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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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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The First Draft of Cerulean Bound is FINALLY DONE!!!

That’s right! After approximately three years of writing and deleting and rewriting and general noodling around, I have achieved something which many thought to be impossible — I’ve finished the first draft of Imminent Danger #3, Cerulean Bound!


Now, before anyone gets too excited and starts throwing their clothing out the window, please calm down — I still have to edit the damn thing. It’s also a teensy bit too long, by which I mean it’s currently sitting at 142,000 words. Yikes. Seeing as the previous two books clocked in around the 90k mark, I have a lot of chopping to do.

But all that can wait for another day, because I’M DONE!!!!!


So, next steps? First up, I have to gather the pile of notes I’ve been collecting from my critique group, who have been steadfastly plodding their way through the B plot over the past six months. Lots of things to change in there. And I also acquired many helpful comments from my editor regarding the first handful of chapters, so that’s all going to change drastically as well.

Once those obvious changes are made, I’ll step away for a couple of days, then reread the entire thing, revising as necessary. I don’t think I’ll start making massive cuts right away, but even now, looking back, I can think of at least one character I can cut out entirely (and/or merge with another character). That should save me a couple thousand words. But I expect the bulk of the trimming to be done by my editor (a.k.a. my mother), which should be happening over the winter. She’s ordered me to get a viable draft to her before she wanders off on vacation next month, so I’m working under a bit of a time crunch here.

In other news, the tourist season is winding down (I work at a B&B in Nova Scotia), which means today was my first official “day off”. I celebrated with BBQ ribs and carrot cake, which I’m happy to report were delicious. Tomorrow is another day off (GASP), which I will hopefully spend getting some of those aforementioned edits done.

Moving into the off-season, I’m hoping to have a lot more free time — not only to work on my book, but to get back into blogging. So keep your eyes peeled — hopefully you’ll be seeing at least a little more of me in the upcoming months!


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Re-Blog (Nicholas Rossis): Don’t Advertise With Amazon Until You’ve Read This

Source: Don’t Advertise With Amazon Until You’ve Read This

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Another Cerulean Bound Update

The general dreariness of winter in Nova Scotia has forced me indoors, where I can usually be found wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket on the sofa wearing fingerless mittens because my hands are aggressively attempting to become popsicles. The upside of this is that I have had time to work on Cerulean Bound, which means I can now announce that I have reached the 3/4 point of the novel! Huzzah!

It’s looking to be roughly around the same length as Chasing Nonconformity at the moment, so probably about 40 chapters in total. Now, as of right now it’s pushing 125k words, but expect that to drop significantly once my mother sits down with her blue pen and starts slashing. I say that like it’s a terrifying thing, and it kind of is, but at the same time it’s completely necessary because I tend to ramble. And YA books aren’t known for their rambling. Unless it’s something like Twilight, with endless pages of Bella rhapsodizing over how amazing Edward is. But Eris can only get out a few lines of rhapsodizing about Varrin before someone tries to abduct her, so short and snappy it is.

In slightly awkward news, I haven’t actually figured out how the book is going to end. I mean, I have a fairly good idea, but the specifics are totally up in the air. And right now I’m planning on the series being either 4 or 5 books long, which means I need to tie the end of Cerulean Bound into book 4. Of course, I have no idea what’s happening in book 4 yet (other than that it’s the “Rakor book”), so I may end up completely changing the ending once I decide that. I really envy people who can sit down and plot out their entire book, then stick to it. I couldn’t follow an outline if someone held a striker to my head.

What else can I tell you about Cerulean Bound … So I just finished writing Chapter 30, except it’s actually now Chapter 31 because it was in the wrong place so I had to move it. The plot will follow two POV characters — Eris and Miguri — so I need to switch between them and sometimes one plotline will affect the other so I have to make sure they’re slotted into the correct places in the narrative. It’s a real headache, let me tell you. And I already experienced that headache while writing Chasing Nonconformity, so I’m not entirely sure why I’ve done it again in Cerulean Bound. And I’m almost definitely going to repeat the feat in book 4. Maybe I just like tormenting myself. It would explain why I keep eating pizza, feeling sick, vowing to never eat pizza again, and then wind up eating pizza like three days later.

I think that’s it for now. I hit up the farmer’s market this morning, and the chocolate tart I bought is calling me. Which is a bit alarming, considering most baked goods don’t generally speak. Maybe this one’s a mutant? I should call Professor X.

It’s possible I need more sleep.

Until next time!



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New Imminent Danger Fan Art!

Today’s fan art comes to us from my wonderful friend Denise Gow-Morse, who painted me this gorgeous painting of Eris floating dramatically in space for my birthday. Check it out!


Thanks so much, Denise! Tragically my super-slanted bedroom walls don’t offer any space to hang art, but as soon as I get my hands on some flat walls, this painting is going in a place of honor!


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I’m going to be a bit cryptic here and tell you that this is the song I was listening to while writing a certain scene from Cerulean Bound. Make of this what you will!

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Cerulean Bound Draft #1 Breaks 100k Words Mark!

I’m psyched to announce that I have officially passed the 100k word mark on Cerulean Bound! Now, don’t start celebrating in the streets yet — I still have at least ten more chapters to write, and a whole ton of other stuff in the first half of the book to fix up and make, well, not awful. But 100k is still a big deal! Woo!

Since my usual first drafts end up being around 120k words, I can expect to tap out at least another 20k before the story reaches its natural conclusion. Then we go into several rounds of editing and dramatic cuts, with the eventual goal of getting the manuscript down to somewhere in the 90k-95k words range. Cutting 25k words sounds a bit drastic, and honestly the idea is freaking me out a little bit, but I’ve managed it twice now so I have faith I can make it happen a third time.

No news on the “finding an agent” front. I’m compiling a list of possible agents to look into, mostly gleaned through this awesome lady on Facebook who posts about new agents looking for clients. My current plan is to focus my efforts on finishing the first draft of Cerulean Bound, then turn my attention to sending out my query letter. If anyone has tips on acquiring an agent, by all means send them my way!

That’s all from me. Have an excellent weekend!


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New SSF Short Story Collection from Nicholas C. Rossis! 

Check out this new sci-fi/fantasy short story collection from Nicholas C. Rossis! I haven’t read it yet, but I did proofread the previous one and very much enjoyed it, so odds are this one’s pretty good too 🙂

Exciting times, indeed. You’re in for a Ride, my 4th collection of short science/speculative fiction stories is now live on Amazon! Those of you who have read one of my previous works will be…

Source: You’re in for a Ride: my 4th SSF Collection is now Live

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Covers Revealed!

Self-pubbed author Audrey Driscoll is releasing three new short stories — and check out the cover art! It was created by her using Canva, which looks like a really great tool that I will definitely be checking out.

Audrey Driscoll's Blog

Here are cover images for three short fiction pieces related to the Herbert West Series. I designed these images myself, using Canva, which has been dubbed “The easiest to use design program in the world.” Not having used any other such programs (unless you count Microsoft Paint), I can’t verify that, but I was able to produce what I consider usable images with Canva, after a short and not too steep learning curve.

Each image is followed by its book description, and then my comments on how I put it together, for what they’re worth. Keep in mind that these are simple images to accompany brief, simple stories, and I’m a total amateur when it comes to design.

Herbert West Series supplement 1

Supplement 1. The Nexus

Nearing the end of his long life, Miskatonic University professor Augustus Quarrington retraces the path to his entanglement with one of his…

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Emotional Beats Launch

Nicholas C. Rossis has published a book on writing, and it looks awesome! I have a copy loaded up on my tablet and will be cracking it open ASAP.

Exciting news! My latest book, Emotional Beats: How to Easily Convert your Writing into Palpable Feelings, is finally available on Amazon. You may remember the book from my poll back when I was cho…

Source: Emotional Beats Launch

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