Amid a massive amount of new information about Starfield from the Xbox-Bethesda demo, likely the most discussed detail is Todd Howard’s announcement that the upcoming sci-fi RPG will feature 1,000 fully exploreable planets. Howard has now told IGN more about the game’s approach to procedural creation, and what it offers, and he assured us that players can discard them in favor of a massive amount of entirely handmade content, if they want to.
Speaking to IGN, Howard spoke of the huge reaction to the news of Starfield’s widely explorable space: “We’re well aware that you’ve received this. [information] Towards the end, people will go “What did you just say?” And then they will have a lot of questions [about] How does that work.”
While Howard says the team will provide deep insight into the future about exactly how this content is created, and how it feels on the job, he gave us a glimpse into the thinking around it, which focuses on one philosophy: “We try to say yes as much as possible.”
“We do a lot of procedural generation [in Starfield]Howard explained, but I’d like to keep in mind that we’ve always done that. “It’s a big part of Skyrim in terms of the quest and some of the other things that we do. We create landscapes using procedural systems, so we’ve kind of always worked on that. [The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall is] One we look at a lot in terms of game flow. And we’ve been developing some procedural techniques and doing some prototyping, and it’s really starting to progress with Starfield, where we think we can do that.”
While he didn’t go into detail, Howard stressed that Starfield’s procedural generation is powerful enough to handle the massive range of diversity required to build the equivalent of 100 planetary solar systems:
“So it starts with: Can you even take it out, visually? You know, a planet. And a planet alone, if you think about it in the game concept, only one planet is infinitely large if you’re going to do in a realistic way. So once you’re dealing with a scale like that, and procedural systems, the difference between, say, one planet with some difference, and a hundred planets, or a thousand planets, is really not that much of a leap, if it makes sense — once you have good systems working for it.”
But what Howard is particularly clear about is that there is a “golden path” (or perhaps a more appropriate “golden highway”) through Starfield, which is all the artefacts Bethesda RPG fans have come to expect, and stresses that the team has hand-created content More than ever, inside its gigantic procedural galaxy:
“I must also add that we have done more crafts in this game, in terms of content, than any other game we have done. We [at] Over 200,000 lines of dialogue, so we’re still doing a lot of manual work, and if people just want to do what they’re used to in our games, follow the main quest, do quests, you’ll see what you’d kind of expect from us. But then you have That whole other bit of, ‘Okay, I’m going to run around this planet, and it’s going to provide some gameplay, some random content, and those kinds of things.’ Kind of like Daggerfall, if you go back in time.”
Again, philsophy’s idea here is about saying “yes” to the player, allowing them to do some shifts in areas that the designers weren’t able to fill in, and offering something they can do there, even if it’s not part of the main game.
“We are also keen to let you know about this [that procedural content] he is. So if you look at space, you know there are a lot of snowballs in space, so one of our big design considerations for this game was, “What’s fun in a snowball?” And it’s okay sometimes if it’s not snowballs – that’s what it is. We’d rather have it and say yes to you, “Hey, you can land on this.” These are the resources, you can scan them, and then you can go down there and spend ten minutes there and be like, ‘Okay, now I’m leaving and going back to the other planet that has all this other content on it, and I’m going to follow this mission.
So we’re very keen on saying, ‘Here’s where the fun is, and here’s this kind of content,’ but you can still say yes to the player, ‘You want to land on this exotic planet, check it out, build an outpost, and live your life there’ And watch the sunset because you love the view of the moons there? We love these things.”
Starfield will arrive for Xbox and PC in 2023, and the first reveal revealed combat gameplay, customization offered, and even hinted at a visit to Earth and our solar system. We’ll find out more in the months leading up to the release, but the game already looks massive.
Joe Scripps is the executive news editor at IGN. follow him Twitter. Do you have a tip for us? Want to discuss a potential story? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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