Starfield: everything we know about Bethesda’s new RPG Starfield

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Starfield is Bethesda's first original RPG in 25 years, and it's set in space. Almost three years after it was announced, that is still almost everything we know about the mysterious project that the studio has been talking about internally for a decade. There are a few minor details to be gleaned from comments Bethesda has made, and the teaser trailer that Bethesda put out at E3 in 2018. Other than that, we have little more than scattered comments from Todd Howard and a few leaked images that may be legit. 

We've gathered all of the scant information around about Starfield below. Here's everything we know about Bethesda's next RPG.

What is Starfield's release date?

The release date hasn't been announced yet, and although we aren't expecting it soon, it must be creeping closer. 

Back when Bethesda launched Fallout 76 in 2018, Todd Howard hinted to Gamespot that Starfield might not ship on the then current generation of consoles. We've officially arrived in next gen, which is now gen, so that's at least one caveat cleared.

Before E3 2019, Todd Howard cautioned during an interview with IGN that although Starfield is Bethesda's priority (rather than Elder Scrolls 6 which we are also eagerly awaiting) fans will need to be patient. 

Is there an official Starfield trailer?

Bethesda's E3 2018 teaser trailer is all we have seen of the game so far. It shows the sun cresting the atmosphere of a desert planet, and it shows a space station. The rugged design and solar panels imply a realistic sci-fi tone more akin to Gravity than Mass Effect.

We are actually a camera floating in space in this clip. You can see flecks of ice on the lens. As the sun catches the camera we see a word written on our own device reflected on the lens. It shows a logo and a partial word: constellation?

A few moments later a cosmic tear opens up behind the station and appears to gobble it up. A cool space cataclysm perhaps, or a really colourful warp effect.

Are these Starfield images?

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In September 2020, a trio of images appeared on image hosting site Imgur that sure appear to be our first real look at Starfield. The images are impossible to confirm, but the UI element in the bottom-left corner does match the aesthetics used on the official Starfield website.

That said, there is something about the pictured ship and astronaut that reminds me of the Fallout 4 engine. I guess it's the third-person camera angle that's a pitch perfect Fallout 4 match, or maybe the way the suit sits on the body that reminds me of Fallout's modular armor setup. If it's really a fake, it's a darn good one.

You could design a Starfield character

Bethesda recently put a prize package up for auction to help raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In addition to a brand-new Xbox Series X console and 16 games, the winner will get to "work with the award-winning team at Bethesda Game Studios, including executive producer Todd Howard, to create a character for their highly anticipated upcoming game, Starfield!" Yes, you could win a design date with Todd Howard.

Will Microsoft buying Bethesda change Starfield?

As far as we know, Microsoft plans to leave ZeniMax alone, which would include Bethesda. The buyout likely won't bring Starfield any sooner, but hopefully a bit of extra money and support from Microsoft won't hurt. Until we hear otherwise, we can still assume that Starfield is the next big RPG being developed by Bethesda, followed later by The Elder Scrolls VI. 

Todd Howard says Starfield is getting "really good hype" for how early it is

Talking to Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb on his official Xbox Live podcast about Bethesda's acquisition by Microsoft, Todd Howard gave a brief update on Starfield and the hype building around it.

"I think it's getting really good hype for a game no one has seen," Howard said. It's a surprisingly candid comment that speaks to the high hopes and expectations fans are placing on a game that we know very little about. Howard went on to describe Starfield as a "major engine rewrite" compared to Bethesda's previous games.

Starfield has been in development for years

There isn't a release date yet, but Todd Howard says that the project has moved out of pre-production and is currently in a playable state internally. The teaser shown at E3 2018 was mostly designed to give us a sense of the game's atmosphere. In an interview with The Guardian, Howard says "We’ve been talking about it for a decade, we started putting things on paper five, six years ago, and active development was from when we finished Fallout 4, so two and a half, three years.”

Starfield has Bethesda's 'DNA', but it'll have 'a lot of new systems'

Everything we know about Starfield so far is leaking out in bits from interviews with Todd Howard. On Eurogamer, for example, Howard was pressed on whether Starfield will be a Bethesda Games Studios game in the way that Elder Scrolls and Fallout are. "I don't want to say yes or no to that because I don't know what that means to you or whoever's going to read that… It's different, but if you sit down and play it you would recognize it as something we made if that makes sense? It has our DNA in it. It has things that we like."

Howard also added this: "But it has a lot of new systems we've been thinking about for a while that fit that kind of game really well." Well, hey, Bethesda has never made an RPG set in space before, so some differences were bound to be on the cards.

Space travel in Starfield is dangerous like 'flight in the '40s'

At an E3 2019 chat between Todd Howard and Elon Musk, Howard divulged that space travel in Starfield probably won't be a utopian Star Trek-like ordinary affair. "Traveling in space in our game, I want to say it's like flight in the '40s, like it's dangerous," said Howard. "It's still dangerous to go and explore, even though lots of people do it."

Starfield shouldn't be confused for a rocket engineering sim, though. "We have to gamify it some," said Howard, "so that it's not as punishing as actual space travel." 


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Todd Howard traveled to SpaceX to bring 'authenticity' to Starfield

In the same E3 chat between Howard and Musk mentioned above, Howard said that he toured Musk's company SpaceX for Starfield research and inspiration. It's not clear how this inspiration will manifest, but Howard did mention that Helium 3—a speculative fuel for nuclear fusion—could be the isotope used to fuel Starfield's ships, or at least is something to be debated.

From this info and the original teaser trailer, it's reasonable to assume that Starfield's aesthetic will stick closer to realism instead of the sleek far-off future crafts we often see in sci-fi media.

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