It's a mod by a single developer, known as GuideDev. And it rocks.
Feelgood Friday: Hearthstone Access Brings Blizzard’s CCG to the Visually Impaired
Collectible Cardgame (CCG) Hearthstone plays in a special role in Blizzard's Warcraft universe. Yet until recently, the blind and visually impaired were excluded from playing. The same is true for many video games, despite strides from the developers behind games like The Last of Us Part II, Gears Tactics, and our Feelgood Friday favourite, Sea of Thieves.
Sometimes, however, developers don't step up to the mark. And everyday heroes have to do their jobs for them. Enter GuideDev and his project, Hearthstone Access.
Hearthstone can be a very busy game full of flashing lights, effects, and animations. According to Fawaz, a visually impaired gamer interviewed by EuroGamer "I got home and downloaded [Hearthstone] but it was not accessible at all, like zero percent. Not even the menus."
Like many visually impaired gamers, for Nawaz to play, he would need properly contrasted colour, simplified visuals, and large text. Since August 2021, that has been available, not through Blizzard's own actions, but those of Hearthstone Access and its maker, GuideDev - who to this day still updates Hearthstone Access to keep up with the latest official patches and expansions.
Following a car accident, GuideDev's own vision was temporarily affected, though not as severely as some of those he was spending time with. He got to know what life was like for them and so the idea for Hearthstone Access began to form.
And it's changed people's lives. Read the words of Brandon, whose Hearthstone Access stream you can listen to below, "I'm not even joking, I got at least two people from Blizzard that said they were crying. It was an incredible moment where I was playing the tutorial of this game that I've wanted to play for years since it launched [...] The way that the mod is built to enfold the tutorial for the mod into the existing tutorial for the game is so well done, it feels like it's part of the game."
It would be easy to sit and attack Blizzard for not doing it themselves, and from toxic workplaces to union busting, lord knows there's been a lot to grill them for, but GuideDev doesn't think that we should. After all, Blizzard are not alone in their sluggishness to help the visually impaired play games. And it may not be a coincidence that the last two Hearthstone expansion trailers have come with audio descriptors.
GuideDev, we salute you.