Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield is a massive sci-fi RPG that will take you across the cosmos, allowing you to explore thousands of planets. But how many of those planets will support life?
Howard discussed the fact that Starfield’s planets are made up of handcrafted scenarios as well as procedurally generated ones. While not every planet will contain life or hand-written quests, their value comes down to player agency.
“I think that’s the million dollar question when it comes to a game like this,” Howard said. “It’s one that we struggled with early in the project. We wanted to do the planets because we wanted to give you that choice. Where do you wanna go? You would want that choice in a game like this.”
Howard explains that the studio was worried whether or not they could pull off a universe at this scale that feels believable. However, using the procedural generation system they’ve designed, they can more easily populate systems before adding hand-crafted quests, bases and more on top.
“Obviously, it’s procedural. There’s no way we’re going to go and handcraft an entire planet. What we do is we handcraft individual locations and some of those are placed specifically — obviously, the main cities and quest locations — and then we have a suite of them that are generated and placed when you land depending on that planet.”
Howard then explained that this level of granularity to the planets of Starfield means that not every planet will have natural life on them. Just like real life, the majority of planets won’t have natural fauna and flora, although the game’s bounty hunters and other humans may be able to be found there.
“Like science, and we’re pushing it, about ten percent of those planets have life on them. We’re pushing it to edge of what people think, what planets are in that ‘Goldilocks Zone’ versus planets that have resources,” Howard explained.
Todd Howard continued to explain that even on “barren” planets designed for resources, Bethesda is generating certain things for players to find and do. However, Bethesda is also attempting to recreate the “desolate isolation” of being alone in space.
“There’s a certain beauty to landing on those and thinking: ‘I’m one of the only people or the only person to ever visit this planet.’,” Howard said. “It’s a difficult design thing. If you’re generating too many things, too many abandoned bases or towers or things to find, it starts feeling too gamey. So, I think we’ve dialled that in pretty well depending on the planet you’re on.”
As their first new IP since The Elder Scrolls, Starfield is under a lot of scrutiny from fans of Bethesda. After a lengthy delay, the new sci-fi RPG is looking better than ever, and we can’t wait to explore.
Starfield launches on Xbox Series consoles and PC on September 6th. Those who pre-order the game’s pricey Constellation Edition, if you can find one that hasn’t been scalped, then you can play five days early on September 1st.