UPDATE: Thanks to the guys over at Dragonblogger.com I’ve discovered that screenshots are not allowed to be shared. Whilst this T&C line has been removed, I’m treading on the side of caution and so can only share official shots. The WORST thing to happen would my Beta being revoked – and we CAN’T have that!
You know, I know, the whole bloody world knows (especially if you follow me on Twitter) that I’m a Harry Potter addict. The young wizard was first thrust upon me when my Dad (yes, it’s his fault) told me of these strange books he was reading. A decade later I’ve read all the books, several times, watched all the movies, several times, and was left pretty bereft when Harry’s story wrapped up. But, no more, as soon Sony and J.K Rowling announced ‘Pottermore’; an interactive online storybook land where you could learn more about the wizarding world and engage in a fun reading experience.
After spending several early mornings leaping out of bed, getting onto the Pottermore website and trying to catch the question of the day, I had it. I had answered correctly, had levitated the feather, had been enrolled on the Pottermore list and accepted into the Beta testing. With my welcome email arriving today I headed into the world of witches, wands and werewolves and this is what I found.
I think I had expected Pottermore to pretty much be a regurgitation of the books with added imagery offering a helping hand. On deeper thought this is a rahter stupid conclusion as they announced that the portal would allow for Harry Potter to come out as eBooks, and they weren’t suddenly going to start giving away the world’s top bestseller for free!
Currently only The Philosopher’s Stone is available, and you progress through the story more in a chronological order of moments than actual engrossing text. Each chapter has two or three interactive screens where double clicking on the image zooms you into new and focussed aspects. You can collect items to put in your trunk, unlock story extras and find out about potions. It’s pretty tempting to rush through this stage so you can get to Diagon Alley and buy your stuff for Hogwarts (including the iconic wand and your choice of cat, rat or toad).
On the downside, the moments make the story rush by too fast and, if you’ve lived under a stone all your life and haven’t ready Harry Potter, you pretty much won’t be able to follow what’s going on. You do feel a little like you’re on the skin of the story and not able to scratch your way in as you’re giving tempting morsels but nothing hugely gripping from the books themselves. Many of the screens aren’t very interactive and I advise using the ‘add to favourites‘ button for every new piece of info whether character, history or scene because there’s no index of these items later and you’ll have to trawl back through if you want to, say, read up on Professor Quirrel’s past.
As you progress through the story you’ll pick up new spells, either by actually finding a spell being used in a class, or finding a book lying around which you throw in your trunk and hence gain the knowledge of extra spells. Spells are cast by clicking upon the highlighted letters of the incantation, whereupon an expanding ring will develop. Once it’s at is largest, you click, the cursor whizzes on to the next letter and you have to keep up to cast the spell correctly.
practising can be a lot of fun, and there are some pretty hard spells where, even as a nimble fingered writer, I found it hard to keep up. The whole use of learning these spells is so that you can duel with friends and other houses to gain points, but duelling is currently down on the site so I didn’t get a chance to try this out.
J.K Thoughts and Extras
One of my favourite pieces on Pottermore are the extras to the story. There are three basic components; character biographies, item histories and explanations, and musings from J.K Rowling about how she came up with ideas and drafted concepts and characters. As a writer myself I found this deeply interesting and inspirational, especially the ‘Original Forty’ where J.K Rowling revealed that she’d written a list of 40 initial classmates for Harry, something I’ve done myself for my current WIP. Some of the first 40 appeared in the story, some didn’t. Some such as Neville have grown into immense characters, whilst some well know characters had completely different names to start with.
Another of my favourite things was playing with potions, and I promised a Twitter friend I’d brew her something to cure her boils. Having bought a cauldron and various ingredients from Diagon Alley (you can head back and buy more at any point, or collect items throughout the story) you head off to the potions lab. It’s more difficult than you might think, and some of the longer instructions had huge lists which I couldn’t complete in the time frame what with crushing herbs, stirring pots and trying to not let my cauldron explode or my brew go bad. After one initial mixture the potions need various times to brew and I left mine bubbling away for 90 minutes or so. I’ve mastered the boils cure, but both the Sleeping Draught and Forgetfulness Potions had me blowing up the lab!
Pottermore is a thriving mesh of an interactive Harry Potter Wikipedia website and a few online games to keep you going. With duelling currently not working, and only a limited number of potions to make, it could be hard to keep people coming back if they don’t carry on adding incentives. Of course, only The Philosophes Stone is available at the moment so there are another six books to come. And who else knows what’s up their sleeves. I’d like to see more interactivity for friends because you can only comment on features of Pottermore at the moment, rather than talking to each other. And again, with duelling not working, the only interactivity there is at the moment is adding people as friends and sending them gifts such as a chocolate frog card or a magical book. But, with many more features to come, Pottermore has certainly proved more than a little engrossing for me today and I can’t wait to see what happens next.