The planetary landing sequences are nice to watch (opens in new tab), but in the context of a video game, the emotion tends to fade away after you’ve done it half a dozen times or more. Because really, there’s not a lot going on while it’s happening: you just squeeze, hold and hope for the best. Because of this, Todd Howard said IGN (opens in new tab) that while starfield (opens in new tab) It will give players a lot of freedom, it won’t let them fly smoothly from orbit to the surface.
“We decided early on in the project that the surface is one reality, and when you’re in space, it’s another reality,” Howard said.
“If you try to really spend a lot of time designing the middle ground, like that one follows, you’re just wasting a lot of time [on something] it really isn’t that important to the player. So let’s make sure it’s amazing when you’re on the surface and amazing when you’re in space, and those realities look and work as well as they can be.”
There are games that make perfect planetary landings, like No Man’s Sky, Elite: Dangerous, and Star Citizen, but they are sims. The most memorable sci-fi RPG of the last two decades, on the other hand – Mass Effect – no: you’re either in Normandy or on the ground, while the time in between is represented by a quick cinematic. Different genres, different priorities, and Howard said Starfield’s focus is on roleplaying rather than simulating.
A planetary landing on No Man’s Sky.
Bethesda revealed during last week’s Xbox/Bethesda showcase that Starfield will have 100 star systems with 1,000 planets to explore, which quickly sparked a series of reactions: worried that all these planets will be repetitive and boring, others are hopeful (opens in new tab) they will be, and of course there are those who dont care (opens in new tab) because they won’t waste time playing with them anyway. Howard had reassuring words for people in the third demographic that they will be served: Starfield will rely on procedural systems to generate these 1,000 worlds, but it will also have more custom content (opens in new tab) than any previous Bethesda game.
“We’ve done more craftsmanship on this game, content-wise, than any other game we’ve done,” Howard said. “We are [at] over 200,000 lines of dialogue so we still do a lot of crafting and if people want to do what they’re used to in our games, follow a main quest and do the questlines, you’ll see what you’d kind of expect from us. But then you have this whole other part of, ‘Well, I’m going to roam this planet, and it’s going to provide some gameplay, some random content, and that sort of thing.’ Sort of like a Daggerfall would, if you come back.”
I go back to Daggerfall, which featured literally thousands of dungeons (opens in new tab) composed of random arrangements of blocks, interspersed with a much smaller number of artisanal locations. And it worked really well: it took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize that the building blocks were being reused (in my defense, this was 1996 and it was all very new), but even though it was just filler, I loved going through dungeons to fight back. monsters and find treasures. It was relaxing, on-demand diversion from the main quest, and it made the game world feel big and alive.
Howard acknowledged that some of these procedurally generated worlds in Starfield won’t be much fun, but said the game will ensure players can tell the wheat from the chaff.
“We’re very careful to say, ‘Here’s where the fun is, here’s this kind of content,'” he said. “But still say yes to the player and, ‘Do you want to land on that strange planet, take a look around and build an outpost, live your life there and watch the sunset because you like the view of the moons there? Go ahead.’ We love these things.”
Starfield, Bethesda’s first original RPG in over two decades, is set to release in the first half of 2023.