Bethesda Shares Details About Starfield's Main Quest Length, Dogfighting, And More

A recent interview shed light on how dogfighting is inspired by FTL and MechWarrior as well as how Bethesda is tackling procedurally generated content at a larger scale.

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Starfield, Bethesda's upcoming sci-fi RPG, was finally shown off at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase this past weekend, and ever since then more information about the game has been trickling out. In a recent conversation with IGN,game director Todd Howard shared additional details about the game, including how it will begin, the size of its main quest, how space flight will work, and more.

For starters, Howard confirmed that Starfield will begin in typical Bethesda fashion: with the player character stepping out into a vast world. Given the scale of the game, which touts thousands of planets across hundreds of systems, Howard suggests there may even be a few of these moments. He told IGN, "Look, the way the game starts is pretty set for everybody, so we definitely have what we call the 'step-out moment'. And we probably have a few of them given the scale of the game."

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Now Playing: Starfield Gameplay Reveal | Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2022

These "step-out moments" will include ones both on planets and in space, since a significant part of Starfield's gameplay will take place on ships players will be able to pilot among the stars.

After showing off the first look at Starfield's gameplay this past weekend, many drew comparisons to No Man's Sky, another space-faring first-person game where players can fly directly onto and off of any of the game's 18 quintillion planets or so. However, ships in Starfield won't be able to seamlessly fly down onto planets like many players hoped would be the case. When IGN asked Howard why this was the case, he simply said that he and the team didn't deem the feature important enough to the player experience to justify the engineering that would need to be done. It made more sense to split Starfield between on-and-off-planet gameplay.

"No. We decided early in the project that the on-surface is one reality, and then when you’re in space it’s another reality," Howard said in the interview.

Both ends of Starfield's gameplay seem like they're particularly robust and built out in order to justify their rather intense separation. Howard confirmed that on the terrestrial side of things, Starfield will have four major cities for players to go to and that one of them, New Atlantis, is bigger than any city the studio's made for its past titles. Starfield's main quest will take players through New Atlantis and follows Constellation, an organization that's been dubbed "the last group of space explorers." Howard told IGN the campaign should take players about 30-40 hours, since he estimates Starfield is currently about 20% bigger than Bethesda's past games.

On the flip side, dogfighting in space was a major part of Starfield's gameplay reveal that won over a lot of folks the second it came on screen. While dogfighting in Starfield, players will have to decide which systems of their ship they should route more power to, like shields or weapons, and these mechanics were inspired by FTL: Faster Than Light. If you watched the dogfighting gameplay, you might've also noticed that it looks and feels a bit heavy and slow, which is also deliberate and inspired by the MechWarrior games.

"One of the games I love that we sort of look at for pace is MechWarrior, believe it or not. That’s probably a little bit slower, but in terms of systems and power and being able to line things up – it’s a little bit faster than that but you know what I mean as opposed to a twitchy dogfighter."

Additionally, Howard confirmed that dogfighting isn't all you can do in your ships. Players can also dock them on stations as well as engage in good ol' fashioned space piracy. "You can steal the ship, there’s dialogue in space, there’s starstations you can visit, there’s smuggling. All the things that we would want," Howard said, while teasing there would be more to show about space gameplay in the future.

All in all, all these systems complement and add to the game's runtime, which is sure to be in the hundreds or seemingly thousands of hours for anyone who attempts to see all of Starfield's content, both handcrafted and procedurally generated. Howard stressed to IGN that while Starfield has the most procedural generation of all of Bethesda's games, it also has the most handcrafted content the studio's ever done.

"I should also add that we have done more handcrafting in this game, content-wise, than any game we’ve done. We’re [at] over 200,000 lines of dialogue, so we still do a lot of handcrafting and if people just want to do what they’re used to in our games, and follow a main quest, and do the questlines, you’re gonna see what you’d kind of expect from us," he said.

Howard also notes that Bethesda is no stranger to procedurally generated content, citing the studio's record with Skyrim as proof it works alongside the company's tailored efforts. Procedural generation in Starfield is there to sustain Bethesda's philosophy on the game of "saying yes to the player," even if that means occasionally discovering an ice ball that isn't terribly fun to explore in actuality. It's all about serving both the fantasy and reality of exploring the vast unknown, and sometimes nothingness, of space.

Starfield is due for release in the first half of 2023 on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

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