E3 2021SPOTLIGHT

What (Little) is Known about Starfield

For a game that only has a small teaser trailer and a logo, Starfield has garnered years of intrigue and speculation. This game is a brand new idea coming from legendary game studio Bethesda Game Studios, best known for The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Lead by industry legend Todd Howard, this new space epic is the first new franchise from BGS since The Elder Scrolls: Arena in 1994.

A new Bethesda game is always exciting, but this one in particular has captured the imaginations of the gaming industry and has left everyone with more questions than answers. Join us as we dive deep into the far reaches of space to uncover what we know about the game, what we want from it, and finally when we expect to finally get our hands on this long awaited game.

The First Details

The journey to Starfield has been a long one, and first information about Bethesda’s new project actually appeared more than eight years ago

Source

Back in 2013, GameSpot wrote an article discussing how Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax Media, was seeking to trademark “Starfield”. This was the first time the name was made public. Naturally, many assumed that this would be the next game by Bethesda Game Studios, or at the very least something they would work on in the future.

From the time that the application for the patent was filed until the game was officially announced on June 10, 2018, rumors were abundant about what that patent would turn into.

When the game was officially unveiled at Bethesda’s E3 presser, it was an open secret that they were working on something new, but no one knew exactly if that was the long rumored Starfield. The teaser trailer shown at E3 did not give much if any detail about what the game would be, but it did a nice job of setting the tone.

The trailer which runs a little over one minute long shows a planet slowly being revealed by a nearby star. It is unclear which planet this, although there are some theories floating online. Once the planet and star are in full view, a crescendo in the music hits.

The camera pans down to show some sort of space station. The space station looks like it has some sort of solar paneling on top. The Panels resemble a star as well.

Soon after, the camera is enveloped in a blinding light. Perhaps indicating some sort of “speed of light” based travel, or maybe even the solar system collapsing in on itself.

The trailer ends with a logo, and the game being officially unveiled.

Todd Howard Interviews and Quotes

In the years since the initial trailer, Todd Howard has dropped a few details about Starfield that are vague enough to still keep the game a mystery while also being incredibly informative.

In an interview with The Guardian, Todd Howard talked about the development process of Starfield, explaining that the game had actually been in development for quite some time.

If Howard is saying full development began after Fallout 4, that means Starfield has been in development for more than 5 years. Obviously, due to issues with Covid and their work on Fallout 76, the development has not been steady. Still, this is a game that has been in development longer than any other Bethesda game.

A year later at E3 2019, Todd Howard went on stage with Elon Musk to discuss an abundance of topics including Starfield. Howard wasn’t willing to give much up about the game, but he did give one interesting tidbit about how space travel would work in Starfield.

Todd goes on to say that

Without knowing really much of anything about Starfield, it feels like Todd is hinting that his game will be more grounded than some other Science Fiction Games. If they are focusing on authenticity and early days of flight, it might be safe to expect a game that takes place sometime in our future reality.

Bethesda has more than two decades of experience creating deep and expansive RPG worlds which would serve Starfield well. There arguably isn’t a studio in existence today that knows how to make RPGs better than Bethesda Game Studios and this experience should be vital for the challenegs of developing the game. They are also heavily investing in new technology in order to meet the promise of what Starfield needs to succeed.

The Creation Engine and New Technology

The Creation Engine is Bethesda’s own engine that is based on Gamebyro. The Creation Engine was first utilized for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and is still being used for Starfield and beyond. Creation gives Bethesda games their unique feel for better and for worse. Their games feel highly exploitable. You feel like you can do almost anything, go anywhere, impact anything. The highly interactive nature of Bethesda games, along with the fact that the engine can be easily modded, gives any Bethesda Game a long life.

The Creation Engine has also been heavily criticized for looking and feeling dated. Bethesda’s games have not looked that impressive in a long time. Their games as of late tend to feature slightly dated visuals and are unoptimized, relying on the modding community to fix the issues. Instead of moving to a new engine, Bethesda has instead opted to continuously improve and overhaul Creation.

For Starfield, this is no exception. After Bethesda was acquired by Microsoft, Todd Howard wrote a letter about the deal and mentioned a few interesting things about the future of their technology. In the letter, Howard says.

The most recent source of direct information about Starfield came when Todd Howard was interviewed at the Develop: Brighton 2020 conference. During the conference, Todd dropped a surprising amount of information about their investments in the Engine and what to expect from the game.

In the interview, Howard does reiterate as he has many times before that they are heavily investing in the Creation Engine and even goes as far to say the overhaul is larger than it was from Morrowind to Oblivion. He does focus in on specific improvements including improved AI and animation as well as other areas of the engine that have been improved.

Morrowind
Oblivion

He continues on to say that Starfield is being worked on by more than 4 times as many people as worked on Skyrim or Fallout 4. Howard also discusses improved cities and NPCs within the cities. Hopefully with Starfield we will see vast and layered cities that feel more alive.

One more innovation that has come to Bethesda games over the last decade has been the introduction of Settlement Building. In Fallout 4 and 76, you could make your own buildings and other structures.

It would make sense to see a similar system make its way to Starfield but massively expanded. While nothing has been confirmed yet, an interesting survey was recently released on Bethesda.net.

On this survey a question is asked that says “I spend a lot of time creating my character, house, or spaceship”. Nothing is official until it happens, but this does seem to confirm that some sort of crafting system will make its way to Starfield.

What Should Starfield Be?

Starfield will be Bethesda’s first new IP in over two decades and will be the studios first look at a new genre in more than a decade. Space-Sci-Fi has a much different tone than Fallout, which is more apocalypse focused, or The Elder Scrolls, which is high fantasy. It will be interesting to see exactly which direction Bethesda’s take on the genre. Will it wear its influences on its sleeve? Or will it try and have its own unique take on a very popular genre.

Hopefully Bethesda are able to make a game that can explore the tropes of the genre while also being clearly it’s own thing. Bethesda were able to reinvent the template for what a High Fantasy game looked like with Skyrim. With Starfield they’ll have the chance to do that again and perhaps reinvent the wheel once more for a genre that has seen so many entries.

When will we see Starfield unveiled?

Xbox and Bethesda have also released an image to promote their E3 event that seems to show the planet from the Starfield teaser trailer. With all of the murmurs about Starfield being at the show, as well as this image clearly showing Starfield, it would be frankly shocking if the game was not at E3.

Will Starfield release in 2022?

It is hard to say exactly when any game will release nowadays, and Starfield is no exception. Due to Covid impacting game development, nearly every game has been delayed in some way.

The discourse has been that Bethesda was intending to release the game later this year, but as of now the game seems likely to release sometime in 2022. This is all just rumors and speculation for now, but there is some logic and industry insight that makes this release window seem possible.

The first reason why a 2022 release seems likely is Bethesda’s own release cadence. Bethesda Game Studios has had a very consistent release schedule over the last decade of releasing a new game every 4 years or so. Fallout 76 was a bit of an anomaly, releasing in 2018. It was a game that Bethesda proper worked on but was largely assisted on by their support studios.

We know full development on Starfield started after the release of Fallout 4, meaning Starfield is now nearing 6 years of development. In many ways, this game is long overdue.

Jeff Grubb, who has proven incredibly reliable with release dates, recently posted a tweet that hints at an early 2022 release.

Grubb is referring to a prediction made by Blessing Adeoye Jr. where he predicted Starfield would release in Spring of 2022.

Grubb later clarified that all he was confident in was a 2022 release year for Starfield

Jason Schreier, one of the most respected journalist in the industry, has hinted at a release date in late 2022.

So, will Starfield release sometime in 2022? It seems likely based on what is being said. Until we hear more about the game, and that is seeming likely at E3, it is best to take all rumors of possible release dates with a grain of salt.

Conclusion

For a game that is nearly a complete mystery, Starfield has garnered a lot of intrigue and speculation. That isn’t necessarily unwarranted however. A brand new IP from one of the most iconic studios of all time deserves a lot of attention. All of the external circumstances surrounding the game add to the speculation and anticipation.

We truly do not know much about Starfield, and that has made this game one of the most anticipated games in development. It is looking like we will see Starfield at E3, and from there we will hopefully get many of our questions answered about this exciting new game from one of the world’s best developers.

Austin "Proven" Nelson

Writer and Host of "You Had Me At Halo Podcast" for XboxEra. Halo 3 apologist.

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