Bethesda Talks About Starfield Like No RPG Has Come out Since Oblivion

The latest dev roundtable lists new systems that have become pretty standard in RPGs.

Starfield is the next big RPG from Bethesda along the lines of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, but in space this time. And at this point, we still haven’t really seen much of it, (which gives me pause, considering it’s supposed to come to PC and Xbox Series X/S in November), but Bethesda has put out a quick roundtable video of developers talking about the game and…while I expect any developer to be excited about what it’s putting out, the way they talk about relatively common RPG features in 2022 sets an expectation that Starfield might just be like every other Bethesda game since The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

The five-and-half-minutes-long video features Game Director Todd Howard, Design Director Emil Pagliarulo, Lead Quest Designer Will Shen and Lead Artist Istvan Pely all talking about the goals and ambitions they have for Starfield, and it’s got a lot of the marketing buzzwords RPG developers love to tout out in 2022. Such as, “immersion,” “giant open world,” and then talking about how video games are capital b Better than other media because you’re not following the “dotted line” of the experience. The group goes on to discuss various factions in the game the player will come across and potentially side with, including a corpo-style group and some space pirates. There’s even a segment where they talk about how the player, if they view themselves as a “good” person, can play a double agent and report the pirates to the cops. Mkay.

To bring it to something positive, I’ll say I like this one quote from Howard, where he talks about how a lot of what makes RPGs along the lines of Starfield and other Bethesda games so meaningful to the player is that they care less about the story the developer is writing, and more about the one they’re creating in their head and projecting into the game world. This led into conversations about companions, persuasion, and relationship building, and that’s that shit I do hope to see in Starfield. But then it once again veered into talking about Starfield like nothing else has done what this game is doing, such as having dialogue where there isn’t a “right” thing to say, and that the situations you were in would feel very malleable and not box the player in.

My trouble is, I think about Cyberpunk 2077, a game that I have since come around on, but recognize that a lot of its systemic issues were because it seemed like a very insular, almost walled-off game from years of other video game development. To the point where games from years prior had fixed issues it had in ways developer CD Projekt Red could have emulated, but instead felt like it was still fumbling through the dark trying to find solutions for. Bethesda is framing a lot of good, but frankly unremarkable concepts as these massive leaps forward, and maybe for the studio, they are. But comparing a lot of these listed ideas to the work of BioWare, CD Projekt Red, and Larian Studios, Starfield doesn’t sound like a revelation yet. It sounds like more of what RPG fans know and expect. The game is about eight months out and we’ve still not seen much, so I hope this will be a moment for the devs over at Bethesda to reassess how they talk about it, and maybe start showing more than telling.