Sony enlists J. K. Rowling's talent in Book of Spells
On Monday evening US time, PlayStation unveiled its plans for interactive books called 'Wonderbooks'. The first of these Wonderbooks is the Book of Spells, which is an extension of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Rowling wrote large parts of the book herself.Siobhan Keogh | Friday, June 08 2012
On Monday evening US time, PlayStation unveiled its plans for interactive books called 'Wonderbooks'. The books are big, thick, and blue, and contain not words but giant augmented reality codes. Despite there being no words, however, the books do tell a story.
The PlayStation's camera accessory, the PlayStation Eye, picks up the book on screen and the PS3 reads that code, so instead of seeing a big, blue, thick book on-screen, you see a different book entirely. If you move the book and turn it around, the PlayStation will render that in real time, so you can see the virtual book moving around on your TV.
"We often describe it like looking into a magic mirror," said Sony London's Dave Raynard. "In the real world, you see a book, but in the mirror - the TV screen - you see all these amazing fantasies come to life from the book."
"And that's really, really magical, especially to children. And adults, they really love the magic. We've all had stories read to us as children."
The first of these Wonderbooks is the Book of Spells, which is an extension of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Rowling wrote large parts of the book herself.
"We were very fortunate. We were introduced to [Rowling] a couple of years ago, and she was really inspired by [Wonderbooks] and she had the idea of a spellbook," Raynard said. "She's done loads and loads of new writing, so there's spells in there, there's stories, there's the book's conundrum which is a series of beautiful poems unlocked at the end of each chapter."
In Book of Spells, you become a student of Hogwarts, and learn to cast spells and solve puzzles. You find a book written and enchanted over 200 years ago by a witch named Miranda Goshawk. Casting spells from the book involves using your 'wand' - the PlayStation Move - to draw shapes in the air. Classic Harry Potter spells, like the fire spell Incendio, are taught in the Wonderbook and spells are often used in later chapters.
In each chapter, players learn four or five spells. Often, there are stories surrounding that spell - for example, a story about the person who created the spell. So while you're playing, you're learning more about lore in the Harry Potter universe. After reading about the spell, you'll learn how to cast it, and then put it to good use in a practice arena of sorts.
When you're done with a chapter, you're rewarded with a professor's note.
Clearly, this game isn't for the core gaming market. It's designed to be a bit of a twist on the classic storybook, so for the most part, Book of Spells will be fun for children and the hardest of Harry Potter fans. However, the Harry Potter series has plenty of fanatical enthusiasts and Raynard said that members of Harry Potter forums online were "all pretty excited".
"The response has been absolutely phenomenal. I mean, we hoped that Harry Potter fans would like it," he said. "We think that the fact that you get to go to Hogwarts and take the Book of Spells out of the resticted section of the library, you hold the wand, you learn to cast the spells. I mean, that's what every Harry Potter fan wants to do."
The game was designed to be easily accessible, regardless of age.
"The great thing about a book is that anyone can open it up and read it," Raynard said. "You can be a two-year-old or a ninety-two-year-old and know to open it up and turn pages."
Book of Spells is the first of many Wonderbooks coming for PlayStation 3. Sony London has been working with Oscar-winning studio Moonbot Studios to create a Wonderbook called Diggs Nightcrawler.
Diggs is a book-loving, crime-fighting detective. The book is family-friendly, of course, but has elements of old school crime drama and film noir.
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