Q&A: Ian Livingstone on 10 years of Lara

Eidos' product acquisition director thinks the Tomb Raider series can continue "for many years to come" and predicts the next-gen console war's winners.

Ian Livingstone has had a long and varied career in gaming--he founded the role-playing game company Games Workshop with roommate Steve Jackson in 1975, and began distributing Dungeons & Dragons exclusively in Europe. In 1981, the two friends started a series of role-playing game books called the Fighting Fantasy series.

In 1993 he became an investor and board member of Domark--a game company that was taken over by Eidos in 1995. When Eidos itself was taken over by SCi in 2005, Livingstone was then the only former board member to be asked back. He is now working for Eidos again as product acquisition director--"which basically means I have my fingers in everybody else's pies," said Livingstone. He was also awarded an Order of the British Empire in last year's New Years Honours List for "Services to the Computer Games Industry."

Eidos' most famous character is Lara Croft, who is also the first successful female game protagonist. After breaking out of the game industry to acheive mainstream notoriety with the Tomb Raider games and a pair of big-budget feature films, Lara Croft hit on hard times with 2003's critical and commercial flop, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. This year has seen a revitalization of the Lara Croft character, with the franchise being moved from original developer Core Design to Crystal Dynamics for the well-received Tomb Raider: Legend. It's also Lara's 10-year anniversary, and development is under way on Tomb Raider: Anniversary, a reworked version of the original Tomb Raider due in 2007. GameSpot caught up with Livingstone at the London Science Museum's Game On exhibit to talk about his company's past, present, and future.

GameSpot: How did you ensure there was a smooth transition from Core to Crystal Dynamics for the development of the Tomb Raider series?

Ian Livingstone: Well, first of all, Crystal Dynamics isn't made up of some Johnny-come-latelys--they are a very well-run studio. They had technologies that absolutely suited the game and we employed some very clever people to ensure that [everything] was correct. We also bought back Toby Gard [Lara's original creator]. He had previously left the series, because he was a little concerned that Lara had become a little bit too successful, but we managed to convince him that there was nothing wrong with success, and he came back for Legend as the designer.

Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness wasn't the best game. I think a lot of the team at Core Design were exhausted and they were struggling with the [PlayStation 2] tools, so we made the decision to move to Crystal Dynamics. It was a really tough decision. But, I think they did brilliantly and I think we vindicated ourselves with Legend.

GS: What's next for Lara?

IL: Obviously the brand and franchise will continue. We feel she's good to be adored by the public for many years to come, much like James Bond. James Bond has managed 40 years in cinema, and Lara 10 years in the computer gaming industry, which is amazing.

There's going to be a celebration [game] called Tomb Raider: Anniversary coming up next year. I'm not really allowed to talk about it, but, and I'm not saying this will be in the game or not, but can you imagine if that wonderful moment when she met T. Rex for the first time will be in it? Tomb Raider 8 is also in development at Crystal Dynamics, but again, I can't say anything about that right now.

GS: Any plans for a third movie?

IL: There may be a third movie--a lot of it depends on Angelina's availability, now she's all loved up with Brad [laughs]... We're talking to [the movie studios]--they're at the stage where a scriptwriter has been brought in, but as you probably know, that's a long way from the movie being green-lit.

GS: So no plans to kill her off anytime soon?

IL: Well I think that's the same as someone in the film industry saying that James Bond should be retired soon. As long as she's got an adoring audience, what's the point in doing that? If the world loves Lara, why deny the world Lara? She has millions and millions of fans round the world, and that would be a crazy thing to do. She has survived the test of time--10 years is a long time in games--but she's definitely one of the most famous digital icons of the gaming world. Lara is recognised everywhere--she has truly gone beyond the gaming niche. There was a Time survey of recognisable characters a few years back, and she actually scored higher than the pope! In short, I think it would be sheer stupidity to do that.

GS: Are merchandising and spin-offs or games more important to Eidos right now?

IL: Games are the fundamental business. It's about not diluting the intellectual property of Lara through too many articles. As a gamer myself, the most important thing is the gameplay. Ninety-nine percent of [Eidos'] business activities are dedicated to making the ultimate game. Merchandising, movies, and the rest is exposure for Lara.

GS: You say you turn down a big number of merchandising proposals for Lara, can you give me an example of something that sticks in your mind?

IL: There was one for, popsicles, is that what you call them? Anyway, whatever they're called, there was a proposal for something called Lick A Lara Lolly.

GS: So why did you turn that down?

IL: I wonder...

GS: What do you think it is about Lara that makes her so popular?

IL: When they first came out, games were bought by children, but they didn't stop playing games when they got older. What would a teenager rather look at? A hedgehog, a plumber, or Lara Croft's butt?

There are other great characters, but they're all aimed at a younger audience--Zelda, Sonic, Mario--there have been none that have been aimed at the more mature consumer. If you think of other successful games, you don't always remember the characters.

Women don't object to Lara because she's strong, independent, intelligent, athletic, sexy, and essentially she doesn't need men. And of course, men wouldn't object to [her] for the same reasons... And, as she's virtual, she can be anything to anyone.

GS: Why do you think there have been no other hugely successful female lead game characters?

IL: There have been cases of lead female characters, but they just haven't been very memorable games. It's not just about the character. The fact is that Tomb Raider was an extraordinarily good game--bar the wobble with Angel of Darkness, they all have innovative gameplay and great graphics. That's the thing with Tomb Raider, it was a great character and a great game.

GS: The hot topic of the moment seems to be the next-gen console wars. How do you think it will play out?

IL: The first two rounds of console hardware wars were won quite easily by Sony. This time it's very much a changed landscape and it's a three-horse race and--I know it's a cliche--too close to call. The Wii will definitely win in Japan, and I think the Xbox 360 will probably win in the US... Sony could possibly win in Europe because of the historical success of PlayStation in Europe.

However, overall, there's a lot of hot money on the Wii to win the total number of units sold. There are a number of reasons for that, [like] the innovation of gameplay offered by Wii. And they're not going into the same market as Sony and Microsoft, who are sort of arms racing in graphical experience, and therefore to my mind, people are likely to buy a 360 and a Wii, or a PS3 and a Wii, but they're not going to buy a PS3 and a 360, so Wii... I think it will probably win this time around.

But, never write off Sony. You do so at your peril, because, at the end of the day, software drives hardware sales, and Sony has always been brilliant at having software exclusive to their format. Tomb Raider drove the sales of the PlayStation, Grand Theft Auto drove the sales of the PlayStation 2, and no doubt Sony will have some wonderful IP or new games...that will drive the sales of the PS3. Obviously they don't relish the fact that they're going to be third to market with the most expensive console of the three, but there's a sort of historical inevitability that you can't discount Sony--at the end of the day they are the best consumer electronics brand in the world, so they will make it happen. Whether they'll win though, is not so clear this time.

GS: As a veteran role-player, how do you feel about the rise in popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games and the shift away from single-player, turn-based, more "traditional" games?

IL: I think it's just another experience, which is to be welcomed. The fact that games are moving through all sorts of different platforms to all sorts of new audiences can only be a good thing for the world and for content holders and owners. It used to be just PCs and then it became PCs and consoles and now you've got mobile phones, you've got handhelds like the PSP and DS, and of course you've got PC casual games, and now MMOs and persistent worlds and for me, it's a good thing. I don't think anything is going to particularly dominate, I think the world likes being united via the Web. To play people from different parts of the world either with them or against them is quite an exciting prospect, and a very enjoyable one. But I don't think other types of games are going to go away, I think just the whole market is getting bigger as more and more people in society play games in whatever form they enjoy the most.

GS: With Lara 8 in the works, what do you think about the amount of sequels in games right now?

IL: If you take on a licence, it mitigates the risk. For me, at Eidos, we've always created original content--Tomb Raider, Hitman, Just Cause, for example--they were all original IP. And it's much more of a risk, but if you execute that well, then in the end it's much better and you can reap the benefits.

GS: Where have all the great British game companies gone?

IL: To me, it's no coincidence we're great at making games... It's no fluke that games like Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider originated in the UK... We are one of the most creative countries in the world. In the '80s, Sinclair gave us the Spectrum and made home computing affordable to all. It started off as a cottage industry and grew. We started off great, and then we didn't realise how to expand from there, and compete with other countries--we kind of were a little fast past the first post. It seems to get to a point where [British companies] don't want to get any bigger or partner and merge with other companies. Creative people need to partner with other companies to run the business side of things, so they can get on with being creative. It makes me sad that a lot of the big [UK gaming] companies are now owned by other companies in other countries. People in the US and Japan take a long-term view on investing in people and technology, and we need to do that.

GS: Thanks for your time.

IL: My pleasure.

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66 comments
rezpatriot
rezpatriot

I a n Livingstone L a r a Croft. LEGENDS! we are not worthy we are not worthy

babeedoll032
babeedoll032

I am really very excited about the release of tomb raider anniversary and tomb raider 8. I just hope that they are very similar to the original. I still play tomb raider 1, 2, and 3 all the time on my playstation. But then when it comes to Revelations, Chronicals, and Angel of Darkness.... they just made it to, modern i guess. When i think of Lara Croft i think of an independent woman who knows what she wants and gets the job done, mainly alone. She is not a james bond, or a sam fisher, she is not a agent or spy. And although it was NEVER mentioned that she was any of thoes games, i felt like she was. When i play tomb raider i don't want to be stealthy or get help from people. I just want to run out in the middle of the forest into a bear or a raptor and shoot the crap out of it! I want to spend hours trying to get through a door, and have the element of suprise that anything could be around the corner. I want to go to her mansion, swim in the fish tanks and lock the butler in the huge oversized freezer. And i want to race the quad around for hours trying to beat my last time. I could go on, but i wont. My point is, i hope this new game is as memorable and exciting as the first. And if it is, there is no doubt in my mind that everyone will love it.

hidealice
hidealice

GREAT! Lara will never die! look forward to Anniversary Want to play it asap

_Sam_
_Sam_

If there is another movie, I hope it's good, because I think that the last one sucked. They have a big franchise, but hopefully they don't ruin it

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Obviously, as a PC gamer, not too happy with Eidos announcing the 2007/2008 release of Tomb Raider 8 as only for PS3 'for sure' - and then saying what he says above about the consoles war. Sounds like what he says and what Eidos does are two different things.

Dualmask
Dualmask

Samus was actually the first female protagonist, and old school gamers remember that she shed her armor if you beat the game quickly in the end of the first NES game. You could also play with an armor-less Samus (with green hair) by entering JUSTIN BAILEY as the password with blanks for the second line. (However, I have always wished Samus looked more feminine in the Metroid games...she doesn't have to show skin to have sex appeal.) However, while Lara wasn't factually the first successful female protagonist, she was more successful than the Metroid franchise, according to this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_computer_and_video_games#Franchise. Tomb Raider is the tenth best selling game franchise out there, with Metroid down in 24th. I'm not 100% certain of the accuracy of the article, but I'm sure it's not too far from the truth. And I hope Livingstone is right in his prediction that "people are likely to buy a 360 and a Wii, or a PS3 and a Wii, but they're not going to buy a PS3 and a 360" because Nintendo deserves to win. They're the only company really trying to innovate gaming, not just make it look better. (Not that there's anything wrong with better graphics...I have every intention of getting a PS3 once I can afford it...I just intend to get a Wii first.)

rtchuli
rtchuli

Since 1996 i've vowed to be faithful to Lara forever no matter what would come forth! Now i'm 21 and i am still faithful! You can say i'm naive but back then i really loved Lara Croft, (who didn't), so for me Tomb Raider was more than a game it was a dream coming true, the perfect girl for me. But now i've grown and all i can say is that what i keep in my mind from the early years about Tomb Raider is that when i remember the game i remember that it used to give me one of the best feelings and emotions that this live has to give, and that is when you are locked or stuck in a level for hours trying to find a key or solving a puzzle or an enigma and when everything seems lost, when you're ready to give up from the game and put a Tekken to make the frustration disappear, suddenly you have an idea and that idea turns out to be the perfect way to pass the obstacle, and believe me, when i escaped traps, kicked some T-Rex's butt, or killed a naughty boss i was happy. So i loved 5 Tomb Raiders and i expected more from one the 6th but now i see that the myth hasn't gone. THEMOST IMPORTANT MATTER is that when Core Design had to choose to change or not the game for the PS2 they went to a wrong path, that's what i think, SO NOW FOR ME, AN OLD SCHOOL AND HARDCORE TOMB RAIDER ADDICT the most important thing is not only the graphics but to RECOVER THE ELEMENT OR FACTOR THAT THE PREVIOUS TOMB RAIDERS HAD specially the first one! I hope Crystal Dynamics is able to face that challenge that is not only to renew the Tomb Raider game maintaining some elements from previous games, reconqueur all lost fans, and to satisfy a new generation of fans. I really pray for it! And for a third movie either with the sexy Jolie!

Dolacide
Dolacide

I never thought Lara would be able to make it back after the angel of darkness, I guess I was wrong.

Alienspade
Alienspade

wow long read anyhow yeah tomb raider is awesome hopefuly with next gen graphic lara will just sex her way into making us buy the game P

carpathianrogue
carpathianrogue

Why doesn't anybody ask about an Xbox 360 TR Anniversary version coming out? There's a while to go (1-1.5 years would be my guess) till Tomb Raider 8 is out, so why not remind people of the best times, in the mean time? :)

sonicphoto
sonicphoto

Ok Samus doesn't count that much because basically all the time you think is a guy playing until she removes her mask and reveals is actually a women. Tomb Raider on the opposite reveals her body (not saying naked) and face that you really feel you are playing a women. No I do not hate Samus at all I love nintendo I am getting a wii then the rest of the consoles but I think that is why some people just forget about samus because she barely appears looking like a women in the games when she is all covered up.

GrimBee
GrimBee

I loved the parts of Tomb Raider 1, when you first start out and you are in the cave.. then you discover a pool of water... and an abaodoned underground pool complex... then a bear... then a room and you are stuck!! Then, you PUSH the block to climb to find the key.. and.. Well, it ends there for me. It all went to crap from that moment on. I loved the parts of tomb raider 2 when you sunk in the submarine, and then you ended up UNDER underwater underground, and you were navigating through a ship wreck... after that, it was cool to hike across snowy mountains... But sadly it got lost at that moment (oh and before when it went to venice). Tomb Raider 3 was great when you got to the crashed plane site... and that was it then.. Tomb Raider the last revelation was quite awful... Tomb Raider Chronicles I didn't even bother with... Tomb Raider Angel Of Darkness was quite terrible... And lastly Tomb Raider Legend was actually quite good! But its totally different to anything before, and it still goes into the whole URBAN exploration (which I hate).... Overall, a Tomb Raider game, for me, is starting out in some normal forrest area (or mountain) and then discovering some hole, which then once travelled through reveals some old ruin.. and then you end up discovering something!! AH!! A tomb!! Somehow it went from that concept into... boring samey locations with horrible annoying death-traps.. I love the exploration parts of the Tomb Raider games, and things which make you WANT to get to the next part and solve the puzzle. Somewhere along the line the series forgot all about this. One perfect example of how I like the Tomb Raider games to be, is the new lara croft mansion n tomb raider legends. You start off with what looks like a normal mansion (sort of) but then with some effort and a good eye you can find some more hidden secrets. THAT is the Tomb Raider experience for me, not some stupid temple that you have to wade around avoiding tigers and poison darts....

suprsolider
suprsolider

For those of you complaining about this statement (and arguing that Samus was first), notice the key word in that sentence - SUCCESSFUL. -- Sure, and that gives you the right to determine Sucessful. Last time I check, before Tomb Raider, all 3 Metroid games had all been best sellers, which then became part of the Player Choice titles for their respective systems. So that is successful, no matter what you casual gamers think. Statement like gamespot is shoving down peoples throat's make me angry that video gaming has turned into what it is now. I hate the casual gamers and I WANT ALL OF YOU CASUALS out of this industry that I helped build by buying hardware like the NES,SNES,Genesis. This is all damn Sony's fault that the casual gamers now control the market, and are going to evntually lead the industry to ruin, again.

MedevilDragon
MedevilDragon

Not a big fan of Tomb Raider anymore, the last game was far too easy, I want the old school TR gameplay back.

Thorpe89
Thorpe89

I'm glad to see this series continuing to grow into the next-generation.

Rect_Pola
Rect_Pola

"... there have been none [computer games] that have been aimed at the more mature consumer. If you think of other successful games, you don't always remember the characters." By "mature" he must mean "hormone driven". Samus Aran and Jade (BG&E) don't appeal on that level. But you have to admit, despite Lara's design fitting in with DOA girls, she was generally presented as a more serious character than a "look at my jiggle" character.

Ohidjwae
Ohidjwae

"Eidos' most famous character is Lara Croft, who is also the first successful female game protagonist." For those of you complaining about this statement (and arguing that Samus was first), notice the key word in that sentence - SUCCESSFUL. Samus might have been the first, but many more people (even non-gamers) know who Lara Croft is. That would be true even BEFORE the movies came out, although those certainly helped, I imagine. So, I'd agree that she's the most "successful."

OPOLO
OPOLO

Great Interview - I own every non-PC game ever made. Keep her coming

Karribuhater115
Karribuhater115

"... there have been none [computer games] that have been aimed at the more mature consumer. If you think of other successful games, you don't always remember the characters." So, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil and other such games are aimed at children? Riiight. Personally, I think he's allowed his ego to get a little too big. Yes Tomb Raider is a good series but he needs to remember that it has been steadily declining since TR3/TR4 and has only recently gotten a revival. Crystal Dynamics could easily mess up TR8 and then they'll be in trouble again.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

Lara rocks> But the next Tomb Raider game really needs to have Top notch AAA production values. Just like the PSone TR's felt like.

easy33
easy33

"We are one of the most creative countries in the world". hahaha, not too modest is he? Oh yeah their creativitiy is right BEHIND us. Go USA.

suprsolider
suprsolider

Eidos' most famous character is Lara Croft, who is also the first successful female game protagonist. -- LIES, ALL LIES. Samus Aran from Metroid would be the first successful female game protagonist, not Laura. Metroid came out in 1986, 10 full years before Tomb Raider made it's debut. By the time Tomb Raider came out, Samus was in 3 Metroid game. Not 1, not 2, But 3 GAMES. Each went on to be big sellers, all 3 became Player's Choice titles. So Gamespot, earn some credibility, and mention that Laura was the 2nd successful female protagonist.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

good interveiw although i think Ian is a lil out of the loop on things 'The first two rounds of console hardware wars were won quite easily by Sony.' hows that supposed to be true when the ps3 sn't even out yet?, he kinda insulted gamers by saying gamers would rather look at a females butt than a plumbers,or a hedehogs, i don't look at anyones butt when i am playing a game i am looking atthe area around me... sounds like he has gotten full of himself, you MAY have created the worlds most known heroine (only cause you have had a slew of gamesout over the years, not many of them good) might i add yea'... so? what you want a cookie for that or what?

Minsk_bg
Minsk_bg

"... there have been none [computer games] that have been aimed at the more mature consumer. If you think of other successful games, you don't always remember the characters." With all respect I have to Livingstone, I think he's a bit downgrading other games by saying so. Whether a game character is memorable or not, depends on the taste. And this is only his opinion about putting Lara above others...

SugarDaddie
SugarDaddie

Tomb raider is awesome, and legends was cool.

Lord_Regnier
Lord_Regnier

I worry for Tomb Raider:( Angel of darkness was crap but hey so was Legends!

ShockG707
ShockG707

Wow I cant wait to play an updated Tomb Raider 1, the first one is a classic to me.

Caer_Death
Caer_Death

VincentV21 "I dont really think the wii can be counted as nextgen since its almost a gamecube1.5 w/a new controller" What's a PS3? It's a PS2, little better graphics, little better processor, backwards compatible (albeit not perfect), and a new controller. What's an Xbox 360? It's an Xbox, little better graphics, processor, and backwards compatible. Did I mention a new controller? Well, who on Earth would be stupid enough to spend $600 on a PS2.5 or dish out a few hundred for Xbox 180? Pointless mindless attack...

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

PixyMisao seeing as there were only 36 comments, I immediately searched to see who was the first to mention Samus. I think it's sad really. Metroid is a much older franchise, and IMHO, a far superior one at that.

EddyG0RD0
EddyG0RD0

"ludacriss Tomb Raider is cool. Europeans (including me) wait for the ps3. "

eggsiboss
eggsiboss

i used to read this guys books when i was a kid!

kyosukeugc
kyosukeugc

"""" Sony--at the end of the day they are the best consumer electronics brand in the world, so they will make it happen. """"" ^^ Thank you, someone actually said somethign right! Personally, I haven't liked the last 2 or 3 Lara games, hopefully the next ones will be good though! I miss enjoying them!

Nintendus
Nintendus

"When they first came out, games were bought by children, but they didn't stop playing games when they got older. What would a teenager rather look at? A hedgehog, a plumber, or Lara Croft's butt? There are other great characters, but they're all aimed at a younger audience--Zelda, Sonic, Mario--there have been none that have been aimed at the more mature consumer. If you think of other successful games, you don't always remember the characters." Zelda is NOT a kiddie franchise, also Metroid is more succesful than Tomb Raider, but both Samus and Lara look really good.

PixyMisao
PixyMisao

"Eidos' most famous character is Lara Croft, who is also the first successful female game protagonist." About 20 years ago a little game came out called Metroid... maybe you've heard of it?

ludacriss
ludacriss

Tomb Raider is cool. Europeans (including me) wait for the ps3.

KarthikKane
KarthikKane

I think Ian should let Crystal Dynamics make a new Deathtrap Dungeon.

krasskommentz
krasskommentz

Ian Livingston is a genius (i'm not a fan; i never even played D&D when I was a teenager) and a knowledgeable source on the game industry. I would keep what he said in mind, especially if you are a sw company rep or someone in the industry who doesn't know much about him. I believe most of what he said will happen; the PS3 winning in Europe is another story. That depends more on how badly M$oft or Nintendo want the market. If they don't try, the PS3 wins by default.

imbacon
imbacon

I HIGHLY doubt the PS3 will be the winner in Europe, considering Sony is screwing them the hardest.

Auger_Martel
Auger_Martel

Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson are great authors. Their Fighting Fantasy books are what got me interested in RPGs and Role-Playing as a whole. Funnily enough, my favourite Fighting Fantasy book, Black Vein Prophecy, wasn't written by them, but Paul Mason and Steven Williams instead. Oh well, I enjoy all the books. Interesting comments though. If each console is successful in a certain area (360 for U.S, PS3 for Europe and Wii for Japan), then this is going to be one generation of gaming not to forget.

VincentV21
VincentV21

I dont really think the wii can be counted as nextgen since its almost a gamecube1.5 w/a new controller

Doolum
Doolum

A next Gen Lara game coming (probably by next year)....cool

a0me
a0me

"you people talking about Samus...everyone thought it was a dude with armor, not a blonde girl! so you cant count that! everyone found out big time when metroid prime came out for the GC," Huh? Everyone? Samus appeared without her armor at the end of the first NES game, like 20 years ago...

pXxJoSexXp
pXxJoSexXp

cool:D tom raider is really cool :D

emagius
emagius

Indeed. Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson are titans in gaming, though today's youth wouldn't know them. Hey, Mr. Livingstone! Show these Oblivion-lovers what a real RPG is all about!

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

Gah, I don't even know why people still buy Tomb Raider games. They are simply not interesting. I liked the first one when it came out, but there's only so many times you can show me that same thing before I get bored with it.

BlissfulGopher
BlissfulGopher

larshaun "Someone needs to remind this great analyst of console wars that the PS3 is to be the 2nd next gen product to come to the market, not the third." Third arriving in the UK, where he's from. With quite a large delay, too (March at the earliest).