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Ian Livingstone on returning to Fighting Fantasy 30 years later

Blood, zombies and five-fingered bookmarks

Product: Fighting Fantasy: Blood of the Zombies | Developer: Tin Man Games | Publisher: Tin Man Games | Genre: Strategy
For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone
Fighting Fantasy: Blood of the Zombies iPad, thumbnail 1
Given a highly successful career co-founding companies such as Games Workshop and Eidos, not to mention being the UK government's Skills Champion and an OBE, you'd think Ian Livingstone would be sitting pretty on a nice hot beach.

But no.

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Fighting Fantasy interactive game books series he co-created with Steve Jackson, Livingstone has returned to source, penning an all-new adventure Blood of the Zombies.

Of course, things have moved on somewhat since 1982's Warlock of Firetop Mountain so Blood of the Zombies has a companion mobile game version, which is out now on iOS, with Android to follow.

We caught up with Ian to find out how he approached this new adventure.

Pocket Gamer: It's been a long time since the previous Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy book. What was it like planning a new one?

Ian Livingstone: I'd forgotten just how much fun it is writing a Fighting Fantasy game book. Luring readers to their doom with false promises of finding treasure or victory, knowing that a gruesome death awaits them, makes me smile when I'm writing a game book.

When I got down to writing Blood of the Zombies, I naturally thought about setting it in Allansia, as except for Freeway Fighter, all my books were medieval fantasy-themed. But the more I thought about zombies, the more I thought they were best placed in the modern world, especially since it's more fun to use shotguns and the like against them.

So I changed to modern day but didn't go the whole hog and have the adventure set in 21st century shopping malls. I opted for a castle to keep some link to my roots.

I wrote Blood of the Zombies in the same way I have always done for the last 30 years - manual record-keeping of the allocated numbers, a hand-drawn map and flow chart, and keeping the adventure to 400 paragraphs.

The only difference is that a laptop replaced my faithful old fountain pen.

Who do you think it will appeal to?

I am very pleased that so many 40 year-old 'kids' have bought the book and still love Fighting Fantasy after all these years. I hope they, and the new generation of 10 year-olds, will also enjoy Blood of the Zombies on iOS and Android.

Smartphones and tablets are ideal platforms for Fighting Fantasy to be re-imagined for digitally.

Kids run their lives through these devices and hopefully they will discover the fun of interactive game books in digital format. All the record-keeping, dice rolls and admin stuff is done for them, so they can just get on with making their way through the adventure whenever they like, for as long as they like.

The Blood of the Zombies game also will offer a 'peak-around-the-corner' cheat mode as I am well aware that 99 percent of kids in the 1980s used their 'five-fingered bookmark' to great effect to win through!

How have you tweaked the format to take into account the impact of computer games?

I was well aware of video gamers' everlasting love of zombies, and I also knew that I had never given them their rightful place in a Fighting Fantasy book. Most video gamers like exciting, fluid action without too much interruption.

So with the app in mind, I decided to streamline the combat system to allow a fast-paced dash though the book with quick, exciting battles mowing down huge swathes of zombies with a variety of guns and grenades.

Skill and luck were benched for this book and replaced with a new attribute - damage.

How did you get in contact with Tin Man Games to develop the mobile version?

I was aware of its Gamebook Adventures and thought that Tin Man Games might be the perfect partner to develop Blood of the Zombies, and perhaps the Fighting Fantasy series.

I met Neil [Rennison, Tin Man's creative director] at Dragonmeet 2011 and we discussed the idea in general. We shared the same ideas and vision, and it didn't take too long for us to come to an agreement.

Steve Jackson and I later signed with Tin Man to develop and publish Blood of the Zombies, House of Hell, Forest of Doom and Appointment with Fear, with the second phase of the publishing plan to bring back the early titles such as Warlock, Deathtrap, Citadel etc.

Thanks to Ian for his time.

You can read our interview with Neil Rennison about developing the mobile versions of the game here.

Fighting Fantasy: Blood of the Zombies is now available on iOS (and will be available on Android soon) priced $5.99, €4.99, £3.99. [iTunes link].

Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan 17 October 2012
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