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Ian Livingstone returns to Fighting Fantasy with Blood of the Zombies

The industry legend tells Eurogamer it may not be a one-off.

The cover for Blood of the Zombies.

Ian Livingstone is returning to Fighting Fantasy - the "choose your own adventure" series he co-created in the early '80s - with a new book called Blood of the Zombies.

The industry legend, OBE, co-founded Fighting Fantasy with Steve Jackson and went on to sell 17 million books. Livingstone, who also co-founded Games Workshop, played a crucial role in the UK video game industry, first at Domark and now at Square Enix, where he is Life President of Eidos.

Now, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Livingstone has once again plotted a choose your own adventure, working in his spare time over the last two years to write a new book, due out in August.

"When the 30th anniversary was coming along I thought it would be great to celebrate it, and I must do another one," he told Eurogamer at the Develop conference in Brighton last week.

"So I talked to Steve about doing another one, but he wasn't that keen this time around. I didn't want to do it around Firetop Mountain because I only want to do that in collaboration with him.

"So having been in the video game industry for over 20 years I'd seen the everlasting love for zombies people had, and realised I hadn't done one around zombies before. I started off writing Blood of the Zombies set in my usual medieval world and I suddenly thought, why not move it to present day? I'd never done that before. It was a bit of a risk.

"I did, but I didn't go the whole hog. I didn't have the zombies running around shopping malls and 21st century streets. I kept the whole book inside a medieval castle. So it's a toe in the contemporary but still harks back to the old medieval world."

Unlike the Fighting Fantasy games of old, which relied on world of mouth in the playground, Blood of the Zombies benefited from social media, with Livingstone using Twitter to engage his audience.

"I've been talking about the book through Twitter and had such an incredible positive response from everybody," he said. "Everywhere I go now I meet people in their late 30s and early 40s who grew up with them as kids and it had such a big impact on them as children, and many of them got into the game industry because of having read Fighting Fantasy. It's been very gratifying and humbling to hear all that love for Fighting Fantasy out there. It resonated so strongly with children of the 80s.

"But that also set me a problem. Was I going to write it for the 10 year old of today or the 10 year old of 1982? Hopefully it'll appeal to both."

Livingstone called on his Twitter followers to decide the name of the book. Would it be Blood of the Zombies or Escape from Zombie Castle? In 24 hours he'd received over 1000 replies, roughly 60/40 in favour of Blood of the Zombies.

Everywhere I go now I meet people in their late 30s and early 40s who grew up with them as kids and it had such a big impact on them as children, and many of them got into the game industry because of having read Fighting Fantasy.

He also called on fans to use Twitter to suggest themselves as zombies in the game, with some high-profile responses. Charlie Higson, who wrote The Enemy and was on The Fast Show, put his name forward, as did Tom Watson MP, who was called as a witness to the Leveson inquiry (thanks darkmorgado!)

Livingstone doesn't expect Blood of the Zombies to rekindle the popularity Fighting Fantasy enjoyed in the '80s, but he will consider doing another one if it sells well enough.

"I really enjoyed doing it," he said. "I had forgotten how much fun it was writing them and creating tantalising paths to lure people down knowing they're going to meet a horrible end if they chose that path. I forgot how much fun that was. I forgot how much fun that was, trying to get people imagining they were on the road to success but no! Haha, they're going to get turned into a zombie if they chose this route.

"I thought it was but it might not be [a one off]. It's not going to sell anything like Fighting Fantasy did in the days of old. This was pre technology, and that was interactive entertainment of the day. Clearly video games have taken over in many respects - branching narrative with a game system now applies in so many computer games.

"But if people still want to buy Fighting Fantasy, even though it's not going to be great sales, I'm more than happy to do it, because I enjoyed the writing aspect so much."

This being the future Blood of the Zombies will release on iPhone and Android as well as on dead trees. But on mobile the game plays differently.

"Of course, the problem for the readers is they can't cheat. Haha! 95 per cent of readers used to cheat at Fighting Fantasy. I used to see the on the tube with their five fingered bookmark. They'd say, oh, I don't like that choice, I'll have to go back and make another choice. But that's fine. If you get through it and enjoy it, that's the important thing."

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