Over the weekend, Bethesda revealed the first pre-rendered trailer for Starfield, giving us a glimpse of a game that has existed publicly as nothing more than a title since 2018. While the atmospheric trailer effectively establishes mood and hints at the wider universe of Starfield, it offers few details of how that universe works or what the player’s role in it will be.
Luckily, Bethesda Director Todd Howard has offered additional details through interviews to The Washington Post and The Telegraph. In those interviews, Howard describes Starfield as being set “300-ish” years in the future, and he says the team has taken pains to map out a “what happens every decade” history that gets humanity from now to then.
That kind of attention to detail was a recurring theme in Howard’s new interviews. “We start with the world and questions like ‘What do they eat? What do they write with? How do they order their books?'” Howard told The Telegraph. He also noted that “we want to know what all the buttons do” on the complicated control panel shown in the trailer. “We model all the buttons… every button, I think, is labelled in the ship.” That doesn’t mean players will necessarily be responsible for flipping all those toggles, but it’s nice to know someone is thinking about them.
Lead artist Istvan Pely told the Post that the game’s aesthetic could be summarized as “NASA punk.” The style of Starfield‘s first trailer is an explicit homage to the look and feel of NASA from the 1969 space landing era, Howard said. He also called back to a long-standing interest in space travel rooted in the sci-fi media he grew up with in the 1970s: Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica.
Why are we here?
Howard also alluded to some heady themes for the game beyond simple exploration and/or conquest. “When you look up in the sky, there is this drive to know, what is out there?” he told the Post. “Are we alone? What are the origins of space and time and all of those things? What role does religion play in some of that as well? So we do get into some big questions. I think a game like this is a good place to do that.”
“We get into science, we get into religion,” Howard expanded to The Telegraph. “I really enjoy thinking about those big questions. I see them in other [forms of] entertainment, and I think we have a unique way of presenting it with a game like this, where maybe we don’t have all the answers, but I think it’s good to get people thinking.”
More prosaically, the game will focus on the player as a member of Constellation, the “last group of space explorers” heading off into the cosmos. The game’s structure is “kind of like Skyrim… where you’re going to be who you want to be, and then there’s different factions that you can join and really carve your own path,” Howard said. Players will be able to choose a specific background for their character at the outset and make customization choices “that will impact how some things in the game unfold,” according to The Washington Post write-up.
An accompanying “Into the Starfield” promotional video waxes poetic on a lot of the same themes from Howard’s interviews, and it says players can “be who you want, go where you want, experience our stories, and forge your own.” That video also includes an intriguing Easter egg: an in-universe memo that can be seen at the 0:57 mark on the computer of one of the developers. As transcribed by GamesRadar, the memo warns the recipient of problems with interstellar piracy, and it seems to name a few of the factions and governing bodies that will feature in the game.
Is this an accurate leak of a fragment of in-universe lore (either intentionally or unintentionally)? Or did Bethesda simply throw together a fake work-in-progress for attention-obsessed viewers? We’ll hopefully find out on Starfield‘s planned November 11, 2022, release date, of which Howard told the Post, “We’re confident in the date. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be announcing it.”
Listing image by Bethesda