It’s been almost three long years since we last heard of Bethesda’s upcoming game, ‘Starfield’. First unveiled at E3 2018 alongside an unexpected teaser for Elder Scrolls VI, it’s set to be Bethesda’s first original RPG in over 25 years. Luckily, we have a few Starfield leaks and rumours to go on.
Though first rumoured long before it was announced, Starfield still came as something of a surprise in 2018. When first unveiled, Executive Producer Todd Howard had this to say about Starfield:
“We have been working on a brand new next-generation single-player game, but this one is in an all-new epic franchise. 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.”
The team at Bethesda Game Studios has gone almost radio silent since support trickled out for their lukewarm MMO Fallout 76. As we near E3 and Summer Games Fest territory, it feels as though an announcement is right around the corner.
Here’s a roundup of all the big Starfield leaks and rumours we know so far.
It’s set in space
It might seem kinda obvious from the title, but you never be too sure with games these days. We’re pretty confident that Starfield is a single-player RPG set in the expanse of space. If we couldn’t already devise that from the announcement trailer, then it’s painstakingly obvious in the bunch of leaked screenshots from last year.
This collection of images appeared on Imgur last year and claim to have originated from an early playable build of Starfield. Bethesda has neither confirmed nor denied that these images are the real deal, but we like to think that they are.
The most interesting shows what appears to be a humanoid character in a spacesuit looking towards a spacecraft. With a clean, chic style, the craft is supported on some sort of platform.
It looks as though the scene is set in outer space with a black backdrop engulfing the top-right quarter of the screen. A small speck towards the top of the image appears like a planet in the distance, although this could be another object just slightly out of the camera’s view. It’s much more likely that the scene is incomplete and in a development grey box, evidenced by the grey floor to the bottom-right of the scene.
Either way, the spacesuit gear is a clear indicator that we’ll be exploring uncharted space in Bethesda’s new epic. There’s also several spots of evidence in the UI located towards the bottom of the image. Let’s talk more about that.
Bethesda has massively overhauled its game engine
For years, Bethesda has used its Creation Engine for all of its high profile RPGs. It was first used in 2011 for Skyrim, and again in 2015 for Fallout 4, and eventually Fallout 76.
While perfectly serviceable, the Creation Engine is known for its quirks. If you’ve played a Bethesda game, you’ll of course know about the sometimes frustrating, most often hilarious bugs that can occur. For the next-generation focused title, Bethesda seems to have performed a serious overhaul on its ageing engine.
At the Develop: Brighton conference in November 2020, Howard spoke about the efforts Bethesda is making to overhaul the creation engine [via GamesIndustry.biz]. He says:
“The overhaul on our engine is probably the largest we’ve ever had, maybe even larger than Morrowind to Oblivion.”
According to Howard, the number of people working on the engine technology is five times more than ever before. The extensive work might be why we’d neither seen nor heard much from the studio in recent months.
“It’s taken us longer than we would have liked, but it’s going to power everything we’re doing with Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6. When people see the results, they’ll hopefully be as happy as we are with what’s on the screen and also how we can go about making our games,” Howard continues.
Looping back to the leaked screenshots, the UI elements seem to suggest some advanced mechanics for a Bethesda RPG. Oxygen and CO2 management elements appear on the dial, along with a gravity indicator and what appears to be a moon phase icon.
These could be pure decoration, or Bethesda could be getting ambitious experimental with Starfield’s mechanics, which would be great to see.
It might use procedural generation
In the same conference talk, Howard also hinted that the team are putting lots of resources into procedural generation. That’s the technology that’s seen in several survival games like Minecraft and, perhaps most relevant in this case, No Man’s Sky.
Bethesda Game Studios has experience with procedural generation technology in the past. The early Elder Scrolls titles Arena and Daggerfall utilised the tech to create their expansive open worlds, though the capability was limited at the time. In Skyrim, the radiant side quests also used a form of procedural generation tech.
“We like to experiment each game with procedural stuff, and then if it’s not working out, go in and touch it. The stuff we’re doing now, we’re pushing procedural generation further than we have in a very, very long time,” says Howard. Unfortunately, he doesn’t elaborate on whether he’s talking about Starfield, Elder Scrolls VI, or even something else.
If Howard indeed is talking about Starfield, that could be incredibly exciting for a game set in space. ‘No Man’s Sky’ by Hello Games is based on the premise of surviving in a universe dictated entirely by procedural generation. It’s absurd to expect Bethesda to take a similar approach, but it’s certainly interesting to think what they could achieve with a related idea.
It’s supposedly releasing this year!
If all of the Starfield leaks and rumours point north, we’ll have the game in our hands before the year is out. According to industry insider Jeff Grubb, Bethesda and Microsoft are looking to reveal and release Starfield in 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and various other factors, these intentions could change with the flip of a coin. But it’s a scenario that others are confident will play out this year.
Prominent RPG content creator ‘MrMattyPlays’ highlights that the copyright trademark for Starfield is listed as 2021 on the Zenimax site. Other Bethesda titles also share a copyrighted trademark with the year that they were officially released. For the moment, it certainly seems like the intention is there to release Starfield this year.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Bethesda has pulled a quick turnaround from gameplay reveal to fully releasing a product. In 2015, our first glimpse of Fallout 4 was in June with the game launching just six months later in November.
Part of why Bethesda does this is to maintain expectations and contain hype. Howard explains that they want to be honest with players and not string them along on a several year-long media campaign. He also explains that preparing demo media is damaging to company time.
“Preparing trailers, demos and assets take time away from development. I remember games we’ve done where you’re doing that for multiple years and it’s like you have to top yourself. You have to top your previous demo. I’d rather spend all that time focusing on the game and prepare one big demo.”Todd Howard, Starfield Executive Producer
With E3 and Summer Games Fest on the horizon, it’s possible that we’ll learn more about Starfield much sooner than you’d think.
[Featured Image Credit: Bethesda]
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