Thanks to my lovely thoughtful sister, I finally managed to get into the beta version of Pottermore last week (I’m BludgerMarauder143) and now I’ve completed the first book I thought I’d write a post about my impressions so far and explain more about what it’s all about.
What is Pottermore?
That’s a darn good question. The hype of Pottermore was very mysterious and J. K Rowling described it as ‘an interactive reading experience’. Essentially it is a cross between a social networking site (you have a profile, can add friends and post comments) and a game (you can play your way through the Harry Potter books).
Each chapter of the book is split into significant ‘moments’ that feature a key quote from that scene and a beautiful illustration. Parts of the picture are animated, and you can zoom in on the scene and click on objects to collect them in your inventory, take a closer look at them or read more about them. You can also unlock new material from J. K Rowling such as characters’ backstories, trivia and notes about her creative process. You can play your way through the books collecting items, earning housepoints, having wizard duels, trying spells and potion making and adding characters, objects, places and creatures to your ‘favourites’.
One of my favourite parts of Pottermore so far was Diagon Alley. The illustration was beautiful and there was more to do than on most other moments. You can go into each shop and collect the items on Harry’s shopping list and at the end you get to go to Ollivander’s to choose your wand (or, rather, to have your wand choose you).
After completing a short psychological test I was presented with my wand:
I was really pleased with this as I am kind of obsessed with the Phoenix and it has a special meaning for me (my real name means ‘she who will rise again’). The articles on wand cores, wood and length revealed the following about it:
‘This is the rarest core type. Phoenix feathers are capable of the greatest range of magic, though they may take longer than either unicorn or dragon cores to reveal this. They show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike.
Phoenix feather wands are always the pickiest when it comes to potential owners, for the creature from which they are taken is one of the most independent and detached in the world. These wands are the hardest to tame and to personalise, and their allegiance is usually hard won’.
‘Hornbeam selects for its life mate the talented witch or wizard with a single, pure passion, which some might call obsession (though I prefer the term ‘vision’), which will almost always be realised. Hornbeam wands adapt more quickly than almost any other to their owner’s style of magic, and will become so personalised, so quickly, that other people will find them extremely difficult to use even for the most simple of spells. Hornbeam wands likewise absorb their owner’s code of honour, whatever that might be, and will refuse to perform acts – whether for good or ill – that do not tally with their master’s principles. A particularly fine-tuned and sentient wand’.
‘In my experience, longer wands might suit taller wizards, but they tend to be drawn to bigger personalities, and those of a more spacious and dramatic style of magic[…] Most wands will be in the range of between nine and fourteen inches[…] Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair’.
I deduce from this that I’m independent, rebellious, hard to tame, obsessive and single-minded with average self-esteem and a suprising adaptability. I suppose that’s not too far off my personality.
Another highlight for me was the sorting.I was impressed with the questionnaire as I was expecting it to be obvious and easy to cheat (eg. ‘do you like red and gold and is your favourite animal a lion?) but most of the questions were mysterious and either based upon psychology (‘Which path do you choose?’) or completely random (‘heads or tails’). I was delighted and suprised to be sorted into Gryffindor. Of course I had hoped to be (I’m a leo!) but I have the geekiness of a Ravenclaw, the bumbling eccentricity of a Hufflepuff and sometimes the arrogance of a Slytherin. But, hey, I’m not going to argue with the result. THE SORTING HAT HAS SPOKEN! And it placed my sister in Gryffindor too-(move over Fred and George, there’s a new Gryffindor sibling team in town!)
The new content from J. K Rowling is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of her notes are about obvious things that most true fans already know (eg. Nicholas Flammel was a real person, what the words on the mirror of Erised spell out backwards etc.). But amongst this were some real gems such as the story of how Vernon and Petunia Dursley got together and Professor Mcgonagall’s sad background story. These were definately worth reading and shed light on some overlooked characters.
Potion making was fun although I got very frustrated at first as I kept exploding and melting my cauldron and having to start again. Casting spells is good fun as well but takes a bit of practice.
Pottermore is still in Beta, so naturally it still has a lot of bugs and issues. The technical problems are the worst thing about it. Frequently I get kicked out of the moment I’m on because the servers are overloaded or something. I dread to think what it will be like when they let more people in, as they are already having difficulty sustaining this number.
Another disappointment is that so far there is not a great deal of interaction in each scene. Most of the moments show only the backs of the character’s heads or a picture of the scene with the main character completely absent (eg. a table laid out for a feast). So far all you can do is click on things to collect them or hover over things to make them move or twitch about. It would be good if you could at least watch the main action of the scene (eg. see them beat up the troll) or better still, to actively participate yourself (eg. play wizards chess at the end).
Another annoying thing is that the game is completely silent. It would be greatly improved with some background music and sound effects.
So far I have enjoyed the Pottermore experience, although not as much as I hoped to. It would most appeal to die-hard fans who enjoy fan art and discovering background stories and details. I can also see how it would be a useful supplement for children who were just beginning to read the books to follow the story through like a picture book.
However, those who were expecting a more interactive, action-packed game will be disappointed as so far there is not much to do. The site is obviously aimed at younger children rather than older teens or adults so it is quite limited in terms of its content and social networking capabilities (you can’t write your own profile, change your username or send private messages etc.)
Bearing in mind that Pottermore is still in Beta, I’m hopeful that they will be able to sort out the technical issues and hopefully they will our opinions into account and improve it with background music, sound effects and more interaction. For now I am just going to enjoy the beautiful pictures!