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How Visually Impaired Payers Are Saving Themselves in Hearthstone

“Heroes never die”
By Cecil Gao
Nov. 15, 2022 updated 05:20

Two weeks ago, Hearthstone announced that its latest mega bundle, March of The Lich King, would be available on December 6. With its release, The Lich King will return as the face of a new, permanent Hearthstone class and lead his army of Undead to take Silvermoon, where the Blood Elves wait to defend their home.

Protecting Sunwell will be a brutal battle for the Blood Elves, and meanwhile, in reality, blind and visually impaired Hearthstone players are also taking steps to ensure they don’t lose the ability to play the game.

Redditor Guide Dev first released an accessibility mod on Reddit last August. According to him, the Hearthstone Access mod can help visually impaired players use the screen reading feature to enjoy Hearthstone.

Guide Dev stated that he developed this mod so that visually impaired players who were unable to play Hearthstone offline due to the Covid-19 pandemic could continue to play the game with other people online.

Hearthstone Access won massive support within the gaming community right after its release, and as more visually impaired players joined the game, Guide Dev continued to gather feedback and update the mod's features.

After nearly a year of work, Guide Dev's mod was fully functional and the perfect way for visually impaired and blind players to enjoy Hearthstone.

The mod also finished localization in over a dozen languages with the help of other volunteers.

However, because Hearthstone is updated so frequently, Guide Dev constantly needed to adjust the mod after new patches were released. And when there was a massive update or when his life was busy, it became very difficult to update the mod in time. For example, Guide Dev stopped updating for almost a month in late August.

In fact, starting this year, Hearthstone's team feature design lead, Celestalon, had been providing Guide Dev with beta versions of the game ahead of time so that he could complete decompiling and patching over the weekend and release the mod that much faster.

But that didn't last long. After the announcement of the largest mega bundle ever for Hearthstone, March of The Lich King, Guide Dev stated that he did not have the time to keep up with the ongoing patches due to his busy real-life schedule.

Although the visually impaired players community can understand Guide Dev's difficulties and appreciate his dedication over the past 15 months, another problem lies ahead of them - they could well lose Hearthstone.

Quickly the affected players started a self-help plan; they appealed to Blizzard through a petition for help from the dev team through the implementation of native accessibility support. These players do not want to lose access to Hearthstone, and so far, more than 1,500 players have supported the petition.

Blizzard quickly noticed the actions of these players. Shortly after Guide Dev‘s final announcement, Hearthstone's community manager Alkali said on her personal Twitter account that she is relaying the concerns of visually impaired players to the development team and doing as much as she can.

Just a few days after Alkali's tweet, another community manager for Hearthstone GnomeSayin said in Blizzard's official community that the dev team has been working on an accessibility system to improve Guide Dev’s mod's functionality and its native support for Hearthstone.

For example, the combination of in-game music, sound effects, character dialogue and tavern ambient sounds may conflict with the mod's screen reading function, and after the new version is released, officials will add expanded audio settings to support independent control of each volume, making the mod easier to use.

Source: Weibo