It’s been almost two months since Hogwarts Legacy was announced and we got our first official look at the game, and many fans are already hoping desperately for any new information about the upcoming Harry Potter game. The Tyrent podcast recently interviewed Hogwarts Legacy’s Narrative Designer Nathan Scott, and while Scott’s NDA prevented him from giving any concrete details about the game, there were still tidbits of information sprinkled throughout the interview. The actual interview is nearly two hours long, so we’ve compiled all the Hogwarts Legacy related information for those of you who would rather not, or cannot, watch the whole video (anyone interested in game design should check it out, however, as game design is the focus of the interview).
Storytelling in Hogwarts Legacy
Nathan Scott, who was hired by Avalanche in large part thanks to his writing background, spoke at length about his personal perspective on designing narrative in a video games. Scott feels that if you simply want to tell a story, you should write a book or a movie, because games are fundamentally about mechanics. Create the mechanics, and then ask what story the mechanics are telling — that’s Scott’s philosophy on good narrative design in games. However, Scott’s role at Avalanche is focused on the world and its locations, so whether or not his personal perspective is shared by the rest of the narrative team remains to be seen.
What we can glean from Scott’s conversation with Banerjee is that when it comes to the ways we can engage with the quests and activities tied to the various locations in Hogwarts Legacy, we can expect the narrative to be driven by the mechanics that allow us to interact with the world. But what does that look like? Well, it could mean that instead of having an NPC tell us “Oi, young wiz’rd, there’s a magic wall somewhere hereabouts” and then watching our character cast a spell at a nearby wall, we will instead utilize a game mechanic that allows the player to detect magic, and then use another game mechanic to cast a spell that lets us reveal the wall. In short, mechanic-driven narrative means that the story progresses by the character making choices and using in-game mechanics, rather than simply walking far enough down the path that a cutscene plays.
Another potentially illuminating moment in the interview came when Scott talked about how story and open-world games mix (and how they don’t):
Story is the ultimate progression system, and in open world games, you lose that… [Horizon Zero Dawn is] an open world game with a linear story — why?
While Scott is not the lead game designer on Hogwarts Legacy, it seems unlikely that he would say something like this if it were directly counter to the project he was currently working on. This means it’s possible that Hogwarts Legacy will not have a linear story a la Horizon Zero Dawn, but might instead offer a branching narrative more similar to Fallout: New Vegas, where the player’s choices can actually impact the world and affect the game’s ending.
The trailer’s narrator — and indeed the name of the game itself — states that the choices our character makes will define the legacy of Hogwarts. It’s possible that the only true choices are the “good” and “bad” path (either embracing the ancient magic or not), but hopefully Avalanche Studios takes a more mature approach and offers the player some choices that are interesting, and perhaps more morally grey.
When talking about storytelling in games, Obra Dinn, Outer Wilds, and Hades were all games Scott mentioned as standouts when it came to narrative, particularly mechanics-driven narratives. That should be good news to fans of any of those games — and if you haven’t already tried them, all three are standout examples of storytelling in gaming, and you should go check them out!
Hogwarts Legacy is Already Playable, and Another Trailer Should Drop Soon
For those of you nervous about Cyberpunk 2077-esque delays, you should be happy to hear that the game sounds like it is well on its way to release. While describing his role and a problem-solver and bug-squasher, Scott mentioned that he usually spends his workday on bug fixing or polishing quests, and that he spends a lot of time playing the game. The fact that he is in final touches mode, rather than still creating content, suggests that the game is nearing completion, and should easily make its 2021 release date.
Perhaps even more telling were the YouTube comments left by the interviewer, in which he claims “…they’ll show something amazing in mid-early 2021”, and that another trailer will be released in a time-frame that “isn’t that far” away. Exciting news for anyone dying for more info on Hogwarts Legacy, to be sure.
Nathan Scott’s previous project was as Creative Director and Level Designer for the 1st person action platformer Hard Light Vector, which is currently free to play on Steam if you want to see what one of Hogwarts Legacy’s designers is capable of while you wait for that next trailer to drop.
What kind of storytelling do you hope to see in Hogwarts Legacy? Would you rather have a clearly defined narrative with a linear story, or do you want to create your own tale as you journey through the wizarding world? Let us know in the comments!