Easily the most ear-catching part of Bethesda’s recent presentation on Starfield, their upcoming Xbox exclusive, was that it would have 100 star systems and 1,000 planets to explore. Before that, the game already looked like it was borrowing heavily from No Man’s Sky, but that revelation just cemented the idea.
But just how similar to No Man’s Sky is Bethesda’s Starfield with its use of procedural generation? No Man’s Sky has famously developed a system to generate infinite Planets that have different terrain, wildlife, enemies, resources and outposts, but you will almost never just happen upon something specifically handcrafted for a specific planet.
When posed the question by IGN, Todd Howard explained how exactly Starfield is using procedural generation alongside its traditional game-building by hand:
“We do a lot of procedural generation [in Starfield], but I would keep in mind that we’ve always done that,” Howard said. “It’s a big part of Skyrim in terms of questing and some other things we do. We generate landscape using procedural systems, so we’ve always kind of worked on it. [The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall is] one we look at a lot in terms of game flow. And we had been developing some procedural technology and doing some prototypes, and it really started coming to a head with Starfield, in that we think we can do this.”
He goes on to say that while this game is vast in part because of the procedural generation of all those planets, at its core, it also The most hand-built content represents a Bethesda game has ever had, and if you go through the main story quest instead of wandering off to explore, you will find this game feeling much like the questlines of Fallout and Elder Scrolls.
It seems to be splitting the difference, with the concept that among a large, procedurally generated planet, there may be some sort of handcrafted location within that. And Bethesda has already said that they will indicate when there is something specific “of interest” on a planet, preventing you from flying around the entire surface looking for stuff. This kind of negates the “community exploration” vibe I was picturing as players discovered secrets and shared them, but I suppose some level of indicators as to what places are worth going is good for the solo players who don’t want to consult communities or communities guides
There is obviously going to be quite a bit of empty space with 1,000 procedurally generated planets, probably a lot of randomized enemy clusters and resource nodes and stuff. But from what he’s saying here, I do have faith that a large chunk of those planets will house at least something Interesting, and that the core structure of a sprawling Bethesda tale is still remaining intact here, and they’re not going full No Man’s Sky where exploration is the main root of the entire game.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.