Winter Break at Hogwarts

No one seems to be talking much about this, but I was kind of, if you’ll pardon the pun, enchanted by some parts of it, notably how ambitious the scope is. I’ve cleaned up the map I drew while playing and posted it, in case anyone’s interested.

There are probably errors and/or omissions in there, which I’d be happy to fix if anyone points them out.

hogwarts.pdf.zip (71.2 KB)

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A large game that’s a fun exploration of the Hogwarts school from the Harry Potter series. I’ve posted a review of it on my blog.

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This was the game that placed much lower than I thought it would in the competition. It was a solid parser-based game and very well-written. I scored it considerably higher than its average score, so I was pretty surprised by the results. I don’t know, maybe it was too big for the competition?

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As someone who was expecting to like this game when I saw it on the list (I’m a mid-level HP fan, and enjoy traditional parser games – and heck, I just remembered that a couple years ago I actually ran a tabletop RPG one-shot about students stuck at Hogwarts over Christmas!), but who wound up ranking it fairly low, I have two main theories for why it didn’t do so well:

-It’s very large, but more to the point, it’s very thinly implemented, but the main draw of the game for a Harry Potter fan would be to wander around the school and feel like you’re really there. There isn’t a lot of scenery (and often things mentioned in the room descriptions don’t really exist if you try to look more closely); the few NPCs don’t have much they can talk about, and there are no rewards for trying to enter into the spirit of the thing (the music room says it’s got great acoustics, but you can’t SING in there; you can’t browse the books in the library…)

-Many of the puzzles are minimally clued, and require very precise wording to work. Finding the invisibility cloak requires repeating an action several times, after a fairly discouraging first response, for example, and I had trouble getting the ink into a flask (PUT doesn’t work but FILL does). Combined with the very large map, this made for a lot of aimless wandering around a mostly-empty school hoping for inspiration to strike.

There’s the skeleton here of a really fun game that would satisfy a lot of HP-nerds’ fantasies of exploring Hogwarts – sadly, I think this one just needed a bit more time and a few more detail passes.

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That was just how I felt – so much effort must have already gone into the implementation, but adopting a milieu with such a large and enthusiastic fan base requires a lot more implementation depth. It was well done in a large number of ways, but there were others in which it felt like it was really the skeleton of the game it could have been. (I wanted to see the Chamber of Secrets! And get under the Whomping Willow!) The “winter break” part was a good move for reducing how much implementation needed to be done, but I still think there needed to be a lot more.

Still, there were so many ways in which it was already well done!