Starfield is perhaps the most-anticipated upcoming game for 2023. Roots for the ambitious game can be traced back at Bethesda all the way to the 90s. After years of trying, Starfield is the Sci-Fi idea that the studio finally got off the ground, based on a NASA punk theme of futuristic technology that’s rooted in the US space program. The space RPG is the first new single-player title to be released by Bethesda Game Studios since Fallout 4 in 2015. Naturally, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout fans have high hopes for this completely new IP that, until recently, was shrouded in secrecy. With the full unveiling of the game at this year’s Summer Games Fest, intrigue for Starfield has gone through the roof. The game was arguably the biggest hit of this summer’s showcases and has left fans with plenty of questions. Questions like, can Starfield recreate the loneliness of space?
Can Starfield recreat the loneliness of space?
In a recent interview, Todd Howard was surprisingly fielded this ponderous question, something that Sean Murray or Chris Robert don’t seem to have had to answer for their respective space exploration games, No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen.
Todd doesn’t answer the question directly, but it seems his answer is maybe? We’ll take a few minutes to explain the question and what Todd was saying in relation to it.
The interviewer was pointing out that Starfield sounded like it could be the most immense simulator of the human condition of loneliness, because the interviewer couldn’t imagine a more lonely experience. Todd first said that it certainly isn’t the intent of the developers, but he then later makes a reference to Buzz Aldrins’ famous statement about the moon, misremembering it as beautiful desolation. Buzz’s actual quote referred to it as magnificent desolation.
But maybe we can get a better answer to the question if we go back earlier to the interview, to what make the interviewer ask this question. Todd was actually describing the systems Bethesda was coming up with to make the planets of Starfield. While the game was definitely going to use procedural generation to some degree, Bethesda was avoiding making worlds that were fractally goop, AKA, landscapes that look muddy and unrealistic.
Their solution was to make landscape tiles, partly handmade, so that they would look incredible realistic. They then created another system to wrap a planet with these landscape tiles, but then ran into a new problem. What could they do if the system created a planet where there was potentially nothing?
This time, Bethesda decided to walk away from giving the player conveniences, like the dense amount of items and activities Nintendo places in the fully explorable open world of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Instead, they want to lean on this being a lonely experience.
So Starfield really is designed, that you would be told by the game you can find some resources in a far off planet with nothing else to do, and the game will take the time to let you build your own outpost and mine or find said resource, spending potentially hours doing nothing else watching the sun rise and set (in-game).
Todd doesn’t think every player will appreciate that this will be in Starfield. But in his words:
“I think it gives them the ability to say; I want to go do that and see that on that place. As long as we tell them; hey, the quest leads over here, here’s where the handcrafted content is that you would expect, and then here’s more of the open procedural planet experience.”
So actually the answer is yes, you can live a lonely experience in Starfield, but only if you want to, so it’s a maybe. It all really is up to you, and what experience you want to have in it.
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