I don't much envy Bethesda. All game development seems like a bunfight with the impossible, but following in the footsteps of Skyrim is surely cursed. Starfield, the team's sci-fi open-world game, needs to be the same and different and better than Skyrim, a game that has been consistently popular for ten years.
In the latest, teasing, behind-the-scenes Into The Starfield video, the development team discuss some of the values that remain the same between Starfield and Bethesda's other games. It maybe starts with the cups.
In the seven-minute video above, game director Todd Howard, studio director Angela Browder and art director Matt Carofano discuss Starfield in the context of the studio. They talk about the core team, many of whom have allegedly been at the studio for close to two decades, and get into some of the worldbuilding underpinning their first sci-fi game.
They also talk about how it compares to their previous games, including the Elder Scrolls series. "The mechanics of the world are entirely different," says Howard. "But there are similarities, and I think those are things we like. We like first-person, we like having all the coffee cups, like being able to touch everything. Those moments make the whole thing believable. Being able to watch the sunset and night time comes, and just sit there and watch the world go by, seems like it's not gameplay. But it is vital to how you feel through the rest of it."
The video features no in-game footage, just (very pretty) concept art, but this makes me more excited about Starfield than anything else I've heard so far. I bounced off Skyrim (after 35 hours, mind you) because it was structurally so similar to Oblivion, but I still loved exploring its world. If Starfield has benches and the ability to sit down, I'm pretty sure I'll get a lot of pleasure out of it regardless of anything else it does.
I'll be less happy if it turns out to have the Space Dark Brotherhood, though there is another structural thing I like from Bethesda's games that Howard references. "We always have that 'step out' moment, into the world," he says, referring to moments where you first step into the open world from a Fallout vault or Oblivion dungeon. "Technology's changed, we've all changed, so our expectations of loading up a game and 'Okay, I'm going to step out, there's going to be this moment.' Us being able to do that and have it feel new every generation, every game, is something really special about what we do. I like to say that Starfield has two step-out moments. It's cryptic."
I do like these moments. Put me in the space sewers if you must, Bethesda, but make the vista pretty when I leave.