Discord, where Gabe Newell says the layoffs were "a people thing, not a hardware thing". Okay, that seems to be pretty different than what some websites are reporting. Because I knew Dr. Richard Garfield was likely working with Valve on a Contract basis through his company Three Donkeys, since he isn’t a full time employee and was only partly developing Artifact alongside Valve, I thought it was possible that him and his team might have been a part of the contract agreements that Valve terminated.
I decided to reach out to Dr. Richard Garfield to get an answer. In my message to him, I asked him if the contract terminations at Valve impacted his team and explained that I am a writer intending to publish a story on the matter, unless he wanted to keep any of this information off the record. This is what he wrote back --
Yes, contractors included 3 donkeys, which is me and Skaff Elias. Thanks for the warning about publishing, and the offer to keep information private - that won't be necessary.
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. The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons. To name a couple; now that the game is out there time is more critical, so more voices within the team that you have to navigate may not be as good as making less considered decisions faster. Another - the expertise that 3 donkeys brought is less critical after listening to us for 4+ years.
Both Skaff and I remain optimistic about the quality of the game and have offered our feedback and advice in an ongoing gratis capacity simply because we would like to see the game do as well as we think it can. 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.
What does this mean?
The Artifact team has been downsized
How much the team has been downsized by could definitely be a concern. Maybe the Artifact team member responsible for the @PlayArtifact Twitter page was laid off? While I am only joking (Seriously though, can you please Tweet something?), I find it pretty odd that they didn’t even bother to make a Tweet when Artifact was updated with Patch 1.2.272 (The patch that reduced the gold cost for a handful of Item Cards and introduced Chaos Blitz, also known as the “Still in it for the long haul” Patch). If the remaining members of the Artifact team are just the necessary amount to keep the game going, I can only imagine what that means for future content development.
While Gabe Newell did go out of his way back in 2013 to explain that those layoffs wouldn't impact any particular game, I can't help but point out that this time might be different? The fact that Artifact hasn't been updated at all since January 28th and there hasn't been a single word of communication since that day's Patch Notes, which was only a single sentence, "Still in it for the long haul". The lack of communication from Valve has only left the shrinking Artifact community completely demoralized and hopeless for the future. Seriously... Please Tweet something... Just to let us know you still work at Valve, Social Media Person!
This will likely impact the release schedule of Set 2 and future updates
Strictly my opinion, I suspect we won’t see anything, especially “the big one” for Artifact until near the end of Spring. Many people have speculated June or July for Set 2, and I would say is likely right on target. While this is extremely demoralizing to hear, it’s important to face the facts. Many, many things went wrong with Artifact’s launch, starting with the very moment it was even announced. While Artibuff, many other websites, and community members, have spent an exorbitant amount of time on these issues, the reality is it’s going to take some time to fix it. And if it is true that the Artifact Development team has been reduced, it will take even longer.
The Million Dollar Tournament is probably delayed significantly or even cancelled
If the next major update, which I suspect will be end of Spring, were to increase visibility of Artifact on platforms such as Twitch and increase concurrent player numbers drastically, maybe then I could see the “Million Dollar Tournament” being officially announced. As it stands, we’ve only heard about this event from Gabe Newell directly in two separate occasions, during his Artifact Press Conference, and the opening ceremony at The DotA International in 2018. Until we see a massive change for Artifact and the cold hard numbers, don’t expect Valve to even acknowledge the “Million Dollar Tournament” at all.
The Dark Age of Artifact isn’t going to end anytime soon... I think it’s time we all tempered our expectations moving forward. Dead game confirmed? A few days ago, I would have said no way. But today? Well... let's wait and see.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on twitter @rokmanfilms for any updates to the story!
Editor’s Note: Artibuff has reached out to Valve, requesting a statement concerning the above issues. At the time of publishing this article, we have not received a response. If that changes, this article will be edited to include Valve’s comments.