Too much hard science fiction and ‘you’d die in space’, Starfield's Todd Howard says

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Now the countdown to Starfield has begun, Bethesda is laying down the foundation of what we can expect from the game. Starfield's relationship with hard science fiction is number one on the list today. 

Starfield is more hard science-fiction to us,” creative director Todd Howard said in a Q&A video. Meaning, we aren't likely to see space wizards, but rather that what happens in the game exists within the realm of scientific possibility. Although most science fiction is based on science and the known possibilities of our universe, it can still bend the rule of what is and is not possible in our physical universe. In hard sci-fi, you'll largely see tech that could theoretically exist, along with the limitations that come with that – such as long travel times.

Ultimately, Howard points out that Starfield may never fulfill all the requirements of hard science-fiction because “in a hard science fiction video game, you’d die in space cold.”

Hard-ish science fiction 

Bethesda has tried as much as possible to place Starfield into the encompassing reach of hard science fiction. From ships to quantum physics, you’ll see plenty of elements in the game that are a clear nod to this goal, Howard says. 

Looking at the Starfield ships, Howard says they have “some visual identity back to” the history of human space travel. Creating this feasible timeline where there are acknowledgments of what has come before is essential for Starfield. Not only to create an immersive and believable experience but also to fit into the remits of hard science fiction. 

Howard also describes the hours spent trying to understand quantum physics, reading papers, and getting his head around space travel. All of this is to make a product that will excite lovers of hard science fiction or just casual enjoyers of the genre.

Through this research, Howard also encountered what problems there would be in Starfield as a result of hard science fiction. The biggest of these is fueling your spaceship. This quickly became “very punitive to the player,” he says. Once you ran out of fuel, that was it, you were dead in space with no chance of helping yourself. So a compromise was made. Now the “fuel and the grav-drive in your ship limits where you can go at once,” says Howard, “but it doesn’t run out of fuel.”


(Image credit: Microsoft)

Real fun 

However, games are built to be fun. If you want reality, you should play a simulator game like Brewmaster, where the developer refused to break the laws of physics for its players, or maybe pick up Powerwash simulator – it is an extremely chill time.

Even then, many simulator games also have to balance reality with entertainment. So these changes to Starfield seem like a great indicator of what is coming. A space adventure that’s realistic and creative while also having the fans’ best interests in mind.  

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.