In our previous article titled “Capturing Gamers’ Attention through User Interface” we’ve briefly mentioned a Blizzard game called Hearthstone. I’ve chosen to write about this game not only because of its success but because how the game developers managed to drive the hammer home when it comes to UI.
Also, this isn’t a sponsored post. Blizzard isn’t paying us to write about them. Although we’d settle for a couple of Hearthstone packs. (Blizzard please?)
Okay, so first of all, what is Hearthstone? Hearthstone is Blizzard’s digital collectible card game that was announced at the Penny Arcade Expo back in March 2013 and released on March 11, 2014.
The game is quite simple at first glance but is much more complicated than it seems. Players can choose from 9 different classes that were based on the original heroes in Blizzard’s own World of Warcraft.
It’s free-to-play, although you can spend real money to accelerate your progress in acquiring the cards you want. The game has over 30 million registered accounts as of May 2015, but it’s likely that not all of these remain active. That’s still a lot of players, though.
The Game’s UI
On March 3, 2015 at the Game Developers Conference, Derek Sakamoto, Hearthstone’s UI Designer talked about the process that he and his team went through to make the Hearthstone that it is today.
First, he talked about finding the seed. The seed is basically the whole idea, or the whole concept, of what you want your game to look like. He explains that finding this seed isn’t going to be easy, not unless you’re really lucky or is a genius.
After finding the seed, the next step they took was make it more physical. What this means is that they made things inside the game more valuable in terms of visual, achievements, card-backs, and the cards themselves.
It also led them to incorporate physical user-interface, a UI where a person interacts with digital information through physical environment. And this is one of the core aspects why the game became so successful. The whole game just pops out.
The developers initially designed the game to be playable in PC only. However, as it became more popular the community was asking Blizzard to make the game available in other devices. Indeed, some players even made it available even before Blizzard made it so – though it wasn’t running quite as smoothly.
The user-interface of the game is really amazing. Trust me, I’ve been playing for more than a year and it’s been a blast the whole while.
One of the things worth noting is that you’re not just interacting with what’s important in the game, but also the details surrounding it. You can launch rockets, harvest and plant veggies, catapult boulders, and so many other details the developers incorporated in each environment you’re queued into.
Things explode, pop, sink, screech, and so many other stuff that you can interact with making the game one of the most engaging of its kind.
Sakamoto stresses the importance of finding your seed early in the project as this can make the whole process a lot easier, as well as pull together your team’s whole idea into a single concrete goal. If you’re curious about the game’s physical UI, give it a go, although a caveat: you might get addicted.