Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 12, 2011

Pottermore means more Potter for serious fans

In a 2000 interview, JK Rowling revealed that the witches and wizards admitted as first year Hogwarts students were chosen by the writ of the Magical Quill. This feathered pen would write the names of the children in a book, which Minerva McGonagall would read before sending out the letters each year.

From July 31 to Aug. 6, those who wanted access to Pottermore beta testing had a small window of time each day in which a clue was placed on the Pottermore website. Potential beta testers tried to solve the clue, and typed the answer into the url.

The potential beta testers were then taken to the Magical Quill, an image one had to click somewhere on the screen, fill out registration and wait for a letter from Hogwarts.

On Monday, Aug. 15, the welcome emails began to come in. Pottermore has staggered the entry emails so that some received their letter within the first couple weeks, while others have had to wait until fairly recently.

Gryffindor and sophomore Emily Park got in on the first question, and she had to wait two to three weeks before her acceptance letter arrived.

Junior and Slytherin Cole Atcheson said he got in on day five.

Atcheson waited a little over a month and a half, and used the Pottermore Insider website and twitter feed as a way to keep up with current info.

“It’s how I kept tabs as they were sending out welcome emails,” Atcheson said.

Upon receiving their Hogwarts letters, the new beta testers were given four options for what their username could be.

“You don’t develop your own username,” Atcheson said, and went on to say that it was, “kind of nice because it keeps everything Harry Potter related.” Atcheson chose the name AurorRain19.

The Pottermore Site

Hufflepuff and junior Rachel Fisher managed to give me a sneak peak into the Pottermore website itself.

The site is built with the intention that users will read the book as they go through the site. While reading the books and going through the site, users get snapshots of chapters moving through the book, experiencing events as the main characters do.

“You’re basically pretending you’re hanging out with Harry, Ron and Hermione,” Fisher said.

In this way, different parts of the website open to each individual at different times. The user will receive their letter when Harry does; when Harry goes to Diagon Alley, the street of shops opens to the user; the user gets sorted when Harry does.

The Beta Testers:

The appeal of getting in as a beta tester lies somewhat in the novelty and freedom of a less populated site.

“I’m in this and not a lot of people are,” Atcheson said.

But most of the beta testers are more eager to give their feedback and are, “very dedicated about making it better for other people,” Slytherin and sophomore Caitlin Stone said. “It’ll be better and more user friendly, and less frustrating at times.”

Beta testers use the black “Beta feedback” box located at the bottom right-hand corner of every page. Leaving comments both on what they like and suggestions on what the web developers should change.

Stone said the site is, “not as interactive as some people would like, and there’s no music.”

The website suffers from other gremlins in the works.

“They haven’t fixed dueling,” Fisher said.

Sometimes the animation is slow, and sometimes the site will go down. Still, most users find the overall design of the website smooth and the artwork gorgeous.

Beta testers who have finished the first book occupy themselves with other activities, such as spell casting or potions brewing.

Potions brewing are very realistic; grounded in physics. Atcheson and Stone both explained the necessity of grabbing a vial with two fingers at the top or, like a real vial, it would just spill on the table.

“It’s fun,” Stone said. “I’m getting better at it.”

As the difficulty of the potions recipes increases so does brewing time. Leaving a potion alone too long can be dangerous.

“Once my cauldron exploded,” Fisher admitted. “There was animation for it too. Mostly it just fails; exploding is bad.”

Getting better scores on potions gives testers House points. As of Sunday, Ravenclaw was in the lead, with Gryffindor in second, Slythrin in third, and Hufflepuff coming in last.

Everyone Else:

The site will be open to everyone at the end of October, but the Insider warns that although you’ll be able to create a password and account, the process will be much the same as with beta testing, in that it may take weeks or even months for your registration to the site to be activated.

Although some students who were denied early access seem agitated and anxious to gain entry to the site, others take a more relaxed approach, like junior Stephanie Charvat, who said she had not tried very hard to get into beta testing, and is willing to wait until public access is opened.

Literary Background:

An important aspect to most of those familiar with the series are J.K. Rowling’s author notes. Along with rock cake and galleons, users can find tidbits of information about the characters and story that have not been previously revealed. Details include characters lists of who got into the story, which characters were deleted and which characters were changed. But not all testers were willing to give out the information revealed.

“In this case I view it as spoilers,” Atcheson said.

Why Pottermore:

The testers stressed that unlike the Harry Potter encyclopedia Rowling intends to release, the website is meant to be used as you read the books, adding to the story and your understating of what is going on.

“She could have written another book and have that be the explanation,” Atcheson said. “People enjoy the Internet, people want to do something on the Internet.”

Although Rowling will be making more money off the site, there are no ads on the website. There will be a Pottermore Shop where one can buy Harry Potter digital audio books and eBooks, and the website is sponsored by Sony.

“She might be making money off it. She made money off the books,” Stone said. ”Frankly, I don’t care. I still love the books.”

Elizabeth Schult

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