Starfield’s developers are aiming for a ‘NASA-Punk’ aesthetic

Starfield art for the city of Neon
(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda has a particular look in mind when it comes to its upcoming space RPG, Starfield, and that look is “NASA-Punk”.

As described by the game’s lead artist, Istvan Pely, in a recent Xbox newswire post, NASA-Punk is a term coined by Starfield’s development team “to describe a sci-fi universe that’s a little more grounded and relatable”. Pely explains the team “wanted a very realistic take,” adding, “You can draw a line from current-day space technology and extrapolate from there into the future so it’s believable and relatable.”

The game’s lead animator, Rick Vicens, explains that the term proved to be incredibly useful when creating an aesthetically consistent world. “What’s really interesting is how much we all latched onto that concept," Vicens says. 

"When you said NASA-Punk, the Art team could instantly take those two words and make them work. It was just the perfect term for our art direction and keeping everyone in the same flow and working with a consistent style. For me, it just clicked. At the start of the project, I think that term was critical for us.”

The interview was accompanied by a brief video titled “Painting a Journey Through Space” which offers a behind-the-scenes look at artist, Mike Butkus, creating Starfield’s “Journey Through Space” art.

Through the Xbox Wire post, Microsoft is offering two fans a chance to win one of the prints seen in the video, signed by Mike Butkus and Game Director Todd Howard. According to the post, all you need to do to enter is join the game’s Constellation community by March 31, 2022. Those already in the group have already been entered, with the rules stating the winner will be drawn after this period. 

Analysis: Seeing the through line

If the brief video that accompanied this interview wasn’t quite enough of a look at the art of Starfield in order for you to fully get a sense of what Bethesda’s NASA-Punk aesthetic is, there are already a couple of previously released concept art videos to pick through.

Before now, we’ve been given a look at an overview of the game’s overall setting, known as 'The Settled Systems', as well as art for three of the game’s main cities, all of which had pretty contrasting appearances. Knowing that NASA-Punk is a style tying the game together, it feels worth revisiting the art in order to pick elements of it out and get a better sense of Bethesda’s “vision of a future that’s grounded in reality. A future that’s believable and, while maybe not always the most welcoming, at least familiar.”

Starfield’s release date is still slated for November 11, 2022 so we’re expecting to learn lots more about the game as we go into the rest of this year, with Todd Howard highlighting summer as a key time in an AMA on Reddit. When Starfield does launch it'll be playable on PC and Xbox Series X, with a day one Xbox Game Pass release.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.