By Daniel Rutledge
One announcement at this year’s E3 event hoping to excite Harry Potter fans was PlayStation’s upcoming title Wonderbook: Book of Spells.
Developed by the SCEE London Studios in collaboration with JK Rowling, Book of Spells is an augmented reality game that aims to turn players into Hogwarts students learning to cast spells.
I caught up with Book of Spells game director Russell Harding at E3 to find out more about the game.
3 News: We have a lot of Harry Potter fans in New Zealand who are sad the books and movies have come to an end. Is Book of Spells the next step for them?
Harding: Well I think the Book of Spells explores the wizarding world further. It’s full of unique spell descriptions written by JK Rowling herself, so giving some of the background behind some of the famous spells, she’s created some really fun stories around how those spells were discovered.
We also have five nice poems that have been written around the moral values that wizards really need to obtain. They’re great pieces of poetry that are written by JK Rowling and are totally unique. So the fans will absolutely love that. There’s a lot more depth to this world.
3 News: Were any additions made to the Harry Potter universe in Book of Spells endorsed as canon?
Harding: It’s been a total collaboration with JK Rowling, she’s added a lot more depth to the world by exploring the spells, giving more background, naming some of the wizards that previously we hadn’t heard of, telling us dates when certain spells were invented and so on. She’s added more richness to that world herself.
This is a book that belongs in the restricted section at the library of Hogwarts, and you’re given the opportunity to take it from the shelf and actually explore it. No Muggle has been given that opportunity before.
3 News: To a Harry Potter fan that wants Book of Spells but isn’t necessarily a gamer at the moment, is the set up and control scheme difficult?
Harding: The Book of Spells is a very simple book – it’s basically a paper book. We all know how to interact with a book and I think we all have in our minds how to use a wand too.
It’s a paper and card book but when you combine it with the PlayStation 3 we can bring anything to life on the pages of that book. The pages are covered with these blue markers, it’s a little bit like looking at a magic mirror, and when you put the book in front you see all these magical creatures come to life.
We deliberately kept the interaction really simple in order to make it feel as though you really are being a wizard. We really want to be able to bring across that feeling of being able to cast spells, so it feels like you’re actually casting Incendio. We want to avoid that feeling of pressing buttons.
The age group we’re targeting with the book of spells is 6 to 12, but of course it’s appealing to any Harry Potter fans. It will appeal to the adult Harry Potter fans as well.
3 News: What we’ve seen here at E3 is a lot of training spells and destroying targets and so on. Can players expect to face more fierce enemies from the dark side of the Harry Potter world?
Harding: As you explore the chapters through the Book of Spells of course you’ll meet a number of magical beasts, and as you go through the chapters the spells will become more challenging. There will be more depth to the book as you go through. You’ll meet some of those well-known foes and we’ll be revealing those as we go through our campaign over the [northern] summer.
3 News: If Book of Spells is loved by the fans, can they expect a sequel?
Harding: Well I can’t really discuss future titles, but there are many more books coming on to Wonder Book. I’m sure this is just the beginning of the library of content.
Wonderbook: Book of Spells is set for release in New Zealand exclusively on the PlayStation 3 at a date to be announced.