Community Corner: Interview with Per

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On today’s Community Corner interview I bring you Per Jorner, administrator on the No Mutants Allowed Fallout fansite, a Swedish adult male with an eye for detail and lots of devoted work for the games he fells in love.

Per is mostly known because of his famous guides, a set of work that is recognized all over the world as the most impressive resource documents for anyone wanting to play the classic Fallout RPGs (and the Wasteland guide is also worth of many praises). As an example of how thorough his work is I never check references on the Fallout bibles without crosschecking with what Per wrote, and usually in case of doubt go with his interpretation.

In the year a new Fallout game is set to be released I thought it would be interesting to know more on the thoughts of Per Jorner, here is the end result:

You are known among the Fallout community for your fantastic classic Fallout RPGs guides, that are a must read for everyone that wants some advanced knowledge of the Fallout world. How was it to create such detailed works?

My goal was to make a Fallout 2 guide that was more complete and more accurate than any of the existing ones, and that seemed pretty clear-cut at the time. Then I started getting feedback and input from the community, mod tools and scripts were released, the guide project expanded to a trinity… It got easier and easier to figure things out at the same time that the number of things to figure out kept growing. In some ways it is both harder and easier than people seem to think. A single tricky detail can take half an hour to figure out, but writing the bulk of the text wasn’t laborious.

Do you feel it was worth it? What sort of reactions did you have from the public?

It’s a hobby project, so I don’t really think of it in terms of “being worth it”, like how much money I could have earned from the same work output or how many games of Freecell I could have finished in the same time span. The feedback has been pretty gratifying though, so I don’t have to doubt whether my work was of use to anyone or whether it had any impact on the community. You can do a Google search and it seems like on pretty much every forum with a Fallout gameplay discussion someone will point to it.

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Fallout 2

Do you think there is enough information to start a more detailed judgement of all the features on Fallout 3 by Bethesda?

I suppose the level of detail of our judgement should depend continually on the level of detail of the available information. I’m not that involved in the speculation anyway. It’s the post-release mocking that really matters – though pre-release mocking may serve as good practice.

Will they be able to create personalized areas, each other different but rooted on the Fallout lore?

If their designers receive any sort of pay then I should jolly well hope so.

What are your views on how SPECIAL will be implemented in this new game?

Well, like many others I’m concerned about the apparent shooterization we’re seeing. It fits right into the devolution of the “RPG” label that’s been going on for a while now. Of course we know that Van Buren would have updated SPECIAL too, but a thing such as keeping the term “Action Points” but tagging it onto something different in a radically altered play mechanic indicates a superficial view of “what is Fallout”. This doesn’t have to affect the presentation and application of non combat skills and character data and hopefully won’t.

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Wasteland cover

You are also known to be an expert on Wasteland, the old Interplay game that inspired Fallout. Any take on what Bethesda could get from wasteland? An homage here and there or is there something more they could learn from it?

Two things come to mind. The first one, and the one I guess they’re least likely to pursue, is the importance of words. One example of how Fallout used this legacy to good effect is the combat taunts and messages, where people would say “I’ll gut you like a lobster” or something similarly witty as they took pot-shots at you, or the message window would say “The huge creature goes down in a shower of blood” when you got in a particularly devastating hit. Another is the scenery descriptions, where hovering your mouse over anything from weeds to fire hydrants would yield a hundred little mood setters. I think it is a mistake to think of these things as redundancies. Show me a soda can a thousand pixels high and it’s still just a soda can. Toss in some funky quip and you can add a dimension to my perception of the can that goes beyond the pixel count, and more importantly separates your soda can from those in the next game. Ironically, as games move away from words in favour of visuals, in a way they become less evocative, less characteristic, less memorable.

The other thing is that Wasteland was oftentimes over-the-top in a way that Fallout wasn’t and Fallout 2 only began to approach. In Wasteland, descriptions were vivid, pulpy, and unapologetic. Since the graphics were relatively abstract and constant, they could represent a wide range of goings-on. Fallout had the gory deaths, but the world was fairly low-key, locations were cramped and the engine didn’t really leave room for any swashbuckling antics or giant robots taking up half the screen. I think this is the aspect of Wasteland that Bethesda reasonably _could_ draw on in various ways, which is a bit ironic, since Fallout took another path.

Do you think any game like Baldurs Gate2 or the Fallouts will ever be a success again, or the “next gen” philosophy of gaming has taken over the RPG scene once and for all?

Well, how long is “once and for all”? Until the cows come home? Until molten rock rains from the sky? Until the year 2151? I’m quite interested in seeing what design path Brian Fargo is going to take with his Wasteland property, that one could definitely go either way. Maybe we’ll have to rely on crazy independents for a bunch of years to come. But who knows, surprises have happened in the past. It’s not like anyone has physically closed the door on the original CRPG concept.

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Toika’s Post apoc project

Any take on what you see as the future of the Fallout series?

Not really at this time. I honestly find it hard to drum up much enthusiasm for it. Imagine putting the license back into the hands of Obsidian – would even they feel very worked up about it, having already done and lost Van Buren? The Troika people? Maybe. If Fallout 3 is a smash hit even among the fandom things may be different, but right now it feels as if we’re looking at a line of spinoffs provoking more of a “did they have to go there” response than “oh boy, finally”. Bethesda are paying for Interplay’s sins here but I would be lying if I said they couldn’t have handled the acquisition with more grace.

Will you work or help someone else in making a Fallout 3 walkthrough?

There are many things that would have to click for me to write a walkthrough – beginning with the ones needed for me to play the game – and it wouldn’t happen any time soon in any case. As for contributing to someone else’s, that hasn’t worked so well in the past (or else I would never have started on my own guides, for one thing) and would also depend heavily on circumstances.

Any message to the Bethesda developers?

I’ll have to go with “Ummmm hello” since I guess it’s a little late for “Isometric and turn-based, m***********s!”

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