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Why Hearthstone’s interface is superior to any Magic video game

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Posted by: Jake Valentine

You’d think that a company with over a decade’s worth of experience developing a collectible card game would know how to properly implement a user interface for it. Sadly, you’d think wrong. Magic: the Gathering hasn’t quite made a perfectly smooth transition to the digital format. It’s usually hampered by poor aesthetics, interface issues, and a general lack of personality during games. Hearthstone, however, doesn’t suffer from any of these problems, instead finding a way to thrive where one if its indirect competitors fails.

It helps that Blizzard Entertainment knows a thing or do about video games. When it comes to the game’s interface, it shows just about everywhere. Hearthstone is a game that oozes personality, from its tavern-like audio, bright and inviting color palate, and the possible banter talk between class icons. More importantly, the interface was set up with the game fully in mind. Your possible actions are made clear and there’s plenty of room for setting up strategic plays.

Compared with Magic: the Gathering’s digital offerings, the difference is night and day. Part of the problem here, though, could be that Magic’s complexities can’t always be pulled off in a digital format. In paper Magic, there is a lot of room for responses to every phase of the game. As someone enters the combat stage, I can react with an instant. I can play certain cards at the end of my turn, or the end of an opponent’s turn, or during someone’s upkeep, or…

Well, you get the idea. Players can interact at will when holding the appropriate cards. The problem here, though, is the fact that Magic’s video games don’t always allow for such interaction. Duels of the Planeswalkers is a game that is flat out catered to newer players (if it’s not then color me incredibly shocked). Magic: the Gathering Online has one of the worst interfaces in the world, featuring dull aesthetics and the personality of a rock. If I had a dime for every time I wasn’t able to perform a desired action due to the game moving too quickly, I’d be able to buy a deck for the Legacy format.

One could argue that since Hearthstone was built as a video game, it’s interface was a priority from day one. Compare that with Magic, which is at its strongest in physical form, and it’s pretty easy to see why Hearthstone’s UI is far superior. But still, that doesn’t excuse Magic from slacking off. I’d love to see a day when I look forward to playing a Magic: the Gathering video game. For now, though, I’ll stick with the physical cards.

Tags: Hearthstone, Blizzard, Magic: the Gathering

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