Exploring Starfield's planets was a lot harder before Bethesda "nerfed the hell out of it"

Starfield screenshot in space
(Image credit: Bethesda Game Studios)

Starfield director Todd Howard has revealed that exploring planets was originally a lot harder before Bethesda "nerfed the hell out of it."

Speaking in a recent interview with The AIAS Game Maker's Notebook Podcast (via GamesRadar+) Howard discussed in detail the development process of building Starfield's massive open galaxy, as well as how the game's planets were initially designed to be a lot harder prior to launch.

"So the way the environmental damage works in the game, on planets, and on your suit, you have resistances to certain types of atmosphere effects, whether that's radiation or thermal, etc. And that was a pretty complex system, actually, it was very punitive," Howard said.

The director went on to say that during exploration, "you'd get these afflictions", and the team kept trying to "tune" things to make them more manageable, and so there wasn't an excessive amount of healing involved. In the end, Bethesda eventually went on to change the system, which Howard calls "a complicated system for players to understand", and "just nerfed the hell out of it".

He explained that this allowed the afflictions to matter "but only a little bit", meaning the change made them less disruptive to gameplay.

"Like, the affliction you get is more annoying knowing you have it than the game result. Usually, I'm generalizing. So it was 'Let's just dial it down, because if we dial it way back, it becomes more flavor on the screen than it does a gameplay system we had originally wanted.'"

Howard added that an early gameplay system made it so the player had multiple spacesuits dedicated to certain afflictions you'd receive from certain planets, like those with high radiation and cold environments.

To end the discussion on this particular topic, Howard added that the team has a phrase, "put it in the spotlight", explaining that in his games: "There are things that you can put in the spotlight, you can make it more important just with game systems, or you can make it less important."

He revealed that Bethesda did this with horses in Skyrim, and said that they were not that important. "They're fun, you want them, but like people would say 'No they should put saddle bags and they carry all your stuff,' oh, now they're way more important than they were [...]"

Elsewhere, Starfield update 1.7.33 is now live on PC and console, which mainly addresses some performance issues and adds some small but meaningful fixes. However, it seems the patch has removed the infinite credit exploit that players have been taking advantage of since the game launched.

For more, here's our list of the best RPGs, as well as the best Xbox Series X games to play right now.