On August 25, 2006, TheSnitch staff members Leanne and Stefan were given the amazing opportunity to attend the EA Studios in Chertsey, London, in order to not only gain exclusive information in relation to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame, but to also see it in development and to offer comments and suggestions to ensure that the videogame will be the best one created up-to-date.
The day started at 10:30 a.m. (well you could say 4 a.m. for Stefan and 5 a.m. for Leanne if you wanted to be precise!) and involved a light breakfast, so that all eight Harry Potter website representatives attending the event could get to know one another. The following websites were also in attendance alongside with TheSnitch:
Charlotte from Immertius, but on behalf of HPANA
Donna from TLC
Ilse from Wizard Zone
Jonas from HP Fans
Jessie from Dreuzels
Karen from DanRadcliffe.co.uk
The first event of the day started at 11 a.m. and involved a presentation from the producer for the Harry Potter
videogames, Matthew Birch. The moment that we stepped into the Media Centre it was as if Hogwarts’ Great Hall had sprung to life! Four long tables were presented draped with the four Houses’ official colours and even large-scaled replica flags for each House were present too. Matthew Birch is a very hard man to describe, since he has so much enthusiasm for the Harry Potter
phenomenon, that to try and write it down would be too much of an insult and would not do him any justice! The presentation was conducted with Matthew Birch’s trusted Hermione Granger wand and was simply mesmerising, since so much passion, reference to detail and specific tie-ins to the Harry Potter
books and movies allowed us all to acknowledge that the staff at EA working on the Harry Potter
videogames are as much Harry Potter
fans as we are! From the presentation everyone agreed that the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame will be the best one made so far, due to the fact that it will have many of the features that Harry Potter
fans longed for in the first three videogames, but sadly were not able to have.
The videogame has a new and exciting theme to it which one must simply describe as "discovery." Not only will the user be able to complete the fantastic storyline that the videogame will have to offer, but one will also be able to become a real student in a sense of being able to explore the whole of Hogwarts with the aid of their trusty wand! As Warner Bros. has allowed EA to have the blueprints to the Harry Potter
set locations, be rest assured that an experience at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame will be as authentic as can be. Every tiny precision to detail combined with the rich colours, patterns and textures in the videogame will simply leave all users in awe. The whole of Hogwarts’ castle will be the user’s oyster which means that a whole realm of new possibilities will be opened up like never before. Specific features from the Harry Potter
books and movies such as riding on the Grand Staircase and using Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak will also be able to be experienced. Moreover, users will be able to interact with the world of Hogwarts such as casting spells on certain objects as well as combining objects to create spells, in order to gain "Discovery Points" which in effect will allow new and exciting features to open up such as characters, locations, mini-games and spells.
EA is really trying their best while developing the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame, in order to try allow the world of magic to be experienced by Harry Potter
fans in a more realistic and complex way. No longer will users simply have to press one or two buttons to initiate a spell, since EA will actually place a wand in the user’s hand and let them participate in the movements of spells through using methods such as the PS2’s right analogue stick. This in effect will allow the use of magic inside and outside of Hogwarts to be heightened. Not only will a user experience more magic, but there will be more involvement with the Wizarding World in general in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame, due to greater interactivity between characters and objects.
Interaction between characters will be improved in this videogame, so that one can talk to an endless string of characters, more than in any other Harry Potter
videogame. Not only will students and teachers be interactive, but ghosts and even portraits will be too; this is surely a "must have" for any true Harry Potter fan! As the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
book relates to the "army" entitled "Dumbledore’s Army," users will also be able to discover the true meaning of this through tasks such as meeting, helping, talking to and even defending the students of Dumbledore’s Army from any harm that may come. This perfectly relates into the issue of playing characters. The Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame will enable users to play a variety of different characters at various parts of the storyline; this even means that a degree of "adult magic" could be present within this videogame too! EA is certainly enhancing the way of the Wizarding World in a variety of ways, since users will even be able to grow accustomed to wizarding traditions such as playing wizard chess, which in effect will enable a greater connection to be established between the muggle playing the videogame and their wizard counterpart onscreen.
Users will not only have the main storyline of the videogame and the discovery of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World to contend with, since "mini-missions" from a variety of entities such as professors will also occur - and yes, this could mean that you might be set some wizarding homework to complete and made to attend wizarding classes! Completing the mini-missions on the videogame will again allow the discovery section of the videogame to widen, since new rewards would be given to allow the videogamer to progress further.
As the presentation came to an end it can be said that everyone was mesmerised by the amount of depth and tie-ins that the EA staff members had already placed into developing the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame. Not only are they trying to relate everything created in the videogame to an element of fiction from the Harry Potter
books and movies, but many of the Harry Potter
actors have actually had their heads scanned graphically, so that a true representation of their character can be established. It certainly did seem just from the presentation that the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame is being made by fans for fans! But, it did not stop there though!
We then split up into three different groups, in order to have a tour of the actual EA studios where development of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame is taking place. TheSnitch’s Leanne and Stefan were in a group with Jessie from Dreuzels.com.
The first of the three departmental visits we had was to the "audio" studio where we were to gain knowledge of how the audio used in the Harry Potter
videogames worked. One look at the door and we knew we were in a Harry Potter
development zone, as there was a large poster of the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
videogame cover on it. Once inside, four very friendly members of the audio team greeted us and then proceeded to tell us all about how the procedures used to get sound into the videogame worked.
Where possible they like to use the actual actors for the voices of the characters in the videogame as finding sound-a-likes can be extremely hard. So far, there are 22 actors and actresses signed up to voice their videogame counterparts. These actors and actresses will all come into the studio to record their lines unless they have filming commitments that do not allow them to do so. This occurred with Ralph Fiennes for the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
videogame, so members of the audio team had to fly out to where he was filming to get his voice clips. If the real actor or actress is not available then it falls upon the team to find a suitable sound-a-like. To do this they are sent a clip of the voice from Warner Bros. and then they have to go through many people to find a sound-a-like.
As you are probably aware, the Harry Potter
videogames are available all over the world which means they have to be edited with the appropriate language to whichever country they will be sold in. These voices are recorded in each individual country and are then sent to the team at EA who then place the voices into the videogame.
The music used within the first four Harry Potter
videogames was composed by the American composer, Jeremy Soule, however the music for the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame will be composed by a British composer; he will have the job of making sure that the music you hear matches the point in the videogame that you are at. This basically means that the music will change in relation to the emotion, atmosphere and with the arrival of different characters within the videogame.
The next department we were shown to was that of "programming." We were taken up to the second floor of the building where we were immediately faced with a wall of concept art for the new videogame, which was absolutely stunning and emotive. It was clear from the outset that the people working up here were all fanatics of the Harry Potter
world as well, because the ceiling was draped with House flags and there were various posters and film memorabilia in each workstation we walked past. We were shown the progress that had already been made on the visual aspects of the videogame which included a comparison between the detail available on the PS2 and next-generation consoles. This was amazing because the videogame characters’ faces looked almost life-like. We were then shown around the rest of the department where we learnt that there are three main sections of the videogame’s development: the blueprint stage, the texture stage and the lighting stage. We got to see first hand how each part of the videogame progresses from the very basic blueprint of Hogwarts to the rich Hogwarts full of colour that we have all come to know and love. Again, as we were walking around here the enthusiasm for the videogame was immense.
The final department we saw was that of the "narrative" for the videogame. This was placed on numerous story boards running down one of the walls of the floor dedicated to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame. The boards were placed in the order that you would see them in the videogame, complete with headings of who is in charge of each section, such as "Professor M Birch." There are seven main sections to the videogame which are as followed:
- Grimmauld Place
- Dumbledore’s Hogwarts
- A Grimmauld Christmas
- Umbridge’s Hogwarts
- Umbridge Breaks
- The Ministry of Magic
- Return to Hogwarts
Not only will the main storyline for each of these sections occur, but the user will also have to complete mini-tasks in these sections, in order to gain "Discovery points" needed to progress further within the videogame. The amount of detail included in these boards was astounding. Every tiny aspect of what the developers wanted to be included in each section was mapped out before our very eyes.
Once our tour had finished we were taken back to the sports bar for lunch. This was also in the theme of Harry Potter
as the chefs had gone to the trouble of making pumpkin pie and cauldron cakes. We all sat together talking about our various websites and any theories we had on what was going to happen in the finale; some theories more serious than others. It was very gratifying to see, once again, that all the staff had read the books and was as excited about them as we are. Once lunch was over we returned to the Great Hall (Media Centre) for a Q&A session with some of the staff members working on the videogame as well as with Harvey Elliot, the executive producer. From participating in this Q&A session, we were able to voice our opinions of the videogame and add any comments and suggestions that we had, in order to make the videogame become even more perfected than it is now!
To end this exclusive report for TheSnitch, we (Leanne and Stefan) would like to thank all of the staff members at EA that were part of the tour for making it so eventful, fruitful and interesting; we wish you all the best while you continue to create the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame, in order to make it the best Harry Potter
videogame made up-to-date! To coincide with the release of this report, TheSnitch has decided to open up a new section of the forums dedicated to the Harry Potter
videogames, and to go to the videogame section of our forums click here
. TheSnitch will also be opening up a videogame section to the website later on this year, so be sure to frequently check back at TheSnitch for this update!
Leanne’s Final Thoughts
When I was first asked to go to this event I was slightly sceptical about whether I would enjoy it and didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the studios and the people working on the videogame. As soon as I arrived at EA, however, I was greeted by an impressive looking headquarters and extremely enthusiastic staff. The one aspect that I have taken away from the day is of how obsessed all of the 87 staff working on the videogame are with Harry Potter
. I think I literally expected there to be one or two people that had perhaps read the books or seen the movie but never for them all to be as excited as I am about the series. This enthusiasm about the books is why this videogame, I feel, will be the best yet because everyone involved on it wants to make it so. The attention to detail and the inclusion of literary references in the videogame are astounding and I have so much respect for everyone working on the project.
Stefan’s Final Thoughts
Like Leanne, I was a little dubious about whether or not the event would be a fruitful experience, due to the fact that I had a preconceived idea that the staff members working at EA would be more interested in making a profit for the videogame, opposed to actually being interested in the Harry Potter
phenomenon itself. This preconceived idea soon vanished the moment that I stepped into EA’s headquarters, due to the fact that the staff members working on the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame are true Harry Potter
fans in a sense that they know as much information as we do! Not only did this impress me, but the fact that EA enabled us to give them our comments and suggestions about the videogame, in order to make it better, proves that they are trying their best to make this videogame the one that is truly made for fans by fans. Like Leanne, I left EA completely mesmerised by the attention to detail that the staff members have already put into the videogame and the amount of planning that actually goes into creating it. I truly have a lot of respect for everyone at EA working on the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
videogame and know for a fact that it will be a huge success!
It is expected that the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix videogame will be released on a variety of platforms including: Sony’s Play Station Portable (PSP), Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance (GBA), Nintendo’s Dual Screen (DS), Sony’s PlayStation2 (PS2), Sony’s PlayStation3 (PS3), Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and also on the new Nintendo Wii.
A photograph of EA's Headquarters in Chertsey, London
A photpgraph of EA's Media Centre where the presentation took place
A group photograph of all the Harry Potter
website representatives in attendance of the event (From left to right: Jessie, Ilse, Karen, Donna, Charlotte, Stefan, Leanne, Jonas)
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