Would the real John F Mullins please stand up.

John F Mullins, as you all know, is the man behind the character John Mullins in the game, Soldier Of Fortune.

Created and developed by Raven Software back in 2000 Soldier Of Fortune quickly became the game to play. It spawned a community the like of which was  never seen before. Then, when in 2002 they released Soldier Of Fortune II one of the legends of on-line gaming was born. Even today with all the influx of new and more sophisticated games it still boasts one of the biggest and most faithful communities in the games world.

I, personally think this phenomenon is due to the fact that the main character is based on a real person. Not only did he give his name to the character, he became part of the development team. With his experience of weapons and behind enemy lines operations he helped make the Soldier Of Fortune that is John Mullins, come to life on PCs all over the world. But that is just a little bit of what John F Mullins is all about so I asked him if he would answer a few questions so that the people in the SOF community could find out who the Real John F Mullins is.

He very graciously agreed and you can read his answers below.

Firstly John let me thank you doing this I know you must do a lot of interviews. If you don’t mind some of my questions will be outside the SOF sphere.

Q.  “Ok lets start of with a simple one. How did you get involved with Raven and SOF in particular? “

A. ” I’d done some off-the-books work for the producer/creator of the Soldier of Fortune TV show, and he became acquainted with my background.  When the game was being developed Raven wanted to be as realistic as possible, hence they asked for recommendations for a technical adviser, and he suggested me. 
I came to development of the first game somewhat late. Some of the game details were pretty well set in stone by then, but I made a number of suggestions that were incorporated.  A short time later Raven contacted me and said they wanted a name and a face for the Soldier, and would I mind?  On something of a lark, I said yes.  I had no idea that it would grow to the extent it did. “

Q.  ” When you did you first tour in Veitnam in 1963 did you ever think that you would go from being one who spent his life trying  not to be seen to a character in a game visible by all? “

A.  ” I couldn’t even have imagined it at the time.  In those days, while anonymity wasn’t as important as it became later, we still avoided the spotlight.
  There are very few pictures of me or of any of my mates from those days, and even fewer as time went on. 
Now it’s to the stage where special operators have their faces obscured in photos, if they are to remain on active duty. 
The concern, of course, is that the adversaries will use any information they can get against you, and that includes going after your family. “

Q.  ” The weapons in SOF, how realistic are they? “

A. ” Reasonably, given that a shot from an M-4 is not going to take your head off at the shoulders. 
SoF II weapons are a bit more realistic in form, function and effects, mainly because I was able to get into the development process from the beginning.
  The one objection I still had and have is the targeting mechanism. I thought the shooter should be looking through the weapons sights.  Much more realistic. 
I actually had trouble playing the game because I kept trying to do that, rather than looking for the little crosshairs. “

Q.”  The missions in the game seem very plausible are they based on some level on missions you yourself  have undertaken? “

A.  ” Some of them are, but some of the ones that are, are still classified, so I can’t go into more detail than that. “

Q. ” In the time you have been involved with the military in varying capacities has ‘The Art Of War’  if I may call it that, changed greatly or does it still come down to the men on the ground? “

 ” In some areas, it has changed.  We are far more reliant on technical gizmos.  Some of those gizmos I would have given anything to have back in the old days, primarily those dealing with communications, and the targeting of air support. 
Commo was always a problem, never enough radios.  Some of those we had, the joke went, you could only talk to someone on the other end if he was standing back to back with you. 🙂 .
 Bombing tended to be a bit indiscriminate.  The VC and NVA learned early to “hug the belt”, get so close that supporting fires were as likely to kill you as them.
Now we have smaller bombs, they can be directed with near pin-point accuracy.  However, and this is a big however, the mission of the soldier is to close with the enemy, achieve dominance by fire and maneuver, render him harmless, and then set up to foil any counterattack.  And that really hasn’t changed for the last few centuries. “

Q ” In 1990 you founded a company called Longbow with a very new concept in weaponry could you tell me a bit about that? “

A.  When Special Operations went full scale into the counterterrorism business back in the late ’70’s, it became apparent that a lot of our operations would be in urban terrain – the worst possible place for infantry operations.  Tactics had to be developed to account for that, and the last urban fighting we’d done (other than in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive in ’68) was in WW II.
  We had to develop tactics and training from the ground up.
 An early problem was with the effects of live fire in urban terrain (and you have to train live-fire – otherwise it’s little more than an arcade game).  Bullets would either overpenetrate walls or would ricochet off of them, both situations fraught with danger for your fellow operators. 
We tried all sorts of “shoot houses”, sand-filled tires, railroad ties, out in Saudi Arabia when I was working there we built an entire city out of two by fours and target cloth, but all lacked realism, and all had dangers of their own.
I decided that, if we couldn’t build a training site that dealt adequately with the dangers of standard ammunition, maybe we ought to change the ammunition. 
My idea was a bullet that would still give you all the effects of standard ammo (accuracy, weapons function, recoil), but would not ricochet, splash back, or overpenetrate.  A very long time later and having spent more R&D money than I’d ever thought possible, I had a product. ”

Q. ” You have made a few detours along the way in your life, one of them being writing four novels, why? “

A.  ” I’m too old and ugly to chase women, my body doesn’t like hangovers, so when you’re sitting in a hotel room in some place like Tashkent, Uzbekistan or Bobodiolassou or Burkina Faso, you need something to occupy your time.
 Seriously, I’ve always written, even while I was a kid.
 Journals, short stories, diaries, etc.  It was just later in life that someone took my writing seriously. “

 Q  ” In 1997 you did a teleplay ‘Soldier of Fortune’ did you get a lot of enjoyment from that? “

A.  ” It was, shall we say, interesting.
Dealing with the Hollywood experience is different than anything I’d ever done.  Let’s just say that I found it easier to train primitive tribesmen to be proficient soldiers than I did trying to deal with producers, directors, et.al.  (And I trusted them a lot more) “

Q. ” How have you dealt with normal day to day life after your professional experiences? ”
  The guy who asked this was refering to PTSD which effects a lot of veterans.

A. ” So far, I’ve kept my hand in enough to not have to worry about normal day to day life for extended periods of time.  When and if I ever do, I’m sure I’ll have a different answer.
As for PTSD, I used to scoff at it.  With old age comes at least a little bit of wisdom, and now I realize that some of the things I’ve done over the years were not exactly normal behavior.
 Did my experiences contribute to that?  Probably. “

Q. ” Are you still in the ‘ Consulting Business’ ? 
Bearing in mind the old “If I tell you I’ll have to shoot you” thing, only tell me what you can. 🙂

A. ” Yes I am (see previous answer)”

Q. ”  Throughout all your many campaigns which would you say was the weapon you relied on the most? “

A.  ” The old standard M-16,and later its many variants (CAR-15, M-4).  You’ll read a lot about the problems many in the infantry had with the M-16 in the early days – a scandal in itself.
 The bullet was designed using ball powder, which fouls far less than “stick” powder.  However, the bean counters at Picatinny Arsenal had lots and lots of stick powder still on hand from loading operations on the obsolescent 7.62mm, and wanted to use it up.
It fouled the weapons unmercifully.
Given my experiences with bureaucracy, I’m sure the ones who did this probably got an incentive award. “

” Now we have a different problem.
Some genius decided that the 5.56mm round we used in Vietnam didn’t have the necessary operating parameters for operations on the plaines of Europe. 
After all, the Soviets were going to come pouring  through the Fulda Gap any day, weren’t they.
So the round was redesigned to be more accurate out to 350 meters (never mind that your front sight post obscures a man-sized target at that range, making an aimed shot almost impossible), and have more penetration
at that range (be able to penetrate a standard steel helmet).
That required a longer, heavier bullet, and one that held together enough to penetrate that helmet.  They ended up with a steel or tungsten cored bullet that met their parameters, but had a small problem.
The old lead-cored bullet tended to fold over at the tip when it hit its target, causing the bullet to tumble and create a much larger wound channel. 
The new one just zipped right through – a 5.56mm hole in the front and a 5.56mm hole in the back.
As the troops in the Blackhawk Down operation in Somalia reported, “You had to shoot these guys three or four times before they knew they’d been shot.”

“As to backup weapons, I fell under the spell of the Browning Hi-Power. It felt right, it was more accurate than the old arms room .45s we were issued, and the magazine held 13 rounds rather than seven.  After a couple of times of having to shoot someone more than once (the 9mm round tended to overpenetrate) I went back to the .45, albeit in a highly accurized form.  There’s no magic bullet that will do exactly what you want it to do, each and every time, but the .45 comes closer than any other. “

Q. ” I read somewhere that you served in Belfast, as I live there was it a difficult tour? ”

A.  ” It wasn’t bad for me in this case, as I was only there on a fact-finding tour and was in and out rather quickly.  Wouldn’t have been a place I would have enjoyed operating, however? “

Q. ” Another friend (ex army) wanted to know what did you find the most difficult terrain to operate in as he has been in the jungle and he found the humidity was a big factor ”
  ” All types of terrain have their own difficulties. Certainly the jungle has its problems.  It’s hard to move through unless you’re on a trail, and that’s a recipe for ambush.  It’s generally very hot, although in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and Laos it could get quite chilly at night), humidity is certainly a factor, enemy encounters are almost always at very close range, navigation can be a problem.
 The desert, on the other hand, has far better observation, but that works against you as well as for you.  Damned hard to do a sneak-and-peek.  Heat and cold are also factors. 
In Afghanistan the troops are having to hump heavy loads over mountains in the nose-bleed range.” 

But the worst is urban. 
The defender always has a huge advantage. You can’t bring massive combat power to the fight because the terrain is so restrictive.  It becomes a slug-out between very small groups of people.  Incessant training and practice are all that give you a slight edge. ”

Q. ” If I asked you VERY nicely would you support a campaign to get Raven and Activision to make another in the SOF series bearing in mind that SOF Payback does’nt really count. This question and it’s answer won’t be published if you wolud prefer it not to be?

A.  ” Sure I would, and you can publish this as much as you want.
I enjoyed working on the games, meeting the guys who do such magic on computers, and talking to fans. I find that the people who play this game have good questions, are thoughtful, and for the most part, respect what the soldiers of the various countries have to go through. “

 ” Well John thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it as I know the players do as well.
It’s not often that we get the chance to find out about the real people who risk their lives on a daily basis in order to make terrorism a thing of the past. “



11 Responses

  1. OMG Mulling u rule u truly rule . Good luck in what ever u need to do and stay safe man .
    Good interview Ivan , Loved to read it . heck even copied it and printed it out

  2. Wow, thx a lot Mr Mullins for taking the time. I have read your other interviews but i think this one is a lot more interesting. Many thx Ivan great interview 5/5

  3. That was a great interview…. 🙂 Well done Mr. Mullins and Ivan too. The only thing you didn’t ask was what Mr Mullins liked to eat… LOL.

  4. That was a very interesting read, indeed. Thanks a lot to both of you!

  5. Another great interview Ivan, full marks well deserved.

    Keep them coming m8 you’re creating a nice and different approach to keeping SOF2 alive.

    • A different approach is what I wanted to achieve DooGie, so tahanks for that. Hope it reawakens SOF to a few peeps 🙂

  6. Ivan, you are a legend. That was spot on, sensible questons that brogh entertaining and informative responses. It left me wanting to know more. Love the last question.
    Any chance you can interview the idiots who released v III?

    • Working on it Roger, I think I need to get a contact name for Activision, then we can progress.
      Slowly but surely as we don’t want to piss them off with a lot of e-mails or a load of made up petitions. So have patience. 🙂

  7. [i]After a couple of times of having to shoot someone more than once…[/i]
    Okaay… respect to John Mullins! 😀

    I wish I’d known you did this interview. There were a few things I’d been wondering about. Was it announced anywhere?

    You don’t by chance know the mans birthday? I think we should make it a community event.

    After reading Bayonet Skies I wonder how closely the characters in his novels and in the SoF games are modeled after people he’s been working with. I.e. “Hauck” sounds remarkably like “Hawk”, and in both Bayonet Skies and SoF1 he is working with a big black man who functions as radio and demolition expert, while the main character is specialized as a medic, like himself.

    • I will be in touch with John again so I will get some answers for you m8 🙂
      Thanks for the comments and taking the time to read the article.

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