Starfield devs talk companions and old school RPG stats in new video
Starfield is surely the biggest game still to come in 2022, but details about Bethesda’s next major RPG continue to spill out only as a trickle. The latest Into The Starfield developer video offers more insight into the game than anything else I’ve seen so far. It contains almost no in-game footage, mind you, but it contains hints about companions, romance, character start points, a new dialogue persuasion system that aims to improve on Oblivion’s, and Bethesda returning to their old school RPG roots.
Here’s the video, featuring game director Todd Howard, design director Emil Pagliarulo, lead quest designer Will Shen, and lead artist Istvan Pely.
Starfield is Bethesda’s first new universe in forever, but a lot of the chat in the video is about returning to some older ideas. “A lot of us have been doing this for a long time together,” says Howard. “It’s nice with Starfield to go back to some things we didn’t do: the backgrounds, the traits, the defining your character, all those stats. I think there’s so many games that do those things that people are ready for something that does a lot of the things that, y’know, older hardcore RPGs – some that we used to do – doing those again in a new way.”
There’s also talk of Starfield being a simulation, and building a game that can deal with player chaos. There’s no particular examples offered, but there are design principles that the Elder Scrolls series eventually backed away from – like being able to kill any character – that I’d love to see come back.
It also sounds like they’re trying to make a substantial step forward with some old Bethesda standards, like companions. Howard says they’ve leaned in to making how other characters feel about you significant, while Pely remarks upon companions being able to comment on things you’re looking at as you explore. Both of these are comments that you could theoretically make about companions in Fallout 4, or to a lesser extent Skyrim, but it’s a clear focus for Starfield. There’s also an extremely brief mention of “romance”, although in the context of “romance, mystery, adventure” being elements of the game, which is vague. Can I smooch a robot or not, Bethesda?
Maybe most interesting is the reference to Oblivion’s controversial (crap?) persuasion system. “We sat down and, it was funny, we didn’t start with ‘let’s do an evolution of, let’s look back at the old Oblivion system’, but there are a couple of beats there,” says lead quest designer Shen. “You have to think about, ‘what’s my risk here? Which one do I want to choose?’. We didn’t want it to be a system where there was definitely a right thing to say.” There’s again no look at the new system, just footage of Oblivion, but even that they’re trying to make characters feel less like quest vending machines is encouraging.
Given the potential to get carried away with excitement for a big, ambitious RPG like Starfield, I’m glad that we’ve seen so little of it at this stage. I do hope that all these elements being referenced, which make it sound like part of a lineage with previous Bethesda games, are all taking an ambitious leap forward, however.