The last game I blogged about was Sryth, a fun browser-based game. Today I’ll be writing about Hearthstone, thanks to a brilliant developer by the name of GuideDev. He has managed to make the game accessible to blind users via NVDA. If you try the game and are able to donate, please do so as this is a side project for him and takes hours on nights and weekends to continue to patch the game with new accessibility enhancements and whenever Blizzard Entertainment updates the game. Here is his Patreon page, or you can donate via PayPal. Ok, now on to the game itself!
Description of Hearthstone from Wikipedia
Hearthstone is a free-to-play online digital collectible card game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. Originally subtitled Heroes of Warcraft, Hearthstone builds upon the existing lore of the Warcraft series by using the same elements, characters, and relics. It was first released for Microsoft Windows and macOS in March 2014, with ports for iOS and Android releasing later that year. The game features cross-platform play, allowing players on any supported device to compete with one another, restricted only by geographical region account limits.
The game is a turn-based card game between two opponents, using constructed decks of 30 cards along with a selected hero with a unique power. Players use their limited mana crystals to play abilities or summon minions to attack the opponent, with the goal of destroying the opponent’s hero. Winning matches and completing quests earn in-game gold, rewards in the form of new cards, and other in-game prizes. Players can then buy packs of new cards through gold or microtransactions to customize and improve their decks. The game features several modes of play, including casual and ranked matches, drafted arena battles, and single-player adventures. New content for the game involves the addition of new card sets and gameplay, taking the form of either expansion packs or adventures that reward the player with collectible cards upon completion.
An example of gameplay in Hearthstone. Players use cards from their hands, such as minions and spells, to interact with the game board.
Set within the Warcraft universe, Hearthstone is a digital-only, turn-based collectible card game which pits two opponents against each other. Players select a hero from one of ten classes. All classes have unique cards and abilities, known as hero powers, which help define class archetypes. Each player uses a deck of cards from their collection with the end goal being to reduce the opponent’s health to zero.
There are four different types of cards: minions, spells, weapons, and hero cards. Quests are a specific type of spell only found in three expansions. These cards are ordered by rarity, with Legendary cards being the rarest, followed by Epic, Rare, Common, and Basic. Blizzard releases expansions of additional cards every four months to increase the variety in the metagame. The game uses a freemium model of revenue, meaning players can play for free or pay to acquire additional card packs or content.
Hearthstone was designed to speed up play by eliminating any manual reactions from the opposing player during a player’s turn and setting a timer for each player’s turn. During a turn, players play cards from their hand using “mana”, a budget each player must abide by which increases by one each turn with a maximum of ten, and with cards having various mana costs. This invokes strategy as the player must plan ahead, taking into account what cards can and cannot be played. Minions and spells are unique.
Minions will be placed directly onto the board after being played and may carry special effects like Charge or Death rattle, allowing the minion to attack instantly or making the minion do something special upon death, respectively. Spells have distinctive effects and affect the board in various ways.
Cards can be obtained through opening card packs or by crafting them with arcane dust.
The normal gameplay mode is one-on-one matches between a player and a randomly selected human opponent. Within this, the Standard game mode uses prepared decks limited to cards from the Core set alongside the expansions from the last two years. A separate Wild game mode allows all past and present cards to be used subject to deck construction rules. Both Standard and Wild game modes are divided into Casual and Ranked modes. Players can climb the tiered ranking system in Ranked, while Casual allows for a more relaxed playstyle. At the end of each month the Ranked season ends, rewarding players with in-game items depending on their performance.
Other more specialized multiplayer modes include the following:
- Arena has the player draft a deck of thirty cards from choices of three cards over several rounds. Players continue to use this deck against other Arena decks until they win or lose a number of matches, after which the deck is retired, and players gain in-game rewards based on their record.
- Tavern Brawls are challenges that change weekly and may impose unusual deck-building guidelines.
- Battlegrounds, introduced in November 2019, is based on the auto battler genre, allowing eight players to compete in each match by recruiting minions over several rounds. Players are paired off randomly in each round, with combat between minions played out automatically, with the goal of having minions remaining to damage the opponent’s hero, and ultimately be the last hero standing. The top 4 hero’s place and earn a win and increase rating points while the bottom 4 earn a loss and decrease rating points.
- Duels, introduced in October 2020, is a multiplayer version of Hearthstone’s single player “Dungeon Run” game mode. Players start with a 15-card deck they assemble themselves, and (like Arena) battle other players until they win or lose a number of matches, after which the deck is retired, and players gain in-game rewards based on their record. After each match, the player chooses between three ‘buckets’ of three cards each, or a treasure card to add to their deck. Unlike Arena, there is a casual mode that requires no entry fee.
- Classic mode uses a mirror of the player’s library of all cards that were in the game as of the June 2014 release of the game, reverting any updates or changes to these cards in the interim, effectively representing the game’s start at the time of its release.
In addition to these multiplayer modes, there are solo adventures. These adventures offer alternative ways to play and are designed specifically to challenge the player
Still With Me?
While that description covers the game, it doesn’t give you a feel for the game play itself. You have music, sound effects, characters that talk and make jabs at you, and so on. You can listen to the first tutorial mission on YouTube. Here is another YouTube video of someone walking you through how Hearthstone is played by screen reader users.
On a personal note, I can say that my wife an I have already had many hours of fun playing this game against each other and computer opponents . You can even play against other people all over the world. Keep in mind that you can play against sighted players. Even though you are using NVDA, whoever it is you are playing does not see anything different on their end when they are playing against you.
Note that some areas in the game have not yet been made accessible, but GuideDev is constantly making additions and improvements, so stay tuned.
I’m going to provide a simplified list of what you will need to get started. For a more detailed rundown, check out GuideDev’s Hearthstone Access page directly, as he will update it over time.
- NVDA: Hearthstone only works with the NVDA screen reader, so download NVDA and install it if you haven’t already.
- Speech History NVDA add-on: This isn’t officially part of the requirements, but I recommend it, because as you are playing, the music and sounds may cover up important information communicated to you via NVDA. This add-on lets you review what you missed. Visit the Speech History page to read more about the add-on and download it.
- net account: You need an account to play the game. Get your account created. If you have trouble, check out this account creation guide.
- net Launcher: You will need this to download hearthstone. Get the Battle.net Launcher from Blizzard Entertainment. Once you run and install it, it will ask you to log in to your new Battle.net account. At this point, search for Hearthstone. You will be prompted to download and install it.
- Hearthstone Access Patcher: Once Hearthstone is installed, you will need to patch it. To do this, get the Hearthstone Access Patcher, unzip it, and run the .EXE file. Keep this file handy, as you will need to run it each time updates are made.
- Playing the game: Use the Hearthstone shortcut, then look for the Play: Hearthstone button. This will launch the game.
- Updates: When you run the game and there has been an update, there should be an Update button instead of the Play Hearthstone button. It may also be downloaded automatically depending on how it was configured. If GuideDev has made updates to accessibility, you will be prompted to run the patch to apply the updates. Please note that GuideDev has to update the accessibility of the game each time there are updates, in order for it to continue to be accessible. Hearthstone is usually updated at least a couple of times a month. Thank you, GuideDev, for being so diligent in keeping up with these updates so we can continue to have access!!
PC System Requirements for Windows
The following is from Blizzard Entertainment.
The minimum and recommended system specifications for Hearthstone are below. Due to potential programming changes, the minimum system requirements for Hearthstone may change over time.
Note: For a list of compatible video hardware, see our Supported Video Cards list.
|Minimum Requirements||Recommended Specifications|
|Operating System||Windows® 7 / Windows® 8 / Windows® 10||Windows® 10 64-bit|
|Processor||Intel® Pentium® D or AMD® Athlon™ 64 X2||Intel® Core™ 2 Duo (2.2 GHz) or AMD® Athlon™ 64 X2 (2.6 GHz) or better|
|Video||NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600 GT or ATI™ Radeon™ HD 2600XT or better||NVIDIA® GeForce® 240 GT or ATI™ Radeon™ HD 4850 or better|
|Memory||3 GB RAM||4 GB RAM|
|Storage||3 GB available HD space|
|Internet||Broadband Internet connection|
|Input||Keyboard and mouse, or touchscreen|
|Resolution||1024 x 768 minimum display resolution|
Words really cannot do this game justice. That is why I included some YouTube videos. The ability to play against the world regardless of disability is just awesome! I think someone I saw in the forums said it best. Paraphrasing, he said something like, after going blind, I never thought I’d be able to play Hearthstone with my family and friends again. Ya just can’t beat that!
Still here? Sheesh! Get outa here and start your journey in Stormwind! Have fun, and happy adventuring!
Qapla! Off with you!