Todd Howard says Starfield is channelling 'older hardcore RPGs'

A new Starfield developer diary discusses some of the game's main factions and describes elements of the experience—then, in a moment destined to be memed forever, Todd Howard says "why are we all here?" We're here to watch another video of talking heads illustrated with concept art and clips of old games for a product that's apparently launching in eight months, Todd.

Sorry: there is new footage of Starfield here, roughly ten seconds of it when they start talking about companions (timestamped video). Sure looks like Skyrim in space! Incidentally, the funniest bit of this dev diary is when they start talking about Oblivion's chat system, and illustrate it with a Skyrim clip. You had one job.

The main takeaways from this generalised discussion are that they're going more in-depth on character creation and backstory. Todd Howard talks about this in the context of returning to "some things we didn't do [in older games]: the backgrounds, the traits, defining your character, all of those stats". Starfield's aiming for "a lot of the things that older hardcore RPGs, something we used to do, doing those again in a new way."

There's the briefest of mentions of it being harder to persuade NPCs, which honestly could mean anything. More concrete is some chat about the various ways people get by in this galaxy: the studio has discussed the game's factions before, but adds a few more tidbits here.

"In this one we've got the United Colonies, that represents the future space republic, idealised," says Will Shen, the game's lead quest designer. "You also have the Freestar Collective which is the space western fantasy, people that are out there on the frontier, we've got Ryujin Industries which represents corporate life, I think it has one of the best starts of any of the factions."

"Yeah it's a megacorp and you get hired right?" asks Pagliarulo, as if he doesn't know.

"Yeah you apply for a job and we'll see if you cut the mustard," Shen answers.

So that's pretty interesting, suggesting you begin Starfield allied to a particular group and have a starting experience unique to that faction. This could be over-extrapolating and 'best starts' simply refers to a questline: I've asked Bethesda for clarification on the line and will update with any response.

There's also a brief mention of how players can join a faction but work against it. "What we're doing with the pirates, the Crimson Fleet, they're not just this foe," says Howard. "Let the player join them: what does that mean?"

"The cool thing about the Crimson Fleet is what if you're a good person, a good player, and you don't want to play as the bad guy," says Pagliarulo. "You can side with the pirates or your can report back to your superiors and be like basically space cop type of thing, so let you be a good person but still play with the bad guys."

The video ends in a moment beyond parody, as Howard concludes: "We're asking the big questions. Why are we all here. Where is it leading? And what's next for humanity?"

Who knows eh. Starfield is due to launch on 11 November 2022.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."