FAQ: Ian Livingstone

FAQ: Ian Livingstone
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

December 11th 2012 at 11:00AM

Eidos life president and Fighting Fantasy co-creator gets the rapid-fire question treatment

[Develop’s archive of FAQ interviewees can be found here]

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ian Livingstone and I like to play and make games.

What are you working on right now?
Wearing my Square Enix and Eidos hat, I tend to put my fingers in everybody else’s pies and try to add value to the key franchises, particularly Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Hitman. But I’ve also been helping some indies recently, notably Playdemic, which produced social game Gourmet Ranch, and I’ve been working with them on their new title, Kingdom Quest, and also a social mobile game called Eye Spy!

And on a personal front, after two years of writing I launched a new Fighting Fantasy game book back in August called Blood of the Zombies. And then I’ve been working very closely with Tin Man Games on the iOS and Android versions of the book. That’s been getting some great reviews that I’m delighted with. There’s life in the old franchise yet.

What was the first video game or product that you ever worked on in the industry?
You’re testing my memory there. I worked with the developers of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and The Forest of Doom Commodore 64 and Spectrum games. From my own creative standpoint, I worked on the storyline and most of the game design for Domark’s initial product, which was called Eureka, in 1984.

What was the first video game you ever played, and did you enjoy it?
I had a Commodore PET in the late 1970s, but I can’t remember any particular game and they were probably all rubbish. I fondly remember playing Utopia on the Intellivision in the early 1980s.

What was the most recent video game you ever played, and did you enjoy it?
That would be FIFA 13, being beaten by my son as I’m useless at it.

What is your favourite game ever, and for what reason?
That’s like asking which is my favourite child. There’s so many games for so many different experiences, from playing for five immersive hours on console or snacking on an iPad. It’s impossible to say.

In your view, what area of the industry needs more ‘investment’?
A successful games industry needs high skills or low costs, and that hasn’t always been the case in the UK. All that is changing though, and I’m particularly proud of the success we’ve had with the Next Gen review, and the fact that we’ve managed to inspire Michael Gove to take the current programme of ICT and replace it with curriculum with computer science at its core. That could be transformational for us.

What do you enjoy about the video games industry today?
It’s the creativity, and the fact that today content creators can reach global audiences. It’s also the cooperation in the games industry and the camaraderie. It’s a unique industry and it’s not ego driven like the other entertainment industries.

What disappoints you about the video games industry today?
It’s been inward-looking for far too long. What we’ve achieved we should be very proud of. The industry has failed to engage itself enough, to my mind, with the mass market media in a way that has our achievments as an industry reported in a positive way with respect.

Of all the games you have worked on, which has been your favourite to work on?
I’d have to say Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Even though I wasn’t part of the design team, Core were just amazing then. We used to have lots of meetings about that game, and I’d like to think I helped in some way.

What game that you weren’t involved with would you most liked to have worked on?
It would have to be World of Warcraft. Me being such a Dungeons & Dragons fan, and having helped launch D&D in 1975 in Europe, I have to think what World of Warcraft would be like without the grandaddy of all fantasy role-playing games.

What other video games developer do you most admire?
There’s so many. Crystal Dynamics, Bethesda, BioWare, Naughty Dog, Rockstar North, Valve, Id, IO Interactive and Eidos Montreal are making tremendous stuff, and then there’s all the indies, like Mojang and what Notch has done with Minecraft.

What hobbies, collections or interests do you have that are completely unrelated to video games?
There’s board games, which aren’t so unrelated to video games. I’ve over one thousand of them. I love playing and designing board games. I also love writing, playing golf and sailing.