The next big single-player game from Skyrim and Fallout maker Bethesda Game Studios will be Starfield, the company’s first new IP in a staggering 25 years.
Bethesda’s charismatic director and executive producer Todd Howard announced Starfield at E3. “We also thought since we’re all here together tonight and it’s so special maybe we’d do something a little different too,” he said on stage, “and tell you what we have coming beyond this year, in the future. We have also been working on a brand new, next-generation, single-player game, but this one is in an all-new epic franchise. Our first wholly original franchise in 25 years. We’re excited to announce our next adventure.”
We were then shown a Starfield teaser trailer where sunlight slowly appeared from behind a planet in space, producing the bright ring effect you see during a solar eclipse, before the camera panned down to reveal a satellite, and then warped our view to blackout. Then the Starfield logo appeared.
“Starfield is a game that we have spent years thinking about and working on, something we feel uniquely positioned to pull off and that we’re incredibly excited about,” concluded Howard.
It wasn’t a lot to go on and many questions remained – not least what “next-generation” meant. So when I sat down with Todd Howard at Spanish conference Gamelab last week I tried to clear a few things up.
What, then, does Starfield being next-generation mean?
“That to us means two things,” Todd Howard told me. “It does mean hardware and it does mean software on our side, and it also means gameplay – what does the next generation of epic single-player RPGs feel like to us?
“What systems we put it out on – what’s the hardware requirements – is still to be determined. We’re pushing it; we’re thinking very, very far in future so we’re building something that will handle next-generation hardware. That’s what we’re building on right now, that’s where our mind is, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t exist on the current systems as well.”
Todd Howard specified Starfield was a single-player game but will it be a Bethesda Game Studios game in the way Fallout and The Elder Scrolls are?
“We’re pushing it; we’re thinking very, very far in future so we’re building something that will handle next-generation hardware.”-Todd Howard
“I don’t want to say yes or no to that because I don’t know what that means to you or whoever’s going to read that,” he said. “It’s different, but if you sit down and play it you would recognise it as something we made if that makes sense? It has our DNA in it. It has things that we like.”
Then he added: “But it has a lot of new systems we’ve been thinking about for a while that fit that kind of game really well. We’ll talk about it in the future. See now I wish I hadn’t announced it!”
His last remark ties into what Howard said about announcing Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 far away from launch – something I reported last week.
His remark about “new systems”, though, which fit a Starfield kind of game – a space-based game – sounds like it could mean spaceships to me.
When Howard said Bethesda had spent years thinking about and working on Starfield, he wasn’t exaggerating. He told me Bethesda began dedicating people to Starfield after Fallout 4 came out in autumn 2015, but the studio had been discussing it as far back as 2004.
“We had made a list of what we might want to do in the future and an epic science-fiction game has always been on my mind,” he said. “OK post-apocalyptic was our first choice, sci-fi was our second at the time – we were going to do our own post-apocalyptic universe if we didn’t get Fallout [from Interplay in 2004].
“We talked about it [sci-fi] and then it really picked up steam – ‘we’re gonna do this’ – when we registered the trademark about five years ago, and then we would talk about it from time to time, ‘What are we going to do?’ and then we started work right after Fallout 4 was finished.”
Talking to Geoff Keighley at E3, Howard confirmed Starfield as in production and said “yes, absolutely” the Bethesda team was able to play the game now. “Starfield is playable,” he said.
In a talk coincidentally hosted by Keighley at Gamelab, Howard added. “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.”