Welcome to the second part of my four part interview with YouTuber Many A True Nerd. In the previous part, we discussed his YouTube channel in general, classical history, and coarse language. This part will focus mainly on the specialist runs that Many A True Nerd is perhaps best known for, as well as a rather interestingly complex discussion on human-robot relations. Let’s get right into it!
TR: How do you feel about (as far as I can tell) inventing the concept of the [You Only Live Once] run? Because it seems like a twist on a permadeath run for someone who’s new to it, but the twist is I would say very unforgiving as opposed to a permadeath run. You can’t even heal so there really [is] such a terribly low margin of error. To the point that somebody created a mod for it. And I’m sure when the Fallout 4 SDK comes out a [You Only Live Once] mod will be out probably in about a day or two I would imagine. How do you feel being a trailblazer in that respect, in coming up with the concept?
MATN: I don’t really put much thought into it I guess. It came about partly by accident. I was just trying to come up with a good challenge run for Fallout: New Vegas. And I just kinda thought, “Alright, so there’s permadeath runs, but you know what…”. It’s actually not [all that challenging] because you can spam stimpaks. It’s quite easy. Okay, so, hardcore permadeath run because then you can’t actually spam stimpaks as much. They do at least take time. I just thought, “Well, if you played that really cautiously that would still just be very easy.” You could abuse it quite simply by keeping your distance, staying hidden, staying well back, using a sniper character. It would not be at all difficult for you to abuse that. ’cause even if you took the odd bullet it wouldn’t matter. You’d just heal it off. It still struck me as…
TR: Too easy?
MATN: While it would be tricky it would be abuseable. Anyone who knew the game really well would be able to take one look and just say, “Okay, fine. That is more difficult that a normal permadeath run or a normal hardcore run but it is still eminently achievable.” It needed an extra bite to be interesting. ’cause this is a game a lot of people played and a lot of people knew very, very well. I had to come up with something where primarily the only way you could possibly do it would be to understand the intricacies of how the game engine worked, how the quests worked, how the sequences worked. You’d have to absolutely understand how all the moving pieces fit together and take advantage of every possible AI exploit and everything to make it work. And you’d need to absolutely maximize your damage to get to the extent where you are doing pretty much the highest possible amount of damage per bullet the game allows you to do. Every perk stacked correctly. Every gun. Every ammo type. Your positioning. Everything had to be perfect for it to work.
TR: No room for error.
MATN: You have to do everything perfectly otherwise it wouldn’t be feasible. That’s where the “no healing” part of it came from. And we’ve had to add clarifications to the rules as we went along like obviously we said rads had to stand. We did say that using [antivenom] if you were poisoned was okay because that wasn’t healing damage that was just stopping you taking additional damage but then we also said if you got addicted you weren’t allowed to cure that addiction even though that had nothing to do with your health but that just struck me as an interesting way of making it more interesting. We’ve made a couple tweaks to the rules as we went along. We banned Buffout because Buffout can be abused. [If at] the beginning of every fight when you’re almost out of health [Buffout temporarily] increases it by 60 and [what that means] is as long as you don’t take more than 60 hit points damage in any given fight you can’t die.
TR: It’s like a temporary stimpak.
MATN: Coming down off Buffout can’t kill you. It can only reduce you to one hitpoint. So we banned that because that was too abuseable. Stuff that theoretically we could have abused we banned whereas other stuff that was abuseable like laughably poor AI in certain situations we abused the hell out of. There’s lots of different ways you could do it. You could probably do it even stricter. You can do an even stricter You Only Live Once [run] if you wanted where you kind of basically just banned various different acts. You could ban [all] drugs for example. You could say that drugs weren’t allowed and that would make it a lot more difficult as well. It’s nice to have thought that it is something that’s kind of been taken up a little bit. And I have seen the term being used – like dotted around the Internet – I occasionally have seen it being used which makes me laugh every time. I cannot for the life of me remember the day we invented it. I remember thinking as I was creating the original trailer for Fallout: New Vegas You Only Live Once like, “Are people doing to think this is ridiculous because it will abbreviate down to Fallout: New Vegas YOLO?” And “YOLO” at the time was still said as like an Internet thing that was a bit…
TR: Do you as a result of that always say the full “You Only Live Once” and completely avoid “YOLO”?
MATN: I always say “You Only Live Once” because I hate saying “YOLO”. [laughs]
TR: How much prep goes into one of your specialist runs? Not necessarily You Only Live Once, but No Kill [or anything else]. Because you talk about “In my research…” or stuff like that. Now when you say “In my research” do you mean you’ve specifically went to an old save and ran through the section or are you just doing it all from memory because you’ve played the game so many darn times?
MATN: No, I always to avoid- I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to load up a save and play through an area multiple runs before I do it. That feels cheat-y to me. When I’m talking about “research” it’s all academic research. I do a lot of reading around Fallout forums, the Fallout wikis, and so forth. All of it’s kind of purely paper planning. If I can’t remember something – though generally I know these games pretty darn well – if I can’t remember something I will look it up in terms of I’ll actually look it up online. I won’t actually go and experience it myself. If I cannot remember something and I can’t find it online then I just have to improvise while I’m actually out there.
TR: “Oh flip, I can’t remember what goes on here,” is a phrase I’ve heard you say quite a few times, yes.
MATN: Yes, that does sometimes [happen]. Although, they’re big, complex games with many moving parts as well. Those [moving] parts interrupt each other. Sometimes the sequences do just break. And also, especially in Fallout 3 where things wander a lot more. In Fallout: New Vegas, things… I think their roam zones and their spawning points were much smaller so you knew where things were gonna be a lot more. Fallout 3 has a lot more flexibility for things just wandering all over the shop.
TR: And you seem much more nervous in that regard. You’re like, “Something can spawn here—I’m never coming out of any subway station ever.”
MATN: Oh, never, yeah. Well, certain subway stations. There are certain subway stations where it’s okay to come out of. But for the most part, yeah, never come out of a subway station ’cause those are the karma merc spawns.
TR: Speaking of research – the [passive health regeneration in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas] – as far as you could discover at the time… and I researched it a bit and as far as I could discover, you may very well have been the person who found out that existed in the wider Fallout community. How do you feel about discovering a mechanic that’s in a game that’s been so widely played and just nobody ever brought it up before?
MATN: I think certain people certainly knew about it but for some reason it just never had been well categorized. Until changes were made to the Fallout wiki to reflect what I’d found it wasn’t represented. There was no mention of health regeneration. It’s 0.33 HP per in-game hour for Endurance… I think it’s 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 get you 0.66 HP per in-game hour. Those things were definitely known of by a few people but they just never been documented properly. That happened a few times. We actually found stuff like that in Kill Everything, too. Like the merchant respawn rates. ’cause for the most part people don’t go around killing the merchants ’cause they’re too useful. But if we basically just went around and we killed all the merchants and we found that if we actually started killing the merchants what their respawn rates were and also that if you killed a merchant the newly respawned merchant would share the same inventory. Because if you [placed\ unique items into their inventory the respawned merchant would still have the unique item. We discovered some interesting stuff about New Vegas’ mechanics while killing everything, too. It’s one of those games where you can just find things by just kind of poking. Especially if you take it to its extremes. It’s remarkable how the game compensates for you and tries to work around you. Rather than saying, “No, you must not do that” it [says] “Okay, fine, you’ve done this ridiculous, extreme thing that the vast majority – 99.9% of players – will never do, but because you’ve done that I’ve got this plan in my back pocket to keep the universe functioning and here it is.” And it’s a certain respawn rate for merchants even if they’re already dead for example in Fallout: New Vegas. I always try not to say, “Hey, I’ve just discovered this” because it’s such a big game that there’s probably people who already knew about it. It’s the people who didn’t really have the audiences or the visibility to make it known to everyone else.
TR: So you don’t want to take strict sole credit for finding it. Odds are someone may have [found it] before. But I would say arguably you’re the person who made it as widely known as it is today.
MATN: Hm, yes. That’s probably fair. But like, you know, I don’t like to go around saying, “Oh, I’ve discovered this!” because I felt like someone else probably discovered it long ago.
TR: Let’s take away the concepts of You Only Live Once, No Kill, and Kill Everything. Put those aside for the moment. Disregarding those and disregarding standard permadeath and a regular vanilla playthrough, what could you do for an interesting playthrough if you weren’t gonna do something you’ve already done before? Anything immediately come to mind?
MATN: I’ve kind of thought in the past of things like the fairly traditional melee and unarmed runs. [They’re] always interesting. I think explosives are quite interesting. You know, you could limit yourself to a particular weapon type. I think what would be particularly interesting is actually Fallout 4 – though it doesn’t lend itself very well to some of the extreme rule types that work well in New Vegas – does lend itself well to either weapon or S.P.E.C.I.A.L. specialization runs. Whether you’re [using] only one particular type of weapon or, you know, only focusing overwhelmingly on one particular tree of the [perk] chart. I think there’s some interesting stuff in there. Fallout 4, it’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. It has problems. But it has a lot of interesting stuff in it too. I think actually some of the builds… there’s a lot more interesting variability in how the builds work in Fallout 4 which can be very very interesting indeed. Fallout: New Vegas, for example, the melee runs in that are really, really entertaining and good fun. In Fallout 3 melee just did not work because the Damage Resistance system in that game wasn’t really generous enough. You just were slaughtered by any number of people that had guns. You didn’t have the survivability to make it work. I feel like melee and unarmed in Fallout 3 were borderline broken. They were too weak. Whereas in Fallout 4 it’s much more interesting. The perks and the various traits you can take suit it a lot better. There’s interesting stuff related to limitations regarding weapons that can be done.
TR: Aside from Fallout, what’s involved in deciding which [games] to play on your channel but more importantly which [games] to continue playing on your channel? Do you have an objective metric like it’s not getting really enough views or like/dislike ratio or something like that? Or is it just like, “I don’t really have an interest in this right now?” Or is there not really any thought that goes into it?
MATN: It’s one of the most difficult things I think that a YouTuber – especially when you’ve got a quite varied channel – has to do figure out. What should and shouldn’t be a series. It’s incredibly difficult to figure it out. Because as the community gets larger there will always be somebody who wants something to be an ongoing series. Another YouTuber once told me[…] “If you’ve made a good video then there should be an outcry for it to become a series.” That doesn’t mean there actually should be a series. It just means if you’ve made a good one-off video somebody should want it to be a series. ’cause if it was good enough for someone to call for it to be a series it was a great video.
TR: So is that the purpose of “Why Not Wednesday,” then? Do a one-off and if people really like it turn it into a series?
MATN: That only happened once and that was really kind of unintended. That was the Red Faction series. I think I’ve got fairly good instincts for spotting what does or doesn’t have the potential to become a series. Loads of people loved the Dead Island video and said that ought to become a series. But I knew after playing that for two and a half hours, “Right, I’ve got some great material out of this, this is gonna be a really good video, but I’m already starting to feel myself noticing the grind in this game.”
TR: [laughs] Yeah.
MATN: As I start recording more of this the ratio of how much I record to how much good video is gonna worse and worse and worse and by about ten hours I’m gonna be bored of this.
TR: And it’s gonna be an absurd amount of work.
MATN: Once you commit to three or four parts and there’s no obvious point to wrap it up you have this option for either just kind of awkwardly letting a series fade and just kind of dropping it and never explaining it or you have to kind of say, “Actually, you know what, this thing that people started off being really excited by, actually I’m cancelling it ’cause I’m not enjoying it anymore.” Which isn’t fun either because then you kind of annoy people who really liked the original video. It’s a very hard thing to figure out and it’s something I try and plan. I have a vague idea in my mind. I separate out games I think will be good one-offs versus things that will be decent series and that’s kind of the difference between the [Why Not Wednesday] series that I do which is purely designed to be one-offs (except under exceptional circumstances) versus things I put on Saturday where I know ahead of time that that will become a series but I reserve the right to cancel it if it’s terrible.
TR: How did you link up with Nerdcubed? I’m a big fan of him, too. Was the [Grand Theft Auto V Heists] video the start of it? And how did that relationship form?
MATN: Um, the first time I ever kind of met anyone as part of the Nerdcubed family… I did a charity livestream. The Extra Life charity livestream of 2014. The Nerdcubed Community Manager Mattaphobia was also one of the guests on that and we happened to be on at roughly the same time. We chatted briefly and I think at that point we followed each other on Twitter and we occasionally spoke over Twitter. I think pretty much the first move in terms of that… I knew about the Nerdcubed Heists. They were pre-announced, they were kind of trailed in some capacity. I was asked by Dan to take part in those because there happened to be a fair bit of overlap between the communities. We’ve kinda got slightly similar senses of humor. It’s quite a British sense of humor. When it was actually put to a vote – mind, I never saw this vote but I was told this later – when a little Strawpoll was put out saying, “Hey, say who you’d like to be involved in the next Heist videos”… even though we were like by far the smallest YouTuber that was on the list we didn’t win but we came way higher than we had any right to based on the size of the communities we were going up against. Just in terms of the sheer number of people that should have been aware and the number of people that were voting. We punched well above our weight. So yeah, Dan approached me about [the Heists] as a consequence of that and it kind of worked from there. And obviously since then we’ve kind of started doing the Podcats, the bi-weekly podcast thing that Dan runs on Twitch. Me and Matt are good friends. Me and him hung out at EGX (the game show) this last year. It’s a nice community, it’s nice to know those guys but it kind of all happened accidentally.
Author’s note: as an aside, the start of the Nerdcubed Heists featuring Many A True Nerd (at around 18 seconds in) has quite possibly one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life if only for the strange sound that comes out of Nerdcubed. I laugh every time I see it! You can view the original video’s “wing incident” here (at 8:54).
MATN: It’s a very nice thing ’cause Nerdcubed was one of the first YouTube channels I got properly into before I even knew Many A True Nerd was gonna be a thing. I was watching Nerdcubed a year before Many A True Nerd existed. He was one of the guys I looked at and just thought, “You know what, he’s funny, I like that style. I like that fast editing style.” And I’ve never hidden [it] in the slightest. The kind of quick cut, fast-editing style where you have the setup in one cut and then there’s a jump cut to the punchline is a style of editing that I use a lot and I was absolutely inspired by [Nerdcubed]. It’s really kind of surreal to me that this guy with millions of subscribers who is one of the reasons I started YouTube, now I’ve worked with him on multiple occasions and do a regular show with him. That’s very surreal to me. He’s a lovely guy, he’s a pleasure to work with.
TR: Now this is gonna be a [difficult question] and it’s a little more political than relating to the gaming world. And it’s actually a mildly controversial question about marriage equality. [You’ve] made a statement in the past and I’m gonna see if you still hold to it. Quoting from New Vegas No Kill Part 7, “I’m totally tolerant of robosexuals and I fully support robosexual marriage.” Did you still stand by that statement today, sir?
MATN: Yes. Yes I do. Um. [laughs]
TR: And that came up [in a Fallout 4 episode] with the teacher in Diamond City.
MATN: That was wonderful! I’m so glad! I’m so glad that was a thing that was in the game. That’s adorable with the magnificently ridiculous French robot and the teacher. That’s just glorious. I’m actually surprised that didn’t actually kind of in some way make the news or whatever. Maybe it’s just ’cause Fox News or whatever didn’t spot it or realize it. In Diamond City there’s the chapel for all faiths where everyone, irrespective of their faith, all go towards the same preacher and the preacher marries any two people who consent irrespective of gender, humanity, whatever.
MATN: You know what, if two people want to get married, screw it. It doesn’t matter what religion. It doesn’t matter what gender. It doesn’t matter what species. If they both want it, go nuts. It’s a slightly Utopian, progressive view of humanity in Fallout 4 that I’m actually kind of surprised it didn’t actually cause a huge amount of controversy in certain parts of the press.
TR: There’s that little book, one of the books you can pick up, “I Married A Robot.” Relating to the real world, when robotics does advance to that point where… speaking in terms of stuff like F.I.S.T.O. [laughs] You know, when sexbots do become a real thing. You and I both know it’s an inevitability. How badly do you think society is going to collapse?
MATN: It depends on what we’re talking about here. Probably the thing that will happen first will likely be a series of entirely not sentient, not AI, simply robots that look like women that have fittings in them that mean they can operate sexually. That will almost certainly be the one. It is extremely unlikely that it will jump straight to sexbots that are true A.I. At that point it’s relatively uncomplicated and it’s morally fairly clear. Certainly there will be kind of people who, you know, for whatever reason find it skeevy or prudish or whatever.
TR: Oh, of course.
MATN: You are basically talking about an individual who – whether you’re talking about a woman with a guy robot or a guy with a woman robot or a guy with a guy robot or whatever – you’re not dealing with anything more complicated or sentient and thus [it’s not] anything more morally complicated than any other form of sex toy or sex aid. You’re not really dealing with anything new that we haven’t seen before here. You’re just dealing with an advanced, slightly fancy version of it. You’re just basically dealing with a dildo with extra trimmings that happens to be able to pretend its enjoying what’s happening to it for example. You’re not dealing with anything desperately fancy here. So morally, that’s very, very simple and I think whenever that does roll along… if people want to use that, fine! Go ahead and use that. Same way as anyone today can go to any number of online [outlets] or even High Street shops because it’s entirely unremarkable and a common High Street thing. And if you want to buy a new form of sex aid for yourself or your partner or for you as a couple, fine! Whatever. I think that’s kind of now a thing that society is not particularly judgemental about in the slightest. I think when the first version of sexbots that are simply effectively big, fancy sex toys come along [I don’t think it will be a big thing.] I don’t think it will be a civilization destroying thing. ’cause again, I don’t think ultimately when the novelty of it wears off I think people will realize, “Actually, you know what, we’re not dealing with anything particularly more fancy than we already had to be honest.” So I don’t think it will destroy society. The interesting thing will be if we start getting into more advanced… when we start getting into the question of sexbots who are actually in some form sapient, true A.I.s in some capacity. Then we start getting into the questions of choice and consent among robotics.
TR: Well, of course. [Those are all] very salient points. But I was more specifically talking about the dynamics between other people in terms like interpersonal relationships and stuff. I want to try and approach this in like the fairest way possible because it is a difficult subject. There’s a certain degree [what both men and women] tolerate of one another ’cause really strictly speaking there’s not really any alternative if you want physical intimacy. This is gonna be the first time in human history where there would be a viable alternative [to physical intimacy with another human]. Do you feel [the] social dynamics will change? Because there’s always gonna be that thought at the back of [a person’s head] like, “I can just spend a flat amount of money on this thing and I never have to go out, spend money at bars, and possibly get rejected ever again.” [And this would apply to] both men and women. “I don’t have to put up with your crap and you don’t have to put up with my crap.” [It probably wouldn’t be] a fulfilling emotional intimacy it [probably would] fulfill the physical end of it and a lot of people do a lot of things for purely the physical aspect of it. You know, Tinder and hookup culture and all that stuff. Do you think that’s gonna have any kind of effect on that and if so, how?
MATN: I think we won’t see it society-wide. I would agree on the point that there will be individuals who, were that technology to be available, would say, “You know what, that’s fine. I’m just going to do that. And I’m satisfied. Once I’ve got that solution stored in my house I no longer require any form of intimacy from a real person. As far as I’m concerned, my emotional relationship and sexual needs will now be satisfied by this. And any [hardware or software] upgrades I give it over the next few years. If I have to upgrade to the new model [when it comes out] every few years I’ll just do that.” There will be people who will do that but in the kindest way possible, the people who do do that possibly were the people who weren’t going to be in real world relationships anyway.
TR: I don’t think necessarily people would entirely supplant [physical relationships]. To quote the great [Mattophobia], you know, where might might Have A Wank, instead if there’s something superior they may just do that as a supplantation for it.
MATN: I agree with that. If anything this would probably reduce the rate of masturbation rather than reducing the rate of people ultimately ending up in relationships. I would say for the vast majority of socially well-adjusted individuals people won’t be able to find total satisfaction with any form of machine no matter how advanced.
TR: I’m not even talking about relationships. I’m talking about just like, pure sex-driven hookup culture. Going out to the bars, one night stands, stuff like Tinder, things like that. Do you think it would have an effect on that? Make it where largely human physical relationships tend to be for people looking strictly for more long-term stuff? Because they [wouldn’t necessarily] need the short term stuff anymore. If you have something that’s [almost] as good, you’re not gonna hurt anybody’s feelings, there’s no risks of you being injured or someone going crazy or stuff like that. That specifically is what I meant. Do you feel like that element of human interpersonal relationships would change or do you think it would probably stay about the same?
MATN: It might do, but then it also depends… people who are taking part in hookup culture aren’t just taking part in hookup culture exclusively for the end result of that they want to have sex. For some people it might be the element of [they enjoy] the act of… I can’t think of politer way of saying “The Hunt”.
TR: The pursuit.
MATN: It probably sounds wrong, but you understand what I mean. Some people probably enjoy the act of the seduction, the hunt, and so forth. People are probably just as into it for that. If you put something on tap, then potentially the interest in it wanes. Like, I really, really, really like Bakewell Tart.
MATN: If there [were] a machine [that was very cheap that] I could just buy it for £20, put it in my kitchen, and every morning, every time I make a cup of tea I’d just push a button and it produces a freshly-baked Bakewell Tart for me right there. That’d be amazing at first, but within a few days I’d probably have lost my interest in Bakewell Tart because I would have had so much Bakewell Tart. And the same thing will happen with sexbots. In some ways, maybe it could be a good thing. If it takes a certain amount of high-risk sex out of the equation and it takes a certain amount of people who might have engaged in high-risk behaviors and instead means that they can be handled in the privacy of their own home with a sexbot. Maybe it will be a good thing. Maybe it means that emotional intimacy would be more highly valued. Maybe it would mean that sexually-transmitted diseases and accidental pregnancies would decline. I can see that even if there would be potential social concerns – and generally when a new piece of technology comes along and changes people’s behavior – people tend to panic about it. They tend to kind of worry about the “bad things it’s doing to the youth of today” and no one really focuses on the good things about it. Like, “Actually, you know what, such technology could have really positive improvements to STD transmission rates, unwanted pregnancies, cases of sexual assault.” There could be various statistics and various metrics that could be massively improved by the availability of technology like we’re describing.
TR: I have to be honest, I was not entirely expecting such an in-depth and well-thought answer for a question I wasn’t even sure you would have been willing to answer. And I’m very glad that I did [ask that question as] strange of a subject as it is. So, moving on… [laughs] I have the suspicion that you yourself are a robot. I have a wealth of evidence. For starters: Mr. Handy, British accent. You, British accent. Mr. Handy, three arms, you, you play certain games so well the only way it really makes sense is if you have three arms.
MATN: Now that’s a lie. Everyone knows I’m actually terrible at games. That’s practically a running joke.
TR: Ah, but’s because one of your arms has a sawblade on it so you can only use two of ’em. You’re quite intelligent, nobody’s ever seen you, and you’re incredibly private. All things that a robot would do.
MATN: [laughs] I’m not sure not sure where you got “robots are fundamentally private.” I’ve never seen a shy robot!
TR: Well, I’m not saying robots are fundamentally private, but I’m saying if you didn’t want it to get out there that you’re a robot clearly you wouldn’t have a face to show anybody. Unless you’re a synth… does my theory hold any water? Have I finally caught out the great Many A True Nerd as a first-generation Terminator? Or am I completely off base?
MATN: Ah, I’d be at least second generation.
This concludes the second of four parts of my interview with Many A True Nerd. The next part of the interview will be a bit shorter than the first two and will mainly focus on Many A True Nerd’s experiences with Fallout 4.
Images used in this article were sourced from screenshots from Many A True Nerd’s videos as well as directly from games previously played on Many A True Nerd’s channel.
What are your thoughts on the mechanics of a You Only Live Once run? Do you think the creation of sexbots will ruin civilization or enhance it? Let us know in the comments below!