Interview With Arthur Parsons (LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7)


Andrew: Okay, and now our second interview was done by Eric further down the East Coast in Orlando at the Harry Potter Home Entertainment Celebration. Eric, intro this one for us.

Eric: Yeah, this one - this is the interview with Arthur Parsons, who is the Game Director behind LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 and also the first game which was LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. And he works over at TT Games and basically - it turns out he's been doing this, he's been working on video games for, like, twelve years, so he's a total veteran, nice guy. And we interviewed him for about 15 to 20 minutes about this new LEGO game, and I know Micah and myself - we have played the first game and we were really excited to get our hands on the sequel which came out last Friday, so it's the same day that all this stuff happened with the movie coming out on DVD, they also released this game. And it's just a really cool interview because you just hear his passion. Arthur is so very passionate about the LEGOs, about the LEGO video games, sort of the improvements they have made to the original game. And also the fiction, he said - there were many points in the interview where he has said this happens in the books and so we just had to get it into the game. And I think the other thing that was cool about the weekend was that he had the LEGO game set up on two - sort of two displays in the press area, so all of the press - it was like in the Hospitality Suite, so everybody who came in to sort of sign in, check in, got to see - got to play the game, as well as some of the actors so he was tweeting about the actors coming in and playing the LEGO versions of themselves and stuff. So, it was really cool and - really fun game. And I think just - yeah, just listen to the interview because it's really, really good.

Andrew: All right, let's listen now!



Interview with Arthur Parsons


Eric: All right, I am here with Arthur Parsons, he is the Game Director at - TT Games? So, the game you have directed - most recently, that is - LEGO Harry Potter?

Arthur Parsons: Yeah, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. I also was the Game Director on Years 1-4, so back-to-back Harry Potter games which is brilliant.

Eric: Wonderful. So, you've done nothing in between? It's always from one Harry Potter to the other?

Arthur: Yeah, yeah, we finished LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 sort of May, June last year, and me and the team rolled straight on to Years 5-7 so we had a really good long time to make a brilliant sequel.

Eric: So, how has the first game succeeded and sort of - what were some of the fan reactions while you - I guess you were already working on the sequel when the first one was taking off.

Arthur: Yeah, the great thing about Years 1-4 was we did something new with it where we wanted the player to experience being a wizard, going to Hogwarts, going to lessons, learning spells, and just that whole sort of magical environment. Going around Hogwarts was so cool and such a big change from previous LEGO games where you sort of had lists of levels that you could go. So, fans of Harry Potter love the game because it was all about Harry Potter. Fans of the LEGO series love the game because it was something new, it had a completely different feel from, say, Batman or Star Wars or Indy. So, it was successful because it was new and it kind of shook-up the LEGO series with just this cool new feel. You could explore, you could wander into rooms, you could just go to lessons. It's not an RPG but you felt like you were Harry and you didn't know how to do your magic, and as you progress through the game you would learn new magic, new spells, new abilities. So, we sort of built on that for Years 5-7 to really sort of take it to that next step. People have been to Hogwarts and experienced it, now they need something new, fresh and exciting so that's obviously where Years 5-7 comes in.

Eric: Well, I know - I love flying on the brooms and having that unique sort of character touches to the brooms in the first game. Is there still brooms in the sequel?

Arthur: Yeah, yeah, we've got brooms. We've also got Thestrals, so you can fly around on those. And it is - again, we've given every character a unique feel, so whether you're playing as Ginny Weasley or Arthur or Tonks or Bellatrix, every character feels unique and every character has unique - Tonks, for example, if you stand there doing nothing, she gets really angry and her hair changes color, and then it changes back.

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: Because it's all stuff that's in the fiction.

Eric: Yes.

Arthur: I know the films, I know the books. I'm a massive, massive Harry Potter fan and so are most of the guys on my team, and so we want Harry Potter fans to see all the little attention to detail. Ginny Weasley has a Pygmy Puff, Ron now has Pigwidgeon as a pet, Lucius has a pet peacock, it's...

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: All the little things that people won't expect and it's like - every time you play a character, there's an extra surprise in there.

Eric: Yeah. Can you play as the peacock?

Arthur: Yeah, yeah, absolutely!

Eric: Oh!

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: No, really?!

Arthur: Yeah, yeah, it's cool. It's like...

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: You're Lucius and you're running around, and you can click, click, click. You get your pet out and just this bonkers peacock pops out...

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: ...and you can run around as a peacock. It's so cool.

Eric: [laughs] So, let's talk about the characters then.

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: There were a massive collection of characters in the first game.

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: Have you improved upon it? Are the old ones back?

Arthur: What we did was - we love bettering ourselves in the LEGO series, so in the first game there was 167 free-play characters. I hold my hands up, some of those were, like, Gryffindor boy or Ravenclaw girl or...

Eric: Those are some of my favorites though.

Arthur: Yeah, they're pretty cool but Years 5-7 has amazing characters, so what we've done this time around on the console versions, we have 200 free-play characters.

Eric: Wow.

Arthur: Now all of them are great characters, so whether it is Bellatrix or Professor Slughorn or Umbridge, whether it's Blaise Zabini - all the characters are there. And the cool thing is they all do cool stuff. Professor Slughorn, you can turn into an armchair and it's just like - there's no need...

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: ...but because he does it in the fiction, it's - we thought we'd do it in the game. So yeah, 200 characters. And it was a bit of a job getting it to fit on a disc but every character...

Eric: Right.

Arthur: ...that a Harry Potter fan would want to play is in there. Yeah, even characters like the Grey Lady. It's just - you don't expect to be able to play them, but they're there and we have just crammed everything into it.

Eric: That's amazing. So, obviously you guys reference the books a ton.

Arthur: Yeah, definitely.

Eric: Is it - but they - I think the movies, the games - because a lot of us are very visual since the movies have come out, the games seem to follow the movies but yet there is so much from the games in. So, Years 5-7 in Harry Potter, is it sort of a fourth - is there a fourth year in there because of the movie split with the...

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: ...final film? Or how did that affect content or direction of the gameplay?

Arthur: Well, what we wanted to do is - the first game was massive, it was a really big game. The films clearly - obviously Deathly Hallows is split into two, so what we've done - again, internally it was like Years 5 through 8. Obviously there's not an eighth year...

Eric: Yeah.

Arthur: ...but there's six strong solid story events for Year 7, Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and then there's another six for Deathly Hallows: Part 2, so the game is - it's actually bigger than the first game. But there are still twenty-four story events in there and there's something like sixteen lessons. And then there's all the - obviously exterior areas, whether it's the forest when you're camping in the tent, or whether it's London, King's Cross, Godric's Hollow, the huge amount of real estate in this game. And from a direction point of view, we wanted to make sure that, say, visually people relate to the films. But from our perspective, we're not just sort of aiming the game at, say, kids 6 to 12. They're going to know the films but we also have to cater for fans. And the fans know the books...

Eric: Yes.

Arthur: ...in incredible detail, so for us, we're dealing with kids and fans of the LEGO series but we're also scouring the books for every little detail. We manage to get stuff in there for fiction fans because these are the guys that as they are playing it, they will see something and it may be the tiniest little thing we've added, but they will be, like, "That's so cool!" You know?

Eric: Yeah.

Arthur: "Yeah, I remember..."

Eric: Yeah.

Arthur: "...that from the book," or, "I can't believe they've added this in," and so we try and meld the two together.

Eric: That's good. I mean, that was my reaction of playing the first game - was, "I cannot believe that somebody else has read the same book I have!"

[Arthur laughs]

Eric: Because it's the end thought to turn it into a game...

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: ...because it's just that recognition that rarely comes from video games, you know? Just sort of the deeper perspective and just the, "We get you," you know?

Arthur: Yeah, absolutely.

Eric: "We're fans too," sort of thing. And I think that's something too, with the interactivity because it's LEGO, it's fun, it's just inviting, and people are just going to be completely surprised every time something like that pops up.

Arthur: Yeah, we'd hope so and - yeah, if Harry Potter fans like the game, it's a job well done, you know? We will be happy if fans of the fiction are, like, "This is a great game. This really does justice to a great series of books."

Eric: Yeah. So, what year of "5-7" or "5-8"...

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: ...was the most challenging to produce? Was there, sort of, something difficult? Or maybe it's the most areas to go to, or...

Arthur: I guess Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was the trickiest because there's no Hogwarts, and it's Harry, Ron, Hermione, and - obviously when Ron's there. But they're on the run and they're not in Hogwarts, so we had to think about that and go, "Well, how are we going to tackle this?" So, what we've actually done - and it's really cool - is we have an exterior forest area and it unlocks throughout the course of Deathly Hallows: Part 1, so the tent moves around the area. You can go in the tent and it's a cool area, and you can do the cool Harry and Hermione dance which is ace.

Eric: What?!

Arthur: Yeah, it's so cool. But in order to make sure people can go to Hogwarts, because we still want people to be able to go and do free-play stuff, and if you go into the tent at any point in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, you can go to the table and there is the Marauder's Map. Open up the Marauder's Map, and then the camera zooms into the map and then comes out in Hogwarts, and you're playing as Ginny and Neville and Seamus and Dean Thomas, and...

Eric: I really...

Arthur: ...you've been in Hogwarts.

Eric: ...just got chills. I really...

[Arthur laughs]

Eric: ...just got chills right now.

Arthur: And so it means that - yeah, Harry, Ron, Hermione can't go to Hogwarts but everyone else can, so we let you go and play Hogwarts as though you were the rest of the cool crew and then at any point, you can just pop back and progress the story. So, that was quite a challenge, to sort of link that up as well as being able to sort of go back to London, go to the cafe and fight Dolohov, and explore around. So yeah, that's - we're all very proud of the fact we managed to tie that in and make it still feel like the rest of the game. But it was quite a lot of sleepless nights and scratching our heads, and...

Eric: I'm sure.

Arthur: We need to do this right and we managed to do it right, thankfully.

Eric: So, Voldemort - obviously a big difference from the first game. Now, he's everywhere. He's back, fully formed.

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: And I saw the advertisement that appears on the Blu-ray, where he's looking in the mirror and Bellatrix...

Arthur: Yeah...

Eric: ...catches him.

Arthur: ...the "Game Face Trailer."

Eric: That's hilarious.

Arthur: Yeah, it's cool.

Eric: Absolutely hilarious. Is he scary? Is he still a villain in this game? How did you sort of manage - because he's a very dark character in the books.

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: How did you handle sort of the transfer from the books to the game?

Arthur: Well, there's some really quite spooky moments in the game, so even just - like at the end of Year 5 when you have the showdown in the Ministry, Voldemort there - he has like - he just has this really evil face and the cut-scene team have done a fabulous job of bringing him to life. And so we kind of mix him with the more serious side but also with a little bit of a goofy side as well. Because at the end of the day, it was fun. We want it to be fun and funny, but we kind of melded the two together. There are some fabulous, fabulous shots where you're interacting with Voldemort because we have a lot more interaction with him and obviously all the other bad guys from Years 5 through 7. So, we've tried to really create a menacing character without losing the fun and humor. And I think as people progress through the game, they will really enjoy every time they come across him. And even like the Dark Mark. The Dark Mark from Years 5-7 is immense. It's so menacing, so spooky, you've got the cool Voldemort smokey monster in the section by the lake where they crack open the locket.

Eric: Yes!

Arthur: That is like - when I first saw what the art guys did for that, I was just, like, wow, this is just far more advanced than the LEGO game. It's quite proper, sort of spooky and sinister, you know? And then you've got Harry and Hermione coming out of the smoke and you're just, like, "Whoa!" And then obviously we do a LEGO thing and you create these crazy fans to blow them away.

Eric: Oh!

Arthur: It's really cool, really cool.

Eric: I love that. How does Malfoy Manor look? Is that a playable area?

Arthur: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Right at the end of Year 7, we have a story event set in Malfoy Manor, so you're running around the forest and you get caught by the Snatchers, and then they sort of take you back to Malfoy Manor. Harry gets the Stinging Jinx on his head, so his head turns into this big red block of LEGO.

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: It's really funny. And then you go and get taken down to the cellar by Peter Pettigrew. And you're there and you get to play as Luna and Ollivander and Harry and Ron. But you've got no wands so you're kind of exploring the cellar, and then eventually Dobby arrives and knocks Peter Pettigrew out. And then you go up to the main area of Malfoy Manor and you get to duel. And it's so cool. We've really tried to keep to the fiction, but at the same time, have a great deal of fun with it. It's really, really funny.

Eric: Speaking of Gringotts, it was sort of a power-up area in the first game, so...

Arthur: Yep.

Eric: ...how was that going back to break in? Was it - how did you sort of mend the two environments between the games?

Arthur: What we did was because we wanted it to feel new and fresh, Diagon Alley was completely rebuilt this time around and so we've turned it around 180 degrees, so you're looking up towards Fred and George's joke shop. So in Year 5, there's no joke shop, it's just all scaffolding and stuff. And then in Year 6 onwards, the joke shop is open, and you can go in and do cool stuff in there. So with Gringotts, what we've done is by switching it around and having the camera at the other end, the player isn't - they're not really aware of Gringotts. And then when you get to the start of Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and break into Gringotts, you get to go down, cool mine cart section. You get to go and break into Bellatrix's vault. You then get to go and ride on the dragon, blasting all the Ministry guards. And it's just - we've just tried to do the fiction justice the best way we can. And at the same time, it's so funny. You're racing around and just - you're having fun at the same time. It's like seeing all these key plot points and you're, like, "Yeah, I remember! Yeah, yeah, this, that." And playing it as a Harry fan when we finished it, I was just, like, "This is right! This is as it should be," so hopefully everyone will see that.

Eric: So, LEGO has also done a game, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Adventure Continues.

Arthur: Sure.

Eric: Will there be an extended - another Harry game? How will that - or The Clone Wars.

[Arthur laughs]

Eric: With The Clone Wars for Star Wars. Will there be another Harry game after this?

Arthur: I really don't know. At the minute, we are so fully focused on - now we've done the game - getting the game out...

Eric: Yeah.

Arthur: ...so that everyone can enjoy it.

Eric: Yeah.

Arthur: We're not looking any further ahead than right now. We want everyone to go out and play the game, really enjoy the game, and we're just going to have a massive holiday because we're all really tired. [laughs]

Eric: Oh yeah, are you - well, you're obviously a big Harry Potter fan.

Arthur: Yeah.

Eric: Have you signed up for Pottermore at all? Or...

Arthur: I'll be honest with you: I missed the deadline.

[Eric laughs]

Arthur: The early deadline because I was in work, like, 15 hours a day, all the guys on the team - we didn't have weekends off. We were just so focused on the game, we just missed everything. So, now that we've got a bit of quiet time, I'm sure we're all going to be signing up and just interacting like every other Harry Potter fan. Just trying to catch up with the world as well.

Eric: Oh, yeah.

Arthur: Everything that's going on, so - yeah, we've been locked away in the office and...

Eric: That's good to hear...

Arthur: ...it's good to get out.

Eric: ...for us, I think, because it means that there's that much more attention...

Arthur: Yeah, that we cared! Absolutely, yeah.

Eric: And then on Twitter, I saw your image. Were you Luna for Halloween?

Arthur: [laughs] That was just a joke in the office. Someone came to Wizarding World on holiday and brought me back some Spectrespecs because obviously we've got Spectrespecs in the game.

Eric: Aww.

Arthur: It was just, like, I had to put them on. And we have a blond wig, it's like this sort of - whoever sort of makes a boo-boo at work, they have to kind of wear a blond wig and a dunce cap...

Eric: The plot thickens! [laughs]

Arthur: ...so I dressed up as Luna. You know, why not? It's a bit of fun, isn't it? [laughs]

Eric: It is. Thank you for your time.

Arthur: No, not a problem.

Eric: This has been...

Arthur: Pleasure.

Eric: ...really wonderful. Let's try the game!

Arthur: Yeah, absolutely.

Eric: We will.


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Written by: The Transcribers