INTERVIEW: Ian Livingstone talks Fighting Fantasy and the digital age

Leigh Harris
INTERVIEW: Ian Livingstone talks Fighting Fantasy and the digital age

At the Game Tech conference this week, MCV got the change to speak to the creator of Fighting Fantasy, White Dwarf and Game Workshop.

Ian Livingstone OBE, is also the Life President of Eidos, and spoke to MCV about his new book Blood of the Zombies and about the industry in general making the leap to digital.

Tell me about the partnership with Tin Man Games to have them create a Gamebook Adventures digital version of your Fighting Fantasy series. How did it come about?

It came about because I started writing Blood of the Zombies in 2009 in preparation to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (which is in August 2012). I started writing it in the traditional medieval way, setting it in a place similar to Deathtrap Dungeon, Forest of Thieves, City of Doom etc. But having been in the videogames industry for 20 years now, I realised that zombies had an everlasting popularity, and I’d never done that before.

Zombies, however, were always something from more of a contemporary setting. So I thought ‘big decision here’, and made the jump out of the medieval and into the modern. It’s set in modern times. I wanted to bring you lots of weapons so you could mow down lots and lots of zombies, and I simplified the game system to allow that to happen.

Clearly, also, having worked in the games industry for the last 20 years, I was aware of what was happening in the digital world, and we’d also released some earlier books on the iPhone, but I wanted Blood of the Zombies to be the best product it could be, realised it had to go on iPhone as well for today’s consumer, so I took many things into consideration.

The ten year-olds of 1982 probably wanted a book. They’re now 40 and want to go adventuring down memory lane. Today’s kids are far less likely to want a book, and likely own a smartphone or other smart device and want to use those for their same adventures. So naturally, when we wanted to make the game the best in class, we approached Tin Man Games. They’d proven themselves on this kind of thing already, so it was a good match.

You still seem very passionate about creating new content yourself. Given your role as Life President at Eidos, is this a labour of love for you?

Oh, of course, yes. In the old days, something like Deathtrap Dungeon or The Warlock of Firetop Mountain would sell a million units. Now, if we sell 10’000 books of Blood of the Zombies, I’ll be happy. The motivation was to celebrate the 30th anniversary over anything else.

I was very happy to turn my passion for playing games in the 1970s into a career of making them, and I’ve always been excited by content creation. For all the games I worked on and books I’ve written, I get just as excited about creating as I do about playing. So, I do put my heart and soul into it and I hope Blood of the Zombies is a worthy addition to the series.

How has your passion remained stable for this long? Is it the re-invigorating of the landscape through this new diversification of devices, or is it something else?

The reason I’m excited at this moment in time is because it reminds me of the early days where you’ve got small teams of creative people who can get to market without too many barriers. They can reach global audiences via high speed broadband, innovate, iterate and perhaps have a hit on their hands (of extraordinary proportions), which, for the last 15 years they haven’t been able to do. They can communicate directly with their consumer, and it’s a much closer relationship. I like that a lot.

At this moment in the console life cycle, you’ve got development teams which really know the hardware, have likely been working with one another for a long time. Does that mixture allow a stronger creative focus at this stage instead of a technical one?

Clearly people do have a very strong expertise in this current generation of hardware now, and to innovate, you do have to try new things. Understanding the hardware and being able to use that hardware to your advantage is clearly giving a game like Tomb Raider an advantage and a differentiation over other games.

Everyone is always talking about the innovation in the digital space, the stylisation, the new ways of playing, new graphics and creativity being there, but it’s still happening in console games, which is great to see.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, where Livingstone discusses the re-imagining of Lara Croft.

 

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Tags: publishing , interview , Development , eidos , tomb raider , Tin Man Games , GameBook Adventures , Game Tech 2012 , Fighting Fantasy , Game Tech , gamebook

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