Starfield's procedural planets will feature 'handcrafted' locations, but only 10% will support life

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Starfield's procedurally generated planets will have handcrafted locations on them and other things to do.

Appearing on the Kinda Funny Xcast, Starfield game director Todd Howard talks about procedurally generated planets around the 16-minute mark. Howard begins by saying that Bethesda "struggled with them early in the project, " referencing the procedurally generated worlds, but reassuringly commented that the dev team finally figured out how to pull them off.

"Obviously, it's procedural, so there's no way we're gonna go and handcraft an entire planet," Howard continues. "What we do is we handcraft individual locations, and some of those are placed specifically," the director says, adding that main cities and other locations are deliberately placed and aren't left up to chance.

"We have a suite of them that are placed when you land on that planet," Howard further adds about the handcrafted locations. "Now for us, we view it as, when you're given a system menu of things you can do, like science, we're pushing about 10% of those planets have life on them."

"We're pushing it to the limit of 'what planets are in those goldilocks zones,' versus planets that have resources," Howard explains. "It is a moment when you land on some of these barren planets - and again we will generate certain things for you to find on them - but if you look at a planet you see the resources, it has things you want."

Howard then points to a Buzz Aldrin quote about "magnificent desolation," and says that he wants players to feel special in finding something that no one else would potentially ever see in Starfield. "It's a difficult design thing, if you're generating too many abandoned bases or towers or things to find it starts feeling too gamey," Howard says.

"We've dialled that in pretty well, depending on the planet you're on," the Starfield director concludes. It sounds as though Howard and the team at Bethesda are intricately aware that players might have concerns about the procedural generation of planets, and that they reacted to that throughout the development process.

Starfield launches later this year on September 6 for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

If you want to pick up the Starfield Xbox controller, then good news, because it's just taken its first discount.

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.