Todd Howard reveals Starfield's persuasion system: 'It feels like it's part of the dialog'

Bethesda Softworks executive producer Todd Howard shared more about the studio's upcoming outer space epic Starfield in a recent video chat, including a look at the game's persuasion system and whether or not he considers it "hard sci-fi."

Hard science fiction, in a very broad sense, is sci-fi that commits heavily to scientific accuracy. The definition is unavoidably subjective to some extent, but Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora, for instance, takes great pains to think through stuff like soil composition, astrophysics, and chemistry in ways that impact the plot; Star Wars, on the other hand, doesn't go out of its way to explain lightsabers. In the case of Starfield, Howard said that "it is more 'hard' to us" but added that it's a videogame first and foremost, and so concessions have to be made.

"We were really into fuel and how the gravity drive works," Howard says in the video. "And I'm reading papers on quantum physics and bending space in front of you—you don't actually warp, you bend the space, you bring the space toward you—and so we were playing that and it became very punitive to the player. Your ship would run out of fuel and the game would just stop."

Because of that, developers recently changed the design so ships cannot run out of fuel—instead, ships will be limited to how far they can travel in a single run.

Howard also said that Starfield has gone back to "a classic Bethesda-style dialog" system, albeit in a much larger scale than in previous games—more than 250,000 lines of dialog in total—and with a revamped persuasion system. Howard previously touched on the persuasion system back in May, saying it "feels like you're having a conversation where you're actually trying to persuade somebody of something," but this is the first time we've seen it in action.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

"It feels like it's part of the dialog, but you're spending points to persuade [NPCs]," Howard said. "Feels natural. Not like I've entered some other mode where we're not—I'm not doing regular dialog. I'm in this mode of persuading you to get what I want."

Starfield had been set to come out on November 11 but following a delay in May is now expected out sometime in the first half of 2023.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.