Former Starfield dev agrees the space RPG could've focused more on fewer planets, and "exploration didn't come through as well" as a result of its scope

Starfield kid
(Image credit: Bethesda)

One of Starfield's senior developers has been reflecting on the game after launch, revealing in a new interview that they reckon the space RPG could have benefited from going into greater detail on fewer planets. One of the reasons is that "some of the exploration stuff didn't come through as well as it could've."

Speaking to MinnMax, former Bethesda veteran and Starfield senior systems designer Bruce Nesmith shares that he voiced the view that the game would "be a lot better if we restricted ourselves to about two dozen solar systems and focused on them."

"The point was made quite legitimately that once you've done one solar system, doing 100 is really not adding to your work all that much," he says.

"Todd pretty much pulled the number 100 for the number of solar systems out of thin air, but the more we went on, the more it was like, 'OK, so all core activity takes place in these two dozen in the settled systems and the rest of it is open space, but people love our big games. They love that open area to explore, so let's go ahead and let 'em have it'.

"How do we make exploration meaningful? Once again, you have to succeed on one planet. Once you've got that formula, you have a formula for all the planets. When you're also trying to build your own spacecraft – which they didn't have to do, they could've given you a bunch of pre-built spacecrafts to buy – and doing all that quest work, the huge variety of plants and animals, you gotta make hard choices."

As a result of those "hard choices" mentioned, other aspects of what Starfield could have potentially been didn't get the chance to shine through. Unfortunately, though, making calls that lead to trade-offs like that is what game development is all about.

"I think some of the exploration stuff didn't come through as well as it could've because they decided to make other choices," he says. "And never misunderstand this. In every game studio on the face of this planet, they know the choices they're making. They know the things that are not going to be in there. They know what the players are going to moan about. But you got to make the hard choice." 

Nesmith has also shared why Bethesda RPGs don't feel as "meaningful" as Baldur's Gate 3: "They poked into all of the darkest corners."

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Iain joins the GamesRadar team as Deputy News Editor following stints at PCGamesN and PocketGamer.Biz, with some freelance for Kotaku UK, RockPaperShotgun, and VG24/7 thrown in for good measure. When not helping Ali run the news team, he can be found digging into communities for stories – the sillier the better. When he isn’t pillaging the depths of Final Fantasy 14 for a swanky new hat, you’ll find him amassing an army of Pokemon plushies.