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Kyle Rebel
Kyle Rebel
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Managing SKYBLIVION Part 1, Humble Beginnings

Summary

Rebelzize is the lead for the Skyblivion project and has been working on Skyblivion since 2013. In this blogpost he will be talking about what goes into managing a project such as Skyblivion and some of the challenges he and the project has faced since its birth.

Introduction

Some of you know may already know me as Rebelzize or Kyle Rebel. I am a recent Business Management graduate from The Netherlands who has a soft spot for video games and an addiction to modding said games.

For the past couple of years, I have been managing the Skyblivion project to ensure we stay on course towards our first public release. This task has grown more and more complicated over the years, but I have never been one to back down from a challenge which brings us to present day.

Getting Hooked on Skyblivion

Back in 2013 I stumbled upon the Morroblivion forums and noticed someone was fiddling around with complicated tools to trying to convert Oblivion’s game data to Skyrim. This experiment was nothing concrete at the time and seemed to be more about testing the tools that were being used to work on Skywind. Despite that fact something inside me ignited when I first read the title, Skyblivion, and my brain almost imploded thinking about the possibilities of such a project. Oblivion in Skyrim’s engine… wow.

At the time Skywind had been in development for about a year and was the sole focus of the Morroblivion team. I was handling the PR side of things for Skywind and had helped organize the forums in the background. Nobody on the forums seemed to pay much attention to the Skyblivion branch and word in our chats was that it would not be worth the time to turn into anything concrete. I couldn’t let it go however, with Oblivion being my favorite game the thought of a successful Oblivion remake kept gnawing in the back of my head and eventually I gave in and send the two guys working on this “experiment” a message to see what the deal was.

These two guys were Zilav and Monocleus(called Ormin at the time), two likeminded individuals with a knack for creating Elder Scrolls modding tools(TESEdit) and hacking away at complicated conversion methods respectively. As talented as they are Skyblivion was unable to become anything more than an idea without proper direction and some form of management.
The few people that did volunteer to help the project usually did not see a response for the reason stated above. This saddened me deeply as it seemed like Skyblivion would never become more than a name for a project that wouldn’t get anywhere. Fueled with hype, an undying love for Oblivion and a knack for communication and management I started talking with the two gentlemen at the helm.

Our First Milestone

After introducing myself and asking around to see what would be needed to make Skyblivion happen the list I got back was rather large and quite intimidating. Nonetheless I started mapping it all out on our forums as you can see down below:
After another chat we concluded that the priorities were to finish navmeshing and facegen. For those who are not familiar with these terms they mean the following. Navmesh is a collection of polygons that tells an actor where it can walk. Facegen on the other hand is simply the data files that determine what an NPC looks like, since we are remaking Oblivion we thought it was important for the NPC’s to look similar to their counterparts from the original game.

With our priorities in order my first big organizational challenge would be to find a way to distribute and track facegen claims. The reason for starting off with facegen as opposed to navmesh was so that I could start with something manageable. You see, Oblivion had 2663 interior locations alone that needed navmeshing and on top of that a world map that was almost twice as big as Skyrim which needed navmeshing for almost every cell on the map. The number of NPC’s on the other hand were just over 1000 and took a lot less work and experience to complete. A good place to start and practice managing a team of modders from around the world I thought to myself.

So now that we knew what we were going to do it was time to organize and get to work. Previous experiences taught me that this is the order of things that should be followed as opposed to work first and organize later. This meant that the first step was to divide the facegen tasks into manageable sections and have a system in place to keep track of who works on what. I am a firm believer in KISS(keep it simple stupid) and as such I simply divided the facegen claims into alphabetical letters and assigned the letter one by one to people who volunteered.
The system itself was simple and crude but it worked well. The person in charge of A worked on all NPC’s whose name started with an A, easy enough. Now that we had a system in place the biggest challenge which has repeated itself throughout the project’s life cycle, was finding volunteers.

Back in 2013 we didn’t have massive Discord servers, modding subreddits, facebook groups, name familiarity or volunteers flooding our website, so I had to get creative in finding minions to feed to the Skyblivion machine. This is the point where I first started uploading Skyblivion and Skywind videos to my YouTube channel to showcase the mods and redirect people to our forums.
This turned out to be a pretty good move as my YouTube channel at the time already had a few thousand subscribers and the community was quick to share it around forums such as nexusmods.

After a few weeks of recruiting we had a whopping 2 volunteers who started working on recreating the beautiful Oblivion faces we know and love. A few more individuals joined the projects in the following months and slowly but surely our NPC’s began to shape up nicely.
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As mentioned earlier we did not have a Discord server at the time and although the forums had a chatroom this was only for Skywind developers, so all communication was done through our forums. It was not perfect, but we made it work. The biggest challenge with this however was that it often took days or even weeks to get a response to your question and on top of that it was easy but comments to get lost in the many posts that were shared on our forums. Looking at how things are done nowadays with Discord and audio/video calls I feel a bit sorry for our younger selves.

To give you al an idea of the time and effort that went into our very first milestone I’ll leave you with the following. In the end we had a total of 6 volunteers working on creating facegen for 1000+ NPC’s and it wasn’t until April 25th 2015(almost 1,5 years after starting this task) that the last facegen claim was finally completed with the last claim being finished and submitted by Rovan3011.
Our team was tiny, resources were limited but we made up for this with persistence and got it done.

This first major milestone wouldn’t have been completed with the help of our facegen team. As such I want to once again thank Rovan3011, Hanansk16, bigbobblehead, Wiseling, Bobafett131 and JJUSA12 for their hard work and dedication. We haven’t forgotten about all of you 😊

Closing words

Writing this first part of a series of blogs that will be covering managing such a large project brought back a lot of fond memories. At the time I had no idea what I got myself into and how the project would evolve over the years but looking back I do not regret a thing. So far, the project has cost me 7 years of my life, but I learned so much and met so many fantastic people along the way, how can I not look back fondly?

Managing the project has always been a challenge and different time periods had different obstacles that needed to be overcome. From 2013-2015 not being taken seriously and the lack of experience managing an international team led to me making mistakes, but I learned some valuable lessons which I would like to share with you all.

For starters don’t let others dictate what you can and can not do. If you are anything like me you are crazy enough to take on a monumental task that will test your will, patience and persistence. Along the way people will tell say you can’t do it, that you should quit and that you are wasting your time. But we do not have to listen to them. Don’t get me wrong, we all have limits and sooner or later you will learn what your limits are but it’s important that you don’t let others dictate them for you. To make a long story short, step one is to trust yourself, you can do this. It won’t be easy but, in my experience, the best things in life never are.

Step two to becoming a better person or in this case project manager is to realize and accept that you are not perfect and that you can learn from the people around you. Listen to the advice of your peers and find ways to apply both their advice and the lessons you learned throughout development. This allows you to become a better person and your project or organization to thrive.

With that I will end this first part in a series of blogposts. I hope you all enjoyed this blast to past and are looking forward to more as there is plenty more to cover. In the next part we will be reflecting on the last monumental task before Skyblivion turned into what it is today, navmeshing.

If you want to ask me questions or simply follow me around the internet and see where I end up you can follow me here:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebelzize/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Rebelzize/

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  • Shadowfire says:

    I first got into the scrolls games with Morrowind, and then later Oblivion and then fell in love with Skyrim, I started following what I heard that some people are remaking Oblivion in Skyrim’s engine and thought how awesome it would be graphically and mechanically, since the chests in Oblivion could only hold so many items and Skyrim’s so much more for example, so I’ve been following the updates and videos on youtube and your site and I am overjoyed to hear that Skyblivion has now a light at the end of a very long tunnel, I eagerly await it’s completion and commend you on what you and the team have accomplished what must have at the time seemed an almost impossible job to remake the game, keep up the hard work and determination, and look forward to download it when it is finished.

  • iCantWaitToSeeThisProjectSucceed says:

    I picked up Oblivion GOTY and played a few hours of it. The game looks fun and is very story-rich, however I can’t seem to get used to the game, even after installing a lot of mods (mainly due to how confusing this system is i.e. the waypoint system) so I eventually deleted the game. Fast-forward a couple of months to when I was researching to see if someone made an Oblivion mod which makes the game less confusing; this is when I stumbled upon this project… To see such a small team attempting to accomplish the impossible (not so impossible now (; ) absolutely blew me away! I am wishing and praying that this project comes into fruition so I can finally play TES: Oblivion (in Skyrim’s engine!!!). Thank you for all your hard work, thank you for your indestructible will and courage, thank you for having an unbreakable amount of determination and thank you for your amazing talent!

  • noobmagic says:

    Such project would make my dreams come true, <3

  • HSS. Moyzes says:

    I’m so glad you guys are doing this. Oblivion was the greatest game I have ever played. I know the layout from top to bottom.
    Really wish you guys can pull this off and make history again. deeply thanks !!
    Do we have an ata??

  • Zac says:

    I would recommend the team to provide some sort of high-level roadmap outlining what they’ve completed, what is planned, and rough timelines for planned releases. From an outsider perspective, it feels like this project will never be completed because the high-level timeline is not present. It’s a bit of a black box right now and it makes the project feel like a pipedream that will never truly be released.

    I understand that it’s a volunteer project and that there would be hesitancy to set deliverable dates and expectations, but I think it would help your audience to understand how far the team has come, and what is still pending. You may also get additional volunteers and helpful insight from the audience if there are specific domains they feel they would be able to assist with.

  • Chris says:

    Will becoming a werewolf be achieveable in this?

    • Midnari says:

      I’d imagine so. If this is anything like Morrowblivion, then you’ll be able to switch from the main Skyrim game to Oblivion. I doubt you’d get the transformation IN Oblivion, but it’ll still take place on the Skyrim engine so you should be able to transform.

  • Johnathan Beebe says:

    Great work i look forward to playing this

  • Maiq says:

    Just hope that the leveling system is as it should be… Can’t stand the jack of all leveling system in Skyrim.

  • Chey says:

    How will the project be affected now that Microsoft has bought Bethesda? I know you all said you had permission from Bethesda…

  • Kameron Cooks says:

    Hey I appreciate all you guys and its inspiring to see the challenges you guys overcame and your persistence when it came to overcoming those challenges. Not many developers give the amount of updates and feedback as you guys so again thank you, keep it up and God bless you all!

  • "Shadow hide you." says:

    I come back from time to time and check in on your progress; great to get an update! Thank you!

  • badassnat says:

    Therer a lots of grammer pulice her so i beter does a good job…

    Anyway, this blogpost was very insightful. I look forward to all Skyblivion updates and wish I could offer assistance with the project. What you have so far looks amazing and I hope to try this mod out someday. Keep up the good work.

  • darth_bard says:

    Great idea for a blog. Always love chronicles for this kind of projects.

  • Ethan Mereo says:

    this mod fills my stoke tank to unthinkable levels

  • Login Bonus says:

    Glad that there are people still keeping the dream alive. I was just about to reinstall Oblivion for the dozenth time and then go through the arduous task of installing a million mods, so I came to check on this project. Thanks for all your hard work.

  • Nightstar says:

    Fantastic work! I’m excited to read the ones yet to come!

  • Anonn says:

    Awesome dude

  • eden says:

    YOOOO A UPDATE

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