I suspect players are going to be finding little references and additions in Starfield for some time to come, but they've already found the one most likely to make me cry. Bethesda has slipped in a tribute to Alex Hay, a long-time fan of games like Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, and the Fallouts who died of cancer several months ago, and whose disappointment at not being able to make it to Starfield's release date was preserved in his viral Reddit thread from earlier this year.
Spotted by player HunterWorld on the Starfield subreddit, Bethesda's memorial to Hay comes in the form of a short note found on the Eye (just on the right as you enter, says HunterWorld). Titled "Alex Hay's Note," it reads "To all my friends and fellow explorers, I'm always with you, out there in the starfield. Love always, Alex Hay".
It's a sweet and simple tribute to a fan who wasn't able to make it to Starfield's development finish line. When Starfield's release date trailer dropped in March, Hay posted that he was a "bit gutted at the date reveal," as he'd been "following this project for years and now it looks like I won't get to play it."
Aged 35, Hay had been eagerly awaiting Starfield's original November 2022 release date as he had stopped his treatment for lung cancer and "was looking forward to it as a distraction."
But Starfield got delayed until September. Under palliative care, Hay said that "playing my Xbox is a great form of escapism for me, but holding out for another six months is unlikely so… enjoy it on my behalf!" Numerous players pledged to name their ships after Hay in the comments on the post, which is the subreddit's 10th most-upvoted thread ever at time of writing. Hay died later that month, according to a post on his Twitter account and an obituary in MacStories.
Given how much attention Hay's original post garnered, I was curious to know if Bethesda reached out to Hay or his family after his post gained attention to give him a chance with an early build of the game in the way Firaxis did with a dying fan who was eager to play Midnight Suns. That was a pretty remarkable situation, though, and it's possible Bethesda wouldn't even have had the time to do so given how quickly Hay's condition progressed. Nevertheless, I've reached out to the company to ask about it and I'll update if I hear back. Either way, Hay said he's out there among the stars in spirit.