When it comes to the vast open world of Starfield, you don't have to fear isolation in this vast universe. In fact, the loneliness you can experience when crossing from one desolate world to another is exactly the tone that the Bethesda developer was going for.
Rather than focus on the horror of single player space travel, Bethesda wants to emphasize its magnificence in Starfield. In a recent interview with Lex Fridman (opens in a new tab), game director Todd Howard explained how the Bethesda team embraced the "beautiful desolation" of Starfield's massive open world.
From what the official gameplay trailer (opens in a new tab) showed us, there will be "over 100 systems" with "over 1000 planets" in Starfield. This means that Intergalactic Explorer should be 20% larger than Fallout 4 or Skyrim. As unbelievable as it sounds, is there any game that is too big? Considering that Starfield is designed to be a single player game, Millions of Planets seems like a lonely job for one person.
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Loneliness wasn't the only problem the developers encountered when creating Starfield. Such a vast universe is not easy to expand; so a decision had to be made. Either "you can't land on every planet you see" or the universe you're exploring is a "small, tightly controlled world space," Howard explained during the interview.
It was decided that the latter would likely set "the wrong tone," Howard said in the interview. Rather than focus on limitations, the development team opted to look for ways in which "we can say yes." The best way to get around the complications of creating a large, detailed, playable open world was to focus on building it tile by tile. By making these small landscape tiles offline, the development team was able to create a mosaic of complex ecosystems that could be woven into the Starfield universe.
These tiles solved the first problem of creating a universe that looked and felt like the real thing in Starfield, but that's not to say it was easy from there. Having a vast open world is one thing; making it attractive to gamers is another matter entirely.
According to Howard, Bethesda needed to ensure that landing on each planet was a fun experience, even if said planet was empty with only the prospect of a few resources. Ultimately, the scale of such a massive open world is that you'll get planets that "can be a lonely experience" for the explorer. But Howard went on to point out that there's also "a strange beauty in being the only person on a planet," and that's precisely what you need to focus on.
(Image credit: Bethesda)
This isn't the first time we've seen this hue in a Bethesda game. If beautiful desolation is what you're after, then the Fallout series comes to mind. The whole experience of walking through a ruined desert is incredibly strange but also beautiful. I loved wandering the abandoned cities of Fallout 4, not knowing what I was about to find and just enjoying the deathly silence that surrounded the decaying city.
So I can't wait to explore the vast universe that Starfield will offer when it launches in early 2023. I hope to get the same feeling again.