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Starfield isn’t quite ‘hard sci-fi,’ Todd Howard says, but it’s close

Bethesda kicks off a new video series called “Constellation Questions”

Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

A new video from Bethesda has given us some more details on Starfield, the studio’s first new original franchise in years.

On Tuesday, the studio launched a new video series called Constellation Questions, where it brings various fan questions to game director Todd Howard. The video covers a wide variety of topics, from space flight, to dialogue options, and even traits.

First, Howard addressed the inspiration for Starfield. He recalled two games that had a particular influence: Sun Dog for the Apple 2 and Atari ST and Traveller, a pen-and-paper RPG.

This led to fans wondering whether Starfield is “hard” sci-fi — meaning more rooted in actual science — or not. Howard said that Starfield is hard sci-fi in his opinion, but that mileage will vary on what fans might think. However, Howard was clear that this is still a video game about having fun, and so the team did pull back on some of the potential frustrations that a more realistic sci-fi setting would bring. For example, the player could originally run out of fuel in space, leaving them floating. That has since been removed, and player’s fuel and grav-drive type instead limit how far players can go at once. Unrealistic, yes, but certainly less frustrating for fans.

Howard then addressed the game’s various traits, which offer both a positive effect and a negative trade-off. Here are some of the example traits that appeared in the video:

  • Dream Home - You own a customizable house on a peaceful planet, but must pay 50K credit mortgage each week
  • Extrovert - You use less oxygen if you have a companion, but more if you’re alone
  • Freestar Collective Settler - Gain special dialogue options and better rewards from certain factions, but higher crime bounties with others
  • Hero Worshiped - A rando fan of yours will show up to bother you frequently, but will bring gifts
  • Introvert - More endurance while alone, less when you have companions
  • Kid Stuff - You can visit your parents at their home, but 10% of your money will automatically go to them
  • Neon Street Rat - Gain access to special dialogue options and better rewards on Neon. Crime bounties with other factions are increased.
  • Raised Enlightened - Gain access to a chest full of items in the House of the Enlightened, but lose access to another chest
  • Raised Universal - Gain access to a chest full of items in the Sanctum Universum, but lose access to another chest

Crucially, players can remove these traits to get rid of their negative (and positive) effects by completing a quest or activity. Players who make a poor choice early on won’t need to restart the game just to re-roll their character’s traits.

Finally, Howard talked a bit about the dialogue system. Without getting too deep into it, there is now a point-based persuasion system where players can spend points to get a better outcome. In this section, Howard also revealed that the game currently has over 250,000 lines of dialogue to go along with its 1,000 planets.

Bethesda encouraged players to reach out with more questions via the #starfieldquestions hashtag on Twitter. Bethesda and Microsoft will launch Starfield exclusively for PC and Xbox consoles early next year.

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