|Jonathan Smith Of Traveller's Tales Interviewed|
July 29, 2011 | IMG News
It was inevitable that Harry Potter would find his way to LEGO's iconic building bricks. I had a chance to send a few questions to Traveller's Tales' Jonathan Smith, and here's what he said about the development of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4:
Q: Why did you decide to focus on Harry Potter for this game?
A: We've been incredibly lucky to play with some of the world's favorite characters and stories in previous LEGO games - and Harry Potter has so many qualities which make it a perfect fit for us. Wonderful characters of different shapes and sizes, surprising and colorful magical powers, amazing creatures, and of course a unique, incredibly powerful, narrative.
Q: What lessons did you learn during the development of your previous LEGO games, and how did you apply those lessons to the development of the Harry Potter version?
A: With each new LEGO game, we set out to build on everything we've done in the past - to develop new and exciting gameplay features, structures and technology. But our core values remain consistent: accessibility, depth, variety, and a sense of humor.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on years one through four, rather than doing one year or a time, or smaller or larger blocks of years?
A: A LEGO game always strives to include as much content as possible. A single book or movie was never going to provide the scope of action that we aspired to. Equally, though, the whole saga of Harry Potter Years 1-7 was just too much to bite off. Years 1-4 was a natural break point for us, building to a dramatic climax with the Triwzard Tournament.
Q: What input did you get from JK Rowling and any of the folks involved with the movies?
A: JK Rowling has created the most amazing world, and we are at every moment very much aware of the debt that we owe her. I think that dedication comes through in every detail of LEGO Harry Potter, where the team, as fans, strain every sinew to be true to the rules of the wizarding world and those wonderful characters. In this task, they're extremely well supported by many experts at J K Rowling's agency and Warner Bros., whose feedback and input was nothing less than invaluable.
Q: Spellcasting seems similar to using the Force in the LEGO Star Wars games, although I realize there are some differences. How did your development of the Force-using gameplay mechanics in LEGO Star Wars inform your development of spellcasting in LEGO Harry Potter?
A: We always try to make our new mechanics and systems feel intuitive to players who have been trained in previous LEGO games. Consistency of button assignments is definitely part of that objective. In a LEGO world, the concept of building and rebuilding is naturally going to player an important role, and both the Force and spellcasting offer similar routes into that. Spellcasting in LEGO Harry Potter goes a lot further, though!
Q: Why did you make the changes you did for LEGO Harry Potter, such as the Students in Peril missions and the revamped hub system?
A: The construction of Hogwarts Castle as our largest-ever LEGO game environment - a persistent, growing and activity-filled world which forms the hub of your adventure over four full years of story-driven action - was one of several ambitious new goals we had for LEGO Harry Potter. We wanted to create a game which delivered the same narrative of growth and discovery as the books, full of secrets and surprises. Other technical innovations for the game, such as the new physics and improved lighting systems, were part of our wish for a game which felt even more real and immersive than anything we'd been able to achieve before.
Q: Why do you think the Harry Potter franchise remains so popular, even though the books are done?
A: The world of Harry Potter has so many unique elements brought so vividly to life through the force of J K Rowling's incredible imagination. People all over the world have built up deep relationships with her characters and journeyed with them on an epic adventure in both books and films. The power of those connections do not diminish, because they live on in your imagination!