What a decent Harry Potter video game would look like

The Harry Potter video games have been, for the most part, distinctly average. Far too preoccupied with mimicking key moments from the films, or trying to force game mechanics that have been successful in other franchises. It’s all been a bit of a mess, accumulating in a final instalment which many consider to the be the worst of the lot.

Although it’s easy to blame short development cycles or inexperienced teams, Electronic Arts should really know better. They’ve been in the business a long time and were entrusted with a brand that has millions of fans around the world. Surely they could have done a little more with the Harry Potter video games?

The concept for this piece was inspired by a recent post on Kotaku. They ask a simple question: If you could create a perfect Harry Potter video game, what would it be like? Both Jen and Sam bring up some interesting (and hilarious) ideas for their own prospective works, but what I really took away from the article was the need to go beyond the original source material.

From a business point of view, each Harry Potter game was designed to coincide with the films. That’s fine. Once a child leaves the cinema, they’re likely to spot the game in a shop and then want to do a little magic conjuring of their own. The difference is that these games don’t have to be a scene by scene representation of the films. They could be about an entirely different part of the Harry Potter franchise. Simply call them ‘Harry Potter 7’ and slap Daniel Radcliffe’s absurd face on the front cover. It’ll have the exact same effect on sales, regardless of the content inside.

Sam mentioned a prequel game, similar to what The Force Unleashed did with the Star Wars license. I think this is a fantastic idea, introducing characters who were mentioned in the books/ films, but never given the chance to be explored fully. I would consider taking this one step further – how about a game documenting each stage of a particular character’s life, such as in Assassin’s Creed? Let’s take James Potter for example.


James Potter started out as a pupil in Hogwarts. This chapter could be presented in a similar fashion to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, with an open world school and classes to attend at your leisure. Small cut scenes could tie it into the original literature, such as meeting Lily Potter and making friends with Sirius, Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. Otherwise it could deviate into new territory, using platforming and dialogue trees to show how the school once operated.

Upon graduation, James then fought in The First Wizarding War as a member of the Order of the Pheonix. Marking the original reign of Lord Voldemort, this section could show Potter senior in a new, older light. Upgraded powers could be used to take on missions from either the Ministry of Magic, distressed muggles or the Order directly. This would provide the opportunity to explore previously unseen locations from the books and films, allowing level designers to create worlds that actively benefit the gameplay.

Each console offers a wealth of opportunity for controls and input. Motion controls are an obvious place to start, but should be handled delicately and intelligently. No waggle Wii mote flailing, please. Using the Wii U as the Marauder’s Map is a great idea offered by Sam, allowing players to design their own routes or track important enemies. Taken one step further, the map could be used in game to offer online player hints and tips in a similar fashion to Demon’s Souls.

Most importantly, put the franchise in the hands of a capable developer. Bioware is already doing a fantastic job with Star Wars: The Old Republic Republic and shows the quality that can be produced with a little creative freedom. Perhaps it’s too late for a decent movie tie-in, but it’s certainly not too late for a decent Harry Potter video game.

Rock Band 3 is coming this winter

Harmonix has announced through its official Facebook page that Rock Band 3 will be hitting UK shores this winter.┬áThe third iteration will apparently ‘revolutionize the music genre once again’ – although just how this will be done is still unknown.

Rock Band 2 is already a solid platform because of its steady release of DLC and the recent launch of the indie Rock Band Network. Presumably they’ve got a big hardware overhaul or some serious gameplay changes if they feel they need to release a new retail game.

This will be the second Rock Band release of 2010, following on from the Green Day: Rock Band announcement that was leaked in December. Harmonix’s previous tribute to The Beatles was absolutely fantastic, but somehow I just can’t see a Green Day version having the same universal appeal.

Rock Band 3 is being published by MTV Games and will be distributed by everyone’s favourite global giant, Electronic Arts.
JetSetNick

Is There Room For Magazines?

After recently stumbling upon the blog A Life Well Wasted, the brain child of freelance journalist Robert Ashley, I began wondering about the video game magazine industry. Ashley had picked up on the death of Electronic Gaming Monthly, talking to various ex-editors and contributors about what it was like to work on the publication in it’s golden age.

It got me thinking about the way we consume our gaming journalism. Before the internet, magazines were king; it was the only way gamers could find out news and reviews of the latest titles. I used to read my copies cover to cover, taking in every word before I was comfortable lending them out to friends. Video Games hadn’t become mainstream enough to be included in rental stores, so the only way I could check out a game was to buy it at full price. Magazines seemed to be the only way of knowing if a title was worth your hard earned pocket money. We’re very sceptical of the opinion of reviewers and critics these days, but I think back then gamers were much more trusting.

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The internet has of course, blown our past time out of proportion. Video games are now socially acceptable, so we no longer need magazines for a sense of community or belonging. Excluding the enormous wealth of enthusiast blogs and reviews, there are still dozens of gaming sites creating journalism that can be accessed for free. Advertising is becoming stricter, but as consumers we now have access to features, reviews and cheats on demand. The issues revolving around ‘Tips and Hints’ already seem archaic in the wake of walkthrough sites such as Gamefaqs.

Publishers used to justify increasing the cost of a magazine by offering freebies. The most important, of course, was the demo disc. The only way to play a demo was to buy the corresponding magazine, so I would always rush out to buy an issue when it featured a title I was interested in . A magazine would pride themselves on the exclusivity of offering a particular game or video first. Now though? We get our demo’s for free with the click of a button on Xbox Live or PSN.

So this leads to the title of my post. With so many websites offering unique, quality content, is there any need for video game magazines? I would like to believe so. Writing for the internet is a different craft to print, due to the nature of scan reading and reduced space on the world wide web. The magazine can often have a larger word count to allow analysis and discussion, spreading across multiple pages and interviews. With so many distractions on the internet gamers are quick to lose interest in an online review, absently clicking on a new tab or their latest reply on messenger. When you’re sat down with a magazine your attention is a commitment, often rewarded with a more engrossing read.

You might look cool reading the news on you’re iPhone, but for on the go practicality paper media is still the way forward. A magazine can often be a lifesaver when you’re sitting on an aeroplane, waiting for the bus or just bored on the toilet. Still simple to stuff in a bag, show to your friend or hold onto for safe keeping. It’ll be a shame if we all end up staring at tiny LCD screens for our long commuter journeys.

Or maybe i’m just being too traditional. Perhaps the internet really is king and video game magazines as we know it are about to die out. I’m not trying to say they’re all good; here in England at least half on the rack of Borders are rubbish. There are still a few gems though, like Edge and GamesTM… which I just hope can still find a place in our ever changing hobby.