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Starfield Has the Potential to Change Bethesda Forever

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Starfield is the upcoming sci-fi RPG currently in development at Bethesda, and the first entirely new IP the Elder Scrolls studio has taken on in 25 years. Few details have been released so far about the game’s story or its main mechanics. However, after months of supposed leaks and rumors, an important new detail has been revealed about the upcoming game.

Starfield’s game-world will take place across multiple planets, and the explorable areas on those planets will be created at least partially through procedural generation. This was revealed by Todd Howard at Brighton Digital 2020 earlier this week, and could make Starfield the perfect title to help Bethesda transition to the next-gen consoles by offering the opportunity for more experimentation than the developer has been known for in recent years.

Starfield's Universe

Starfield is currently in development at Bethesda, and will release before The Elder Scrolls 6. According to Howard, Starfield’s world is being designed with a focus on procedural generation. This does not mean that players will experience different, randomly generated worlds. Procedural generation is a tool for creating huge game-worlds, and the increased focus on its use for Starfield implies that the upcoming game could be one of Bethesda’s biggest yet.

It was also confirmed that The Elder Scrolls 6’s map would also be created using more procedural generation than previous titles. However, there are a few major reasons that Starfield presents a unique opportunity that The Elder Scrolls 6 does not.

As the first new IP Bethesda has tackled in decades, Starfield has the potential to be more experimental than any Bethesda game in recent memory. The last major IP that Bethesda took on was when it acquired the rights to develop Fallout 3, and even then the studio famously adapted the isometric RPG to its Elder Scrolls-style first-person perspective and engine.

Bethesda On The Next-Gen C0nsoles

The opportunity to experiment in Starfield is good news for future Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. Bethesda will have the opportunity to experiment with a lower-stakes IP, as well as one with fewer fan-expectations. The next Elder Scrolls game will need to add something new to the open-world RPG genre that the series helped define. Competition from companies like Obsidian Entertainment and its upcoming first-person fantasy RPG title Avowed will likely mean that emulating Skyrim with greater graphical fidelity simply will not cut it on the next-gen consoles.

Instead, the next-gen Elder Scrolls and Fallout games will need to feel like they have taken a greater generational leap than either series has done for some time. Skyrim set the standard for open-world RPGs when it was released back in 2011, and yet in doing so also made Bethesda’s path forward unclear. The studio will be giving its Creation Engine a huge upgrade for Starfield, which presents the new game with the opportunity to push that engine to its limits in a way that Bethesda might not want to risk for a game like The Elder Scrolls 6 which needs to stick the best possible landing.

If Starfield’s world is as huge as the focus on procedural generation implies, and if the game experiments with new mechanics which make traversing that world a unique RPG experience when compared to older Bethesda titles, then the game has the potential to put Bethesda at the head of the RPG pack once again. Hot competition from Avowed, a potential sequel to The Outer Worlds, and even hugely anticipated open-world RPGs like Cyberpunk 2077 could be overcome if those games are only able to emulate a formula established by Bethesda in a past generation.

Starfield has the potential to set a new standard for open-world RPGs entirely, and even if it fails to do so, it could allow for The Elder Scrolls 6 and any future Fallout titles to learn important lessons and adapt some of its more successful experimental design choices. Few studios have the opportunity and the backing to take a risk like Starfield, and if Bethesda fully takes advantage of that opportunity the game could help the studio regain some of the reputation lost from recent difficult launches like Fallout 76’s.

Starfield may even see Bethesda branch out into third-person RPG design, as one of the leaked images seems to suggest. If Starfield proves to be so radically different in its approach to RPG design that there are few direct takeaways which can be applied to The Elder Scrolls 6, then if nothing else the studio has diversified the types of RPG it produces. This could also help Bethesda stay ahead of the competition on the next-gen consoles.

For now, however, fans will have to wait for more news about Starfield from Bethesda itself. The studio has suggested that no major news will be released until 2021, but with Todd Howard releasing details earlier this week in spite of that announcement fans may still be able to glean some more details about the game before the end of the year.

Starfield is in development.
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