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Everything we know about Starfield, Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi RPG

Bethesda is a studio that has found great success with its massive single-player RPG games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 3. While the company’s recent fumbles with games like Fallout 76 (and, to a lesser extent, Fallout 4) have disappointed gamers, the studio is pushing forward and has some ambitious projects on the horizon. One such project is Starfield, a game that was first announced during Bethesda’s 2018 E3 presentation.

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda, rumors about Starfield‘s release have ramped up, and it’s possible we’ll get to see more later this year. We still don’t know much about Starfield, but we’ve gathered as much information as we could to bring you everything we know about Bethesda’s upcoming sci-fi RPG.

Further reading

When is the Starfield release date?

Planet from Starfield.

Starfield is gearing up to launch on November 11, 2022, which is 11 years after the original release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This was announced during the Microsoft and Bethesda E3 2021 presentation, where we got another look at the upcoming space adventure.

During an interview with GameSpot, Howard advised that “everyone should be very patient” when it comes to getting their hands on Starfield. Bethesda hasn’t said when it’ll be able to show us more, which is partially why there was an internal debate concerning its reveal at E3 2018.

There was discussion that Bethesda was originally planning to ship Starfield much earlier — possibly in 2020 or 2021. If the company was counting on shipping Starfield in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic likely slowed production, pushing it further out. Following the poor reception to Fallout 76 in 2018, Bethesda likely wants its next game to be as refined and polished as possible, which will take time.

Pete Hines told Eurogamer that development times haven’t changed at all when compared to the studio’s past games. In reference to when we’d learn more about Starfield, Hines said, “Timeframe-wise, it would still be about as long as you’d expect when you look at Fallout 3 to Skyrim to Fallout 4 to Fallout 76. It’s still going to be those periods of time — that hasn’t changed. Or at least, I don’t think it will change from that based on what I know.”

Considering how common it is for games to be delayed these days, it wouldn’t be surprising

Platforms

Cockpit in spaceship from Starfield.

What we do know is that Starfield will release for Xbox Series X|S and PC. At this point, it’s clear it won’t come to PlayStation or Nintendo since Bethesda is now a first-party Microsoft developer. Before the game’s E3 2021 showcase, GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb said that Starfield will not appear on PlayStation, stating that it’s exclusive to Xbox. Microsoft confirmed this during its most recent showing.

For a while, it was unclear whether Starfield would come to Xbox One, but following its E3 2021 showing, Bethesda confirmed it will only launch for Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Speaking with The Telegraph, Howard said, “You don’t ever want to leave people out, right? But at the end of the day, your ability to focus and say, this is the game I want to make, these are the platforms I want to make it on, and being able to really lean in on those is going to make for a better product.”

Given the game’s scope, it makes sense it will only be available for current hardware.

Trailer

We got our first glimpse at Starfield during Bethesda’s E3 presentation in 2018, and aside from conveying tone, it didn’t reveal much. Bethesda was actually reluctant to reveal the game so early, but, as Howard explained during an interview with NoClip, fans had already suspected the team was working on Starfield following its trademark filing in 2013. The team wanted to give fans a roadmap for what to expect from Bethesda Game Studios going forward and decided to pull the cloak off — but maybe too early, as some fans have pointed out.

The more cynical side of the internet believes the company revealed Starfield when it did to distract from the announcement of Fallout 76, which didn’t have the best reception, even prior to its release. The company had to have known the community wouldn’t take kindly to an online Fallout game, so perhaps Starfield and The Elder Scrolls: VI were revealed to hold fans over. Bethesda would never admit that, of course.

Fast forward to E3 2021, where Bethesda showed off even more of Starfield, along with its release date. The two-minute trailer didn’t feature any gameplay, but it did convey the aesthetics and sort of what to expect from its tone and themes. It did have some gorgeous visuals — all of which were in-engine. In the trailer, a character can be seen gearing up a spacecraft for flight, though it’s unclear if this is something you’ll do in the game. We also got a look at a mysterious planet, a robot of some kind, and the inside of the spaceship.

Gameplay

A side view of character in Starfield.

It was probably surprising to see Bethesda unveil a new game — and one set in space, at that. Starfield is a single-player sci-fi RPG and is the studio’s first new IP in 25 years. Though the developer attempted to create a game set in space in the ’90s, it ultimately failed and was canceled. It seems that Starfield won’t share the same fate, as the team has prioritized its development and aims to bring it to current-generation consoles. Presently, it’s the studio’s main priority, as a smaller portion of its developers continues work on Fallout 76 and The Elder Scrolls: VI. Bethesda has four main studios under its belt, located in Austin, Dallas, Montreal, and Rockville, Maryland — all of which are assisting with Starfield’s development.

Speaking of current-generation hardware, the question of whether Starfield will be running on a new and improved engine has been on the minds of Bethesda fans since its announcement. After all, many of the studio’s past games have been notoriously buggy and have felt outdated, even at the time of release. With Starfield, it’s not clear how it’ll run, but Bethesda has gone on record to confirm it will use the same engine as Skyrim, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76, known as Creation Engine.

This might be an immediate turnoff to some, but when you consider the engine has evolved tremendously since 2011, it might as well be something totally new. As GamesRadar explains, Bethesda has added to the engine — so much so that calling it the “same” isn’t as informative as you’d think.

“For Fallout 76, we changed a lot of it,” Howard explained. “All new renderer, new lighting model, new landscape system. Then when you go to Starfield, even more of it changes, and then Elder Scrolls VI, which is really out on the horizon, even more of it changes.” In short, the fact that Starfield is still running on Creation Engine might not necessarily be something to worry about.

Parts of Starfield were already playable as of E3 2018. That was three years ago, and the game is in even better shape now. “We know the game we’re making now, and one of the reasons we announced it is that it’s looking really awesome. We have [a] runway in front of us, and we know what’s happening,” Howard told GameSpot in 2018. When it comes to the gameplay and what to expect from Starfield in comparison to Bethesda’s other games, Howard concluded, “It has what you’d expect and more.”

“It’s different, but if you sit down and play it, you would recognize it as something we made, if that makes sense? It has our DNA in it. It has things that we like,” Howard told Eurogamer in 2018.

Character supposedly from Starfield.
https://imgur.com/a/GSWTkHn

In 2020, leaked images supposedly from Starfield surfaced, giving us a possible glimpse at the game’s UI and characters. It’s unclear if these are, in fact, real, but they certainly look the part. Another leak from Reddit (and relayed by GamesRadar) suggests that each planet in Starfield is bigger than the entirety of Skyrim, though this has not been confirmed either.

The studio is, of course, keeping tight-lipped when it comes to revealing information about Starfield, but the main point is that it’ll likely satisfy those players who love “classic” Bethesda games. In recent years, the company has tried new things like The Elder Scrolls: Blades and Fallout Shelter — two games that were designed with mobile devices in mind. Starfield, on the other hand, will not be like that at all, though what we’ll be doing in it remains to be seen.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Howard said, “The game is set about 300 plus years in our own future, and Constellation is this kind of last group of space explorers. It’s like NASA meets Indiana Jones meets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a group of people that are still searching for answers.”

“There are a lot of factions in the game, but that’s the main one that you’ll become a part of. It’s kind of like Skyrim in terms of the structure of the game, where you’re going to be who you want to be, and then [there are] different factions that you can join and really carve your own path.”

It’s still unclear if you’ll be able to freely explore the universe like you can in No Man’s Sky, but at this point, Bethesda hasn’t given us any reason to believe it’ll be designed that way. We do know science and religion will play a part in Starfield, as stated by Howard. “We ask some big questions in the game — the kind that people have asked when they look to the sky, you know? ‘What’s out there? Why are we here? How do we get here?’ And we get into science, we get into religion.”

Multiplayer

Fans worried about multiplayer getting in the way of a quality single-player story (looking at you, Fallout 76) should rest easy. According to a Eurogamer interview with Bethesda’s Peter Hines, Starfield “is decidedly single player.” The company has described Starfield as a core Bethesda game we’ve come to expect — only this time, it’s set in space, which is new to the studio.

DLC

Since we aren’t exactly sure what this game will look like yet, it’s still too early to know about possible Starfield DLC. But if Bethesda’s other main franchises — Fallout and Elder Scrolls — are any indication, DLC is a safe bet for Starfield. It’s possible this could come in the form of additional single-player content or perhaps new cosmetics and in-game gear. All we can do is speculate at this point, but if we had to bet, we’d say there will likely be add-on content of some kind in this game.

Bethesda worked with Elon Musk to bring ‘authenticity’ to Starfield

Todd Howard, Elon Musk, and Geoff Keighley discuss Starfield.

At E3 2019, Todd Howard, Elon Musk, and The Game Award’s Geoff Keighley had a discussion about developing games, among other things — and Starfield was brought up. Howard told the audience he went to Musk’s company, SpaceX, to gather information and inspiration for Starfield. This means Bethesda is attempting to keep the game based in reality while still making it fun to play. Howard used the word “authenticity” to describe the way Starfield is supposed to feel.

In the same chat, Howard described possibly using Helium-3 to fuel rockets in-game. This ostensibly hints that some sort of space travel will be available in the final product. “We have to game-ify it some, so it’s not as punishing as actual space travel,” Howard added. He compared space travel in Starfield to “flight in the ’40s” in that it’s still fairly dangerous. All of this will be fully realized, thanks in part to collaboration with Musk’s SpaceX.

This talk occurred in 2019, so much of what was mentioned could change — as games typically evolve tremendously throughout their development. Certain ideas stick, while others — even if enormous amounts of time and resources are spent on them — might not ever come to be.

It has been in the works for over 10 years

Typically, Bethesda has multiple projects going on at once — with one getting the majority of the focus while the others sit to the side and gestate. We know the company filed for Starfield’s trademark in 2013, which means it had to have been thinking about it for a while prior to that. In speaking with Eurogamer, Howard said the studio had been at least discussing the game since 2004, with Bethesda fully dedicating staff to it around 2015.

Despite the company having Starfield in mind since as early as 2004, that doesn’t mean it’s been actively working on it since then. But at the very least, we know it is well in development and has been the studio’s focus for the better part of the past five years. Howard told Geoff Keighley during a Gamelab discussion, “It took us a while to get that cohesive ‘this is what Starfield is,’ and now that project is off and running in a good way, and that was also why we felt good announcing it.”

For context, it took Bethesda at least around five years to complete development on Skyrim, assuming the team started work on it as soon as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion shipped in 2006. With that in mind, the current COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on the game’s development due to studios being forced to work remotely. This practice — although necessary — is one that has slowed the production of many forms of media, not just video games.

When will Bethesda show more of Starfield?

Spaceship on planet in Starfield.

As part of a November 11 AMA on Reddit, Bethesda Games Studios director Todd Howard said Starfield will be shown off for the first time next year. “We prefer to just show it, which should be next summer,” Howard said. “We’re happy with the advancements we’ve been able to make, some of which you can see in the trailer shot in-game.”

This will likely be during Bethesda/Microsoft’s E3 2022 presentation, which typically takes place in mid-June. Since the game is due out in November 2022, E3 seems like a safe bet for Bethesda to show the game in action. It’s possible we’ll get more information before then, but we wouldn’t expect to see gameplay until E3 2022.

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