Everything has had to be verified by both J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Therefore, they've been part of the overall process of designing and implementing the videogame.
Yes, the Harry and Cho romance IS included in the videogame, particularly with a mission in relation to the Owlery. In brief, the mission is based on Cho wanting to send a box of heart-shaped chocolates to her grandmother; however the owl that has the chocolates keeps moving all around the Owlery. Therefore, Cho asks for Harry's help to get the box of chocolates. After clambering all around the Owlery and completing the task, a cut scene with a little romantic tension occurs.
EA have actually used the prop of the D.A. member list from the movie, therefore, all of the members that feature on the list feature as members of the D.A. Each actor actually signed their own name onto the list for the movie prop and this has also been replicated for the videogame, too.
There are tons and tons of hidden passageways and discoverables to find, all which give you discovery points which ultimately unlock rewards in the "Room of Rewards." (More information on this to come next Friday!)
The videogame is primarily Harry-centric, however there are instances throughout the game where one is able to play as other characters. (More information on this to come next Friday!)
Each "child" wizard does have access to the same spells, however more advanced spells are only used with more older characters such as with *cough* Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort*/cough*
The entire screen is free of icons and numbers – except for a prophecy ball that appears in the top right-hand corner from time to time to convey that the videogame is saving. (More information on this to come next Friday!)
The main way in which the camera will be controlled in the videogame is via the "Discovery Mode." (More information on this to come next Friday!)
The highest number of people that have worked on the videogame at once time is 120.
What special aspects does each platform of the videogame have? Obviously the main consoles have the same features, however some of the handheld versions differ, such as the Nintendo DS where one can play Quidditch and make potions...
The DS is almost an entirely different game, because it is sympathetic to that console and we don't really want to do a full on 3D extravaganza on what is essentially a 2D console, it's not that great 3D. But what it has got is much more in the way of is mini games, lessons... It has a different style of combat, the navigation system is completely different and it obviously has Quidditch in there and because of the format it tells the story in a different way. You unlock all of the mini games, so it is its own version in that and it essentially is a twist and it's a much different experience.
The GBA is very similar to the DS, its kind of a spin off as from a tech point of view they are quite similar. Those two formats are much identical.
The PSP version is more of an adaptation of the PS2, but it has less in the way of discoverables, but it has a sort of "stop bullying in Hogwarts" popularity mechanic in there as well and some elements differ. It has a mission with Fred and George in Grimmauld Place. It is 3D, it looks a lot like the PlayStation2 and 360 versions. Obviously it doesn't have the two analogue sticks, so the spell casting is different, so it is button based, it's like combo based spell casting.
The console versions are mostly down to the controller. For example you saw the PS3 controller has got a similar aspect to the Wii, but other than that it is identical to the 360 and the PS2 is identical in content as well.
For the PC we incorporated mouse control and have added other controls as well. Basically the PC is very similar to the 360 and the PS3 versions visually, but it is scalable. The visual quality is similar to the 360, since from a performance point of view the 360 is essentially a powerful PC, so to the top-end PC's, it will look like the 360 version.
Will the PC version of the videogame be compatible with Windows Vista?
Yes, there is going to be a downloadable version for the PC, so you can buy a download. Obviously there is going to be demos for the PC, 360 and PS3, which will be downloadable too, while there will also be "Cover Mounted" disks for the PS2 too.
Tell us about save screens...
What we have is an autosave system that saves discretely. You will see that there is a prophecy orb that fades up in the top right-hand corner and does not obstruct anything and this means the game is saving. What we do is save at certain points, for example: when the player completes a mission, when the player reaches a certain level of discovery, when the player moves on to a different chapter it will save, but it will never interrupt anything. Basically you set up the save system at the start and that's it!
Will there be a photograph mode where we can take in-game snapshots of certain areas?
That is a genius idea, and it is something that we really wanted to try and do. We got close to it... we have a "Discovery View" mode where you hold down a button the controller and you get Harry's eye view of the location and you can stay on the spot and look around, so you can actually look at locations in more detail, but we didn't get the photograph mode in, but it is something that we definitely want to do in future, especially on the next-generation consoles and the PC where you have got a hardrive... Colin Creevey mode!
Name something that was cut from the videogame or something that you would have liked to included but couldn't and state why.
I think that I would have really liked to have done Transfiguration, but we have our spell sets that we have done and it doesn't actually feature many Transfiguration spells per say, because they are not something that you would use normally and we just couldn't get to it, but it would have been cool to do that. That leads us into the next game where we really want to do more classrooms and I kinda wanted to do the broom flying, but building London for a three minute level... I did keep asking, but you know, we couldn't get there. And if you think about it in the book actually, nothing happens in that scene, they just fly. It's like a really palpable sense of danger when you are reading it. They case a sort of "Invisibility Stealth Mode" and are protecting him and saying that there is all of this danger, but actually they just fly to Grimmauld Place. We would have to add so much that I would be worried that we would be putting stuff in just for the sake of it, rather than telling the story, which is not the sort of thing that we have done for this videogame.
What about weather patterns?
We have day and night, but we don't do time of day, because it gets us into all sorts of continuity problems, as if you think about the movie it flows all in one direction, so they can have it change from summer to winter, as they place in a little transition here and there and can have it change like that, but for us to have to relight the entire world and you can't swap and change it all around. It is something that we thought about doing, but in one of these games we will feature the Whomping Willow season changing scene, because that is so cool, I would love to do that. But we did do day and night, we have got sunset and things like that, but they are really for specific fictional key moments, like for instance when Harry wakes up from his nightmare where Mr. Weasley has been attacked. He's in bed and asleep and it can't be daylight, you know, we can't get away with Harry running down to Dumbledore's office when it is daylight as that would be rubbish, so we had to do a version of the common room at night, the grand staircase at night, the entrance hall at night, so it just had to be done and it all looks really cool.
Has Harry's anger and emotional change that features so intensely in the book been featured in the videogame?
Yes, I think that he is angry, but we have toned him down a little bit as I think he comes over quite aggressive in the book and I think that they have toned it down a little in the film from what I have read in the script, it kind of seems that way, but I am not sure. I think that he doesn’t shout half as much and I don't know if you have seen the bit where he comes out of DADA and Hermione goes "It's annoying that she's not going to teach us any new spells" and he goes "Oh, and it's not annoying that she called me a liar in front of everybody." You know, he is angry there and we do moments like that, but he is not going to be furious all of the time.
| .: Kelvin Tuite Transcript :.|
How difficult is it to create the world of Harry Potter visually for each console?
It's a technical challenge for each of the consoles. For me, I set what I would like to achieve visually. And obviously it is realistic, but I can probably want a few more things than I can be given – and it is up to Wayne and all of the engineers to say they can do that. Essentially when we started building we knew the PS2 was our primary target audience, so we were building for that. So we thought we could build everything for the PS2, and then we were doing the PSP. So we could bring it down to the PSP and polish and add layers for the next generation consoles. That was our way of thinking. We actually found that meant we were working in two different directions (both upwards for the next generation consoles and downwards for the hand held consoles) and we found that if we worked on the top level (next generation consoles) and basically pushed down... essentially all of the next generation has got all of these lovely shaders and extra bits and pieces, extra pollies and loads of other features such as shaders to make the cobbles look 3-D. And that's great, but you can’t have that on a current generation, apparently. But actually we went, "Oh, let's give it a go." And so a lot of the stuff like the shaders have got baked into the textures for the current generation. And then most of the games have blob shadows and we have objects casting shadows as you lift them up and move them around. And the blob shadows looked a bit crap really and so we went, "Well why don't we switch them on with the PS2 and see what happens?" And it worked and we were like "Huh, okay, what else can we do?" So the next generations allowed us to push our PS2 and Wii titles to look better than they probably would have done if we just started them specifically working on in that area. And that has fed down to the PS2, DS, GBA.... The DS, the way we are doing it, is much like a point and click adventure. We’ve got different screens and we are using the next generations to generate the backgrounds for the characters. And the 3-D models of the characters running around are lowest LOD. LOD is "level of detail" so we have got high LOD which is 10,000 pollies per character down to 500 pollies for the lowest LOD. So it scales down, so when they are in the distance they are really basic.
One complaint we have had from previous games is the lighting and camera angles. Looking at all of the consoles so far the lighting seems to have vastly improved. Hhave you used more camera angles and was it a conscious decision to make the game more lighter so you would be able to see more, since it is not as dark as any of the other games?
It's funny that you should say that as on previous games we have had problems. I mean it depends on what platform you are playing it on and what country as well. So I think around about "Prisoner of Azkaban," we were told by people in the States that "We can't see this, this is too dark,” and we couldn’t figure out why. Essentially the PS2's output... if you've got the standard lead that comes with it, it is very bright and desaturated through a normal TV. If you buy a lovely component lead it comes out pretty dark and if you buy an RGB it comes out lovely. And, of course, in the States they don’t have RGB, they have component composites. So it was either too bright or too dark and so we started trying to figure out ways to calibrate our titles. The same thing is true for the Xbox depending on what lead you have got. Depending on what kind of TV you have plugged it into, you get a different output. But on the next generation consoles we can detect what you have got plugged in and adjust the picture – depending on what lead you have got plugged in and what you are plugging it into – so that has generally helped. The PS2, we have essentially got really good at calibrating it. The output on that, and the Wii, again we have had no real problems with that. That is very, very good!
To be honest, the way we light stuff has not really changed that much. It's just that we have got cleverer and the technology has gotten better. In terms of the cameras... so with "Goblet of Fire" the cameras were pretty much constrained because it was a three player game and it had to work for three players to run around together in the same area. "Prisoner of Azkaban" I think the camera was probably a better solution, but again it that's thing of having something that is very, very twitchy. So we have got a variety of cameras now, where in certain areas the cameras are locked. So if you can do that *shows the "Discovery Mode" to us* with the Discovery camera, then essentially you are in an area where we want you to look all the way around.
Are there any areas where you get 360 degrees?
Most of the castle is 360. There is some areas like the viaduct, for instance, which is not 360, but we have done a lot of cheating to get the entire castle in there, and so we have limited the camera. So again it is one of those things of this is the first time we have been building a world as much as possible to be authentic to the film set, and that has presented us with loads of problems. Because that is not how you build it for a game, if you certainly want a streaming game where there is no 30 second load between each zone. So you get areas where, like this, you have got Hagrid’s Hut there, the Owlery, the bridge, the clock tower courtyard and the entire rest of Hogwarts all there at once. And we had to get this all onto a PS2 – let alone on an XBox with all of the shaders and graphics and whatnot. So normally most games are a room leading to a corridor, leading to a room, leading to a corridor. But we didn't have that kind of luxury, since we have so many things connected. You would have a thing where you would say, "I can only have three connections tops off of any kind of room" and here we are we have got, one, two, three, four and five. With the castle there as well. So, for us, building the film was giving us all sorts of problems. But it also meant that we had to get lot more cleverer on how we built it. And if we try to get flying in there next year then we will have to be even more cleverer. So for me, for the next one, I want to get in there like with "Prisoner of Azkaban" where we had Buckbeak flying around the castle. As to me I loved doing that and I want to do that now with this castle. So that will be the challenge of going there next.
The cut scenes help the story to be explained. Is it all done with "The Daily Prophet" or is there any cinematic kind of cut scenes or anything?
To push the story forward we use The Daily Prophet as a device to take you. So when you are playing the game, "The Daily Prophet" is used a narrative as it essentially moves you on in the story – or if you have got to a story break point, or moving time and place. So obvious examples are Little Whinging to Grimmauld Place to Hogwarts and then obviously the different places in Hogwarts such as Dumbledore's Hogwarts, recruiting the D.A., Umbridge's Hogwarts and fighting back against her. So linking in between these we have sequences which use the newspaper as a story telling device.
I guess if you haven't seen the film or read the book, it may be a little confusing as to what is going on. But hopefully the game playing experience will keep driving you forward anyway.
Did you take a lot of your visuals from the film? Do they get the idea first and you take it from them or do you work together?
Previously we have delved into the extra fictions, so the stuff that Joanne Rowling has allowed us to use or given us to use, and we have free-for-all on that. But it still has to feel like it belongs to Harry Potter. So, actually, some of the film concept artists have worked on the game over time as well... so the guy that designed the Thestrals for the film is the guy that designed the Urklings for us last year on the "Goblet of Fire" game. He has got a very distinctive style. Right now what we will be doing is going through "Half-Blood Prince," breaking down the story structure, breaking down if you like the game levels that we are going to get from the book...
Have you worked on all of the Harry Potter games?
And is this your favourite one so far?
Yes it is actually. I really like "Chamber of Secrets" though. Again, probably because it was our first PS2 game and there were just some amazing things that we were doing in it at the time. And some of the things that we did then I would like to get back to now.
When you are playing as Harry, if you go up to any student at all, is there dialogue?
Yes, some of it may just be "Hiya," but it depends on who they are. *Turns on sound and we hear a girl stating, "I have forgotten my rememberall, has anyone seen where I have put it?"* It also depends on the House as well. So Slytherin tend to insult you and it also depends on where you are in the game as well, so right in the beginning people are more wary of Harry. You know he has been portrayed in "The Daily Prophet" as a madman, so you are going to get lots of comments about that. It's funny, since out of that 9,000 line script, Harry has the least number of lines – because essentially you are playing as Harry so you are talking to Hermione, to Ron... because you are the player making the decision. He has lines, but less than everyone else as you are interacting with everyone else around the castle.
*Kelvin takes us on a little tour of the castle and grounds to show how Harry interacts with some of the students.*
I quite like this area here with the clock. I would have liked to have done more with this. I don't know if you have been to Umbridge's Hogwarts, but there is a mission to sabotage the clock to make the clock go wrong for Umbridge’s Hogwarts. So this is one of the various rebellious acts and you get to sort of levitate the cogs onto the clock, to make it turn the wrong way and to make the pendulum go crazy!
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