Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1 Review

As someone who grew up with the Harry Potter books, I was understandably thrilled to hear about the new Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery mobile game. Since its release on April 25th, I’ve played through Year 1 (there are 7 years in total), and had a pretty fun time. The graphics are lovely, the storyline is intriguing, and some of the dialogue made me laugh out loud. But the game also has some glaring issues — namely, the energy system. So here’s my breakdown of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Year 1.

 

 

The Good

The start of the game is just magical — you get to live out the fantasy of getting your acceptance letter, going to Diagon Alley to buy supplies and get your wand, and then hop the train to Hogwarts to attend the feast and get sorted into your house. I liked that you get to choose your house, although I would have preferred a bit more of a “personality quiz” style of questioning before you make your decision.

The plot wasn’t brilliant, but it did keep me interested. Your avatar (you choose the name and gender) is a bit of a pariah at Hogwarts because your older brother was expelled for breaking school rules in an attempt to find the “Cursed Vaults,” which are hidden somewhere within the castle. The other Hogwarts students constantly bring it up, and the teachers judge you by your brother’s actions, so there’s a thread of “having to prove yourself” that runs through the narrative. As you progress through the first year, you get a mysterious vision of the vaults, along with a quest line to open a door that’s blocked by cursed ice. There isn’t really a resolution to the “cursed vaults” plot in Year 1, but I’m looking forward to finding out more as I progress through the years.

The lessons are very entertaining, mostly because of the dialogue. You complete normal tasks, like “Study” and “Listen to Professor”, but then there are other options like “Pass Notes,” “Gossip,” and “Insult” — the latter always involves Merula, the Slytherin bully whose insults are delightfully relentless. My favorite bit of dialogue comes from Flying class, in which every piece of flying advice that Madam Hooch gives ends with “or you’ll fall to your death.” You have to wonder how many casualties she’s suffered over the years, and why no one has thought to put levitation charms on the hapless first-year students.

There’s lots more I enjoyed–the graphics, the supporting characters, getting to duel other students, and so on. All in all, it has the potential to be a fantastic game that any Harry Potter fan would happily devour. There’s only one problem …

 

 

The Bad

The energy system is just plain stupid.

It’s a pay-to-play game, so basically you have an energy bar, and you expend energy every time you do a task. The problem is that you use up your energy bar incredibly quickly, and it takes 4 minutes to replenish one energy charge — a full energy bar is ~25 charges. That means you have to wait ~100 minutes to recharge your bar. Most classes take about 2 full energy bars to complete — sometimes more — and you go through all your energy in maybe 5 minutes, tops. So you’re playing for 5 minutes, waiting 2 hours, playing for 5 minutes, etc.

Now, I get it. The game is free, and they have to make money somewhere. And maybe there are people out there who will happily spend money to recharge their energy bar over and over and over. But frankly, it just pisses me off. I would have gladly laid down $20 as a flat fee to play the game. But pay-to-play is so open-ended, with potentially no end to the investment you have to pour into the game. If you could just pay to get vanity items, like cool robes or a swanky broom, that would be different. But when your actual ability to play the game is impeded by long wait times and prodding to purchase more energy … not cool.

Implementing a flat fee is probably impossible at this point, since that’s not how the game was designed. But I think a very easy fix would be to shorten how long it takes for energy to recharge. Cut it from 4 minutes down to 2, for example, and suddenly people are playing twice as often, getting twice as involved in the game. Get the players to love your game first, then try to cash in, not the other way around.

I’ve been skimming reviews for this game, and most of the reviewers end off by saying “it’s a good concept, but I got too frustrated and stopped playing.” I’m really hoping that Jam City (the game developer) recognizes this as a serious problem and addresses it, because I’ve been dreaming of a Skyrim-style Harry Potter game for years, and if this mobile game fails, it might discourage future Harry Potter games from being developed.

 

 

In conclusion …

I love Harry Potter, and when I’m actually able to play the game (and am not just sitting there waiting for more energy), I genuinely enjoy it. So I will keep playing. But I categorically refuse to support micro-transactions of any kind, and that’s not going to change no matter how long it takes my energy bar to recharge. It might take a bit longer, and I might forget about the game after a while if it drags out too much, but for now, it’s on to Year 2! Time to solve the mystery of the Cursed Vaults. Wish me luck!

 

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Editing and Cupcakes

Draft #3 of Cerulean Bound is officially done and off to my editor and alpha reader!

It took about three months to slog through all the revisions, and I only managed to cut 3k words — but in my defense, I added about five new scenes, so it’s frankly a miracle the word count didn’t shoot through the roof. I’m still aiming to get it down below 100k before I’m done with it, but this is a good start.

In other news, my best friend has bought her first house (woo!) and now lives only 10 minutes away. As such, we had a “walk the dog and bake cupcakes” date on Thursday. Check out our mad cupcake decorating skills (and my friend’s mad photography skills):

 

 

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Cerulean Bound Update

Happy April, everyone!

It’s been pointed out to me by the lovely Celeste DeWolfe that I haven’t blogged since January. Whoops! My incredible bad. Here goes!

Since my January post, I’ve been plugging away at editing Cerulean Bound. I rewrote a ton of stuff, added a bunch of new scenes, completely changed one of my villain’s motivations, etc. I finally finished going through all the editing notes, and now I am at the stage of “re-read the book again and make sure all the edits actually make sense.” This is my favorite type of editing, because I’ve hypothetically worked out all the kinks, so I shouldn’t have any big things to change — just enjoy the story, and hopefully shave off a few thousand words in the process. Streamline, baby!

Once the re-read’s done, I’m going to send it back to my alpha reader and editor for a second go-through. Hopefully they’ll have fewer notes this time, which would mean once I correct the new stuff, I’ll be able to start sending the book out to beta readers. From there … another round of editing, maybe two? My editor is a perfectionist, which is great in that it means the end product is always top-notch, but terrible in that it takes forever to do anything. (I love you, Mom!)

In life news, I recently went to Disney World with my mother, brother, and best friend. It was lots of fun — we ate, we drank, we rode assorted roller coasters, we ooh-ed and ahh-ed at fireworks, etc. Thank goodness for Fast Passes — waiting two hours in line for a 90 second ride is just silly. Some of my travelling companions got hit with a nasty cold during the vacation, but I ate many oranges and managed to escape the virus … until I returned home, and it walloped me in the face. I am now sniffling in my fluffy bathrobe with a mug of hot tea, surrounded by tissues, vitamin C, and throat lozenges. Nooooooooo!

I’m off to make cookies after this, then get down to some freelance proofreading work. (By the way, if anyone needs any proofreading done, hit me up!) Once that’s done, it’s back to editing Cerulean Bound. I’ve also started re-reading Imminent Danger and Chasing Nonconformity, in a valiant attempt to make sure I don’t contradict myself in book 3.

I’ll check back in when I’ve got more news on Cerulean Bound. I know it’s been a long while since book 2 was released, but hopefully there are still a few people out there excited to read book 3!

Have a great week, and stay awesome 🙂

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Inspiration Comes From the Weirdest Places

One of the plot holes I’ve been trying to solve in Cerulean Bound revolves around a scene near the start of the book, when Eris and Varrin go to a place that has security-bots with facial scanners. It’s really awkward, because they’re supposed to be having a fun time, but at the same time you’re reading the scene and going “How are they so carefree, they could be identified at any moment!”

I was thinking about making them wear disguises, or something, but would that really fool the scanners? (In the Imminent Danger world, probably yes, lol.) Then inspiration struck!

So I’m sitting at my desk, noodling around on Facebook, when Mother announces she’s off to the post office to get the mail. This is more interesting than what I’m currently doing, so I get up and go see what’s happening. She’s in the bathroom in front of the mirror, using a concealer stick on her face.

“I should get one of those,” I say. “It’s a concealer stick, right?”

“Yes,” Mother says. “But be careful – if I put it all over my face, you won’t be able to see me! Hahaha.”

“Ha,” I agree, dubiously. “More like I won’t know who you are, because you’ll have concealed your identity.”

Our eyes both go wide.

#Inspiration

So now I totally have a way to conceal their identities! I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but it’ll be some sort of black market cream that refracts light (OR SOMETHING) which messes with the security-bots’ facial scanners. That way they don’t have to wear elaborate disguises, and they don’t have to spend half the scene ducking and hiding every time a patrol rolls by. Woot!

In conclusion, inspiration strikes when you least expect it. That’s one of the things I find so fascinating about writing — how I can be stuck on a plot point for weeks, and then something totally mundane happens and all the pieces suddenly fall perfectly into place. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

That’s all! Hope everyone’s having an awesome week.

 

Unrelated media of the day:

My brother introduced me to a band called Porter Robinson over the holidays. This my current jam.

 

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Editing Fun #1

I’ve officially received edits back from my editor and alpha reader on Draft #2 of Cerulean Bound, so it’s time to start sharing some of the more ridiculous “edits” they’ve done.

In today’s showcase, I present to you the first and last pages of the manuscript my editor (/mother) returned to me yesterday.

 

Anyone have a guess on what the bread means?

Right before I sent Mom the manuscript, I reminded her of the “sandwich” approach to critiquing, which is to bookend all the “fix this” “fix that” with positive comments. I.e. the first piece of bread is positive crit, then you delve into all the stuff that needs changing (the meat of the sandwich), then end off with another piece of bread/positive crit.

Mother, bless her, took this literally. As you can see, she put actual pieces of bread into the manuscript. And, in her words, the bottom piece of bread has jam “to make it extra tasty.”

This week I will be going through her comments, as well as revisiting my alpha reader’s comments, to come up with a gameplan for fixing whatever’s broken in my book. I’ll start with big picture stuff (my alpha reader suggested adding a couple of scenes from Grashk’s perspective, which I really liked), and then deal with the nitty gritty details.

Hope everyone’s having a great week so far! Stay awesome 🙂

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Finished Cerulean Bound Draft #2

Phew!

After noodling over the second draft for about three months, I finally got the darned thing done! I have my editor and alpha reader to thank for this: my editor, for reminding me that she has a ton of free time over the holidays to read it, so finish it already, and my alpha reader for promising to read it over this weekend if I could get it to him by noon today. Technically I got it to him at 12:15, but hopefully he’s willing to overlook the tardiness.

The first draft clocked in at 142,000 words, and I managed to get the second draft down to … drum roll … 110,000! There is still some chopping to be done, of course. I’d like to get it down into the 90,000 range, which is more reasonable for a quick-paced YA story, not to mention that forcing myself to get rid of ~15k words will make the story tighter and better. But I’m pretty proud of losing 30k words in one fell swoop. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything too important …

Anyway, draft 2 is off to my editor and alpha reader. I should hear back from my alpha reader by Monday (we’re doing lunch), but as for my editor … it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It’s difficult to say with her. It’s the off-season in the B&B world, so hopefully she’ll have lots of time to devote to tearing the manuscript apart. Fingers crossed!

In unrelated news, I’m still at my dad’s house for the holidays, hanging out with him and my brother and generally “chillaxing” as the young’uns like to say. We play a lot of Civ 5, go on walks in the frigid outdoors, and occasionally watch movies (just saw Jumanji yesterday — hilarious). I’ll be heading back to Nova Scotia this upcoming Tuesday, which hopefully will not be buried under a mountain of snow when I arrive.

Happy New Year to everyone! My resolution is to write every day. So far I’ve managed it, but we’ll see how that shapes up once I get into the busy B&B summer months. Maybe I should try getting up early and writing before I head downstairs to cook breakfast and clean. Then again, I’m so not a morning person, so maybe not.

Until next time!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

Every time I listen to this song, I want to conquer a foreign country. Possibly I’ve been playing too much Civ 5.

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

20k Words Cut from Cerulean Bound!

Woohoo!

I’ve fallen into a really productive schedule this holiday season, which is basically to wake up, eat breakfast, and then edit until my brother wakes up around 12 – 1 p.m. Then we go do Christmas-y stuff. This works great for me, because when I have the entire day to edit, it’s an intimidatingly large block of time, and I’m more likely to procrastinate. Whereas if I know I have a set end time, I’m able to focus better and actually get stuff done. Hence, 20k words cut from Cerulean Bound — and counting!

I’m about 75% of the way through the manuscript, which means I’m now coming up on the ending. I expect the editing to slow down significantly, because the ending is, obviously, the part of the book I’ve gone over the fewest times. So it needs the most work. I don’t imagine I’ll fix all the problems with this go-through, but I should at least be able to make sure it all makes sense before I send it off to my editor and alpha readers.

Also, sushi! I’m off to all-you-can-eat sushi this evening with a few friends, and I’m super excited because usually I live in a very small town that has literally zero Asian restaurants. But now I’m back in civilization, and I fully intend to stuff my face with sushi, dim sum, pad thai, pho, and every other delicious non-fish-and-chips food I can get my hands on. I’ve actually been having dreams about dim sum. Sheesh.

I hope everyone’s having a wonderful holiday season! Stay warm, and stay awesome.

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10k Words Cut from Cerulean Bound!

Editing on Cerulean Bound proceeds at … I want to say a “good clip,” but realistically it’s more a slow crawl. I had started November with the intention of getting the second draft done by mid-December (a.k.a. right now) but then I got laser eye surgery and things went a tad sideways.

Long story short, either the LASIK people didn’t do the surgery correctly, or my eyes are just being difficult, because my vision never got up to 20/20. It’s supposed to take a couple of days to clear up after the surgery, but by seven days out, I was still seeing blurry. The surgeon says I’ve “regressed,” which is supposedly something that usually happens around the 3 or 6 month mark, so I guess I’m just special. This means I’ll have to go for a touch-up surgery in the spring, and until then the world is ever-so-slightly out of focus. I can still drive, but the signs are blurry, and I have to make the text on my screen bigger so I can read it.

All this is to say that my editing plans got completely derailed by the surgery, and I couldn’t properly read (let alone edit) for a good two weeks after the surgery. Then my eyes had a bad reaction to the steroid drops (because of course they did) and that knocked off another week of productivity. By the time I got properly into editing, it was basically December.

But! Now I’m back home in Ontario for the holidays, so I have a good two hours every morning of (relative) peace and quiet to get my editing done. There are the occasional (read: frequent) interruptions from my father, who’s very excited that I’m home, but they’re brief so I can usually get back into the editing groove without too much trouble.

As of today, I have officially knocked 10k words off my whopping 142k first draft word count. Now, YA books are generally between 70k-100k words, so I still have a ways to go, but I’ve been able to streamline scenes and even delete a few extraneous characters, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get down into the 110k words zone by the end of this edit. That leaves 10k-15k for my editor to chop, which is fine, because my editor loves chopping. If editing doesn’t work out for her, she’d make an excellent lumberjack.

That’s all! Just wanted to check in and let my devoted fans (all six of them) know that I have not, in fact, forgotten about book 3. I’m hard at work, and am doing my best to get it ready for a Spring 2018 release. Stay tuned, and stay awesome!

Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Music for Editing Sci-Fi

I am neck-deep in edits for Cerulean Bound, and have been searching for the appropriate background music to keep me in the zone. I was rocking “alpha wave music for studying” mixes for a while, until I stumbled across this:

I don’t know what it is in particular about this soundtrack that makes it the perfect editing mix, but I love it. The electronic vibe meshes really well with sci-fi, and a lot of the songs have a dreamy quality to them that in turn helps me dream up solutions to the editing problems I encounter. I don’t think it would work well for heavier, more dramatic sci-fi, but for my particular brand of wacky, light-hearted sci-fi, it’s the best.

Speaking of my editing adventures, I am about a third of the way through the book, and have thus far knocked the word count down from 142,000 to 136,000. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve already resolved a lot of the problems my critique group had with the intro, so I’m quite pleased by that. I also had a revelation while watching Avengers about my final battle scene, so that’s something I’ll have to mess around with when I get closer to the end of the book. My editor wants the second draft before Christmas, so it’s crunch time!

In unrelated news, I got laser eye surgery at the start of November! It went … interestingly. Don’t worry, I can see. Just … not so well. I’ll write a separate post about that when I find the time.

Live long and prosper!

Categories: Writing | 3 Comments

The Top 5 Things I’m Looking Out For Whilst Editing

Editing on Cerulean Bound has officially started! As I plow through 142k words, I’ve made a short list of things to keep in mind. You know, not anything overly specific (i.e. delete extraneous references to Grashk’s “flickering tri-forked tongue”), just things in general to be aware of while revising. As these are common writing problems that many other writers probably deal with, I thought I’d share my list here. Thus, without further ado:

Top 5 Things I’m Looking Out For Whilst Editing

  1. Less thinking, more doing! I like to put my characters’ thoughts in italics to give readers a snapshot into their minds. However, I have a tendency to rely too much on thoughts, and not enough on action. Even just having the character speak their thought aloud, or putting it in the narration, can punch up the scene.
  2. Combine description with action. Like many writers, I will sometimes get lazy with my descriptions and basically just write a list of characteristics–i.e., “the big, brown, beautiful bear.” But if I combine the description with action, it flows much more naturally–i.e. “The big bear strolls past me, its shaggy brown coat ruffling in the summer breeze.”
  3. Cut out adverbs. Now, to be clear, I like adverbs. I think a well-placed adverb can add a lot to a scene. But I’ve been told by reputable sources that I am overly fond of adverbs, to the point that one member of my critique group started listing off all the adverbs I used in one chapter and wouldn’t stop until I’d promised not to use them so much. So, chopping time!
  4. Avoid epithets. For anyone who doesn’t know, an epithet is a descriptor you’d put in place of a proper noun, i.e. instead of writing “Harry Potter”, you’d write “the Chosen One” or “the bespectacled Gryffindor” or “the green-eyed boy”. As with #3, I quite like epithets, but have been told I use them to the point of excess.
  5. Avoid filter words. I wrote a post about this a while back, but essentially a filter word is something like “felt” or “saw” — a word that puts a layer of separation between the reader and the story, i.e. writing “Bob’s heart beat faster in his chest” vs. “Bob felt his heart beat faster in his chest”. Both are fine sentences, but why add that extra layer of “Bob felt” when his heart could just beat without interruption? I like the occasional filter word, and I think sentences can read better with them included, but they’re often unnecessary and those are the ones I’m looking to cut out.

Thus, my list! Hopefully it will prove useful to someone. And now I’m off to resume my own editorial adventures. Huzzah!

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