This leads me on to my second question: as a hobbyist outfit working for no pay, how do they manage to work so hard, and yet stay so motivated?
“It actually works pretty well for us,” Lietzau says, “but in general, non-commercial projects are always very hard to realise because people lose their motivation so quickly if they’re not getting paid for it. If people don’t depend on it, some can be really unreliable. We’ve had a lot of bad experiences with people coming into the team and promising to do a lot of stuff and have then just left. We now have very complicated application procedures, so that doesn’t happen too often, but it is very hard to keep people motivated.”
He pauses for thought. “For us it works because first of all, through the years of development, most of the people who are not committed leave anyway, so the rest remain. We’re also very tight and work as a team, and we try to keep everyone—even if it’s someone who has just applied—involved in the process, because it’s important to feel as though you’re contributing something of your own—especially when working non-commercially. This keeps people motivated for a long time.”
For those familiar with Nehrim, it may come as a surprise to learn that SureAI had in fact envisioned an even more ambitious project than what came to be. Ultimately they were governed by limited time and resources. Nonetheless, Nehrim set the bar extremely high as far as total conversion mods go, not least for themselves and successor Enderal. ModDB has preemptively awarded their Skyrim conversion Best Upcoming Mod for the last three years running, all before even a sniff of a release date.
Even now that tentative ‘2015’ date isn’t nearly as specific as it could be, but given SureAI’s track record, not to mention the quality of what they’ve shown off so far, Enderal is almost certain to make good on it. Should this be the case, SureAI’s plan is to make the jump to fullyfledged professional independent development studio.
Until then, developing a game based on Bethesda’s game engine and legacy, SureAI are standing on the shoulders of giants. But they’re doing so wearing a damn flashy pair of Daedric boots.
By Joe Donnelly
For more Skyrim mods, check out our round-up of 50 of the best.