Hearthstone is a game that I have a love/hate relationship with. I enjoy more or less stock CCG gameplay in a f2p model and it’s popular enough that I can easily key into discussions about it online to get an idea of things like the metagame. There are also a lot of things I absolutely loathe about this game, chief among them are the UI and assorted elements. Nozdormu is a perfect encapsulation of my problems. Let’s not waste any time and jump right into it.
First, it’s important to understand the design decisions that were made to have Hearthstone look the way it does. The short turn timer, the animations, the ability to poke stuff on the battlefield, layout of hand and board and so on are all meant to keep players engaged and make the game good for streaming. These decisions have clearly paid off to some extent, but there are drawbacks. Take the turn timer for instance, it punishes the people who have things come up such as answering the door or running to the bathroom, people who don’t think quickly, people with various tech problems and who don’t have the requisite manual dexterity. That’s not the only thing though, Animations are often gratuitous and some of them are grating, to be charitable. The obfuscation of cards in hand and that you can see what your opponent is looking at means that you’re rewarded for knowing what everything is, and being able to see what everything is. Hearthstone’s graphic and UI design are ableist, exclusionary in a way that I honestly can’t think of another videogame that does so in the same ways.
Nozdormu exacerbates all of these issues. He’s a legendary, big flashy effect that you can only have one of in a deck, whose text reads “Players only have 15 seconds to take their turn.” Not only that, but it adds a layer of dust to the board. This isn’t a competitive card, it’s a joke that showcases what digital design can do and is a unique effect, what Legendaries should be. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the problem inherent with the card. Nor does it address the fact that Nozdormu is a part of a combo/control deck. Now if you’re not familiar with how it works, you can probably guess. It uses animations, either youthful brewmaster or joust, in order to stagger animations to the point where your opponent can’t do anything on their turn. It’s an unintended exploit that’s been around from the beginning that’s only being dealt with because of the efficacy of joust.
Nozdormu may be egregious, but it is still an encapsulation of problems that Hearthstone has worked into its system. These problems probably can’t be fixed in this game, but they are problems that future games should take heed of it and not correct. Next week, I’ll be talking about Fury Road and disability. Till next time.