Thursday, 4 August 2011

Harry Potter and the Magic Quill

For years, fans of the Harry Potter novels have hungered for more, longing for Jo Rowling to give them just an ounce more information about the Wizarding World, about Harry, and about what we never learned in the seven books.

Well now, finally, that chance has come in the form of Pottermore. Billed as an “interactive experience built around the books” fans have been promised no less than 18000 new words from Jo Rowling herself, at launch alone, with plenty more to follow as the website explores the rest of the books (only Philosophers Stone will be on show on release).

Mixing the books themselves with amazing new artwork, mini games and information galore, Pottermore sounds like everything I and many others have longed for.

While the site won't go live to the world until October, a select few (1million to be exact) will be granted exclusive beta access to the experience, allowing them to see what Pottermore has to offer.

I am one of those lucky million.

The selection process seemed easy enough: solve a clue related to the Harry Potter books, turn that answer into a hyperlink, and then find “The Magic Quill”.

To hardcore fans the quill isn't a massively new idea. Jo herself referenced years ago in an interview as noting down the names of magical babies being born so that Professor McGonagall would know who to send Hogwarts letters to on their 11th birthday.

So, on July 31 I awoke early, logged on to Skype with a few of my fandom friends and waited. None of us knew exactly what form the clue would take, but we had been given the rather cryptic idea that “Diagon Alley would be a good place to start.”

Now of course, we all over thought it. To us, entering Diagon Alley meant pressing just the right bricks on the wall. We were clicking bricks on the Pottermore homepage, horrified when we found we could zoom the page out revealing more bricks we had not yet seen – throwing the combination off.

But, just before 9am BST, it appeared all the clicking was for nought. Someone in our skype chat exploded “ITS UP! REFRESH!” and, sure enough, the scroll in the middle of the page changed from a simple message explaining the Magic Quill challenge, to the clue itself.

“How many breeds of owls were offered on the Eeylops Owl Emporium sign, then multiply this number by 49.”

There I hit a problem. I'd known the clue would be numerical, but had hoped it would be easier, as my Potter books are unfortunately still in storage as I'm in the process of moving.

I quickly headed to the HP Lexicon online, searched Diagon Alley and found relatively quickly there were 5 types of owl. 5 times 49 equalled 245, and in seconds I was entering in my browser.

There, to my great glee, was a group of quills floating on the Sony website (one of Pottermore's partner sites). One of them was glowing, and I clicked it, redirected to the Pottermore registration page to “begin my journey.”

A short reg process later, and a book (the magic quill's book), appeared with my name along side those of Harry and his friends.

I was magical.

I verified my email, logged in, and was greeted with a message congratulate me on being one of the lucky few to shape the experience before its official launch.

That was 4 days ago, and the process has now taken place 5 times out of the allotted 7. Each day at a different time a new clue has appeared, and taken those quick enough to solve it to a different partner site (from The Guardian's announcement article about Pottermore, to the HP page on Scholastic's website), where they could find a magic quill of their own.

With only 2 more opportunities to enter the beta before registration is shut down, its clear that the next 2 days will see huge levels of traffic heading towards Pottermore, as those who have missed out throughout the week endeavour to get on board.

If you want my advice as regards getting in, go to as soon as you wake up each day. Over the past few days they have posted a timeframe of about 3-4 hours when the quill will appear. It won't be there the entirety of that time, but it sure helps narrowing down the window for refreshing, so if they give a timeframe, it sure helps.

During that time, where possible (obviously people are busy so it won't always be the case), I'd suggest refreshing the page every 15minutes or so. The amount of spaces available each day have never yet filled up any quicker than 30minutes, so if you're checking regularly there should be no problem

Have Half Blood Prince to hand tomorrow, and Deathly Hallows to hand on Saturday, as well as a search engine just for good luck.

Pottermore have openly stated that the clues are designed to get easier to solve each day (indeed the last two really shouldn't require even a fairweather fan to even look up the answer), but its always helpful to have these supplies to hand.

As soon as you have your answer, and have multiplied by the appropriate number as given by the clue, put that total on the end of and you will be directed to find your quill. More often than not it's in an ad around the page, but it should be relatively obvious where (it will be the same pinky purple background as the Pottermore logo, and will have a quill on it.)

Click the quill, register with your email address (its important you can log in to the accout in question as you'll need to validate it). As soon as you get the confirmation (usually sent out within minutes, but it has been known to take several hours in extreme cases) just validate it, and you're in.

You should then be given a congratulatory message upon logging in.

I wish everyone good luck, and hope everyone who wishes to be gets the chance to be “magical.”

See you on Pottermore