Artifacts are cool.
They’re fun to search for, fun to obtain, and… well… okay, not always fun to use, but at least the idea of them is always fun.
While they’re a great addition to the existing game and a great goal for players in their endgame, I think a lot more could be done to improve them.

Firstly, I think artifacts should be available in two more places:

Deeper Caves
Possibly multiple levels of rat-kings/enemies, and more dangerous circumstances in them like rifts, flooding, gas, ect.
Another possibility for an obstacle that isn’t featured in mineshafts could be a solid rock wall that stops the player from progressing deeper, and requires explosives to clear.
This wouldn’t remove normal caves from the game, but simply add a new possibility for existing cave locations. It’s basically a mineshaft, but without the mining deal.

Science Labs
As a payoff for exploring deep into the lower levels of science labs, there should be a payoff in the form of a large chamber with an artifact in the center, surrounded by reinforced glass. Included could be dead scientists, creatures that were generated by the artifact, and even possibly a crazy scientist as a monster, wielding advanced weaponry and full of greed for his precious artifact.
The player should either have to hack a nearby console to open the artifact containment, pull a special key off of the dead crazy scientist, or smash it open with explosives or brute force.

Furthermore, I think artifacts should go into a few categories:

Beneficial - strong positive qualities and weak-to-no negative qualities
(these would be found only as rewards in mines or strange temples)

Balanced - balanced positive and negative qualities
(could be rewards in mines or temples, caves, and science labs, or as naturally-spawned artifacts in-world)

Deceptive - basically a rework of the Evil trait in that these artifacts would appear at first to be beneficial, but deteriorate into almost purely negative effects with high penalties for dropping or unwielding them, without the accompanying Evil message that cues the player into their nature
(found in caves, temples, mines, and science labs)

Dangerous - strong negative qualities with few-to-no positives, could give a morale boost for wielding/wearing
(found in mines, caves, temples, and science labs)

The main reason for this is because when finding artifacts, you can’t hardly get a meaningful effect without nearly killing yourself or mutating your eyes out, and besides that, the current system encourages spamming of artifacts, especially with Amigara Faults as payoffs for mine exploration.

In the current system, a player can spam faults until they find one or more useful artifacts, and just throw away the bad ones. The Deceptive type of artifact would help eliminate this, and the Beneficial artifact would be a pure payoff, which isn’t featured in the current system.

While the already balanced system for artifacts is a solid starting place, I don’t think it should be where we leave them.

Huh. So the proposed additional spawn locations aren’t actually that useful: you’d get worse artifacts, on average than you would if you ignored the new locations. Not sure that such adds a lot, but wev.

Amigara farming was a pretty high-end pursuit, IME. Without above-Alpha IN or a starting artifact, there’s a pretty decent chance of para-lock and death, and without very good DPS you can’t win the fight in time. Are folks finding it that easy?

As for the categories, Deceptive seems pretty Mean and the biggest reason to avoid the new locations. Apart from that, meh. In the current system, I’ve rarely found artifacts that are better than the gear I had, even without the artifact-powers factored in (and even more rarely have I found a power-set I actually wanted to use).

I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, it’s not difficult for me.

In my current character, his marksmanship skill is 11, pistols at 9, and with decent armor and a high-powered pistol with HVP rounds, I’ve never been killed by the bastards, even with low intelligence.

Mainly, I would like to see more definitive positive-value artifacts without as many drawbacks to actually motivate me to expend some decent effort into acquiring them, and the rest that I suggested was mostly just to balance it so that every survivor isn’t running around invisible, cranked with a high-powered sword that heals them every few turns.

The new locations was mainly just to add some interest to caves and labs, being that they aren’t extremely interesting to explore after a while. A rare occurrence, even if completely unhelpful, would make their exploration more interesting and rewarding as far as the experience goes.

But I don’t think many people really seek out artifacts after their first few tries, given that it doesn’t have that much potential for reward. The first type of new artifact would be a little OP, but in a good way, and the Deceptive would seek to balance that out with some risk involved in trying to get the jackpot with a Beneficial artifact.