Monday, September 12, 2011

Pottermore & Me

I know most of the reviews and posts I have done so far have been romance oriented, but the imaginary subtitle of this blog is "Things I Read." One of my favorite series is, of course, the Harry Potter series. I tend to look askance at anyone who says they haven't read it. I don't expect you to necessarily love it (I have my own issues with some of the later books), but how do you not at least try Sorcerer's Stone? My little brother doesn't like them at all, but he's read them and, thanks to his now-wife, he's seen all the movies. He's even been to the Harry Potter part of Orlando's Universal Studios and admits it's kinda cool. Jim Dale's Harry Potter audiobooks are also among the only audiobooks I can listen to without getting bored. The man is seriously talented.

I am getting distracted. Before you know it, I'll start raving about Ron/Hermione and how Steve Kloves is obviously a Harry/Hermione shipper and, well. Moving on.

So Harry Potter was not yet available in e-book form and J. K. Rowling had all this extra story material lying around. Earlier this year, Rowling and Sony announced they were joining forces to create Pottermore. I wasn't quite sure what Pottermore was really going to end up being, but they were doing a competition for beta spots and I'd be dammed if I didn't get one. It's Harry Potter, after all.

I got my spot on the fourth day of the competition and then I waited for my welcome email to arrive. And waited and waited and waited. They were purposely rolling out the invitations slowly as to avoid crashing the site. My email finally arrived on Saturday morning.

I admit, I was a little disappointed by how it looked. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think I wanted it to sparkle.
Now, here's the problem. The day I got my spot was the first day that the competition was really available to us in the United States during the day. If I remember correctly, it was something like 10am EST. All the previous clues had been aired at too-fucking-earlyAM EST. Presumably, a lot of other Americans were able to get their spot on the same day and, therefore, also got their welcome email on a non-work day. As the internet-savvy know, when a large group of people, in the general vicinity of each other, all attempt to log-on to a website at the same time, bad things happen.

Like this. I've been seeing this message A LOT.
I wasn't really able to log on until Saturday night, presumably when most people either gave up or went out drinking or both. So what do I think of the whole Pottermore experience when I'm not seeing the dreaded Purple Screen of Doom? Honestly, I'm kinda meh on the whole thing.

Somewhere along the line, I read a blog post online where the author compared Pottermore to Facebook games and it really is the same kind of principle. It's basically a hidden image game with a potions component that's similar to waiting for your crops to grow in Farmville. I admit, I thought it was cool when my cauldron exploded from being overheated, but that was due more to really, really poorly written instructions rather than my own incompetence. I relied prettily heavily on the Exploring Pottermore tumblr to make sure I didn't miss anything. The creator behind that tumblr also links to some handy-dandy youtube videos that walks you through the potions.

You can also practice casting spells, but the dueling portion has been removed for the time being, which leads finding stuff and making potions the only way you can collect points for your house. Speaking of which, the Sorting Hat ceremony was pretty damn cool. It asks you seven questions (supposedly, they are different for most users) and based on your answers, you get placed in your house. Now, if you're familiar with the basic tenets of each house, there are some questions that are easy to skew if you want a particular house.  For example, one question asked me if I wanted to create a potion that would give the user wisdom, power, love, or glory. However, my very last question showed me a signpost and asked me to pick between left or right. I agonized over this choice. Left or right. In the end, I went with right because I'm right-handed and, therefore, left-brained. My theory was that most people would pick the direction associated with their handness and then the computer would associate that with the appropriate hemisphere of the brain. I may have overthought this a bit, but that's how you know I ended up in the right house.

It's just what I wanted!
It's interesting, but when you get access to the Great Hall and you can see the House Cup standings, so far, there seems to be a pretty even amount of people split between the four houses. Last I was able to check, it was like 72,000 and change in each house. I wonder whether the sorting algorithm was designed that way or if most people just happen to naturally fall into those four personality categories.

On the meh side of things, you are pretty limited by what you can explore and collect. The potion ingredients regenerate so you can collect them continually for free, but other than that, once you've picked up that chocolate frog card or book, there's no reason to re-visit a chapter. The graphics are Mary GrandPre's illustrations brought to life. The Whomping Willow in Chapter 13 is amazing. The chapters are divided up into two or three moments, so it's not like you're reading the book as you make your way through Pottermore. Instead, in each moment, you can zoom in three times and the possibility exists for different items or animations at each zoom level. Oddly, there is no sound or music. This might just be a function of the beta release and it's definitely the biggest complaint I've seen so far.

There is additional new material that J.K. Rowling has contributed to the site, most notably a detailed biography of Professor McGonagall. I also enjoyed reading about the Wand lore trivia. You do get chosen by a wand at Ollivander's and I liked seeing what my wand said about me. The wand selection was another set of questions and I think my wand fits me rather well.

I can't help it, though, I giggle at the description.
I'm not quite finished with the Sorcerer's Stone yet as I was up to the last chapter when I got booted. I currently have a potion brewing at the moment, but if I can't get back onto the site shortly, it will get ruined and I only earn one house point for Ravenclaw, "just for trying." Clearly, Snape is not the Potionmaster overseeing the firsties right now. Book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is not scheduled to be released until "early 2012." So, if you weren't lucky enough to get into the beta, don't worry. You'll have plenty of time to catch up once general registration starts in October. 

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