While Hearthstone prides itself on its impeccable UI experience, there are still significant areas for improvement.
Hearthstone has had its fair share of problems over the years. Class imbalance, overpowered cards, obnoxious combos and low-skill gameplay has all drawn complaints as the meta waxed and waned. However, there’s one thing that Hearthstone has done consistently and exceptionally; its fluid, intuitive and aesthetically pleasing User Interface. Everything is given believable weight; from the buttons on the menu “box” that press in slightly and click gently when you mouse over them, to the simple drag-and-drop subtly enhanced by each card’s slight physicality and inertia, to each menu’s barely noticeable bounce when it comes to a halt after popping out.
In addition to these innumerable small features, the overarching design of Hearthstone also complements this design philosophy. Simplicity and ease of use is key, with only a handful cards requiring more than two clicks to play. Moreover, the game can be played with mouse only, relies on easy-to-comprehend small numbers and is straightforward to navigate. All in all, the experience is one that flows naturally, and is as satisfying to use as it is effortless to understand.
With all that said, there’s always room for improvements. While Team 5 is going to be introducing a variety of new features to simplify and expand on deckbuilding, there are all kinds of little irks and irregularities that remain. Here’s what Blizzard needs to improve on to make the Hearthstone experience as satisfying as possible.
There’s Still an Exit Crash
This one’s been done to death, and a fix is on the way, but the sheer niggling awkwardness of the Exit Crash has to be acknowledged. For those unaware, when you exit the Hearthstone application on certain platforms, instead of a nice clean quit, the game will freeze. Eventually the game is shut down by the OS, after much time, frustration and clicking. While it may seem minor, it’s exactly the sort of thing that jars with the Hearthstone experience.
Bugs like this waste your time and makes the end of every Hearthstone session leave a sour taste in your mouth. It reminds me I’m launching a program instead of opening a magical box of wonder, and I would much rather not have that neat feeling shattered by useless errors. Stuff like this should be thoroughly weeded out in internal testing, and not allowed to release, let alone persist for over a month.
- Solution: Fix bugs!
It’s Tedious to Watch the Opponent’s Mulligan
If you’re like me, you play Hearthstone with the attention span of a gnat. Alt and Tab are my two most pressed keys, as swapping windows while a particularly tardy Taunt Warrior decides whether or not to play his Direhorn on 5 is a welcome antidote to inter-turn frustration. However, precious seconds of procrastination are cruelly torn from myself and many other competitive minded players in the mulligan phase, as we are forced to watch the opponent like a hawk as they choose their starting hand. Look away for a second, and crucial information is lost. Against many decks, this can be the difference between victory and defeat, as knowing how many cards were kept can influence impactful decisions like playing into answers or gambling on a turn 2 Dirty Rat.
Third party hand-trackers are available, but the addition of ugly, superimposed status indicators is an affront to the otherwise clean Hearthstone UI. In order to prevent this tragedy and help new players to get a handle on their opponent’s capabilities, some kind of indicator as to which cards your foe kept in their mulligan would be a welcome addition.
- Solution: Highlight kept Mulligan cards
Finding Cards Takes Too Long
While this is being partially addressed with clipboard-related deck features, deckbuilding is still a chore. Finding cards is a tedious effort of swapping between seemingly endless pages of the collection manager. Being able to search helps, but forcing us to touch our keyboards like barbarians is unforgivable (especially if you are in the habit of misspelling cards or forgetting Old Gods apostrophes). The UI isn’t much better if you want to flip through directly. The pages turn fast, but if you’re looking to get to a specific card when you have a big collection, it seems agonisingly slow.
In order to help, a more responsive collection manager would go a long way to alleviate these heartrending woes. A way to favourite or tag cards to quickly access your most-used staples, and a faster flip-through rate when you’re going through large sections of the collection would speed things up immeasurably.
- Solution: Faster flip-through, ability to tag or favourite cards
Event Log is Annoyingly Short
Key events can fly the mind easily. Those of us who play without a decktracker must rely on memory to recall the cards already spent from our opponent’s arsenal. There is one UI feature to aid us however; the Event Log. Situated on the left hand side of the gameboard, the Event Log is a handy visual guide to the preceding events of the past turn or two. However, despite its handiness and neat visual design, it remains painfully limited in the amount of actions it can remember. In eventful turns, its easy to miss vital information like fatigue damage, deceased minions and played spells if your attention or memory lapses.
The easiest way to fix this would be simply to add a small scrollbar. That way, the Event Log could track exponentially more information. This scrollbar could even appear when moused over only, meaning it wouldn’t even make the gameplay experience any visually busier except when needed.
- Solution: Add a scrollbar
Disconnects are Jarring and Unintuitive
Disconnects feel horrible in Hearthstone. Even temporary issues with slow or down internet have an immediate impact on the UI itself, leading to sluggish interaction and stop-start gameplay. While some of this is unavoidable, not being able to interact with cards suddenly and without warning is a painful disconnect. To make things worse, each disconnect comes with the risk that you’ll be disconnected fully from the servers and have to manually reconnect. You tried to manually reconnect too soon? Too bad, now you’ll have to wait 60 seconds, in which time you’ll almost certainly lose that Arena game at 6-2.
Disconnects should be communicated with more than simple sudden unresponsiveness. A subtle loading symbol in a corner would do to indicate issues, and making the unexpected inability to click things less of an instinctive shock. Moreover, the reconnect system could do with an overhaul to punish temporary disconnects less harshly; or at least make it feel less frustrating to watch the 60 seconds slowly tick down.
- Solution: Indication of connection issues, better reconnect system
While all of this may seem petty and nitpicky (which it is) – remember that Hearthstone became great on the back of sweating the small stuff, and by crafting a pleasing overall experience. The minor quibbles of ungrateful users such as myself matters more than you might expect. The road to a great UI is built on the back of fixing a million minor complaints.
Title image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Original Artwork by Lucio Parrillo.
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