Ian Livingstone: We need more Laras

The Eidos executive thinks that the games industry needs more iconic characters to compete with movies, TV, and comics.

EDINBURGH, UK--Industry veteran Ian Livingstone thinks that game developers need more character. The Eidos product acquisition director, speaking at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival 2007, told the audience that characters were extremely important not just in games, but also as intellectual properties that can then be used in other products.

He showed the audience a series of 40 pictures of instantly recognisable famous characters from the worlds of comics, TV, and movies, including James Bond, King Kong, Fred Flintstone, and Scooby Doo. Next, he showed a small selection of easily recognizable game heroes, including Link, Mario, Sonic, Gordon Freeman, Solid Snake, and Duke Nukem. Surprisingly, not everyone in the audience could put names to the images. This led Livingstone to conclude, "if we all work in the games industry, what does that say?"

The Eidos executive then listed a series of elements which he believes make up a good character, including appearance, personality, name, dialogue, and humour. Agent 47, the murderous protagonist of the Hitman series, became memorable in part because his bald pate and the barcode tattoo on his skull's base. This was a happy coincidence, said Livingstone, since "hair was too difficult to do back then, so we made him bald." The designers then added the barcode on the back of the head to give people something to look at.

Livingstone also talked about the development of the villainous stars of the forthcoming Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. "At first, Kane looked much younger," he said. "He was a bit of a ladies' man--clearly modeled on myself--but he'd had a tough life." So the decision was made to age him and add battle scars to bring his appearance more in line with the story. Lynch, on the other hand, "just looked right right from the start."

Names are also very important, believes Livingstone. He said, "With a name like 'Darth Vader,' you know he's not going to be nice. Now 'Jar Jar Binks,' he's going to be much more fun." Lara Croft had originally been Lara Cruz, and after deciding to make her a posh British lady, the team "looked through the phone book until they found the right name."

Developers should also be adding more catchphrases to games in the same way that Hollywood does, Livingstone believes. He said game characters need the equivalent of Taxi Driver's "You talkin' to me?" and Terminator 2's "Hasta la vista, baby."

Written By

Want the latest news about Hitman: Blood Money?

Hitman: Blood Money

Hitman: Blood Money

Follow

Discussion

131 comments
KingSigy
KingSigy

What makes an iconic characters for movies, tv shows and books is exactly what should be done in video games. You just need your characters to have personality, or to have the gamer become the character (such as Half Life does).

paranoiasurviva
paranoiasurviva

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

joshyoung55
joshyoung55

Trying ot make an iconic character isnt as easy as you think. After reading this I tried and it might be my excessive playing of video games that has melted my brain :p lol but there must be a formula to it and im deternmined to find it

nebula619
nebula619

Ian Livingstone wrote the fighting fantasy books, one of which spawned a game "Deathtrap Dungeon". also Gordan Freeman is the hero of Half Life. I love gamespot :)

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

Then why don't you go and make one instead of telling us there should be more, Mr. Livingstone? I'm sure that Eidos could easily make one, and they could become their mascot.

KingKoop
KingKoop

Agent 47 - Jason Stratham? Lara Croft - Angelina Jolie? Bob Hoskins - Mario? Realting games to movies is just a bad idea IMO.

Wordflow
Wordflow

Hmmmm.......lets see..... Master Chief Pac Man Ms. Pac Man Mario Peach Luigi Bowser Link Pikachu Sonic Tails Cloud Sephiroth Sam Fisher Agent-47 Laura Croft Solid Snake MegaMan Dante Easily those are the most recognizable characters in gaming and some may not even know some of those games. Everyone else Spider-Man, Superman, etc, are from comics or movies. But lets think for a second who really wants more memorable characters? Oh thats right the game companies do because having them gives them more money. Please I don't know about the next person but having create-a-character options to your liking is much better these days. We all could do without the over-marketing that some of these so called memorable characters get.

kappareign
kappareign

comparing movies to games is like apples and oranges. besides, celebrities from movies are in the news all the time, video game characters are not. games already have iconic characters anyway. pac-man is a freakin yellow pie chart and everyone knows who he is. hes been around for over 25 years!

X-RS
X-RS

booooo! we need fear effect 3!!

vmfstorm1
vmfstorm1

I have to say, that Agent 47 really is one of the most identifiable characters from games, we all like certain games, like gears of war and the like but if you see the main characters, for instance master chief, without his trademark gear than you would certainly be unable to recognize them. Characters like Lara, Agent 47, Sam Fischer and some others are so easily recognized mostly because of the way they speak their personalities and features rather than their gear. With most modern games, again games like Gears of War and Halo come to mind, the characters are monotonous, there are amazing story arcs, but by the end you have no real acquaintance with the character you've just played for 20 hours or more with. I also believe that overly deep names, such as last names with roots in latin and greek that mean something related to the game are simply too difficult for most to remember, I don't think many are familiar with PsyOps, but the main character's last name was scryer, and unless one looked it up they would never truly understand the relationship to the protagonists last name and the underlying themes of the game (the word scryer is actually someone with psychic abilities). I just think that game developers get so caught up in coming out with sequels, prequels and games to make a quick buck that they don't realize that games with an identifiable villain or hero will sell so much more than one without, Tomb Raider went through something like 8 years of sucking before a worthy sequel and it still sold well because Lara Croft sold games. All I'm saying is that we as consumers shouldn't continue support of games that aren't even worth playing.

M-ManLA
M-ManLA

Agreed. But damn, Lara Croft was going to be Latina at first? Sweet.

fastpunk
fastpunk

I can certainly agree with the guy. There just isn't enough personality in video games these days.

greater_bird
greater_bird

I figure he has a point. Without Lara Croft to keep it afloat the Tomb Raider series would never have survived the many duds they put out. When they kicked it back into life with Tomb Raider Legend, all those ads of Lara jumping off a cliff virtually sold the game on their own.

DesRed
DesRed

I understand the fact that games are considered intellectual properties (IP) but turning characters from a video game into IPs? Is that really necessary?

barbierian205
barbierian205

DepressionMoon: Who the hell is Gordon freeman? lolz at ^

DepressionMoon
DepressionMoon

Who the hell is Gordon freeman? Anyway I quite agree with this man. In order to break into the mainstream we need icons like Lara, Mario, Sonic, and Link, not to mention cut down on prices, but that might not be too easy. What we have to do is show the public the artsful side to gaming in addition to the iconic or trademark characters. We also need another Videogame awards show beside the god awful one on Spike where they do nothing ,but try to make us laugh with bad jokes. it needs to be taken seriously and more respectively. You know how other award shows give out awards to people who have done something great in the past. well they could do that to and give mention to the old school. I might be able to contribute to this with my own character in a few years.

EL_Punisher85
EL_Punisher85

well i think so far the iconic characters you guys have are fine but it would be soooo much better if you guys had more iconic characters it would be for the best i think..............do it for the fans man! hahahha........ "Hasta la Vista, AMIGOS"

BumpNGrind26960
BumpNGrind26960

I don't think the lack of iconic characters is a problem, though some more iconic characters would be nice, but i believe it is more to do with the price of the games, granted that the games are properly expensive to develop and manufacture, but £40-£50 is a bit steep, couldn't the minimise the cost of the games without destroying any chance of a profit, how are the younger generation like my self at 16 be able to afford to buy these games, when we are only able to earn minimal money

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

Gaming ain't totally mainsteam yet.

gta11
gta11

Lol Mario, who doesn't kow that fat plumber guy?

nicolasgb
nicolasgb

Yeah Turrican was quite famous back in the good ol days, though it's true it's not as iconic as Mario anymore oh and I believe some quotes from mariokart64 could be considered catchphrases: Mario's, Wario's, etc The same can apply to Street Fighter 2

A7Xfan
A7Xfan

This is stupid. We have Mario and pretty much everything from Nintendo is iconic almost to a fault. Then there's Final Fantasy as a series (something movies don't really have [a series of titles totally unrelated to one another]). Halo with Master Chief. Metal Gear SOlid and Snake....... Everything in this industry pretty much is....It gets old.

playstation_wii
playstation_wii

How can game makers not know the greatest characters of all time?!?!?!?! :shock: :o

afrothunda312
afrothunda312

Don't know if anyone has said this but Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson also founded Games Workshop who make Warhammer, weird that he went into video games after...

staley6565
staley6565

I love Snake's "gotcha" and how they humorously portrayed in it Snake vs. Monkey. That said, a GOOD catchphrase can go a long way, such as Shikamaru from Naruto's "troublesome" catchphrase. but bad ones can totally distract from the character and make him seem like a dweeb, such as Dante's "showtime" just my opinion though

PixyMisao
PixyMisao

Who the hell is Gordon Freeman? Easily recognizable? No one believes in catchphrases anymore, (look at the two quotes he mentions, the newest is over 15 years old!) expanding that kind of ideology into video games would be seen as a shallow reflection of trying to imitate a movie.

SecretWasianMan
SecretWasianMan

Sorry Light_Bahamut, Turrican was a sweet game from "back in the day". Super Turrican for the SNES was even sweeter. I'm sure as hell that other people have heard of it too. There was life before the Playstation. You lose.

mattstar2000
mattstar2000

RubyMars, Yes it is the same Ian Livingstone who did the fighting fantasy books. I think that the most memorable one liner ever for me is when Sarg in Halo 2 says "I know what the ladies like" just after Master Chief gets given a massive tank and he flies off in the dropship thingy. The big one liner has to come in the 1st couple of levels or there is no point, FACT 1: most people only play through an entire game maybe once or twice, but will play the first couple of levels many times. FACT 2: Games developers always make the first couple of levels the best so as to hook the gaming audience. I would also like to make an honrable mentions to KAIN and RAZIEL as some of the greatest characters ever, on top of that they where amazingly well voiced acted parts and had no one liners. Also the Soul Reaver and Blood Omen series had possibly one of the most intricately written stories ever. If you have never heard of Soul Reaver of Blood Omen check it out on WIKIPEDIA.com.

kralog_asah
kralog_asah

You keep churning out these **** tomb raider games Livingstone and go on about how important it is to have iconic names in the gaming universe but what about your own neglected character Kain from the Legacy of Kain series? Him and Raziel have everything you could want but still you chose to pump out crappy Lara games. And as for catchphrases. pfft. Why do these people keep getting it so wrong? :(

lamprey263
lamprey263

Catchphrases?! Please. Nothing is more pathetic than the obviously use of ineffective wit. Super Paper Mario was full of this crap. It was like some Joss Whedon cult fanatic tried to recreate the witty banter he grew up on. Catchphrases from art are more of a cultural phenomenon. They only seem to be masterminded from marketing and propaganda purposes (which is probably why Spanish speakers use "propaganda" for the same sense that we do, as well as for what we'd call "commercials"). =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Brawndo has what plants crave, it has electrolytes

keci_kt
keci_kt

I also wanna see other Lara Croft. I wanna see more adventures. And new experiences.

LordSchmee
LordSchmee

Ofcourse you cant create an Icon... but you can try... thats what its all about... Not alot of game characters are Iconic to say the least... we need more. even ones from Iconic games! some take time... others are a hit from the start... such as Lara Croft...

somejobro
somejobro

You can't create an icon.They create themselves.Popular catchphrases are the same.They just happen.Someone here mentioned Poochie(Strifeseer)My point exactly.If you try to create a cool, iconic character you'll just end up with Poochie.Heh-heh.Poochie...

digitalheadbutt
digitalheadbutt

Developers should also be adding more catchphrases to games in the same way that Hollywood does, Livingstone believes. He said game characters need the equivalent of Taxi Driver's "You talkin' to me?" and Terminator 2's "Hasta la vista, baby."

That is a retarded statement. I think developers should be more interested in making a good story and game experience. "You talkin to me?" wasnt a catch phrase it was a line from a fantastic scene in an awesome movie; same goes for "Hasta la vista, baby." The lines evolved into catch phrases because they so clearly defined an awesome moment in the movie. If a game had a good enough story and dialogue a "catch phrase" or signature moment would develope on its own.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

This message includes Dreamfall: The Longest Journey spoilers: And yet software publishers are so stupid that when they have a great character that could make them millions and become the 'intellectual' Lara Croft', in the follow up game they don't make her the main character again and into the bargain turn her into a strange angry women and then kills her off! The game was The Longest Journey, the character April Ryan and the follow up game Dreamfall. In the Longest Journey FunCom had a truly loved character, and given the game sold over 4 million copies, that's a lot of love. She was seen at the time (1999/2000) by adventure gamers as a character that they wanted to go on and on. In the adventure market (still large in 1999) TLJ was the adventure equivalent/event of the first Tomb Raider, or Doom or Command and Conquer. But what did FunCom do. They waited 7 years to release a follow-up, and as mentioned above totally disposed of her spiritually and physically and replaced her with a younger clone, Zoe, who had the same persona, the same dreams and made the same travels. Of course, Dreamfall, sales wise, like for like, on PC, has been abysmal, compared with TLJ. The word of mouth that TLJ got, over 4 years, is non existent with Dreamfall, and while TLJ/April Ryan will go into history as the greatest adventure and greatest adventure character, Dreamfall will just disappear. Of course Dreamfall didn't fail just because they dropped April as the main character, but it had a fair amount to do with it. What a waste of what could have been a fantastic license and the intellectual equivalent of Lara Croft. So even when a publisher has a fantastic well loved character, they have no idea what to do with it many times! No wonder PC gaming has been perpetually struggling for the last 5 years!

puressenceuk
puressenceuk

Is Eidos' Ian Livingstone the same Ian Livingstone who wrote Fighting Fantasy books along with Steve Jackson back in the day? Yes the very same guy.

Dualmask
Dualmask

@Guest_1001 For the sake of closure, I'll answer. My point is how can a game concept/character designed in 1986 rip off of something that was created four years after it in 1990...a game concept that was inspired by the very game that is supposedly ripping off of it? Even if the "actual" gap is less than four years (and I don't even know what you mean by that), Metroid was still developed before Turrican and Turrican was still inspired by Metroid. There's no argument.

Dualmask
Dualmask

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Sonicgod
Sonicgod

Lara Croft has had 2 good games in her 11 years on the market. Lets count them Tomb raider and Ohh tomb raider legend and that 2nd good game only took 10 years to perfect, If this is the games I get from iconic characters then I do not want any. Samus should be the Icon she has never had a bad game since the 1980's. And Samus would break lara crofts legs, take down huge aliens and blow up the planet on her way out just to make sure there dead that Is a real female character and she don't have to dress like hooker to do it..

n64nut
n64nut

Samus came out before Turrican. Turrican is a Samus ripoff. 1001 is an idiot.

Light_Bahamut
Light_Bahamut

People know who Samus is. No one has ever heard of Turrican. You lose.

-THA-hamst3r
-THA-hamst3r

Guest_1001: "I don't count Samus because she is a Turrican ripoff." Dualmask: "Samus predates Turrican by about four years." Guest_1001: "It doesn't make a difference that Samus predated Turrican." That doesn't even make sense.

Guest_1001
Guest_1001

Dualmask - Your point? It doesn't make a difference that Samus predated Turrican. It's simply ridiculous to assume that Samus doesn't owe anything to Turrican, as Turrican does to Samus. And by the way, since Turrican wasn't developed in Japan, the four year gap is considerably less.

-THA-hamst3r
-THA-hamst3r

"The hard-core gamer group is a small and limited one, no matter what it looks like on gamespot. You NEED more casual crap to sell more games so that devs can then make their more important franchises better." ...Or people could stop being so greedy, get paid what they're actually worth and bring down the price of everything so that games and other forms of entertainment are reasonably priced again. Every person in the pipeline of entertainment thinks they should charge more for their services or product because someone else is making more. Prices just keep inflating. ($25 million a movie sounds reasonable to you?) It's typically not the fault of the game developer but everyone they have to get stuff from and everyone that those companies get stuff from. Everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie, yet they're not actually worth it. I hate this world. :P

RubyMars
RubyMars

Is Eidos' Ian Livingstone the same Ian Livingstone who wrote Fighting Fantasy books along with Steve Jackson back in the day?

Guest_1001
Guest_1001

I wouldn't recognise Link because of his unbelievable girly resemblance to every other anime character on the planet and I don't count Samus because she is a Turrican ripoff. Yet while Turrican is long forgotten, Samus gets recognition for being a female copy. And I ONLY know Kirby from Smash Bros. I've no idea what the hell else the thing has done. Plus, how can Luigi count? He's basically Mario. Besides that, I only know these characters because I'm a gamer. I'll grant you Pikachu is recognisable but ask someone on the street about Samus or Kirby or Link and they won't know who they are. Those characters aren't Lara or Mario or Sonic.

AzureWind213
AzureWind213

ummm only recognizable nintendo character is mario?? I'm gonna have to ask you about link and samus and luigi and pikachu(or is that Game Freak?) and Kirby and I swear I'm not just picking characters from Smash Bros. but seriously... maybe samus and kirby not so much but definitely link and luigi :D