Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is JK Rowling's third - and the best, many say - instalment in the Potter series. Harry, Ron and Hermione, as is their wont, get caught up in further adventures at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, poking noses into another mystery involving escaped wizard Sirius Black (or the Prisoner of Azkaban), soul-stealing Dementors and the odd spot of light-bulb revelations.
EA is currently hard at work on the videogame adaptation of Rowling's book, developing the title for PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube and GBA and aiming to release it to coincide with the movie's appearance in June.
We recently snatched some time with senior producer Dan Blackstone to find out a little more about what the publisher's Prisoner of Azkaban game has in store.
Prisoner of Azkaban is a lot darker than the first two Harry Potter books. How are you bringing this across in the game adaptation? For example, what can we expect from the Dementors?
Blackstone: When we first started the project, we put together a little 20 second CG sequence which highlighted what we thought Dementors would do and the effect they have on Harry.
That was our first concept of Dementors, and obviously that's changed slightly what with working closely with Warner - we've based them much more on what they look like in the film.
Azkaban is a magical prison controlled by creatures called Dementors. Dementors are actually really nasty, wraith-like creatures and they're obviously a huge part of the film.
They're really quite evil; and the only reason they get to work as wardens at the prison is that they feed on the emotions of the inmates. Dementors trigger peoples' most painful memories.
When Dementors first appear, you'll notice subtle things like Harry's breath misting and condensation. Harry relives the death of his parents and he hears lots of screaming in his mind and he passes out - cue the Dementor; and they're pretty scary creatures.
How has Harry Potter changed since Chamber of Secrets?
Blackstone: Harry has obviously grown up quite a lot, he's in the third year now. Being a Third Year, he's physically bigger, he's physically stronger and a lot more efficient at casting spells. He can climb chains and ropes and ladders. Draco Malfoy has changed a lot too - he's got a new haircut and everything [laughs]!
What technology changes or updates have you made for Prisoner of Azkaban?
Blackstone: Chamber of Secrets, for example, suffered from horrendous load times, and that has been addressed for this next game. We've also improved and refined the game engine and the developers have done an amazing job of making the game look stunning.
Any particularly challenging hurdles you've had to overcome in the gameplay?
Blackstone: Well, because when our main character passes out when it comes across a Dementor, that posed some interesting problems as far as designing a game around a character that's going to spend half his time on the floor.
Are you using the actual actors' voices in the game?
Blackstone: No, we wanted to have the actual cast but because the game and film were in production at the same time the actors weren't available.
Unlike the previous Potter games, in Azkaban players can control Harry, Hermione and Ron - could you tell us more about that?
Blackstone: Yes, this is the first time in a Harry Potter game that we have companion play and co-operation between the characters, so you actually control Harry, Ron and Hermione.