A major highlight of the Starfield Direct deep dive was the scale of Starfield’s map. The game is set to have one of the largest maps in gaming history. Bethesda announced that we can expect over 1000 Starfield planets spread across a hundred systems.
Bold claims of map sizes are nothing new in the space RPG genre, but most of the results have been underwhelming. Bethesda’s upcoming game seems to be headed in the same direction.
So, how many Starfield planets could actually have life on them?
Todd Howard recently revealed that only around 10% of Starfield planets could have life on them. While this may seem like a huge letdown, gamers need to learn how to manage expectations. It would be asking too much of a company to design over 1000 worlds with hand-crafted stories, missions, and loot. Even with Starfield’s procedural generation, there is only so much that can be done.
Besides, 10% of 1000 is 100. A hundred planets. That is still a colossal map and as ambitious as any game has ever delivered if Bethesda is able to succeed. Just to put that into perspective, the entire Mass Effect trilogy featured a total of less than 40 systems, with a planet in each system that was accessible and had missions. And still the series could easily deliver about 110 hours of gameplay. Starfield’s scale is well over twice that of all Mass Effect games combined, even the DLCs.
Having more desolate planets is realistic, says Todd Howard
Then there is the fact that this is a Bethesda game. They deliver big on the story, even if other gameplay elements leave much to be desired. So 10% of Starfield’s proposed map could offer way more content than what was available in Skyrim and Fallout 4 combined.
Of course, there is also the realism element. This was what Todd Howard mostly touched on in his recent interview with Kinda Fun XCast. 10% is way more than what the real universe could possibly offer in terms of life forms let alone sentient ones. There is bound to be a larger percentage of desolate planets that, according to him, should still be worth visiting.
It is also worth mentioning that sometimes too much of something is also not ideal. If Bethesda were to somehow deliver even gameplay across all 1000 planets, there is a very good chance players could get overwhelmed by the scale. Surely you do not want to spend an eternity playing just one game no matter what it offers in terms of value. The desolate Starfield planets will then play a huge role in improving immersion.
What then could we do in the desolate planets?
People often tend to underestimate how big Bethesda is. The company is not a single entity but a conglomeration of companies which is now owned by Microsoft’s Xbox Studios. So the production and development prospects are incredible. Todd Howard describes the purpose of these desolate planets as resource mining destinations with some occasional mission areas. But we need to think about future prospects.
Upon release, Starfield will become Bethesda’s third open world RPG title. The company’s other major title, The Elder Scrolls will have completed 3 decades next year. Bethesda evidently knows how to create and maintain franchises over a long period of time. This presents endless possibilities for Starfield and its planets. The Elder Scrolls’ Tamriel still has entire regions yet to be used in games. Imagine what Starfield’s universe will look like if it becomes a franchise. These desolate planets would then serve the higher purpose of universe building.
Starfield mods could add more value
There is also Bethesda’s greatest weapon: the arsenal of loyal fan modders who have given their games unparalleled replay value. Morrowind, which was released during the Pentium 3 days, still gets tons of content modded into the original game and countless players invested in it.
1000+ Starfield planets is an open playground for these modders, some of whom even get paid by Bethesda for their mods. If at all players feel that the desolate planets do not offer much in terms of gameplay value, the modders are sure to make the entire Starfield planetary exploration experience a worthwhile affair. Well, they are going to do it regardless, so the choice to explore Starfield mods is really up to you.
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