Ian Livingstone (born December 1949 in Prestbury, England) is an English fantasy author and entrepreneur and is one of the biggest names in the role-playing game genre. He is the co-founder of the Fighting Fantasy brand, co-author of its first and most enduring book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; the co-founder of Games Workshop; creator of a number of other games across different media and chairman of Eidos.
Ian Livingstone was born in Prestbury in December 1949. He attended Altrincham Grammar School where, in 1967, he became friends with Steve Jackson. In 1973 they moved down to London. There, they shared a flat with another friend, John Peake, in Shepherd's Bush. Ian worked in the office of an oil company as a Marketing Assistant but like Jackson was bored and frustrated. Along with his flatmates he played boardgames as an escapism, indulging a passion he had since childhood. After discovering Diplomacy and Warlord (introduced to him by Steve Jackson) he started writing short articles for a little known "games fanzine" called Albion. Ian also started playing tabletop miniature wargames with his "Macedonian army winning many a battle." When Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974, they had heard about the game through fanzines like Europa and News from Bree, but did not get a copy until 1975. Jackson described the arrival of Dungeons & Dragons as "mana from heaven" because it appealed more to what they had been brought up on (science fiction, Marvel comics and The Hobbit), as opposed to the more war-based concepts behind the main games at the time such as heavy duty counter-and-hex board wargames from Avalon Hill and SPI.
Games Workshop Foundation
In 1974, Ian Livingstone, Steve Jackson and John Peake, the three Shepherd's Bush flat mates, together decided to start their own business which they eventually decided would revolve around their common interest in playing games. The fledgling enterprise was to be called "Games Workshop", which they came up with after a "Name Brainstorming" session.. Thus Games Workshop was born in January 1975.
To get themselves more widely known they had been publishing a magazine called Owl and Weasel. Somehow, an American called Gary Gygax got hold of a copy and sent them a copy of his new game to review, called Dungeons & Dragons. Having played and reviewed the game Ian and Steve thought it was fantastic in both senses of the word. The Fantasy genre had not been in their minds when setting up Games Workshop but now it was placed firmly in the centre. John Peake felt this was a departure from his vision and separated company in mid-1975. Steve and Ian set about securing an exclusive three-year European distribution agreement from TSR Hobbies for the game which unbeknownst to them was also a fledgling company at the time. Issue 6 of Owl and Weasel was dedicated to Dungeons & Dragons.
In 1976, Steve and Ian decided to go to America and headed to GenCon in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This games convention, organised by TSR to support the growing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, had many other role-playing companies and Ian and Steve struck deals with many of them. The business flourished and Games Workshop began its expansion from being a bedroom mail-order company to a successful gaming publisher and manufacturer.
Jackson admits that the centre of a new era in gaming history was Dungeons & Dragons, but as the agents they were the centre of the European scene. The early promotional magazine - Owl and Weasel - was superseded in June 1977, partially to advertise the opening of the first Games Workshop store, by the gaming magazine White Dwarf, which Livingstone also edited. Games Workshop went on to organise the first non-US gaming convention. They also started the first major miniatures company (which would become Citadel Miniatures), and opened up the first dedicated FRP shop in 1977 in Hammersmith, London. It is Jackson's assertion that "not even TSR, had such an "integrated" games company." Jackson attributes the success because of two main reasons:
- The established companies in the games field expected it to be a flash in the pan and left us to it.
- He and Livingstone were young, full of enthusiasm and attracted like-minded people from the games world. As such they got the best people in the field.
References for Games Workshop Foundation
- Eidos Ian Livingstone Bio
- 1998 interview with Rpgvaultarchive.ign.com Cite error: Invalid
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- The company was nearly called "The Games Garage", "Megagamic Explosion", or "Galaxian Games". "Workshop" was an arty-type, cool word in the 1970s according to Jackson, and what little business they initially had was based on John's skill at making Backgammon and Go boards out of wood.
Creation of Fighting Fantasy
The book was first conceived in 1980, when Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone met Geraldine Cooke, a Penguin Books editor, at the Games Workshop's annual Games Day exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London. Initially Cooke was interested in publishing a "how-to-do-it" book on fantasy role-playing games (similar to what the pair would write individually with Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game and Dicing with Dragons respectively) but when creating the synopsis, Jackson and Livingstone became less inclined to write a technical manual. Instead they fused basic role-playing rules and fantasy adventure plots so that the reader would be able to take part in the book as a single-player role-playing game; the gamebook concept. The pair began work on the project in 1980, initially titled The Magic Quest, and spent much of the time formulating the mechanics of how it would work. Cooke was sent the manuscript and she asked whether it was to be aimed at adults or children. Although the two authors believed it should be both, Tony Lacey, head of Puffin Books (Penguin's imprint for children) suggested that a targeted demographic of nine-to-twelve-year-olds would result in the highest sales. Also, the original synopsis was mainly pictures with text at the bottom such as "Do you want to fight this ogre? Turn to page ..." Although Penguin said they would like to go with it, it would have to be without all the pictures because it would cost a fortune.
After over six months of frustrating waiting, Jackson and Livingstone were commissioned to write the book in August 1981. Although both authors disliked the working title of The Magic Quest, after "endless debates" they could not come up with an alternative. Eventually the two came up with a compromise. Livingstone, who wrote the first part, had mentioned in the opening paragraph that the whole adventure took place in Firetop Mountain. Jackson, who wrote the final part, had created a climatic battle with a powerful warlock. On the day the book was handed in it was agreed that the two elements would be combined to create the final title: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Ian Livingstone also came up with the brand name "Fighting Fantasy" when prompted by Puffin to do so.
The books editor, Philippa Dickinson, was thorough. She highlighted inconsistencies, made suggestions over formatting, and had much to do with the final combat system that was used. She also pointed out the difference in writing styles for the first and second halves was clear and this ended up requiring a second draft. Each author had written half of the adventure each (Livingstone wrote the first half, up to the river crossing, which made a convenient hand-over point, and Jackson wrote the climax of the adventure), and the writing style noticeably changed part way through the book - so Jackson re-wrote Livingstone's part of the book in his own style. The finished book was made up of a clean 400 numbered references, which set the standard for the books that followed. This was, however a coincidence. When Jackson and Livingstone combined the two halves of the adventure it transpired that the numbered references, when added together, made a sum of 399. A fake key reference was added to bring to total up to 400. In August 1982 the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook, titled The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, finally appeared and went on to sell out its first print run in a matter of weeks, helped in no small part to the Puffin Book Club and articles in the White Dwarf magazine. It eventually sold over a million copies in fifteen languages.
References for Creation of Fighting Fantasy
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.198; Penguin Books had taken a stand to promote a new book called Playing Politics.
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.199
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.200
- Edge Magazine interview with Steve Jackson Writing Fiction, December 3rd 2007 - Retrieved 2012-02-29
- Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World - p.7/8
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.201
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.203
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - p.219
- The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook - p.5
- Letter No.5 from Steve Jackson at the Internet Archive record of the old Fightingfantasy.com - Retrieved 2012-02-29
The Mid-1980s - Fighting Fantasy Grows
Following an instruction from publishers Penguin to write more books "as quickly as possible", the pair wrote subsequent books separately. Livingstone tended to stick to the fantasy genre, and the world of Titan more closely than Jackson, who was more known for innovating on the theme. However, this did not limit Livingstone's success, with for example Deathtrap Dungeon selling over 300,000 copies in Britain alone. After the seventh book, both authors decided that in order to meet the publishers demands, as well as running their own business, other authors would have to be drafted in, and thus the "Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone presents" titled books came into being. Even so, both authors still wrote a few books in the remaining series, Livingstone being the more prolific of the two.
Jackson and Livingstone found juggling their commitments as directors of Games Workshop with their commitments as authors was becoming too much. Jackson stated that: "We were spending 10 hours a day in the office, then going home and typing (on typewriters!) until midnight and all weekend." Games Workshop was suffering some neglect as both Jackson and Livingstone preferred lives as authors. They promoted the Senior Execs of Games Workshop to positions where they could the business. Bryan Ansell, chief of Citadel Miniatures became Managing Director. Ansell excelled and when he moved the business up to Nottingham, the founders began to feel less in touch. Ansell offered to buy the company and it was agreed he would be able to buy most of the company if he achieved certain targets, which he did. Both Jackson and Livingstone retained some ownership until 1991 when Ansell himself sold out to Tom Kirby which led to the flotation of Games Workshop on the London Stock Exchange.
Board Game Design
As well as exercising his creativity in writing books, Livingstone has also invented many board games, his passion. In 1990 he published Boomtown, and followed this up with Automania. He designed Dragonmasters for Games Workshop, Legend of Zagor (based on the Fighting Fantasy book) for Parker Bros, Ali Baba for Abacus and followed Jackson's example in writing an interactive telephone game called War of Wizards.
Career in Computer Game Design
In the mid-1980s, Livingstone did some design work for video game publisher Domark, when in 1984 he designed the launch game for Domark called Eureka!, a text adventure for the Commodore which offered a prize of £25,000 to the first person to solve the final puzzle.
Domark approached Ian in 1993, to help fund the expansion of their business. He agreed, but the 16-bit market was about to fall off a precipice; therefore, Domark was vulnerable, because it was developing expensive games for a market which was dwindling fast. Ian asked to be put on the board of Domark with the task of helping to turn the company around, and he concluded that Championship Manager (his favourite game) was the only game of significant value to the company, and he decided to focus the company on PC games, rather than the yet-to-be established 32-bit console market.
Charles Cornwall, the CEO of an R&D technology company called Eidos, whose specialism was in compression and decompression of video in software, met Ian, who was looking for cheap compression for the video intros. Cornwall wanted to showcase his technology; thus it was that the gamer and the corporate financier shared the same vision, and talk of a merger began in June 1995. Eidos was already listed on AIM, and the plan was to acquire Domark and float part of the new entity with a full listing on the London Stock Exchange to raise capital. In October 1995, this occurred, and Charles Cornwall became CEO, with Ian becoming Executive Chairman of Eidos Interactive until 2002. Sony's PlayStation was having great success, and in order to get into 32-bit market quickly, Eidos attempted to acquire the only other publicly quoted British video games company, Centregold (U.S. Gold). Despite Eidos being much smaller, they succeeded in March 1996. Centregold brought with them an action/adventure game which Ian had seen in development at a studio in Derby, called Core Design. The game was to be called Tomb Raider, which Eidos Interactive launched in November 1996. Success followed quickly.
Livingstone left Eidos in May 2005, after the company was taken over by SCi Entertainment Group PLC. He then joined SCi in September, the only former Eidos board member to be asked back, taking on the role of product acquisition director. Livingtone has helped to secure many of the company's major franchises, including Tomb Raider, Championship Manager and Hitman. He contributed to the Tomb Raider project entitled Tomb Raider: Anniversary, an enhanced version of the original Tomb Raider game which was released in 2007.
- In 2003 he was appointed Creative Industries advisor to the British Council.
- In 2004 he was made a Creative Industries Luminary for London.
- In 2004 he was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of Bright Things plc.
- In 2005 he was appointed Chair of the Computer Games Skills Forum.
Ian Livingstone Through The Years
- Main article: Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone Through The Years
- In 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Technology by the University of Abertay Dundee.
- In 2002, Livingstone won the Gift of the Academy in the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards for his outstanding contribution to the interactive entertainment industry.
- Livingstone was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), for "Services to the Computer Games Industry" in the New Years Honours List 2006.
Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
- (#1) The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Puffin, 1982) (with Steve Jackson)
- (#3) The Forest of Doom (Puffin, 1983)
- (#5) City of Thieves (Puffin, 1983)
- (#6) Deathtrap Dungeon (Puffin, 1984)
- (#7) Island of the Lizard King (Puffin, 1984)
- (#9) Caverns of the Snow Witch (Puffin, 1984)
- (#13) Freeway Fighter (Puffin, 1985)
- (#14) Temple of Terror (Puffin, 1985)
- (#21) Trial of Champions (Puffin, 1986)
- (#26) Crypt of the Sorcerer (Puffin, 1987)
- (#36) Armies of Death (Puffin, 1988)
- (#50) Return to Firetop Mountain (Puffin, 1992)
- (#54) Legend of Zagor (Puffin, 1994)
- (#21)1 Eye of the Dragon (Wizard, 2005)
- (#17)2 Blood of the Zombies (Wizard, 2012)
- Number is related to Wizard Books numbering.
- Number is related to Wizard Books, second series, numbering.
Fighting Fantasy Novels
The Zagor Chronicles
- Firestorm (with Carl Sargent)
- Darkthrone (with Carl Sargent)
- Skullcrag (with Carl Sargent)
- Demonlord (with Carl Sargent)
Advanced Fighting Fantasy
- Out of the Pit (with Steve Jackson and Marc Gascoigne) (Puffin, 1985)
- Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World (with Steve Jackson and Marc Gascoigne) (Puffin, 1986)
- Caverns of the Snow Witch (Puffin, 1984)
First Fighting Fantasy
Other Fighting Fantasy
- The Fighting Fantasy Poster Book (with Steve Jackson)
Outside of Fighting Fantasy
Livingstone's Cameo Appearances
- Main article: Cameo Appearances
Livingstone has appeared as a character in illustrations for several of his books including:
- The ragged prisoner and former Trial of Champions contestant, in the illustration accompanying (210) of Deathtrap Dungeon.
- Obigee, the landlord of Helen's House in Zengis who is exceptionally proud of his sailing achievements, in the illustration accompanying (368) of Armies of Death.
- The Inquisitor who had attended the School of Evil Magic, the School of Demonic Sorcery, and studied under the necromancer Hellmoon before going into the service of Zagor and guarding the path to the inner sanctum of Firetop Mountain, in the illustration accompanying (262) of Return to Firetop Mountain.
- "Three-Eyes" Haag, a merchant from "far Cabaal", encountered in Castle Argent, in the illustration accompanying (194) of Legend of Zagor.
- A friendly merchant, in the illustration accompanying (329) of Eye of the Dragon.
- A picture in Nylock the Merchant's shop, in the illustration accompanying (91) in The Crown of Kings.
- Livingstone named his favourite character from the Fighting Fantasy books as Yaztromo, his own creation who first appeared in The Forest of Doom (book).
- Livingstone's favourite monster from the Fighting Fantasy books is the Shape Changer which also appeared in The Forest of Doom.
- Livingstone's favourite book from the Fighting Fantasy books is Deathtrap Dungeon, conceived after a trip to Thailand
- Livingstone has a passion for boardgames, as exemplified by the "Games Nights" he attends with Steve Jackson, Peter Molyneux et al, started in 1986. They meet every three weeks or so, and play board games at each other’s houses competing for an annual trophy, the Pagoda Cup. Ian writes a newsletter after each session in which he tends to abuse the other members in print. Like Steve Jackson he is a collector of boardgames, and has been described by Jackson as a "hoarder".
- Livingstone is a lifelong Manchester City football fan.
- In 1986, Shakaishisou Sha (the Japanese publishers of Fighting Fantasy) registered the names of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson as their own characters in Kanji (Japanese script).
- Ian Livingstone has a son, Jack, whose godfather is Steve Jackson.
- GameSpot Interview - Interview with GameSpot about the Tomb Raider series and the console wars
- According to Jackson, Bryan Ansell was a remarkably good Managing Director; very focussed, forward-thinking, not afraid of making tough decisions and with a solid understanding of the games we were publishing.
- SkillSet Games - Ian Livingstone
- Dicing with Dragons - Inside Front Cover
- Warlock Issue 1 - 3
- Warlock Issue 7 - 5
- Warlock Issue 10 - 4
- Master of Chaos - back cover
- Deathtrap Dungeon Video Game Cover - Back Cover
- The Salamonis Gazette - 15
- Fighting Fantasy Calender 2004 - Inside Front Cover
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 221
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 224
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 221
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 220
- Next Generation - Edge interview with Steve Jackson "Writing Fiction", December 2007
- 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 223
- SFX magazine no.38, page 48, May 1998