Last month I received early access to the beta Pottermore website after participating in a Magical Quill challenge, which basically involved answering a question that related to something in the Harry Potter books.
I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be one of a million rewarded with early admission to the elusive site, partly because I really had no idea what Pottermore actually was.
The home page had described it as so:
Pottermore is an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.
So the new content bit sounded pretty damn exciting, but as for the rest of it…”enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books” and “explore the stories like never before”. What the hell does it all mean!?
Well, let’s start from the beginning. First thing I had to do was choose a name for myself. Because it’s all child friendly for the little people fans of the series, everyone gets a Harry Potter inspired pseudonym, so that the only way you can add your friends is by asking them what their pseudonym is.
Now, you don’t actually get to make up your pseudonym; you instead get a choice of five to pick from. I chose DragonSpell167, but also had choices along the lines of UnicornHolly and SpellPatronus, both with random numbers at the end.
So with that over with I was introduced to the site. And wow. Really, WOW.
The first thing that hit me was the graphics, which are simply spectacular. The site takes you though each of the books, chapter by chapter, through a number of images. The beta version only has book one for now.
At the start of each chapter it looks something like this:
Pottermore: Chapter One
You get a small snippet of the chapter and below it three images of three scenes that are significant to the chapter, which in chapter one are entitled “Number Four, Privet Drive”, “Something Peculiar is Happening” and “Harry is Delivered”.
You then click on one of the scenes, and it takes you to that interactive image. I say interactive, because that’s what they are. The pictures are very subtly animated; car lights will flicker if you run your cursor over them, or owls will fly away if you do the same.
Beautiful Hagrid image in Chapter One
Each image also has three layers, and by double clicking you move further into the image from the foreground, to the middle, to the background. In each layer, you might find objects which you can add to your trunk, or which might offer you extra character, place or scene information, content that did not make the books, or previously unknown backgrounds. You get to collect Chocolate Frog cards, potions and spells. Very cool.
So you go through each chapter the same way, exploring the images and finding things within them. Some chapters may have only one or two images, others three or four.
What a lot of people have been talking about though, is being sorted into a Hogwarts house, and receiving your wand from Olivander. The very cool thing about this, is that you get to do these things as Harry does them. If Harry doesn’t get sorted into a House until Chapter 7, then neither do you. But when you do, it’s a matter of answering a number of mysterious questions that really don’t allow you to cheat in order to get the house you want.
I consider myself proud (and lucky!) to have been sorted into Gryffindor!!! Woooo! You knew this already though, when I told you a while back about my time at Hogwarts.
Being sorted into the COOLEST Hogwarts house...naturally.
You can keep track of your house points, what’s in your trunk, what chapter you’re up to, your Chocolate Frog cards, your wand and everything else on your profile page, which looks like this:
There’s more to it as you scroll down, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture in one image, but basically it just shows your progress and gives you easy access to the rest of the site. The line of yellow dots represent each chapter in the first book, the other larger red circles to the right being the remaining six books which are yet to be opened. The highlighted yellow dot with the cat avatar pictured above it shows the chapter I’m up to. The cat is the pet I chose for myself (only when Harry goes to Diagon Alley of course) and which is used as your avatar. This page also shows the details of my wand, which was likewise chosen for me after answering a number of questions.
An example of the extra content that you might discover is shown here with Professor McGonagall’s background and extra tid bits of information:
Extra content from J. K. Rowling: Professor McGonagall
It goes on to give a particularly interesting history that explains her interest in scouting Harry for the Quidditch team and her eagerness to beat Slytherin.
Finally, the other activity worth mentioning is Wizard Duels. You can gain house points by duelling with your friends! You can also go to the Great Hall to see how all the other houses are going in their house point tallies.
All in all, I think it is a very cool concept. The graphics truly are amazing, and it really is a great accompaniment to the reading of the books. It’s not until you actually get into the site that you realise how accurate the original description of it was; “an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.” As confused as I was before, it really does make sense now.
I’ll leave you with a few more images to peruse over, including an example of how the multiple layers work in the Diagon Alley scene. Give them a click to see them full sized. I honestly can’t get over the graphics and their multiple layers. In the meantime, hopefully see you there in October when it becomes available to all!
Harry recieves his letter: In this image, the letters are actually moving around the page
The Forbidden Forest with the Whomping Willow in the foreground
A unicorn slain in the forest
Diagon Alley foreground graphic
Diagon Alley middle layer graphic - the foreground images become slightly unfocused and move aside slightly to reveal what's beyond them.
Diagon Alley Background graphic - the other characters have moved aside to reveal Gringotts Bank, which you can now click on and enter