Today I’m finally ready to dip my feet into the world of tech reviews, specifically tech tied to literature, blogging, and/or writing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you are aware that last month the Harry Potter mobile game Hogwarts Mystery debuted.
There have been many articles written about the game (most complaining about mistakes and the price to replenish avatar energy) and I’ve loved reading the critiques and commentary. I did not originally think I had anything original to say on the topic, but then I realized one thing these reviews are not doing is suggesting possible solutions.
I think I went a little overboard, but I enjoyed thinking about how I would fix the game if I was a developer so that’s today’s blog post! Enjoy :)
♔ ♕ ♖ The Basics ♗ ♘ ♙
You can play Hogwarts Mystery whether you have an Apple or Android smartphone. I’m playing the Android version, which I quickly and easily downloaded from the Google Play Store. Like most apps, you need to have Internet access to play and if your connection is weak the game may not be accessible as it needs to be able to download data.
Your avatar is entering Hogwarts in Year One, and you get to customize your avatar at the game’s start. You choose his/her/their appearance, name, and the house in which you want it to enter. Although two Pottermore sorting quizzes tests, taken years apart, have revealed that I personally am a Slytherin, I decided to make my avatar Gryffindor (unabashedly the house I’d pick if given the choice).
Regardless of how you customize your avatar, you discover that your family name is infamous because you had an older brother driven mad and disappear deep into Hogwarts on a quest for the Cursed Vaults. You have an immediate enemy in Merula Snyde who is also on a mission to uncover the mystery of the Cursed Vaults.
You interact with teachers and fellow students while at Hogwarts and there is a little flexibility in how your avatar speaks, response options ranging from kind, clever, and rude. It’s up to you how to play your avatar, but your avatar suffers set-backs if your dialogue responses are not what the other character wants to hear.
The screenshots below show the kind of interactive dialogues Hogwarts Mystery sets as tasks before you can unlock further chapters and adventures.
✗ My Biggest Critique? ✗
Right now, my biggest critique is just that the gameplay is just a bit boring. I don’t mind a game where you just tap the screen, but there needs to be more variety and surprises that KEEP PLAYERS ENGAGED as they play these time-based lessons. You can go through this game without paying attention to what’s happening. In fact, it almost encourages you to not pay attention when you’re forced to keep a window of time open during which to natural replenish energy before a lesson’s deadline falls.
I assume this game has an end-point in sight. Students can only attend Hogwarts until Year Seven, and I’d hate to see the lore disrupted for this game. I also worry that this game will eventually have ads in the game to keep the app running indefinitely and the story will become silly as developer’s try to extend the game’s life (à la Candy Crush or the Kim Kardashian app games that just keep adding levels).
The current mystery of what happened to your avatar’s brother and what you’ve unlocked by investigating the Cursed Vaults is at the time of this post’s publication the prime motivation for continuing the game, but I’ve already lost interest in playing because of the boring, and at times time-consuming, repetition required to get ahead in the story.
☼ Suggestions for Improvement ☼
I’m not someone who just likes to bash a product, especially one that so many have bashed in much greater detail than I care to match. Besides, I don’t think it’s useful. Being a critical thinker does not just mean being critical. Anyone can point out a problem, but it’s more productive to also present a solution.
All these solutions might a bit extravagant for the developers of this game, but I’ll suggest them anyway.
✓ Charge Something for Game Access
I don’t think anyone wants advertisements to begin showing up in the game nor do people want to be coerced into paying absurd amounts of real money for quicker game advancement. So I think the only natural conclusion if the game needs to bring in revenue is to charge a modest game download fee or set up a tier model that would allow die-hard fans with more disposable income to pay for some perks and at the same time also fund the game so that everyone can enjoy it.
I don’t think the perks should be anything that gives the payers a leg up on game advancement or extra features but instead maybe early access to new quests or features still in beta-testing.
✓ Create “Easter Egg”-Like Places in the Setting to Allow Players to Get More Free Energy
I think the slow pace set by the game in the form of energy recharging is necessary so that players can’t finish the game too quickly. If players go too fast, there might be a time when avid players catch up to the developers who are still working on the game.
So I don’t think ANYONE should be able to pay for more energy, instead there should be easter egg-like short adventures accessible only by exploring the Hogwarts ground (maybe at the right times) to accumulate more energy. I think it would fit into the Hogwarts mythology nicely too, given all the secrets the school holds that most students are never fully aware of (like the Room of Requirement).
They could vary in length, task, and style. I’m specifically thinking of those fun, old-school Super Mario detours that allow players to pick up extra coins/lives/etc. I’m also thinking something like the old Facebook hidden object game Hidden Agenda. These easter egg-mods could not only be a potential solution to allow characters earn more energy, but also a way to have fun on the side without getting to the conclusion too fast.
✓ Merge with Pottermore?
I think this app game attracts the same demographic that was drawn into the Pottermore mania a few years ago. I was shocked in the app that I got to choose my house. Why not start the game with the actual sorting quiz? It would’ve been so much more fun, if you didn’t already know what house you would be in.
Additionally, I think it would help developers to make players happy by tailoring game experience based upon an assessment of players’ prior knowledge of the Harry Potter universe. That way trivia questions asked in the game during lessons are more appropriately challenging and fun.
✑ End Note ✑
I know this is a bit of a random post for a book blog, but I’m on a Harry Potter kick right now after rereading the series over these last few weeks. I also really wanted to start dabbling in other kinds of reviews and blog posts. For my thoughts on the books 1–4 and 5–7, which went up last week, click on the corresponding links.
Next up on the blog will be a WRITING-themed post on WEDNESDAY (I think)! I’ll also see what I can share about my own novel progress. Then I believe I will share one of two book reviews I finally completed this weekend, probably A Court of Frost and Starlight.
Are you playing Hogwarts Mystery? If so, what are your thoughts on the game?
What do you think would make the game more fun?