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.

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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."

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