Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Items from the Mail Bag – Absence Makes The Heart Something Something Edition

I started up “Items from the Mail Bag” as a regular feature a while back, and then totally dropped it for the last few months.  This was primarily based on the quality of items showing up.

For example, I already mentioned Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess once, so the next 9 emails to me on that topic were something of a waste.  I have also already mocked a couple of people who were essentially offering to let me write free content for their ad-driven site under the guise of “giving” me better exposure. Again, some jokes are only funny once.

In addition, I seem to have gotten on the distribution list for some PR group handling album releases for bands I have never heard of.  Of course, I am old, so bands I have never heard of is a pretty large category I suppose.  Still, I was amused to see that the title in the press release for deadmau5 did not, in fact, indicate that there was some sort of mail merge issue.

Do people still use mail merge?  Do they still call it that?  It was a big deal in the 80s, but I am going to guess there is a Web 2.0 term for it now.

Anyway, I think I have accumulated enough interesting/pathetic/amusing notes from my in box that are close enough to the topic of games and gaming that it is time again to share.  So, in reverse chronological order, I give you:

Planes of Merinia MMO – Budget Slightly Less Than SWTOR

Phillip sent me a note asking me to publicize his attempt to fund his MMO project via Kickstarter.  So, there is the link.

Another well mowed 3D landscape

Called Planes of Merinia, it offers… well… this:

In Merinia, you do not choose a class. Instead, you can learn skills, spells, and crafts from multiple classes. You can learn healing, fire magic, and sword master, for example. As you gain levels for your character, you can increase your set of skills. Your skills only level if you use them.

In Merinia, you can construct your own weapons, armor, artifiacts, items, etc. Included in the game is an item editor. Create a vorpal sword, or a golden bag. Whatever you can imagine. Items can have scripts attached to them, allow for animation, actions, and special events.

The game is allegedly 65% complete as is currently slated for a February 2013 release.  The money being raised, $20K, is to get art assets and level (zone?) designer involved.  The whole thing strikes me as a low budget Darkfall, but I am not sure I want to go there.

Master Blaster – The Gun for Your 5D Home Holodeck Thingy

It is a controller that looks like something a space marine should be carrying.

Too awesome to be fully displayed in a single photo I guess

This is an Indiegogo project… which is something like Kickstarter I guess… where you can buy that gun controller thingy to use some sort of very expensive looking full room gaming environment made by a company called izone-3.  And it works with the Wii.

iOS Apps I Haven’t Bothered to Download

I’ve ignored them so you don’t have to… or something.  I don’t think it works like that.  Anyway, they all sent me press release-like messages asking for a mention.

SpaceWiz – Immerse yourself in the wonders of a visual/audio experience like no other! Take the role of viewer AND creator in a galaxy where you reign.

ExQuizit – The world’s biggest quiz. (Can we get a Guinness ruling on that?) The guy spent 18 months writing the questions.  There are 12,000 of them.  Go nuts.

Carpet Ball – See, the AppStore is proving that either all the good names are taken or that people are bad at naming their apps.

Diptic – Create exceptional photo collages that can be shared with friends and family.

No endorsement of these apps should be assumed.

Because I Spend So Much Time Talking About Cables Here…

Megan at Canyon PR has sent me half a dozen messages asking if I would like to review the ACCELL’s DisplayPort to DVI-D Dual Link adapter.

Look, hardware!

It works with 3D, which implies that there is some limitation somewhere.  Or is this like labeling candy that is nothing but sugar “fat free” because it isn’t even as nutritional as fat?  Anyway, I feel better about deleting her messages now.

And Harry Potter Will Solve Our Economic Woes

Harry Potter “the most successful literary and film franchise in history” according to one press release, needs to pile on to its already impressive $7 billion in merchandise sales by throwing two pull-out poster books into the mix.

Potter Poster Books

Now J.K. Rowling will be just that much richer than the queen. (Which I am pretty sure is why Elizabeth looked so grumpy at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.)  I’m not even putting any links in for these two.  Go find them yourselves.

Club Penguin Does… Something

I am not even sure how to parse this headline:

Make Your Mark: Ultimate Jam Follows Massive Success of Marvel Super Hero Takeover Event; Club Penguin’s First Single Tops iTunes Children’s Chart

It is one of those “I know what all those words mean by themselves…” moments.  And the text of the press release just goes on in the same vein.  It could easily be randomly generated for all I can tell.

In summing up what ever they were trying to tell me, it seemed that whatever it was involved 40 million play sessions across 200 countries.

The take away for me is that SWTOR could really use more penguins if it wants to succeed in F2P I guess.

Because It Is Better Than Eating Their Pizza

A PR firm representing Little Caesar’s sent me a link to a video on YouTube.  They want sites to run it on a… commercial basis.  The message literally said that watching the video will make you want to go “Whoooo!”  And it did indeed, though I am not sure I am pronouncing it in the way they expected.  To my mind, their pizza is to “real” pizza what Chef Boyardee is to Italian food in general.

Space Nazis! What Is Not To Love?

As inexplicable as the music press releases, I received a couple of messages alerting that Iron Sky will be playing at select theaters in the US over the summer.  The premise:

In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the Dark Side of the Moon. During 70 years of utter secrecy, the Nazis construct a gigantic space fortress with a massive armada of flying saucers.

By this point however, the tour is almost over.  In reading some related information I have to admit I was not aware that Space Nazis represented such a full body of work.

The same company sent me a similar press release about something called Unicorn City, which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, so I remain mostly clueless on the subject.

And that is about it, aside from the co-marketing pitches and one company who noted that the site lacked a forum and offered to set me up with one.  Just what I need.

Hogwarts Castle – Brick by Brick

  • 3+ hours
  • 3 instruction booklets
  • 10 bags of parts which added up to 1290+ pieces
  • a 6 foot long table
  • my daughter and myself
  • iTunes and YouTube

These were the ingredients for a Boxing Day afternoon of LEGO building.

(I am reliably informed that the 26th was, in fact, Christmas Sunday and that Monday was Boxing Day for anybody who cares a whit for tradition.  I’ll claim that is why I took today off work, even though I live in California.)

My daughter has not been much on LEGOs over the last year.  She still likes them and will pour over the catalogs when they show up, but other priorities seem to get in the way of actually playing with them.  So it looked like we might skip LEGOs for Christmas this year.

But then there was LEGO Harry Potter on the Wii and the latest Harry Potter movie, which put her in the right mindset when the Fall LEGO catalog showed up in the mail.  Inside was a variety of Harry Potter sets to go with the movie release, including Hogwarts Castle.

That was what she said she wanted.  A big set, the castle, and on the expensive side.

But I help create the Christmas wish list that gets doled out to family and friends, and especially to grandparents.  (Due to divorce and remarriage, my daughter has more grandparents than are biologically possible.)  And from that list, I know to whom to hand the big ticket items.

And so on Christmas day, one of the (too) many gifts my daughter got was LEGO set 4842, Hogwarts Castle.

She also got set 4736, Freeing Dobby, which was good because assembling a big LEGO set is often a set of serial operations, so it is hard to divide the labor… which meant that I build most of the castle while she did one of the castle sections and the Dobby set.

Listed at 1290 pieces (not counting the copious extras, since the LEGO people tend to throw in an extra or two of any tiny piece you might lose, which in a set like this with many, many tiny pieces probably boost the actual part count to 1400) this was easily the biggest LEGO set we have attempted.  Jabba’s Sail Barge, though intricate, was a mere 781 pieces, while the Castle we build was 973 pieces.

So we set up a six foot folding table in the room we call “the bowling alley” (it is 33 feet long and 11 feet wide) and went to work.

To keep our spirits up, my daughter played a continuous stream of Potter Puppet Pals videos from YouTube and then, when that ran dry, selections from my seemingly endless supply of “Weird Al” Yankovic songs on iTunes.  All of this drove my wife to the other end of the house.

And only three or so hours later, the castle was complete.

Looks Just Like The Box!

The set came out very nice.  I am always surprised/delighted at how the LEGO designers can create some very set-specific effects without creating a huge number of one-off parts.  There were very few special parts in this set, outside of the minifigures and the tops of the towers. (I am also amused when I recognize something that was used in another set for something different… like some of the items in the fruit bowl were used to make Gary the snail in the original Spongebob Squarepants sets.)

The cast of minifigures out front include the three from from Freeing Dobby.  They were another Harry Potter (whom you cannot see because he is under the invisibility cloak!), Lucious Malfoy, and of course, Dobby.  Dobby may be the creepiest minifigure I’ve seen, though that is because it is so well done it captures how creepy he was in the movies.

A Closer Look at the Minifigs

And then there is the inside of Hogwarts.

Towers and the Dining Hall

Dumbledore's Quarters

My daughter is now enjoying the castle.  We will have to see how long that lasts.

You see, our cats really like LEGOs as well.  However, what they really like is to knock LEGO sets off of tables and shelves so they hit the floor and shatter.  Then they bat the pieces around or carry them off to hide them.  Our cat Fred was very interested in the whole building process and had to be lifted off of the table and out of the middle of things a few times.

Fred waiting for his opportunity

We’ll see what Hogwarts looks like in the morning.  We might have to rename Fred and Trixie to Voldemort and Bellatrix.

Harry Potter Invades

We have been very much about Harry Potter over the last month at our house.

We were invited to a Harry Potter themed birthday party, which got my daughter stirred up on the subject.

The Disney Channel just happened to show “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” the weekend before the party, so we recorded it and my daughter watched it a couple of times.  It was sort of “cramming” for the party.

Then, after the party, which really didn’t add much to our current mania, it already being in full swing, we went out and got all of the movies. We now own all five current movied on DVD.

And we watched them all. It was convenient when I was home with my swollen and purple ankle up on a pillow after I sprained it.

And, about this time, my daughter decided she was through with “children’s books” at bed time. (Though she did weaken one evening and we read “Eloise” again.) One of her friends father’s was reading her a “chapter book,” as she called it, and she wanted to graduate to that as well. Of course, we have the first four of the Harry Potter books at home, a gift from my mother at some point, so we started in on the first book.

But, to prove that no fad in our house can prevent me from buying little toys, I went out looking for Harry Potter LEGO minifigures.

As I mentioned in my post on LEGO Games I Want, LEGO has the Harry Potter franchise and puts out at least one kit with each movie release.

Unfortunately, it has been a while since the last movie release, so there are no Harry Potter kits currently available.

So I went to my backup source for all things LEGO: BrickLink.

Think of it as eBay devoted to LEGO products. If there is a LEGO item you cannot find there, then it is a rare piece indeed.

Thanks to that site I have been able to assemble, quite inexpensively, a small set of Harry Potter figures to play in our own at-home LEGO universe.

hplego.png

From left to right we have Draco Malfoy, Hagrid, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, and Hermione Granger.

I still want to pick up a couple more, like Dumbledore and Professor Snape, but these few have already been played with quite a bit.

Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want

I have written about LEGO Star Wars, both The Original Trilogy and The Compete Saga, before. They are both games I like a quite a bit.

I really have to commend Traveller’s Tales, the studio that actually made the games, for not only creating a good first game, LEGO Star Wars – The Video Game, but also for actually learning from that game and applying it to the the next two games.

The first thing they learned seemed, to me, to be that a LEGO game is really more of a mass appeal title than a hard core gaming title. As such, it does not need hellishly hard end levels that take forever to master and complete. And with the original release, there were a couple of levels like that. I know real console gamers who still curse some levels in that game.

The second thing that TT seems to have learned is that, for adding depth and repeatability in a console game, almost nothing beats what I call “the cult of the unlock.”

So when the second game came out, LEGO Star Wars – The Original Trilogy, the levels were designed, overall, to be much easier to get through. You could… heck, *I* could… blaze through all of the basic levels in story mode in a single sitting without being in any danger of setting a record (personal or otherwise) for continuous time in front of a video game.

But when you’ve done that, the big “Percentage Complete” display (awesome game element, btw) says you have only completed 25-30% of the game. Then you want to go back through the levels with the free play option with different characters to pick up the mini-kits you missed, see the side areas you bypassed, and pick up enough studs to unlock all of the characters.

The game became an even bigger success than its predecessor and ensured that there would be more LEGO games to come. They have already announced LEGO Indiana Jones – The Video Game and LEGO Batman – The Video Game. So I started considering what else I would like to see done as a LEGO video game.

The Wants – I think they have potential to be good

1) LEGO Die Hard – The Full Series

When I get done playing LEGO Star Wars and go off to a different game, it takes a while for me to not want to blow up the scenery and try to collect studs. You just shoot up everything in LEGO Star Wars. So when my wife and I were watching the latest “Die Hard” movie, “Live Free, Die Hard, and Leave a Trail of Corpses” or whatever, I immediately connected the John McClane character leaving a swathe of destruction behind him with my own behavior in LEGO Star Wars. It is an excellent fit! Yes, work would have to done on the unlocks, but Bruce Willis is just begging to be made into a LEGO minifig. He has the head for it, and that scowl/smirk would translate perfectly into LEGO form.

2) LEGO Star Trek – The Original Series

Okay, this one is on my list for a series of selfish reasons. I want there to be a GOOD Star Trek game that has popular appeal, that will break the curse, and that will revive what I can only think of these days as a dying IP. Plus I want to be able to own Star Trek characters in LEGO minifigure form. It has to be TOS because they blow things up, transport into hot LZs, and visit the most interesting planets. There are enough characters to play and unlock. Yes, TNG does have Picard, who, like Bruce Willis, is ready-made for LEGO minifig form, and you could charge a billion studs to unlock Q, but Shatner’s hair was made for LEGO form. Picard can wait for the sequel.

3) LEGO Harry Potter – The Video Game

This one is a gimme. I mean, LEGO already has the franchise and already makes Harry Potter based minifigures and kits. There are movies out to help drive the visual requirements. It is popular. It is compelling. It could be done. And it would make J.K. Rowling just that much more wealthy than the Queen. I am surprised it hasn’t been announced already.

4) LEGO Lord of the Rings – The Video Game

It is episodic, it is popular, it would be great. It is probably a very tough IP to license… I am sure the Tolkien heirs would be skeptical… but it is totally viable. You have a group of main characters to play, a host of minor characters to unlock, and more than enough bad guys to chop up to make it interesting. Plus, TT could legitimately stretch it out into three releases. And, on top of that, LEGO has a couple of decades of work in its Castle line of kits as a starting place for models. (Frankly, though, the Castle line could use the sort of creative infusion such a project would bring. It has been languishing some for the last few years.)

5) LEGO Norrath – The Video Game

Okay, I am still enchanted by Tipa’s idea of turning EverQuest into a single player game to preserve the lore and let people who played it “way back when…” explore their old haunts. So why not take it a step further and reduce it all to LEGO bricks? There would have to be an overlying story created to drive the game, and the character unlocks might be a bit obscure, but I bet people who played it would come out knowing the lore of Norrath, which might, in turn, make some of them interested in other games based in Norrath. Plus I have always suspected that those trees in the Commonlands would break into a bunch of little pieces if you hit them just right.

Honorable Mentions – Things that came to mind with potential, but probably not enough for a game.

LEGO Discworld – Part of me thinks that LEGO is a perfect medium for expressing the humor and irony of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The big problem is that nobody speaks in the LEGO games and much of the Discworld humor is in dialog or exposition. So any LEGO game relies on imagery and gesture to convey much of a story, and there is not enough such imagery available that we all share to make the game viable. I know what Ahnk-Morpork looks like in my mind, but it probably doesn’t look like that in your mind.

LEGO World of Shannara – I was trying to come up with an alternate fantasy epic to Lord of the Rings, and Shannara has plenty to work with. It just suffers from the lack of agreed upon visuals the way Discworld does, along with not being as popular as LotR.

LEGO Dune – I think this could be done. You use the imagery from the David Lynch version of the movie and just run with it. But as much as I want a LEGO Sardaukar minifig, I don’t think this would be a winner in the end.

LEGO Battlestar Glactica – I was looking around for another science fiction title, and this one came to mind. I am not sure if I would want to model the original series or the new one. I think then main problem is that most of the conflict takes place in space, and I found the space segements of LEGO Star Wars to be the least fulfilling.

Probably Bad Ideas – Things I briefly considered

LEGO The Simpsons – Hey, they’re yellow already, right? They’re popular. They destroy stuff regularly. The problem is, they can never profit from their bad behavior in the end, so having them pick up studs for whacking Flanders probably won’t fly.

LEGO Known Space – I was more thinking of LEGO Ringworld and felt that LEGO Man-Kzin Wars might have some potential… and I really want a Kzinti minifig… but Larry Niven’s Known Space universe moves at a pretty slow pace, so it would be hard for it to sustain an action oriented game. Plus, as above, there is not a set of agreed upon imagery for Known Space.

LEGO Blade Runner – It has the imagery. It has the violence. It is just probably too dark for LEGO. Still, it is probably more viable than my first thought, LEGO – The Man in the High Castle.

LEGO Forgotten Realms – I can dream, can’t I?

LEGO Wizard of Oz – I guess you cannot have Dorothy leaving a path of destruction behind her.

What Else?

That is my list… or my lists.

What did I overlook? What IP is really prime for conversion into a LEGO video game?