Yasin Topcu back homepage search
interviewed by Gerty in September 2002 (additional question by Matthias)

Gerty: "The question everybody probably get asked is, why and when did you start playing Tomb Raider?"

Yasin Topcu

Yasin: "I first came in contact with Tomb Raider in 1996 when I had my first personal computer. Back then the first Tomb Raider game was launched. My older sister was gone shopping and she came back home with a computer game. I looked at it and it was Tomb Raider. Oh, and I had to read what it was all about as a story line is very important for me. My taste for gaming is greater then my older sister has, she doesn't like combat games, nor games like C&C Red Alert. But this game we both liked very much. I got so addicted to it that I played almost every day for an hour or two. After playing all the games, I wished that there was some kind of way to create my own levels. And Chronicles made my wish come true. Why Tomb Raider? Well mainly most people think that Tomb Raider is a good game because of Lara. But that's not how I think about it. Tomb Raider is maybe one of the first games with 3D environment and thrilling ancient structures. I like ancient stories and buildings. It just fascinates me. It's also so clever engineered, Eidos and Core should be proud of themselves."

Gerty: "You're still in school and building levels is a lot of work, so I understood, where do you find the time? How long did it take you to built Sanus II?"

Yasin: "Finding time for building is biggest problem. I build almost every day after dinner time for like 2-3 hours. As a student I mostly do all my homework at school, so I don't have to do anything at home. This gives me time for building. In weekends I don't do much, I don't like shopping, don't get me wrong, Of course everyone does shopping but some people just go inside every mall or shop to buy something or just do some window shopping, I don't like that. I rather do some sport outside or go cycling trough the countryside. But normally weekends I have time on my hands and that is a perfect opportunity to build some levels. Sanus II took me like 4 months to build, Starting from an idea and drawing them on paper. I wasn't satisfied about level 5 and 6, so I deleted the entire project and made a new one. Jungle Ruins and Sacred Valley of Ukanimba. The main purpose why I deleted that game was that I wanted to create a Jungle theme set of levels. Outdoor as well as indoor. I got inspired by TR 3 'The lost artifact'. India was one of my favorite so I wanted to create a jungle environment. But when I started building I discovered its extremely hard to create an outside area, because of the editors limits."

The Forgotten City of Sanus 3

Gerty: "What are you plans of the future? What kind of job do you want to do?"

Yasin: "My future plans? Hard to tell, one thing is for sure, finish my Sanus III levels. Also I would like to travel to some countries. But I'm still a bit too young so I think that must be delayed for a few years. Plus I want to make a good start with my new studies as I want to become a programmer. That's why I am currently studying ICT. Hoping someday to get married etc. etc. you know the story..."

Gerty: "Reading the reviews for your levels, they appear to vary. What do you think about that?"

Yasin: "I read the reviews about my levels. And of course like every person knows, everybody has different tastes and the way they experience the game. That makes us, as a person, special. But there are truly some differences. One is straight and fair, the other tries to sound nice but doesn't really tell what his or her dislikes are. I have seen some reviews which clearly report my mistakes. This way I can learn from my mistakes and avoid them in the future for upcoming levels. What really confuses me is that someone writes down, 2 lines containing the words 'excellent level, very fun to play' and gives an average score of 7. Then I wonder, what's so fun about my level, maybe what's wrong with my levels. But we shouldn't forget that some people have more reviewing experience then others, I am not a experiences reviewer so I can't much tell how their minds work. In the end if you cut and paste in your mind pieces of reviews you will get 1 big story. And that story will tell you your mistakes and also tell the good things about the level. So next time an author can pay attention to that. Cause the voice of the players counts for me. But what I never will do is, change my style of building. Because that's the most foolish thing a person can do. You can twist your rooms or levels a little to please the players but I would never change my style."

The Forgotten City of Sanus 2

Gerty: "You also play some levels, any favorite?"

Yasin: "To be honest, I have played 14 custom levels or something till now. And those weren't the biggest and famous levels. Tomo's Volcano level is my favorite. Sorry, if I disappoint other authors, but I am not a level player, but a builder. I only play levels when I had enough of building and needed some diversion."

Gerty: "You mentioned your sister, I take it she is interested in what you are building. Correct me if I'm wrong. Does she help out? building wise or ideas? Does she beta test? Has she played any custom levels?"

Yasin: "Yes indeed my older sister, she loves just as much Tomb Raiding as I do, when I am building she comes and drops in (the PC is in her room) and takes a look at what I am building. Sometimes when I can't think of puzzles she gives me splendid idea's. Giving me again new sources to build on. Too bad she doesn't like building. Well she would but she is extremely busy with her study on university. Otherwise we would be building together. And yes, my sister is my beta tester. She is the first one who gets to play my levels. It's much easier actually, its hard to send aprox 23MB files trough e-mail to 2-3 persons who would like to test for you. And when my sister plays, I sit next to her because sometimes she cant solve my puzzles. And after testing, she gives me feedback on gameplay difficulty, environment and other things. My sister hasn't played any custom levels until now, perhaps I should let her play some. But the problem is her lack of free time. I wish it was different, but that's life."

Gerty: "What is a big NO NO and what is a must in a level, according to you?"

Yasin: "This is a difficult question your asking me but I will try to answer it. A level must contain a good story line. Cause Lara does not walk like a zombie in each tomb or temple and saying 'what am I doing here?'. A level also must contain puzzles, Tomb Raiders classic elements, are puzzles. Further don't forget game play. No one likes a level where you have to walk, walk and walk, find a key, open door, walk, walk, find a lever, walk again. This makes the level extremely boring. And feel free to make the game hard to play. That's what I personally like, to confuse the players a little. I've read on forum that my Sanus II levels are bit frustrating. But I must admit those aren't any normal or easy levels. And lighting does wonders. Don't make it only dark. Don't forget to edit the pickups. Sometimes authors add new pickups like keys. Don't forget to give this a name. Otherwise it will appear as load/save in the game. If you put the elements in a row what a level should contain: - Story line - Environment - Good puzzles - Lightning - Script editing. And what really important is a Save/Load Screen, prevents people from killing themselves when they have launched TR million times. What definitely a level never should contain, extreme short gameplay. For me, a normal level should be like 45min. A 'square' level is also bad. For example corridors, trying to model the ceiling can create a very fantastic room. Never build squarish. OK what I experienced is that creating outside areas is very hard. Well that's about it. That's more like basic elements for a level. In the end all experienced authors know what to add and not to add."

Gerty: "As I was reading the level editor manual myself, I couldn't grasp what they were talking about, how was it for you, easy or difficult?"

Yasin: "In the very, very beginning when I opened the manual I looked at every page very quickly. And it was soooooooooo confusing. I actually didn't used the samples of the manual to create a room. I just wanted to learn the interface. What each button does. The manual explains everything also very difficult with confusing results. The best thing is to experiment yourself. Like go and make mistakes. But of course sometimes I had to consult the manual for help. How to stack rooms and connect rooms. Well that's very well explained in the manual. I had to read it 4 times to understand finally what they are trying to explain. I think Eidos and Core just razzle dazzled finished the manual. They are written in only few languages… as English is not my mother tongue and back then my English wasn't that perfect. They should produce it in multiple languages so more people can understand it."

Gerty: "Sanus III is in the making, can you give us a hint what's it all about?"

Yasin: "When you play Sanus I&II and read the story line inside the txt file its about the Sun, Earth and Moon key. The Forgotten City of Sanus 1 took place in 4 locations in Egypt.The Forgotten City of Sanus 1 4 levels... The Forgotten City of Sanus 2 is a sequel to the Quest and for the Earth key. This time in India. The 3rd set of levels, Quest for the Moon key; The Forgotten City of Sanus 3. I will reveal a little bit what's it going to be like. Firstly, its going to take place in Jungle/Mountain/Snow environments. So you can already guess what kind of adventure is going to take place, exactly =) Level 1 of Sanus III (level 9 in total) will be Jungle/Mountain theme. Lara starts in the ocean near the shore of the Island. Then the adventure will lead into the wild jungle and mountain area's. Level 10 will take Lara up the dangerous rapids and rivers and steep mountains. Lara will make here in level 11 up to extreme heights which she will encounter snow and temples and inside environments. Ice caves, rapids. And as finally Lara will enter the Moon Temple in level 12. I have very special plans for level 11 and 12. After some small questions I asked the reviewers, I still decided NOT to change my building style. If some people don't like long levels then I would recommend not play this one also. I will try to put as much as fun and thrill in the levels. But since there so many levels out there, its hard to find new ideas each day. Every night I ask my self why I actually started such a hard job. But I won't give up. Inspiration is out there and will strike any moment. For now I still got plenty ideas. My puzzles will be hard, well er… I am trying to make it difficult. As far as I know people really enjoyed the different types of puzzles. But I also admire other builders who have also engineered superb puzzles. Genius ! Oh… and Lara will change some outfit also further along. I did say I won't change my style of building but I will keep some reviewers comments in my mind. Thanks to reviewers I can construct my levels hopefully without bugs or animation problems."

Matthias: "As you spend 2 to 3 hours a day on level building, considering your age, do you sometimes fear that you miss out on something else?"

Yasin: "Well, not exactly, I did say that I work on my level like 2-3 hours a day, but that is not every day. This year I changed schools and I have to see. I'm not a person that likes to go out all the time, also I'm not really fond of disco or clubbing. I like to do things like racing, cycling, playing a good game of soccer. Only weekends I build, because I got nothing to do mostly... well, I'm still young and school is also important, also family life, and maybe when I am a bit older, things might change probably. Who knows..."

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