Have you ever wondered how to make a game? I have to admit that I was not very aware of what was going on in the background until I joined Ubik's Discord channel. I would not be lying if I say that I am sorry that I have not experienced the answer to the question of "how to make a game" until now. Because I realized that behind the plate placed on our table, there is an admirable, enjoyable yet challenging process that I had no idea about, but it turned out to be a lot of fun to watch.
The enormous effort behind a seemingly simple or ordinary puzzle, a quick scribbled drawing, a few seconds of animation, or a seemingly random object is often overlooked. While it may seem unreasonable to spend a whole day on a tiny icon that no one remembers where it was or what shape it was in, let alone remembering its existence after they're done with it, but in the end, someone has endless discussions on the computer about the fate of that icon for the ultimate gaming experience.
In just one week, I realized that making a game is about aesthetically laying out the details in a near-perfect, coherent and fun way, in the right order. Math, painting, music and many other things you can think of are involved. Making a game is like the crystallization of science and art. Let's leave the debate on whether games are works of art for another place, I realized that making games is a combination of almost all arts, a subtle combination of all of them, an endeavor right in the heart of art, intertwined with art. So what did I see in my first week at Ubik? While I was expecting a much more mechanical process, I encountered a structure with a lot of interaction, a structure that progresses through discussions, a structure that constantly disrupts and reconstructs itself. A world that is constantly changing, developing, growing while constantly creating new questions, problems, crises, ideas, revisions.
Leila's Pants and the Story of My Transformation into a Pluviophile
How should Leila's pants be, tight or baggy? Honestly, I didn't think this would be the first thing I would encounter when landing in the Ubik universe. Batu drew a sketch of Leila sitting on a coffee table, sipping her coffee, listening to music on her headphones while checking her e-mails on her computer. Leila, created by Nian, is the protagonist of our game. Even though she has left her youth behind and entered middle age, Leila, whose spirit and body are resisting time in a remarkable way, is right here in front of us. A woman on the edge of all possibilities, a woman who has hope in life, a woman who, as we will see later, has changed herself and grown by learning from her mistakes. A thin rain is falling outside, Leila is sitting at a table by the window, swinging her legs and tinkering with her computer. Her coffee is right next to her. It's a peaceful, cozy atmosphere that makes you want to step away from the computer screen and curl up in a corner.
As an incurable summer and sun lover, when I first heard the word pluviophile, which means "one who loves the rain", I thought "who loves the rain and why, what nonsense". Now, as Leila sits in that café, I am surprised to see that the rain hitting the awning over the window gives me happiness too. I see these things when I look at the screen, but Leila's creator Nian wants a looser pants, even though it seems like a small detail. The reasons are the fashion of the time, aesthetics, Leila's age and other technical conveniences. Our illustrator Batu quickly comes up with a new Leila outfit. Even though only the pants have changed, it's a Leila that makes everyone feel more comfortable. So how will Leila look when she swings her legs? I say, "Won't it be hard to animate?" Fortunately, we have Selahattin. "We'll do it," he says, "it'll be fine." He is an animator who is as dedicated to animation as you can get. How will Leila shake her leg, how will she look while taking off her headphones at the same time, what exactly will the leg shaking animation look like with her flowing pants? Nian immediately finds a practical solution. She sits in her chair, laptop in front of him, and sends a video to the group of her taking off her headphones and shaking her leg at the same time. Her cameraman is Ismail, of course. Selahattin gets his question answered and the problem is solved.
Leila is a bit older, and since it's the 2020s, Nian says there can't be a 2020s without the pandemic, and wants to somehow remind about the damn virus to those who are peacefully playing the game. Since life is a mixture of hopes and disappointments for Leila, what we see on the screen is not always going to be beautiful. I realize that being a game designer doesn't always mean showing happy things, sometimes it's necessary to annoy us with small details .Nian, this will upset us more, I say to myself… Leila will experience ups and downs like all of us, she will laugh one day and cry the next. I wonder what nefarious plans he has for Leila's future or her past. We quickly arrange a mask for our barista and say welcome the 2020s, which started by stealing a few years from our lives. "Masked barista" makes a good nickname, someone says, and then the most creative nicknames in the history of the internet are listed one after another in the group for a while. When we get the Whatsapp group correspondence on Leila's computer from the pen of our sound designer Engin, we can say that we have saved the day. While a productive conversation about a price-performance wireless headphone lasts for about an hour, Nian is thinking, Batu is drawing, Selahattin is animating, Bora is building the game, Engin is making lo-fi music that Leila listens to from her cyan headphones, which were chosen by a common decision among 4 different alternatives. As the sun sets, the Discord channel falls silent in the evening with the peace of the hills and the peace of being one step closer to the finale, albeit quite far away.
The next day, Ubik's most communicative duo Nian and Bora (Engin thought his name was "Boray" for a while), talk about a tiny icon on the laptop in the café that allows you to enlarge, reduce and rotate pictures around its axis. Should the icon rotate as the picture rotates, should it move up and down with the picture, or should it stay in place? After a while of trying to reason with each other, they realize that they are both saying more or less the same thing. Batu and I, eavesdropping on the conversation, realize that we had listened patiently to the conversation to the end, but we confess that after the heated conversation is over. The two, who have been swimming in very close waters from the very beginning, agree on a common point. While they are talking, Ismail is finalizing the icons, browser and many other things on Leila's computer screen.
I Don't Want to Hear Math!
The question of the week is neither Leila's pants, nor the color of her headphones, nor the position or shape of certain icons. There is only one question that dominates all questions: How will the books written by the player in the cafe section be scored? Nian and Bora spend hours trying many alternatives for the scores of the books with stories created with stickers, writing, drawing, calculating, breaking and going back to the beginning. It takes hours for the enormous effort to arrange the icons so that the scores are in the right range. Batu, our illustrator, is the one who raises the flag of rebellion from the team suffering from math poisoning during a long discussion around the four operations, and he deafens himself by changing his Discord nickname to "I don't want to hear math". At some point, the subject of book scores reaches such a stage that Bora, who adds with 5 and the multiples of 5, suddenly has an epiphany and summarizes the burning brains at the point reached by saying "why am I using a calculator while adding these?". Towards the evening, the points of the stickers and the value of the stories derived from them finally meet at an ideal point. In the meantime, I take a stab at the game and create a logline with the stickers and send my book to the editor. I don't want to spoil the surprise of what happens next, but I want the game to end as soon as possible and I want to be Leila in that café with that wonderful atmosphere and play this episode over and over again. While all this is going on, Selahattin continues to draw and animate the animations frame by frame, quietly and calmly, with great patience and joy.
Creating a Woman
A play centered on a woman was intriguing enough for me even before I knew the details. In the very short time I spent in Ubik, I realized that Nian has a tremendous effort and desire to make Leila not a type but a character, and a very authentic and real character at that. Leila is a person with weaknesses, faults, hopes and goals, like all of us, ordinary but unique, authentic in every way. The effort to perfect her story as much as possible and turn it into an enjoyable game experience is invaluable, not only because this game is about a woman, but also because it brings her to us in a very deep and enjoyable way.
My impressions of the actions in the Ubik universe and Leila's heart will continue, stay tuned!