Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Q&A

The latest action game in EA's series based on J. K. Rowling's runaway kids' book success may be the most ambitious one yet. We went to executive producer Harvey Elliott to find out.

With this July's launch of The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final installment in J. K. Rowling's unfathomably popular Harry Potter series of novels, excitement for the overall Potter franchise is sure to soon reach a fever pitch. This summer will also see the theatrical release of the fifth film in the series, The Order of the Phoenix, and Electronic Arts is hard at work on a tie-in action game that sounds as if it may be the most fully featured yet in the series.

To find out more about the direction EA is taking with its fifth Potter game, we spoke with executive producer Harvey Elliott to get the whole scoop.

GameSpot: Order of the Phoenix is the darkest book yet in the Harry Potter series. How has that influenced the direction you've taken in developing the game?

Harvey Elliott: Since we closely follow the story, our game definitely reflects those darker moments—Professor Umbridge taking over Hogwarts and doing her best to turn it into a oppressive and overcontrolled environment; most of the school thinking that Harry is just making up stories about Lord Voldemort; Sirius Black in exile; and, of course, the big finale at the Ministry of Magic, where one of our favorite characters dies.

Of course, it's not a game about doom and gloom—we have a load of humorous moments that still make me laugh, no matter how many times I see them. For example, when Professor Umbridge takes over the school, we have a series of missions that are designed to cause chaos, such as turning a courtyard into a swamp or pouring potions into a tannoy system, that Umbridge introduces to remind students that she's truly in control. And the scriptwriting this year is of a really high quality, with all the characters expressing their individual personalities—pretty much every time that Cho and Harry meet it's excruciatingly embarrassing watching them try to become "more than friends"; Fred and George take the mickey out of Ron at every opportunity; and the Slytherin students have great fun heckling Harry as he goes through the school and grounds.

We've tried to balance the story with real light and shade, so that we have the dark, serious moments balanced with a lighter side with humor and enjoyment that creates a fundamentally entertaining experience.

GS: How closely will the storyline follow that of the movie? How much freedom did you have to craft new fiction, and did J. K. Rowling have input in that regard?

HE: This is very much a game of Order of the Phoenix, and all the events we reflect in the game would have occurred during Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. As a result, we followed the movie storyline very closely, supported by the fiction from the books as you explore locations or narrative threads that we don't visit in the films.

GS: How closely have you worked with the film's producers? Will the game feature any sort of assets or elements from the movie?

The designers visited the movie's sets multiple times to get all of the game's environments down to the smallest detail.

HE: Since the majority of the movie, and therefore the game, is set at Hogwarts, we have modeled the entire school on the Hogwarts we've seen in the movies. It was only possible by working really closely with the movie makers and literally taking the blueprints from the sets and building a castle that initially looked like a 3D architect's drawing—that way, we knew the exact dimensions of every room. Of course, the movie doesn't feature every single room in the castle, so we have also referenced the previous four movies to get it absolutely right. We're really fortunate that the movie studio is only about 45 minutes away by car, so every time they built a new set we could drop by to ensure we photographed every nook and cranny, and to make sure that we have the right lighting, the right props, and the right cameras. And as this is the fifth movie game we've made with them, you can imagine the reference archive we've developed over the years.

GS: What will the magic system be like? Will your abilities change as you progress through the story or move from one area to the next?

HE: We've created a brand-new, gesture-based magic system, which has really changed and enhanced the experience of casting magic. Instead of pressing buttons to fire off specific spells, we use each console's unique controls. So if you want to use "depulso" to push an object away from you, you press the right analog stick forward on the 360 and PS2, you push the Sixaxis controller away from you on the PS3, and, of course, you flick your "wand" away from you on the Wii. To ignite an object, you rapidly push the right analog back and forward, or slide the Sixaxis or Wii Remote from side to side as though you were lighting a match. In combat we use similar gestures for attacking and defensive spells, but also ensure they represent the action—to cast a knockback jinx you tap up on the analog stick, or shove them backward with the Sixaxis or Wii Remote. And each spell you find is upgraded as you discover secrets in the world.

GS: Are the film's actors involved in the game in any way?

HE: We're fortunate that pretty much all the kids in the movie love video games, so it doesn't take much asking to get them down to our studio to scan their faces or capture their voices. The adult actors have also been to visit us, but I think they're more intrigued by the whole process than the hardcore gamers! Just to give some insight into the complexity of the process, we are making the game in 22 languages this year (which I think is a games industry record), and that means that we not only have to get each of the actors into the studio to record their characters voice for the US and UK versions of the game, but we need to get each of their movie voice-over doubles from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and so on. All in all, across all the languages, we've had around 1,500 actors recording lines for this game!

GS: What unique features will the Wii, 360, and PS3 versions offer? In what ways will they be similar?

The spell-casting in the PS3 and Wii versions of the game will make heavy use of gesture-based control.

HE: The key differences between the consoles are the spellcasting methods. We often get asked why we haven't created exclusive elements to the various formats, but the reality is that every time we've added a mission or minigame to the design of one version, our tech team has just got it working across the other versions. It seems crazy to not make cool stuff available to everyone.

The most noticeable difference from boot up is the overall visual look that we've achieved on the next-gen consoles. In addition to getting more students in the hallways at the school, we can add extra passes to the geometry, not just adding more detail to the polygonal model, but extra visual passes adding polish, texture, or age; most noticeable is the way the portraits now have gilded antique frames, with a canvas print in them, or the shine and gloss of the tables in the Great Hall, with hundreds of years of wear giving it a really worn-in look.

The Wii and PS3 also get to take advantage of our spellcasting upgrades—both have fantastic new motion-sensing controls that we've mapped directly to Harry's wand, so you can shove, pull, lift, and manipulate everything in the world as though you were casting the magic yourself.

GS: Thanks for your time, Harvey.

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Discussion

94 comments
i_got_you60
i_got_you60

well all the potter games on the pc were crap n i belive in ea that they r gonna make an even crappier ver on the new game this time well done ea

HGuardian92
HGuardian92

I am wondering if it can play in Xbox Live?

hpfan32
hpfan32

i agree with Gonzoguy. J.K. Rowling wrote a story that got kids to read and they have turned the books into interesting movies. Then EA starts to come out with Harry Potter on Playstation and now this is where it is at. OoTP is coming out on next gen consoles and that includes the Wii. I have to say that the Wii version of this game will be great with you using the Wii Remote and having magic at your disposal and all. It sounds great on the wii. The graphics in my opinion for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(Wii) look great. I don't think that PS3 version would be too good b/c you will be drawing the spell shapes w/ the Sixaxis controller. And who would want to hold a remote with two hands and draw a shape in mid-air with it? I don't think I would. Although, I still think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Playstation 3 would be great. But, I also have to say that I would enjoy HP: OoTP(Wii) much more than ever.

YoUnG1991
YoUnG1991

Sounds like the best one so far the last one was the worst one ever

r4v3gl0ry
r4v3gl0ry

Seems like a decent movie game, at least.

barne1dr
barne1dr

It could be ok. I wouldn't count on it, but maybe.

GonzoGuy
GonzoGuy

This is one of the reasons I really wanted a Wii. As a unapologetic potterhead this has to be the most interesting looking game they've come out with for the saga. So far none of the games or movies have been anywhere nearly as entertaining as the books (one of the reasons it took me so long to give them a read) but this game's Bully/GTA setup matched with (what's in my opinion, and lets face it, this is when the story really gets interesting) the coolest plot of the saga is enough to make this entertaining. With the wiimote-wand this is probably going to be the coolest game released for the Wii; so far. The only way they could make this better is if it WAS really like GTA. You know; you could buy weed off Neville (where do you think he got that name Longbottom [leaf]), pimp out the house elves, and run around 'bombarta'-ing prefects and teachers until you get so many detentions, the dementors come to suck out your soul. THAT would be cool. I didn't read all the posts here but do people really hate Harry Potter? The only people I know who aren't into it, never read... anything and only have the movies to go by. Even if you actually read the series and still don't like it, you still have to appreciate the fact that it's gotten so many children (some of whome would have otherwise grown to be illiterate) interested in reading.

GreenXMega
GreenXMega

Not bad. At least this will probably be an improvement over Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the video game. However, I'd stay away from the PS2 and Xbox 360 versions for their regular control scheme.

nicedude82
nicedude82

awesome...i wonder if they will have any live features for 360.

fxmldr999
fxmldr999

i'll definantely want it now the question is which console to get it on.

myster_samz
myster_samz

It sounds like it'll be great for all platforms.

gonz87
gonz87

F*#& the haters. If you dont' read Potter at least read some books to improve your spelling and grammar. It just might help you flame better. It looks like it has some solid gameplay that stays true to the source material. Can't say much about its longevity but it's probably worth a play-through for anyone who loves the mythology. And for those that hate the books and/or fandom just to "break the norm," at least take the time to read the Wiki on the Potter universe. It isn't Tolkien-deep, but it's game worthy.

doughtybenjamin
doughtybenjamin

why do they have to follow the story!!! this game would be really interesting and awesome if play in an oblivion style world, do what you want, free rome style. youve got to play as one of the leads but you can choose they outcome of the story, that would be fun :-)

murrayblake
murrayblake

Sounds pretty cool. I will probably rent the Wii version.

TKandPBC
TKandPBC

The Wii version looks great, the PS2 and 360 versions look safe, but I don't know about the PS3 version. Sixaxis is great for simple movements that contribute to gameplay, such as a steering wheel, doing jukes in a basketball game, etc., but depending on the amount of spells that utilize the gesture method, The PS3 can be scary bad, or almost as good as the Wii version (come on! the wii + something like a wand = pwnage)

mld316
mld316

this is wicked awesome

bhatiaa2
bhatiaa2

how wicked sick would it be if you could actually use the wii as the wand and say the spell and have a microphone pick up the spell.... I know it sounds dorky, but think about it .. you would have fun even if you don't like Harry Potter

cyroos195
cyroos195

Goblet of fire SUCKED but this looks ten times better

wesi_man
wesi_man

Goblet of Fire was bad this looks better

galloper2004
galloper2004

I'm waiting.I hope it gets to be better than The Goblet of Fire which was disappointing.

7540
7540

Looks a bit like Bully to me.

haesuse
haesuse

few words of wisdom: harry potter, movie/book licensed/based game, lackluster everything, and so forth. instead go read a real book, play some R6: Vegas, and enjoy the life!

mrchiledonut
mrchiledonut

Read Barry Trotter vampiredust99, you'll get what you want.

grey-flood
grey-flood

world of wizards is a perfect idea for a perfect game :) but it wont be what it what I expect while the EA is its publisher :cry:

L7UWP
L7UWP

I hated the last two Harry Potter games. :evil: Hopefully this one will be better...

geist9049
geist9049

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

vampiredust99
vampiredust99

what next? GTA meets Harry Potter that'd be fun seeing Harry as a crack smoking pimp

BigDaveyDogz
BigDaveyDogz

even though the graphics will not be up to par for next gen standards, I'll bet this game will be the most fun on the Wii.

RyCLe
RyCLe

last game was peace of **** 3'rd was better. lets wait and see, what is this ;)

asmodeus_z
asmodeus_z

Sounds interesting - Let's wait and see.

lghtsbr
lghtsbr

Why didn't they ask about multiplayer?

enral
enral

Looks pretty good, but not attractive enough for me to get one.

DannyRice
DannyRice

natebayne... dude u rock i picked up 1 through 4 so i'll prolly get this one too... i think they've all made improvements but have never came close to perfect. they were smart to get rid of free roam for gof because of poa's huge loading times, but now it's next gen, it's good they're going back to free roam. poa would have been the best if the loading hadn't taken half the playing time. gof had too much backtracking, but i liked the spell system, multiplayer, and the wizard card setup. from what has been seen, ootp will rock. let's hope it stays that way.

EE2lemmonhead
EE2lemmonhead

coldblooded101-when i first saw that i thought it was some multiplayer mode or something, i dunno, dont remember it from the book

aygol
aygol

Sounds OK. I'm gonna play it on Xbox 360, because I don't want motion sensing on any game.

trexnine
trexnine

guest_1001 SPOLIERS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL THE BOOKS harry dropped out before his 7th year according to him to look for the stuff that contains parts of voldermorts soul like the notebook in the 2nd book(horcrux I think) because dumbledore died in the 6th book by him being killed by snape and being weakened by a fake horcrux with a curse on it while harry was with him. sirius is the one that dies for those who wanted to know whe died.

datniccah187
datniccah187

I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, i like the movies, but i don't know how they are going to translate to the gaming scene. I probally wont buy it, i'll probally pick up the demo whenever it does come out.

-oG-ShAdY
-oG-ShAdY

Games looking pretty great. With all that voice acting and face capture it will seem like we are playing the movie. That's a pretty cool thing no matter how you cut it. I just hope that the wii controls are adventurous. If they just keep them sedate then it won't be worth the purchase for that console.

coldblooded101
coldblooded101

yea, and whats up with that part where a bunch of people are just fighting eachother?

brain20035
brain20035

okay, I hope they include the free roaming in hogwarts like the chamber of secrets or the prisoner of azkaban

natebayne
natebayne

They should restate this..... the Wii will have motion sensing controls... the Ps3 will have crappy wannabe motion sensing controls.